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

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    An audio recording of a speech given by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was discovered at UCLA and posted online this week. Credit: Stephen Somerstein/Getty Images

    An audio recording of a speech given by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was discovered at UCLA and posted online this week. Credit: Stephen Somerstein/Getty Images

    An audio recording of a speech given by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, long thought to be lost in time, was made available to the masses this week online. 

    The 55-minute recording of the speech delivered by the late civil rights leader on April 27, 1965 at the University of California-Los Angeles was unearthed from a storage room by archivist Derek Bolin and Tim Groeling, chair of the UCLA Department of Communication Studies.

    “It’s a speech of importance that deserves to be released on a day of importance,” Bolin, also a 2013 UCLA graduate, said Friday in a press release on what would have been King Jr.’s 86th birthday.

    On the recording, the sound of birds chirping can be heard as Joel Boxer, the chairman of the now defunct Associated Students Speakers program at UCLA, welcomes the crowd to what “must be the largest program in the speakers program history.”

    The speech happened a month and two days after King’s historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., which was the subject of the 2014 film “Selma,” directed by Ava DuVernay.

    In November 2014, another recording of a speech given by King Jr. in 1962 was discovered in New York City.

    Bolin and Groeling had been working since last year to digitize hundreds of speeches from the 1960s and 70s recorded onto seven-inch reel-to-reel tapes that had been left to languish in the archives.

    The recordings recovered by the duo, which include a 1972 speech by Jane Fonda at an anti-Vietnam War rally and a 1968 speech given by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, have been posted on the UCLA Department of Communication Studies’ YouTube channel.

    The post Long-lost audio of Martin Luther King Jr. speech found in UCLA storage room appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Secret Service said Sunday that multiple gunshots were fired from a vehicle near the Delaware home of Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday night. The vice president and his wife were not at home at the time of the shooting, authorities said.

    Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said the shots were fired at around 8:25 p.m. on a public road outside the secure perimeter near the home in Greenville, Delaware. The shots were heard by Secret Service personnel, who saw the vehicle drive past the home at a high rate of speed and flee the scene.

    The Secret Service said about 30 minutes later, an individual in a vehicle tried to pass a New Castle County police officer securing the outer perimeter of the area. That person was arrested for resisting arrest and will be questioned regarding the shooting to determine if he was involved.

    Biden’s home is several hundred yards from the main road where the shots were fired. Authorities were searching outside the Biden residence and nearby homes to determine if any rounds struck the home.

    Hoback said the incident is under investigation by the Secret Service and the New Castle County Police.

    Biden’s office said the vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, were briefed Saturday night. The office referred all other questions to the Secret Service.

    The post Shots fired outside Biden’s Delaware home appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ask any researcher or conservationist how many elephants are in Africa and you will be hard-pressed to get an exact number. Current estimates range between 400,000 and 750,000 on the continent. Of the elephants living across the continent, about 100,000 were killed by poachers in recent years.

    Now, with $7 million in funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, researchers will be leading a two-year aerial count to track the status of African savanna elephants.

    Elephants the Great Elephant Census team encountered during one of the survey legs. Credit: Frankfurt Zoological Society

    So far, 18 countries have signed up — extending the survey as far north as South Sudan, through East and Central Africa, parts of West Africa and as far south as South Africa. Since the project started in February, researchers have surveyed the elephants of more than ten countries.

    At the project’s completion, researchers plan to survey elephants across nearly 600,000 square miles of the African continent.

    Here’s how the survey works.

    Areas that will be surveyed by air over the course of the Census project, which is expected to be completed in 2015. Credit: Great Elephant Census

    Areas that will be surveyed by air over the course of the Census project, which is expected to be completed in 2015. Credit: Great Elephant Census

    The tools: Modern technology and eyes in the sky

    The team includes about 50 researchers and a fleet of more than 10 small aircrafts that carry out the aerial count, according to Ted Schmitt, who serves as the senior program manager of technology development at Vulcan Inc., Allen’s investment and charitable projects company.

