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

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    Photo courtesy of Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones

    Join us for a Twitter chat on childhood reading at 1 p.m EDT on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones

    Is there any benefit in reading to a child who is not yet talking? The American Academy of Pediatrics says “yes.”

    The organization’s AAP Literacy Promotion’s official policy on literacy promotion encourages parents to begin reading to children in infancy. The practice helps stimulate brain development and strengthen the bond between parent and child. Included in the AAP’s policy are recommendations for pediatricians, child advocacy organizations and policy makers on how best to close the gap in early childhood reading practices between advantaged and low-income families, and how best to incorporate literacy promotion into pediatric medical education.

    Join our discussion Thursday at 1 p.m. EDT for a Twitter chat addressing this topic. Our guests include AAP pediatrician Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, tweeting as @navsaria, nonprofit organization @2SmallToFail and Maggie McGuire, vice president of Scholastic’s Kids and Parents channels, tweeting as @Scholastic.

    Representatives of Reach Out and Read (@reachoutandread) and the Clinton Foundation (@ClintonFdn) will also be participating. Chime in by following @NewsHour, and using the hashtag #NewsHourChats.

     

    The post Twitter chat: How important is early childhood reading? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a move angering Moscow, Ukraine’s new leader signed a deal bring his country closer to Europe today.

    Jeffrey Brown reports.

    PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine: Ukraine paid the highest possible price to make her European dreams come true.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came to Brussels to sign the pact that had sparked the crisis in his country.

    PETRO POROSHENKO: It is a symbol of faith and of unbreakable will. It is a tribute to people who gave their lives and health to make this moment happen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Last November, Poroshenko’s Kremlin-backed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, balked at signing the trade agreement to further integrate Ukraine with Europe and move it away from Russia.

    That triggered a popular uprising in Kiev, and Yanukovych fled in February.

    PETRO POROSHENKO: Of course, all of us would have wished to sign the agreement under different, more comfortable circumstances. On the other hand, the external aggression faced by Ukraine gives another strong reason for this crucial step.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That aggression, Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in March, major troop buildups on the Russian border with Ukraine, and accusations of Moscow’s support of separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

    Today, President Vladimir Putin said a long-term cease-fire needed to be guaranteed before peace talks among warring parties in Ukraine, and he had tough words for Poroshenko’s government.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN (through interpreter): The anti-constitutional coup in Kiev and the attempts to artificially impose a choice on the Ukrainian people between Europe and Russia have pushed society towards a split and a painful confrontation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, in Washington, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf applauded the Ukraine deal and dismissed Putin’s complaints.

    MARIE HARF, State Department Spokesperson: I think it’s noteworthy that exactly what President Putin was trying to prevent from his interfering in Ukraine has now happened. And he has, on top of that, a lot of baggage to go with it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The baggage comes in the form of U.S. and European sanctions, and there could be more next week.

    Hoping to head that off, Russia’s Parliament has rescinded authorization to take military action in Ukraine, at Putin’s request. Still, Russian military exercises restarted yesterday near the Ukrainian border.

    Meanwhile, Poroshenko had declared a cease-fire last Friday, but that has been largely in name only. Fighting continued sporadically through the week, with each side blaming the other. Today, the Ukrainian president renewed the cease-fire through the weekend, and a top separatist leader agreed to honor it.

    ALEXANDER BORODAI, Prime Minister, “Donetsk People’s Republic” (through interpreter): The cease-fire has been so far very unsuccessful. The fire has not stopped, but, nevertheless, it was a certain pretext to continue dialogue. Therefore, we confirm on our side the extension of the cease-fire for the same duration.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thousands have fled the fighting. The United Nations reported today that more than 100,000 Ukrainians have crossed into Russia this year, seeking safety, and 50,000 others are displaced in their own land.

    The post Ukraine signs EU trade pact over Russian objections appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    EU-SUMMIT-UKRAINE-POROSHENKO

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And for more, we’re joined by Matthew Rojansky director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, where he focuses on U.S. relations with former Soviet states. And Nikolas Gvosdev is professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. He’s written extensively about Russia.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Matt Rojansky, let me start with you.

    This trade agreement was the trigger for so much last November. Now it’s signed. How important is it, and what impact will it have?

    MATTHEW ROJANSKY, Wilson Center: There’s no question it’s important, but actually its role as a trigger is probably the less important role.

    I would say much more important is what it means now. It’s a massively important symbol that Poroshenko was able to accomplish something that Yanukovych, his predecessor, was unable to accomplish. But the real test comes in the implementation.

    In fact, Yanukovych could always have signed the agreement, and simply failed to implement it. And I think that’s what most Ukrainians and, by the way, the Russians, expected. It was a surprise that Yanukovych walked away from the signing the way he did.

    So, the real question is, Poroshenko now has signed the piece of paper. He has to do extremely painful, costly and difficult things in order to make Ukraine a competitive economy that, rather than drowning in the deep end of the European pool, can actually succeed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And Nikolas Gvosdev, how do you see it? And from the Russian side, is it likely to cause President Putin to take any action?

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV, U.S. Naval War College: Well, first, let me agree with Matt that this is only the beginning of a process, not the end.

    And it’s not simply the Ukrainians that will have to move forward. European countries, having taken on this agreement, will decide how much they plan to fund Ukraine, what they plan to do in terms of offering concrete mechanisms. It does pale to remember that Turkey has had an accession agreement with the European Union for decades, and Turkey has not advanced any further.

    The Russian side is very interesting. I think the Russians see this essentially now as a game of geopolitical chicken. They’re waiting to see who is going to blink first. Are the Europeans, having gotten Ukraine up to this starting point of signing this agreement, are they going to do more to actually help Ukraine? And we will see in the coming months.

    There’s still very contentious talks about the energy flow. Ukraine right now is not receiving natural gas from Russia. The Russians have also threatened that they’re going to, from this point onward, treat Ukrainian imports on a much different way than they were done before. Before, they had preferential trading relations with Russia. And I think some of the Russian calculation is that, in addition to Ukrainian problems with implementing the E.U. agreement, they’re going to have some sectors in Ukraine that find that they don’t like having access to the Russian markets cut off.

    And that could lead to political pressure down the road.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Matt Rojansky, how do you read the Russian — in all of it, but especially events on the ground right now? Because we refer to a cease-fire that is not really a cease-fire. How much control does Russia have over events on the ground?

    MATTHEW ROJANSKY: I have to believe that Russia has more control than thus far it has exercised.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that Mr. Putin is orchestrating the action, that, for example, he makes a phone call and a Ukrainian airplane or helicopter gets shot down. I think, actually, that’s very unlikely.

    What he has done is he has sent plenty of weapons into the region. Or he has allowed that to happen. He has allowed Russian volunteers to go into the region. He has not hermetically sealed the border between Russia and Ukraine, which would, if nothing else, limit the theater of operations, so that the Ukrainian forces could in fact surround the separatists.

    He hasn’t done that yet. If he were to do that, though, and this is the key, it might be necessary, but it’s not sufficient to end the conflict. And this is where we have the problem with the Western position.

    The Western position judges Mr. Putin’s compliance based on the results in the conflict. Does the conflict end? Is peace restored? And that depends on much more at this point even than Mr. Putin.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re saying he may not control that.

    MATTHEW ROJANSKY: It’s a genie out of a bottle problem.

    He has done things at this point which now potentially put local leaders beyond his ability to reel them back in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Nikolas Gvosdev, what about that? Where there were supposed to be talks going on, they don’t seem to be happening, or at least there’s not a real cease-fire yet. What is happening?

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Well, the problem from the Ukrainian government side is they really don’t want to have to deal with the separatist leaders as if they represent real political constituencies in East Ukraine.

    They don’t want to give them a legitimacy of sitting at the same table as Ukrainian government representatives. So, the Ukrainian government has been for months trying to avoid that scenario. From the Russian side, the Russians realize that there’s pressure coming in from Europe.

    And they have been calibrating what they do on the border with Ukraine, what would be most likely to tip sanctions from — new sanctions from being imposed on Ukraine, but they don’t want to give up the advantages that the separatist movement give them, because as long as there’s a viable separatist movement in the east, it means there can’t be a political settlement unless the Russians are dealt in and unless Russian interests are considered.

    So the Russians are in this odd position of, they need to do enough compliance with these requests to stave off further sanctions from the West, but they can’t, as Matt has already indicated, hermetically seal off the border, for fear that they might lose some of the influence that they currently possess.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so that suggests, Matt Rojansky, both sides are in a strange position, both Russia and Poroshenko.

    MATTHEW ROJANSKY: Yes, this is kind of the mutual annihilation standoff, right, where on the one hand Poroshenko has to continue with European integration, which he knows is the pathway that undermines Putin’s vision of Eurasians integration, right?

    Ukraine is the big prize in the former Soviet space, and by taking Ukraine to Europe, he really damages Putin’s position. Putin, at the same time, if he gives up, as Nick said, the influence that he has in the Donbass and Southeastern Ukraine, then his leverage against Poroshenko really atrophies.

    And this is not a trust-based negotiation. This is like a mafia negotiation. You keep your gun on the table while you talk about how to carve up the turf.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what about — Nikolas Gvosdev, you brought up the sanctions we have talked about a little bit here. But what about the prospect for new sanctions from Europe, from the U.S.? Would they be effective at this point?

