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

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    WASHINGTON — A court appearance for the alleged mastermind of the attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, is the first step in a long legal process that could yield new insight into a fiery assault that continues to reverberate across U.S. politics.

    The case of Ahmed Abu Khattala, who pleaded not guilty during a brief court appearance Saturday, also represents a high-profile test of the Obama administration’s goal of prosecuting terror suspects in civilian courts – even in the face of Republican critics who say such defendants aren’t entitled to the protections of the American legal system.

    Abu Khattala made his first appearance in an American courtroom amid tight security, two weeks after being captured in Libya by U.S. special forces in a nighttime raid and then whisked away on a Navy ship for questioning and transport. He was flown early Saturday from the ship to a landing pad in Washington and brought to the federal courthouse, a downtown building mere blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

    A grand jury indictment made public Saturday accuses Abu Khattala of participating in a conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The Justice Department says it expects to bring more charges.

    The Libyan who maintained a garrulous public persona at home – granting interviews with journalists and gaining popularity and prominence in Benghazi’s circle of extremists – showed little reaction during a 10-minute appearance before a federal magistrate judge. He spoke just two words, both in Arabic, in response to perfunctory questions, stared impassively for most of the hearing and sat with his hands behind his back.

    He will remain in custody – though the judge did not say where – and the next court date was scheduled for Wednesday.

    As the Justice Department embarks on a high-profile prosecution of the alleged militant, the case is likely to provide a public forum for new details about a burst of violence – on the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the Sept. 11 attacks – that roiled the Middle East and dominated American political discourse. In the nearly two years since the attack, dozens of congressional briefings and hearings have been held and tens of thousands of pages of documents have been released. Yet there’s still a dispute over what happened.

    Republicans accused the White House, as the 2012 presidential election neared, of intentionally misleading the public about what prompted the attacks by portraying it as one of the many protests over an anti-Muslim video made in America, instead of a calculated terrorist attack. The White House said Republicans were politicizing a national tragedy.

    The capture of Abu Khatalla marked the first significant breakthrough in the investigation of the attacks. Prosecutors say they hope to identify, locate and bring to court any additional co-conspirators.

    “Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah has arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Saturday. “We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi.”

    The Obama administration has said it’s committed to prosecuting defendants like Abu Khattala in American courts. Government officials point to successful prosecutions, like the March conviction in New York City of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, to suggest that the civilian justice system is fair, efficient and can yield harsh penalties for suspected terrorists.

    But not everyone is convinced. Many Republicans in Congress have urged the Justice Department to send Abu Khatalla to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and say granting terrorists legal protections, such as advising them of their right to remain silent, risks hindering access to national security intelligence.

    A U.S. official said Saturday that Abu Khattala had been advised of his Miranda rights at some point during his trip to the United States and continued talking after that. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The nature of those conversations wasn’t immediately clear.

    The criminal case may sort out the exact role Abu Khattala is alleged to have played in the attack.

    The U.S. government accuses Abu Khattala of being a member of the Ansar al-Shariah group, the powerful Islamic militia that officials believe was behind the attack.

    AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.

    The post Suspect’s case may offer clarity on Benghazi attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen shot 2014-06-29 at 2.50.40 PM

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A story published a few days ago caught our attention. It described how hospitals buy information about you to determine how likely you are to get sick and what it would cost to treat you. For more we’re joined by one of the co-authors, Shannon Pettypiece of Bloomberg News. So what are they buying and who are they buying it from?

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Well they are buying the same type of data that retailers have been using for years to target products at you and what we’re talking about here is that information that’s collected by companies called data brokers, which can track every transaction a consumer can make, every purchase they make, with a drug store or a grocery store loyalty card.

    They can find out how much your home is worth, what type of car you own. Even things like your interests, whether you like hiking or rock climbing based off of public databases or even your web browsing history. And for years, retailers have used this to send you a coupon or to figure out who might want to subscribe to their certain list or product.

    Now hospitals are saying, can we use this data this information to try to predict who’s going to get sick and who is going to end up at the emergency room.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So why are hospitals interested in having this kind of information?

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Well under Obamacare they have an increased incentive to keep patients healthy because the law changes the way they are paid.

    So under the law, hospitals now get penalized if you come back to the emergency room too frequently and if a hospital isn’t meeting certain patient quality and health outcomes and insurers are following the same mold too.

    Insurers no longer want to pay for hospitals who are just doing more and more test and procedures over and over again and they want to be paying for quality so hospitals are going to be held accountable if patients are too sick if patients are coming to the emergency room too frequently.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about all this information as a patient am I opting into this or am I opting out of it and if something is wrong can I correct the assumption that the hospital is going by?

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Well, so right now hospitals are at the very early stage of using this data but there is very large hospital chain called Carolina’s Health Care System. They own over 900 hospitals, nursing homes, physicians’ offices all throughout North and South Carolina, so they are on the forefront of using this and what they hope to eventually do is to allow patients to opt but only to opt out of some of it if you’re now filling your prescription the hospital feels they want to know and they should be able to know that.

    If you don’t want the hospital knowing what your buying form CVS or at the grocery store you can have an option to opt out of that but certain thing they wasn’t to definitely know about you because they’re now being accountable for your health.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And very briefly they cannot use this to discriminate against a preexisting condition even if this information tells them you might have a heart condition

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Absolutely, there are a lot of things that are illegal for hospitals to do and it’s also bound by the same privacy rules as anything else you would share with your doctor.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright Shannon Pettypiece from Bloomberg News thanks so much.

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Thank You.

    The post Hospitals turning to data brokers for patient information appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Robert "Bob" McDonald, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble Co., speaks during a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The event was titled "Fostering Growth Through Innovation." Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Robert McDonald, during his tenure as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble Co., in January 2013. It was announced on Sunday that President Barack Obama would be selecting the former executive to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    President Barack Obama will select former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald as his nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials.

    McDonald, who ran the Cincinnati-based P&G between July 2009 and July 2013, is a 1975 graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point. According to the Washington Post, after graduating in the top 2 percent of his class, he served five years in the Army.

    “The choice suggests a real focus on customer satisfaction, as opposed to what you might get from a retired general or medical leader,” Phillip Carter of the Center for a New American Security told the Post.

    “It is probably a wise choice given the concerns right now of veterans.”

    The 61-year-old Gary, Indiana native will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, the interim replacement for the department’s former head Eric Shinseki who resigned at the end of May.

    Shinseki resigned amid controversy regarding misconduct at VA facilities across the country, in which employees allegedly hid the fact that veterans were facing long waits when seeking out medical care at the system’s hospitals.

    The post Obama selects former P&G exec. to lead Veterans Affairs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BenghaziSuspIntvw

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Obama Administration has decided to try the man accused of orchestrating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, in the nation’s capitol. That attack left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

    We’re joined now from Washington by Michael Schmidt at the New York Times. So this is pretty unusual for several reasons. Let’s just first talk about having the venue in D.C. There’s already some pushback that this is a very expensive proposition.

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Yes, typically in the past, since post 9/11, these trials have been in New York or in Alexandria, Virginia. But there’s a real advantage to having them in New York, because the jail is actually connected to the courthouse by a tunnel. So you don’t have to move the suspect every time in a car that he has to appear in court. We saw that yesterday when the hearing was over, a big motorcade came flying right out of the courthouse, the streets were shut down, sirens were blasting, there were men in bulletproof vests and machine guns on the street. So that is something we’ll probably see every day that that suspect has to be moved back and forth here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, what about the evidence in the case, the FBI wasn’t able to get the crime scene, so to speak, for weeks.

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Yeah, this an interesting case, this is not just a murder that happened and the police came out and they put up the tape and they went and did their evidence collection, and then went back and indicted in front of a grand jury. This is something that happened on the other side of the world.

    Investigators weren’t able to get into the crime scene until several weeks after it actually occurred. That was after members of the media had gone in, after militia members could go back in and go through whatever documents were at the U.S. still at the mission there. So this is not been ideal from the beginning. And on top of that, the case will rely in part on witnesses from Libya, who will have to come over and testify and will have to stand up to cross-examination in the courts here. So this is not your average case.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So your reporting says that he was cooperative under interrogation on a U.S. warship before he got here, yet he has plead not guilty. What do we know about the type of intelligence that he’s shared.

