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- 12/13/14--09:04: _House Democrats, th...
- 12/13/14--09:15: _‘We need the rain’:...
- 12/13/14--10:14: _See how a historic ...
- 12/13/14--12:33: _Two years after San...
- 12/13/14--12:50: _2016 contenders qui...
- 12/13/14--12:51: _CIA lied about tort...
- 12/13/14--13:08: _Stopgap spending bi...
- 12/13/14--14:00: _12 Days of NewsHour...
- 12/13/14--15:01: _Viewers respond to ...
- 12/13/14--15:37: _Thousands protest p...
- 12/13/14--15:43: _Behind USAID’s fail...
- 12/13/14--16:04: _Is there a down sid...
- 12/14/14--01:00: _Dec. 14, 1799: The ...
- 12/14/14--08:50: _Congress clears swe...
- 12/14/14--09:37: _Inside the Senate’s...
- 12/14/14--09:56: _Will Jeb Bush run i...
- 12/14/14--10:00: _12 Days of NewsHour...
- 12/14/14--10:26: _Poll: Would you sup...
- 12/14/14--10:40: _Another major deadl...
- 12/14/14--12:33: _Dozens arrested dur...
- 12/13/14--09:04: House Democrats, then Senate Republicans object to spending bill
- 12/13/14--10:14: See how a historic drought has changed California’s landscape
- 12/13/14--12:33: Two years after Sandy Hook, how have gun laws changed?
- 12/13/14--12:50: 2016 contenders quiet on police shootings protests
- 12/13/14--12:51: CIA lied about torture, Senate report suggests
- 12/13/14--13:08: Stopgap spending bill clears Senate, goes to Obama
- 12/13/14--14:00: 12 Days of NewsHour: Stencil our logo
- 12/13/14--15:37: Thousands protest police killings in Washington, New York City
- 12/13/14--15:43: Behind USAID’s failed attempt to infiltrate Cuban hip-hop
- 12/13/14--16:04: Is there a down side to the recent plunge in oil prices?
- 12/14/14--08:50: Congress clears sweeping $1.1 trillion spending bill
- 12/14/14--09:56: Will Jeb Bush run in 2016?
- 12/14/14--10:00: 12 Days of NewsHour: Sunday Crossword
- 12/14/14--10:26: Poll: Would you support more restrictive gun laws in your state?
- Made background checks universal for all gun and ammunition purchases
- Limited the ability of the mentally ill to purchase guns
- Outlawed more than 100 additional assault weapons, including the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook shooting
- Banned large capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds
- 12/14/14--10:40: Another major deadline for health insurance sign-ups looms
- 12/14/14--12:33: Dozens arrested during nationwide protests against police killings
WASHINGTON — First it was objections by House Democrats that stood in the way of passage of a $1.1 trillion catchall spending bill. Now it’s the Senate Republicans’ turn, specifically Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah.
The two lawmakers demanded a vote Friday night on a proposal to cut funds from the bill that could be used to implement President Barack Obama’s new immigration policy, ending any chance the measure could clear the Senate and be sent to the White House with a minimum of fuss.
Officials in both parties said the bill remains on track for clearance by early next week. Even so, the move led Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to abandon plans to adjourn the Senate for the weekend, and raised the possibility of a test vote on the spending bill shortly after midnight on Saturday.
Senate Republican leaders have pledged to challenge Obama’s immigration policy early in the new year, after the GOP takes control of the Senate. But Cruz suggested they shouldn’t be entirely trusted to keep their pledge.
“We will learn soon enough if those statements are genuine and sincere,” he said, in a clear reference to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner.
Ironically, Cruz and Lee played a major role in events slightly more than a year ago that led to a partial government shutdown – an event McConnell, Boehner and most Republicans have vowed to avoid repeating. This time, Republican officials said they may have inadvertently given Reid an opening to win confirmation for several of Obama’s nominees that might otherwise have languished.
With the end of the two-year Congress approaching, Reid is pressing to confirm about 20 Obama nominees to fill posts such as surgeon general, director of the Social Security Administration and federal judgeships.
The spending measure tops the remaining items on a quarrelsome Congress’ agenda. Others include renewing tax breaks for individuals and businesses and a government program supporting the market for insurance against terrorist acts. In one bit of progress, the Senate sent Obama a sweeping defense policy measure by a big bipartisan vote.
Earlier Friday, the controversial spending package won a personal endorsement from Obama and was brought before the Senate.
Obama acknowledged that the measure has “a bunch of provisions in this bill that I really do not like,” and said the bill flows from “the divided government that the American people voted for.”
Obama has sided with old-school pragmatists in his party like Reid, but he’s split from leading liberals such as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Warren blasted the measure in a Senate speech for the third straight day, saying it was a payoff to Citigroup, whose lobbyists helped write a provision that significantly weakens new regulations on derivatives trading by Wall Street banks.
“Enough is enough. Washington already works really well for the billionaires and the big corporations and the lawyers and the lobbyists,” Warren said. “But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citi bet big on derivatives and lost?”
Another provision loathed by many Democrats – though backed by the Democratic National Committee – raises the amount of money that wealthy donors may contribute to political parties for national conventions, election recounts and headquarters buildings.
Democrats will lose control of the Senate in January because of heavy losses in midterm elections last month and will go deeper into a House minority than at any time in nearly 70 years.
Lawmakers from both parties came to the floor to praise the underlying spending measure, which provides funding to keep nearly the entire government operating through the Sept. 30 end of the current budget year.
The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27. Republicans intend to try then to force the president to roll back a new immigration policy that removes the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.
The post House Democrats, then Senate Republicans object to spending bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
SUSANA GARCIA: It’s going to be really hard for the businesses here on Main Street to survive if it doesn’t pick up.
JOHN LARSON: All along Main Street in Delano, California, businesses can feel it – the drought. At 1111 Main, Susana Garcia says it simple.
SUSANA GARCIA: A lot of people not working. A lot of people only working like a few hours. But they’re not working enough. So they’re not spending money.
ROMAN BOCANEGRA: We need that water so there can be a lot more farm work for everybody so they can come and shop and do what they got to do.
JOHN LARSON: At Chalia’s Barber Shop at 916 Main, there’s talk of wild bears wandering in from the hills.
LEIAS SERVIN: I guess they’re looking for what food there’s no water source so they bears coming into the city.
JOHN LARSON: Leias Servin worries the drought will cost his parents, who work in the fields and who can’t afford to lose the hours.
JOHN LARSON: How are they getting by?
LEIAS SERVIN: Well they have, I guess they have to make it work. But it’s hard getting by when they are cutting you short. It’s a couple of paychecks less that you get.
JOHN LARSON: Delano’s Main Street sits at the southern end of California’s Central Valley, the richest agricultural valley in the world. This valley supplies 25 percent of all the food eaten in the United States.
Yet, all around Delano the drought has cost thousands of jobs, especially in the fields. This grape vineyard is 23 miles from Delano’s Main Street. Crew boss Sonia Robles – still wearing the protective sun mask she wears in the field – says she’s had to away people looking for work.
SONIA ROBLES: I wish we could have work for them, but I mean we couldn’t.
JOHN LARSON: When the congregation at United First Method Church, just a block off Main Street shared their prayers on Sunday, a 24 year old cowboy offered this.
MATT HUFF: We ask Lord that we receive more rain this winter. A lot of good juicy storms Lord.
JOHN LARSON: Matt Huff works on a cattle ranch 16 miles from Delano’s Main Street.
MATT HUFF: Well I know we need rain, we can’t make it rain ourselves but we can definitely give it to God. It’s all you can do right about now so just keep praying.
JOHN LARSON: While it may be difficult to understand just how much the drought is changing the valley, listen to Matt as he drives out with the evening feed.
MATT HUFF: I first came here about 5 years ago and the grass was at least shoulder height. Every year that we’ve had a drought, the fields remain bald, pure dirt. We used to have dandelions out in the field that were taller than me. That you can feed a herd of cows with. This you can’t.
JOHN LARSON: The herd used to number 200. But when the drought hit, the pastures began dying. The ranch owner began buying hay to feed the herd. As the drought continued, the owner was forced to begin selling off the herd you see up ahead.