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: It depends what those sanctions are.

    And it was very interesting that the Europeans today again delayed a unified sanctions response. They have put it off now until next week, and again it’s based on these vague compliance indicators. It gives those countries in Europe which really don’t want to see further sanctions placed on Russia enough room that if they can show that Russia has made some steps, then they can argue a process is in place and we don’t need to impose new sanctions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Nikolas Gvosdev, Matthew Rojansky, thank you both very much.

    MATTHEW ROJANSKY: Thank you.

    NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Thank you.

    The post Trade deal locks Poroshenko and Russia in standoff appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: another in our ongoing series about long-term care.

    Providing that care at a reasonable cost, especially for low-income Americans and those who are elderly or who have disabilities, has long been a challenge.

    The state of California is trying to tackle that problem, as special correspondent Kathleen McCleery reports.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Eighty-five-year-old Lydia Cornell has diabetes, congestive heart failure, and has suffered multiple strokes. She lives with her daughter, Elsa, who cares for her and manages her medical problems.

    ELSA MALIWAT: My mom sees like four different doctors, like her primary physician, who manages her diabetes, and then a cardiologist, because my mom had two strokes already. She also sees a nephrologist now because she’s been a longtime diabetic, as well as a podiatrist.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: After her husband died, Cornell exhausted her financial resources. Her low income allows her to receive Medicaid. California calls it Medi-Cal. And she gets Medicare too.

    She’s one of more than a million Californians and nine million Americans who qualify for both. It’s an especially vulnerable group, says attorney and longtime consumer advocate Greg Knoll, CEO of the Legal Aid Society in San Diego.

    GREGORY KNOLL, Legal Aid Society of San Diego: The population is our oldest. It’s our most infirm, our poorest group of folks. These are folks that are qualified by income for Medicaid. They also, because of their age or disability, are qualified for Medicare.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Health care costs for this group are sky-high, far more than those on Medicare alone. Plus, the two programs, federally run Medicare and state-run Medicaid, operate separately, with different benefits and rules.

    Ellen Schmeding directs aging and independence services for the county of San Diego.

    ELLEN SCHMEDING, Aging & Independence Services, San Diego County: If you can imagine a disjointed system where everything that happens on the health side is in one silo, and the social services are in another, the two never to meet and talk, that’s what we’re really trying to address.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: California is one of 18 states trying pilot projects to fix that disconnect, all part of a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

    The state launched a one-stop plan called Cal MediConnect beginning this spring.

    Toby Douglas, director for the state Department of Health Care Services, overviews it.

    TOBY DOUGLAS, Director, California Department of Health Care Services: What we’re doing under Cal MediConnect is combining all of these different programs under one umbrella, on one coordinated system, where individuals don’t have to do it and navigate multiple systems on their own. They will have one card, one system that coordinates their care.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: San Diego is one of eight California counties taking part in a three-year test of the new program. And here, most participants will be automatically enrolled in one of four managed care plans.

    WOMAN: Good morning. My name is Meghan. I’m calling with Molina Healthcare.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: At Molina Health, care coordinators handle both medical and social needs by phone and in person, often in a variety of languages for this diverse community.

    They work with a team of doctors, nurses and social workers. Molina’s medical director in San Diego ,Dr. Nora Faine, says one aim is to keep members out of the hospital and out of nursing homes.

    DR. NORA FAINE, Medical Director, Molina Health of San Diego: It is going to help them to have a higher quality of life, because they are now going to know what the services are that are available to them, to be connected to them. Sometimes, there are transportation issues that are very significant, and people can’t get to both their physicians, their primary care physicians, their appointments, their specialists.

    And so having transportation available to them, so that they’re not missing any of their appointments, making sure that if they have modifications that are needed in their home, grab bars, a ramp to go into their home if they use a walker or wheelchair, all of these services are part of coordinating their care. We’re really trying to make sure that people are able to stay into the community as long as possible.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Another way to stave off costly nursing care is to make it easier for individuals to attend day health care programs.

    DR. NORA FAINE: Someone can come and take advantage of the meals. There’s transport available to them. There’s therapy that meets their needs to keep them limber and more functional.

    ELLEN SCHMEDING: If the care coordinator takes a look with the individual and together they say the day program would be a wonderful opportunity, then that’s something that the health plans can authorize. So, previously, that coordination might never have occurred.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: But integrating the two health systems hasn’t been easy.

    LIZ LANDRAM, Poway Adult Day Health Care Center: It’s a great idea on paper, but the reality of it is that it’s not quite there yet, in I experience.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Social worker Liz Landram at the Poway Adult Day Health Care Center spends hours each day helping those who are confused and worried about the changes.

    LIZ LANDRAM: Many people are getting turned away from their doctors, saying that your insurance has changed, we can no longer see you, and this may be a patient who has seen this doctor for 30 years.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: That was Patricia DelVecchio’s experience. The former nurse waited eight months to line up knee surgery, only to discover her doctor won’t take the new managed care plan.

    PATRICIA DELVECCHIO: I thought that I was going to get my surgery. He was getting verification. And I called up and I says, well, what’s happening?  Why am I not getting surgery? And they says, oh, we’re sorry. We don’t take HMO. So I’m very disappointed and very frustrated.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: The program isn’t mandatory. DelVecchio decided to opt out and keep her doctors who take traditional Medicare. And that’s a decision many other San Diegans are making.

    Greg Knoll runs a call center that fields question about the fledgling program.

    GREGORY KNOLL: In San Diego, we are told that our opt-out rate is in the 40 percent range. But you couldn’t prove that by me. When our advocates talk to people that are calling who are confused, even though we go through all the virtues of having their care coordinated, we have had virtually 99 percent immediately say, stop talking. I’m ready to opt out.

    Most consumers are going to say, I’m going to stay with the devil I know, even if I got problems, than go to the devil I don’t.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Elsa Maliwat, though, is betting the state will succeed with Cal MediConnect, and her mother is now enrolled.

    ELSA MALIWAT: Even their insurance card — so, instead of like going to the doctor and showing, here’s her Medicare, here’s her Medi-Cal, here’s the supplement card, so now like she only carries one card for both Medicare and Medi-Cal. So, yes, it’s a lot simpler. That’s what’s I have been going through, yes.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: California officials acknowledge the new program is an ambitious one. They are hoping to enroll 450,000 people statewide by the end of 2015.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can test your knowledge of this online. Take our quiz to see how well you recognize the costs and the impact of long- term care. That’s on our Health page.

    The post Fixing the disconnect between Medicare and Medicaid to serve the most vulnerable Americans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: A new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shines a light on the dangers of overindulging in alcohol.

    Hari Sreenivasan, in our New York studio, has that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The study ranks excessive alcohol consumption as the fourth leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., accounting for one in 10 deaths among working-age Americans each year. Its effects also cost the U.S. economy roughly $224 billion every year.

    And it is not just the alcoholic drinker who is at risk. Partying, bingeing and daily drinking all take a toll.

    For a closer look, we turn to Dr. Robert Brewer. He’s head of the Alcohol Program at the CDC and co-author of the report. He joins us from Chicago.

    So, first of all, we have known that excessive drinking has different costs on society. It’s often a tragedy for the family or the loved ones of the diseased, but what surprised you about these numbers in this study?

    DR. ROBERT BREWER, Alcohol Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Well, Hari, you’re right.

    We have known that excessive alcohol use is a huge public health problem for a long time. What surprised us in this study was the extent to which that public health impact was focused on working age adults. And as you noted in your opener, we estimate that about one in 10 deaths among working-age adults, ages 20-64 years, are attributable to excessive~ alcohol use.

    That’s a huge number and certainly indicates to us that we need to redouble our efforts to prevent it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So this study also said that — the other statistic that reached out was the fourth leading cause of death attributable to excessive. How do we define excessive?

    DR. ROBERT BREWER: Well, excessive alcohol use is sort of an umbrella term that we use for various patterns of alcohol consumption and also for drinking among certain high-risk groups. So, under the umbrella, we would include binge-drinking, which is, for a woman, consuming four or more drinks on an occasion that is within a short period of time, for men, five or more drinks within an occasion that is again within a short period of time, basically drinking to the point of acute intoxication.

    And then we would also include high average daily alcohol consumption, which would be greater than one drink per day on average for a woman, greater than two drinks per day on average for a man, and then any alcohol consumption by groups that we know to be at particularly high risk of harms from alcohol consumption, specifically underage youth, that is, youth under age 21, and pregnant women.

    So, collectively, those four different groups would be under the umbrella of excessive alcohol use. Now, of those, binge-drinking is by far the most common pattern of excessive drinking.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what are those factors that influence that?  Does it happen more among males, more among young people?

    DR. ROBERT BREWER: Well, there certainly are some important differences across different population groups.

    And, yes, we know that men tend to binge-drink more than women. The prevalence, as we call it, the proportion of people who report binge-drinking is higher in younger-age groups, 18-24, but also 25-34.

    But it’s important to recognize that this really is an important public health problem across the lifespan. But, again, a lot of the public health impacts that we see related to excessive alcohol use — and in the case of our study we were looking at deaths in particular — are really concentrated in that group of working-age adults between 20 and 64 years.

    And that’s a huge, tragic loss to the — of course, the individual and to society. But it’s also a very expensive problem for all of us. And, as you noted in your opening, we estimate the economic cost of excessive drinking at about $224 billion a year.