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well there’s a difference between giving up everything about what his role may have been and being cooperative with them about, say, what the security situation in Libya is like, what he knows about past or prior planned attacks. Or, sort of, his knowledge of what ties Al Qaeda might have to groups in that part of the country. So cooperative doesn’t necessarily mean he gave up all this stuff about the attack, it may have been about others’ roles in the attack and such. So we know that he’s been cooperative but beyond that we don’t have a ton.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what’s the timeline expected for this trial?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, we know that he’ll be, he has two appearances scheduled coming up. One on Wednesday and then a few days after that, the following week. And who knows this could be something that goes on for a very long time. He’s only been indicted on one count, that’s sort of a placeholder, and the government’s expected to indict him on several more going forward as it feels more comfortable with the case. This is something that could go on for many, many years.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Michael Schmidt of the New York Times joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

    The post Administration will try Benghazi attack suspect in D.C. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) supports MSF, WHO and IFRC in their efforts to contain the epidemic.

    Medical workers at an Ebola outbreak epicenter in Guinea, where the hemorrhagic fever has swept through West Africa since March and claimed 399 lives. The World Health Organization said it is the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record. Credit: Flickr/European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO)

    West Africa’s Ebola epidemic is now the deadliest on record, according to the World Health Organization.

    The disease has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent. Since the outbreak began in February, there have been 635 known infections and 399 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    Ebola made its first recorded appearance in Central Africa in 1976, but that year’s death toll only reached 280.

    On Friday, the WHO warned the nations neighboring those hit by the epidemic — including Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Guinea Bissau — that the disease could pass into their borders through infected travelers.

    A report by The Washington Post said a lack of education on Ebola could be behind the outbreak’s magnitude. The report said many West African communities distrust doctors, which has resulted in poor precautionary health measures.

    For example, people continue to hold and attend funeral ceremonies for those who are killed by the disease. This can prove deadly, as exposure to infected bodies allows Ebola to spread easily.

    Ebola is contracted when people come into contact with the infected tissues, blood, or body fluids of humans or other animals like monkeys.

    The disease causes fever headache, muscle pain and conjunctivitis at first. If the infection doesn’t die off, it progresses into severe and deadly phases of vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external hemorrhaging.

    On Monday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) released a statement that said the epidemic can only be brought under control if regional governments and aid agencies provide them with a “massive deployment” of resources.

    “We have reached our limits,” said Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations. “Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites.”

    In an interview with Agence France-Press, WHO specialist Pierre Formenty said at first the WHO underestimated the scope of the outbreak. He said after the number of cases of infected Africans decreased briefly in April, the WHO “saw a relaxation by the teams in the three countries, and this relaxation allowed things to restart.”

    In early July health ministers from eleven countries will be meeting in Accra, Ghana, to plan a regional response to the outbreak.

    The post West African Ebola outbreak is deadliest on record appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NORFOLK, Va. - Vice Adm. Michelle Janine Howard's husband, Mr. Wayne Cowles and her sister, Ms. Lisa Teitleman, replace shoulder boards during a promotion ceremony at Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads on Aug. 24, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Rafael Martie

    NORFOLK, Va. – Vice Adm. Michelle Janine Howard’s husband, Mr. Wayne Cowles and her sister, Ms. Lisa Teitleman, replace shoulder boards during a promotion ceremony at Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads on Aug. 24, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Rafael Martie

    Vice Adm. Michelle Howard is now the first female four-star admiral in the Navy’s 236-year history.

    The promotion ceremony took place Tuesday morning at Arlington National Cemetery. Howard will assume duties as vice chief of naval operations, the service’s No. 2 officer.

    Howard graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982. In 1999, she became the first African-American female to command a ship—USS Rushmore (LSD 47)—for the Navy.

    “She is…a great example of how much we as a nation and a Navy lose if we put artificial barriers in,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said during the ceremony. “If we don’t judge people based on their ability, based on their capability. I hope I have always been passionate about that, but I know the intensity has increased since I am the father of three daughters, and I refuse to believe that there are any ceilings for them, glass or otherwise.”

    The post Navy pins first female four-star admiral appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A group of undocumented youth who aspire to serve the United States in uniform rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on May 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    A group of undocumented youth who aspire to serve the United States in uniform rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on May 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama faced immediate demands for bold action to stem deportations Tuesday, a day after declaring immigration legislation dead and announcing plans to act on his own.

    At the same time GOP opposition to the president’s go-it-alone strategy mounted, setting up an election-year clash with no certain outcome.

    It will play out against the backdrop of an unfolding crisis on the Southern border, where unaccompanied Central American children have been showing up by the thousands, fleeing violence at home — an unforeseen development that both sides are trying to use to score political points. Obama says the flood of children at the border argues for the need for overhauling immigration laws while Republicans claim Obama’s policies caused the problem.

    At a panel on immigration at AFL-CIO headquarters Tuesday, the labor federation’s president, Richard Trumka, told supporters their next task is to spur Obama to act expansively to curb deportations, which have reached record highs under his watch.

    “If we stand together and we act boldly I believe the president will act boldly, and that bold action, my brothers and sisters, will lift our economy while making our country more just,” Trumka exhorted. “Brothers and sisters, we have much work to do, I suggest we begin.”

    Panelists also pledged to punish Republicans politically for inaction on broad immigration legislation that passed the Democratic-controlled Senate a year ago but stalled in the GOP-run House.

    “We will make sure everybody knows that the accountability lies directly at the feet of the House Republicans and Speaker (John) Boehner,” said Janet Murguia, head of National Council of La Raza.

    But in a sign of how difficult it will be for Obama to satisfy advocates’ demands, Trumka and Murguia called on the president to provide work permits to everyone who would have been eligible for citizenship under the Senate immigration bill, which would have extended relief to many of the 11.5 million people already in the country illegally.

    Administration officials have weighed expanding a two-year-old program that gave work permits to more than 500,000 immigrants brought illegally to the country as youths, but may be reluctant to extend it as broadly as advocates demand. White House spokesman Josh Earnest wouldn’t say whether Obama is open to the proposal from Trumka and Murguia, but suggested advocates with high hopes are likely to be only partially satisfied.

    “Any sort of unilateral, executive actions the president can take are not as powerful as reforms that could be put in place through legislation,” Earnest said.

    And Boehner and House Republicans, who already have announced plans to sue Obama over his use of executive actions, served notice that more moves by the president on immigration would only stiffen their opposition.

    “If the president insists on enacting amnesty by executive order, he will undoubtedly face a lawsuit and will find himself, once again, on the wrong side of the Constitution and the law,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

    Meeting with his Cabinet secretaries Tuesday at the White House Obama said his preference on major policy issues would be to work with Congress and pass legislation. “Whatever we do administratively is not going to be sufficient to solve a broken immigration system,” he said.

    But the president contends he has little choice but to act alone. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said Monday in the Rose Garden.

    Seeking to slow deportations while simultaneously stemming the flow of young people across the U.S. Southern border presents Obama with a knotty set of policy choices.

    He asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder for recommendations by the end of summer on the types of executive actions he could take. Among the steps he could consider would be to focus deportations on people with serious criminal records, something the administration has already tried to do, with mixed results.

    For now, White House officials say he will refocus resources from the interior of the country to the border.

    Dropping by a White House gathering of immigration advocates who were meeting with his senior advisers Monday, Obama promised he would take “aggressive” steps, according to some participants, but cautioned that he could not match on his own what broader legislation would accomplish.

    At the same time, Obama asked Congress for more money and additional authority to make it easier to deport recent border crossers, including the unaccompanied youths from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and to hire more immigration judges and open more detention facilities. Those proposals found little support in the White House meeting, signaling to Obama and his aides the difficulty he could face managing the labor, business, religious and Hispanic coalition behind the push for an immigration overhaul.

    Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Panama on Tuesday where he asked Central American nations to work with the Obama administration to curb the influx of unaccompanied children. Meeting in Panama with the presidents of El Salvador and Guatemala and the foreign minister of Honduras, Kerry said the crisis has reached a “critical time” and urged immediate steps to address poverty and crime, thought to be underlying causes of the phenomenon.

