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

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    mideastviolence

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier this evening, I spoke again to Josef Federman of Associated Press.

    Josef, thank you for talking with us again.

    Bring us up to date about what’s been happening just in the last few hours there.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN, The Associated Press: Yes, I feel like it’s sort of like the middle grounds of a boxing match right now, where the two sides are just kind of slugging each other and no sign of either side gaining momentum.

    I think we’re kind of in a holding period that may go on for a couple of days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There was a statement by President Abbas that the residents on the Gaza side of the border need to move back, suggesting he has some information about an Israeli assault. What do you know about that?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well, I think what he’s doing, he’s reflecting the fears that Israel could be moving in soon.

    As you know, Israel has been moving forces and massing forces along the border with Gaza over the past few days, preparing for the possibility of a ground invasion, so that created a lot of speculation that something could be around the border.

    But, from what I can tell, I don’t think it’s anything imminent. The Israeli military says it’s very happy with the way the air campaign is going and that it is in no rush to go in with ground forces. The report that the military had ordered people away from the border, it’s something that happened in the past, in past fighting, but the army tells me that has not been the case this time around.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Josef, we also heard the Palestinian representative at the U.N. say that, in Gaza, they have only one or two seconds to respond when there has been or is about to be a strike. How much warning do they have? What are the Israelis saying about that?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well, the Israelis say that they will warn residents. If they have identified a building as a target, they will tell people to get out. They will call the building ahead of time. They will even fire a warning shot, sort of knock on the roof with a bomb that — without explosives, kind of a knock on the roof.

    And only then do they actually blow up the building. So they are taking precautions or they say they’re taking precautions in some cases. But, in other cases, if they have identified a person in the building as a target, that’s a different story, and they say that person is a legitimate target and that person is putting anyone around him in danger.

    So when you have a situation like that, you have the risk of civilian casualties.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And on the Hamas side, Josef, we know that they fired several hundred rockets over the last few days. Is it known how large the stockpile is and where they’re getting these weapons from?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yes.

    Well, Hamas has been building up this arsenal of rockets for years. Israel believes that they have about 10,000 rockets. Most of them are — they call them Grad Katyusha-type rockets, relatively short-range. I think they go maybe 10 to 20 miles inside Israel. But over time, they have also brought in other more powerful rockets and we have seen some that are capable of hitting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and even further.

    Most of the rockets are believed to have come from Iran. They’re shipped to places like Sudan and then go over land through Egypt and smuggled into Gaza. Now, the situation has changed over the past year. Egypt last year, there was a military coup, and the new government in Egypt is very hostile to Hamas, and they have shuttered this whole smuggling operation.

    So Hamas, over the coming weeks, if this drags on, could see its arsenal diminished.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And on the other side, Josef, the Israeli side, so far, they have been very successful at holding back the attacks by Hamas. I guess their air defense system, 90 percent effective is what we’re seeing. How confident are they that they can continue that rate of effectiveness?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yes, right now, they seem to be very pleased and I think that’s one of the reasons that is actually holding back the ground defensive.

    As long as they can continue with this air assault on Gaza and avoid any casualties inside Israel, they’re probably likely to continue with the same tactic. It’s much less risky for them. The military seems very happy right now, very content to keep doing what it’s doing.

    If you see civilian casualties on the Israeli side — and, like you say, 90 percent is very good, but it’s not 100 percent, so there’s always the possibility of casualties on the Israeli side — that could push Israel I think to move more in the direction of ground action.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Josef Federman reporting from Jerusalem, thank you again.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Thank you.

    The post Israel’s ‘iron dome’ against Hamas rockets may help to defer ground assault appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    brazilgraffiti4

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, the story of a group of Brazilian street artists using the spotlight of the biggest sporting event in the globe to highlight a problem close to home.

    Special correspondent Sophia Kruz Of Detroit Public Television has our report.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: In Brazil, the start of the 2014 World Cup was cause for celebration, but amidst the partying was also protests, with many Brazilians speaking out against the $11 billion their country has spent on the games, $11 billion, they say, that could have been spent building desperately need schools and hospitals, instead of football stadiums.

    But the protests in Brazil haven’t all been violent and one of the peaceful weapons in use is public art.

    Anthropologist Thaddeus Blanchette explains.

    THADDEUS BLANCHETTE, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro: These are weapons that people who have no formal political power can employ and they have been things like samba, music, humor, and graffiti fits right in there.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: Graffiti is used as a powerful tool for political protests in urban areas around the world, by in Rio de Janeiro, it’s much more than that. Here, street art is woven into the fabric of the urban landscape.

    It’s bold in scale, often stretching entire city blocks, and every inch is legal thanks to a federal law decriminalizing street art in 2009, which has been great for graffiti artists like Bruno Bogossian.

    BRUNO “B.R.” BARRETO BOGOSSIAN, Graffiti Artist: They don’t call the cops to harass you because they like, you know? They are probably going to offer you water or coffee or ask you if you need some like paint to finish your wall. It’s incredible. We’re lucky.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: This widespread public support has led some graffiti artists to become advocates for social change and as the spotlight shines on Brazil this month, 78 graffiti artists have packed up their spray cans and traveled across the country to Rio for the first day of the World Cup.

    But these artists aren’t here to protest the games. They have come to fill a kilometer-long city block with murals, all protesting domestic violence.

    Have you ever done any paintings for domestic violence or women’s rights before?

    BRUNO “B.R.” BARRETO BOGOSSIAN: No, never. It’s the first time. And I think it’s going to be cool. I’m really proud. And, yes, it’s a different experience.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: These graffiti artists may not look like typical women’s rights activists, and on most days they’re not, but today they have been brought together by street artist and activist Panmela Castro.

    PANMELA CASTRO, Founder & Graffiti Artist, Rede Nami: Graffiti is special because, when you do art in your room, in your home, in your career, it’s just for you and sometimes you will make a show, exhibition, so more people see. But when you do it in the street, you are communicating with everybody.

    This old too, around 2009, I think.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: Panmela is recognized as one of the best graffiti artists in Brazil, but her work stretches beyond the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Her paintings can be seen around the world in places like Berlin, Paris, as well as the United States, in New York and even in Madison, Wisconsin.

    For Panmela, using graffiti to promote women’s rights is personal. That’s because her first husband who she married at age 21 began abusing her shortly after they moved in together.

    PANMELA CASTRO: When I moved in, everything changes, because he felt that he was — had the power and he started being aggressive. And what happens, at the end of the week, he beats me.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: Panmela is not alone. One out of every three women internationally will experience some form of gender-based violence in her lifetime.

    And in Brazil, the numbers are staggering.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): A woman is beaten every five minutes. And once every two hours, she is killed for being a woman. We have been painting here since 9:00 this morning. And in that time, four women have died in Brazil.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: Panmela survived the beating by her ex-husband, but the injustice she suffered didn’t end there.

    PANMELA CASTRO: We went to the police station, but, at that time, we don’t have a law against domestic violence, and nothing happened. He never went to the court. Nothing happened.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: Panmela’s former husband was never prosecuted because up until a few years ago, there was no comprehensive law regarding domestic violence on the books in Brazil, and for researchers studying gender-based violence, like Marcos Nascimento, the lack of education reflected a broader cultural problem.

    MARCOS NASCIMENTO, Latin American Center on Sexuality and Human Rights, State University of Rio de Janeiro: The society didn’t consider violence against women as a serious issue. It’s a private one, and most of the perpetrators of violence were not judged, were not condemned.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: In 2006, Brazil’s first law on domestic violence, called the Maria da Penha law, was passed, protecting women from the types of injustices suffered by Panmela.

    PANMELA CASTRO: I saw that it was really possible. And this is why I decided to contribute with my community promoting the law and helping out the women. And the tool that I had to do it was graffiti.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: Panmela has dedicated her life to raising awareness about the law, founding an organization in 2008 called Rede Nami, Panmela and her all-female team host graffiti workshops and schools throughout Rio de Janeiro. Their aim is to prevent domestic violence by working with high schoolers, the girls and the boys.

    MARCOS NASCIMENTO: Domestic violence is not an issue for women, it is not an issue for men, is not an issue for health sector or justice factor, but it’s an issue for all of us. So we have to do this together, if you want to figure out a future with no violence.

    PANMELA CASTRO: When I was a victim of domestic violence, I didn’t see myself as a victim. For me, that thing was common in the life of women. We had to accept. In this process, I learned that the things can be different. The woman can be free, can think in other ways that people, that society say that we have to be.

    SOPHIA KRUZ: The event was a victory for Panmela and for women’s rights.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How the arts can help address the issues of women’s rights around the world is the subject of an upcoming documentary by Sophia Kruz. You can find a link to that project, Creating for Change, on our Web site.

    The post Graffiti artists take to the streets of Brazil to combat violence against women appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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  • 07/10/14--17:12: Is Netflix the new TV?
  • EMMY NOMINEES  MONITOR

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    GWEN IFILL: “Breaking Bad,” “True Detective,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Downton Abbey,” critics frequently refer to this era as a new golden age of television.

    But many of you are consuming it online, making this perhaps more of a golden age of video. Today’s Emmy nominations reflected that.

    The most prominent example, Netflix, an online streaming service, netted 31 nominations, most of them for “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”  Aside from “Downton,” traditional over-the-air broadcast networks were shut out of the nominations for best drama entirely. Instead, cable and premium channels like FX, AMC, and HBO once again ruled the day.

    Have our viewing habits changed forever?

    Hari Sreenivasan has more from our New York studios.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meredith Blake covers television for The L.A. Times. She joins me now.

    So, how significant is this shift that we’re seeing from traditional broadcast networks to not just cable networks, but now these streaming players?

    MEREDITH BLAKE, The Los Angeles Times: I think it’s pretty massive.

    It really started last year. Well, technically, I suppose it started back with “The Sopranos” and HBO. And you have seen it incrementally move away from traditional broadcast networks, increasingly toward basic and premium cable. And now you’re seeing it move towards streaming services like Netflix, which first entered the race last year with “House of Cards” and now is an even bigger competitor with “Orange Is the New Black.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Considering the amount of money that the CBS/NBC/ABCs of the world put into their dramas, how do you feel about Netflix coming in and picking up 31 nominations and probably lots and lots of viewers?

    MEREDITH BLAKE: I’m sure it’s incredibly frustrating, because not only do they have tons of subscribers who pay for the privilege of watching their shows. They also have the creative freedom and the formal freedom to make the kinds of shows that they want, to have the kind of content, the kind of language, the kind of violence that you can’t have on broadcast network television, and to roll it out whenever they want.

    Netflix’s big thing is the binge watching model, which means they put all 12, 13 episodes out at once, unlike traditional TV, which rolls them out once a week.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And they also don’t have to make as many episodes as traditional TV does for a full season, right?

    MEREDITH BLAKE: That’s right. Yes, the standard is now sort of 10 to 12. But you’re seeing seasons as short as seven for “Mad Men” this year, which I suppose was a half-season. That’s how they are billing it. But it was really a seven-episode season but it was also nominated.

    A show like “Game of Thrones” only has 10 episodes, as opposed to something like “The Good Wife,” which was overlooked this season, is 22 episodes, and that’s a lot of TV to have to create year after year, week after week.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, inevitably, out of 22 episodes, you have a better chance of getting a not so great one vs. in 10 you can really focus on quality.