    The Great Elephant Census team uses small Cessnas outfitted with new technology to ensure all survey flights are consistent and accurate. Credit: Frankfurt Zoological Society

    The Great Elephant Census team uses small Cessnas outfitted with new technology to ensure all survey flights are consistent and accurate. Credit: Frankfurt Zoological Society

    Each day of the survey typically begins early in the morning with a pilot, two observers in the rear of the plane who record and take pictures of elephant sightings using two GPS-equipped cameras. A fourth team member focuses on gathering flight data to be used for later analysis.

    A camera captures images during survey flyovers to ensure accurate population counts. Credit: Great Elephant Census

    A camera captures images during survey flyovers to ensure accurate population counts. Credit: Great Elephant Census

    Observers look out for elephants below as well as giraffes and buffaloes. Bodies of dead elephants “are an important part of the count as well,” Schmitt said.

    Helping to lead the census is Mike Chase, a conservation biologist and director of the non-profit organization Elephants Without Borders, who said to make the key to accuracy with the survey is consistent flight height and speed. If “you go too fast, you’re going to miss animals,” he said.

    Not all elephants must be seen to be counted

    In order to compensate for the trees and other vegetation that can easily disguise animals, GPS-equipped cameras that capture animal and herd sightings are attached to the side of the plane.

    The pictures will be used to verify what the spotters observe and record. The equipment helps to expose partially-hidden elephants and the GPS coordinates identifies an exact location.

    An Elephant herd the Great Elephant Census team counted during one flyover. Credit: Frankfurt Zoological Society

    An Elephant herd the Great Elephant Census team counted during one flyover. Credit: Frankfurt Zoological Society

    The data logger that helps capture the information mid-flight, developed by Vulcan Inc., includes an Android tablet with a 3D-printer mount connected to an app. The app links to the laser altimeter used by the pilot to maintain the right altitude.

    “The data logger automates capture of this data, easing burden on the surveyors, improving accuracy and reducing fatigue,” Schmitt said.

    Each Cessna is outfitted with a data logger and altimeter to ensure that each survey is flown in a consistent manner, and that all observations and data from the inside of the aircraft are captured for future analysis. Credit: Great Elephant Census

    Each Cessna is outfitted with a data logger and altimeter to ensure that each survey is flown in a consistent manner, and that all observations and data from the inside of the aircraft are captured for future analysis. Credit: Great Elephant Census

    When the aircraft lands, the data software uses an algorithm that combines the animal observations made in the air along with factors such as flying altitude, which gives researchers a scientifically sound animal count.

    On the ground, the survey continues

    In an effort to be as accurate as possible, ground survey researchers track and capture images of herds and cross reference their information with what was captured in the air.

    Moving forward, researchers say some elephants will be outfitted with a tracking device that will allow researchers to continue to monitor the movements of the animals.

    Watch NewsHour Weekend’s full report on the Great Elephant Census below: 

    The post How exactly do you count Africa’s elephants? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is turning to his biggest television audience of the year to pitch tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and put the new Republican Congress in the position of defending top income earners over the middle class.

    As Obama continues to signal what he will propose during Tuesday’s State of the Union address, senior administration officials said during the weekend that he will call for raising the capital gains rate on top income earners and eliminating a tax break on inheritances. The revenue generated by those changes would fund new tax credits and other cost-saving measures for middle-class taxpayers, officials said.

    Tax increases are rarely welcomed by congressional Republicans, who now hold majorities in the House and the Senate for the first time in Obama’s presidency. Obama’s tax proposals will likely be dismissed, if not outright ignored, by lawmakers outside the Democratic Party’s liberal base.

    “Are they going to agree on everything? Absolutely not. But I think we should have a debate in this country between middle-class economics and trickle-down economics,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said the theme of the speech would be “middle-class economics.”

    Obama also is expected to call for lawmakers to make community college free for many students, increase paid leave for workers and enact broad cybersecurity rules. Administration officials disclosed details on the tax proposals on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the proposals by name ahead of the president’s speech.

    The centerpiece of the president’s tax proposal is an increase in the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 per year to 28 percent, the same level as under President Ronald Reagan. The top capital gains rate has already been raised from 15 percent to 23.8 percent during Obama’s presidency.

    Obama also wants to close what the administration is calling the “trust fund loophole,” a change that would require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they’re inherited. Officials said the overwhelming impact of the change would be on the top 1 percent of income earners.

