Articles on this Page
- 09/19/14--13:53: _Kansas to start mai...
- 09/19/14--13:54: _Iran would accept O...
- 09/19/14--14:06: _Iran’s Zarif on why...
- 09/19/14--14:37: _Iranian official ca...
- 09/19/14--14:44: _Should our sports h...
- 09/19/14--14:53: _U.S. military rushe...
- 09/19/14--15:00: _What’s your favorit...
- 09/19/14--15:04: _Adults with autism ...
- 09/19/14--15:07: _Iranian foreign min...
- 09/19/14--15:16: _Scotland says ‘no t...
- 09/19/14--15:19: _How will Scotland’s...
- 09/19/14--15:27: _Alibaba’s stunning ...
- 09/19/14--15:32: _Should public lands...
- 09/19/14--15:40: _Brooks and Dionne o...
- 09/19/14--17:44: _White House fence j...
- 09/19/14--21:00: _What’s it like insi...
- 09/20/14--09:44: _‘A desire to be rec...
- 09/20/14--10:52: _NATO general: Truce...
- 09/20/14--12:22: _Promising Roma crac...
- 09/20/14--13:00: _Pot black market st...
- 09/19/14--13:54: Iran would accept Obama bypassing Congress to get sanctions lifted
- 09/19/14--14:44: Should our sports heroes also be our role models?
- 09/19/14--14:53: U.S. military rushes to deploy help as Ebola spread accelerates
- 09/19/14--15:00: What’s your favorite Ken Burns film?
- 09/19/14--15:04: Adults with autism locked out of health coverage due to age limits
- 09/19/14--15:16: Scotland says ‘no thanks’ to independence
- 09/19/14--15:19: How will Scotland’s vote change the U.K. power balance?
- 09/19/14--15:32: Should public lands be a natural setting for extreme sports?
- 09/19/14--17:44: White House fence jumper prompts Secret Service scrutiny
- 09/19/14--21:00: What’s it like inside one of Colorado’s largest pot dispensaries?
- 09/20/14--10:52: NATO general: Truce in Ukraine a ‘cease-fire in name only’
- 09/20/14--12:22: Promising Roma crackdown, far-right party gains ground in Hungary
- 09/20/14--13:00: Pot black market still thrives after Colorado legalization
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has reversed course and directed county election officials to start mailing ballots to voters overseas Saturday without having a Democratic nominee listed for the U.S. Senate race.
The Democrat dropped out of the race against three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts at the urging of some party leaders who wanted to improve the chances that independent candidate Greg Orman would defeat the incumbent.
The Senate race in Republican-leaning Kansas recently emerged as a battleground in the national fight over control of the Senate. Some recent polls have suggested that Orman has a decent change of unseating Roberts, who emerged vulnerable from a nasty Republican primary in August.
Kobach spokeswoman Samantha Poetter confirmed Friday that the secretary of state had decided against delaying the mailing of ballots to military personnel and other U.S. citizens overseas. That was a change from his statement Thursday that the deadline for starting the mailings would be pushed back to Sept. 27.
On Friday afternoon, Kobach’s office sent a directive to county officials, telling them to move ahead with mailing the ballots. The directive, provided to The Associated Press by a county official, said Kobach’s office would provide an additional disclaimer to accompany each ballot, without being more specific.
At issue is a federal law requiring mailing of ballots to military personnel and other U.S. citizens overseas to start 45 days before an election, or Saturday. Kobach said on Thursday that 526 voters would be affected statewide.
Poetter said Kobach was taking the step as a “safety measure” to comply with the law.
The post Kansas to start mailing ballots without a Democratic Senate candidate listed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Watch an excerpt of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s interview airing in full on Friday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the PBS NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner on Friday that Iran would “accept” President Barack Obama’s promise to lift sanctions in ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, rather than holding out for congressional action.
Negotiations between Iran and the nations known as the P5+1 — the U.S., U.K., China, France, Russia and Germany — took place this week aimed at restricting Iran’s nuclear program.
As for whether Iran would hold out for the lifting of permanent sanctions against Iran, which requires congressional action, Zarif appeared amenable to President Barack Obama lifting less restrictive sanctions instead.
“We understand the constraints that President Obama is facing,” in getting Congress to act, said Zarif. “As we don’t accept them asking us to do the impossible, we will not ask them to do the impossible.
“We do not interfere in the internal domestic politics of the United States. If President Obama promises us to do something, we will accept and respect his promise.”
When asked if Iran would back an extension to the Nov. 24 deadline for the P5+1 nations and Iran to reach a permanent deal on its nuclear program, Zarif said he wasn’t ready “to entertain that idea” at this point.
“I’m not saying that November 24 is the doomsday. I’m saying that we should put all our energy into reaching agreement by that time.”
The full interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif airs on Friday’s PBS NewsHour.
The post Iran would accept Obama bypassing Congress to get sanctions lifted appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Watch an excerpt of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s interview airing in full on Friday.
U.S. efforts to garner regional support for fighting Islamic State militants, including an all-out effort this week by Secretary of State John Kerry, has hit a roadblock in Iran. It’s partly because the leadership isn’t convinced the U.S. government “was serious,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the PBS NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner on Friday.
When Warner asked why Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rebuffed overtures from the Obama administration to cooperate, Zarif said, “Because we were not convinced that the United States government was serious.”
He went on to criticize U.S. plans — approved this week by Congress — to finance moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against the extremists. The rebels are engaged in a three-year civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Zarif says is working to defeat the Islamic State militants.
Zarif contended that the very forces the U.S. is seeking to aid include elements of the Islamic State group, along with other al-Qaida-linked fighters.
“If you undermine the central government in Syria — that would enable the IS terrorists to engage more effectively and to gain even more territory,” he said. “We see this as basically contradiction in terms of trying to defeat ISIS (another name for the Islamic State group) but at the same time funding those who are trying to undermine the very government that is withstanding ISIS terrorists.”
The full interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif airs on Friday’s PBS NewsHour.
The post Iran’s Zarif on why Tehran won’t team up with U.S. on Islamic State group appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
In a web-only portion of the PBS NewsHour’s interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, he speaks about jailed American-Iranian reporter Jason Rezaian.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday that the government of Tehran is doing its “best” to handle the detention of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was arrested with his wife on undisclosed charges in July.
When asked how long the legal process would take, Zarif said: “I cannot speak for the process. It depends on how it goes. I don’t even know all the charges.”
Rezaian, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was working for the Washington Post at the time of his arrest. He and his wife, journalist Yeganeh Salehi, who is an Iranian national, were taken from their home on July 22. The Director General of Tehran’s Justice Department Hossein Esmaili said three days later that more details would be provided “after technical investigations,” reported the Islamic Republic News Agency.
Another American arrested with them was released on bail in August.
When asked about the detentions, Zarif told NewsHour chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner that Rezaian was being questioned on “serious charges” and that he was hoping Rezaian could “provide satisfactory answers,” which could lead to his release. Zarif said he and President Hassan Rouhani “have tried our best, in order to ensure that he receives good treatment, that he will be dealt with in the lawful way.
“I know Jason as a good reporter, as somebody who provided rather decent reporting on Iran over the past several years,” Zarif said.
He noted, though, that while the executive branch was trying to expedite the process, it doesn’t have any control over the judiciary.
Rezaian’s mother wrote in an opinion piece published by the Washington Post in August that holding two professional journalists credentialed by the Tehran government is “unconscionable”:
“We do not know why they were taken, who took them and what charges — if any — they face. I don’t even know if Jason and Yeganeh are being held together. Our family and hers have been turned upside down with fear and worry, and there has been little news to dispel that fear as we wait to find out why they are being held. While Yeganeh was allowed brief contact with her family, Jason’s brother and I have gotten no word from him.”
On Friday’s PBS NewsHour, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discusses the U.S. effort to defeat Islamic State militants and the latest on the nuclear negotiations.
We asked students from around the country: should our sports heroes also be our heroes in real life? Laryssa Wills of Pflugerville High School in Pflugerville, Texas, says professional athletes should be held accountable as role models. See all the student videos here.
In light of the recent domestic abuse issues plaguing members of the National Football League, we asked our student journalists to consider whether professional athletes should be considered role models.
Our Student Reporting Labs network from around the country answered our callout. Watch their video responses.
Videos were created with mentor support from Detroit Public Television, KLRU, South Carolina ETV, Vegas PBS & WHYY.
WASHINGTON — Thousands of promised American forces will be moving into Africa over the next 30 days to set up facilities and form training teams to help the Africans treat Ebola victims, the Army’s top officer said Friday.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said the disease has accelerated faster than initially thought, so the U.S. needs to get people on the ground and ramp up numbers quickly. President Barack Obama has pledged 3,000 troops, and the U.S. military commander and a small team has arrived in Liberia to do initial assessments.
Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the U.S. Army-Africa commander, arrived in Monrovia on Wednesday with a 12-person assessment team, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary. They are conducting site surveys and other planning needed to construct treatment facilities there.
Kirby added that some equipment has already arrived, including a forklift and generator, and two more aircraft are expected this weekend with 45 more military troops.
The Defense Department has requested up to $1 billion for Ebola response efforts.
Kirby said U.S. troops will not be involved in the direct treatment of patients.