    MEREDITH BLAKE: Yes. Even if you have a wonderful batting average, you are going to have a fewer slower episodes that just aren’t as engaging.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And we’re also seeing — we saw Kevin Spacey for “House of Cards” and Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson for “True Detective.”

    These are big screen actors choosing for these many series or small projects. Why?

    MEREDITH BLAKE: I think you will see this everywhere. You will see it. You’re also seeing directors like Steven Soderbergh moving away from feature film. He’s a big Oscar-winning director. He’s given up on movies and he’s doing TV now because of the creative freedom that it affords.

    And you’re also seeing richer roles than you would necessarily see in the movies these days. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of great roles still out there in the film world, but increasingly the movie business is driven by tentpole things like comic book movies and projects like that.

    In the film world — or — sorry — the TV world, there’s a lot richer kind of diversity of parts available.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are we going to see that big split where basically Hollywood is left with the big blockbuster that I go see in the summer on the big screen, it’s Iron Man 16, vs. maybe Netflix or another streaming option might be the thing where I consume it at my own pace and I really get into it because I love this actor or I love this director?

    MEREDITH BLAKE: I don’t think you can ever say that the movies — people are going to stop going to see the movies. This year, we actually had a really great reward season in terms of the quality of pictures that were out.

    But I do think it is harder and harder to find adult fare at the cinema. You can find it everywhere on TV, almost too much of it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Any surprises today, any big snubs?

    MEREDITH BLAKE: I think there was probably two noteworthy snubs were “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany, who plays close to a dozen different parts on that show and is a critical favorite for the past two seasons. I think people thought she was going to get it this year. She was once again overlooked.

    The other big one is “The Good Wife,” which had a really strong — it is in its fifths season, but it had a really strong kind of creative resurgence this year. And I think most people thought it was a given, but it didn’t make the cut.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, those didn’t make the cut. What about the ones that did? Were you shocked at all?

    MEREDITH BLAKE: Any surprises?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

    MEREDITH BLAKE: There were a few one.

    The Emmys tend to have this kind of institutional inertia that keeps too many surprises from happening. But there were a few kind of surprising one. “Silicon Valley” I don’t think a lot people thought was…

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s a comedy show.

    MEREDITH BLAKE: Yes, the tech kind of satire on HBO. It’s very funny, but I don’t think it was seen as a given.

    Another one was Ricky Gervais, who is on the Netflix series “Derek,” which received kind of mixed reviews, and I think people were surprised by his nomination.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: With the number of shows that Netflix is producing, does the television industry now take it seriously as a legitimate content avenue for directors and actors to go to when they’re shopping around?

    MEREDITH BLAKE: I think absolutely.

    I mean, you are seeing huge names go that way. And I think, given the number of awards that it’s already racked up and nominations that it continues to rack up, I think you will see even more people flocking that way, especially because of the creative freedom that they’re allowed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Meredith Blake of The L.A. Times, thanks so much.

    MEREDITH BLAKE: Thanks.

    The post Is Netflix the new TV? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newtesting

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    GWEN IFILL: A new report finds that U.S. students’ financial literacy is only average compared to students worldwide. American students also don’t do any better on other international tests which assess math, reading and science skills.

    What can be done to improve the performance of our schools?

    Education correspondent John Merrow has our report.

    JOHN MERROW: It’s testing day for at Baltimore City College High School in Baltimore, Maryland. Students won’t arrive for another hour, but the adults in charge are already here, including Jill Morgan of CTB/McGraw Hill, the company that administers and scores the tests.

    JILL MORGAN, CTB/McGraw Hill: The test is math, science and reading. It’s a continuous test and it’s approximately two hours’ times, and then it’s followed by a 35-minute questionnaire.

    JOHN MERROW: At first glance, it looks like a typical multiple choice exam, the kind that federal law requires every third through eight grader and 10th grader to take in math and reading.

    It’s a test Jack Dale, former superintendent of Fairfax County, Virginia, Public Schools is very familiar with.

    JACK DALE, Former Superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools: Typically, in our Virginia Standards of Learning test or the Maryland, it tends to focus more on what we call giving back information, regurgitation of facts and figures.

    JOHN MERROW: American students are already the most tested in the world. Do schools really need another one?

    PETER KANNAM, America Achieves: The value of this is 15-year-olds across the globe can take this, and so you can take it and see how your school is doing against Singapore, Finland, and Spain.

    JOHN MERROW: Peter Kannam works with America Achieves, which coordinates the tests in the U.S. He argues that this one is necessary because it evaluates schools, the depth and rigor of their curriculum. Are they challenging their students to think critically, for example?

    PETER KANNAM: Instead of just having someone solve a problem and bubble in the answer, it’s basically explaining your thought process, like a multistep word problem in math, or a text where you have to justify your response.

    JOHN MERROW: The exam was developed by OECD, the organization that administers the international tests known as PISA, for Program for International Student Assessment. PISA is given in 70 countries every three years. The results allow nations to compare their education systems and measure their own progress.

    The PISA assessment is one of the best assessments to evaluate critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

    JOHN MERROW: Skills, Kannam argues, that are essential if American workers are going to compete successfully in an increasingly global economy. This exam isn’t given to every student, just a carefully drawn sample, because it’s designed to measure aspects of the school, not individual students.

    At this school, only 83 of the 1,300 students will take the exam.

    JACK DALE: And so the question is, can you get a representative sample of your kids in your school or do you always need to test 100 percent of the kids? Well, statistically, the answer is, you can get by with a representative sample.

    JOHN MERROW: Giving this test to every student would be prohibitively expensive, because about half the questions require written answers and calculations, and those answers cannot be graded by a machine.

    JILL MORGAN: You will have two hours to work on the test and then 35 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

    JOHN MERROW: Reading from a prepared script, Morgan starts with a practice question. She directs the students’ attention to a table showing winning times for running events at the 2008 Olympics.

    JILL MORGAN: Which one of the following was the most likely running time for the gold medalist in the women’s 800-meter race?

    JOHN MERROW: The exam asks students to apply their reading, math and science skills to real-life situations. For example, they may be asked to analyze different cell phone plans to figure out which is the best deal.

    MELIA GREENE: It allowed me to think differently. With standardized tests, you have to study for them as more of kind of reciting knowledge. But with this test, it’s more about drawing back on things you have learned throughout your life.

    MALAYSIA MCGINNIS: It’s a better measure of how we apply information that we already know, instead of just seeing if we can recall something.

    JOHN MERROW: After completing the math, reading and science portion of the exam, the students answer questions about their attitudes toward teachers, their school and their courses.

    MELIA GREENE: I thought it was very interesting that they want to know about our lives and how we view math and science, and I think, if it was for a survey, it would help whatever research they were doing.

    JOHN MERROW: Jack Dale had some Fairfax County high schools participate in a pilot test of the new exam in 2012. He was eager to find out how his schools measured up against the rest of the world.

    JACK DALE: I wanted to find out, number one, were we, are we as good as we thought we were? And we were. The higher up you are, the better your reading score was.

    JOHN MERROW: Each circle represents a different school.

    JACK DALE: Left and right on this one has to do with a student’s perception of their relationship with their teachers.

    JOHN MERROW: This says, OK, the teacher-student relationship is not as strong as we adults thought it was.

    JACK DALE: Yes. Yes. And so we said, ah, you know what? We have been focusing on relevance and rigor. We also need to focus on the relationships and engage the kids to make sure that they can have as role models people they respect and admire called their teachers.

    JOHN MERROW: Participating schools get a comprehensive 150-page report. Dale, who now consults part time for America Achieves, showed me the kind of detailed analysis the report produces.

    JACK DALE: They actually rate your kids across six different scoring levels. The higher the level, the better off you are.

    JOHN MERROW: Ideally, you want as many kids over here as possible.

    JACK DALE: Over in five and six.

    JOHN MERROW: The United States has about 27,000 public high schools. This year, about 300 elected to pay $11,500 to have a sample of their students take the exam.

    JACK DALE: That is not a large dollar amount compared to the entire junior class being assessed.

    JOHN MERROW: Is it your view that, as this test catches on, we can do fewer of the bubble tests that kids take?

    JACK DALE: Absolutely.

    JOHN MERROW: Are you then pushing a revolution?

    (LAUGHTER)

    JACK DALE: Am I pushing a revolution? I think what — in many respects, I think what the United States needs to do is catch up with the revolution that has occurred throughout the rest of the world.

    JOHN MERROW: While many critics of standardized testing would like nothing more than to see those bubble tests diminish, the chances of that happening right now seems slim. Most states are changing to new curricula based on the new Common Core state standards. That will most likely mean more standardized testing for students. Testing schools may be on the back burner for a while.

    The post Exam asks students to apply critical thinking skills to real-life situations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Holds Hearing On Obama Request For Funds For Child Immigrants

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama has asked Congress for almost $4 billion to deal with the recent influx of unaccompanied children from Central America. But Republicans in Congress have showed no signs of quickly giving the administration what it wants.

    Jeffrey Brown has our report.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Minority Leader: What he appears to be asking for is a blank check, one that would allow him to sustain his current failed policy.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: We’re not giving the president a blank check. Beyond that, we will await further discussions with our members before we make any final decisions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As the day began, Republican leaders were in lockstep against President Obama’s emergency request for $3.7 billion. It’s aimed at stemming the flow of unaccompanied migrant children across the Mexican border, some 57,000 since October, mostly from Central America.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans insisted the president’s underlying immigration policy is the real problem and his budget request, by itself, is not the answer.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: But we want to make sure we actually get the right tools to fix the problem. And that’s not what we have seen so far from the president.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The White House shot back that there’s a clear and urgent need for funding to add more immigration judges, detention facilities and other programs.

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made the case at a Senate hearing this afternoon.

    JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: The request that we have made for a $3.7 billion supplemental is indeed a lot of money for the taxpayer. From my perspective, this request has the right focus on deterrence, added detention and removal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The back-and-forth in Washington came as President Obama wound up a visit to Texas. Last night, in Dallas, he rejected Republican demands that he visit the border.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops. I’m interested in solving a problem.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Instead, the president pressed Texas congressional leaders to support his funding request.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The only question at this point is why — why wouldn’t the Texas delegation or any of the other Republicans who are concerned about this not want to put this on a fast track and get this on my desk, so I can sign it and we can start getting to work?

    JEFFREY BROWN: But as the day unfolded, the outlines of a possible deal emerged. It involves changing a 2008 law that requires court hearings before deportations of children unless they’re from Mexico or Canada. Top Democrats left the door open to including that change in the president’s package.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, Minority Leader: It’s not something that would be a deal-breaker as we go forward. Let them have their face-saver. But let us have the resources to do what we have to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats on his side are not going to block anything for now. The White House also signaled it’s open to changing the law to quicker deportations of migrant children.

    As children continue to pour across the country’s southern border, it’s the nation’s 228 immigration judges who are tasked with deciding who stays in the U.S. and who gets sent back home.

    We get a view from within the system from Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. She’s been a judge for 27 years and is based in San Francisco.

    Well, thank you, Judge Marks, for joining us.

    Everyone seems to agree about the huge backlog, but how serious a problem is it for the system and for an individual judge?