    And a large proportion of that cost, about $2 out of every $5, is paid for by government. So, essentially, all of us are paying the cost of excessive alcohol use.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And the results of this survey are self-reported, so is there a possibility that the numbers you’re talking about could even be higher?

    DR. ROBERT BREWER: Absolutely.

    The estimates that we reported in our study, which, again, are deaths that are attributable to excessive alcohol use, are calculated in a variety of different ways, but part of that calculation does involve self-reports of alcohol consumption by individuals.

    And we know that people tend to significantly under-report their alcohol consumption. So, yes, we believe that, for that reason, among others, the estimated total number of deaths that we reported, which is 88,000 per year, and shortening the lives of those who die by about 30 years, is probably a significant underestimate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what do we know about policies or practices that change alcohol consumption behavior?  What works?

    DR. ROBERT BREWER: Well, actually, there are a lot of similarities in the policies and other services that can affect drinking, parallels between that and smoking.

    So we know, for example, that people’s drinking behavior is very much affected by the price of the alcohol. If alcohol is more expensive, people tend to drink less. We also know that alcohol consumption’s very much affected by the availability of alcohol.

    So, for example, if you have a very high concentration of bars or other establishments selling alcohol within a particular area, people are more likely to drink more as well. So, from a public health perspective, policies that relate to the price and the availability of alcohol are among those that we think can be most impactful in reducing excessive alcohol consumption.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    DR. ROBERT BREWER: But there’s also things that can be done in a doctor’s office as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Dr. Robert Brewer from the CDC, thanks so much.

    DR. ROBERT BREWER: Thank you. I appreciate your interest.

    The post Why we’re all paying the cost of excessive drinking appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shieldsponnuru

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Ponnuru. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru of “The National Review.” David Brooks is off.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    And let’s start by about talking about last Tuesday’s primaries.

    Mark, a good day for establishment Republican, not so much for the Tea Party. How do you explain what happened?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, certainly, Oklahoma was very good for — I think I can say not good for the Tea Party, where T.W. Shannon, the speaker of the House, African-American, Indian-American, kind of just gravitated towards Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee.

    And James Lankford, the very conservative congressman, two-term, won in a walk, without a runoff. And so in that sense, I would say it was a good day for the establishment. The big one was Mississippi. And Thad Cochran upset history, tradition, everything else, being an incumbent who was forced into a runoff.

    Turnout increased by 61,000 votes over the first primary. And he won, quite frankly, by turning out Reagan Democrats, Native Americans, but, most interestingly and impressively of all, African-Americans, who one could say provided the margin of victory. And it was a victory there for the establishment. Particularly, credit goes to Haley Barbour, the former governor, his nephew, Henry Barbour.

    Haley made the stakes known to voters, that this was going to be a case of electing somebody that, if they elected Chris McDaniel, who would won on the slogan he could do less for Mississippi.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: And that would have been a first in American politics. And Cochran had been very, very successful in delivering goods to the state.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ramesh, what do you make of what happened in Mississippi?

    RAMESH PONNURU: Well, I think Mississippi is the great exception to the overall story of these primaries, which is not just the establishment beating the Tea Party. It’s the establishment and Tea Party actually converging.

    If you look what happened in Oklahoma, for example, Jim Lankford was the congressman who was considered the establishment guy, although when he first ran for Congress in 2010, he was the Tea Party guy.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    RAMESH PONNURU: And he got the votes of most very conservative Oklahoma Republicans.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But compared to this other man who was running against him.

    RAMESH PONNURU: Right. That’s right.

    But the interesting thing here is, it’s not a question of Tea Party voters getting outvoted. Most Tea Party voters backed Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, backed the winning candidate in North Carolina. In Nebraska, a lot of these differences have — were transcended by Ben Sasse.

    Mississippi’s the great exception, where you had a bruising slugfest, and it was a very tight race.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And they spent a lot of money.

    RAMESH PONNURU: They spent a lot of money and they said all kinds of things about each other.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as Mark said, you had this crossover. There’s good evidence that a lot of Democrats voted for Thad Cochran, the incumbent Republican, and a number of African-Americans.

    RAMESH PONNURU: I think there’s no question. If it had been a closed primary, just Republicans, Cochran would have lost.

    MARK SHIELDS: And if it had been a closed election in 1980, Ronald Reagan would have lost.

    I mean, the ability to reach out — and that is an argument political scientists have had — should it just be a pure primary election, and just restrict it the party members? I would say that this was a civil war at the 19th hole of a country club. I mean, you had millions of dollars being spent by the pro-business Chamber of Commerce against the anti-tax Club for Growth.

    And conservative groups put more money in against Thad Cochran in Mississippi, Tea Party groups, Tea Party-affiliated groups, than was spent in his behalf.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it was the first time we have seen — at least that I have seen something like that. Maybe it’s happened before, where you had had African-American voters crossing over and voting in a Republican primary.

    MARK SHIELDS: I have never seen it before. And to me, it only augurs good things for Mississippi. I mean, it really does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well…

    MARK SHIELDS: And Travis Childers, the Democrat who after this primary, Thad Cochran — he’s the Democratic nominee — he’s in a great position to challenge Thad Cochran to debate every week of this campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you just mentioned civil war. Let’s talk about another kind of war, and that is, Ramesh, this escalating, I don’t know what else to call it, war between congressional Republicans and the president.

    They’re saying he is abusing his position as president. He is arrogating powers to himself that he doesn’t have. The speaker of the House is suing, is about to sue the president. The president himself yesterday, what did he say, he talked about this as a phony scandal.

    How do you explain what’s going on here?

    RAMESH PONNURU: Well, the lawsuit or the threatened lawsuit is about whether the president’s faithfully executing the laws as the Constitution says he’s supposed to.

    And a lot of congressional Republicans have been fuming at sort of an increasing volume over the last several months about how the administration has in their view rewritten the law on health care, rewritten the law on immigration and other matters.

    The problem with the administration’s framing of this, this is just a partisan endeavor, you look at these Supreme Court decisions against the administration, saying the administration is overreaching, obviously, that is something that the Democratic appointees, the liberal justices, the Obama appointees are all agreeing Obama has overstepped.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark.

    MARK SHIELDS: The Supreme Court has given a cautionary note, no question, on — certainly on recess appointments and on EPA regulations.

    But I think, Judy, what struck me this week with the House suit, this is a week in which it was announced the worst possible economic news for the country and certainly politically for the Democrats. The economy shrank by 2.9 percent the first quarter. And what is the Republicans’ response? Is there an economic package? Do they want to talk about the economy?

    No, we’re going to talk about an absolutely bogus suit that they’re going to bring against the president, which we know is going nowhere. And it just looks like John Boehner was feeling the pressure from the hard right of his own caucus: We have got to do something. We have tried the impeachment thing before some 16 years ago. That didn’t work in the second term of a president, so let’s do this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bogus suit, is that what it is, Ramesh?

    RAMESH PONNURU: Well, I wouldn’t be so sure that the courts are going to view it the same way.

    Who knows how it’s going to proceed. But I would say, if you look at the reasoning of the decisions that the Supreme Court has been making about the administration, where they think the administration has been grabbing power from the other branches, I think you would have to had some worry if you’re one of their lawyers.

    MARK SHIELDS: They have got to develop a single argument against Barack Obama. He’s weak. He’s lily-livered. He’s absolutely docile in foreign policy. And yet he’s this tyrant, this despot, this power-hungry grabber domestically.

    I mean, you have got it one way or the other. He’s either one or the other. And I would just point out, President Reagan had 182 more executive orders than — when he was president, than Barack Obama has ever issued.

    George W. Bush issued 110 more executive orders. And Reagan had eight times as many recess appointments. And I never heard this criticism made before.

    RAMESH PONNURU: If the debate is about the sheer number of executive orders, that’s absolutely right.

    But I think that the debate is broader than that.

    MARK SHIELDS: OK.

    RAMESH PONNURU: And I don’t think you have anything comparable in the previous administrations to President Obama saying, I can’t implement the DREAM Act unilaterally. That would go beyond my powers. A few months later, I’m going to implement the DREAM Act unilaterally.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, another — we can — we could talk about that, but I want to ask about another aspect of war going on between the Congress and the president, Mark, and that is the IRS.

    The commissioner of the IRS, John Koskinen, has been called before Congress now a number of times just in the last few days. There’s questions about missing e-mails, hard drive computers by top ranking IRS officials that were destroyed, a lot of questions about what happened. How do you read this and where is it headed?

    MARK SHIELDS: Full disclosure, John Koskinen has been someone I have known and respected for 35 years. And he’s taken on nothing but thankless assignments as a public servant, somebody who has done very well and could retire, play golf and play with his grandchildren.

    Instead, he’s come back to answer this call, just as he did on Y2K, just as he did on the closing of the government in 1995. He’s just — deputy mayor of the District of Columbia, taken over Freddie Mac. He’s taken nothing but tough assignments.

    And this one is probably the most thankless of all. IRS is unpopular. It’s unpopular across the board. They demand your records, and the idea that their records are missing is a storyline that is very difficult to defend.

    But I see absolutely no connection. I have watched the hearings carefully. And I will say that I just think this is a case of a committee run amuck. I think Darrell Issa is truly out of control.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Or committees. It several.