The post U.S. military rushes to deploy help as Ebola spread accelerates appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Ken Burns talks with Margaret Warner about his new film series, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”
Wednesday on PBS NewsHour, documentary filmmaker and director Ken Burns spoke with Margaret Warner about his latest series on PBS, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”
Burns’ popularity among our online and on-air audiences got us wondering: out of the 26 films the documentarian has created, which would you recommend if you could only pick one?
Weigh in below, and get your Ken Burns binge-watch on over the weekend.
It’s getting easier for parents of young children with autism to get insurers to cover a pricey treatment called applied behavioral analysis. Once kids turn 21, however, it’s a different ballgame entirely.
Many states have mandates that require insurers to cover this therapy, but they typically have age caps ranging from 17 to 21, says Katie Keith, research director at the Trimpa Group, a consulting firm that works with autism advocacy groups. In addition, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that all Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs for low-income families must cover comprehensive autism treatment for kids—until they’re 21.
After I wrote about the new Medicaid coverage requirements, the mother of a 23-year-old with autism wrote in asking about coverage options for her son.
Parents of older children have a few options. Some state autism mandates don’t have age caps, including New York, California, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Wisconsin and Indiana, according to Keith.
If an insurer denies therapy and a parent lives in one of the states that has an age cap on its autism mandate, it’s worth appealing, Unumb believes. The appeal may be bolstered, she said, by the federal mental health parity law, which bars plans from imposing quantitative or qualitative treatment limitations on mental health care that are more restrictive than those on benefits for physical health conditions.
Like dollar caps on benefits, age is a quantitative limit, says Unumb.
Although the courts have yet to address the issue, she says, “In my opinion, all of these age caps are probably invalid under mental health parity.”
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
The post Adults with autism locked out of health coverage due to age limits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to Iran and our interview with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
He is in New York this week for the so called P5-plus-one talks on that country’s nuclear program, as questions loom over whether a deal can be reached by a late November deadline and what will happen if there is no agreement.
Earlier today, our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, asked about that, the U.S. strategy in fighting the Islamic State militant group, and why Tehran has ruled out working with Washington to defeat the organization.
MARGARET WARNER: Minister Zarif, thank you for joining us.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran: Very good to be with you.
MARGARET WARNER: Today, France joined the U.S. in launching airstrikes in Iraq against the I.S., ISIS, militants. Do you think that’s going to be an effective strategy to counter these militant forces?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I believe the international community should come to realize that this is a common threat, a common challenge, and it requires a common response.
In our view, the response should come from the region and supported by the international community, not the other way around. We have been cooperating with the government of Iraq and the government of — or the regional government of Kurdistan in order to defeat these terrorists, because we consider these terrorists a threat to all nations in the region and beyond because — because of all these foreign fighters that you have.
MARGARET WARNER: So you and President Obama are really on the same page on this. That is that the international community can assist maybe from the air, training and equipping, but not getting involved on the ground?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I believe the Iraqis themselves are quite capable of liberating their territory.
What the international community needs to do is to prevent assistance to the terrorists, which has been coming, unfortunately, over the past three, four years from various quarters in the region and outside the region.
MARGARET WARNER: So you’re talking about Saudi Arabia, some of the other Gulf states that have helped with financing and training? You’re talking about Turkey that’s allowed foreign fighters to cross over into Iraq and Syria?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I’m not in the business of naming names.
We are willing to work with them, particularly with our friends in the region, in order to defeat this threat, but defeat it fundamentally, not simply by military action.
MARGARET WARNER: But, by all accounts, President Rouhani’s government has rebuffed overtures from President Obama’s government to actually cooperate
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Because we were not convinced that the United States government was serious.
I’m sure that what happened yesterday in the House and the Senate, approving the request of President Obama for financing the Syrian opposition, doesn’t correspond well with an attempt to fight terrorism. If you undermine the central government in Syria, that would enable the I.S. terrorists to gain even more territory.
And we see this as basically contradiction in terms of trying to defeat ISIS, but at the same time funding those who are trying to undermine the very government that is withstanding ISIS terrorists. Those forces who are operating on the ground in Syria are, unfortunately, ISIS and people of the same color.
MARGARET WARNER: All of them?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Almost a majority of them. At least a majority of those who control any territory in Syria are either ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra or other..
MARGARET WARNER: Al-Qaida-linked groups.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: … fringe al-Qaida groups.
We do not believe that supporting these groups will help the process of democratization and respect for the will of the people in Syria.
MARGARET WARNER: But you are a major patron. You are a major patron of the Syrian government. Can you not use your influence with the Syrian government to, in fact, encourage them, force them to make such an inclusive arrangement with their own opposition?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Actually, nobody can force anybody in our region. We have an influence in Iraq. We have influence in Syria. We have influence in the region. The reason we have influence is that we do not impose our will on the countries in the region.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, but many would point out that the Shiite-backed Hezbollah fighters have in fact moved up from Lebanon to assist President Assad.
But let me move on to the other major item on your plate, one reason you’re here early before UNGA week, which is the nuclear negotiations. You face a two-month deadline now to finish this second phase and really finish a deal. Do you think there’s any prospect of getting there?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I think there’s every prospect of getting there, provided that people want to address the problem, not the constituencies.
There are two ways of resolving this problem. One is to try to resolve this problem, and the other one is try to appease those who do not see any resolution, whatever the parameters of that resolution may be, in their interests.
So if we abandon the second alternative and put our focus on the first alternative, then I believe that a solution is at hand. Iran doesn’t want nuclear weapons. Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons. The only problem, if I may, is this basically infatuation, obsession with sanctions. Sanctions do not achieve any objective. Sanctions simply put pressure on the people.
MARGARET WARNER: But those in the United States that don’t trust Iran say, well, Iran has an obsession with building a gigantic nuclear infrastructure that they don’t need for energy purposes, that will be nuclear weapons-ready.
I mean, don’t you have a problem of the hard-liners on both sides, when you’re talking about constituencies?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, there may be lunatics everywhere.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: But no serious person in Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon, because people have very serious strategic calculations.
What we can suggest to people, there is a lot of mistrust to go around. I mean, Iranians don’t trust the United States. We can change that. And it’s important for all of us to try to — instead of living in the past, to try to write a new history. And writing a new history is to try to come to arrangements that would scientifically prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
MARGARET WARNER: So, if the Iranian government wants to persuade the rest of the world that, as you say, the intentions are purely peaceful, why not agree to the much lower level of centrifuges, number of centrifuges that the United States and the Western powers are insisting upon?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Because we’re not here to accept arbitrary decisions. We’re here to negotiate.
But what we are suggesting is not that you have to take this or leave it. We are saying that let’s consider together how best we can do this. We have agreed to limit, for a certain number of years, the number of centrifuges that will be spinning. And that is out of no necessity, simply in order to create confidence. But I’m not prepared to accept any arbitrary numbers.
MARGARET WARNER: OK. Now, of course, Iran then wants all of these sanctions rolled back and lifted. Many of those would require, to be permanently lifted, U.S. congressional approval.
As you well know, there’s a lot of opposition to that. Would Iran accept something less, for instance, just having President Obama waive those?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, obviously, I — I do not engage in negotiations on the air, but we understand U.S. politics. We understand the constraints that President Obama is facing.
As we don’t accept them asking us to do the impossible, we will not ask them to do the impossible.
MARGARET WARNER: So, if President Obama wanted to do something of an end-run around Congress, that would be enough assurance for you?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: It’s up to him.
We deal with the government. Of course, we know the complexities, the domestic complexities involved. But as a sovereign state, we deal with the United States government as a sovereign state. We do not interfere in the internal domestic politics of the United States. If President Obama promises us to do something, we will accept and respect his promise.
MARGARET WARNER: So is an extension beyond the November 24 deadline possible?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: I don’t think so. And I’m not prepared at this stage to entertain that idea.
I’m not saying that November 24 is a doomsday. I’m saying that we should put all our energy into reaching an agreement by that time.
MARGARET WARNER: So no brinksmanship?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: I believe this issue requires statesmanship, not brinksmanship. And I’m prepared to exercise as much of that as I can possibly do.
MARGARET WARNER: Despite the political price that President Rouhani and you and your government are paying for this at home?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, leadership requires courage, and I hope that everybody is prepared to exercise that courage.
I believe we are at the point in history that we can. In fact, what we do has an impact on the future of our region and the future of the perceptions of two nations towards one another. So we should seize this opportunity.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Minister, thank you very much.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On our Web site, you can see more of Margaret’s interview with Foreign Minister Zarif, including his comments on Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who has been jailed in Tehran for almost two months.
The post Iranian foreign minister on U.S. strategy on Islamic State, sanctions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the votes are in and the no’s have it. Polls had flip-flopped in recent weeks, but in the end, Scotland’s residents decided to stay in their 307-year-old union with the United Kingdom.
A dreary mist shrouded the Scottish capital of Edinburgh this morning, matching the moods of 1.6 million people who’d voted for independence, only to see it lose.
CHERYL BURGAR, Yes Scotland supporter: It shows that still there are a lot of people in Scotland that didn’t want that. It’s not like — it’s not a landslide vote. So we think that’s a good thing overall, even if it is still no, because it’s going to show that we’re not — we’re not all happy with the way things are.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The official announcement came in the early morning hours.