Cow by cow, the herd dwindled to a 100 and then to less than 50. He also sold his only bull, and with it much of the herd’s future. But the bigger story, the reason we’ve come to Delano is what’s happening all around the ranch.
The California drought is entering its fourth straight year, a drought some fear could become the most costly in the history of the American west.
JESSE REVILLA: You got good years and bad years, this is what I call it worst years, this is really bad.
JOHN LARSON: Matt’s boss, ranch owner Jesse Revilla says despite his best efforts, the remaining herd is losing weight, but feeding them is breaking him.
JOHN LARSON: How long can you keep that up?
JESSE REVILLA: That means I got to go sell some more cows. I gotta sell more cattle so I can buy more hay.
JOHN LARSON: So the herd keeps getting smaller and smaller.
JESSE REVILLA: And I’m getting poorer and poorer.
JOHN LARSON: California reservoirs, once pictures of abundance, are more alarming than reassuring. This year, the hottest ever recorded in California, water levels fell so low, authorities cut off water to most farmers. Meaning, farmers had to use well water, or lose everything.
JOHN LARSON: If you didn’t have a well, what would have happened to your trees?
MARY ANDREAS: Well, they would be half dead by now.
JOHN LARSON: Two miles from Main Street, Mary Andreas joined hundreds of farmers now drilling for water. Mary grows 84 acres of almonds. Her trees require year round water to stay alive.
Six months before her water allotment was cut off, Mary mortgaged her home, plunked down almost 200 thousand dollars to drill a well. It saved her farm.
JOHN LARSON: How hard was that decision?
MARY ANDREAS: It wasn’t hard, because we had already invested so much. We can’t stop now. We don’t know what’s gonna happen next year or the other. But we have to keep going forward. ‘Cause we got everything, our whole life invested in this 84 acres.
JOHN LARSON: Which is why farmers like Mary who can afford it, are drilling more wells than ever. Drilling crews are arriving from across the west, adding to local drillers who can’t keep up with the demand.
JOHN LARSON: If we wanna drill a well in our farm, how soon could you do it?
MATT HAMMOND: We’re anywhere from eight months to a year and a half behind.
JOHN LARSON: But more worrisome is that so much water is being pumped from underground to replace water lost in this drought, that few people believe it can be sustained. Wells are going dry, and drillers are forced to go deeper to find water. This well – located 16 miles from Main Street – is headed down 1,600 feet, 350 feet deeper than the empire state building is high.
JOHN LARSON: To what extent do you feel like we can only punch so many holes and pull out so much water before we really start seeing huge problems?
MATT HAMMOND: Well, I mean, we’re to that stage right now, I think. Because the deeper you go on some of this, you’re losing out on water quality, too. You’re gonna get down so deep and the water’s gonna start getting salty on you.
JOHN LARSON: Randy Weldon is a local grower. He showed us how farmers who could not afford to drill wells helplessly watched their orchards die. These orange trees are dead, and there are thousands just like them not far from Delano’s Main Street.
RANDY WELDON: It is heartbreaking. In a lot of cases the farmers have their heart and soul in this land. And it’s like losing a part of your family you know. And economically it’s disastrous.
JOHN LARSON: In California water is considered a property right, so farmers are free to drill as much as they want. All they need is a permit. But no one knows how much water farmers are pulling from the underground aquifer.
That’s the natural reservoir accumulated over thousands of years from rain and snow. And no one knows how much water is left. If an aquifer is like a savings account, this is a run on the bank, a race to the bottom.
At the urging of the Governor Jerry Brown, California voters this year agreed they had to be better prepared for a drought – so they passed a $7.5 billion bond for building water storage facilities and water recycling projects.
This escalating thirst for water has also led to some surprising partnerships. For example, 21 million gallons of water every day flow into the Cawelo Reservoir – water helping save 90 desperate farmers south of Delano. The water comes from of all places…here.
This is Chevron’s Kern River oil field just 35 miles south of Delano’s Main Street. It’s the third largest oil producing field in the state, more than 70,000 barrels per day. But in the process, Chevron pulls up even more water, a lot more.
The water is used for steam to help recover the oil underground, and then separated from the oil, cleaned and pumped through pipelines to the reservoir and the waiting farmers.
ABBY AUFFANT: For every 10 barrels of fluid that we produced from Kern River field, nine of those are water. One barrel of oil to 9 barrels of water. So we’re almost like a water company that happens to skim oil.
JOHN LARSON: Back on Main Street, the drought can be felt in every lost sale and in every cash register. No one, of course, knows when the drought will end. Only that until it does, life in and around Delano feels harder, further beyond their control than they’d like, and that things they hold dear – here in this rich valley – are suddenly in play.
MATT HUFF: It’s getting harder and harder to be a rancher. We need the rain, everyone does.
RANDY WELDON: If we don’t get rain this year we’re in for some really bad times.
MARY ANDREAS: I guess we’re still here because this is our life and we’re here because we want to keep farming as long as we possibly can.
The post ‘We need the rain’: Jobs, land languish as California drought endures appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Heavy rain, snow and wind has been pummeling California over the past week in one of the strongest storms to hit the West Coast in years.
While the downpour may seem like a relief to some Californians who’ve been ordered to cut back on their water use by 20 percent, the precipitation isn’t enough to chip away at the state’s persistent drought, which is now entering its fourth straight year.
Water levels in the state’s more than 700 reservoirs, which store water for domestic, agricultural and hydroelectric purposes, are drastically lower today than in previous years — as the state has been pulling out more water from these reservoirs than has been replenished by rain and snow.
The Folsom Lake Reservoir about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento has become a symbol of the state’s drought.
This photo of the lake was taken in April of 2011.
This is Folsom Lake in January.
The changes at Lake Oroville in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada also show the severity of the ongoing drought. This photo was taken in July 2011.
This is the lake two years later.
The Central Valley, which produces nearly a quarter of the country’s food, is a particularly parched area of California that relies heavily on water.
Last month, the statewide temperature was more than four degrees above average in what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered as the state’s ninth warmest November since 1895. And the heat has only amplified the effects of the drought, which has turned the once verdant Central Valley (above) into a dry and barren land.
The lack of rain has also had an effect on the state’s economy.
Many farmers have let fields go fallow or stopped growing crops because there’s not enough water to keep them alive. This past year, nearly half a million acres of farmland were taken out of production, according to a University of California-Davis report.
And fewer crops means less picking for field workers. More than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs have now vanished.
Overall, the drought has cost the state of California $2.2 billion in losses, with no signs of letting up for good.
Watch NewsHour Weekend’s full report on the historic drought in California:
The post See how a historic drought has changed California’s landscape appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
NICOLE HOCKLEY: It started like any other normal day. Got the kids ready for school. Got Dylan to take his vitamins which he fought me on every morning. And and we went up the driveway to the bus. And that was last time I saw him alive.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Nicole Hockley’s six year-old son, Dylan, whose bright blue eyes and laugh filled a room, whose favorite foods were Hershey’s chocolate bars, red delicious apples, and garlic bread was one of 20 children and 6 adults who died in a hail of gun fire at Sandy Hook elementary school two years-ago today.
Dylan who was autistic, was found in the arms of his school aid, Anne Marie Murphy, who died trying to shield him.
NICOLE HOCKLEY: And in some respects, that makes so much sense, cause she wouldn’t have left him. So– so they died together.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: There’s a lot Nicole doesn’t remember from that horrible day. But she clearly recalls the man who gave her the news no parent wants to hear, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy. Malloy spoke in a back room of the firehouse where parents had gathered.
GOV. DAN MALOY: I did say to the parents that they were– if they had not been united with their family already, then they were not going to be united with their family.
NICOLE HOCKLEY: And the room just erupted. And I’ll be honest, at that moment in time I hated him because that was who had told me.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: But since that day the two have become allies in the fight for new gun restrictions and regulations that would keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. As the communications director for Sandy Hook Promise, an organization founded in the aftermath of the tragedy, Hockley advocated in Washington, D.C. for new legislation.
NICOLE HOCKLEY: I’m one of those people that I have to do something to stop it. Partly in honor of Dylan and to give him a legacy that he’ll never have. And partly just because I can’t let it be a senseless tragedy because it was a preventable tragedy.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: While federal legislation stalled in partisan gridlock, in April of 2013 Gov. Malloy signed into Connecticut law some of the most restrictive gun policies in the country. And while gun violence experts say it’s far too early to tell how effective the new law is, Governor Malloy points to the fact that there were 32% fewer murders in 2013 than 2011.