    MARK SHIELDS: The committees. Yes, but the vying between Ways and Means and Government Reform, I just think it’s a question of public service. I really do.

    And they’re going to get to the answer. They’re going to get to the bottom of it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ramesh, how do you see this?

    RAMESH PONNURU: I think that there’s no way to tell this story that reflects well on the IRS or how it has been run.

    I think if you have a $1.8 billion information technology budget, as the IRS does each year, you ought to have better record-keeping practices than it has. So, we have got, at the very least, a story of pretty amazing incompetence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think — at this point, Republicans are asking for more e-mails, more information to see whether the White House influenced this. I mean, is this going to continue?

    RAMESH PONNURU: Well, I think that there is a great deal of skepticism that we know the full story.

    I do think the Republicans are making a mistake if they talk about it as though they already know the conclusion and they already know that it’s going to lead to the White House, but I think absolutely it’s important to keep asking these questions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last thing I want to ask both of you about is someone who really was a giant when he served testify United States Senate. That’s Howard Baker, the Senate majority leader. He died this week, Mark, at the age of 88, and a remarkable legacy.

    MARK SHIELDS: A remarkable legacy.

    Judy, before Twitter and texting and all-news cable, there were about three dozen people who — mostly males — who used cover national politics. And late at night over drinks on the campaign trail, when people let their hair down, this leftist press corps almost overwhelmingly — not overwhelmingly — certainly a majority would say, if they could pick a president, it would be Howard Baker.

    He was a man of intellectual honesty, a man of incredible demeanor. He had no enemies list. He liked politics. He was very good at it, and he had a core. And I just — I think he would have made a terrific president. He was just a remarkable public servant. He saved Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As White House chief of staff after he left the Senate.

    MARK SHIELDS: White House chief of staff after he resigned — after he retired from the Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ramesh, he made a name for himself during the Watergate hearings back in the 1970s, but then went on to serve for so many years after that.

    RAMESH PONNURU: That’s right.

    And he did come into the Reagan White House at a time the White House was very beleaguered and helped have a successful end to that administration. But the Watergate hearings, what is so refreshing about it, looking back, is that here it’s — it’s normal. We’re totally used to the opposition party going after a president based on a scandal.

    But here you had somebody from the president’s party holding him accountable. And that’s something you don’t see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He was a remarkable man.

    Ramesh Ponnuru…

    MARK SHIELDS: He was a 5’7” giant.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you say?

    MARK SHIELDS: A 5’7” giant. He truly was a giant. You called him a giant.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you both very much, Mark Shields, Ramesh Ponnuru.

    The post Shields and Ponnuru on House GOP vs. Obama, missing IRS emails appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson spoke with Ed Silverman, author of the Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot blog.

    On Saturday, PBS NewsHour Weekend will air an investigation into controversial business practices sometimes used when brand-name drugs go generic.

    In legal battles over drug patents, a drug company will sometimes make a payment to a generic manufacturer that opponents allege is meant to delay the generic to market.

    The Federal Trade Commission, which has made fighting the deals one of its top priorities, calls the practice “pay for delay.” The FTC says the deals cost consumers $3.5 billion each year.

    To learn more about this issue, I spoke to Ed Silverman who writes the Pharmalot blog for the Wall Street Journal. He has covered the pharmaceutical industry for almost 20 years.

    Silverman said last year’s Supreme Court decision, FTC v. Activis Inc., could open the door to more lawsuits against drug companies engaged in the practice.

    Silverman also said the deals have gotten more complicated over the years. As he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, courts are currently grappling with what constitutes a “payment.”

    The post Courts weigh in on generic drug delays appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The capture of an alleged leader of the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, gave U.S. officials a rare moment of good news. Now, they are preparing to try the captured Libyan in the U.S. court system. File photo from the scene of the explosion by STR/AFP/GettyImages

    An armed man in front of cars engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi during the attacks on September 11, 2012. One of the alleged leaders was captured in mid-June and he is now in federal custody.  Credit: STR/AFP/GettyImages

    WASHINGTON — A Libyan militant charged in the 2012 Benghazi attacks was in federal law enforcement custody, the U.S. attorney’s office said Saturday. Security at the capital’s federal courthouse was heightened in anticipation of a possible court appearance by the suspect later in the day.

    Spokesman William Miller declined further immediate comment regarding Ahmed Abu Khattala, who faces criminal charges in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans from the attack on Sept. 11, 2012.

    U.S. special forces captured Abu Khattala in Libya two weeks ago, marking the first breakthrough in the investigation of the Benghazi attacks. Officials had been questioning Abu Khattala aboard a Navy amphibious transport dock ship that transported him from to the United States.

    A criminal complaint filed last year that was unsealed after his capture charges him with terror-related crimes, including killing a person during an attack on a federal facility, a crime that can be punishable by death.

    Abu Khattala may face a judge as soon as Saturday for an initial court appearance at which the government would outline the charges against him. He almost certainly would remain in detention while the Justice Department sought a federal grand jury indictment against him.

    The prosecution in a courthouse in the nation’s capital reflects the Obama administration’s stated position of trying suspected terrorists in the American criminal justice system even as Republicans call for Abu Khattala and others to be held at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Critics say suspected terrorists don’t deserve the legal protections afforded by the American court. The Obama administration considers the civilian justice system fairer and more efficient.

    The violence on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon quickly became a political flashpoint. Republicans accused the White House, as the 2012 presidential election neared, of intentionally misleading the public about what prompted the attacks. The White House, meanwhile, accused Republicans of politicizing a national tragedy.

    Abu Khattala, a prominent figure in Benghazi’s circles of extremists who was popular among young radicals, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press in January that he was present during the storming of the U.S. mission in Benghazi. But he denied involvement in the attack, saying he was trying to organize a rescue of trapped people.

    In the attack, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades and stormed the mission, with many waving the black banners of Ansar al-Shariah, a powerful Islamic militia.

    The compound’s main building was set ablaze. Ambassador Chris Stevens suffocated to death inside and another American was shot dead. Later in the evening, gunmen attacked and shelled a safe house, killing two more Americans.

    At the time, several witnesses said they saw Abu Khattala directing fighters at the site.

    No evidence has emerged that Abu Khattala was involved in the later attack on the safe house.

    Abu Khattala is one of just a few cases in which the administration has captured a suspected terrorist overseas and interrogated him for intelligence purposes before bringing him to federal court to face charges.

    Those cases include Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was arrested in Jordan in March 2013 and turned over to U.S. agents. A jury in New York City convicted him in March of conspiring to kill Americans.

    The post Suspect in Benghazi attacks in federal custody appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    raplyrics

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Seven years ago, middle of the day in Newport News, Virginia, and someone starts shooting.

    OPERATOR: Newport News 9/11

    CALLER: Yeah, he shot him! He shot that boy.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: When local police arrived at the scene, they found two young victims. A twenty year-old was laying near death on the front porch. (He’d die later at the hospital.) A sixteen year-old was already dead — behind the house, face down in the grass.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But police couldn’t find any leads — no witnesses, no weapon – so a double murder investigation went nowhere. But four years later, a new detective — Carlos Nunez — was assigned to the case. He got a tip that a local rapper Antwain Steward (seen here in this video) was the shooter, and that Steward — who uses the stage name ‘Twain Gotti’ — had actually written a rap song bragging about the murder.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Steward at the time was an up-and-coming young rapper who had a gun-possession conviction. Steward produces what some call ‘gangsta rap’ — his lyrics overwhelmingly focused on violence and drug dealing and gang life. One song caught the detective’s eye. When Nunez heard it, he believed steward was bragging about the murder. Listen:

    ANTWAIN STEWARD song “Ride Out”:
    Listen, walked to your boy and I approached him
    Twelve midnight on his traphouse porch and
    Everybody saw when I mother—–’ choked him
    But nobody saw when I mother—–’ smoked him
    Roped him, sharpened up the shank then I poked him
    .357 Smith & Wesson bean scoped him

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some of the details match: the shooting happened on a porch, no witnesses came forward… but others don’t: time of day is wrong, there wasn’t any stabbing, caliber of the gun is wrong, and there’s only one victim mentioned, not two.

    But — more importantly — is this evidence of anything? Is it just a song? Or is it a confession?

    Based largely on that rap, and accounts of two witnesses given years after the shooting, the rapper was arrested and charged with double murder. Steward claims he’s innocent. He’s been in jail ever since his arrest.

    During his initial interrogation, the detective zeroed in on Steward’s lyrics.

    DETECTIVE CARLOS NUNEZ: It’s a rap song you sang way back then. It say ‘‘Everybody saw me when I choke him, but nobody saw when I smoke him.’

    ANTWAIN STEWARD: What that got to do with any motherf—– murder that you just f—— threw at me?

    DETECTIVE CARLOS NUNEZ: And the trap house porch. .357 scope.

    ANTWAIN STEWARD: What do that got to do with anything?

    DETECTIVE CARLOS NUNEZ: You described the murder. You talk about the murder.

    ANTWAIN STEWARD: Listen man….

    ANTWAIN STEWARD: When I was in interrogation, that’s the first thing he threw at me. The detective threw that at me. He’s saying “You know I got every song you ever made,” but I ain’t know nothing he was talking about.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So you had nothing to do with the killing of those two men.