MARY PITCAITHLY, Chief Consulting Officer, Scotland: The majority of valid votes cast yesterday by the people of Scotland in response to the referendum question, should Scotland be an independent country, were in favor of no.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JUDY WOODRUFF: From the no campaign headquarters, the cheer was deafening.
MAN: I’m happy that in the morning I’m going to wake up Scottish and I’m going to wake up British. I’m just so happy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The leader of the no side, Alistair Darling, was triumphant.
ALISTAIR DARLING, Leader, Better Together campaign: The people of Scotland have spoken.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ALISTAIR DARLING: We have chosen unity over division and positive change, rather than needless separation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The breakdown showed 55 percent voted to stay with the United Kingdom, while 45 percent voted to leave. And the unprecedented turnout topped 85 percent. Despite his disappointment, despite his disappointment, yes campaign leader Alex Salmond said the turnout was a huge point of pride.
ALEX SALMOND, First Minister of Scotland: This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in politics.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Salmond has been at the forefront of Scotland’s pro-independence movement for decades, but, today, he announced he’s resigning as Scottish first minister.
ALEX SALMOND: We lost the referendum vote, but Scotland can still carry the political initiative. Scotland can still emerge as the real winner. For me as leader, my time is nearly over. But for Scotland, the campaign continues and the dream shall never die.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In London, with the threat of separation past, Prime Minister David Cameron renewed his promise to begin granting Scotland more powers.
DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: We have delivered on devolution under this government, and we will do so again in the next Parliament. The three main pro-union parties have made commitments, clear commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament. We will ensure that those commitments are honored in full.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Even so, there were complaints from some in Cameron’s own Conservative Party ranks that the promises are too generous. And Queen Elizabeth issued her own statement, speaking of her enduring love of Scotland and urging the entire nation to work together in mutual respect and support.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And for more on the significance of the result of the referendum and what comes next, we turn to Louise Richardson, principal and vice chancellor at the University of St. Andrew’s, and David Rennie. He’s Washington bureau chief for “The Economist” magazine.
Welcome to both of you.
Louise Richardson, I’m going to begin with you.
Were you surprised at the margin of victory for the no vote? It was 10, almost 11 points.
LOUISE RICHARDSON, Principal and Vice Chancellor, University of St. Andrews: I think everyone was surprised by the margin of victory, but we all had so little to go on because this was such an unprecedented occasion.
And we were seeing 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds vote for the first time. We were seeing an electorate in which 30 percent had only recently registered. We were seeing a — looking at a turnout of 85 percent, so it was very difficult to predict. But I think most people were surprised by the margin of victory, yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Rennie, were you surprised?
DAVID RENNIE, The Economist: I think so.
And, remember, the polls had looked so sort of safe and solid for the no camp until just a few weeks ago. You had the sort of 20-point lead for the camp that was going to keep the U.K. together. And then, suddenly, that lead just collapsed very, very quickly in the last two or three weeks.
And all that movement seems to be with lower-income, left-wing voters, often slightly older voters. And so there was clearly just a big shift taking place. And one of the first analyses of what happened last night is that they just didn’t turn out in quite such massive numbers as some of the more affluent pro-union voters.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Louise Richardson, we’re now being told — I’m reading that, no, there won’t be independence for Scotland, but there is going to be a big change in the relationship between Scotland and London, the home government, and as well as a change for Wales, England, for Northern Ireland.
LOUISE RICHARDSON: That’s right.
I think this referendum in Scotland will prove to be a catalyst for constitutional change throughout the United Kingdom. And in the past few weeks, as the London parties decided that they actually could win this — could lose this campaign, even though they had been somewhat complacent for much of the campaign, they came up to Scotland. They promised what is called devo max.
They promised significant new powers for Scots if they would vote no. They promised for tax-raising powers, more powers over issues like benefits, which are very important to people who are voting. And this means, I think, that there will be more power going to Scotland, but it raises the question, what’s called in Britain the West Lothian question, of what this means for Westminster, where English members of Parliament can vote only on — Scottish members of Parliament can vote only on issues pertaining to English constituencies, but English constituents can’t vote for Scots.
So, I think there is a real sense, but especially I think in the back benches of the Tory party, that it’s time for some change. And I think we have seen Prime Minister Cameron today indicate that he’s going to address those concerns.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Rennie, so, is it believed that the government is going to carry through on these promises?
DAVID RENNIE: Yes, I can imagine that here in the United States, this may seem a bit esoteric, something for the constitutional lawyers.
But I think what people need to understand is that what really has happened, even with the vote to stay together, is that the sleeping beast of English nationalism has been woken, because there is an English backlash today, because essentially a lot of people south of the border think the Scots were bribed to stay with some more privileges.
And what’s really happened now is that Scottish voters feel a bit like super voters. They have exclusive rights over other Scottish stuff, schools and hospitals, other things, but they also get a say, decisively sometimes, on what happens down south in England.
English voters now feel more like second-class voters, because they can only vote on English stuff, not on Scottish stuff. So, what is really happening now is, remember, the English are five-sixths of the population of this — of the United Kingdom. They feel slightly sort of shoved into second place, that the Scots have been bribed with all these promises.
And that’s a really unprecedented thing, to have English nationalism stalking around as a big political force, putting pressure on David Cameron, the prime minister.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Louise Richardson, coming out of this, the U.K. is more politically unsettled?
LOUISE RICHARDSON: Well, yes, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
I think British people are now very much engaged. It has been an extraordinary exercise in democracy these past few months in Scotland. We have never seen anything like it. Few democracies have. I think it’s worth remembering that many countries fought civil wars over whether one region had a right to secede.
And here in Britain, it’s been democratic — with a democratic vote, with everybody accepting the will of the majority, a peaceful, robust debate. So I think it is a real statement of the strength of British democracy. And if it’s a little unsettled, that’s good, because it means the public is more engaged.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about — David Rennie, what about the independence movement itself? Is that going to continue?
DAVID RENNIE: Well, you have seen the leader of the independence movement, the boss of the Scottish government, resigning because of this loss.
He will be replaced, but he is kind of irreplaceable. I mean, Scotland is a small country. He was really the absolutely dominant sort of big political beast. He was the really talented politician up there. I think, personally, if I had to bet, the new few years, thing to keep an eye on is that sleeping giant the five-sixths of the country, the English nationalists.
You will see calls for an English parliament. You will demands to have English M.P.s. having exclusive rights to vote on English subjects. And let’s work out, this is a big fight about power. Scotland is basically a left-wing country. England has more or less a conservative majority, a narrow conservative majority.
The country as a whole is kind of finely balanced. It’s purple, if you like. So this is a blue country, red country, purple, gigantic power struggle that’s about to break out.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Louise Richardson, finally, what does that mean in terms of the U.K.’s relationship with other countries, the United States, Europe and others?
LOUISE RICHARDSON: Well, there can be little doubt that Britain would have been very weakened had Scotland decided to separate.
The whole question of Britain’s membership, England’s membership in the E.U. is going to subject to yet another referendum. So I think, going forward, most countries like to deal with unitary actors. And it’s — few countries can really understand the depth of domestic politics in other countries. And it looks as though English, British domestic politics are going to be more complex, which will complicate relations with other countries, but the fundamentals are unaffected.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it sounds like that’s what you’re saying too.
DAVID RENNIE: Absolutely.
Are we going to be looking inward? Are we still a global, outward-looking partner for America, or are there now an increasing number of English who quite fancy being something a bit like Switzerland, kind of rich and inward-looking and just shunning the rest of the world? Those forces are definitely out there now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Rennie, Louise Richardson, we thank you both.
LOUISE RICHARDSON: Thank you.
The post How will Scotland’s vote change the U.K. power balance? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, took Wall Street by storm today. The company had its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, and it appears to be the largest of all time; 100 million shares traded in the first 10 minutes. More than $25 billion was raised.
It’s a moment that highlights the power of China’s growing middle class.
Hari Sreenivasan has the story from our New York studios.
HARI SREENIVASAN: To give you some sense of the company’s size, Alibaba earned more last year than Amazon and eBay combined. The company was founded 15 years ago and is often described as combining elements of Google, Amazon and eBay into one Web operation.
The firm, co-founded by a former teacher, Jack Ma, is now valued at more than $230 billion. Shares opened with a frenzy today and closed at nearly $94 each. Yet, for all of that, Alibaba is hardly a household name in the U.S.
To help fill in the picture, I’m joined by David Kirkpatrick, a technology writer and founder of Techonomy, an annual conference looking how technology is changing business. He’s also author of “The Facebook Effect.”
So we have heard a little bit about Alibaba. But why was it so significant an opening today?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, Founder, Techonomy: Well, I think the company was brilliantly market in the IPO process.
And it’s the first time a major Chinese Internet company has gone public in the United States. And it’s the most important Chinese Internet company, although there’s a lot of competition for that. There’s two other gigantic companies.
But I think also Jack Ma, who is the CEO and the founder you mentioned, is a uniquely charismatic individual who just generated enormous excitement among investors.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, they describe this as a mix of Amazon, eBay. Explain how — what does Alibaba do?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: It’s a hard thing to explain, because Alibaba does so many different things.
It started out kind of being a broker for particularly people outside China wanting to buy Chinese goods, B-to-B, right? That was the first big business they had. Then they got into a more eBay business inside China, where, you know, small retailers would sell to consumers, et cetera, et cetera.