    DANA LEIGH MARKS, National Association of Immigration Judges: It’s an extremely serious problem.

    The immigration courts have 375,000 cases pending before them right now, and only 228 immigration judges across the country to deal with those cases. The National Association of Immigration Judges has been trying to call attention to the extremely overburdened conditions and — that our dockets are experiencing and how long cases remain pending, which can be four or five, sometimes six years in various parts of the country if someone is not detained.

    But we have had trouble getting attention focused on us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, a lot of attention now. What kind of immigration changes have immigration judges seen in terms of who is appearing before you? Are you seeing many younger people now?

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: Yes.

    Over the past three to four years, there has been a steady increase of unaccompanied juveniles that are appearing before the court, because what happens is when people are encountered at the border, their cases may not necessarily stay there. If they have family members that they are reunited with, then they are allowed to change the venue of their cases, and those cases end up being transferred to the 59 immigration courts around the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I know immigration law can be complicated, like other aspects of the law, but is there an easy way to describe the criteria that you use or the amount of leeway that an individual judge has in deciding cases like this?

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: Actually, the immigration law is so complex that it’s very often compared to tax law, and yet the amount of leeway a judge has is very, very limited.

    Immigration law has a series of categories that are very, very rigid. If someone fits within one of those categories, they may be eligible for some kind of release from an order of deportation and removal.

    But if they don’t fit in that category, then the judge can be required to send them back home.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, given this enormous caseload, how much time — give us a sense of how much time a judge can spend with any particular person before you, and what happens in a courtroom?

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: Well, the courtrooms are very much like criminal courtrooms that you see across the country, except that people are not represented. There’s no guarantee of representation by an attorney. And so approximately 40 percent of the people nationwide do not have attorneys.

    And if you look at the detained population, approximately 85 percent of those individuals do not have attorneys to represent them. So, the judge has to spend additional time explaining to the individual the procedures, what is going on, what possible remedies they might have under the immigration law.

    And it’s extremely difficult for an immigration judge when there is not an attorney representing the person who’s appearing in court. The government is represented by attorneys in virtually all cases.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, presumably, that means the level of evidence that you actually hear must differ all the time.

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: It varies dramatically depending on whether or not the person is represented and how well represented they are as well, since it’s also well-known that immigrants can be victimized by unscrupulous lawyers.

    And so we have difficulty with substandard immigration law practice in our courts as well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, now the president has proposed adding 40 new judges in what he put forward this week. How easy is it to ramp up the numbers in terms of the training that a judge needs, and what kind of difference do you think that would make?

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: It will be — any addition to the corps will be extremely helpful. We can’t deny that.

    But it is not an easy job to ramp up quickly. Immigration judges need many years of experience in immigration law or in being judges. Many judges agree that it takes probably four to five years to really hit your peak in being a judge in this kind of specialty setting. And we are very concerned that this is just a drop in the bucket.

    The Senate bill that was introduced last spring, Senate Bill 744, recommended that there be 75 new immigration judges in each of the next three years, 2014, 2015 and 2016. So, you can imagine that 40 coming now towards the end of 2014 is not nearly enough to solve the problem that has been existing in the immigration courts even before the surge occurred.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So your group is pushing for more judges, more what?  What would you like to see, in our last minute here?

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: We would like to see more immigration judges, more judicial law clerks — those are attorneys — to help us.

    And we actually believe that the best long-term reform for the immigration courts is to move us out of the United States Department of Justice and make us an Article 1 court, similar to the tax courts or the bankruptcy courts, so that there’s transparency in how money is allocated and how it’s spent to the courts, and so that we don’t find ourselves in the circumstances a few years later down the line.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Very briefly, when you say transparency, you mean that is not there now in terms of the funding?

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: We don’t believe it is as transparent as it should be, correct.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Judge Dana Leigh Marks, thank you very much.

    DANA LEIGH MARKS: Thank you, Jeffrey.

    The post Amid border crisis, Immigration judges push for more resources appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Using numerical models, mathematicians can help farmers grow strawberries for less water in the parched Parajo Valley. Photo by Flickr user Sharon Mollerus

    Using numerical models, mathematicians can help farmers grow strawberries for less water in the parched Parajo Valley. Photo by Flickr user Sharon Mollerus

    Farming takes more than sunshine, water and good soil. It takes math. Mathematicians are helping farmers use numerical modeling to boost strawberry and raspberry production in Southern California. Numbers can tell farmers how to make the best use of their limited water in the berry-producing Parajo Valley.

    “As mathematicians one of the things we were hoping to offer was a different way of looking at a problem. What can we plant, what’s the rotation strategy — so that’s the type of thing we hope to use mathematical approaches and algorithms to analyze,” said Kathleen Fowler, a mathematician with Clarkson University.

    For example, algorithms and models show farmers where their water is going during irrigation. When the water moves out of roots’ reach, it’s time to turn the water off, says strawberry farmer John Eiskamp, saving a precious resource in parched California.

    It’s not just about putting more fruit in your shopping cart, says Estelle Basor, president of the American Institute of Mathematics. She grew up in a farming family, and understands how any small decision can have massive impact on crops and livelihoods.

    “I’m not sure a lot of the public realizes the risks involved. So if we can just help smooth out some of the decision making process, help solve a few of the problems that the growers might have, I think it’s a really good step forward,” she said.

    Science correspondent Miles O’Brien has more on this story for the National Science Foundation series “Science Nation.”*

    *For the record, the National Science Foundation is also an underwriter of the NewsHour.

    The post How math is growing more strawberries in Southern California appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The House voted Friday to permanently renew a once-temporary tax break, known as bonus depreciation, that allows businesses to write off the costs of equipment or property. The tax credit allows, for instance, agricultural producers to reduce their tax bills. Photo by Flickr user Kimberly Vardeman

    The House voted Friday to permanently renew a once-temporary tax break, known as bonus depreciation, that allows businesses to write off the costs of equipment or property. The tax credit allows, for instance, agricultural producers to reduce their tax bills. Photo by Flickr user Kimberly Vardeman

    WASHINGTON — The House voted Friday to make permanent a temporary tax break that makes it easier for businesses to invest in new equipment, one of many expired tax breaks that Congress must deal with by the end of the year.

    The tax break allows businesses to more quickly write off the costs of new equipment, making it popular among business groups. But the White House has threatened a veto because the bill would add $287 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade.

    The House approved the bill by a vote of 258-160.

    The tax break, known as bonus depreciation, has been around for years, though it has always been temporary. The latest version was enacted in 2008 to help jumpstart the economy.

    “It’s easy, if you want to grow the economy, encourage job creation and increase federal revenue, you support making bonus depreciation permanent,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, who sponsored the bill. “Permanency gives job creators the certainty they need to plan and invest in their businesses, including hiring employees.”

    The White House said the tax break was “was never intended to be a permanent corporate giveaway.”

    Typically, when a business buys equipment or property, it can deduct the cost over a period of years, depending on how long the equipment is projected to last. The tax break allows businesses to write off a larger share of the cost in the first year, immediately reducing tax bills.

    The tax break expired at the beginning of the year, along with more than 50 other temporary tax breaks that Congress routinely extends.

    The Republican-led House has voted to make a handful of the tax breaks permanent, leaving the fate of others uncertain.

    The Democratic-controlled Senate is taking a different approach. Instead of making them permanent, senators have been working on a package that would extend nearly all the temporary tax breaks through 2015.

    Democratic leaders say their approach would give lawmakers more time to decide which tax breaks to make permanent and which ones to get rid of.

    The stalemate is unlikely to be resolved until after congressional elections in November. If Congress renews the temporary tax breaks by the end of the year, taxpayers would be able to claim them on their 2014 returns, which will be filed next spring.

    The post House votes to permanently extend ‘bonus depreciation’ tax break appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In his new film “112 Weddings,” Doug Block revisits nine couples whose weddings he filmed over the course of two decades.

    Documentary filmmaker Doug Block never really intended to make a movie questioning the very institution of marriage.

    Twenty years ago, a friend offered him a one-time gig shooting a wedding. Block, an independent director whose newest film “112 Weddings” premiered on HBO at the end of June, needed the cash.

    But the job appealed to him as an artist, too.

    “What is the stuff of movies?” he asked. “So many fiction films, Hollywood movies, are about ordinary people — you know, ‘the most extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary person.’”

    Shooting a wedding was his chance to be a fly on the wall at the real-life version of that day, he realized. He took the job, shooting the nuptials in a documentary-style, with little editing afterwards.

    Doug Block filming a wedding.  Photo by Bob Krasner, courtesy of HBO

    Doug Block filming a wedding. Photo by Bob Krasner, courtesy of HBO

    The couple, named Sue and Steve, loved it and Block instantly saw potential for a day job.

    “What you want most as a documentary filmmaker is access to your subjects,” he says. “And here they’re paying me good money to have incredible access.”

    Over the next two decades, Block filmed weddings to help finance his life as an independent filmmaker. He shot seven ceremonies the same summer he finished “51 Birch Street,” a chronicle of his parents’ less-than-perfect 54-year marriage which helped make his name. Week after week, editing footage of his parents’ marital struggles by day and filming joyous, bright-eyed newlyweds at night, he began to wonder: what happened to his clients after the band had packed up, the caterers cleared out and married life began?

    Doug Block and Olivia Langbein at Olivia's wedding. Photo courtesy Dogwoof TV

    Doug Block and Olivia Langbein at Olivia’s wedding. Photo courtesy Dogwoof TV

    This line of personal questioning led him back to the subjects of those old wedding videos. By then, there were over 100 couples in all, some of whose weddings had taken place nearly 20 years earlier. It turned out that, despite the natural drama of a joyful, tearful, boozed-up wedding, the real stories had unfolded out of sight of Block’s watchful eye.

    He retrained his camera onto nine couples, initially intending to ask “variations on two basic questions… what did you expect marriage to be going into it, and what did it turn out to be?”

    Instead, Block was surprised to find himself exploring a larger question: why does anyone get married in the first place?

    “112 Weddings” explores the answer by combining interviews with original wedding footage filmed over the past 20 years.

    By the time they sat back down for the documentary, the couples have aged seven, 13 or 19 years. Some of the changes are visible: weight gain or loss, of graying or thinning hair. Some have had children. They share the challenges and triumphs of their marriages — struggles with mental illness, learning to be parents, balancing work and family.

    Rachel and Paul’s wedding was Block’s 32nd. Now, 13 years and two children later, “I’m delighted the way (marriage) turned out,” Paul says.

    Block interviewed most couples side by side, interested in how they interacted with each other.

    “Sometimes there’s a little dance, like an evasive dance that the couples are doing because they don’t want to answer,” Block says, “and that might be as revealing if not more revealing than anything they might say.”

    The two divorced couples in the film presented their own narrative choreography. Sue and Steve, for instance, that very first couple, had signed divorce papers mere days before they appeared separately on camera.

    Along with his old clients, Block also introduces us to one young couple for the first time, Heather and Sam, whose upcoming nuptials will be his titular 112th. Block purposely matched scenes of their eager preparations — the dress fitting, the photo shoots — against all the other couples.

    “Every time you see them, then you’re bringing the experiences of the couples who’ve been married to them.”