GOV. DAN MALLOY: We’ve seen a dramatic drop in murders in our state. We’ve denied people the ability to purchase weapons because they fell into a category such as a felony conviction or mental treatment.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: The new Connecticut law strengthened gun laws that were already on the books, making background checks universal for all gun and ammunition purchases and limiting the ability of the mentally ill to purchase guns. The new legislation outlawed more than 100 additional assault weapons, including the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that Adam Lanza used to kill so many at Sandy Hook. Large capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds were banned as well.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: This is a weapon that’s been banned in your state. It’s been determined to be an assault weapon. And obviously it was used in Sandy Hook. So we know that it killed quite a few people.
DOM BASILE: It didn’t kill 20 school children in Sandy Hook. Adam Lanza killed 20 school children in Sandy Hook.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: 53 year-old Dom Basile, an employee for the US Postal Service and a firearms instructor is a gun collector and owns many weapons that are now outlawed in the state. Basile legally purchased these guns before the ban went into effect, so is allowed to keep them.
DOM BASILE: Punishing me, and those like me, solely because we lawfully and responsibly possess the same type of property that he– that a criminal had, makes about as much logical sense as punishing you for owning the same type of car that a drunk driver had.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Basile is so frustrated about the new state law that he plans to move to Maine, where he owns property and plans to build his own gun range. An Basile is not alone. A statewide poll taken last May found that 38 percent of voters do not support the stricter gun regulations while 56 percent were in favor.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Banning semi-automatic weapons, assault weapons the size of the magazine would help to diminish mass shootings?
DR. DANIEL WEBSTER: It would certainly help to diminish the number of individuals shot in those shootings, yes.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Dr. Daniel Webster is the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, a group dedicated to reducing gun-related injuries and deaths. Webster says that the most important aspect of Connecticut’s new gun law, when it comes to mass shootings, is magazine capacity. Adam Lanza used a magazine with a capacity of 30 bullets.
DR. DANIEL WEBSTER: If you look at data from other mass shooting scenarios, there is a direct correlation between the ammunition capacity, how much ammunition an assailant has, and how many people get shot.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: State Representative Rob Sampson, a republican, has been one of the governor’s most vocal opponents in the state house on this issue. He was named a defender of freedom by the National Rifle Association and believes that magazine capacity had nothing to do with how many children were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Arming yourself with a 30-bullet magazine would make it a lot easier to mow people down then a 10 bullet magazine.
REP. ROB SAMPSON: Well–
JOHN CARLOS FREY: It just, it just seems logical to me.
REP. ROB SAMPSON: Unfortunately, it’s not. You can change a magazine in literally one second.
If I was to shoot you and say, “I’m about to shoot you, and I have to change magazines first, boom, I’m done,” you’d never get to me in time. You wouldn’t even try. I do not believe it is enough time to rush an attacker, and certainly not in the case when you’re talking about second graders.
NICOLE HOCKLEY: Dylan was shot five times. So if we had a 10 magazine, 10 bullet limit, you know, instead of a 30, for all I know Dylan could be alive today. It’s just, it’s absurd for him to say that it wouldn’t have made a difference. Of course it would have made a difference.
And there have been far too many other shootings where a jam or a reload has given an opportunity for someone to intervene.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: In Dylan’s class five children were killed and 11 escaped. While the events of the day may never be fully clear some say that the children fled when Lanza’s gun either jammed or had to be reloaded.
We do know, however, that Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter who badly injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others near Tucson, AZ was subdued while he was reloading his gun.
State Rep. Sampson, however, is not persuaded by this argument and points out that a study on the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 found that the ban did not lower the number of gun deaths in the US. Dr. Daniel Webster AGREES that the ban did little to stem broader gun violence… but says that the study did not focus on mass shootings.
DR. DANIEL WEBSTER: It’s worth noting that when the ban expired in 2004, that following that, we– experienced a great increase in mass shootings and in particular the number of individuals who are shot in such shootings.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: In September the FBI released a study that supports Webster’s analysis. The FBI found that “active shooter incidents”, defined as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined area, have gone up in the last seven years. From 2000 to 2007 there were an average of 6.4 incidents annually. From 2007 to 2013 that average jumped to 16.4 incidents a year.
Guns right’s advocates are not the only critics of the new Connecticut law. Dr. Sigurd Ackerman is the director of Silver Hill Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Connecticut. He’s concerned about a requirement in the law that says most patients who admit themselves for psychiatric treatment must be reported to the state.
If I come in because I’m bulimic or because I may be severely depressed from a breakup, I will have my gun rights taken away?
DR. SIGURD ACKERMAN: That’s correct.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Do you find that to be prudent?
DR. SIGURD ACKERMAN: Well, I find that to be potentially harmful. It will have the effect of discouraging many people from seeking treatment because they’ll be reported.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Dr. Ackerman says that the law was passed in a hurry and he believes that the law focuses on too broad a group, when it should be focused on those who actually pose a threat… like those with a history of violent behavior.
DR. SIGURD ACKERMAN: What I’m saying is that the people who are voluntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility are not those people. So they’ve got the wrong group.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: The law’s not going to catch possible mass murderers?
DR. SIG ACKERMAN: That’s correct.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Dr. Ackerman points out that Adam Lanza was not seeking treatment for mental illness, as a recently released report about Lanza’s life revealed, so he would not have ended up in a state database of those banned from owning a gun. But Governor Malloy says that the legislation has already worked.
GOV. DAN MALLOY: We actually were able to stop someone from buying a gun who advocated or said that they wanted to use that to shoot up another school.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: It’s the case of an 18-year-old woman with mental health issues who admitted herself to a group home for treatment. She attempted to purchase a gun but the governor’s office told NewsHour that she was prevented from doing so because her name was in the state database.
Upon investigation police found a manifesto about her plans to shoot students at two high schools.
Nicole Hockley, mother of Dylan, believes the steps Connecticut took have made her state safer but she continues to advocate for other states and the federal government to follow suit. It’s too easy, she says to simply drive across state lines and buy a gun in state with less strict gun regulations.
NICOLE HOCKLEY: It hurts me in my heart every day when there’s another mass shooting, seeing scenes of helicopter footage of children running from schools, it’s just– it’s becoming far to familiar a sight. This isn’t that isn’t the country that we’re meant to be. We’re better than this.
The post Two years after Sandy Hook, how have gun laws changed? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Since grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to indict white police officers in the deaths of two black men, protesters nationwide have demanded a reckoning and an acknowledgment that “black lives matter.”
Yet so far, there are few signs such a conversation will come in a place where it might most make a difference – the next campaign for president.
Most of the current White House prospects have avoided speaking in depth or detail about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
From those who have, it only has been only brief, measured responses about a criminal justice system that many African-Americans view as stacked against them.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a former U.S. attorney, has just said he would not second guess a grand jury.
GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who recently visited Ferguson, Missouri, and has begun to court black voters, blamed Garner’s death on the politicians behind New York’s high cigarette taxes.
The presumed leading Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said the families and communities deserved a “full and fair accounting.”
“We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance,” Clinton said. “And I personally hope that these tragedies give us the opportunity to come together as a nation to find our balance again.”
Clinton and her potential challengers have not set forth a course to do that. They have given no indication they might join in protests that have reached into popular culture, with NBA and NFL players participating.
“Both parties are reluctant to bring up race in an explicit way unless they’re forced to,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a University of California political science professor and editor of the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics.
Jesse Jackson did make civil rights a central theme of his bids for the Democratic nomination in the 1980s. Fellow Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama gave major speeches on race during their campaigns.
But not since John F. Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon Johnson, has a party nominee cited civil rights as a reason why voters should elect him.
That’s largely because today’s political leaders see more risk than reward in tackling race, Ramakrishnan said. It is easier to accept a system in which Democrats expect to win vast majority of the African-American vote and Republicans do little to engage black voters for fear the GOP will alienate other parts of the party’s base, he said.