    ANTWAIN STEWARD: Nothing at all. I don’t know nothing about it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: James Ellenson is Steward’s lawyer.

    JAMES ELLENSON: It seemed like the rap lyrics sort of formed the basis of their investigatory tool as to why they started thinking that maybe it was Antwain Steward had committed these, this double murder.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Though the lyrics were instrumental in building this case — (they were cited in an affidavit, in the interrogation, and in a pretrial hearing), the prosecutor ultimately decided not to play them to the jury. But in many other cases nationwide, rap lyrics are playing an increasingly prominent role in criminal cases.

    DAVID LABAHN: When something occurs in that video and that rap matches the crime, it’s going to be real hard in a criminal court to try to attempt on behalf of the defense to exclude it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: David LaBahn is a former gang prosecutor and is now the CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

    DAVID LABAHN: On behalf of prosecutors, if it’s matching, that would very much be another piece of evidence that we would like to admit to the case, because we think it is relevant.

    ERIK NIELSON: I can tell you that it’s in the hundreds.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Hundreds of instances.

    ERIK NIELSON: Hundreds of instances where rap lyrics are being used at some point in the criminal justice process.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Erik Nielson of the University of Richmond is a scholar of rap, and a strong critic of its use in criminal proceedings, which he says too often mistakes a musical art form for evidence of criminal behavior.

    ERIK NIELSON: What prosecutors have found is that when they can introduce rap lyrics as evidence, particularly in situations where they don’t have strong evidence otherwise, they are still able to secure convictions.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: No one tracks exactly how often rap lyrics help secure convictions, or even how often they’re used before trial to secure plea bargains. There also aren’t any hard and fast rules about using them in court: a judge must weigh a lyrics relevance, versus its potential to unfairly prejudice a jury.

    There are some cases – like Dennis Greene’s – where the connection between a rap and a crime is clear. In 2003, Greene brutally killed his wife, and then rapped specifically about committing the murder. The lyrics were introduced at trial, and he was sentenced to life in prison. But other cases aren’t as clear cut:

    NEWS REPORTER: Three specific words are what prosecutors hope will link Terrence Hatch…

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Two years ago in Louisiana, a rapper named Terrance Hatch — known as Lil’ Boosie — was tried for first degree murder. Prosecutors argued that a few cryptic words of one rap song were in fact a confession. Hatch was found not guilty.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But one of the most controversial and contested uses of rap lyrics in a trial was the case of Vonte Skinner. Skinner was convicted in 2008 of shooting a fellow drug dealer outside this New Jersey house. During his trial, prosecutors read thirteen pages of Skinner’s violent, graphic rap lyrics. These were lyrics written months and years before the shooting, and were meant to show Skinner’s alleged propensity for violence.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: His conviction was overturned by an appellate court which ruled the extensive readings unfairly prejudiced the jury. The State Supreme Court is weighing whether Skinner deserves a new trial.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To critics like Erik Nielson, prosecutors rarely, if ever, should use rap as evidence in court. He says it’s an art form that intentionally uses elaborate word-play and exaggeration. While it may often contain graphic violence, Nielson argues that’s a reflection of the communities where many young black men live. He says rappers are creating characters, not writing diaries.

    ERIK NIELSON: That is the most important distinction that constantly gets missed, is that there is an author and a narrator. We seem to be able to grasp that concept with every other art form that uses the first person narrative. But rappers, who go the extra mile to signal that they are inventing a narrator with their use of a stage name, we still revert back to this idea that they’re the same, we conflate the two.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You don’t buy the argument that this is all fiction. You believe that if they are rapping about a violent, crime-ridden life, that that does tell you something about the artists themselves.

    DAVID LABAHN: Absolutely. I would say you can’t have it both ways. You cannot say that “I’m rapping about stuff because this is what I live in, this is what I see every day” and then come into court and say “everything that I said in that rap is completely untrue.”

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So if that song is just a story, a made up story, why do you write a story like that? Why are you telling that story?

    ANTWAIN STEWARD: That’s my lane. I’m in the lane of a hardcore rap. I just want to build up my brand to try and get where I’m going. I just found something that I’m talented at and found a way to make money off of it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Antwain Steward says like it or not, gangsta rap is what sells, and he says the violent, gang-ridden streets where he grew up gave him plenty to rap about.

    ANTWAIN STEWARD: It’s everyday life where I’m from. It just goes on, like walking down the street you might see a needle that was used for dope laying on the ground, know what I mean? When you grew up in that environment your whole life, it’s not hard, it just comes naturally, you feel me.

    ERIK NIELSON: I think it becomes even easier to sort of negate rap as art when the rap itself is projecting stereotypes of criminality about, particularly young black men in the United States. So I think prosecutors have a very powerful tactic and one of the things that’s most powerful about it is that it allows them to play upon, but unfortunately also perpetuate those enduring stereotypes.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What about the argument that the content of some kinds of rap music is so violent, that if you put that in front of a jury, and if the prosecution says “This guy raps like this, and we think he’s guilty of x,” then the jury will believe anything?

    DAVID LABAHN: I don’t think that matches reality of what happens in a courtroom. We must get a unanimous jury beyond a reasonable doubt. And playing a rap is not going to convict somebody. If it was then you’d have rap being played every day and we wouldn’t need to worry about producing other evidence.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Antwain Steward’s double murder trial lasted three days. With no mention of his lyrics by the prosecution, the case hung on those two eyewitnesses who identified him four years after the fatal shootings. The jury found steward not guilty of either murder, but guilty on a related weapons charge. He’ll be sentenced later this month. In the meantime, Steward says his arrest and the publicity around it has driven up downloads and YouTube views of his songs.

    The post Rap lyrics used as evidence of intent in criminal cases appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    payfordelay

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    MEGAN THOMPSON: In 2004, Karen Winkler was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease affecting the nervous system. The 46-year-old mother of three, who lives in Clarkston, Michigan, struggles every day with numbness, pain and extreme fatigue.

    KAREN WINKLER: It’s so overwhelming. You wake up tired. And as the day progresses, it just gets worse and worse. And it’s where you could fall asleep standing up.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In 2005, Winkler’s doctor prescribed a brand-name medication called Provigil. It was one of the only drugs for fatigue on the market that had minimal side effects. It was made by a company called Cephalon, which earned $475 million dollars on Provigil that year. Winkler’s doctor put her on a half pill, every day.

    KAREN WINKLER: It was perfect, you know. I had three young kids and I could still do- pretty much do everything that I did. And, you know, if I had 10 things on the to-do list, you know, I could either get the 10 things done or at least eight or nine of them.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Better yet, Winkler says her doctor told her Provigil was expected to go generic soon – possibly within a year. And that could have saved Winkler more than a thousand dollars a year. The potential savings were especially important because her disease made it impossible to go back to work as she’d planned. And around that same time, her husband’s pay was cut and the family had to dip into savings and a 401(k).

    KAREN WINKLER: Then it didn’t go generic. And it was a whole different story.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Not only did it not go generic … the price inexplicably started to rise.

    KAREN WINKLER: It was six-something a pill. And then it was seven-something a pill. In 2010, it had gone up to, like, 16-something a pill. It was astronomical at the time.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Winkler’s out-of-pocket cost for a six-month supply went from around $300 in 2008 to more than $700 in 2010.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So, could you afford that?

    KAREN WINKLER: No. That was a car payment and plus. And with three young kids and, you know, feeding them, and I felt guilty that I was taking away from the family budget.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Her condition was getting worse and she couldn’t afford to take a higher dose of Provigil. So she decided to try a less expensive generic version of a different drug. It turned out not to be as effective, and made her shaky and jittery. Her reaction to not getting the drugs she said she needed?

    KAREN WINKNLER: I thought, how can this be legal, how can this be – It’s definitely not moral. It’s not humane. It’s not fair.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Why hadn’t Provigil gone generic? And why was the price of it rising so sharply? As Winkler discovered through online research, the company manufacturing the drug, Cephalon, was using two common but little known business strategies that critics say end up costing consumers. First, there’s something that opponents call, “pay for delay.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Here’s how “pay for delay” works. According to the Federal Trade Commission, when generic manufacturers challenge a patent, the brand-name manufacturer sometimes pays to keep the generic version off the market.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In the case of Karen’s drug, the company that makes Provigil paid a total of $200 million to four generic companies. That deal guaranteed no generic would come to market for another six years.

    MARKUS MEIER: At its simplest level, we’re talking about an agreement between a brand company and a generic company, in which the brand company pays the generic company not to launch a generic in competition with the brand.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Markus Meier is an assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition. He says fighting these so-called “pay for delay” deals is one of the FTC’s top priorities.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: It brought a lawsuit in 2008, alleging “anticompetitive conduct by Cephalon to prevent lower-cost generic competition.” The case has yet to go to trial. A separate class action lawsuit has been filed by health plans and drug wholesalers against Cephalon and the four generic manufacturers alleging “unlawful exclusion of generic competition from the market.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And just last summer, the Supreme Court issued a major ruling in another FTC case that could open the door for more lawsuits against drug manufacturers involved in similar practices.

    MARKUS MEIER: If you can keep the generic out, the brand can continue to make all the sales at the monopoly price and still pay the generic to make it worthwhile for them to stay out of the market.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: What does the FTC say is at stake for consumers?