    While GOP leaders have said they share Obama’s desire to reform the nation’s complicated tax code, the party has long been opposed to many of the proposals the president will outline Tuesday. For example, most Republicans want to lower or eliminate the capital gains tax and similarly want to end taxes on estates, not expand them.

    Administration officials pointed to a third proposal from the president as one they hope Republicans would support: a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion. Officials said the fee is similar to a proposal from former Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, who led the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Camp’s plan, however, was part of a larger proposal to lower the overall corporate income tax rate.

    Raising the capital gains rate, ending the inheritance loophole and tacking a fee on financial firms would generate $320 billion in revenue over a decade, according to administration estimates. Obama wants to put the bulk of that money into a series of measures aimed at helping middle-class Americans. Among them:

    -A credit of up to $500 for families in which both spouses work. The administration says 24 million couples would benefit from the proposal, which would apply to families with annual income up to $210,000.

    -Expanding the child care tax credit to up to $3,000 per child under age 5. The administration says the proposal would help more than 5 million families with the cost of child care.

    -Overhauling the education tax system by consolidating six provisions into two, a move that could cut taxes for 8.5 million families. Republicans have been open to the idea of consolidating education tax breaks.

    Obama’s call for higher taxes on the wealthy could further antagonize Republicans who are already angry with the president over his vows to veto several of the party’s priorities, including legislation to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, make changes to the president’s signature health care legislation and block his executive actions on immigration.

    “Slapping American small businesses, savers and investors with more tax hikes only negates the benefits of the tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings and create jobs,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said in a statement. “The president needs to stop listening to his liberal allies who want to raise taxes at all costs and start working with Congress to fix our broken tax code.”

    Even before officials revealed Obama’s tax proposals, Republicans were saying that his veto threats are a sign of a president who didn’t get the message from voters who relegated his party to minority status in the November election. New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the president still has a chance to change his tone.

    “Tuesday can be a new day,” McConnell said Friday. “This can be the moment the president pivots to a positive posture. This can be a day when he promotes serious realistic reforms that focus on economic growth and don’t just spend more money we don’t have. We’re eager for him to do so.”

    Beyond rolling out new proposals, Obama’s address is also expected to focus on making the case to the public that recent economic gains represent a real and lasting recovery. The approach reflects the White House’s belief that it has been too cautious in promoting economic gains out of fear of looking tone deaf to the continued struggles of many Americans.

    Obama isn’t expected to make any major foreign policy announcements. He is likely to urge lawmakers to stop the pursuit of new penalties against Iran while the U.S. and others are in the midst of nuclear negotiations with Tehran, defend his recent decision to normalize relations with Cuba, and argue for the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to stop Russia’s provocations in Ukraine.

    The post Obama to pitch tax plan to aid middle class in SOTU address appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A line of passengers wait to enter the security checkpoint before boarding their aircraft at Reagan National Airport in Washington, April 25, 2013. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) furloughs, which started Sunday, are intended to cut staffing by 10 percent to save $200 million of $637 million the agency needs to pare from its budget. Of 47,000 employees facing furloughs, which are expected to last through September, nearly 13,000 are air traffic controllers.       REUTERS/Larry Downing  (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTXYZXT

    A line of passengers wait to enter the security checkpoint before boarding their aircraft at Reagan National Airport in Washington on April 25, 2013. Federal Aviation Administration authorities have suspended a program that allowed its safety inspectors to skip security checkpoints while on the job. REUTERS/Larry Downing

    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration suspended a program on Saturday that allows its safety inspectors to skip security checkpoints while on the job, following the arrest of an FAA agent earlier in the week who was caught allegedly carrying a firearm in his bag.

    The Atlanta-based FAA inspector was arrested on Tuesday at New York City’s La Guardia Airport, officials said, after he used a badge to access a secure area of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta earlier in his trip and bypassed a screening by Transportation Security Administration officials, the Associated Press reported.

    But TSA agents discovered the firearm at a standard security checkpoint when he arrived at La Guardia. 

    In a statement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta ordered the suspension of the program that specifically allows inspectors to gain access to secure areas of airports and bypass security checkpoints while performing their normal duties.