Democratic presidential candidates have won no less than 70 percent of the black vote since Kennedy in 1960. Obama, the first black president, won 95 percent and 93 percent of the black vote in 2008 and 2012 respectively, according to exit polls.
The African-American vote isn’t “in play the same way other swing electorates might be in play,” Ramakrishnan said.
The political rewards are elusive, but the risks are real. The few conservatives who have weighed in on the issue in some depth and done so in a way that sided with police have drawn scathing criticism from black leaders.
New York Republican Rep. Peter King, who has been teasing a 2016 presidential run, focused on Garner’s obesity as a contributing factor to his death, which happened after Garner was placed in a chokehold by a police officer.
Another potential Republican contender in 2016, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, charged that Obama was wrong to meet with “thugs” and “mob members” involved in the protests in Ferguson.
“I think that those type of statements are despicable,” said the Urban League’s president, Marc Morial. “It demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to humanity.”
Morial and other African-American leaders said they also overwrite the positive signs that black voters see from Republicans such as Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry has criticized mandatory minimum prison sentences and encouraged alternatives to incarceration for drug offenders, which are among the criminal justice reforms supported by black leaders.
“Right now, Republicans seem genuinely conflicted,” said Benjamin Jealous, the former head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “You’ll see somebody do something hopeful, and then you see them revert.”
Which isn’t to say Democrats are doing much better, they argue.
Jealous points to Clinton and her record on sentencing reform, which he characterized as weak. “That’s the opportunity ultimately for somebody like Rand Paul,” Jealous said.
While the protests create a sense that a window has opened for, as Clinton put it, the “nation to come together,” the differences in public opinion don’t suggest an easy way forward.
Polls show little agreement among Americans about whether the grand juries made the right decision in the Brown and Garner cases, how much race was a factor and the degree to which relations between police and people of color can improve.
Without a clear road map, said Carol Swain, a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, it’s unlikely any presidential candidate will choose to engage the nation in such a conversation as the 2016 election season begins.
“Both political parties should have an interest in this,” Swain said. “But for decades, no one has known what to say or do.”
The post 2016 contenders quiet on police shootings protests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — When CIA interrogators were torturing accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at a secret prison in Poland in March 2003, a top CIA analyst asked them to show him a photograph of an alleged terrorist named Majid Khan.
The interrogators slapped Mohammed, denied him sleep, rehydrated him through his rectum, threatened to kill his children and waterboarded him 183 times. And he offered up details on Khan.
The analyst later told the CIA’s inspector general that Mohammed’s information helped lead to Khan’s arrest, CIA records show. The watchdog included that as a success story in a 2004 report that became public and for many years stood as the most detailed accounting of the program.
But the analyst, then deputy chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, knew Khan already had been captured in Pakistan at the time Mohammed was asked about him, according to the 520-page Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogations that was released this past week.
In other words, what she told the inspector general wasn’t true.
The Senate report has exposed years of such CIA misrepresentations that seem designed to boost the case for the effectiveness of brutal interrogations. The CIA acknowledges the misrepresentation about Khan’s arrest, while disputing most and playing down others.
But the Senate investigation relied on the CIA’s own records to document a pattern of an agency consistently understating the brutality of the techniques used on detainees and overstating the value of the information they produced.
“You’ve decided to do something and now you’ve got to justify it, and you may even believe your justifications,” said Cynthia Storer, a former CIA analyst whose work has been credited with helping locate bin Laden, and who opposed the torture.
“The CIA lied,” Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, one of the agency’s toughest critics, said in the Senate a few days ago.
In its written response to the report, the CIA said it was “dismayed” that it had “failed to meet its own standards for precision of language, and we acknowledge that this was unacceptable.” But, the agency said, “Even in those cases, we found that the actual impact of the information acquired from interrogations was significant and still supported.”
CIA officials insist that the treatment of Mohammed and other detainees yielded valuable intelligence, something the Senate report disputes. The CIA stands by 18 of the 20 cases in which the Senate says the agency failed to obtain uniquely valuable intelligence from detainees through harsh interrogation.
The Senate report has exposed lies well beyond its pages.
Former top CIA manager Jose Rodriguez wrote in his 2011 memoir, “Hard Measures,” that during waterboarding, “our officers used far less water for far shorter periods of time than they were allowed.”
He suggested that the public’s view had been swayed by “a cartoon version” in which detainees are “practically being doused by a fire hose.”
CIA records cited in the report show that Rodriguez, who destroyed videotapes of some of the sessions, was not telling the truth.
The waterboarding was far more intense and gruesome than the Justice Department had authorized, according to the records, which the CIA has not disputed.
Waterboarding caused al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah to become “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth,” while the procedure used on Mohammad evolved into a “series of near drownings,” with interrogators cupping a pool of water over his nose and mouth. The first waterboarding session of Mohamed lasted 10 minutes longer than the Justice Department allowed, the Senate report says.
Rodriguez, who ran the CIA interrogation program, did not respond to requests for comment.
CIA officials said they could not speak for Rodriguez, but they say the analyst’s assertion about Khan’s arrest was a one-time mistake.
Senate investigators say the error was repeated many times to the inspector general and was used to bolster the case for Justice Department approval of brutal techniques. The misinformation was also sent to a CIA panel reviewing the interrogation program.
The same analyst, who now holds a senior job in the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, exaggerated other aspects of intelligence gained under torture to the inspector general, the report says. She played a pivotal role in the wrongful CIA kidnapping of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who says he was tortured at the CIA’s Salt Pit in Afghanistan.
Another CIA misrepresentation, the Senate report says, was the assertion to the White House, the Justice Department, Congress, and later the public that Zubaydah, the first detainee to be waterboarded, told the CIA he believed the U.S. was weak and lacked resilience, and that he stopped cooperating under traditional interrogation techniques.
In August 2006, a CIA al-Qaida expert wrote: “We have no records that `he declared that America was weak, and lacking in resilience’ …” Another al-Qaida expert wrote, “I can find no reference to AZ being deifant (sic) and declaring America weak… in fact everything I have read indicated he used a non deifiant (sic) resistance strategy.”
Two others speculated how the exaggeration took hold. They refer to the senior analyst who gave the misinformation to the inspector general.
“Yes, believe so,” an officer wrote. “And agree, we shall pass over in silence.”
Years of such misinformation bubbled to the surface during the first briefing about interrogations to the full Senate Intelligence Committee, in 2007, by then-CIA Director Michael Hayden. He made so many factual misstatements about the program, the techniques, the number of detainees and the intelligence, that the Senate study devotes a 37-page appendix to fact-checking his testimony.
“I was describing the mature program that I was suggesting should go forward,” Hayden said in an email this past week. “I think a lot of the incidents they pointed out came from really early in the interrogation process.”
WASHINGTON — Congress has sent President Barack Obama a short-term spending bill that will keep the federal government operating through Wednesday and avert a government shutdown.
Senate passage came Saturday with only hours to spare before an earlier stopgap measure was set to expire.
By a voice vote, senators approved the latest short-term funding bill as lawmakers continue to wrangle over a $1.1 trillion spending package and Obama’s nominations.
That package would cover much of the government through most of 2015.
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Looking for a gift that is both personal and economical? Look no further. Use this stencil of the PBS NewsHour logo to create custom t-shirts, tote bags and more for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Stick with the usual black and red motif, or mix it up with the color palette of your choosing. Share pictures of your creations on social media using #12DaysofNewsHour.
This stencil marks Day 6 in our 12 Days of NewsHour. Gift No. 1 was a crackling 4k fireplace video. On Day 2 we shared another NewsHour-themed craft. Judy shared her favorite recipe on Day 3, and on Day 4 she and Gwen recorded a special voicemail message that you can download here. These scrumptious cookie recipes were gift No. 5. Check back tomorrow–we will be unveiling a new gift everyday through Dec. 19.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to Viewers Like You. We begin with your comments on the conversation we had about student loans and the new options that allow borrowers to modify the terms of their loans.
“When the government gives billions to the banksters at 0% interest and then charges struggling students 4%+ that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Welcome to indentured servitude :(.”
Christopher Gerstle commented:
“If colleges and universities have to educate more than twice the number of students they once did but have less money to do it, what do you think is going to happen? Schools either have to raise more capital from private sources, or raise tuition.”