    “Tens of thousands of young children are being exploited and are being put at great danger and it is a challenge to each of us,” Kerry said as he met the officials before they all attended the inauguration of Panama’s new president. He called it a “very complicated issue” exacerbated by crime, violence and poverty but blamed criminal gangs and human traffickers for encouraging naïve families to send their children north.

    The post Immigration advocates stack demands for Obama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video shot and edited by Janine Trudell, Rocky Mountain PBS.

    Too many people think only of “beads and feathers” when they hear the term Native American art, says Merritt Johnson, a multi-disciplinary artist of Mohawk and Blackfoot descent. But her sculptures, paintings and performance art go well beyond that. Johnson was one of nine Native American artists featured in an exhibition called “Cross Currents,” which debuted this spring at Metropolitan State University of Denver and will soon travel to Durango, Colorado.

    Cecily Cullen is the show’s curator. She said she chose the artists because each of them drew from their indigenous past and also used contemporary practices to frame a modern reality. “Each of these artists are masters of poetic expression, visual metaphor, wit and mystery. And they use those skills to pull you in, to investigate a deeper meaning of what it means to be indigenous.”

    (NO)stalgia by Cannupahanska Luger. Photo by Janine Trudell/Rocky Mountain PBS

    (NO)stalgia by Cannupahanska Luger. Photo by Janine Trudell/Rocky Mountain PBS

    Cannupahanska Luger grew up on a reservation in North Dakota. Primarily a ceramic artist, he calls his sculpture of a wounded elk with fabric entrails spilling out a commentary on nostalgia and the romanticizing of native cultures.

    Painter Frank Buffalo Hyde uses his work to respond to the current trend in mass media of misappropriating sacred objects from Native American culture. One of his paintings is a direct response to a photo of actress Drew Barrymore wearing a war bonnet with a Budweiser apron.

    Sara Sense is a mixed media artist of Chitimacha and Choctaw descent. She weaves together photographs using traditional Chitimacha basketry techniques, something she sought permission for from tribal elders. She feels it’s very important to be respectful of the ancient craft. But she wants to use it to illustrate the practice of colonialism and the Native American slave trade that took place in New Orleans.

    Curator Cullen says all of the artists challenge popular notions of Native American art and offer new models of self-ascribed cultural identification.

    Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

    The post ‘I’m contemporary, I’m Native American and I’m an artist’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Activists in Hong Kong march in demand of greater voting rights. Photo by Flickr user larique

    Activists in Hong Kong march in demand of greater voting rights. Photo by Flickr user larique

    At the peak of a stifling hot Tuesday, a historic number of Hong Kong activists marched more than three miles in support of elections free from Chinese oversight.

    Protesters gathered at Victoria Park, where annual vigils for the Tiananmen Square victims are held, and walked west to the city’s central financial district. Several of the activists were among the 787,767 participants of an unofficial referendum calling for candidates for Hong Kong’s leader be nominated by the public instead of Chinese officials.

    Beijing-allied authorities have characterized the referendum as unlawful. In response, the pro-democracy group threatened a sit-in of the city’s financial district if the existing government fails to provide basic voting rights.

    Under China’s “one country, two systems” rule of law, Hong Kong was grafted into China in 1997, yet allowed autonomy. But a “white paper” from Beijing has recently clarified that this autonomy is not “full” autonomy:

    Today’s march was peaceful, but frustrations over Hong Kong’s Chief Executive have been simmering for years. In 2012, Beijing-backed Leung Chun-ying won 689 votes from 1,193 society representatives to become Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. These representatives are largely business executives and existing politicians with connections to mainland China.

    For the tens of thousands of Hong Kong activists, this authorized autonomy falls far short of real democracy. While participants (ranging from 98,000, according to police, and 510,000, according to organizers) hope they will be able to choose their own leadership by the 20th anniversary of China’s takeover in 2017, mainland China representatives assert that only leaders who “love the country and love Hong Kong” should be on the ballot.

    The post Pro-democracy activists swarm Hong Kong on anniversary of Chinese takeover appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Federal Trade Commission claimed that T-Mobile billed consumers for subscriptions to premium text services such as $10-per-month horoscopes that were never authorized by the account holder. Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart

    The Federal Trade Commission claimed that T-Mobile billed consumers for subscriptions to premium text services such as $10-per-month horoscopes that were never authorized by the account holder. Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart

    WASHINGTON — T-Mobile USA knowingly made hundreds of millions of dollars off its customers in potentially bogus charges, a federal regulator alleged Tuesday in a complaint likely to mar the reputation of a household name in wireless communications.

    In its complaint filed in a federal court in Seattle, the Federal Trade Commission claimed that T-Mobile billed consumers for subscriptions to premium text services such as $10-per-month horoscopes that were never authorized by the account holder. The FTC alleges that T-Mobile collected as much as 40 percent of the charges, even after being alerted by other customers that the subscriptions were scams.

    “It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent,” said FTC Chair Edith Ramirez in a statement. “The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.”

    The Federal Communications Commission has launched a separate inquiry into T-Mobile’s billing practices, which could result in fines if it finds any wrongdoing.

    The practice is often referred to as “cramming”: businesses stuff a customer’s bill with bogus charges associated with a third party. In this case, the FTC says T-Mobile should have realized that many of these premium text services were scams because of the high rate of customer complaints. In some cases, the FTC says, as many as 40 percent of customers demanded refunds in a single month on certain services.

    The FTC said one way for consumers to try to prevent fraudulent charges is to ask their providers to block all third-party businesses from providing services on their phones.

    T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, T-Mobile US, Inc., is a publicly traded company. According to its website, Deutsche Telekom AG maintains a 67 percent ownership in the company’s common stock.

    Sprint Corp., the third-largest cellphone carrier, is in talks to buy T-Mobile US Inc., according to published reports. Analysts believe such a link-up would face stiff opposition from the same regulators who blocked AT&T from buying T-Mobile in 2011.

    T-Mobile’s stock fell 10 cents to $33.52 in afternoon trading.

    The post T-Mobile made millions in bogus charges, says the FTC appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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  • 07/01/14--13:58: What is a caliphate?
  • An Iraqi woman walks with her child outside of a displacement camp for those caught up in the fighting in and around the city of Mosul on June 28 in Khazair, Iraq. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    An Iraqi woman walks with her child outside of a displacement camp for those caught up in the fighting in and around the city of Mosul on June 28 in Khazair, Iraq. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Sunni armed militants, who have taken control of parts of Syria and northern Iraq, on Sunday declared their territory a new “caliphate” governed by strict sharia law.

    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) said in a document that they are now called the “Islamic State” and their caliph, or the leader of Muslims everywhere, is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They urged all Muslims to support the new caliphate, which they said extends from Diyala province in northeastern Iraq to the city of Aleppo in Syria.

    A caliphate is an Islamic state of the Muslim faithful, or ummah. It is not like a nation-state, because it is not bound by international law or interactions with other nations, said Barak Mendelsohn, an associate professor of political science at Harvard College who teaches about jihadi movements and the Middle East.

    After the Prophet Muhammad died in 632, Muslims formed the first caliphate to institutionalize the prophet’s teachings, led by a caliph. “The first caliphs are considered the golden age of the Islamic caliphate,” because they knew the prophet and had his example rather than relying on stories that are further removed from his life, said Mendelsohn.

    But the caliphs, although they were successors to Muhammad, didn’t have his religious authority. “If you think about Muhammad as the military, political and religious authority, no one could replace him on the religious side. Muhammad got his revelations from God. Nobody else is going to get that,” so over time the religious authority moved away from the caliphs, said Mendelsohn.

    The last caliphate was under the Ottoman Empire, which ended in 1923 when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey.

    By returning to the old ways and declaring a caliphate, ISIL is presenting itself as indisputable because it has the authority and legitimacy that comes from it being an Islamic state, said Mendelsohn. It’s meant to elevate them above other organizations, he said.

    Tarek Masoud, a Middle East specialist and associate professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, told PRI’s The World that Muslims today generally don’t think about caliphates on a daily basis. More often, he said, they accept the legitimacy of nation-states where they live.