    Heather Dodge trying on her veil. Photo courtesy of HBO

    Heather Dodge trying on her veil. Photo courtesy of HBO

    Still, the soon-to-be-wed Heather and Sam seemed somehow different from the long-married couples sharing the screen.

    “So many of the issues that come up would come up if you’re just living together,” he realized. “So then what is it about the autograph you put down on a piece of paper that actually changes everything about a relationship?”

    Alexander and Janice Caillet at their wedding. Photo by Linda Peckman Dubliner, courtesy of HBO

    Alexander and Janice Caillet at their wedding. Photo by Linda Peckman Dubliner, courtesy of HBO

    It’s a question that many of the couples return to themselves. Janice and Alexander had chafed at the idea of traditional marriage when Block filmed their partnership ceremony 13 years ago. As the parents of two teenage daughters, they decided to make it official, citing decidedly-unromantic legal concerns like hypothetical hospital visitation rights. Despite their decade-and-a-half of commitment, their shared home and parenting responsibilities, the two acknowledge an emotional shift after the small home ceremony (filmed by Block, of course).

    Anna, one half of the film’s only same-sex couple, describes that shift as a sense of being welcomed into a larger married culture.

    “Marriage is just this really important social institution and it’s … one of the ways in which our society kind of defines citizenship,” she says in the film. “I think you can’t just deny the reality that that’s just how society is structured today, and in order to have an equal place in that, it makes sense to get married.”

    Galina Portnoym and David Engwall at their wedding. Photo courtesy Dogwoof TV

    Galina Portnoy and David Engwall at their wedding. Photo courtesy Dogwoof TV

    Block agrees that the change doesn’t come from within the marriage, but from others.

    “The world has certain expectations of marriage, and they throw that on you as a couple … Over time, that finds its way into your own relationship, that you start thinking of yourself as a married couple, as opposed to just two people living together,” said Block.

    “You absorb that from everyone else, and I think it does change the way you relate to each other.”

    Pressures from family and friends may contribute to those preconceptions, says Block, but he also cites movies, in particular, for imposing ideas like the “soul mate” onto relationships.

    Block thinks that “112 Weddings” can begin to lift that idealized veil. He says filmgoers will “learn by projecting” how they would have reacted under the same circumstance.

    “‘What would have happened if I had gone through that, if my child had gotten sick? Would we have lasted together? Could we have made it through that?’ It’s always about putting yourself in the same position as the characters … and speculating about what that would be like, and then learning from that.”

    That is, he adds, the joy of his profession: “I get to facilitate that.”

    Heather and Sam Dodge at their wedding. Photo courtesy of HBO

    Heather and Sam Dodge at their wedding. Photo courtesy of HBO

    “112 Weddings” ends, as so many romantic films do, with a beaming bride and groom at the altar. But Block believes that after sharing the experience of so many other marriages, the audience will look at that iconic moment between Heather and Sam a little differently.

    “By the time Heather walks down the aisle at the end, it’s not just the simple happy context that we always think of when we think of that moment,” says Block.

    Still, the filmmaker could not resist one cinematic flair: a big swell of music a Heather and Sam say their “I do’s” at the film’s close.

    It was hard to resist, Block laughs. “It’s so embedded in us, in our DNA. Those movies, those damn movies!”

    “112 Weddings” is available on HBO Go, iTunes, Amazon and Dogwoof TV. There are also screenings of the film at documentary festivals in the U.S. and U.K.

    The post Filmmaker ponders married life after ’112 Weddings’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LeBron James, then No. 23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, applies chalk to his hands prior to playing against the Washington Wizards during the 2008 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2008. James announced on Friday that he's returning to the Cavaliers, after four years with the Miami Heat. Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    LeBron James, then No. 23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, applies chalk to his hands prior to playing against the Washington Wizards during the 2008 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2008. James announced on Friday that he’s returning to the Cavaliers, after four years with the Miami Heat. Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    The past few weeks a lot of people who know my Cleveland roots have asked me what I thought the odds were LeBron James was going to “come home” and whether the fans in the city would welcome him back. Having suffered through some of the most painful moments in professional sports — Michael Jordan’s “Shot,” John Elway’s “Drive” and Earnest Byner’s “Fumble” — my instinct always tells me to hope for the best, but expect the worst.

    Four years ago, that feeling was reinforced when James made his “decision” to “take his talents” to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. I wrote about the pain of that moment, and what it meant for Cleveland fans to have a local star leave when, as fans, you have no such option. Your team is your team. Your hometown is your hometown.

    “When an NBA title finally comes, the success will be all the sweeter for having suffered through Thursday night. I would say it’s a shame James won’t be there to celebrate when it happens, but I don’t think he’d appreciate it,” I wrote at the time. On that last point, I was wrong.

    Fast forward to Friday. In his Sports Illustrated announcement, the first reason James cites for his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers is that he grew up in Northeast Ohio and how the region “holds a special place” in his heart. “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” he said.

    That James would pass up what is, right now, a better basketball situation in Miami for the promise of a young Cavs team shows that he does appreciate what bringing a title would mean to the city of Cleveland. After the news broke Friday, there was a lot of sarcastic chatter on Twitter about “poor Cleveland,” from people who would probably have a hard time understanding what it’s like for a town with three major sports teams to go 50 years without a title.

    That is why the mere announcement that the greatest player in basketball choose to come back to Northeast Ohio is being celebrated with such fanfare. Cleveland fans are used to having their souls crushed, not their hopes elevated. Having won two NBA titles in Miami, James knows just how hard the task at hand is. And he made clear Friday he’s “not promising a championship.”

    But what he does bring is promise; he brings hope. That’s something that has been in short supply in Cleveland since he left. And it’s why so many Cleveland fans are thrilled to see him return, even though the split four years ago left bitter feelings on both sides.

    James writes: “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”

    Welcome back, LeBron.

    In 2010, Paul Solman took a closer look at James’ economic impact on Cleveland.

    The post Why LeBron coming home matters so much to Cleveland appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday that the federal government’s budget deficit will drop to $583 billion this year, the lowest level of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

    Last year’s deficit was $680 billion. The latest update from the White House budget office is also $66 billion less than the administration predicted earlier this year when releasing the president’s budget.

    Obama presided over trillion-dollar-plus deficits during his first term as the economy struggled to recover from a bad recession and financial crisis. Attempts to strike deals with GOP leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio have failed, though Obama was successful in muscling through a tax hike on wealthier earners in early 2013. Tight spending on annual agency budgets is also responsible for lower deficits.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects an even lower deficit of $492 billion for the budget year ending Sept. 30.

    The White House has also lowered its economic growth forecast for the current year to 2.6 percent, reflecting the unexpected 2.9 percent drop in gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year. Its earlier prediction was for a 3.3 percent hike in GDP.

    Obama’s March budget release called for a variety of tax increases and promised new help for the working poor and additional money for road-building, education and research. It also pulls back from controversial cuts to Social Security cost-of-living increases that had angered Democrats.

    The unexpected White House release came as the Treasury Department announced separately that the government ran a surplus of $71 billion for the month of June.

    The post 2014 budget deficit to drop to $583 billion, White House says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The GOP might be joining LeBron James in Cleveland in 2016. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

    The GOP might be joining LeBron James in Cleveland in 2016. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

    It’s been a pretty good week for Cleveland.

    Earlier this week the Republican National Committee announced that Cleveland was its pick to hold the party’s national presidential nominating convention in 2016. And then today the biggest news the city could have hoped for — LeBron James, the biggest name in professional basketball, was returning home, leaving South Beach for C-Town.

    On the political front, this could mean the Republican convention will be held the week of July 18, instead of the earlier possibility of June 28th if the Cavaliers have a playoff run.

    For its part, the RNC isn’t tipping its hand yet.

    “We will choose a date that allows us to put on the best convention possible and all options remain on the table, as we’re still very early on in the negotiation process,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told NewsHour. “We’re excited about Cleveland and LeBron’s return is further evidence that it’s a city on the rise.”

    Cleveland being picked as for the GOP convention is still tentative. Final negotiations with the city still have to occur and the pick is subject to a full RNC vote in August.

    The news of James’ move even prompted comment from the White House. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama considers James to be “a fine young man,” who has shown “a professionalism that is pretty impressive.”

    “It’s a pretty powerful statement about the value of a place that you consider home,” Earnest added of James, who grew up in Akron, 40 minutes South of Cleveland.

    James began his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a fresh-from-high-school phenom before controversially bolting for the Miami Heat. In four seasons with the Heat, James won two championships and appeared in another final this past year before losing to the San Antonio Spurs.

    President Obama has long been a fan of James, even once comparing himself to the great hoopster.

    Asked backstage of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, where then-state Sen. Obama began his improbable national rise, he was asked by a Chicago Tribune reporter if he was nervous about giving the biggest speech of his life. “I’m LeBron, baby,” he said. “I can play on this level. I got game.”

    Cleveland hopes that James’ second term, so-to-speak, will bring a championship this time.

    The post Where LeBron James and politics intersect appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Stung by sticker shock, members of Congress are scrambling to lower the cost of a bill to fix veterans’ health care amid a growing uproar over long waits for appointments and falsification of records to cover up the delays at Veterans Affairs hospitals.

    At the same time, deficit hawks are on edge about letting veterans turn more to providers outside the VA for health care could cost far more if Congress, under pressure from powerful veterans groups, decides to renew that program rather than let it expire in two years.

    Lawmakers in both parties agree on the need to reform the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care network — the largest in the country — following reports of veterans dying while awaiting appointments at VA hospitals or clinics. The resulting election-year firestorm forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in May. A half-dozen other VA officials have resigned or retired since then.

    The VA’s inspector general has confirmed that at least 35 veterans died while awaiting appointments at the agency’s Phoenix medical center alone, but he has yet to report on the results of investigations into whether delays in treatment were responsible for any of the deaths.

    The latest analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates a Senate-passed bill would cost $35 billion through 2016 to build new clinics, hire doctors and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care. The CBO put the price tag of a similar measure passed by the House at $44 billion.

    More troubling for lawmakers are long-term costs. As currently designed, the legislation would relieve a big backlog of veterans awaiting appointments by letting them seek care outside the VA system, but that the expansion would expire after two years. Fiscal conservatives worried about swelling deficits fear lawmakers will yield to inevitable pressure from veterans to keep it.

    “Once a benefit is provided to a large group of people it is hard to take it away, so there will be intense pressure on Congress to continue the benefit,” said Ed Lorenzen of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington-based group that advocates for lower deficits.

    “I believe in choice and I hope that we will be able to continue to allow the policy change for choice to continue beyond the two years,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “But what we’re faced with now is trying to erase the backlog that is plaguing VA and preventing veterans from getting timely access to their earned benefit of health care.”

    Once fully in place, the provision granting veterans easier access to private care could cost the government about $38 billion a year — almost as much as the $44 billion the government now spends annually on medical care for veterans, the budget office says.

    Miller and other lawmakers have questioned the CBO estimates, saying the budget agency used faulty assumptions and did not account for provisions that would save money.

    “I believe we can come up with very strong legislation at a lower cost than the initial CBO estimate,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate veterans panel.