And now they have this very popular business on top of those other businesses called Tmall, which is a business where established brands sell to individual consumers. Like, a major U.S. consumer brand would have a Tmall site, and then Chinese consumers would buy from them via Alibaba.
But they also have their own logistics and delivery company. They have their own payment service. They have their own money market fund, which is one of the biggest in China because it offers higher interest rates. They just bought half of a soccer team. They just bough a movie studio.
They are really unbounded in their ambitions, but they’re still primarily an e-commerce company.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And how successful are they at e-commerce?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: So successful that they almost have a monopoly position in the Chinese Patrick.
Over 80 percent of e-commerce transaction in Chinese go over Alibaba. And e-commerce is more relatively important in the Chinese economy than it is in the U.S. economy.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And not all Chinese people are on the Internet yet.
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: No, only about half of Chinese citizens are on the Internet. And pretty much anyone of the Internet in China is likely to be an Alibaba customer.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And so when…
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: So, there’s as lot of upside.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes. The specific IPO, why did so many investors, especially institutional ones, want to get in on, even at this price, which was adjusted hiring and higher throughout the week?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Well, as I heard somebody say today, the margins on this company are way higher than the average Internet company.
They make 40-plus operating margins, profits. That’s a really high amount of profit for an Internet company. And they have 80 percent market share in their primary market. That’s like all money investors need to hear. And the growth has been very, very strong in recent quarters.
So, you have got a fast growing company, with high margins, and dominant market share. Investors understand that kind of language.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this in some ways a proxy bet on the Chinese economy?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Yes, I think that’s a really good way to think about it. It’s a really positive way to think about it, that, in effect, by so many Westerners buying this stock at such a high price, they’re saying, China is our friend. We believe in the future of the Chinese economy. We believe in the future of, in effect, the Chinese government, because let’s face it, the way business works in China, if the government doesn’t want it to happen, it doesn’t.
So there’s a much tighter bond between the government and business in China. And even Jack Ma today said, you know, the whole way he has operated his company throughout its history is, be in love with the government, but don’t marry it. Try to do what the government wants.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, live by the government, die by the government.
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Apparently.
HARI SREENIVASAN: What are the sort of downsides on if Chinese government policy changes that could have a ripple effect on the share price today?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: There’s certainly a potential downside there.
But I think the Chinese government appreciates so much what Alibaba is doing economically, and also even today what it’s done for the image of China. I think you’re not going to see them coming down hard on Alibaba anytime soon. But, theoretically, you have never seen such an important company be so wedded to one government’s policies.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. There are obviously always investors who think this is too rich a price. What are the concerns about where the stock is priced and what the future of this company is?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Well, there are always concerns.
Certainly, valuation is now a very significant concern if you’re a cautious investor. It’s got a high multiple now. But there’s two sort of big other questions. And the first is the one we just mentioned, which is government influence and regulatory change, because, in China, if the government regulators decide something different that you didn’t expect, your whole business can go out the window overnight.
I don’t think that is going to happen here. The other, though, is the governance of Alibaba, the way it’s structured as a business, is extremely complex and labyrinthian and not very transparent. So investors don’t have the window into what’s really happening inside the company that they would have with a Western company. It’s not audited in the same way.
I mean, what people bought today is not even the actual assets of the company. They bought shares in a Cayman Islands-based holding company that gets profits from Alibaba, and has an ironclad deal to get the profits. At least they say it’s ironclad. But it’s not the assets of the company.
That’s a very — that’s — it’s not unusual for the Chinese Internet to have that kind of a deal, but it’s not the way, you know, Western investors typically invest.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes. All right.
David Kirkpatrick, thanks so much.
DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Thanks for having me.
The post Alibaba’s stunning American IPO signals confidence in Chinese economy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the second in our two-part look at land disputes in the American West.
Last night, Jeffrey Brown looked at a fight between local residents and the federal government over closing down a canyon rich in archaeological treasures to motorized vehicles.
Tonight, Jeff has the story of a very different split over how to enjoy and experience the natural beauty.
JEFFREY BROWN: Stretch a high-tech nylon line some 400 feet above a canyon near Moab, Utah.
HAYLEY ASHBURN: Do you want to tighten it before we walk?
SCOTT ROGERS: It’s really tight, actually.
JEFFREY BROWN: Strap on a harness.
SCOTT ROGERS: I’m going to go barefoot. I like feeling the line between my toes.
JEFFREY BROWN: And step out into the air.
HAYLEY ASHBURN: Whew!
JEFFREY BROWN: It’s called highlining, done on public lands, a perfectly legal activity that most of us, including your correspondent, who stayed far back from cliff’s edge, would never dream of undertaking.
HAYLEY ASHBURN: I’m always a little bit nervous no matter how many I do.
JEFFREY BROWN: But Hayley Ashburn and Scott Rogers, members of a group called the Moab Monkeys, do this sort of thing several times a week.
HAYLEY ASHBURN: You are forced to narrow your focus. So, I’m thinking about the anchor on the other side and how bad I want to get there. And I’m thinking about how long it’s been since I took my last step and when I’m going to take my next step and what my foot feels like on the line.
SCOTT ROGERS: It’s this really, like, rush of overwhelming happiness, because you have done something that you were terrified of, and then you overcame that fear, and then all of a sudden you’re proud of yourself. You feel empowered, like you can do anything, really.
JEFFREY BROWN: In highlining, sky walkers are tethered to the line. As this video of Scott Rogers shows, that’s not the case in other new sports, like base jumping, in which jumpers launch themselves off stationary objects like cliffs and pull a parachute at the key moment. Timing is everything, the room for error very small.
Rogers and Ashburn know people who have died when the wind blew them back into the cliff or their parachute was opened too late. But that doesn’t stop them, and it certainly doesn’t stop them from capturing their exploits on video and posting them online.
HAYLEY ASHBURN: I love spreading the joy, because I feel like we know the secret about life, about when you do things that are scary and you overcome your fears, not only is it the most fun you will ever have, but it’s so empowering and it changes the whole rest of your life.
And doing — being out here doing what we do and making media like that is our goal, for sure.
SCOTT ROGERS: It’s taking something that is part of our life and then showing it to the world and saying, hey, look, you can have fun doing these things you didn’t even realize existed.
JEFFREY BROWN: But there’s, of course, another way of looking at and being a part of this extraordinary landscape, one that’s quieter, calmer, and sees the beauty, the drama, the extremes, if you will, in the land itself, the red rock walls, towering spires, winding rivers, plunging canyons.
In this way of experiencing the wilderness, the long walk, the light footprint, the contemplation of man’s small part in the universe take precedence.
ANDREW GULLIFORD, Environmental Author: The question is what sort of land protection do you want, and what sort of ethic do you want to evolve with the younger generation? Part of what the struggle is right now is for quiet users to have the space they need.
Colorado historian and nature writer Andrew Gulliford says cultural shifts in how people view the outdoors have raised important new questions.
ANDREW GULLIFORD: We have a long tradition of public land use in the American West. The new kinds of outdoor activities, though, the extreme sport activities, there’s not a lot of nature involved.
So today’s generation is treating the outdoors as a dirty gym, and that’s not what was thought about 50 years ago with the 1964 Wilderness Act, with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. So those conservation laws were about preserving nature for nature’s sake. And we have got a new generation of extreme sports enthusiasts who simply want to go out, use the outdoors, photograph themselves with, you know, special little cameras, and then hit the brew pub by dark and talk about their exploits.
JEFFREY BROWN: There has been much talk about this particular exploit, the rope swing at Corona Arch, an iconic landmark just outside Moab.
The YouTube video put out in 2012 has had more than 25 million views online. It also got the attention of the federal Bureau of Land Management, which had recently taken over the arch from the state of Utah in a land swap, and which administers so much of this state and other parts of the West.
MEGAN CRANDALL, Spokeswoman, Bureau of Land Management Utah: It’s just created over time.
JEFFREY BROWN: Megan Crandall is a spokeswoman.
So we learn about this on videos that we see. How do you learn about it?
MEGAN CRANDALL: The same way you do.
JEFFREY BROWN: What was your reaction?
MEGAN CRANDALL: Holy cow.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
MEGAN CRANDALL: No, I mean, my reaction, I was just blown away. Wow, that’s incredible.
JEFFREY BROWN: And then what happens? You have to figure out how to manage this.
MEGAN CRANDALL: Right. Certainly, we have a responsibility to manage for some of these new uses, but, as we have seen with roped activities, it was like a firestorm. It took off. It gained in popularity. And we just saw usage in that way surge.
JEFFREY BROWN: The surge of use including one death and one serious injury by rope swingers who misjudged how long the ropes needed to be.
Crandall says BLM policy is that people use public lands at their own risk, but the agency does look at a variety of factors, including damage to the rocks and the impact on those who want to experience the arch the old-fashioned way. And while they study these impacts, federal officials proposed a ban on roped activities at Corona.
MEGAN CRANDALL: What we’re doing is, we’re putting out for public comment a suggestion that we institute a temporary two-year restriction on roped activities to give us the time and space we need to really evaluate if continuing to allow those activities here is the most appropriate use of the area.
JEFFREY BROWN: The Moab Monkeys, of course, say they love the land too, and are happy to share it.