    The call to Muslims to come to the caliphate is “very bold,” said Mendelsohn. They’re saying, “You need to come to your state. This is not Iraq or Syria; it’s a caliphate now and the place for all Muslims.”

    The post What is a caliphate? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Facebook

    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    PBS NewsHour reported Monday on a controversial emotional study conducted by Facebook without users’ consent. The study was conducted back in 2012, but came to light only after the results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America last month. The impact of the study was, in the words of Facebook data scientist and experimenter Adam Kramer, “the minimal amount to statistically detect it.” However, the impact of its discovery has been huge.

    Many NewsHour followers responded to our report, or expressed their views via social media. Some were outraged by the experiment, and said they planned to dial back their use of the site or even delete their accounts. Others were ambivalent, and felt that by agreeing to the site’s Terms of Service they had surrendered their right to object.

    “People don’t read TOS and then get upset when FB does something that TOS allows,” said Disqus user Carrie Phisher.

    Anthony J. Alfidi went further in saying, “Facebook’s digits — its news feeds, like buttons, and functions — are its corporate property. The company may adjust as it sees fit, with no notice necessary.

    Many disagreed, and said the site’s ToS agreement was too vague to serve as a suitable stand-in for informed consent. NewsHour Facebook follower Deborah Sabo said “I disagree that ToS is consent to be experimented upon. ToS allows them to use data for research—i.e. to collect information from our existing behavior. It doesn’t say they can purposefully manipulate our behavior and emotions in a directed experiment for their marketing or any other ‘research’ purposes without our prior knowledge and consent.”

    Tune-in to NewsHour Thursday for an in-depth examination of the controversial study with Wall Street Journal reporter Reed Albergotti. Contribute to the conversation this Thursday, July 3, from 1-2 p.m. EDT by joining @NewsHour and Reed Albergotti (@ReedAlbergotti)for a Twitter chat on the ethics of Facebook’s mood manipulation experiment using the hashtag #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter Chat: The ethics of Facebook’s mood manipulation study appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    UKRAINE-RUSSIA-POLITICS-CRISIS-CEASEFIRE

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Heavy fighting seized Eastern Ukraine today, one day after President Petro Poroshenko ended a cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Within hours, a gun battle broke out in Donetsk, as rebels captured the Interior Ministry headquarters. Government forces also bombarded rebel bases and checkpoints.

    In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the blame lies entirely on the Kiev government.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): Unfortunately, President Poroshenko made a decision to resume military operations. And we could not — when I say we, I mean myself and colleagues from Europe — we couldn’t convince him that the road to a sustainable, durable and long-term peace cannot lie through war.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Separately, European Union ambassadors put off deciding on new economic sanctions aimed at Russia. They said they will make a decision next week.

    A car bombing in Nigeria has killed at least 56 people in a busy marketplace. The explosion erupted today in the northeastern state of Borno, where more than 200 girls were abducted earlier this year. There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but officials blamed the Islamist group Boko Haram.

    In Israel, busloads of mourners turned out for the funeral of three Israeli teenagers, apparently murdered by Palestinian militants in the West Bank. The young men’s bodies were found yesterday.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports from Jerusalem.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Tens of thousands came to Modiin cemetery between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem today to mourn three Israeli teenagers, 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach and 16-year-olds Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaer. The funeral was a channel for public outrage, as well as the private grief of the families, and a political event attended by Israel’s top leadership.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): They glorify death. We glorify life. They glorify cruelty, and we glorify mercy.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: In Hebron last night, Israeli soldiers raided the House of Amar Abu Aisha, one of two Palestinians suspected of kidnap and murder. His relatives knew what would happen next. Israeli forces demolished the family home.

    The two men, both associated with Hamas, but not believed to be acting under orders from the leadership, are still on the run. In Jenin today, the funeral of another young man, 19-year-old Palestinian Yusuf al-Zagher, killed by Israeli forces who said he had thrown a grenade at them yesterday. His death brings to six the number of Palestinians killed in Operation Brother’s Keeper, the Israeli attempt to capture the killers of the Yeshiva students.

    Last night, Israel attacked 34 sites in Gaza, retribution not just against Hamas, but also the residents of the territory. There may be more to come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Those airstrikes came after militants in Gaza fired more rockets into Israel. The Israeli cabinet is still considering a direct response to the killing of the teenagers.

    Cabinet leaders in Japan today loosened limits on the country’s military that have been in place since World War II. The new policy means Japanese forces will now be permitted to join in defending allies, and not only Japan proper. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe argued the change is essential in the face of China’s growing military power.

    The U.S. Navy has its first female four-star admiral, who also happens to be the first African-American to hold that rank. Michelle Howard was formally promoted today. She’s been in the service for 32 years. It became official during a ceremony at a memorial to women in the

    ADM. MICHELLE HOWARD, U.S. Navy: If you don’t believe today was a first, when I called to order four-star shoulder boards for women, they didn’t exist.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ADM. MICHELLE HOWARD: A special contract was let, and you folks are seeing the first set in the history of the United States Navy.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Howard now assumes the Navy’s second highest post as vice chief of national operations.

    Parts of the Midwest got even more rain overnight and today, after a week of downpours. Six states faced substantial flooding along the Mississippi River and other waterways. In Iowa, crews searched for a teenager who was swept away. Today’s rain also swamped a major highway leading to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

    The new health care law is facing yet another challenge. It turns out there are discrepancies for many of the eight million people who signed up for coverage in the personal information that was shared with the health exchanges. The problems could prevent them from getting insurance.

    The inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services reported the findings. Officials say they hope to clear up most of the cases this summer.

    American automakers saw their sales grow again in June, but at a slower pace. Chrysler led the way with a 9 percent increase. General Motors, Toyota and Hyundai all reported smaller gains. Ford sales fell 6 percent.

    On Wall Street, July got off to a fast start after upbeat reports on manufacturing in the U.S. and China. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 129 points to close at a record 16,956. The Nasdaq rose 50 points to close at 4,458. And the S&P 500 added 13 to finish at 1,973, also a record.

    The post News Wrap: Pro-Russian rebels, government forces renew fighting in Eastern Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    IRAQ-UNREST-POLITICS-PARLIAMENT

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Nations reported today that 2,400 Iraqis were killed in the month of June, making it the deadliest month in that country since 2007.

    Meanwhile, in Baghdad today, desperate hopes for political unity were dashed, as there more signs throughout Iraq showing a nation pulling apart.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: Finger-pointing and shouting matches dominated today’s brief first meeting of the new Iraqi Parliament.

    In less than two hours, minority Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers walked out after the majority Shiites failed to agree on a new prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki. He’s widely blamed for alienating both Sunnis and Kurds. The deadlock further delays the formation of a new inclusive government, leaving Baghdad residents fearful as Sunni insurgents advance toward the capital.

    SAMI AL-SAID, Baghdad Resident (through interpreter): A large number of the blocs will not attend the parliament session, so I don’t believe they will be able to form a government. People are now afraid. They do not know what will happen. The future of the Iraqi people is unknown.

    MARGARET WARNER: Further fracturing hope of unity, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, said again he plans a referendum on independence in the coming months.

    And insurgents of the newly renamed Islamic State, the former ISIL, claimed new battlefield gains, capturing the Syrian town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border.

    In Washington, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily, called for American airstrikes. These Sunni Islamic state fighters have seized control of a swathe of territory stretching from Northern Syria into Western Iraq. On Sunday, the group declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, with roots reaching back 1,400 years. It was a declaration both grandiose and brash.

    A spokesman said the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has taken on a new title, Caliph Ibrahim.

    ABU MUHAMMAD AL-ADNANI, ISIL Spokesman (through interpreter): Therefore, he is the imam and caliph for Muslims everywhere.

    MARGARET WARNER: Today, the secretive Baghdadi made his first public statement about the caliphate in this audio recording.

    ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI (through interpreter): Rush, oh, Muslims, to your state. Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq not for the Iraqis. Oh, Muslims everywhere, whoever is capable of performing the Immigration to the Islamic state, then let him do so.