    Miller and Sanders co-chair a House-Senate conference committee that is trying to negotiate a compromise bill to address long patient wait times and other problems at the Veterans Affairs Department. Bills passed last month by each house would require the VA to pay private providers to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics or who live at least 40 miles from one of them.

    The bill also would make it easier to fire or demote senior agency officials and end bonuses to senior VA executives based on meeting patient scheduling goals — a practice investigators say led some officials to create phony waiting lists to “game” the system.

    The main obstacle is the bill’s price tag — and how to pay it. The Democratic-controlled Senate treats the issue as an emergency and would allow virtually unlimited spending. The House bill, written largely by Republicans, requires Congress to appropriate money each year under existing budget caps for the overhaul. The cost would have to be covered through either higher taxes or cuts in other programs.

    Costs also could spike depending on the rate VA pays private providers, the CBO said. The Senate bill would allow veterans who can’t get timely VA appointments to see doctors listed as providers under Medicare or the military’s TRICARE program. The House bill does not specify who would provide the care or the rates they would be paid.

    More than 8 million of the nation’s 21 million veterans are now enrolled in VA health care, although only about 6.5 million seek VA treatment every year. The CBO analysts said the VA now covers about 30 percent, or an average $5,200, of those veterans’ annual health care costs, excluding long-term care.

    By making it easier to get outside care, the House and Senate bills would encourage millions of veterans who currently do not receive VA care to get it, the CBO said. Millions of currently enrolled veterans also can be expected to seek a bigger portion of their health care coverage through VA, the budget office said.

    Whatever the final price tag, lawmakers also must agree on how to pay the bill’s costs.

    Congress will need to “go outside the VA to look for offsets” to pay for expanded care, Miller said. Sanders called the situation a crisis that deserved an emergency response — budget language for borrowing the money.

    “Nobody ever said this is going to be easy,” Miller said. “The Senate is locked down on it being all emergency funds. The House has a very different tack.”

    The VA bill “is not going to be paid for by cutting education or food stamps,” Sanders said in a speech on the Senate floor. “That ain’t going to happen.”

    The post Lawmakers seek lower price for bill on vets’ care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A CDC scientist uses a pipette to transfer H7N9 virus into vials for sharing with partner laboratories for public health research purposes. Under new steps announced Friday, the CDC will now review lab procedures before transferring materials from labs. Photo by James Gathany via Wikimedia Commons

    A CDC scientist uses a pipette to transfer H7N9 virus into vials for sharing with partner laboratories for public health research purposes. Under new steps announced Friday, the CDC will now review lab procedures before transferring materials from labs. Photo by James Gathany via Wikimedia Commons

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are calling for a change in the safety culture at the agency after multiple incidents regarding the mishandling of dangerous biological materials.

    “These events should have never have happened,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “I’m disappointed by what happened and, frankly, I’m angry about it.”

    In a call to reporters Friday, Frieden announced the release of an internal report that highlights steps to improve laboratory quality and safety. The internal review comes after two incidents at the CDC, one where about 75 workers at the agency were thought to have been accidentally exposed to live anthrax bacteria, and another involving the cross-contamination of H5N1 bird flu.

    The report indicated that the anthrax exposure was a result of a scientist not following protocol when deactivating the material’s spores.

    “A scientist made a mistake. They used a process they thought would kill the anthrax bacteria, but it may not have,” Frieden said.

    The report also revealed that a sample of a low-pathogenic influenza virus was accidentally cross-contaminated with strains of the highly contagious H5N1 bird flu in a CDC influenza laboratory.

    Following these lapses in protocol, the CDC closed down the lab and ordered a moratorium on the movement of biological materials from high-security biosafety level 3 or 4 labs, until safety procedures are assessed.

    Out of the incidents, Frieden expressed that the bird flu incident was the most distressing as he was only notified in the past 48 hours even though the incident first occurred six weeks ago.

    “I can think of no valid explanation,” Frieden said about the notification delay. “The influenza laboratory is a superb laboratory, so, the fact that this happened there is unsettling. This teaches us that we need to look at the culture of safety.”

    On Tuesday, a separate event occurred at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md., where six vials of smallpox were found in an unsecured storage area. The vials were immediately sent to the CDC as smallpox was eradicated worldwide in 1980.

    “Yesterday, we learned that two of the six vials found evidence of growth and is, in fact, smallpox,” Frieden said.

    To address mounting safety concerns, Frieden announced the appointment of Dr. Michael Bell as the single Director of Laboratory Safety. Bell will report to Frieden and begin thorough investigations into how safety procedures are conducted, lab by lab.

    “I think there’s some major systemic issues that we want to look at,” Bell said. “It’s not the little mistakes we’re concerned about. In this instance, we’re concerned about what is the framework that everyone’s using.”

    The post Following anthrax, bird flu incidents, CDC reviews lab safety protocol appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House took criticism from both sides of the political spectrum today over the flood of migrant children illegally crossing the southern border. Many leading Republicans complained the president’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding is too much.

    Arizona Senator John McCain:

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN,
    R, Ariz.: Neither I nor the majority of my Republican colleagues will support expenditure of billions of dollars, which will only perpetuate the problem, until we have addressed the source of the problem, and that means the repeal of the law that was passed that creates this loophole.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The law in question is a 2008 statute that bars quick deportations of children from Central America. Republicans are demanding it be changed, but Democrats in the congressional Hispanic Caucus said they firmly oppose any such move.

    Still, White House spokesman Josh Earnest left the door open to that possibility.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: What we’re focused on is the ultimate goal. And if that means changing the 2008 law, if it means giving greater authority to the secretary of homeland security, if it requires passing some other law, we’re focused on the end results.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Patrol suspended plans to send hundreds more migrant children from Texas to the San Diego area after protests.

    U.S. business economists have dialed back their growth expectations for this year. The National Association for Business Economics now projects expansion ran at an annual rate of 3 percent in the second quarter. That’s down half-a-percent from an earlier forecast. The forecast for the year is now just 1.6 percent. Even though, most economists said they see other positive signs and think the likelihood of another recession is very low.

    Germany says it still wants close relations with the U.S., despite a spying scandal. That follows two incidents of German government employees allegedly passing secrets to the U.S. Berlin has asked the CIA station chief to leave the country, but the foreign minister said today this doesn’t mean a permanent rift.

    FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, Foreign Minister, Germany (through interpreter): Despite the troubling incidents in recent weeks that led to yesterday’s decisions, for me, our partnership with the United States is without alternative. We want to reinvigorate our partnership, our friendship on an honest basis, and we are ready for this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last year, it came out that the U.S. intercepted German Internet traffic and eavesdropped on the chancellor.

    In Ukraine, a rebel rocket attack killed said at least 19 government soldiers near the eastern border with Russia. In turn, President Petro Poroshenko warned that, for every soldier killed, scores and hundreds of militants will die.

    But in a phone call, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the Ukrainian leader to use — quote — “a sense of proportion” and protect civilians.

    Kurdish forces in Iraq have grabbed two major oil fields in the northern part of the country. The move today widens a split with the Baghdad government. The oil fields are outside the city of Kirkuk, which Kurdish fighters seized weeks ago amid the chaos of a Sunni insurgency.

    Secretary of State John Kerry made an emergency trip to Afghanistan today over the disputed presidential election. In Kabul, he urged presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani to let the United Nations investigate alleged voter fraud.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We obviously have high hopes that the questions about the election will be resolved quickly, can be resolved, and then a way forward can take place which can give Afghans confidence that they have a presidency and a government that is capable of unifying all Afghans and building the road to the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amid the political crisis, U.S. officials hope to get an agreement signed that keeps some American troops in Afghanistan past year’s end.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will halt transfers of biological samples from its high-security labs. That follows an incident last month that could have exposed staffers to anthrax, plus an earlier incident involving bird flu. No one got sick, but CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden says lab safety has to improve.

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Our laboratories are core to our ability to protect Americans. Our laboratories are the reason we are the gold standard for not just infectious diseases, but environmental health as well. And for this to happen and put our workers potentially at risk is totally unacceptable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The CDC also announced that two vials of smallpox virus found recently after 60 years still contained live virus. They’re being destroyed. The vials turned up at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

    Chrysler announced the latest auto safety recall today, some 650,000 Jeep and Dodge SUVs sold in the U.S. The wiring in their vanity mirror lights could be prone to short circuit and catch fire. There have been three injuries. The recall applies to vehicles built between 2011 and 2014.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 28 points to close at 16,943. The Nasdaq rose 19 to close at 4,415. And the S&P 500 added three points to finish at 1,967. But, for the week, the Dow lost seven-tenths of a percent, the S&P slipped 1 percent and the Nasdaq fell more than 1.5 percent.

    Veteran journalist John Seigenthaler died today at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. Over a long career, he edited The Nashville Tennessean, and worked on civil rights under attorney General Robert Kennedy. He also advised Kennedy’s presidential campaign and helped get USA Today started. John Seigenthaler was 86 years old.

    The post News Wrap: White House under pressure from both sides on child migrant deportations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    mideast

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle between Israel and Hamas headed into the weekend today with no sign of a slowdown, as the Palestinian death toll topped 100. The two sides again traded heavy airstrikes and rocket fire, with the Israelis vowing to press their offensive, and Hamas insisting it wouldn’t give in.

    The early morning light showed chaos in Gaza after another Israeli airstrike. They were hitting roughly every five minutes today. Later in the day, streets in Gaza City were mostly empty. Shops were locked up and people stayed inside to keep safe.

    UMM AL-ABED (through interpreter): The situation is very bad and not normal. People in the month of Ramadan used to visit each other. But now, because of the atmosphere of war, people are afraid to go out and they’re not earning money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Protests against Israel’s actions grew across the world, from marches in Jordan, to rallies in Indonesia, where Palestinian flags waved high above the crowds. And, as the list of the dead mounted, the U.N. human rights office warned the Israeli air campaign may be illegal.

    RAVINA SHAMDASANI, Spokeswoman, UN High Commissioner for Refugees: It’s very specific in international law that unless the homes are being used for military purposes, in case of doubt, such homes are presumed not to be legitimate military targets. So if there is even an iota of a doubt, these are not legitimate military targets.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the Israeli military insisted its airstrikes on Gaza are well-thought-out.

    BENNY GANTZ, Chief of Staff, Israel Defense Forces (through interpreter): We are using all our offensive abilities, not without reasoning, not without thinking, not without taking into account there are civilians in Gaza.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted the military offensive against Hamas will go on.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through translator): No international pressure will prevent us acting with all our force against a terror organization that is calling for our destruction. We will continue to forcefully attack anyone who is trying to hurt us. We will continue to defend with both determination and wisdom our home front, the citizens of Israel.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, Hamas kept firing rockets into Israel, more than 600 over the last four days. Israel says it has shot down at least 110 with its Iron Dome system. Hamas warned airlines to stay away from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, saying it’s a potential target. But airlines continued to fly in.

    One rocket also hit a gas station in Ashdod that sent a heavy black cloud wafting over the port city.

    MUSHIR AL MASRI, Hamas spokesman (through interpreter): It’s too early to talk about a cease-fire under the crimes of the occupation. Today, the talk is about the bravery of our people and the steadfastness of the resistance in the face of the Zionist occupation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, thousands of Israeli troops were massed along the Gaza border, but Prime Minister Netanyahu wouldn’t say if or when a ground invasion might begin.