    MARKUS MEIER: Billions of dollars. We’ve done a study of this back in 2010 where we really studied this very carefully and we estimated that it cost American consumers about $3.5 billion a year.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Deals like this have affected the rollout of generic versions of popular drugs such as Tamoxifen for cancer, Lipitor for high cholesterol, and Nexium for heartburn.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: It might not surprise you that what opponents call “pay for delay” deals, the drug companies describe completely differently. The generic manufacturers say the negotiated settlements they reach with brand -name drug manufacturers actually serve consumers well. How? Because, they say, under those deals, generic drugs hit the market before the brand drug’s patent expires — and only because generic companies challenged those patents in the first place.

    RALPH NEAS: Do we work out compromise? Proudly, I say yes.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Ralph Neas is president and CEO of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association. Neas says the settlements help avoid costly and time-consuming court trials over the drug patent challenges. And, he points to one study showing generic manufacturers succeed less than half the time when they do end up in court.

    RALPH G. NEAS: We may have no better than a 50/50 chance of winning, maybe less. Maybe we can put something on the table that would be a bridge to a compromise. This has been part of the successful equation that have gotten affordable medicines to consumers sooner.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Your opponents would say that if it weren’t for these payments that were being made, these drugs may have come to market even sooner.

    RALPH G. NEAS: On average, a patent settlement will get the medicine to the market 60 months in advance of the patent expiration. Sometimes you go all the way and you might get ten years or eight years sooner. But if you are pretty sure you can get five or six or seven years, it’s better taking that five or six or seven years rather than rolling the dice and getting nothing for the consumers you’re trying to serve.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In each of these cases, the generic does end up coming to market months, sometimes even years before that patent in question expires. So, isn’t that good for consumers?

    MARKUS MEIER: Well, the fact that the generic comes in earlier could, in theory, be better, but you have to compare it to the likelihood that the generic would have come even earlier. So, take, for example, Provigil. It’s true that there is a generic in the market today. But we contend that but for this agreement, consumers would have had access to a generic all the way back in 2006. And there would have been years and years of savings that consumers would have enjoyed had they launched in 2006.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: But because of what critics describe as those “pay for delay” deals, Provigil didn’t go generic. So Karen Winkler and other consumers paid the price. And it turns out she paid even more because of that second controversial business strategy that Cephalon used then and other drug manufacturers continue to use today — something opponents call “evergreening.” The idea is to get consumers off the drug they’re taking and on to another brand drug the same company is making.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In Winkler’s case — off Provigil whose patent was about to expire. — and onto Nuvigil, whose patent had several years to run. Companies sometimes do this by jacking up prices on the first drug. That’s what happened to Winkler when, seeking relief from the rising price of Provigil, her doctor offered her Nuvigil.

    KAREN WINKLER: So, I thought, “Great. You know, here’s a solution.” Came home and I started taking the pills for two or three days and got a pounding, pounding headache from it. And- To the point that it was almost like having a migraine.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: That’s when Winkler went online and figured out what was going on.

    KAREN WINKLER: And what they were trying to do was to get patients off of Provigil, because they knew it was going to be going generic shortly, to start taking this Nuvigil that had this new, extended patent period. And then obviously once Provigil went generic, everybody on Nuvigil would not be going to a generic drug. They would be still on the Nuvigil.

    MARKUS MEIER: It’s very rare for patients to switch back once the generic comes into the marketplace. So, it’s a strategy for the brand to be able to hold on to the market longer- even after there’s a generic in the marketplace.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: This is one area where the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the FTC find common ground.

    RALPH G. NEAS: That’s keeping affordable medicine from people who desperately need it. And we’re very much against it and it’s a big issue.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: What does Provigil’s manufacturer, Cephalon, have to say about the two business strategies? The company was acquired by another drugmaker, Teva, in 2011. In a statement to NewsHour about the first, so-called “pay for delay” strategy,” that company said:

    MEGAN THOMPSON: “Teva believes that the PROVIGIL® settlement agreements are lawful and served to increase competition, and the Company intends to defend them vigorously.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In response to the second strategy of “evergreening,” Teva had no comment.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: When Provigil finally went generic in 2012, the price for Karen Winkler fell from more than $700 to around $16 for a three-month supply. Winkler was able to go back on the drug … and take the full dose. She says it’s made all the difference.

    The post Are generic drugs being delayed to market? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Generics

    Credit: NewsHour Weekend

    Saturday on NewsHour Weekend, we present an investigation into so-called “pay for delay” deals between drug companies. The complicated deals happen after generic drug companies challenge the patents on brand-name drugs.

    The settlements that follow include a date that the generic drug can enter the market, and in some cases, a payment of some type from brand company to the generic company.

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, the deals cost consumers around $3.5 billion each year.

    Click on the question below to take our poll:

    Are you satisfied with the amount you currently pay for prescription drugs? Take our poll above or leave a comment below to share your story.

    The post Do you think you are paying a fair price for prescription drugs? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Aquarius Lab in Florida. Photo by Brian Lam

    The Aquarius Lab in Florida. Credit: Brian Lam

    We’ve done several Google+ Hangouts at the NewsHour, but until now, none were filmed underwater.

    On Saturday, we dialed up Fabien Cousteau, whose Mission 31 team is spending more than a month 63 feet beneath the waves at Florida International University’s Aquarius Lab.

    Cousteau, the grandson of the legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, told the NewsHour audience about the research they’re doing below the surface.

    Cousteau also took us on a tour of the lab and explained a bit of the science that enables their bodies to stay “saturated” at three “atmospheres.” Watch the video below to learn what those words mean.

    The post Aquanaut Fabien Cousteau’s 31-day mission underwater appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen shot 2014-06-28 at 2.56.48 PM

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    SASKIA DE MELKER: Empty frames and faded imprints aren’t what you expect to see at an art show. But in this gallery they are among the most haunting images representing the fate of thousands of modern artworks stolen by the Nazis in the 1930’s that were destroyed or remain lost to this day.

    DegenerateArt_231

    It’s part of an exhibit called ‘Degenerate Art’ on display until September at the Neue Galerie in New York that offers a new look at the assault on modern art by the Nazis.

    The exhibit juxtaposes the classical 19th century paintings and sculptures that Hitler loved and accepted with the abstract modern art that he hated. This art he labeled “degenerate.”

    Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) Poster with Self-Portrait for Der Sturm magazine,1910 Colored lithograph 26 3/8 x 17 5/8 in. (67 x 44.7 cm) © Neue Galerie New York. Gift of Leonard A. Lauder © 2014 Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ProLitteris, Zürich

    Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) Poster with Self-Portrait for Der Sturm magazine,1910 Colored lithograph 26 3/8 x 17 5/8 in. (67 x 44.7 cm) © Neue Galerie New York. Gift of Leonard A. Lauder © 2014 Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ProLitteris, Zürich

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Looking at all this beautiful art, what is it about this art that Hitler found so threatening?

    OLAF PETERS (Curator, Neue Galerie): Threatening was the international or the intellectual aspect of modern art, so it was not something which was you can easily understand.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Olaf Peters is a German art historian and curator of the exhibition.

    2. Lasar Segall, Eternal Wanderers, 1919

    Lasar Segall (1891-1957) Eternal Wanderers, 1919. Oil on canvas 54 3/8 x 72 1⁄2 in. (138 x 184 cm) Lasar Segall Museum, IBRAM/Ministry of Culture Photo: Jorge Bastos

    OLAF PETERS: They disliked it because it was also destroying to some degree the traditional concept of a painting, of an artwork, by fragmentation and things like that. Also the aspect of content were important.

    For example, leftist artists of the early Weimar Republic like George Cross or Otto Dix depicted prostitutes, depicted war scenes in a very brutal way. And the National Socialists were preparing the German audience and the German people for a new war. And therefore they really disliked that. What they wanted instead of these anti-war paintings for example was the heroic soldier.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: The Nazis even put on a show of ‘degenerate art’ in the 1930’s in an attempt to shame artists and convince Germans of the art’s perverse nature.

    But in fact, Peters points out that a number of Nazi officials including Hitler’s Chief of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels were themselves collectors of these banned works.

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) A Group of Artists (The Painters of the Brücke), 1925-26 Oil on canvas 66 1/8 x 49 5/8 in. (168 x 126 cm) Museum Ludwig, Cologne Photo: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Cologne

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) A Group of Artists (The Painters of the Brücke), 1925-26 Oil on canvas 66 1/8 x 49 5/8 in. (168 x 126 cm) Museum Ludwig, Cologne Photo: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Cologne

    Many of the artists labelled ‘degenerate’ were faithful Germans and were shocked by the designation. A section of the gallery shows self-portraits like expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner who painted their reactions to being cast out.

    OLAF PETERS: What you can see if that he blurred the one side of his face so that there is no eye any longer. He also blocked his own hands that is a sort of symbol for “I’m not able to work, my hands are bound, I’m not free to use them, I cannot paint or draw.” And he added a red swastika in the background, and for me these are really hints that he is reflecting his own status. And he committed suicide one year later.

    The exhibit also explores how the Nazis separating out of unacceptable artwork was used as a justification for their plan to purify German society of Jews.