    The FAA said it will ramp up security training of its inspectors during the temporary suspension of the program, which will include requiring inspectors to sign an agreement stating that weapons-related infractions will result in permanently losing the ability to bypass checkpoints, Reuters reported.

    The agent is still with the FAA but is performing “non-safety related duties,” the agency told Reuters.

    In late December, federal investigators arrested five former Delta employees, including a baggage handler, for allegedly smuggling guns on flights from Atlanta to New York. The baggage handler was also accused of using his security badge to bypass checkpoints.

    The post FAA no longer letting agents skip checkpoints after inspector arrested appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on "Smart Power: Security Through Inclusive Leadership" at Georgetown University in Washington Dec. 3,  2014. As people continue to speculate if Clinton will run for president in 2016, those closest to her in the Democratic party are advising her to take a middle-road approach when it comes to the economy. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on “Smart Power: Security Through Inclusive Leadership” at Georgetown University in Washington Dec. 3, 2014. As people continue to speculate if Clinton will run for president in 2016, those closest to her in the Democratic party are advising her to take a middle-of-the-road approach when it comes to economic policy. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    WASHINGTON — Inside the Democratic Party, economic policy is often seen as a contest between President Barack Obama’s track record and the anti-Wall Street approach advocated by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

    As Hillary Rodham Clinton heads for an expected 2016 run for president, her allies are pointing her toward something in-between.

    A group of Clinton advisers offered a detailed economic agenda last week that aims to help raise wages for millions of workers and close the gap between rich and poor. The policy road map was produced at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank stocked with veterans of the Bill Clinton and Obama administrations. It appeared to target those who are disenchanted with Obama and skeptical that Clinton effectively would police Wall Street and champion middle-class workers.

    “While there are large forces, globalization, technology and more, that are creating large challenges for many workers, there is no excuse or intellectual basis for fatalism,” said Larry Summers, one of its authors and a former treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton who later worked for Obama.

    The subject is clearly on Hillary Clinton’s mind. In her first tweet in more than a month, she posted this Friday: “Attacking financial reform is risky and wrong. Better for Congress to focus on jobs and wages for middle-class families.”

    Campaigning for Democrats last fall, she often spoke of the need to return to an economic system of broadly shared prosperity.

    That goal has eluded Obama, even though he is able to point to a rebounding economy, falling unemployment rates and lower gas prices. Obama, in Tuesday’s State of the Union, plans to propose raising the capital gains rate on the wealthy and eliminating a tax break on inheritances. The plan is a nonstarter with Republicans, but Obama will make the case for using the additional revenue for new tax credits and other benefits for the middle class.

    Warren, in a speech this month to the AFL-CIO, said that despite stronger economic growth and a soaring stock market, “America’s middle class is in deep trouble.” Liberals say the problem of stagnant wages require urgent action.

    “We need to be extremely aggressive to deal with income and wealth inequality,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who may seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

    Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are beginning to articulate their own agenda for addressing income inequality, reflecting an expected argument that Obama’s policies have not helped millions of workers.

    “Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done,” Romney said in a speech last week to the Republican National Committee.

    Clinton’s template has been the 1990s, during her husband’s two terms, and Summers noted that many of the ideas in the report built upon the “Putting People First” agenda from Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign.

    It also cited some of the chief parts of Obama’s economic program, such as efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, spend more on roads, bridges and public works, offer paid leave for workers and help students pay for college.

    But the report also offered other ideas with broad appeal in the party: tax credits for middle-class families, incentives for employees to partake in profit-sharing, attention to collective bargaining rights and tying the repayment of student loans to a graduate’s income earned over two decades or more.

    Those responsible for the report have strong Clinton connections.

    Along with Summers, the commission included the center’s president and CEO, Neera Tanden, a former Hillary Clinton policy adviser; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a leader of a political action committee set to back a Clinton candidacy; and Steven Rattner, who was chief adviser to Obama’s auto bailout task force and is a longtime Clinton donor.

    Clinton, who returns to the speaking circuit in Canada this coming week, has said she would offer a “very specific agenda” if she runs for president.

    Some progressives said that while the new report offered good ideas, it had deficiencies. Most notably, it does not advocate for the breakup of Wall Street banks, which Warren has sought, and does not push for a higher minimum wage beyond the $10.10 pushed by Obama.

    Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org, noted the role of lobbyists only had a passing reference in the findings.

    “In some areas, the report represents a largely Washington establishment perspective, and isn’t as bold as folks outside the Beltway are probably ready for,” Galland said.

    Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said much of the report offered ideas that could unite broad parts of the Democratic coalition. He said it built upon a growing understanding in the party, in the aftermath of the November elections, that simple economic growth is not enough to lift the fortunes of middle-class workers.

    “I don’t think the 2014 midterms were some sort of fluke. If you don’t give people a reason to get up and go vote for you, I’d expect them to sit down and stay home or vote for somebody else,” he said. “So you can’t assume based on demographics or race or income class that the electorate is going to support you. … You have to do precisely the kind of policy work that this group is offering us.”

    The post Clinton’s allies guide her toward moderate economic approach appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NORTHERN DURHAM HIGH

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: A newly released report by the Southern Education Foundation says a majority of all public school students across the United States come from low-income families. Experts say that could have important implications for the nation.

    For more about that, we’re joined now from Washington by Lyndsey Layton. She covered the story for The Washington Post.

    So, the numbers have been getting worse over time, right? I mean, 10 years ago, it was only four states that had more than half their populations, the schoolchildren populations qualify for free or reduced lunches. Now it’s 21 states.

    LYNDSEY LAYTON, The Washington Post: That’s right, Hari.

    We have seen a really rapid acceleration in this group of kids. And, of course, you know, people point to the 2008 recession as something that really made these numbers explode. B

    ut we have seen continued acceleration. It hasn’t stabilized. It’s getting worse.

    And now we’re at 51 percent, so a majority of public school kids qualify for free food.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are some of the other strains on the system? In your story, I remember seeing that, basically, teachers are starting to act more than just teachers. They’re social workers. They’re psychologists.

    LYNDSEY LAYTON: Well, if you talk to any teacher in a high-poverty school, they will tell you that they spend a huge amount of their time just making sure the kids are OK.

    I mean, these kids don’t come into school wondering, am I going to take a test today? They come into school wondering, am I going to be OK?

    I talked with one kindergarten teacher, a veteran teacher from New Mexico. She teaches in downtown Albuquerque. And she told me that the first hour of her morning, she does an inventory to check her kids, have they eaten, are they clean?

    She keeps a drawer full of socks, shoes, clean underwear, toothbrushes for them just to take care of their immediate needs.

    She can’t even focus on the academics.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What are some of the impacts or the potential impacts for education policy? I mean, right now, there’s a national conversation going about testing and whether to reauthorize No Child Left Behind or the Common Core, et cetera, et cetera.

    But how can we really focus on tests if what you’re saying and what this teacher is saying is, is that we really have a deeper underlying problem, that kids aren’t going to be thinking about tests when they’re thinking about whether they’re hungry?

    LYNDSEY LAYTON: Well, a lot of advocates for kids and a lot of Democrats and progressives want to see more spending to create wrap-around services around these kids, that the schools not only need help with the academics, with technology and curriculum and teacher training, but they also need to provide social services for these children.

    That’s the argument that a lot of progressives are making. Right now, in town here, the Congress is about to debate the reauthorization of the main federal education law.

    And Republicans think that perhaps we’re just not spending our money efficiently and that if states had more authority and more power in their spending, that the money would go to the greatest needs and that we need to streamline spending and give more authority to states.

    So, there’s a real debate going on about what to do about this problem.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there patterns that you see here emerging? When you look at the data around the country, are certain parts hit worse than others?

    LYNDSEY LAYTON: Well, all you need to do is glance at the map which is — it’s available at the Southern Education Foundation Web site and also at The Washington Post.

    You just take a look at that map, and you can see the red areas, where you have got the high concentration of poor kids. Obviously, it’s the South and it’s the West. So, those are border states with a lot of immigration. That’s obvious.

    But then you also see in other parts of the country where you don’t expect that — Vermont, for instance. One out of every three kids in Vermont has — needs free lunches and breakfast.

    So, the need is growing. It’s all over the country, and beyond the obvious issues in the border states. You can find it all over the place.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Lyndsey Layton from The Washington Post joining us from Washington tonight, thanks so much.