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    HIV

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s been a big disappointment in the hope to find a cure for AIDS. It involves a young child who was thought to have been cured of HIV as a baby.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was in March of last year that doctors thought they might have made a breakthrough in the goal of finding a cure for AIDS, treating a baby girl in Mississippi with early and unusually aggressive drug therapy.

    The mother had HIV and had not been treated during pregnancy. But the girl was treated within 30 hours of her birth and was free of the virus for two years. Doctors allowed her to stay off therapy and, still, there were no signs of HIV returning.

    But, yesterday, officials announced that the girl, now almost 4, had tested positive for HIV during a follow-up visit last week.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases joins me now.

    And welcome back to you.

    This is something that you and I talked about when the news came out last year. So, remind us first why this seemed so hopeful, how this early and aggressive treatment promised such a difference.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Well, it promised such a difference because what happened with this particular baby was an unusual situation, that the baby had been on therapy, this aggressive form that you correctly described, for about 18 months, but then was lost to follow-up.

    And the mother discontinued the therapy because she just dropped out of the — out of the health care system, came back five months later, and when the physicians examined the baby, they found out that they couldn’t find the virus anywhere by the standard methods of looking for virus, no virus in the plasma and no virus in the cells in the blood.

    So they decided that this possibly could have been a cure related to the fact that the baby was treated very early, as you mentioned, within 30 hours, and aggressively. As it turned out, they followed the baby very, very carefully, and over a period of 27 months without any therapy at all, there was no indication at all of any virus in the baby. There was no plasma viremia, as we say, namely virus in the blood.

    And they couldn’t get any virus out of the cells. And then, on a routine visit — and this was most unusual that you would have 27 months off therapy — and, as you know, this was widely discussed throughout the world as a possible cure of a baby. And then last week, on a regular routine visit to the clinic, the baby was doing quite well.

    They drew some blood and found that one of the lab tests was a little bit abnormal, so they looked at the level of virus, and they found, to their surprise and disappointment, that the virus had actually rebound. So, clearly, it was — the virus wasn’t eradicated.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you use that word disappointment.

    You have been doing this a long time. Was it — is it surprising to you? How deflating is it this time later to find out what happened?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, Jeff, I would describe it not as deflating. I’m disappointed, but not surprised. And that’s a very good question you ask.

    This virus is extraordinarily uncanny, and we have been working with trying to figure out the complexities of this reservoir where the virus hides in the body for a very long period of time. I have been doing this now for over 25 years. And I’m never surprised at some of the things that this virus can do, namely be in the body.

    Any assay that we do, we couldn’t find it, and then all of a sudden 27 months into no therapy at all, the baby rebounds. So I’m not surprised, but I am a little bit disappointed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so in terms what happens next is and consequences, one thing that, in fact, you and I had talked about it when this first came out, was that there was going to be a trial based on this to look further.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What happens now to that trial? Does it go forward in some form?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, OK.

    Let’s first just for moment talk about the baby. The baby was put back on antiviral drugs and is doing extremely well. The virus is already starting to come back down. With regard to the study that you’re talking about, this is something that we’re going to look very carefully at, particularly in the design of the study, as well as the ethical considerations about situations of the informed consent, which will now have to be altered, because this study was predicated on the fact that this baby may have been cured.

    Now, the fact that the baby went 27 months without requiring therapy is a good thing. So you’re going to have to change and maybe look at the design and make sure, above all things, that it’s an ethically sound study.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, go ahead with it, but, ethically, you have to tell the people, here’s the new situation?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Right, exactly. And even before you go ahead with it, make sure that the design of it is compatible with something that’s ethical and something that we can learn — something that’s beneficial to the entire cohort of babies in the future.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just in our last minute, going back to this thought of how long you have been at this and we have been talking about this for many years, do we have a tendency to make the highs too high and the lows too low when you’re — because this is such a long search for a cure?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: I think some people do that, and it’s human nature and understandable.

    As you remember, back then, Jeff, when we discussed this, I said, we better be careful not to call something a cure. This is a remission. How long the remission will last will depend upon whether it ultimately turns out to be a cure.

    So I tend to be very circumspect and conservative in that. But you can understand when you’re dealing with a disease that’s serious like this, when you get good news, you like to essentially expand on good news. This is just another step in the long process of what we have to learn about this very devastating disease.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you so much.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: You’re quite welcome.

    The post HIV rebound in young child is ‘another step’ in long process of AIDS research appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    providence

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: closing the education and language gap for kids from low-income families.

    Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports on one program trying to tackle the problem by talking more to toddlers.

    JOHN TULENKO: In Providence, Rhode Island, 2.5-year-old Nylasia Jordan is part of a closely watched experiment in language development. To boost the number of words she hears, under her shirt she’s been wearing a small electronic word counter.

    Called digital language processors, they have been given to some 55 toddlers whose families are on public assistance through a city program called Providence Talks.

    Andrea Riquetti is the director.

    ANDREA RIQUETTI, Providence Talks: And what we ask the families is that they put it inside of the pocket and then we ask the parents to put the vest on the child as soon as they wake up in the morning and then wear it throughout the day.

    JOHN TULENKO: The recordings last 18 hours and take place about once a month.

    While this technology is new, word counting has been done in other ways before, and the findings have been troubling.

    James Morgan is a linguist at Brown University.

    JAMES MORGAN, Brown University: Kids in low-income families just hear much less talk than do kids in higher-income families. Now, that’s come into the public consciousness. Even President Obama has mentioned this. It’s known as the 30 million word gap.

    JOHN TULENKO: By age 4, researchers found, toddlers in low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than those in high-income families. The result, in cities like Providence, two-thirds of children enter kindergarten with poor vocabularies, and quickly fall behind in reading.

    JAMES MORGAN: At young ages, there are small gaps in achievement and ability between children, and you see that gap growing and growing and growing over time. Early intervention is critical.

    WOMAN: Hi Fred.

    FREDDIE JORDAN: Hello.

    WOMAN: Hi, Nylasia. How are you?

    JOHN TULENKO: Besides counting words, Providence is intervening with visits from social workers, like Courtney Soules.

    COURTNEY SOULES, Social Worker: Nylasia is doing really good. She was very shy at the beginning when I first started working with her, and now he’s opened up a little bit more. She’s starting to do a little bit more conversation.

    So we’re going to go over today the results of the recording that she had done.

    JOHN TULENKO: Courtney’s brought with her various graphs, showing the number of words spoken to Nylasia.

    COURTNEY SOULES: You can see she’s heard about 5,000 words in the day of her recording.

    JOHN TULENKO: Five thousand words a day.

    COURTNEY SOULES: Yes.

    JOHN TULENKO: How does that compare?

    COURTNEY SOULES: It’s very low. An average children — child would hear about 16,000.

    There are going to be times that she might not be in the mood to talk.

    JOHN TULENKO: The recordings have picked up a problem. Here on the child’s chart, a period of almost no conversation from around 10:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon.

    COURTNEY SOULES: Then, if you turn, this one tells you all about her hourly TV.

    JOHN TULENKO: The recording devices count TV time too.

    COURTNEY SOULES: A lot between 10:00 and 4:00.

    JOHN TULENKO: The challenge is not just to turn off the television, but to roughly triple the number of words Nylasia hears from her father, Freddie.

    FREDDIE JORDAN: Everybody wants their kids to learn more, talk more, full words.

    JOHN TULENKO: Does it help to see where you are on the graph?

    FREDDIE JORDAN: Yes. The graphs help me understand how many words that she’s putting out, because all the — I never understood none of it. So…

    Yes, she talk a lot.

    COURTNEY SOULES: Yes.

    FREDDIE JORDAN: But I don’t know what she talk about.

    (LAUGHTER)

    COURTNEY SOULES: Yes. She does a lot of babbling.

    JOHN TULENKO: Freddie is a quiet guy.

    COURTNEY SOULES: Yes, he is. He’s But he’s a great dad, and he wants to really get that education piece for his daughter.

    JOHN TULENKO: What are you doing to help Freddie talk more?

    COURTNEY SOULES: Modeling conversation, so, asking her questions, and giving her choices.

    And have her point. And as she’s pointing at, say…

    And also labeling, whether you’re taking a walk and that you’re pointing out birds and trees, and animals to when you are sitting in the house and that you’re reading a book together.

    JOHN TULENKO: All that would be picked up by the digital language processor, except for one thing it will miss.

    JAMES MORGAN: The device has no way of discerning one word from another. It has no idea which words are being used. It can only estimate the total count of words.

    COURTNEY SOULES: With the recorder, I don’t hear a word. I don’t hear any language at all.

    JOHN TULENKO: OK, you might if I try something out on you?

    COURTNEY SOULES: Sure.

    JOHN TULENKO: OK. So you’re counting words. If a parent said to their kid, damn, why do you always make such a mess?

    COURTNEY SOULES: Right.

    JOHN TULENKO: That would register as nine words.

    COURTNEY SOULES: Correct.

    JOHN TULENKO: If I said, honey, you are cute, let’s clean you up, also nine words, but a fundamentally different message.

    COURTNEY SOULES: Right.

    I think, right now, we’re not at that point, because that’s not really what our focus is. Our focus is just getting our children to hear more words. Yes, I would like them to hear more positive vs. negative, but I feel that it would maybe discourage parents if we actually heard what was being said.

    JOHN TULENKO: But what parents say is as important as how much they say. And it’s been well-documented that middle- and high-income parents say far more words of praise than discouragement, while, in low-income families, it’s the other way around.

    JAMES MORGAN: Kids who are constantly receiving a lot of prohibitions, it leads them to be less curious, less exploratory, more likely to end up with learned helplessness, so there are a wide variety of developmental outcomes, none of which are positive.

    JOHN TULENKO: While the recording devices are blind to meaning, they do count the number of conversation turns, back-and-forth exchanges.

    Program director Andrea Riquetti looks to that data for clues into what’s been said.

    ANDREA RIQUETTI: When we see that there’s only adult — adult count talk, and there’s no turn-taking, you can certainly say, you don’t know what those words are.

    But when you start seeing that there’s conversational turns, those conversational turns happen when good, positive, interactions are happening.

    JOHN TULENKO: The program, supported by a private foundation, costs around $2,500 per family per year.

    What’s the return? Parents of the four children Courtney Soules has been following started out saying between 5,000 and 7,000 words per day.

    How many more words are they speaking to their children a year later?

    COURTNEY SOULES: Anywhere between three and five.

    JOHN TULENKO: Hundred?

    COURTNEY SOULES: Yes, which is great.

    JAMES MORGAN: Five hundred more words a day is probably not going to have a huge effect.

    JOHN TULENKO: James Morgan of Brown University.

    JAMES MORGAN: Which is not to say it will have no effect, but 500 words a day, the child is still far below the average. That’s probably not enough improvement.

    JOHN TULENKO: In Morgan’s view, conversation coaching for low-income parents only goes so far because it fails to address their circumstances.

    JAMES MORGAN: It’s tough to be a parent for anyone. But I think it’s particularly hard for low-income families. If you think about just the simple act of going to the grocery store, if you have to rely on public transportation and watch every penny, you don’t have a lot of energy. You don’t have a lot of time. It’s not hard to see why kids in low-income families are probably getting less interaction with their parents than are kids in higher-income families.