Scott Tucker took a broader view:
“The American college degree has been diminished by lower standards for achievement and the false narrative that no one can make it without one. European countries, like Germany for example, provide free college education to anyone who proves they’re genuinely interested and their intent is worthy of the degree. We are being outpaced by such nations, as they seem to value quality over quantity.”
And John Frazier had the end in sight:
“In two months making the last payment after my son graduated 12 years ago.”
Comments about our segment on a lawsuit in California that challenged current teacher tenure regulations in that state were mostly divided into two camps.
Purp Chiten wrote:
“Nobody is going away to want to go into the field and undergo the “torture” and “slave labor” of being a teacher if there is no protection for them such as tenure.”
And there was this from BlakeNaustin: “Seniority and quality have very little in common. Seniority should not lead to tenure. Seniority should not be the dominant factor in setting salaries.”
As always, you can leave your comments online at newshour.pbs.org, or tweet us back @newshour or leave it for us on our Facebook page.
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Thousands marched in New York City and Washington, D.C. on Saturday in two of the largest protests this year against fatal shootings by police.
Protesters in Washington, D.C., joined Rev. Al Sharpton, the National Action Network and the families of victims including Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Amadou Diallo. The families led the march, which started at noon and went down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.
The Millions March in New York City brought protesters together with activist groups that included Ferguson Action and Black Lives Matter. The march began at Washington Square Park at 2 p.m. and was slated to end at the New York Police Department headquarters in lower Manhattan.
Observers estimated the number of protesters marching in New York at more than 10,000, according to Reuters.
— thomas macmillan (@TRMacM) December 13, 2014
In Washington, Sharpton spoke to a crowd of thousands about the importance of unifying for the same purpose.
“We have the same goal, and that is equal protection under the law,” Sharpton said. “And that’s not black against white, it’s right against wrong. This is not a black march or a white march. This is an American march for the rights of American people.”
Speakers at the rally called for body cameras on police officers and appealed to the Justice Department to bring charges against police officers involved in these killings.
“We will get justice for our children,” said Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice. Tamir’s death was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner on Friday.
Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, said the recent wave of high-profile police killings have brought needed attention to an issue that with a storied history in this country.
“This is not something new that just started…it’s just that some folks just woke up,” she said.
Noel Gordon, Foundation Project Manager at the Human Rights Campaign, encouraged the crowd to continue working toward change.
“We are powerful beyond measure,” he said. “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
View more photos from Saturday’s protest in Washington D.C. on PBS NewsHour’s Facebook page.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: This week, the Associated Press revealed that the United States government attempted and failed to co-opt the hip-hop scene in Cuba to, quote, “spark a youth movement against the government.”
This failure comes on the heels of two others also reported by the A.P. — one to create a fake “Cuban Twitter”, and the other to send young people into Cuba to recruit activists.
Here to help us make sense of this story is Trish Wilson of the Associated Press, who joins me now from Washington, D.C.
So, Trish, what was this program? How did it work?
TRISH WILSON: Well, the intent was to radicalize the Cuban people to challenge their own government.
And the way it worked was the USAID contractors infiltrated the hip-hop scene and were trying to generate a fan base that would speak out against the government and challenge it and ultimately lead them to democratic reforms.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how did they — how did they sort of try to foment more dissent?
I mean, who did they have on the ground?
TRISH WILSON: Well, USAID activities in Cuban are illegal there, so — and people who operate or participate in those programs can go to jail.
So, what the USAID contractors did is they went to Serbia, where they recruited two Serbian music promoters to help them in Cuba.
The reason why they thought this would work was because in 2000, it was a youth movement and student protest concerts in Serbia that helped bring down the presidency of Slobodan Milosevic.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, there was already a community there, there was already citizen speech against the government that was happening?
TRISH WILSON: Oh, yes. The hip-hop scene was pretty much at its peak at that time.
The artists were speaking out against the government. It was — it took a lot of people, I think, by surprise to realize how much dissent was allowed in Cuba at the time.
But the artists that USAID was focusing on were called Los Aldeanos — and they had a song called “Rap is War.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: And so, where did this go wrong?
How did the Cuban government find out? Or what were the repercussions of this program?
TRISH WILSON: Well, the people that were part of the program kept getting detained by the Cuban officials who would go through their computers and their thumb drives and which constantly trying to figure out what was going on.
The USAID contractors continued to go through customs with their computers and they were detained so many times, that the Cubans ultimately figured it out.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And so, what happened as a result, say, to the band members?
TRISH WILSON: Well, one of the key things that happened is that there was an independent music concert festival in Cuba at the time called La Rotilla.
And at the concert in 2010, the Los Aldeanos performed before a big crowd of 15,000, the biggest crowd ever.
But afterwards, the Cubans figured out that the concert was actually funded by USAID.
So, they took it over, and that ended the big independent music festival that existed on the island at the time.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Most people in the audience are also going to wonder, what does USAID have to do with any of this?
I mean, when we think of USAID, usually, we are thinking of bags of foods in countries that are desperate for food.
How did this line up with the mission?
TRISH WILSON: Well, beyond its humanitarian mission, part of USAID’s mission is to promote democracy efforts around the world.
So, this is one of those pro-democracy efforts.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Trish Wilson joining us from Washington, D.C., from the Associates Press, thanks so much.
TRISH WILSON: Thank you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: We’ve been following the dramatic drop in oil prices over the last few weeks, but those prices are just a snapshot of a much more dramatic downward trend.
Over the last year, a barrel of oil went from $96.47 to $67.18. That’s a 30 percent plunge. Since Monday, the price per barrel of domestic sweet crude dropped from $63.13 to $54.25, a 14 percent slide.
For consumers, this might seem like welcome news, but, for Wall Street, the numbers tell a different story.
Here to help us make sense of the downward trend is Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal, who’s joining us from Washington, D.C.
So, this is a good thing for consumers. The price of gas is dropping at the pump. They feel like they have more money in their pockets, right?
NICK TIMIRAOS: Yes, that’s absolutely right. I mean, in June, U.S. consumers were paying on average $3.68 a gallon for gas. Now, we’re down below $2.60.
So, this is a surprise windfall and it really benefits the middle class because the middle class and lower income households spend a higher share of their income and gas accounts for a higher share of their spending than it does for the average.
So, it really is a middle class tax cut on the order of $125 billion a year if prices are sustained at these levels.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So, if people have more money in their pockets and they go out and perhaps they do a little bit more holiday shopping or they juice the economy up a little bit more, what’s happening to Wall Street?
Why does Wall Street start to tumble even though people have more money in their pockets?
NICK TIMIRAOS: Well, because, this has been a big surprise.
A 45 percent drop in the price of crude oil since June — that’s going to create a lot of volatility, and Wall Street doesn’t necessarily like that.
The reason — one of the big reasons oil has fallen is because of a slow-down in demand in Europe, Japan where there are worries about deflation.
And then, of course, in China, which has been a huge economic growth story for the past 15 years.
So, these concerns that the rest of the world might be slowing down, that’s what’s really cause something concern on Wall Street.
And then you also had some tremendous energy investment in the United States because a lot of the surge in the supply of oil has been brought about from fracking in North Dakota and Texas.
And so, you’ve had a lot of small companies raise a lot of debt from the new fracking boom.
And with oil prices falling, it calls into question the business prospects for some of those companies.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there kind of a tipping point or a basement that’s necessary for the price to be at, for an oil company to say, you know what, it makes sense for to me to dig a hole in the ground and invest $1 million to find another well or to extract oil from another well?
NICK TIMIRAOS: Yes. No, we are testing those prices right now.
I mean, a few months ago when oil was at $80, people said, well, maybe $70 would be the break-even, maybe $60 a barrel would be the break-even.
Now, we’re down below $60 a barrel.
So, we’re going to find out over the next few months, already you’re seeing drill well counts, the number of drills in the ground in the U.S. going down.
So, it is going to be a test here to see at what price will investment slow and will production slow for these new frackers along the middle continent of the United States.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And as a ripple effect, we’re also seeing the Russian economy or the Iranians, other oil producers are up in arms about this, right?
NICK TIMIRAOS: Yes, I mean, this is not good news at all for Venezuela.
Not good news for Vladimir Putin and Russia. But it’s great news for the U.S.