    Max Beckmann (1884-1950) Departure, Frankfurt 1932, Berlin 1933-35 Oil on canvas 84 3⁄4 x 39 1⁄4 in. (215.3 x 99.7 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously (by exchange) Digital Image © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/ Art Resource, NY © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

    Max Beckmann (1884-1950) Departure, Frankfurt 1932, Berlin 1933-35 Oil on canvas 84 3⁄4 x 39 1⁄4 in. (215.3 x 99.7 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously (by exchange) Digital Image © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/ Art Resource, NY © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

    SASKIA DE MELKER: In this exhibition here, you have two photographs, one showing the line outside the degenerate art exhibition and on the other side showing a train full of Jews arriving at Auschwitz. Why the connection between these two photographs?

    OLAF PETERS: Somebody like Heinrich Himmler, who was organizing for Holocaust and the final solution, he came back to images of the degenerate art exhibition. The destructive power of the Jews, destroying German culture by modern art was used by the perpetrators. And that is the point that I wanted to make at the end of this exhibition

    And by uncovering the Nazis’ effort to carry out cultural and, in turn, ethnic cleansing, Peters hopes his exhibition can help guard against future similar attacks.

    OLAF PETERS: “You can question yourself in America or in Germany or Europe but you have to question of course that in China or in Russia: What is the status of modern art?….and how is it endangered when it is limited, when there is censorship and things like that. You can learn from history and this is one of the most telling examples of how, when it comes to the status of modern art in a society”

    The post ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibit explores Nazi assault on modern art appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 26: A pile of Bitcoin slugs sit in a box ready to be minted by Software engineer Mike Caldwell in his shop on April 26, 2013 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images) Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

    A pile of Bitcoin slugs sit in a box ready to be minted by Software engineer Mike Caldwell in his shop on April 26, 2013 in Utah. The government recently auctioned off 175,000 bitcoins previously held by the online black market Silk Road. Credit: George Frey/Getty Images

    Last fall, when the FBI shut down Silk Road, an online black market that delivered illegal drugs to users’ doorsteps, it also seized a bounty of the digital currency known as Bitcoin.

    The Silk Road used Bitcoin to make transactions because it is difficult to trace and allows for quick, seamless electronic transfers.

    But since the October 2013 raid  — when site’s operator, Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested — about 175,000 of the site’s Bitcoins have remained in government hands.

    In an effort to cash in some of these electronic assets, nearly 30,000 of the Bitcoins, valued by the government at $17.4 million, were auctioned off Friday over a 12-hour period on the U.S. Marshals Service website.

    But the U.S. Marshals Service didn’t make it easy to participate in the auction.

    The government’s requirements to bid on the Bitcoin included a $200,000 cash collateral and confirmation of the bidder’s identity.

    The Bitcoins were also only available for bid in nine “blocks,” each containing about 3,000 units. The government estimated these blocks would sell for about $1.8 million each.

    In an interview with Vice News, Mark Williams, a finance professor at the Boston University School of Management, said the U.S. Marshals Office engineered the pool of bidders to be small and wealthy.

    “It’s not like stocks and bonds where you have a deep market of buyers and sellers, this is a market where 1,000 people control 50 percent of the coins produced,” he said. “So the U.S. Marshals office is screening out many folks that would typically be available.”

    According to a report by the New York Times, in the days leading up to the auction, a list of potential bidders was accidentally leaked — after the U.S. Marshals office had said that no information about bidders would be released to the public.

    Bitcoin is currently valued at $595.15 per unit and is climbing upwards after falling by seven percent in reaction to news of the government auction, according to the digital currency exchange Coindesk.com.

    In the weeks after Silk Road was shut down, the cryptocurrency hit an all-time high of $1,000.

    The U.S. Marshals Service said it will notify the auction’s winning bidders on Monday. It will be up to the winners to reveal their newly-secured investments to the public.

    The post Government auctions off Bitcoins from Silk Road seizure appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The Libyan militant accused of masterminding the deadly Benghazi attacks that have become a flashpoint in U.S. politics pleaded not guilty to conspiracy Saturday in a federal courtroom in Washington.

    Ahmed Abu Khattala made his initial court appearance amid tight security.

    A grand jury indictment says Abu Khattala took part in a conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists in the 2012 attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

    In court, he wore a two-piece black track suit and kept his hands, which were not handcuffed, behind his back. He looked impassively at the judge for most of a 10-minute court hearing.

    His court appointed lawyer, Michele Peterson, entered the not guilty plea.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola ordered the defendant’s continued detention, but Facciola did not say where Abu Khattala would be held.

    The indictment was handed up under seal on Thursday and was made public Saturday afternoon.

    The government said it would file more charges against him soon.

    Abu Khattala spoke just two words during the hearing, both in Arabic. He replied “yes” when asked to swear to tell the truth and “no” when asked if he was having trouble understanding the proceeding.

    He wore headphones to listen to a translation of the proceedings. He had a beard and long curly hair, both mostly gray.

    Associated Press reporters Mark Sherman and Eric Tucker wrote this report. Associated Press writers Pete Yost and Robert Burns contributed.

    The post Libyan militant accused in Benghazi attacks pleads not guilty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A screen grab from a video obtained by the AFP reportedly shows the nearly 300 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to Nigeria, where the search for more than 200 missing schoolgirls seized two months ago continues. For the latest about that, we are joined now via Skype from Lagos, Nigeria by Michelle Faul. She is the AP Bureau Chief there.

    So Michelle, we’re hearing about a continued string of kidnappings, now including women and children as well.

    MICHELLE FAUL: You have women, you have children, you have married women with three-year-old toddlers; young boys and men, young men being kidnapped we assume to be used as fighters. This has been going on for a year. The reason that it came to all the tension was because of the large number of girls, the more than 200 girls who were kidnapped from Chibok town as they were writing exams, and they remain in captivity.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So there have been reports that some of the search efforts are being scaled back, including some of the drone flights the U.S. had been volunteering to look for those missing girls.

    MICHELLE FAUL: Well of course, we heard from the Nigerian military two or three weeks ago that they say they know where the girls are, but they fear that any kind of military action would mean that the abductors would kill the girls.

    In terms of the search, we’re not hearing as much as we would like to hear. President Goodluck Jonathan tried to give an excuse for that. He wrote an op-ed that was published in the Washington Post two days ago, in which he said that his silence revolved around trying to not endanger the investigations that his government and the military are involved in.

    I call Chibok every day, every second day I talk to the parents. They are begging the government to negotiate with these Boko Haram extremists. Now we know that Boko Haram has demanded that the Nigerian government release the sum of the detainees it’s holding. President Jonathan, we are told, has indicated that he will not consider a prisoner swap. So you have a situation where it’s a total stall, and nobody knows where to go from that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Michelle Faul from the Associated Press joining us from Nigeria via Skype. Thanks so much.

    MICHELLE FAUL: You’re welcome.

    The post Two months later, search for missing Nigerian schoolgirls continues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in a case that weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to the birth control of their choice.

    The court meets for a final time Monday to release decisions in its two remaining cases before the justices take off for the summer.

    The cases involve birth control coverage under President Barack Obama’s health law and fees paid to labor unions representing government employees by workers who object to being affiliated with a union.

    Two years after Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama’s campaign for re-election, the justices are considering a sliver of the law.

    Employers must cover contraception for women at no extra charge among a range of preventive benefits in employee health plans.

    Dozens of companies, including the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby, claim religious objections to covering some or all contraceptives.

    The methods and devices at issue before the Supreme Court are those that Hobby Lobby and furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pennsylvania, say can work after conception. They are the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, as well as intrauterine devices, which can cost up to $1,000.

    The Obama administration says insurance coverage for birth control is important to women’s health and reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies, as well as abortions.

    The court has never recognized a for-profit corporation’s religious rights under federal law or the Constitution. But even some supporters of the administration’s position said they would not be surprised if the court were to do so on Monday, perhaps limiting the right to corporations that are under tight family control.

    Several justices worried at the argument in March that such a decision would lead to religious objections to covering blood transfusions or vaccinations.

    Prominent Washington lawyer Paul Smith said another important question is how the decision would apply to “laws that protect people from discrimination, particularly LGBT people.”

    In the Hobby Lobby case, even if the court finds such a right exists, it still has to weigh whether the government’s decision to have employee health plans pay for birth control is important enough to overcome the companies’ religious objections.

    It is no surprise that this high-profile case, argued three months ago, is among the last released.

    The other unresolved case has been hanging around since late January, often a sign that the outcome is especially contentious.

    Home health care workers in Illinois want the court to rule that public sector unions cannot collect fees from workers who aren’t union members. The idea behind compulsory fees for nonmembers is that the union negotiates the contract for all workers, so they all should share in the cost of that work.

    The court has been hostile to labor unions in recent years. If that trend continues Monday, the justices could confine their ruling to home health workers or they could strike a big blow against unions more generally.

    The post Supreme Court poised to deliver verdict on right to birth control appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18:  Boys await medical appointments in a holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona.  Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)

    Unaccompanied minors await medical appointments at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in June in Nogales, Arizona. President Barack Obama will seek more than $2 billion from Congress to respond to immigrants illegally entering the U.S. as well as new powers to deal with immigrant children crossing over alone. Credit: Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images

    BROWNSVILLE, Texas — President Barack Obama will seek more than $2 billion to respond to the flood of immigrants illegally entering the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas and ask for new powers to deal with returning immigrant children apprehended while traveling without their parents, a White House official said Saturday.