HAYLEY ASHBURN: It seems like a really long flight.
JEFFREY BROWN: But Hayley Ashburn says there are plenty of public places for those who complain about the disruption of the extreme sports.
HAYLEY ASHBURN: If they want peace, they should go to Arches or any national park. I call those no-fun-allowed zones.
JEFFREY BROWN: The national parks?
HAYLEY ASHBURN: Yes. It’s, like, going to be nice and quiet. Nobody is going to be no base jumping, and nobody is going to be bolting anything. There’s nobody going to be screaming and yelling and having a really amazing time.
JEFFREY BROWN: The BLM’s Megan Crandall suggests that argument works both ways, that there’s also plenty of room for roped activities if a ban is put in at Corona Arch.
MEGAN CRANDALL: There are other places in the Moab Field Office area where you can still engage in these activities. But at least, for us, we want to take the time to really think about whether it’s appropriate for those to continue here.
JEFFREY BROWN: The BLM is taking public comments on the issue through the end of this month.
The post Should public lands be a natural setting for extreme sports? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, Congress gave its support to arming moderate Syrian rebels, but there seemed to be a divide between the military and the White House over the need for ground troops to take on the Islamic State group.
We analyze that and more with Brooks and Dionne. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. Mark Shields is away.
Welcome to you both.
E.J. DIONNE, The Washington Post: Good to be with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the Islamic State group, the president got the support, David, that he wanted from the House and the Senate to arm Syrian rebels.
The polls, though, are showing the public is saying they don’t think this strategy is going to work, even though they agree with the specifics. And then, as we just said, the generals are saying, hey, we are going to need ground troops, despite what the president said.
How does all this limit him? How much does it complicate what the U.S. is trying to do?
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, the first thing is, I was impressed by how big the majorities were. It seems like, when you look at politics, that parties, especially the Republican Party, has shifted radically on domestic policy, the Tea Party direction, which tends to be less interventionist abroad.
But the Republican Party especially was solidly behind the president for the most part. The Democratic Party was too. And so there were people on either end that were against it, but there’s still sort of a — at least in this foreign policy, on this issue, preventing a caliphate from existing in Iraq and Syria, pretty solid majorities.
What’s happening now, we’re in — we’re entering the mission creep phase. It’s pretty clear that the idea of just using air warfare is not going to get ISIS out of the cities. And the generals are beginning to think that through, and you will probably need some special forces on the ground, not a big invasion or anything like that.
It’s also clear we have a pretty unilateral effort. It’s much multilateral than George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq a decade ago or whatever. And so what we have is a big gap between what we have so far committed and what we will be required to get to accomplish the mission. And the coming debate is over how much we increase that commitment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, E.J., the strategy is only a couple weeks’ old and already it’s — is it falling apart?
E.J. DIONNE: Well, it hasn’t been tested yet.
I mean, I think that the vote was striking. If you like bipartisanship, you will love this vote, because not only was support bipartisan, but the opposition was bipartisan. When you have Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren on the same side, on the no side, you’re talking about…
JUDY WOODRUFF: For different reasons.
E.J. DIONNE: For — well, different, but — that’s true.
Ron Paul — Rand Paul, rather, was — is sort of uneasy about the intervention. And I think that you had an interesting moment with the generals, where they were arguing, we need more troops. And the president really went out of his way to assert kind of civilian control, and to say, you know, they can say what they want, but I am committed not to putting American ground troops in, combat troops in.
And so I think the test here — I don’t think the limits on the president are I political. I don’t think the limits on the president are even from his own military. The limits are, will this strategy work? And I think Americans basically don’t want to commit ground troops, and yet these polls suggest they worry that anything we touch in Iraq will not work the way we intended. And there’s some reason for them to feel that way.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
But there are sort of two strategies here from the president. The first is, we will degrade ISIS. The second is that we will not commit ground troops. Well, those two things may not be true. And so which one is he going to choose? Is he really going to leave office with the Islamic State as powerful as it is now, holding as much ground as it is now?
I suspect he’s going to begin to give ground. It’s not a big invasion if it’s special operations forces. I suspect he’s going to involve — Dwight Eisenhower used to say, planning is everything, but plans are nothing, which means you go in with a strategy, but you have got to adjust.
And I suspect there is going to be a lot of adjustment in ways that we can’t foresee right now.
E.J. DIONNE: But I think a lot depends on, how quickly do we expect to get this done? And all of the testimony, including from the military, is that this is a very long-term operation.
And the hope is that not only can you get the Iraqi military back into a position where they can fight again, but they’re going to try to build, to create these Sunni national guard units. Now, that will take time. And it’s a lot to hang on new national guard units.
But I think there’s not a lot of pressure to get this done tomorrow morning, which is why I think he can hold his ground for a while on the ground — on the combat troops.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it wise to rule out ground troops, though, before this even begins, though?
DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think so. I think you have a strategy and then you have the means to get there. Whether you have ground troops or not is the means.
The strategy is to degrade ISIS, so you should leave all your means on the table. That doesn’t mean you want to do it, and that doesn’t mean the American people support it or I particularly would want to do it. But sending special operations forces to locate terrorists and things like that, that may be necessary. It seems to me, if you are committed, as the president said he was, to mission, then you should have maximum flexibility about how to get there.
E.J. DIONNE: It’s a statement to our allies, and particularly in the Middle East, saying, we can’t do all this ourselves. We have no intention of doing what we did the last time, so you have got to step up, too. So I think there could be something strategic about it as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Change of subject to somebody who saw herself having some hiccups and problems a few years ago when she tried to run for president over her Iraq position.
But, David, Hillary Clinton, she was in Iowa this weekend. She was telling a big crowd at the Harkin — Tom Harkin final steak fry that, yes, she’s thinking about running for president again.
Do we learn something from this? Do we learn that it’s — she’s farther down the road? Do we learn anything about whether people want her to run?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, people do want her to run. She’s the odds-on favorite.
What we haven’t learned is what the message is. And that’s the big thing I’m really curious about. What she’s been saying so far is a message of economic security. It’s basically a standard Democratic message. It’s not particularly new, but it may be effective.
But if I’m looking at Hillary Clinton, I do think there’s going to be opposition on the left in the university towns, in the more progressive side. There’s clearly a desire for something on the left. And there’s the problem of age and the fact that she seems to be from the 1990s.
And so, to me, the impulse is to be conservative and coast to the nomination, but the imperative is to be new and say, I’m not the — we’re not just going back to the Clinton years. I have got a new theme. I have got a new agenda. I have got a new argument.
And so far — it’s not fair to expect her to have done it so far, but I do think the desire to take risks is how — one of the ways to look at the Clinton campaign. Is it really a risk-taking, new thing?
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?
E.J. DIONNE: Well, first, the fact that she’s back in Iowa is a pretty sure indication that she’s running, because, after running third in those caucuses, she had never wanted to go back there. She noted that it’s been — she hasn’t been there since 2008.
And I think she is trying to find for this — for 2016 very similar ground to what Bill Clinton found in 1992. But it doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same ground. Clinton, the — Bill Clinton was very good at, on the one hand, being the new Democrat, having new ideas, but he still in many ways was an old-fashioned Democrat who talked about inequality, taxing the rich more, and he managed to put that together.
Doing that in 2016 probably requires Hillary Clinton to be a little tougher on the left side. She has got to be tougher on inequality, which she was, and she spoke very strongly about that. She’s talking a lot about women, and particularly working-class women, and what they’re going through.
E.J. DIONNE: And I think that is — she is trying to create the same thing, but all these years later, it has got to be a slightly different thing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But is it — is she saying enough at this point, David? Is this sort of teasing with a comment every few weeks or so, is that where she ought to be at this point in September 2014?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Wait until the midterm, and then you can get serious. I think it would be premature, immature, overmature.
E.J. DIONNE: Immature, she won’t get accused of.
DAVID BROOKS: Right. Right. Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we were following her. We had a camera crew, and so we followed her in Iowa this weekend.
But, E.J., we were there also to cover the Senate race, a very close race between Congressman Braley, the Democrat, Joni Ernst, the Republican state senator. A lot — a few things have happened on the Senate landscape this week. There’s that. There’s — that race has gotten a little bit tighter just in the last few days.
In Kansas, the race that we thought Congressman — or Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican incumbent, had it in a walk. The ballot is changed. The Democrat’s out — he’s running against the incumbent. A judge ruled something today. But how do you see the Senate landscape? What does it feel like right now?
E.J. DIONNE: Well, this may prove I’m a self-hating pundit, but I love the fact the pundits can’t figure this out.
E.J. DIONNE: You have all of these very complicated mathematical models that say 51-49 the Republicans will take over. That’s a very sophisticated way of saying, who knows?
And I think that what you have got in this election overall are Republicans hoping and believing that President — President Obama’s unpopularity is enough to carry them through. And the president is down. But the Republicans aren’t really offering very much, and a lot of these Democrats are saying, wait a minute, what would you cut? What kinds of — do you have anything for working people who are — who have really been hammered by this economy?
And so I think you have got an electorate that hasn’t figured out what this campaign is about, because I don’t think the politicians have figured what it’s about. I think Kansas is a state that I think is going to be perhaps the most interesting state in the country, because you not only have an independent running against a Republican, and so you have a chance of a Republican losing for the first time in the New Deal, but — since the New Deal — but you also have this amazing governor’s race, where Governor Sam Brownback, who has done all this tax-cutting — the budget is a mess, and people are worried about cuts in education.