I mean, even though the U.S. has had an energy boom and so there are more risks now to a drop in oil prices than in the past for the United States, the rewards still outweigh those risks.
This is still net positive for the United States economy because we still are on net an importer of oil.
And so, when oil prices go down, that’s going to be great for consumers.
And consumers really — you know, they have been hanging in there during this so-called economic recovery, but they haven’t been feeling great.
And now, we’re beginning to see better consumer confidence numbers. Retail sales figures this week reported for the month of November were great.
And so, there’s a lot of optimism now and there are a lot of U.S. benefit — U.S. businesses that benefit, frankly from this — airlines, trucking companies.
And so, we should begin to see better prospects for U.S. growth here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal joining us from Washington, D.C., thanks so much.
NICK TIMIRAOS: Thanks, Hari.
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It was a house call no physician would relish. On Dec. 14, 1799, three doctors were summoned to Mount Vernon in Fairfax County, Virginia to attend to a critically ill, 67-year-old man who happened to be known as “the father of our country.”
On the afternoon of Dec. 13, a little more than 30 months into his retirement, George Washington complained about a cough, a runny nose and a distinct hoarseness of voice. He had spent most of the day on horseback in the frigid rain, snow and hail, supervising activities on his estate. Late for dinner and proud of his punctuality, Washington remained in his damp clothes throughout the meal.
By 2 a.m. the following morning, Washington awoke clutching his chest with a profound shortness of breath. His wife Martha wanted to seek help but Washington was more concerned about her health as she had only recently recovered from a cold herself. Washington simply did not want her leaving the fire-warmed bedroom for the damp, cold outside. Nevertheless, Martha asked her husband’s chief aide, Col. Tobias Lear, to come into the room. Seeing how ill the general was, Col. Tobias immediately sent for Dr. James Craik, who had been Washington’s physician for more than 40 years, and the estate’s overseer, George Rawlins, who was well practiced in the art of bloodletting.
Only a few hours later, 6 a.m., Washington developed a pronounced fever. His throat was raw with pain and his breathing became even more labored.At 7:30 a.m., Rawlins removed 12 to 14 ounces of blood, after which Washington requested that he remove still more. Following the procedure, Col. Lear gave the patient a tonic of molasses, butter and vinegar, which nearly choked Washington to death, so inflamed were the beefy-red tissues of his infected throat.
American history buffs know so much about George Washington’s final illness because of a wealth of primary source documents as well as the herculean efforts of Dr. David Morens, an epidemiologist and the Senior Advisor to the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Morens wrote about these harrowing last hours for the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999. (1999; 341: 1845-1849). Another fascinating account of Washington’s medical history can be found in a 1933 issue of the Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine written by Dr. J.H. Mason Knox, Jr. (1933; 1: 174-191). And even more intriguing is a long letter about Washington’s last illness, written by Col. Tobias as the events unfolded.
Dr. Craik entered Washington’s bedchamber at 9 a.m. After taking the medical history, he applied a painful “blister of cantharides,” better known as “Spanish fly,” to Washington’s throat. The idea behind this tortuous treatment was based on a humoral notion of medicine dating back to antiquity called “counter-irritation.” The blisters raised by this toxic stuff would supposedly draw out the deadly humors causing the General’s throat inflammation.
At 9:30 a.m., another bloodletting of 18 ounces was performed followed by a similar withdrawal at 11 a.m. At noon, an enema was administered. Attempts at gargling with a sage tea, laced with vinegar were unsuccessful but Washington was still strong enough to walk about his bedroom for a bit and to sit upright in an easy chair for a few hours. His real challenge was breathing once he returned to lying flat on his back in bed.
Dr. Craik ordered another bleeding. This time, 32 ounces were removed even though Elisha Cullen Dick, the second physician to arrive at Mount Vernon, objected to such a heroic measure. A third doctor, Gustavus Richard Brown, made it to the mansion at 4 p.m. He suggested a dose of calomel (mercurous chloride) and a tartar emetic (antimony potassium tartrate), guaranteed to make the former president vomit with a vengeance.
After the fourth bloodletting, Washington appeared to rally somewhat. At 5 p.m., he was having an easier time swallowing and even had the energy to examine his last will and testament with Martha. Soon enough, he was again struggling for air. He told Dr. Craik: “Doctor, I die hard; but I am not afraid to go; I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it; my breath can not last long.” Ever the gentleman, even in extremis, the General made a point of thanking all three doctors for their help.
By 8 p.m., blisters of cantharides were applied to his feet, arms and legs while wheat poultices were placed upon his throat with little improvement. At 10 p.m., Washington murmured some last words about burial instructions to Col. Lear. Twenty minutes later, Col. Lears’ notes record, the former president settled back in his bed and calmly took his pulse. At the very end, Washington’s fingers dropped off his wrist and the first president of our great Republic took his final breath. At the bedside were Martha Washington, his doctor, James Craik, Tobias Lear, his valet, Christopher Sheels, and three slave housemaids named Caroline, Molly and Charlotte.
Washington’s physicians, as doctors are wont to do, argued heatedly over the precise cause of death. Dr. Craik insisted that it was “inflammatory quinsy,” or peritonsillar abscess. Dr. Dick rejected such a possibility and offered three alternative diagnoses: stridular suffocatis (a blockage of the throat or larynx), laryngea (inflammation and suppuration of the larynx), or cynanche trachealis. The last arcane medical diagnosis (from the Latin, for “dog strangulation”), which prevailed as the accepted cause of Washington’s death for some time, referred to an inflammation and swelling of the glottis, larynx and upper trachea severe enough to obstruct the airway.
Back in 1799, Washington’s physicians justified the removal of more than 80 ounces of his blood (2.365 liters or 40 percent of his total blood volume) over a 12-hour period in order to reduce the massive inflammation of his windpipe and constrict the blood vessels in the region. Theories of humoralism and inflammation aside, this massive blood loss — along with the accompanying dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and viscous blood flow — could not have helped the president’s dire condition.
A fourth physician, William Thornton (who also designed the U.S. Capitol building), arrived after Washington succumbed. Thornton had expertise in the tracheotomy procedure, an extremely rare operation at the time that was performed only in emergencies and with occasional success. Dr. Dick, too, advocated this procedure — rather than the massive bloodletting — but given the primitive nature of surgical science in 1799, it is doubtful it would have helped much.
In the 215 years since Washington died, several retrospective diagnoses have been offered ranging from croup, quinsy, Ludwig’s angina, Vincent’s angina, diphtheria, and streptococcal throat infection to acute pneumonia. But Dr. Morens’s suggestion of acute bacterial epiglottitis seems most likely. In the end, we will never really know, which constitutes half of the fun enjoyed by doctors who argue over the final illnesses of historical figures.
At this late date, it is all too easy to criticize Washington’s doctors. Indeed, even in real time and for decades thereafter, critics complained that the physicians bled Washington to death. But the truth of the matter is that they did the best they could, against a pathologically implacable foe, using now antiquated and discredited theories of medical practice.
The president’s last hours must have been agonizing to watch and, of course, to experience. Like any human being, General Washington hoped his physicians would help him to an easy death. Between the massive bloodletting, the painful blistering treatments, and the awful sensation of suffocation, this was not at all possible.
Excruciating though his death was, George Washington’s life continues to teach us valuable lessons of citizenship, leadership and devotion to duty. In an era when there are so few heroes in public life, it remains inspiring to recall the Henry (“Light-horse Harry”) Lee, Jr.’s famous phrase from the eulogy of Washington he delivered to the U.S. Congress on Dec. 26, 1799: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
Editor’s note: this post has been updated to reference the correct number of months after the president had left office till the time he became ill.
Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues to shape modern medicine. He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicine and the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.
He is the author or editor of 10 books, including “Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892,” “When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed” and “An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine.”
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WASHINGTON — Congress cleared a $1.1 trillion spending bill for President Barack Obama’s signature after a day of Senate intrigue capped by a failed, largely symbolic Republican challenge to the administration’s new immigration policy.
The vote late Saturday night was 56-40 in favor of the measure, which funds nearly the entire government through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. It also charts a new course for selected shaky pension plans covering more than 1 million retirees, including the possibility of benefit cuts.