    ANDREA RIQUETTI: We already know that this is changing behaviors in families. What we’re trying to do is let parents know that, regardless of their background, regardless of their experiences, they can give their children a better opportunity.

    JOHN TULENKO: In the next three years, Providence plans to expand the program from 55 families to as many as 2,000.

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    highwayy

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for the building and fixing of many of the roads and bridges in this country, is running out of money. Congress has only a few weeks to figure out how to keep it going. And if it doesn’t, it could cost thousands of jobs.

    The NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman traveled to West Virginia, where he looked in on one project dependent on the funds, and he talked to West Virginians who could be affected.

    GARY TAYLOR, President, Bizzack Construction: We’re in Logan, West Virginia. This construction project is part of the Route 10 relocation. It allows the traveling public to go from Man to Logan. Ten millions cubic yards of excavation and, contract-wise, it’s about $75 million.

    QUINN BOWMAN: Gary Taylor’s company, Bizzack Construction, is part of the team turning this winding two-lane road into a new one double in size. Much of the money for this and projects like it nationwide comes from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

    It was created in 1956 to finance and maintain the federal highway system, and relies on a gasoline tax, now pegged at 18.4 cents a gallon. The revenue goes to reimburse states, which, in turn, pay companies like Bizzack for construction and maintenance. But the fund has been spending more than it takes in for years, as inflation eats away at the value of the tax and increased fuel-efficiency reduces gasoline usage.

    The money will start to dry up in August, but Congress is deadlocked over what to do. Democrat Nick Rahall has represented West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District for 38 years.

    REP. NICK RAHALL, D, W.Va.: I got first $50 million for Route 10. This is where you have loaded school buses playing chicken with coal trucks on a very windy segment of a highway hanging over a mountain, a disaster waiting to happen.

    QUINN BOWMAN: He’s the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee and a champion of saving the highway fund.

    REP. NICK RAHALL: Should the unforeseen happen and I not be returned to Congress, the experience that I have gained in being the top Democrat now on the House Transportation and Infrastructure, that seniority doesn’t automatically transfer to a new guy.

    I have been able to get these monies I mentioned earlier for transportation projects in Southern West Virginia regardless of which party controls the House of Representatives, regardless of which party controls the White House.

    QUINN BOWMAN: Rahall wants to keep the program funded, but doesn’t support raising the federal gas tax and has not been specific about a solution.

    For decades, longtime Senator Robert Byrd made sure West Virginia got its share and then some, delivering billions in earmarks to the state, where several roads bear his name. But the political tide has changed. Where Democrats once ran without challenge, Rahall is now viewed as one of the year’s most vulnerable incumbents.

    His Republican challenger is Evan Jenkins, a state senator who recently abandoned the Democratic Party.

    EVAN JENKINS, Republican House Candidate: We have got to be more efficient. I’m not for raising taxes. And, unfortunately, there is this Washington attitude of just bring in more money, spend more money, and maybe then we will get the job done. Well, that hasn’t worked. We have got a $17 trillion debt in this country.

    QUINN BOWMAN: Jenkins thinks decreasing coal regulation could lead to more jobs and generate revenue for roads without any increase in the federal gas tax.

    Indeed, most of this year’s Republican candidates have signed a pledge with Americans for Tax Reform not to raise taxes. Mattie Duppler works on transportation issues for the group.

    MATTIE DUPPLER, Americans for Tax Reform: And that’s one of the problems with infrastructure, is that it makes a really good political point for lawmakers, standing in front of a bridge, standing in front of a highway. It’s really a great campaign stop for these folks. However, when that project ends, they struggle with the notion that the political capital then ends along with it.

    QUINN BOWMAN: The Obama administration says that unless Congress finds more revenue, states will see a 28 percent reduction in federal highway money come August. It says that would put 700,000 construction jobs at risk.

    President Obama has mocked lawmakers for leaving the highway fund hanging.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I haven’t heard of a good reason why they haven’t acted. It’s not like they have been busy with other stuff.

    (LAUGHTER)

    QUINN BOWMAN: As the debate continues, concern is rising among West Virginia’s political and business leaders, including Paul Mattox, the state’s secretary of transportation.

    PAUL MATTOX, Secretary of Transportation, W. Va.: Well, the dysfunction that we are seeing in Washington, unfortunately, it is affecting West Virginia. I’ll tell you, as each day passes, I get more and more concerned.

    I can’t see them letting the funding not be addressed, that they would not at least give an extension to keep the programs up and running. The consequences, I know here in West Virginia, we’re going to lose a lot of — the rest of the construction season possibly on some of our projects. And people are going to lose their jobs.

    QUINN BOWMAN: Back at Bizzack Construction, Gary Taylor is hoping both sides will decide that keeping the money flowing is vital.

    GARY TAYLOR: We’re the destination of Appalachian coal work that’s here. Good roads are very important. It’s the only hope that the people that live here have of having work and having industry come in.

    MATTIE DUPPLER: Infrastructure really is the backbone of commerce in this country. It’s important. And conservatives do struggle with relaying that message, because the message is, that’s important, and because it’s important, we should be spending as well as we can on it, rather than just throwing dollars at a problem that is not going to make it go away.

    QUINN BOWMAN: The House and Senate are preparing plans to move enough money into the fund to keep it solvent for a few months. A deal could be finalized as early as next week. Both sides agree that a long-term solution would be best, but, like a lot of things on Capitol Hill, neither side can agree on how to pay for it.

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    shieldsandbrooks

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome back, gentlemen. We missed you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So the Highway Trust Fund, one of many disagreements between Republicans and Democrats right now.

    And I guess the biggest one, though, David, is the speaker, John Boehner, saying he’s going to sue the president of the United States because the president’s overstepped his line as president.

    Is there merit in this suit? Is it a good idea? What do you think?

    DAVID BROOKS: There’s some merit, but I, of course, have sympathy for both sides.

    So, basically, you normally pass a big piece of legislation like the ACA, the health care bill, and then you go back and fix it and the Congress and everybody cooperates to fix it. But because we’re so dysfunctional, we can’t do that.

    And so the president is left saying, well, we have got to really change the law to drop some things in the employer mandate to make it work, or at least delay it. And so he goes ahead and does that, for probably some defensible reasons, some political reasons, but it is a pretty bold step for the president to do it just off the top of his head.

    It does really delay and probably wipe out a pretty significant part of the law. So when Boehner says I’m suing because the president just can’t change the law without congressional approval, technically, he’s right. The president should not be allowed to do some of that stuff.

    But it does grow out of the general dysfunction, where you don’t have two parties working together to make an already passed law function.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what the president is doing? Is he changing the law?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, he is, did change the Affordable Care Act.

    Just one point on the highway fund that Quinn reported on. This is the perfect proof of what’s happened in Washington. This was always a consensus. The highway — highway — national highway system grew out of Dwight Eisenhower as a young Army captain in 1919 leaving the first convoy across the United States.

    It took him six 62 days. And when he became president, he said, I’m going to build this system, and a marvelous system, the biggest public works project in the history of the world. And it’s always been a consensus and agreement.

    And to not be able to on this one — on the — on executive power, Judy, Democrats were very sensitive to it when George Bush pushed the envelope and assumed more executive power. And then Democrats seem to be less noisy and cantankerous when their own president does it.

    Republicans who were mute when George Bush was expanding the definition of executive power by power grabs now are sensitive constitutionalists. This is going nowhere. What it is…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The lawsuit.

    MARK SHIELDS: The lawsuit. It’s a base sweetener for the election of 2014.

    It’s John Boehner being able to say — and I’m not arguing on the merits — but being able to say, look, we’re going after him. We’re bringing it to court. And, all of a sudden, John Boehner looks semi-moderate because John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, former Governor Palin, is leading an impeachment charge, supported by such esteemed groups as Sean Hannity and The Drudge Report.

    So, the lawsuit, if anything, looks quite civil and grown-up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is that what this is? It’s the speaker throwing a bone or a — whether it’s a bone that’s going to develop or not?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, the impeachment is obviously cloud cuckoo land.

    But there’s a natural tussle between the legislature and the White House, and presidents, especially when everything is dysfunctional, want to expand their power. The president has been quite unshy about that. And the legislature’s job is to push back.

    And so you’re going to — it’s a gray area. The president is charged with executing the laws. Congress passed it. The president’s got it make it work, whatever party. And so how much do you allow him to change the law to make it function?

    And so that’s sort of a gray area. I think the president and on some occasions has gone quite aggressively to changing laws to make them work. But how do you draw that line? We will see.

    I agree with Mark, though. The lawsuit is not going anywhere. But I do think it’s a substantive matter that’s built into our Constitution.

    MARK SHIELDS: It’s like the NSA, I mean.

    The National Security Agency, if the Republicans were in power, Democrats would have been up in arms and leading protests against this overreaching police state. But because it’s a Democratic administration, they have been less critical.

    DAVID BROOKS: The Senate filibuster rules. There’s one eternal truth in Washington. On matters of process, every single elected official is a complete hypocrite.

    On matters of method and process, it depends on whether they’re majority, in the minority. They flip their position 180 degrees without blinking an eye. And it’s sort of baffling, but thank God they didn’t write the Constitution. We actually had some people who cared about process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it work though for Boehner to do this? You said it’s to appease or to stir up the base. Does it help?

    MARK SHIELDS: I think it probably does help.

    I have had four requests for contributions already to support the lawsuit. And I hope there will be more to come.

    DAVID BROOKS: I didn’t know you were on the Boehner donor list.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: I have always been very active on the Boehner donor — recipient list, not necessarily — it’s a one-way correspondence, but I love to read them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Let’s talk about the story that has been I think the headline every single day this week, and that’s been the immigration story, these children coming across the border, very poignant, heart-stirring stories about kids coming from Central America, coming from poverty, coming from crime.

    But, David, you have now got the president going to Texas, asking for $4.5 billion, $4.7 billion. Is — and all sides, both sides, Republicans pointing a finger at the president, the president pointing a finger. Who’s responsible? What should be done?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. The responsibility goes both ways, though the original law, which was sort of a trafficking law, a good law, was passed under President Bush.

    The lack of enforcement, the lack of sending the kids back mostly happened under President Obama. You have got this explosion of the kids. This is a really tough one, I think. Whether the president goes to the border or not the border, it’s just sort of the normal circus we go through.

    But, to me, it’s a tough one. You got these kids here. They’re just flooding, lots of them, lots, tens of thousands now. They’re being dragged apart by these jackals who take them across the border, kids alone on the border. It’s sort of loss of control. How do you get that to stop?

    Well, it seems to me the way you get it to stop is to do something which I admit is cruel, which is to take some percentage of the kids that you can be confident that they’re going back to some decent place and deport them.

    I do think, until we deport them, that this flood will just continue to magnify and magnify. Treat the kids from Central America the way that we treat the kids from Mexico and Canada. And that’s cruel to send kids back, but, to me, it’s the only way to prevent the larger cruelty of this gigantic flow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that the right solution?

    MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure it is the right — but I will say this. David certainly is not suggesting you do that without changing the law.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right. That’s what I meant. That’s what I meant.