The Democrats could win that. Joe Scarborough made — former congressman, made a great point, that, in 1978, Prop 13 made the tax-cutting — made tax-cutting the central Republican issue. This might be the first election where a Republican governor loses an election because he cut taxes too much. It’s an amazing thing going on in Kansas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see things still unsettled in mid-September?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, we know where they are now. We don’t know where they will be in six weeks.
But I do think this pundit has it — does have it figured out.
DAVID BROOKS: That we see a national tide. There’s clearly a national tide.
You look at the New York Times/CBS poll that came out this week, huge to the Republicans. They’re just doing very, very well in the generic ballot. Obama is down, huge national tide. And so if it becomes a national election, which the Republicans are trying to make it, they’re going to do really well.
Militating against that, you see in individual states some shifts in the Democratic direction. North Carolina, in particular, you’re seeing a shift there on the Democratic part, the situation in Kansas, a few other places. To me, the bottom line right now is — and the Democrats are trying to make it local races, a bunch of local races.
I think the history is that when you have one party trying to do national, one party trying to do local, usually, the one that is trying to do national tends to do a little bit better. And so I do still think the Republicans are likely to take it over, but, you know, that could all shift, obviously.
E.J. DIONNE: I think this is premature punditry at this point.
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m only saying where it is today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s nothing wrong with that.
But you think things are still…
E.J. DIONNE: I think things are still unsettled.
And, in fact, one of the striking things in the punditry is that people were saying this is heading the Republicans’ way. And you have seen pulling back. Iowa is a case where the race has probably moved a little Democratic. There are a bunch of states where that has happened.
DAVID BROOKS: Right, Georgia, too.
E.J. DIONNE: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: And the only point I would make is that there are just so many states the Republicans can pick up. There are so — the Democrats are defending on so many fronts, that the Republicans don’t have to win them all.
E.J. DIONNE: They start with three, and so they need three more.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the two of you are terrific. And we’re glad you’re here.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: E.J. Dionne, David Brooks, thank you.
E.J. DIONNE: Take care.
The post Brooks and Dionne on ground troop debate, Hillary’s chances of running appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Secret Service is coming under renewed scrutiny after a man scaled the White House fence and made it all the way through the front door before he was apprehended.
President Barack Obama and his daughters had just left the White House on Friday evening when the intruder climbed the north fence, darted across the lawn and into the residence, where agents nabbed him.
The security breach triggered a rare evacuation of much of the White House. Secret Service officers drew their guns as they rushed staffers and journalists out a side door.
For the Secret Service, the incident was a devastating episode that prompted fresh questions about the agency and its ability to protect the president.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, called it “totally unacceptable” and said the incident was just one of a string of security failings on the Secret Service’s watch.
“Unfortunately, they are failing to do their job,” said Chaffetz, R-Utah. “These are good men and women, but the Secret Service leadership has a lot of questions to answer.”
“Was the door open?” he added incredulously.
The Secret Service said the incident would be reviewed to ensure proper procedures were followed.
On Saturday morning, Secret Service agents could be seen walking shoulder to shoulder across the North Lawn, apparently combing the turf for anything the intruder may have dropped during his sprint the night before. The Secret Service said only that the activity was related to the previous night’s incident.
The intruder, in jeans and a dark shirt, appeared to be unarmed when he scaled the fence shortly after 7 p.m. Friday, ignoring commands from officers to halt, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. The intruder was tackled just inside the doors of the North Portico, the grand, columned entrance that looks out over Pennsylvania Avenue. A search of the suspect turned up no weapons.
The Secret Service identified the man as Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas. He was charged with unlawful entry into the White House complex and transported to a nearby hospital complaining of chest pain. Attempts to reach Gonzalez or his relatives by phone were unsuccessful.
Although it’s not uncommon for people to make it over the White House fence, they usually are stopped almost immediately. Video from the scene showed the intruder sprinting across the lawn as Secret Service agents shouted at nearby pedestrians to clear the area.
“This situation was a little different than other incidents we have at the White House,” Donovan said. “There will be a thorough investigation into the incident.”
Only minutes before the breach, Obama had boarded his helicopter on the South Lawn with his daughters and one of their friends, who was joining the Obamas for a weekend getaway to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. First lady Michelle Obama had traveled separately to Camp David.
Friday’s incident was just the latest setback for an elite agency whose reputation has suffered a succession of blows in recent years.
In 2012, 13 Secret Service agents and officers were implicated in a prostitution scandal during preparations for Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia. The next year, two officers were removed from the president’s detail after another alleged incident of sexually-related misconduct. In March, an agent was found drunk by staff at a Dutch hotel the day before Obama was set to arrive in the Netherlands.
Obama appointed the agency’s first female director last year as a sign he wanted to change the culture and restore public confidence in its operations. An inspector general’s report in December found no evidence of widespread misconduct.
The Secret Service has struggled in recent years to strike the appropriate balance between ensuring the first family’s security and preserving the public’s access to the White House grounds. Once open to vehicles, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was confined to pedestrians after the Oklahoma City bombing, but officials have been reluctant to restrict access to the area further.
Last week, the Secret Service apprehended a man who jumped over the same stretch of fence on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, prompting officers to draw their firearms and deploy service dogs.
The post White House fence jumper prompts Secret Service scrutiny appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Marijuana is a pungent plant.
After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in January, cannabis growers and retailers who had previously only sold medical marijuana began to move into the recreational business. To learn more about how the industry is growing, NewsHour Weekend traveled to Denver.
My crew and I had a first-hand olfactory buzz when we toured one of the largest cannabis grow and retail facilities in Denver. As we learned, the smell of the leaves and buds is stronger than when pot is burned.
The tour took us through all stages of pot: from baby buds to pre-rolled joints.
We started in an airy warehouse where workers mixed soil and nutrients in a large wooden box next to rows of matured marijuana plants. Tiny leaves were cut from the “mother” and then potted into small cubes of soil; the process is called cloning.
Colorado law requires that marijuana be grown only indoors, so as the plants grow taller and fuller, they’re transferred to various rooms outfitted with industrial-sized ventilation systems and bright lights.
The lights are set to imitate natural light at various hours of the day, which casts hues of green on the leaves that look unreal.
After the buds bloom large, they’re moved to the trim room. When we walked in to the trim room, rock music was blaring.
Stacks of stems with full buds cluttered a long table lined with workers. Their fingers moved quickly as they trimmed leaves off the branches.
At this point in the tour, the smell of the buds was faint and only recognizable if you leaned in close to smell. But that quickly changed when we entered the cure room where rows and rows of branches heavy with buds were hung up to dry.
The overwhelming odor of pot hit us like a wall.
Here, workers nimbly cleaned and picked off the remaining leaves from the dried buds. These are stored in large air-tight bins, and some are cured with flavors, like sour cherry, a crowd-favorite, which smells tangy and sweet.
After the tour we headed to the car. When we unzipped our jackets and opened our cameras bags, a huge dose of the marijuana smell hit our faces. Everything was saturated with the smell of pot.
None of us felt the buzz, but we were definitely hungry.
Watch the full broadcast report on the thriving black market of the marijuana industry in Colorado below:
The post What’s it like inside one of Colorado’s largest pot dispensaries? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — A college dropout from Florida. A nurse’s aide from Denver. The owner of a pizza-and-wings joint from upstate New York.
Except for their embrace of Islam, there’s no common profile for the 100-plus Americans who have traveled to Syria to join Islamic fighters or are accused of supporting them from the United States.
Their reasons for joining an extremist cause a half-world away are as varied as their geography and life stories.
Some seek adventure and camaraderie. Others feel a call to fight perceived injustice.
But a common strain of disaffection, a search for meaning, seems to emerge, at times stronger than any motivation tied to religious devotion.
“What unifies all these folks is a desire to be recognized, a desire to find a cause that they can mold their life to,” says Evan Kohlmann, who tracks terrorists with Flashpoint Global Partners.
Foreign fighters from dozens of nations are pouring into the Middle East to join the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations. U.S. officials are putting new energy into trying to understand what radicalizes people far removed from the fight, and into trying to prod countries to do a better job of keeping them from joining up.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will lead a meeting of the 15-member U.N. Security Council as part of the effort to stem the flow of foreign nationals. Next month, the White House will hold a conference on the radicalization of Americans.
It’s an increasingly urgent matter now that the U.S. and allies are directly attacking Islamic State fighters. There are concerns of blowback that encourages more terrorism at home.
Just last week, a post on a top jihadi forum urged American Muslims who can’t reach the battlefront to wage “an aggressive and sustained campaign of lone-wolf attacks” locally, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. As well, there are worries that fighters with U.S. passports will return home to carry out attacks in America or with airplanes headed to the U.S.
The transition from everyday American to foreign fighter for a group that trumpets the beheading of its enemies may start with concern that fellow Muslims are being killed abroad. It often includes Internet chatrooms and online conversations with extremists. It may involve knowing someone who’s radicalized. Many cite the teachings of radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011 but whose words are still influential in cyberspace.