The Senate passed the bill on a day Democrats launched a drive to confirm two dozen of Obama’s stalled nominees to the federal bench and administration posts, before their majority expires at year’s end.
Several Republicans blamed tea party-backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for giving the outgoing majority party an opportunity to seek approval for presidential appointees, including some that are long-stalled.
It was Cruz who pushed the Senate to cast its first vote on the administration’s policy of suspending the threat of deportation for an estimated four million immigrants living in the country illegally. He lost his attempt Saturday night, 74-22, although Republican leaders have vowed to bring the issue back after the party takes control of the Senate in January.
“If you believe President Obama’s amnesty is unconstitutional, vote yes. If you believe President Obama’s amnesty is consistent with the Constitution, vote no,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rebutted instantly, saying Cruz was “wrong, wrong, wrong on several counts,” and even Republicans who oppose Obama’s policy abandoned the Texan.
The spending bill, which cleared the House on Thursday, was the main item left on Congress’ year-end agenda, and exposed fissures within both political parties in both houses.
It faced opposition from Democratic liberals upset about the repeal of a banking regulation and Republican conservatives unhappy that it failed to challenge Obama’s immigration moves.
While the legislation assures funding for nearly the entire government until next fall, it made an exception of the Department of Homeland Security. Money for the agency will run out on Feb. 27, when Republicans intend to try and force the president to roll back an immigration policy that removes the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally.
The legislation locks in spending levels negotiated in recent years between Republicans and Democrats, and includes a number of provisions that reflect the priorities of one party or the other, from the environment to abortion to the legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia.
One, which drew vehement objections from the Democrats, would repeal a regulation imposed on banks in the wake of the near economic collapse of 2008. Critics called it a bailout for large financial institutions, but more than 70 House Democrats voted for it previously, and Obama made clear he didn’t view it as a deal-killer.
The pension provision was a bipartisan agreement that opens the door for the first time to benefit cuts for current retirees covered by multi-employer funds in shaky financial condition.
Supporters said it would protect retirement income to the maximum extent possible without also endangering the solvency of the government fund that guarantees multi-employer plans. Critics said it posed a threat to the pension recipients, and that it could also become a precedent for other pensioners.
Immigration was at the heart of the day’s events in the Senate.
Cruz seized on the issue late Friday night when he tried to challenge the bill. That led swiftly to the unraveling of an informal bipartisan agreement to give the Senate the weekend off, with a vote on final passage of the bill deferred until early this coming week.
That, in turn, led Reid, D-Nev., to call an all-day Senate session devoted almost exclusively to beginning time-consuming work on confirmation for 13 judicial appointees and 11 nominees to administration posts.
The list included Carolyn Colvin to head the Social Security Administration and Vivek Murthy as surgeon general.
As the day wore on, senators were forced to spend hour after hour on the Senate floor to cast their votes. One, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., sat at her desk quietly for awhile reading a book.
By evening, cocktail hour in the East, strains of Christmas carols could be heard from behind the closed doors of rooms that surround the chamber.
Republicans tried to slow the nomination proceedings, but several voiced unhappiness with Cruz, a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
“I’ve seen this movie before, and I wouldn’t pay money to see it again,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., recalling Cruz’ leading role a year ago in events precipitating a 16-day partial government shutdown that briefly sent GOP poll ratings plummeting.
Cruz, in turn, blamed Reid, saying his “last act as majority leader is to, once again, act as an enabler” for the president by blocking a vote on Obama’s policy that envisions work visas for an estimated 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
Reid blamed a “small group of Senate Republicans” for the turn of events.
Asked if Cruz had created an opening for the Democrats, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah said, “I wish you hadn’t pointed that out.”
Hatch added, “You should have an end goal in sight if you’re going to do these types of things and I don’t see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people.”
The GOP leader, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, made no public comment on the events, even though Cruz suggested Friday night McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, should not be entirely trusted to keep their pledge to challenge Obama’s immigration policy.
“We will learn soon enough if those statements are genuine and sincere,” Cruz said.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: For some more insight, we are joined from Washington, D.C., by Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call.
Thanks for joining us.
NIELS LESNIEWSKI: Thank you.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, last night, we were headed home thinking that this was going to drag out for another few days.
What happened? How did this get through?
NIELS LESNIEWSKI: Well, what we had in the Senate, on the floor of the Senate was what we might call Saturday night magic.
It’s the kind of thing that often takes place on Thursdays, but this time, it had to wait until Saturday, as lawmakers reached an agreement to move ahead all the way through to passing the just-over-trillion-dollar spending package.
And instead of having procedural votes that extended until 1:00 in the morning, and then coming back Monday at about 7:30 in the morning, they decided to get everything done.
And, as a result, they are done with that piece of the puzzle, and they come back on Monday, really on Monday afternoon, for a bunch of President Obama’s nominations.
But the government funding situation is resolved.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
As with all compromises, it usually leaves some people happy.
This time, it seems that there are more people from the left that are angry at President Obama or the Democratic senators.
NIELS LESNIEWSKI: Yes, the — the anger this time was somewhat palpable on the left, and even actually, too, there are some on the right who had similar views about the banking provisions that were included, seemingly in the last minute, in the compromise agreement.
It rolled back a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul related to the treatment of swaps transactions, and basically taking down a bit of a firewall that had been built in banking activities.
But the other thing too is, is that the folks who are on the more conservative end of the spectrum were not pleased over the fact that the bill didn’t do anything substantively to attack the President’s executive action on immigration.
So there was sort of — all comers had something not to like, which is probably why there were lots of votes against it on both ends of the spectrum.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
Now, immigration still will be debated, just at a later date.
There is kind of a cliff at the end of February, where the Department of Homeland Security needs more funding, right?
NIELS LESNIEWSKI: That’s right.
And that’s what the Republican leadership on both sides of the Capitol have been saying since the beginning, was, look, let’s punt this issue until the Republicans are in control of the Senate, when there might be some opportunity to actually make a substantive policy change.
You knew that with the Democrats in control of the Senate, you were going to have difficulty getting anything through at all in the meantime.
But at least come February, from their point of view, that will be a chance to at least force something maybe to President Obama’s desk.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call joining us from Washington, D.C., thanks so much.
NIELS LESNIEWSKI: Thank you.
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This report was co-written by Thomas Beaumont of the Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa — Jeb Bush’s big donors and allies are tantalized by his promise to decide “in short order” whether to run for president.
But supporters are struggling to understand what his actions mean and whether they can predict his political intentions.
Bush is scheduled to give the commencement address Monday at the University of South Carolina during his second visit in recent months to the state that’s set to host the South’s first presidential primary.
On the eve of the appearance, he said he plans to release an electronic book early next year along with roughly 250,000 thousands of emails from his time as governor.
Surely, that’s a sign the former Florida governor is in.
Bush also is expanding his private equity business, and advisers insist he’s not courting a political staff Iowa and New Hampshire, even as other would-be candidates assemble their 2016 campaign teams in the early voting states.
Surely, that’s a sign he’s out.
About all anyone can say for certain is that, as Bush himself has said, he’s still thinking about it.
“He’s begun the journey. How long it will take him, I don’t know,” said Al Cardenas, a longtime Bush friend and former chairman of the American Conservative Union. “People are interpreting activity to conclude that he’s closer to running. I’m not of that school.
“I hope he runs, but I believe the activity is based on getting serious.”
Bush has said he expects to make a decision by the end of the month.
As the son of one president and brother of another, he has the power to transform the 2016 contest like no other Republican. He can tap into his family’s vast political network, and his campaign would attract strong support from major donors and widespread media attention.
Bush spent much of the recent midterm campaign out of the public eye. But the address at South Carolina will be his fourth high-profile speech in recent weeks. That includes an appearance before corporate executives in Washington, where he called for his party to embrace an immigration overhaul and to focus on governing. He also said would make the call on running for president “not that far out in the future.”
In an interview with ABC’s Miami affiliate WPLG-TV, Bush said he was in the process of writing an e-book about his time as governor and that it would come out in the spring. At about the same time, he will make public about 250,000 emails from his time in office, in an effort to promote transparency and to “let people make up their mind.”
Bush said going through the material has reminded him that “if you run with big ideas and then you’re true to those ideas, and get a chance to serve and implement them and do it with passion and conviction, you can move the needle. … And that’s what we need right now in America,” he said in the interview set to air Sunday.