    MARK SHIELDS: Because the law — yes, the law is very, very clear on it, that each child is entitled to…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is, again, the 2008 law…

    MARK SHIELDS: The 2008, and passed without dissent in either the House or the Senate, and voice vote in both in President Bush — and for very good reason, to stop trafficking of young minors and sex traffic for money.

    I mean, it was a very noble purpose, and it was a — there was more than a consensus. It was unanimous.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it was a much smaller number of kids.

    MARK SHIELDS: And it was a much smaller number.

    And this is a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. There’s nobody that has a child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, a brother, sister could look at these 8-, 10-year-old kids and say a 1,300-mile trip, and — we have to provide them safety. We have to provide them health. We have to provide them shelter.

    And — but the reality is that, is it going to just continue? And what I would draw the historical metaphor to is — politically — and I think it’s dangerous for Democrats and for everybody really — is the Mariel boatlift in 1980, in April of 1980, when Fidel Castro said, OK, folks, you want to leave Cuba, go ahead; 125,000 did; 8,300 of them ended up in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

    And there was a fellow running for reelection of governor that year in Arkansas. And his opponent put a thing on and said — commercial saying, our state is less safe because the governor has let these Cuban prisoners in. And Bill Clinton, it was the last race he lost.

    There is a sense of — out of control, that we don’t control our own borders. I mean, as open and as compassionate as we must be and want to be and will be to these children, there is a sense that we sent — 370,000 people deported last year, but that there is a porousness about our border.

    DAVID BROOKS: And if you want to pass immigration reform, which I do, you have got to secure the border. But you’re just not going to get the votes any other way. And this is — what’s happened has been a devastating blow, I think, to whatever chances there were for immigration reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You do? You think it hurts the…

    DAVID BROOKS: Because people want to feel that somehow the authority of government is basically functioning.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: And that’s really hard to see when you look at what — the images we have seen.

    MARK SHIELDS: But it’s one more problem for, quite frankly — and I say this as a liberal. It’s one more problem for Democrats, I mean, because it erodes further the confidence of government to act effectively and to execute the law and to control the borders of the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why do you say that’s a problem for Democrats? Why isn’t that a problem…

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, because Democrats are the party of government.

    I mean, the president can rail against Washington and all the rest of it, and I’m happy to be out of Washington. The Democrats believe that government is an instrument of social justice, an engine of economic progress. Republicans don’t. Republicans are the anti-government party. And for that reason, it doesn’t erode confidence in them the same way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, you think there’s a way to find out — that enough of these children can be sent back and have a secure place to go?

    DAVID BROOKS: That’s why governing is hard. This is why it’s boring through hard boards, because how do you investigate where these kids — they can’t tell you.

    It’s just this problem from hell. How do you find out who can go back safely, who you can’t? How do you set up a process for that? And yet somehow we just can’t continue the way we’re going, because the horror that the kids are going through to try to get here is horrible enough.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    DAVID BROOKS: And so it’s typical governance. And that’s why it’s so easy to be a pundit. You’re faced with cruelty on either side of this issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, very, very different last topic I want to bring up, but it — the news broke today. The city of Cleveland the hometown boy, Mark, is going home, LeBron James leaving the Miami Heat that he joined four years ago. And he said he’s going to rejoin — or come back to Cleveland, join the Cavaliers.

    Now, is this bigger news than the Republicans announcing that Cleveland is going to be the convention site in…

    MARK SHIELDS: It’s a bookend. It’s a bookend. It’s bigger news.

    It’s goodbye, Sun Belt, hello, Rust Belt. It’s a great lift for Cleveland. Say goodbye to — Miami is in my rearview mirror. I’m coming home to Cleveland, a city that’s had a lot of belts, a lot of bruises, a lot of setbacks.

    And LeBron James, the fact that the Republicans have chosen it as their 2016 is terrific for Cleveland. It’s the home of Paul Newman, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum, Drew Carey, LeBron James. What more could any city ask for?

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: A few jobs. A few jobs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: National, getting mentioned.

    DAVID BROOKS: They have great downtown theaters there. And the Republicans will be nominating LeBron. So, it’s a twofer. He will be the — with Sarah Palin. He will pick Sarah Palin.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s also — I should say it’s a good thing for the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, this guy Dan Gilbert, who has not only done good things for Cleveland, but has really been a champion in helping Detroit get back on its feet.

    And so it’s a good — we’re morally obligated to root for the economically challenged cities.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    DAVID BROOKS: And when we follow our sports teams. And so it’s good for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, from standpoint, among many others.

    We’re so glad to have the two of you back. David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

    The post Shields and Brooks on suing the president, LeBron’s hometown bounce appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LeBron James, then No. 23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, applies chalk to his hands prior to playing against the Washington Wizards during the 2008 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2008. James announced on Friday that he's returning to the Cavaliers, after four years with the Miami Heat. Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And for more on that surprise we just talked about from Cleveland’s hometown star today, we have Jeff, and he is back with that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Four years ago, Cleveland Cavalier fans were torching LeBron James’ jerseys after the Akron native and the team’s all-time leading scorer announced he was leaving for the Miami Heat.

    LEBRON JAMES: I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A high school phenomenon, the Cavs had made LeBron the NBA’s number one pick in 2003, and he skyrocketed to stardom, carrying Cleveland to the NBA Finals in 2007, before losing to San Antonio.

    In Miami, James joined with fellow stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

    LEBRON JAMES: We believe we can win multiple championships, if we take care of business and do it the right way.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JEFFREY BROWN: The so-called big three did just that, taking Miami to the finals four straight years and winning two titles. After losing this year to San Antonio, James opted to become a free agent. And today came word that the 10-time all-star is heading home.

    In a personal essay published on SportsIllustrated.com, he wrote: “My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”

    And with that, heartbreak turned to euphoria for Cleveland fans.

    MAN: The King is coming home.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At the Cavaliers’ ticket office this afternoon, the extension for season tickets rang busy.

    And we’re joined from Cleveland by sports reporter Glenn Moore. His works appears The Plain Dealer and other publications. And here with me is Kevin Blackistone, sportswriter and commentator for ESPN. He’s a professor of sports journalism at the University of Maryland.

    So, Glenn Moore, really? All is forgiven? What’s the mood there today?

    GLENN MOORE, Cleveland.com: It’s a celebratory mood here in Cleveland.

    I never would have thought driving downtown, I would see LeBron James in a Cavs uniform on the side of a billboard, on the side of building ever again after what happened four years ago, him leaving. That’s the sights and sounds today is yelling and screaming of joy, and dusting off the LeBron James jerseys and putting them back on, the 23.

    They’re going to have to buy new ones, number six, but a lot of people wearing number 23 and celebrating here in Cleveland.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I don’t know if you were able to just hear the discussion with Mark and David just now, talking a little bit about the impact on Cleveland. But how important is it to the city, the psyche and also the economy?

    GLENN MOORE: It’s a huge impact.

    Obviously, downtown, people want to come downtown. They have a reason to come downtown, new casino by Dan Gilbert, the Cavs owner. He brings in LeBron. It’s going to be sold out. You mentioned it in the opening. Tickets are going off like hotcakes, and people want to come downtown and enjoy the city.

    And what better attraction than LeBron James, a winner, here in Cleveland? The Browns, Johnny Manziel has been a news item for the last couple months. The Indians made the playoffs last year. It’s time for the Cavaliers to step up. And who better to have on your side than LeBron James?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Kevin Blackistone, one player so important to a city, but also to the league.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE, University of Maryland: Oh, absolutely, and particularly to the players who he represents.

    I mean, four years ago, what LeBron James did was flip the script. For a long time, owners had thought that players would only follow the money, and they had locked them in. They had really restricted their free agency through a lot of different things that they had done with the collective bargaining agreement.

    LeBron James changed that. And he continues to threaten that agreement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, explain that a little bit, because all of this is taking place within this cap, salary cap…

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … that teams must abide by. And so everybody was waiting to see where LeBron would end up under that cap.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Right.

    Stars like him, they can make most of their money when they become free agents and they are able to seek employment elsewhere, can make most of their money with the team that they’re with. LeBron James left for less money, so he changed the dynamics of that CBA.

    Not only did he leave for less money, but the other thing that he’s challenging here is that there’s also a luxury tax that owners have to pay any time they want to go over the salary cap and try and create the best team that they can. And so they kind of keep each other in check. And once again, that’s something I think LeBron James has been challenging.

    And he’s been a very loud critic behind doors of the financial structure of the NBA and how it benefits owners and doesn’t benefit players as much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and, Glenn Moore, the Cavaliers had to work within that structure to make some room to bring LeBron James in. So this is very much part of the picture there, right?

    GLENN MOORE: Yes, I mean, they made a three-team tried to get enough cap space for LeBron to come back.

    And it wasn’t more about money with LeBron. It was about coming home to Northeast Ohio, coming home to people he’s familiar with. I have heard that in Miami he wasn’t extremely happy. Yes, he was winning, but he wanted to be home with his family at a full-time basis.

    And his friends here in Akron, in Cleveland, the connections, he missed having that. And the chance to come back home for a little bit less money, but with a core of young guys here in Cleveland, it’s a perfect fit for LeBron to come back, the perfect time for LeBron to come back, and he’s ready to bring a championship here to Cleveland.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Kevin, this is interesting, because this is a guy, anybody who follows sports has followed him since he was in high school.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And at such a high level. And it is about money, but it always is about his own psyche and his own, well, in this case, desire to go home.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Yes. It’s self-determination.

    And I think that’s ultimately what free agency is really supposed to be all about. And, in LeBron James, I thought it was really interesting. A few years ago, there was a documentary done on him and his high school team. And it happened to premiere right here in Washington, D.C., at the  Silverdocs Film Festival.

    LeBron came. His teammates came. And I was impressed that night by the way he still had a great deal of camaraderie with his old coach, his old team. He talked about being in Akron. He talked about the state of Ohio in very loving ways. And it made me think about the loyalty that this guy had and the sense of community. And that’s really what he’s exercising.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And for the league, now that he has made this move, a lot of other dominoes will fall. Right?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Oh, absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Everybody was frozen.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Absolutely. And that is the power that LeBron James holds over the NBA.

    Every free agent was waiting to see what he was going to decide to do, where he was going to go, before they themselves made their decisions. And there are general managers and coaches around the NBA as well who were waiting to see what LeBron James was going to do, in order to then go out and fix their rosters to compete with whichever one he was going to be on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Glenn Moore, we’re just in our last 30 seconds, but I think I heard you say that he’s come home to bring a championship.

    Is that the expectation, that it has to happen right away? They haven’t been a championship team up until now.

    GLENN MOORE: It’s been a while since Cleveland had a championship, but I think the mixture of LeBron James with a young core here in Cleveland — I’m not going to say next year, but the next few years, the Cavs should be a regular in the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals, because you mix in Kyrie Irving with LeBron and the possible trade Kevin Love, that’s a new big three here in Cleveland.

    And fans are really excited, and they’re going to be partying all weekend here in Cleveland.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, well, party on and good luck.

    Glenn Moore, Kevin Blackistone, thank you both very much.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

    GLENN MOORE: Thank you.

    Note: This video has been edited due to web restrictions.

    The post Why LeBron’s return to Cleveland is perfect timing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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