Moner Mohammad Abusalha, 22, who grew up playing basketball in Vero Beach, Florida, described his journey to jihadism in a video before he killed himself and 16 others in a suicide bombing in Syria last May. He mentioned both the teachings of al-Awlaki and the influence of friend.
The college dropout, whose father was Palestinian and mother was Italian-American, said of his life as a Muslim in America: “This never was a place for me. … I was always sad and depressed. Life sucked.”
“I want to rest in the afterlife, in heaven,” he said. “Heaven is better.”
Shannon Conley, 19, a nurse’s aide from suburban Denver, wanted to marry an Islamic extremist fighter she met online and thought she could use her U.S. military training to fight a holy war overseas. In pursuing her Muslim faith, “she was exposed to teachings through which she was terribly misled,” her lawyer, Robert Pepin, wrote in a court filing. Conley pleaded guilty to trying to help Islamic militants and is awaiting sentencing.
In the most recent case, 30-year-old Mufid Elfgeeh, a pizza and food mart owner from Rochester, New York, was indicted last week for trying to help three people travel to Syria to join extremist fighters. A naturalized citizen from Yemen, Elfgeeh was arrested this year for buying guns as part of a plan to kill U.S. service members.
Elfgeeh has pleaded innocent.
While the ranks of foreign fighters from America include both naturalized citizens and the native-born, Kamran Bokhari of Stratfor global intelligence said second-generation Muslim Americans trying to balance two cultures could be particularly vulnerable.
“It’s natural for the second generation to be feeling sort of lost and not knowing who they are,” he said. They may feel drawn to the plight of Muslims abroad, and feel guilty about living comfortable lives, he added.
For all the concern about Americans who support Islamic militants, terrorism experts say the problem is much worse in Europe, where Muslims are not as wealthy or assimilated. Several hundred people from Britain have traveled to Syria, according to official estimates, and France and Germany have estimated a combined 1,300 of their citizens have joined the fight.
Aaron Zelin, an expert on jihadi groups at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said roughly half the Americans who have joined the Islamic State group are converts to Islam. The rest typically are born Muslim or “reverts,” people who were Muslim at birth, but didn’t practice the faith until later in life, he said.
“I would argue that they converted to jihadism, not necessarily mainstream Islam,” he said.
Attorney General Eric Holder pointed to the indictment of Elfgeeh as evidence that U.S. officials are aggressively working to identify and disrupt those who want to join or support terrorist groups.
Critics say the administration’s efforts have been largely cosmetic and that officials haven’t done enough to understand root causes.
“You have to understand who is being radicalized, why they are being radicalized and how they are being radicalized, and I don’t think the U.S. government really has a good handle on that,” Kohlmann said.
U.S. officials point to recent success at preventing major terrorist attacks, but Kohlmann said it would be overly optimistic to think the government can closely monitor every American who joins extremist causes. While the Islamic militants’ chief focus remains in Syria, he said there is plenty of rhetoric exhorting sympathizers to target Westerners.
“Take these people at their word. Because they mean it.”
The post ‘A desire to be recognized’: Why have Americans joined the Islamic State? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — NATO’s top general said Saturday the two-week-old truce between Ukraine and pro-Russian militants fighting in the country’s east is a “cease-fire in name only,” and he said that by enabling a free flow of weapons and fighters across the border Russia has made it nearly impossible for outsiders to determine how many of its troops are operating inside Ukraine.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told a news conference after meeting with NATO military chiefs that he is hopeful about Saturday’s announced agreement for creation of a buffer zone between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces.
The deal reached by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Moscow-backed rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe marks an effort to add substance to the Sept. 5 cease-fire agreement that has been frequently broken by clashes.
Breedlove has put the main blame on Russia for the continuing conflict.
“So the situation in Ukraine is not good right now,” he said. “Basically we have a cease-fire in name only.”
Breedlove said violence levels in Ukraine, including the number of artillery rounds fired in the past few days, are as high as prior to the cease-fire.
“So the cease-fire is still there in name, but what is happening on the ground is quite a different story,” he said.
Breedlove said Russian forces are still operating inside Ukraine but numbers cannot be pinpointed.
“Right now the border is being maintained open by Russian forces and Russian-backed forces, and the fluidity of movement of Russian forces and Russian-backed forces back and forth across that border makes it almost impossible to understand the numbers,” he said.
He said it is clear that the number of Russian troops in Ukraine has declined significantly over the past week or so, with some returning to the Russian side of the border – “which is good, except that they haven’t returned home and are still available to bring their military force to bear on Ukraine, should it be desired” by Russian government leaders.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member of NATO, but both share borders with NATO-member countries. Recent Russian military behavior, including its annexation of the Crimea Peninsula of southern Ukraine earlier this year, is a major worry inside the U.S.-led alliance.
Follow Robert Burns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP
The post NATO general: Truce in Ukraine a ‘cease-fire in name only’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
STEPHEN FEE: Just a two-hour drive east of the capital Budapest, Miskolc is Hungary’s third largest city with 160,000 residents. And on its outskirts this summer, we met 55-year-old Jozsefne Nagy in the courtyard of her former home.
Nagy, her daughter, and three grandchildren lived in this city-owned apartment for three years — until they were evicted this past August.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “We didn’t know we’d have to leave. My daughter left in the morning to go for her job training program. She went to school and the kids were here, and I get a call from the neighbors that they’re moving my daughter out. Kids and all.”
STEPHEN FEE: Nagy rushed home to a chaotic scene. A newspaper photo from that day shows men hauling the family’s belongings outside.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “There were so many policemen you couldn’t move. They just kept saying: Out! Out! I repeatedly told them we don’t have any debts, but they just kept repeating themselves.”
STEPHEN FEE: And she’s not the only one facing eviction. City officials plan to demolish this neighborhood of around a thousand people, whether the tenants have paid their rent or not.
GYULA SCHWEICKHARDT, DEPUTY MAYOR, MISKOLC: “The people who live there are poor, and users and drug dealers have appeared, which is something the city must deal with in some shape or form.”
STEPHEN FEE: But Nagy says she and her neighbors are being thrown out for a different reason.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “The goal wasn’t to evict those who don’t pay, but to evict Gypsies.”
STEPHEN FEE: Here in what was once Hungary’s industrial heartland, the vast majority of Miskolc’s Gypsy — or Roma — population is unemployed. The evictions are the latest chapter in a history of strained relations with their non-Roma neighbors.
It’s a tension that’s hardly unique to Miskolc — or even Hungary.
Since their ancestors arrived in Europe from India some 600 years ago, Roma people have been enslaved, expelled, and ethnically cleansed. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered during World War II.
More recently, France deported thousands of Roma who overstayed visa requirements in 2010 — the EU’s justice minister called the expulsions ‘a disgrace.’
Fears of crime have motivated anti-Roma feelings across Europe. And headlines about Roma criminal rings help drive those perceptions.
DOCUMENTARY NARRATOR: “Across Europe, thousands of children are being forced on to the streets to beg and steal.”
STEPHEN FEE: A 2009 BBC documentary called “Gypsy Child Thieves” focused on Roma pickpockets.
But unlike those cases, Roma in Hungary aren’t migrants — they’re citizens. And in Hungary, fears of Roma criminality have driven the popularity of a nationalist political party called Jobbik.
Founded just ten years ago, the party netted 20 percent of the vote in this year’s parliamentary elections. The group describes itself as a ‘principled, conservative, and radically patriotic Christian party.’
SZABOLCS POGONYI, CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY: “Through the presence of a very strong, openly anti-Roma far-right party, anti-Roma talk, rhetoric and even policies are becoming mainstream.”
STEPHEN FEE: That’s Szabolcs Pogonyi. He chairs the nationalism studies department at Budapest’s Central European University. A disclosure: I worked at the university for two years.
SZABOLCS POGONYI, CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY: “They were the first party which got into parliament and openly spoke about what they call as ‘gypsy criminality’ — that is openly linking crime and ethnic background.”
STEPHEN FEE: Three years ago in the Hungarian town of Gyongyospata, disputes between Roma and non-Roma over property crime erupted into a confrontation. As this video from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union shows, Jobbik party members along with other groups marched in the streets. They railed against what they called “gypsy crime,” promising to protect the villagers. Critics say it was a campaign of intimidation against Roma.
Pogonyi says levels of anti-Roma feelings in Hungary have been consistent since the early 1990s. But the Jobbik party, he says, is the first political bloc to capitalize on those feelings.
SZABOLCS POGONYI, CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY: “People living particularly in rural areas, poor rural areas have the sense of being abandoned by the government. I mean, they face petty crime, and they realize that the government — the authorities do and can do nothing. And at that point some people appear and they say, we will protect you.”
STEPHEN FEE: Jobbik leaders declined our interview requests, but on their website, they defend the term ‘gypsy crime,’ calling it ‘a unique form of delinquency, different from the crimes of the majority in nature and force.’
I asked Roma journalist and advocate Erno Kadet if there was validity in using a term like ‘gypsy crime,’ especially when crime rates are higher in some Roma-majority communities.
ERNO KADET, ROMA PRESS CENTRE: “The way I see it the problem is –- and they are perfectly aware of this, the Jobbik party -– that by using the word Gypsy and the word crime in the same sentence, it brands everyone. I don’t think there is a single Roma, a single credible Roma leader, who says there are no criminals among the Roma population, just as there are a substantial number of criminals among the non-Roma population. But they say it’s because of poverty, not because of belonging to a certain ethnic group.”