Slater Bayliss, a longtime Florida-based Bush aide who helps lead a political action committee founded by Bush’s sons, met with strategists in Iowa during a late November trip to his native state.
Former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Chuck Larson was among those who discussed with Bayliss the state’s political trends, policy issues and how the state might react to a Bush campaign.
“If Jeb Bush decides to run for president, I believe he will be incredibly well received by conservatives in Iowa,” Larson said.
Bush’s spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell, like other advisers, said the meetings were unauthorized and unrelated to his decision-making.
She said Bush “has not yet made a decision on whether he will pursue a run in 2016, and has certainly not dispatched anyone to meet with Iowa leaders,” Campbell said.
The same week Bayliss met with Iowa Republicans, Bush was named chairman and manager of a new private equity fund, BH Global Aviation. As first reported by Bloomberg, the offshore fund raised $61 million in September.
Bush’s team described the investment as an expansion of an existing, and previously reported, private business, which he would review should he run. Most recent presidential candidates, including private equity investor Mitt Romney, formally cut ties with their business interests years before running.
Bush “is very proud of his investment work to grow companies,” Campbell said, adding that there is no part of his business interests “that would hinder a run for president if that is the decision he makes.”
There is no shortage of pressure on Bush to get into the race, including from members of his family. His older brother, former President George W. Bush, has encouraged his brother to enter the 2016 contest.
“He knows I want him to run,” Bush told CNN recently. “If I need to reiterate it, I will: `Run, Jeb.’ I think he’d be a great president.”
Still, associates say that the family support and a growing public profile should not necessarily be taken as a sign of anything.
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We hope you’ll find some time this Sunday to kick back and solve this 15-clue puzzle, perhaps while tuning in to NewsHour Weekend. After filling in the puzzle, you can check your answers here. This puzzle is the seventh gift in our 12 Days of NewsHour. On Day 1 we unveiled the first ad-free, longplay 4K video of a crackling fireplace on Youtube. Gift No. 2 was a NewsHour logo cross-stitch pattern. Judy shared her Georgia Cheese Biscuit recipe on Day 3, and on Day 4 she and Gwen recorded a voicemail message that you can download to your phone. On Day 5, the NewsHour staff offered up some of their favorite holiday cookie recipes. The NewsHour logo stencil from Day 6 is the perfect tool for creating homemade holiday gifts.
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It has been two years since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the state of Connecticut now has some of the most restrictive gun policies in the country.
While federal legislation stalled in partisan gridlock, in April of 2013, Gov. Dan Malloy signed into Connecticut law a series of new restrictions on guns in the state. While gun violence experts say it’s too early to tell if the new law is effective, Malloy points to the fact that there were 32 percent fewer murders in 2013 than in 2011.
The new Connecticut law strengthened gun laws that were already on the books. The law:
What’s your take? Would you support similar policies in your state? Take our poll and sound off in the comments below.
And, watch the full report from NewsHour Weekend on the state of gun laws in Connecticut two years after the Sandy Hook shooting:
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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s push to cover America’s uninsured faces another big test Monday.
This time, it’s not only how the website functions, but how well the program itself works for millions who are starting to count on it.
Midnight Monday, Pacific time is the deadline for new customers to pick a health plan that will take effect Jan. 1, and for current enrollees to make changes that could reduce premium increases ahead of the new year.
HealthCare.gov and state insurance websites are preparing for heavy online traffic before the deadline, which gives consumers in the East three hours into Tuesday to enroll.
Wait times at the federal call center started creeping up around the middle of last week, mainly due to a surge of current customers with questions about their coverage for next year. Many will face higher premiums, although they could ease the hit by shopping online for a better deal. Counselors reported hold times of 20 minutes or longer for the telephone help line.
About 6.7 million people now have coverage through Obama’s signature law, which offers subsidized private insurance. The administration wants to increase that to 9.1 million in 2015. To do that, the program will have to keep most of its current enrollees while signing up more than 2 million new paying customers.
People no longer can be turned down because of health problems, but picking insurance still is daunting for many consumers. They also have to navigate the process of applying for or updating federal subsidies, which can be complex for certain people, including immigrants. Many returning customers are contending with premium increases generally in the mid-to-high single digits, but much more in some cases.
Consumers “understand it’s complicated but they appreciate the ability to get health insurance,” said Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit that is helping sign up low-income residents. “People who haven’t gone through the process don’t understand how complicated it is.”
Last year’s open enrollment season turned into a race to salvage the reputation of the White House by fixing numerous technical bugs that crippled HealthCare.gov from its first day. With the website now working fairly well, sign-up season this year is a test of whether the program itself is practical for the people it is intended to serve.
New wrinkles have kept popping up, even with seemingly simple features of the Affordable Care Act.
For example, most current customers who do nothing will be automatically renewed Jan. 1 in the plan they now are in. At this point, it looks like that is what a majority intends to do.
While that may sound straightforward, it’s not.
By staying in their current plans, people can get locked into a premium increase and miss out on lower-priced plans for 2015. Not only that, they also will keep their 2014 subsidies, which may be less than what they legally would be entitled to for next year.
Doing nothing appears to be a particularly bad idea for people who turned 21 this year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington group that advocates for low-income people.
Researchers at the center estimate that 21-year-olds will see a 58 percent increase in the sticker price for their premiums just because they’re a year older. An age-adjustment factor used to compute premiums jumps substantially when a person turns 21. A 20-year-old whose premium was $130 per month in 2014 will see the premium climb to $205 a month in 2015, solely because of that year’s difference.
Tax-credit subsidies can cancel out much or even all of the impact. But if consumers default to automatic renewal, their tax credits will not be updated and they will get the same subsidy as this year.
“Even in the best possible scenario of how many people we can expect to come in, we will still see a substantial number of people defaulting,” said Judy Solomon, a health care policy expert at the center. She worries that some young adults may get discouraged and drop out.
Reviews of HealthCare.gov and state health insurance exchanges are mixed.
An Associated Press-GfK poll this month found that 11 percent of Americans said they or someone else in their household tried to sign up since open enrollment began Nov. 15. Overall, 9 percent said the insurance markets are working extremely well or very well. Twenty-six percent said the exchanges are working somewhat well, and 39 percent said they were not working well. The remaining 24 percent said they didn’t know enough to rate performance.
So far it has been a frustrating experience for Marie Bagot, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She and her husband are in their 60s, but not yet old enough for Medicare. The husband, who works as a chef, will turn 65 around the middle of next year and qualify for Medicare. Bagot said they were happy with their insurance this year under Obama’s law.
“As you get older, you worry about your health,” she said. “I was very pleased with the price we got.”
But Bagot said she received a notice from her insurer that her current plan will not be available next year in her community. The closest alternative would involve a premium increase of more than $350 a month, even with their tax credit subsidy. After days of trying to find a comparable plan through the federal call center and after visiting a counselor, Bagot said she opted to keep their current coverage, while hoping costs go down after her husband joins Medicare.
“I cannot afford it, but I’m going to try to,” she said.
Monday is not the last chance for consumers like Bagot. Open enrollment doesn’t end until Feb. 15.
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Dozens of protesters who marched in major cities across the country were arrested Saturday, amid the mostly peaceful demonstrations opposing recent police killings of unarmed black men.
In Boston, state police arrested 23 protesters who tried to cross a line of troopers in front of the Suffolk County Jail, the Boston Globe reported.
In San Francisco, police arrested 45 protesters hours after the march started. Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said demonstrators were arrested for vandalism, failure to disperse and resisting arrest, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In Durham, North Carolina, 11 protesters were arrested after police told the group to disperse, according to a local television station.
In Chicago, at least six were taken into custody during a brief confrontation between police and protesters in front of Mag Mile’s Nordstrom store, according to a local news report.
And in New York City, one man was charged with assault on two police officers who were trying to stop protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge from throwing garbage cans on a police car, local news reported.
No arrests were reported in Washington D.C., where the Rev. Al Sharpton led thousands in a march urging Congress to pass a law that allows federal prosecutors to handle police shooting cases, the Associated Press reported.
“This is one of the most well-organized events I’ve seen,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told the AP.
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