    MARGARET WARNER: Some Muslims in Baghdad are dismissive:

    AMIR AL-SHIMMARI, Baghdad Resident (through interpreter): This declaration will turn out to be merely a flash in the pan, God willing, because the world is a civilized one and the countries are developed, and the announcement of the caliphate is a step backward.

    MARGARET WARNER: The caliphate, Arabic for succession, was created after the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 A.D. The caliph was meant to be both the political and spiritual leader of all Muslims, but, as the Sunni-Shiite split quickly emerged, most caliphates that followed were dominated by Sunnis.

    The powerful Umayyad dynasty, based in Damascus, for centuries ruled an empire extending eastward, north into the Caucasus, across North Africa and up the Iberian Peninsula. A later caliphate, the Abbasid, ruled from Baghdad, but was overrun in the 13th century by the Mongols.

    In the 15th century, the Ottoman Turks became the preeminent Islamic power. But the last Ottoman caliph, by that time a power in name only, was deposed in 1924 by the founders of the modern Turkish state.

    Osama bin Laden often referenced that event when speaking of decades of Muslim humiliation as here in his first statement after 9/11.

    OSAMA BIN LADEN (through interpreter): Our nation, for 80 years, is tasting this humiliation. Its sons are being killed at holy places, getting attacked, and nobody is hearing.

    MARGARET WARNER: Bin Laden and his followers denounced the Middle East map created during World War I, when the French and British Sykes-Picot Agreement carved out zones of influence into the modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Palestine.

    The newly declared Islamic state is intent on smashing all that. This English-language propaganda video shows its militants dissolving the border between Syria and Iraq with commentary from a Chilean-born fighter.

    ABU SAFFIYA, ISIL Militant: We don’t recognize it and we will never recognize it. There is no nationality. We are Muslims. There’s only one country. Inshallah we will have only one imam, only one caliph…

    MARGARET WARNER: Al-Qaida’s leadership disavowed the Islamic State earlier this year in a dispute between Baghdadi and bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahri.

    ISIL had been the latest incarnation of al-Qaida’s franchise that took root in Iraq after the U.S. invasion of 2003. Now it is aiming to eclipse al-Qaida in reach, assets, manpower, and lethality.

    The post Seeking unity amid crisis, Iraqi parliament fails to agree on Maliki replacement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Refugees Fleeing ISIS Offensive Pour Into Kurdistan

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, this government in Iraq already having enough problems. What does this announcement of a caliphate mean in addition to that?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, I think what it showed today, Judy, is, we have always known that this group, which called itself ISIS, then ISIL, we had called it now the Islamic State, was a military threat as it’s rolled down Iraq.

    And the well-trained, supposedly, U.S.-trained Iraqi army just fell back and melted away. What we saw today on display in that parliament was that it’s also a political threat, because while it has a cohesive sort of message and unity, what you see in Baghdad is that after really 10 years of some kind of governing, they have yet to create an inclusive, cooperative kind of national identity in which all Iraqis feel a part.

    And so when you talk about a unified Iraq, essentially, it’s already happening de facto slow motion what this ISIL or Islamic State is calling for, which is you have got a kind of Kurdish area breaking away in the north, a Kurdistan, a kind of very radical version of a Sunnistan in the central portions, and in the south, heavily Shia, in the Sunnistan part, it crosses into — in Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the term caliphate? You pointed out this is, what, over 1,500 years old. Why are these ISIL, these extremists using that term, that idea?

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes. Well, that’s a great question, because it is a very old-fashioned term.

    But what it implies is that it has great resonance for Muslims worldwide. Muslims feel that they were — and they were — a great civilization, which, as we described in the piece, for hundreds of years ruled vast swatches of this whole region, all the way as far north — if you go into churches in Budapest, you will see mosaic tiles, Ottoman tiles.

    So — and then all of that could sort of be crushed and carved up in a secret agreement literally 98 years ago by the French and the British. There’s this — and that explains why they’re having to operate in artificial borders to them, why the Arab world and the Muslim world has fallen so behind in development.

    And that’s a debatable point, but that is the sort of the mythology. And so when you use the term caliphate, if you think about, for Muslims, remember the term Christendom used to really mean something and have resonance for Christians worldwide.

    The idea of the ummah, the idea there’s a large Muslim greater sense of community, it taps into that, and that that great civilization could be brought so low evoked share humiliation. So when you say we’re reestablishing the caliphate, that’s a bid for greatness. It just has a lot of emotional, historical and religious punch.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And as you have been reporting, Margaret, it’s not just Iraq that is threatened by this. It’s the entire region.

    How is — what are the other — who are the other players who are affected?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, most of the focus has been right now that, well, this is threat to al-Qaida. And it certainly is, because al-Qaida always talked about this, and it actually, other than attacking Westerners and other Muslims, they have never actually taken and ruled territory.

    And, already, the group that call themselves ISIL has done that, so that’s the first thing. But I think it’s a greater threat to actually the rulers of Muslim-majority countries all over the region, most of whom are ruling over states with these artificial borders.

    Egypt’s different. Egypt — you ask any Egyptian. He may be secular, he may be religious. He’s Egyptian. But Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, some of them U.S. allies, are really — they have got this messy mix of sectarian and ethnic groups inside.

    They view for power, but they’re still — and it may be, what’s the nature of the government or who’s going to rule, but it’s still following the old European playbook. And what al-Baghdadi was saying today was, he was dismissing all that. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. All earth is Allah’s.

    And so what he’s saying essentially is those very concepts of those states are illegitimate, and it’s kind of a subversive thought, I think. It’s not that they’re about to take over Lebanon or Jordan tomorrow, but it’s to suggest that if those states are illegitimate, maybe their rulers are too.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner, there’s no shortage of something for to you report on now.

    MARGARET WARNER: There really isn’t, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret, thank you.

    The post How ISIL’s bid for a new caliphate taps historical yearning appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    hk-protests

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Hong Kong today, a major anniversary was marked with pomp, while a sea of demonstrators took to the streets calling for more rights.

    We have a report from John Sparks of Independent Television News.

    JOHN SPARKS, Independent Television News: It’s something of a tradition, an annual ceremony to mark the handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Soldiers salute, children sing, flags are waved, a celebration, said Chinese state media, of the territory’s return to the motherland.

    Here’s another tradition, large-scale pro-democracy demos. And this afternoon, Hong Kong hosted its biggest single protest in more than a decade, more than 100,000 spilling into the streets, demanding greater autonomy from Beijing and a chance to choose who governs them.

    LEE CHEUK-YAN, Member, Legislative Council of Hong Kong: So, we must fight to protect our system and also make it into a fairer society. So, the whole Hong Kong, the (INAUDIBLE) itself is at stake.

    KENNIE CHAN (through interpreter): It’s obvious China cannot stand the people of Hong Kong, but we are not going to be obedient anymore. We are going to resist.

    JOHN SPARKS: Discontent was fueled by a Chinese government white paper which seemed to limit the city’s autonomy. Enraged, activists are now threatening a campaign of civil disobedience.

    Of course, that’s made Beijing’s unhappy. It says the protests are illegal, the work of just a few people. And the city government is upset too. The leader, C.Y. Leung, who was selected by a Beijing-backed committee, says the protests threaten Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.

    He has reason to be worried. Last weekend, nearly 800,000 residents participated in an informal vote, a referendum on how to make the selection of the next city leader more democratic. The Chinese government called the whole thing, well, illegal. Still, the organizers weren’t listening.

    BENNY TAI, Referendum Co-Organizer: Hong Kong people have — stand out and we have expressed our very strong determination to have true democracy.

    JOHN SPARKS: Today, they opened up the gates at the Hong Kong barracks of the People’s Liberation Army. It was a friendly affair, but if the protests continue, few would rule out a show of force from the Chinese government.

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    hongkong-monitor

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    JEFFREY BROWN: With me to look further at what’s going on is Evan Osnos, a staff writer at The New Yorker. He served as its China correspondent from 2008 to 2013 and he is author of the new book “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China.”

    Evan, welcome back.

    EVAN OSNOS, The New Yorker: Thanks.

    JEFFREY BROWN: First, I think it would be useful to remind people for context here what is the legal status of Hong Kong vis-a-vis China now?