STEPHEN FEE: In Hungary today, 70 percent of Roma live below the poverty line and 85 percent are unemployed.
Government spokesman and former social inclusion secretary Zoltan Kovacs says the country is working to improve conditions for Roma — but those plans will take time.
ZOLTAN KOVACS, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: “It’s impossible to have a breakthrough. I mean, there’s a complete agreement in professional circles as well as in politics that you have to be very consistent actually on applying these measures on the long run. That means at least ten years. The Roma issue has been with us not only for the past couple of years or decades — it’s a six hundred years old issue. We’ve been living together with the Roma communities for the past couple of centuries.”
STEPHEN FEE: “You know, someone might say if they listen to this interview, that the rhetoric that we’ve been living with the Roma — with us — that you’re already separating yourself from people who are Hungarian citizens, right?”
ZOLTAN KOVACS, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: “It’s an ongoing debate actually, even with the Roma themselves. They also use this terminology, that us and them, so you like it or not, this differentiation on both sides is present.”
STEPHEN FEE: Back in Miskolc, deputy mayor Gyula Schweickhardt designed the plan to eradicate the city’s Roma majority neighborhoods.
GYULA SCHWEICKHARDT, DEPUTY MAYOR, MISKOLC: “We don’t think the question is whether someone is Roma or not; city leadership is not approaching this as an ethnic or racial issue. It is in fact sad that the issue has been raised as one at all. We approach it as an endeavor to eradicate an impoverished slum.”
STEPHEN FEE: The city isn’t replacing the housing, but will pay evicted tenants up to $8,500 to find a new home. But on the condition they buy homes outside the city and not return for five years. Already, surrounding communities have signed petitions saying they won’t welcome Miskolc’s displaced residents.
Local Roma leader Gabor Varadi concedes the Roma neighborhoods have their social problems. But that destroying them will only lead to conflict.
GABOR VARADI, ROMA COMMUNITY LEADER: “I think the solution is not to evict people and relocate the problem to another settlement, or to throw families out into the street. If we do that the problem gets bigger and creates more tension.”
STEPHEN FEE: After facing so much difficulty, I asked Jozsefne Nagy — evicted this August from her neighborhood on the fringes of Miskolc — if she wants to stay here in the city.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “Yes, definitely. Definitely. We were born here and we’d like to die here. We went to school here, we spent our life working in the factory here, at the waste plant. I don’t want to leave. The children go to preschool here and to school. They are heartsick. All of them. We’re terrified, like everyone else who lives here.”
STEPHEN FEE: Since the eviction, she’s moved in with another one of her daughters, also in the same neighborhood. But with the city planning to build a parking lot here once demolition is complete, Nagy’s days here are almost certainly numbered.
The post Promising Roma crackdown, far-right party gains ground in Hungary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
RICK KARR: Marijuana grower and retailer Andy Williams can barely keep up with the demand for his product these days. He says he can’t imagine a more exciting and lucrative industry to be in right now. But the buzz is all coming from capitalism. He doesn’t even like cannabis.
ANDY WILLIAMS: I tried every few years just to prove to myself I still don’t like it. You know, it just affects me very poorly.
RICK KARR: When he started his business a few years ago, Williams could only sell medical marijuana. That put him in position to be one of the first to sell recreational cannabis when it became legal this year. Business has been so good that Williams is about to hire three dozen new employees and ramp up production in a new state-of-the art factory.
ANDY WILLIAMS: It’s manufacturing is what it is as far as I’m concerned. You are manufacturing marijuana. This is an industrial manufacturing plant that grows marijuana.
RICK KARR: Stores like these can now sell up to an ounce of marijuana to customers who are 21 and over. The products come in all kinds of forms: cannabis buds from a range of varieties bred to treat particular ailments, provide a mellow buzz, or deliver a powerful rush.
Pre-rolled joints, pot-laced brownies, hard candy, and chocolate bars, marijuana infused beverages and massage oil. Consumers spend tens of millions of dollars a month on those products, but Williams is sure there’s a lot more money to be made in his business.
ANDY WILLIAMS: You know I did this so that my family can be set up for their rest of their lives. Right now, I already know of some blue chip companies that are on the, on the start line. They’re gonna come and buy people up, and quite honestly, I wanna be one of those guys.
RICK KARR: One of the benefits attached to legalization was that it would eliminate the black market. But that market is still thriving, according to a 39 year old marijuana grower who asked us to call him John Doe and to conceal his identity because he sells on the underground market.
The illegal trade is doing especially well in black and Latino communities, and he says it works the same way it did when pot was illegal.
JOHN DOE: You have that one guy, that guy that shines, that’s the Robin Hood of the neighborhood. This man supplies a little ghetto area. Simple as that. Breaks his own pound into little ounces and helps everybody in his community. So they can afford it with him. That’s how it’s happened.
RICK KARR: Yeah. And that’s how it happened before, too.
JOHN DOE: Yeah. Yeah. Nothing’s changed.
RICK KARR: John Doe says low-income buyers turn to the black market because prices are higher at legal retail stores. There’s conflicting information, but an ounce of pot on the black market can cost as little as 180 dollars. At the store Andy Williams owns, you have to pay around 240 dollars for an ounce.
That’s partly because the price includes a 15 percent excise tax, a 10 percent marijuana tax, the state sales tax, and Denver’s marijuana sales tax.
LARISA BOLIVAR: The taxes are an overreach and excessive. And it’s a regressive tax and it impacts the poor most.
RICK KARR: Larisa Bolivar was involved in the fight to make marijuana legal for medical purposes. She uses it herself to treat stress. She campaigned for legalization but she doesn’t like how it’s working out. She believes all those taxes guarantee a black market. But taxes have been beneficial, according to Mason Tvert, who also campaigned for legalization and helped draft the state’s regulations.
In the first seven months, those taxes have generated 24 million dollars in revenue. A chunk of that is slated for public school construction. Besides he says the legal market offers some things that consumers find more important than the lowest price.
MASON TVERT: Variety, convenience, safety. That’s what drives every product in the entire world. You know, that’s what’s going to drive this market. If someone is lower income or a higher income, chances are they’re going to go to a store and purchase it because it’ll be safe. It’ll be convenient. There’ll be variety. These are what drive people’s decisions.
RICK KARR: How has that worked out so far? I mean, is the black market gone? Is the black market going away?
MASON TVERT: I think it’s absurd for anyone to assume that we can eliminate a black market that grew over 80 plus years within the course of eight, nine months. But we’ve seen this industry take a huge bite out of the underground market.
RICK KARR: To enter the legal marijuana industry, you have to be a Colorado resident in good legal standing. You also need the capital to get licensed, and that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
LARISA BOLIVAR: It’s classist. The regulations support those that have access to wealth. And middle and lower classes don’t have access to wealth. I can’t just go and ask my dad, “Hey, can I have $20,000 for licensing and application fees?” You know? And then “Can I get a million dollars to get a property?”
RICK KARR: To start the legal recreational marijuana business, an entrepreneur needs a lot of capital: to fund an indoor grow facility, hire employees who’ll cultivate the product, install security systems – all while complying with state regulations. Tvert acknowledges the expenses limit the abilities of minorities to enter the industry.
MASON TVERT: This is a symptom of race relations and economic justice in our nation. This is not exclusive to marijuana. You know, right now people in lower income areas or communities of color are facing discrimination and bearing the brunt of social policies across the board, not just for marijuana.
RICK KARR: But Tvert says since legalization there have been fewer arrests of minorities for marijuana possession.
MASON TVERT: People of color were being disproportionately impacted when it came to marijuana possession, and now whether you’re white, whether you’re black, whether you’re a Latino, you are no longer going to be booked and convicted and treated like a criminal the rest of your life simply for possessing marijuana.
RICK KARR: But for anyone who was caught and convicted of a drug-related felony before legalization, state law makes it virtually impossible to join the industry now that marijuana is legal. John Doe says that keeps a lot of people working on the black market.
JOHN DOE: There’s a lot of people that have broken the law that are great entrepreneurs, work very hard, have good work ethics, family values, good communication skills. I mean, I definitely believe that they should be given a chance. The rules and regulations should allow a good grower that’s been in trouble to do this. They’re not hurting anybody. They’re not out there you know, stealing and robbing. Most of these people probably got caught up trying to make a living. Trying to make money.
RICK KARR: The counterargument, though, is it also shows that they are willing to break the law, because it was illegal. So maybe if we give them a license and they open up a grow facility, licensed, maybe they won’t pay the taxes.
JOHN DOE: Maybe they’re more prone to breaking laws. Well, you know, they say that about many people, but you have to see their track record.
RICK KARR: John Doe says his family has been growing marijuana for many generations in Latin America. He believes the legal industry should benefit from his experience and passion for the plant.
JOHN DOE: It’s the end result is this little flower that’s growing up and all full of joy. When this comes out, that’s when you say, “Okay, I am proud of my work.”
RICK KARR: Legalization in Colorado is still a work in progress. But the state is a pioneer and as other states consider legalization, they’ll be watching to see how Colorado does.
The post Pot black market still thrives after Colorado legalization appeared first on PBS NewsHour.