    With Obama looking to Congress for help with what he has called an “urgent humanitarian situation,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited a Border Patrol facility in Brownsville that held unaccompanied children. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children, most from Central America, have been apprehended entering the U.S. illegally since October.

    “The fact is these are children – children and families,” Pelosi said. “We have a moral responsibility to address this in a dignified way.”

    Obama plans to make the requests of Congress in a letter to be sent Monday, the White House official said. Details of the emergency appropriation, including the exact amount and how it will be spent, will come after lawmakers return from their holiday recess on July 7, said the official, who was not authorized to speak by name and discussed the requests on condition of anonymity.

    Obama will also ask that the Homeland Security Department be granted the authority to apply “fast track” procedures to the screening and deportation of all immigrant children traveling without their parents and that stiffer penalties be applied to those who smuggle children across the border, the official said. Obama’s requests were reported first by The New York Times.

    In Brownsville, Pelosi said she holds little hope that Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform this year but that politics should be set aside.

    “A few days ago I would have been more optimistic about comprehensive immigration reform,” Pelosi said. “I thought that we had been finding a way because we have been very patient and respectful of (Speaker of the House John Boehner) trying to do it one way or another. I don’t think he gives us much reason to be hopeful now, but we never give up. There’s still the month of July.”

    U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprise primary loss this month almost certainly doomed the chance for an immigration overhaul in the GOP-controlled House this year. Cantor, R-Va., had spoken in favor of citizenship for immigrants brought illegally to this country as youths. But he lost to a political novice who made immigration the race’s central issue, accusing Cantor of embracing “amnesty” and open borders.

    This past week, a leading House supporter of policy changes said legislative efforts on the issue were dead. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, who’s been one of the most bullish Democrats about the chances for action, said he had given up. Boehner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

    Republicans have criticized Obama’s immigration policies, arguing they’ve left the impression that women and children from Central America will be allowed to stay in the United States. The administration has worked to send a clear message in recent weeks that new arrivals will be targeted for deportation. But immigrants arriving from those countries say they are fleeing pervasive gang violence and crushing poverty.

    The Border Patrol in South Texas has been overwhelmed for several months by an influx of unaccompanied children and parents traveling with young children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Unlike Mexican immigrants arrested after entering the U.S. illegally, those from Central America cannot be as easily returned to their countries.

    The U.S. had only one family detention center in Pennsylvania, so most adults traveling with young children were released and told to check in with the local immigration office when they arrived at their destination. A new facility for families is being prepared in New Mexico.

    Children who traveled alone, like those visited by Pelosi in Brownsville, are handled differently. By law, they must be transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department within 72 hours of their arrest. From there, they are sent into a network of shelters until they can be reunited with family members while awaiting their day in immigration court.

    Also Saturday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said up to 2,000 unaccompanied immigrant children could be transferred from overcrowded facilities in McAllen, Texas, to his county by the end of next month. He said the plan is to have youngsters spend about three weeks in the North Texas county before hopefully being placed with relatives who are elsewhere in the U.S. The federal government will cover the costs, Jenkins said.

    Meanwhile, Pelosi said immigrants’ cases should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

    “We don’t want our good nature abused by those who would misrepresent what’s happening in the United States on the subject of immigration to affect how we deal with a refugee problem,” she said.

    The situation is drawing attention and politicians from both parties to South Texas. While Pelosi was speaking in Brownsville, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, appeared with the first lady of Honduras, Ana Garcia de Hernandez, in McAllen.

    Next week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman and Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte is scheduled to lead members of that panel to the Rio Grande Valley, and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, is scheduled to hold a field hearing Thursday in McAllen.

    Pelosi said she came to Brownsville at the invitation of local U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela to find out what Congress can do to help.

    AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Washington and AP writer Will Weissert in Dallas contributed to this report.

    The post Obama seeks ‘fast track’ procedures for minors crossing border alone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Before he turned to the criminal life, Vonte Skinner was an aspiring rapper. His younger brother Amar Dean remembers him having stacks of notebooks full of lyrics, poems and artwork.

    “He draws. He writes music, writes poetry,” Dean said. “He’s really good with his hands, his emotions come out through his pencil.”

    But those notebooks would play a prominent role in incriminating Skinner years later.

    By 2005, Skinner had become a small-time drug dealer in central New Jersey. He was charged with attempted murder for the shooting of a fellow dealer named Lamont Peterson.

    While Skinner admitted to police he was present the night Peterson was shot (he says he was there to buy drugs from him), he claims he didn’t pull the trigger and doesn’t know who did.

    The case against Skinner hinged primarily on two eyewitnesses who claimed he was the shooter, though their stories had changed several times. Near the end of the trial, the prosecution had a police officer on the stand read thirteen pages of Skinner’s rap lyrics to the jury.

    The lyrics had been discovered in notebooks in the car Skinner was driving at the time of his arrest.

    The lyrics don’t mention anything about the actual crime or the victims. In fact, they were largely written months and years before the shooting. The prosecution introduced them at trial to demonstrate Skinner’s motive and intent to commit violent acts.

    And the lyrics are violent. They graphically depict a world of murder, thugs and gang life:

    Two to your helmet and four slugs drillin’ your cheek
    to blow your face off and leave your brain caved in the street…

    Dean was in the courtroom when his brother’s lyrics were read to the jury.

    “When they started doing the lyrics, people started frowning their faces. You know, your body language speaks volumes,” Dean said. “A lot of their faces were in shock, like, ‘whoa, did he say that? Did he do that?’ Even though that had nothing to do with the case.”

    Skinner was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison.

    His case is at the heart of a debate over whether rap lyrics should be used as evidence in criminal trials.

    Across the country, police and prosecutors have increasingly been using a suspect’s own lyrics to help establish motive or intent to commit a crime. In some cases, prosecutors allege these lyrics contain confessions.

    But critics argue that rap music is just music. And they argue that reading or playing lurid, violent rap in trials will unfairly prejudice a jury.

    David LaBahn, CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said rap lyrics can often shed light on a particular crime and its perpetrator, but it’s a case-by-case analysis of whether a given set of lyrics is appropriate to introduce into court.

    “When something occurs and that rap matches the crime, it’s going to be real hard in a criminal court to try to attempt on behalf of the defense to exclude it,” LaBahn said. “On behalf of prosecutors, if it’s matching, that would very much be another piece of evidence that we would like to admit to the case .”

    Critics contend rap is a musical art form that should not be taken as evidence of criminal behavior. But some prosecutors say they don’t buy the argument that the work is all fiction. NewsHour Weekend reports.

    Skinner challenged the rap’s value as evidence versus its prejudicial effect on his trial.

    In 2012, the New Jersey Appellate Court said lyrics never should have been admitted because they were written months and possibly years before the shooting. Skinner’s conviction was overturned.

    In their decision, the judges said they had “a significant doubt about whether the jurors would have found defendant guilty if they had not been required to listen to the extended reading of these disturbing and highly prejudicial lyrics.”

    Now the New Jersey Supreme Court will decide whether Skinner should get a new trial.

    The State’s prosecutors testified to the Court that Skinner spoke about shooting people in the head in his lyrics and that this was evidence of a “continuing mindset” that could explain why he committed the crime.

    The prosecutors declined our request for an interview or comment on the case.

    Among those testifying on Skinner’s behalf was Ezra Rosenberg, a lawyer representing the New Jersey ACLU.

    “When I first read Mr. Skinner’s writings, they make one hold one’s breath,” he said. “They are extraordinarily violent, they are sexist, they are misogynistic. They’re also very creative.”

    Rosenberg said while Skinner’s lyrics are offensive, they are artistic works. The ACLU believes there should be tougher standards for admitting rap — like filmmaking or literature — into trials because of the First Amendment. If not, Rosenberg said he worries about a chilling effect on free expression.

    “Every writing is subject to First Amendment protections. There are social and political concerns that rap lyrics, gangster rap in particular, address, they are entitled to the highest protections. That’s really key.”

    The New Jersey State Supreme Court is expected to rule on Skinner’s case within the next few months.

    The post Rapper appeals verdict after lyrics used to sway jury appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a military parade in honor of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. Photo by Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a military parade in 2012. According to a South Korean Defense Ministry official, North Korea fired short-range missiles off the coast, an official said Sunday, defying a U.N. ban. Credit: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

    Despite a United Nations ban on weapons testing in North Korea, the country fired two short-range missiles into the water off of its eastern coast, according to a South Korean Defense Ministry official on Sunday.

    The missiles, believed to be ballistic, were reportedly fired from Wonan without instituting a no-sail zone ahead of time.

     South Korea is apparently viewing the test as a provocative measure on the part of its northern neighbor.

    The move comes after North Korea criticized South Korea this week for alleged artillery drills near the disputed Yellow Sea maritime boundary. The tests also took place as South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepare to meet this week. China has historically been North Korea’s main ally.

    Additionally, the North Korean army claimed South Korea fired shells at North Korean waters on Thursday.

    On Friday, North Korea said the country’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un directed the test launches of precision-guided missiles. South Korean officials believe this announcement was related to three projectiles launched on Thursday.

    According to the Associated Press, the announcement about the new missiles could be an exaggeration, considering North Korea’s army is believed to be poorly supplied with old equipment.

    The post North Korea fires two missiles off coast appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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