    EVAN OSNOS: Hong Kong is a very unusual place.

    It is part of China, but also a place unto itself. It’s called a special administrative region, which means that it relies on the Beijing government for national security, national defense, but it ultimately governs its own political affairs, and it has a political system that’s very unlike the political system in China.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so as we heard, one of the triggers to the demonstration was this white paper by the Chinese government, asserting more central government control from Beijing.

    Where’s that coming from, I mean, the sentiment, and why now?

    EVAN OSNOS: Well, you have to remember, 17 years ago this summer, China regained control over Hong Kong after a century-and-a-half as a British colony.

    And in that transition, that handover back to Chinese control, what they said was that Hong Kong would maintain a high degree of autonomy for the next 50 years. But they never actually worked out what the details would be on the ground.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Never spelled it out?

    EVAN OSNOS: They never spelled it out.

    And so now, as we’re approaching 20 years on, they have to figure out, for instance, how are we going to select the highest ranking office in the land, the chief executive? And one of the things that’s become an issue is, can anybody run for that office or do they have to be vetted by the Beijing government?

    These demonstrations that we have seen are really a request by the public to say, we want to have public nomination.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how much does this push from China reflect internal Chinese politics, as in, how much — how powerful will the central government be?

    EVAN OSNOS: That’s a big part of this.

    The new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, when he took power at the end of 2012 made it clear and has since made it clear since then that he was less comfortable with political openness and the kind of Western democratic freedoms that Hong Kong has than his predecessors were.

    And so he has over the course of the last 18 months sent a series of signals that says that, ultimately, Hong Kong’s autonomy is subject to control from Beijing. And when they said that formally in this white paper three weeks ago, that enraged people in Hong Kong and they went into the streets.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, in Hong Kong itself, how strong is this push for democratization or some kind of separation from China, and who’s behind it?

    EVAN OSNOS: Well, so far, it’s been remarkable how strong the public reaction has been.

    I mean, today, the estimates by the police were that there were about 90,000 people in the streets. The estimates by the organizers were that it was half-a-million — the point being that either number is the largest demonstration we have seen in a decade.

    So there is clearly a dissatisfaction among the Chinese — among the Hong Kong public. There was an unofficial referendum last month in which 800,000 people voted, in effect, to take greater control over the process of electing their next leader.

    So what they’re dealing with in Beijing is that the people of Hong Kong are afraid that the quality of life, the way of life which they have, which is so distinctive, and is this both Chinese but also Western composite, this hybrid, that that’s in doubt.

    And so I think it’s going to be difficult as the Chinese government has to figure out, how do we reassure people in Hong Kong that there is a future for them in China, while at the same time not encouraging them to stake out greater…

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Have you seen a reaction yet from Beijing, to this demonstration, I mean?

    EVAN OSNOS: Well, Beijing has said in advance of the demonstration that they consider any kind of demonstration illegitimate. They called this referendum a farce.

    And the real pressure right now is on the leadership in Hong Kong. The chief executive there, C.Y. Leung, is in this position of having to, one, respond to his public and recognize that he takes this seriously, when you have half-a-million people in the streets, and at the same time not alienate the government in Beijing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    EVAN OSNOS: He’s walking a very tight…

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Who he is very beholden to.

    EVAN OSNOS: He is.

    He’s considered to be generally favorable to the government in Beijing, as has his predecessors over the course of the last century.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is there the possibility of intervention by the Chinese army? Because this of course has been — it’s never really been discussed, as far as I know. It’s sort of been off the table, but I see now, with these demonstrations growing and that vote, suddenly people are talking about it.

    EVAN OSNOS: I think nobody wants to see that.

    And even the government in Beijing recognizes that for them to put security forces into the streets of Hong Kong would represent a radical escalation of the confrontation, and I think it’s one that would have knock-on effects that they would seek to avoid.

    What they’re trying to do at the moment is persuade the public of Hong Kong that it is more disruptive to their economic and political life to have these demonstrations than it would be to just allow things to go on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me just ask you finally. I’m curious, in your reporting over there and for your book, do citizens in mainland China look at Hong Kong as a potential model or as something so different, it’s over there, it’s nothing like what we experience on the mainland?

    EVAN OSNOS: A little bit both, I think.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes?

    EVAN OSNOS: If you go back to the 1980s, the truth was China did actually learn from Hong Kong, things like local village elections. They really did borrow that from what Hong Kong had done.

    On the other hand , Hong Kong is a city of seven million people. People in China will tell you, we’re a country of 1.3 billion and we have to do things more slowly than they have in Hong Kong.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Evan Osnos is the author of “Age of Ambition.”

    Thank you so much.

    EVAN OSNOS: Thanks for having me.

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    Vietnam sex trafficking

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A changing Asia has also complicated the relationship between China and Vietnam. They have recently battled over drilling for oil in waters claimed by both countries, and they share a long land border that has been the scene of human trafficking.

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has our report. A version of this story aired on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.” And it’s part of his Agents for Change series.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The communist party flag still flies high in Vietnam. But on the ground consumerism and capitalism are thriving, at least in cities like Ho Chi Minh, the former Saigon, and the capital, Hanoi, which have grown rapidly.

    FLORIAN FORSTER, International Organization for Migration: You see an enormous amount of mobility within the country, rural, urban migration happening at a large scale.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: However, Florian Forster of the U.N.’s Organization for Migration says the strong economic growth of recent years has not been enough to absorb millions of young entrants to the job market in this nation of 90 million.

    FLORIAN FORSTER: We have currently about 400,000 Vietnamese migrant workers being deployed abroad at any time, with 80,000 leaving every year, and whenever you have migration, which is a positive driver and a positive force, then you have also the exploitation and abuse coming with it. And that leads to trafficking.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The heart of both the sex and labor trafficking problem and much of Vietnam’s poverty lies in the rural hinterland, still home to two-thirds of the population.

    This is Vietnam’s back door, the rugged, mountainous, remote region along the northern border with China. It’s a porous border through which thousands of Vietnamese women, children, and some men are trafficked each year. Exact numbers are hard to pin down, and that’s just one of the challenges in getting a handle on this complex problem.

    China is a giant magnet next door. Its wages are higher, and it is a transit point to other countries. But many women are taken to China involuntarily. Some are forced into marriage. China has a shortage of brides because of its one-child policy and its cultural preference for male children. Other Vietnamese women are forced into prostitution.

    California-based Diep Vuong, originally from Vietnam, founded the Pacific Links Foundation, which helps victims who’ve managed to escape.

    DIEP VUONG, Pacific Links Foundation: The girls that we see, they are given a choice: Do you want to marry somebody or do you want work in the brothels?

    And one of the girls told us that — she said, you know, they told us if we work in brothels, we’ll be staying near the border. And so some girls say, I would rather stay here because it’s closer to Vietnam and that may be able to run back.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Vuong brought me to visit 23-year-old Lan, who was able to run back.

    LAN (through interpreter): I don’t know where I was taken. We were in the car ride for a day, and when they wouldn’t let me out of the car, then I realized that I had been tricked.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Hers is a classic story of how traffickers prey on desperately poor people.

    Lan was working on a road-building crew. It’s backbreaking work in hot, stifling weather, and it’s to her work site that the recruiter came with a better offer to harvest cinnamon for higher wages. She and two others took the bait, but Lan was the only one who managed to return to her village. The other two have not been heard from since.

    Lan said she was held in a home across the border in China before being taken to a place she thought was Beijing, where she encountered the police.

    LAN (through interpreter): When we got to Beijing, there were a lot of policemen around, so I ran to them and asked them to help me. They showed me a computer screen with a lot of flags on it, and I was able to show them that I was from Vietnam.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But after clarifying a few questions, Vuong determined Lan wasn’t describing Beijing, but, rather, an airport. She’d never seen one before.

    DIEP VUONG: You see airport pictures all the time, the Malaysian Airlines story and all that, and then you come across people who are actually at the airport and don’t even know that they’ve been at the airport.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Lan was fortunate in one critical way. Her family welcomed her back. She’s since married and has a 1-year-old son. Often, victims must deal with stigma, shame, and rejection from their families.

    HUE (through interpreter): My mother doesn’t care to see me anymore. In my village, there were some young women who had returned from China, and I remember looking down on them, and that’s how I thought people were looking at me.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Hue and Phuong — we were asked to shield the identities of trafficking victims — were vulnerable to peer pressure, and seemingly compelling requests for help.

    HUE (through interpreter): There was this boy, he lived below us, and he told me that his brother had a bad accident in China. And he asked me if I wanted to go with him to take care of his brother.

    PHUONG (through interpreter): My cousin told me he was dumped by his girlfriend and really depressed, and asked if I would go and hang out with him.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But their friends lied to them. Each teenager was handed over to members of shadowy trafficking networks.

    HUE (through interpreter): We were told that if we didn’t agree to be wives, we would be sold into brothels.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Phuong agreed. Hue did not and was sold to a brothel, where she says she was held for several days, but not yet put to work.

    HUE (through interpreter): They were waiting to find a client for me. Luckily, there was a police raid, and because we didn’t have papers, the police took us away.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Each tells harrowing escape stories, how chance encounters with police officials and kind strangers helped get them home. In many cases, Vuong says victims become traffickers.

    DIEP VUONG: The Ministry of Public Security had said that they — of all the people they arrested as trafficker, 60 percent of them had been trafficking victims themselves.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Vuong described one encounter she had with a 17-year-old who was severely beaten in captivity and released on condition that she recruit more young women, which she agreed to do.

    DIEP VUONG: And she said, well, I told them that, you know, they will work at this restaurant, and so she didn’t say that they would have to serve as prostitutes.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So why would she feel compelled to feed this trade then, if she was by now free?

    DIEP VUONG: I think — well, I think that — I don’t know. Do you ask of the abused woman who’s abused by her husband why she goes back to her husband, or why she let her husband beat up on their children, knowing that — what the harm she suffered is terrible enough?

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For young women unable to return to their families, several dozen each year, Vuong’s group provides safe haven. They learn basic life skills like cooking and can complete their schooling. About 4,000 have received scholarships with money Vuong raises through private donations.

    That enables them to go to school and, where possible, train for job skills. Here, one partner is another nonprofit called Know One Teach One, or KOTO. Its restaurants and culinary schools in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi train disadvantaged youth.

    Founder Jimmy Pham says Vietnam is finally taking the first steps to deal with problems like trafficking.

    JIMMY PHAM, KOTO International: Five, 10 years ago, this problem wasn’t acknowledged at all. Now you see that through the work of Pacific Links and KOTO where you see a lot of visibility, I guess, and it’s a start. It’s not somewhere where we would like it to be.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The government has passed anti-trafficking laws in recent years. In 2013, Vietnam arrested nearly 700 alleged traffickers and identified some 900 rescued victims. However, most experts agree there are deficiencies in both the laws and their enforcement, and that those numbers represent a small fraction, Vuong says a 10th perhaps of the true figures.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

    The post Vietnam battles sex trafficking along China’s border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn now to a social media story that’s been generating lots of reaction, including anger, over the past few days.

    It’s in response to a study Facebook conducted with hundreds of thousands of its users. The study in question goes back to 2012, when Facebook manipulated the incoming content of pages belonging to almost 700,000 of its users for a week, without telling them. It was designed to see how people’s attitudes were affected when they read either a stream of more positive posts or more negative ones in their so-called news feeds.

    The results were published in a respected scientific journal in June. As that information has come to light, many are upset at what Facebook did and how they did it. It’s also prompted concerns about the ethics of the research, the journal where it was published and much more.

    To fill in the details, we’re joined now by Reed Albergotti of The Wall Street Journal.

    Welcome to the program.

    Reed, first of all, where did the idea for this study come from? What did Facebook hope it was going to accomplish by doing this?

    REED ALBERGOTTI, The Wall Street Journal: Well, around the time of this study, there was sort of a meme going around the Internet that when you go on Facebook and you see all these wonderful things that your friends and family are posting about their lives, you start to feel a little bad about your own life.

    And there was some research, some academic research at the time that really kind of backed up that theory. And Facebook wanted to find out whether or not that was true. And that’s why they embarked on this research project. And they say they have debunked that theory, and they weren’t shy about it. They worked with Cornell to publish the study and tell the public what they’d found.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Did they raise any questions internally? Is it known about the propriety or the ethics of doing this?

    REED ALBERGOTTI: No.

    And, in fact, Cornell issued a statement saying they looked at it and they decided they were not subject to federal guidelines, laws actually, that require informed consent of human research subjects, because the study was done by Facebook without the involvement of the Cornell researchers at the time.

    So Cornell is sort of washing their hands of the ethical implications here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about Facebook? Do we know if there was discussion about whether they should have let people know ahead of time?

    REED ALBERGOTTI: Well, Facebook says that it has an internal review process, but it said at the time it wasn’t as rigorous as it is now. And it’s one thing that we have been pressing Facebook to tell us more about, is, you know, how did this internal review process evolve? And what are really the procedures in place now?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Reed Albergotti, what are the ethical — I mean, first of all, are there any legal considerations to this, that maybe they violated a law by doing this?

    REED ALBERGOTTI: Well, I think, right now, it’s really more of a question of ethics.

    The laws really apply to government institutions — institutions that receive federal funding, like Cornell University, and not really to private companies. In fact, Facebook isn’t the only social media company or tech company that’s gathering reams of personal data and using it in these scientific experiments.

    But Facebook is one that publishes it publicly more than other companies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if — set aside any legal question. What about the ethics of it? What are you, what are others saying about what ethical lines might have been crossed here?

    REED ALBERGOTTI: Well, look, I have talked to a lot of academic researchers here about this study, and I think really there’s a consensus sort of being formed that there needs to be a strong, hard look at the ethics of this.

    It’s a growing trend really in the scientific community, private companies, corporations using their data in conjunction with research institutions for scientific studies. And, right now, it’s really an ethical gray area.

    And I think researchers would like to see something like another level of informed consent that Facebook would put in front of its users when they enter them into these types of studies. But, right now, it’s so early, I think we will have to look at how this backlash shakes out to see if that actually happens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just to clarify, give us an example of how the news — so-called news feed was manipulated. As we said earlier, they were in some cases making sure they were seeing more positive information, in other cases more negative. What’s an example of how that worked?

    REED ALBERGOTTI: Well, there was actually an algorithm, a computer algorithm, that had certain words that were associated with positive or negative news feed posts.

    So the algorithm was run totally automatically without any hands-on involvement of the data scientists at Facebook. And that’s because they wanted to keep these research subjects totally anonymous. So the algorithm decided which posts were positive and negative, and then automatically removed those from the news feeds of those users for about a week.

    And then after that week was up, some of those posts might have been reintroduced to those news feeds and the users might have eventually seen them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I just wanted to read. We — on our Web site, we asked some of our visitors what they thought about this. We got comments both positive or at least — at least not so critical and others.

    I’m just going to read two quickly, one from someone named Carrie. She said: “So, read the TOS, terms of service, and don’t sign if you don’t agree. That’s the point. People don’t read terms of service, and then they get upset when Facebook does something that the terms allows.”

    And then from another visitor, Scott. He wrote: “The problem is that the terms of service is deliberately so vague that they can basically claim that they do whatever they want at any time. Would you buy a TV from Sony if the manual said that they could for any reason decide what programs you could watch on their TV?”

    How typical would you say those reactions are?

    REED ALBERGOTTI: Oh, I think they’re very typical.

    We saw similar reactions on our own website in the comments section. And I think what academic researchers are saying is, yes, Facebook has these terms of service that really indemnify them against any legal repercussions, although that may be debated in the future, but there really needs to be — in order for this academic research to be ethical, according to very acceptable — accepted guidelines, there needs to be another terms of service.

    Users need to be asked again when they’re being entered into a study if really they want to and they need to be told about the risks. In this case, the risk could have been, if someone was predisposed to depression, that might have triggered some sort of emotional instability. So there are big questions that we need to answer here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Certainly are. I think a lot of people didn’t even realize how much there’s just a regular adjustment of what people see on their Facebook pages. But that’s a subject for a future conversation.

    Reed Albergotti, we thank you.

    REED ALBERGOTTI: Thanks for having me.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court’s term wrapped up yesterday with major split decisions dealing with the health care law and labor unions.

    Jeff is back with a look at the big decisions from this year.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, there were many incremental steps, a few dramatic ones, and a number of unanimous decisions along the way, but stark divisions remained on major issues, including campaign finance, the exercise of religion, women’s access to medical care, and race.

    We look back at the term now with Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general under President Obama, now a lawyer in private practice in Washington. He argued several cases before the court this term. Erin Murphy is former law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts, also now an attorney in Washington. She argued her first case before the high court this past October. And our own regular guide to the court, Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal.

    And, Marcia, let me start with you. Start us off here. Was there a major theme or thread that you saw this past term for the court?

    MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: Well, I wouldn’t say there’s one major theme. I think there are several.

    I recall, when the term started, there was the potential for it to end with several blockbuster decisions, mainly because a number of conservative and libertarian organizations were asking the court to revisit or overrule some key precedents in a variety of legal areas, from campaign finance to affirmative action to securities to unions, even to a major precedent involving Indian tribes’ sovereign immunity.

    But, ultimately, the court didn’t overrule those decisions and ruled narrowly. It ruled narrowly, but not insignificantly. And I think, if you look at what the court did overall, some would say this is an example — this term was an example of what John Roberts said during his confirmation hearings, that he wanted to be a minimalist judge.

    His critics might say, however, that he’s playing a long game because a number of these old decisions that weren’t overruled were cut back and some are hanging by a thread or one vote.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, well, Erin, Erin Murphy, take us into one particular area, because it did get some attention, and that’s the question of executive power.

    ERIN MURPHY, Constitutional Attorney: Sure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We saw that in some of the cases. Did you see a statement being made by the court in that area?

    ERIN MURPHY: I’m not sure there’s a particular statement being made by the court, but there certainly were some big executive power cases this term.

    The Noel Canning case is probably the most high-profile one. And this is case concerning the scope of the president’s recess appointment power, the power to make appointments, when the Senate is not in session. And it’s an interesting case in reflecting what Marcia is taking about, because you have a unanimous court holding that the particular appointments at issue, appointments made by President Obama a few years ago, were unconstitutional.

    You then have a minority of the court that would have held more broadly that a number of other — under a theory that would have called into question the constitutionality a number of other appointment that have been made. And the majority of the court declined to take that broader step that would have had much broader implications.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Neal Katyal, what did — did you see any clear statements on this issue of executive power coming from this court?

    NEAL KATYAL, Former Acting Solicitor General: Well, I think executive power is an area where the court was somewhat divided, at least in approach.

    I think the big theme of this court, returning to the question you asked Marcia, it’s not just John Roberts’ promise at his confirmation hearings to rule minimally, but also his idea that he wanted to build consensus on the court.

    And if one looks at this court, it’s striking what John Roberts and his eight colleagues accomplished this year, roughly two-thirds of the cases decided unanimously. You would have to go back all the way to 1940 to find a similar time period in which the justices so often agreed on things at the bottom line.

    And, sure, there were disagreements among reasoning and so on, but this is a striking example of the chief justice and his eight colleagues saying to the country, look, I’m looking at other branches of government. They’re not working quite that well. They’re very divisive. This is an area that’s worked pretty well, that worked really well, the colleagues on both sides of the aisle at the court coming to common agreement on the bottom line.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Erin Murphy, let me ask you, because you were there at the court. Does it work that way, that there’s a sort of attempt to almost — a calculated attempt to say, look, we can work together?

    ERIN MURPHY: Well, I don’t know if I would use the term calculated.

    But I think, as anywhere, the justices certainly try to work together, and sometimes what you see this in is, let’s find the narrow area where we can all agree. And if it’s the kind of case that can be resolved without getting into the questions that are going to be more divisive for the justices, they will try their hardest to find ways to resolve cases in those respects. And I think we did see that in a number cases this term.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And yet, Marcia, we also — because you were on the program many times telling us that there were still these great divisions. We saw plenty of 5-4 cases.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes. Well, there weren’t a lot of 5-4 cases.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s right. I shouldn’t say a lot, but some key ones.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right. Exactly.

    There were key ones. And there are areas that have divided the court since the beginning of the Roberts court in 2005. These justices are split ideologically and in their approach to interpreting the Constitution in areas such as campaign finance.

    The Roberts court has continued a deregulation bent. It has yet to find a campaign finance regulation that it likes under the First Amendment. They’re also divided when it comes to religion. And we saw that in a case out of Greece, New York, involving prayers to open a government — a local government meeting.

    And we saw a bit of it in the Hobby Lobby case yesterday that we talked about involving the Affordable Care Act. They’re also divided on racial questions. The court didn’t have a typical affirmative-action case this term, which generally asks the court whether you can use race in, say, a university’s admission policy. Instead, it had a case about whether voters could approve a state constitutional amendment barring the use of race.

    And even though that case came out 6-2, we saw a real difference of opinion voiced by Justice Sotomayor on race from how the conservative majority has generally viewed race.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Neal Katyal, where do you still see the big divisions on this court that come through?

    NEAL KATYAL: Oh, I think that Marcia summarized them really well, race, religious, the First Amendment, abortion. There are areas where the court is, of course, divided.

    Elections have consequences. And I think if we look back at the last four confirmation hearings, we saw that come out in the hearings themselves. That said, I think if we asked ourselves at each of those hearings, could we have predicted, for example, John Roberts would be the vote to uphold the health care — President Obama’s health care plan a couple years ago or that Justice Breyer would write the unanimous opinion, rebuking Justice — President Obama’s recess appointments, those two things and many others, I think, weren’t quite as predictable from the confirmation hearings.

    So I think we do see the court trying to find common ground where they can. It’s a remarkable achievement that the court did this year.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Same question to you, Erin Murphy, then. Where do you — are there — there still are plenty of divisions, right, the makeup of the court, for one thing, and it comes out in some of these cases.

    ERIN MURPHY: Sure.

    But I think part of it is there are just different approaches to understanding the Constitution in general, and those just aren’t going to go away, and I think we will always see them, no matter who the justices are on the court.

    At the same time, even in some of the cases that involve divisive issues, you do sometimes see things that are not a 5-4 split. A couple of them have been mentioned here that are great examples. This year’s case of race discrimination wasn’t 5-4, and there was a First Amendment case involving abortion protesters that had a not straight-up 5-4 lineup.

    So you do, even within those divisive areas, see the justices trying to reach some consensus.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Marcia, you wrote a book on the Roberts court.

    MARCIA COYLE: I did. I did.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I can plug it here now for you.

    But here we are, I don’t know how many years in, but a good number of years in.

    MARCIA COYLE: This was the ninth year of the Roberts court.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes. So, where does this term kind of take it?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, I think — I believe every term’s different.

    And what we saw this term may not necessarily play out again next term. But, as we have talked, there are certain things that — certain areas where the court has been consistent in terms of its division and also where it does seek out unanimity.

    I remember Justice Breyer once telling me that the key to sitting around that conference table when they’re trying to hammer out these issues is to really listen, listen hard, and try to find the areas that you might be able to forge agreement. I think it’s a very interesting court. It is striving to find areas where it can agree, but it’s going to continue, as Erin said, to have these divisions in these areas — in the other areas.

    NEAL KATYAL: And if I…

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, go ahead, Neal, very briefly.

    NEAL KATYAL: Yes.

    I think Justice Breyer and Justice Alito both had their best terms ever on the court, Justice Alito yesterday writing two 5-4 very significant opinions, in Hobby Lobby and in the union case, Justice Breyer, as I mentioned, with the recess appointments opinion.

    These are two — these are three pretty striking opinions showing justices that I think a lot of court watchers had long predicted would unfold their wings and become leaders of the court. This term, that proved right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Neal Katyal, Erin Murphy, and Marcia Coyle, thank you, all three.

    MARCIA COYLE: Pleasure.

    ERIN MURPHY: Thank you.

    NEAL KATYAL: Thank you.

    The post As term ends, Supreme Court characterized by disagreement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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