    LYNDSEY LAYTON: Thanks, Hari.

    The post With more US students living in poverty, education system faces strain appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Senator John McCain speaks to soldiers during a Christmas day visit on forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan Dec. 25, 2014. As chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain is hoping to reshape his legacy. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

    U.S. Senator John McCain speaks to soldiers during a Christmas day visit on forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan Dec. 25, 2014. As chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain is hoping to reshape his legacy. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

    WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain is waging another national campaign – this time, to define his legacy.

    After two unsuccessful presidential bids, the 78-year-old former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war has rebounded as the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. The post gives the Arizona Republican a significant say on national security – and a chance to ensure that his loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 White House race isn’t the final word in the colorful McCain chronicles.

    McCain wants to prod the Obama administration, which he derides as feckless, to adopt a tougher policy against worldwide threats. He wants budget and spending changes at the Pentagon.

    A defense hawk in a party with a growing number of noninterventionists – he once dismissed a few as “wacko birds” – McCain wants to help educate new senators. McCain is calling foreign policy luminaries to share their world views with the committee, beginning this week with former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. His abiding friendships across Washington’s political tribes are points of pride.

    But ask McCain what he wants people to think of when they will recall his chairmanship.

    Then ask how he wants to be remembered generally.

    The answers are nearly identical.

    “To be able to play a significant role in defeating the forces of radical Islam that want to destroy America,” he says to the first.

    To the second: “That I made a major contribution to the defense of the nation.”

    It’s legacy time for McCain, and he clearly wants the chairmanship to help define it, before voters in 2016 get the chance again to decide control of the Senate. The senator turns 80 that year, and all signs point to McCain running for a sixth Senate term.

    Two years is a short window for a lot of work, but the leadership role gives McCain new power to push his agenda. He still has the energy that has helped him survive a hard-to-makeup biography: three plane crashes, an aircraft carrier fire, five torturous years in captivity in Vietnam, nearly three decades in the Senate – and too many donut-fueled hours with reporters aboard the “Straight Talk Express” presidential campaign bus in 2000 and 2008.

    “You will see, probably, the busiest Senate Armed Services Committee that you’ve ever seen,” McCain said in a recent interview.

    Some members of the administration are eager to reset the sometimes-tense relations with the blunt-spoken, dry-humored senator. After all, knotty international issues, such as the prospect of using force against Islamic State militants, fall within the purview of McCain’s committee.

    “John is quixotic,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a recent telephone interview.

    The two are genuine friends from serving two decades together in the Senate, though it’s clear that Biden hasn’t forgotten “some interesting things he’s said about me, publicly” – such as McCain’s suggestion in 2012 that Obama drop Biden as his running mate.

    “I know he loves me. And I care about him, I really do,” a chuckling Biden said of McCain. “I think John’s legacy is that he never quits.”

    McCain has a similar relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, also a former Senate colleague and, like Biden, a onetime presidential hopeful.

    Last April, during a hearing, McCain ripped into Kerry for “talking strongly and carrying a very small stick – in fact, a twig” on foreign policy. Kerry rejected what he said was McCain’s “premature judgment about the failure of everything.”

    For all his partisan bluster and fierce conviction, McCain has a record of dealmaking so established that it inflames some on the political right, Kerry said. The pair, both decorated Vietnam veterans, played key roles when President Bill Clinton normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995. More recently, McCain’s been a member of bipartisan Senate groups that worked out deals on judges and immigration, though an immigration overhaul stalled in the House.

    “He’s a guy you want fighting with you if you can find a way” to compromise, Kerry said in a statement to The Associated Press. “This moment is a big one for him, and he has the capacity to really make a deep impact.”

    McCain is a frequent target of the right, who complain about his work with Democrats, from the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy to Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. The latter might have ended up as McCain’s running mate in 2008. Instead, McCain went with Sarah Palin.

    On the Pentagon, McCain is looking to a longtime role model, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP’s presidential nominee in 1964 who lost that race, then returned to the Senate to serve as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

    McCain said the committee will tackle Pentagon restructuring as a sequel of sorts to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act, which streamlined the military chain of command.

    McCain wants to end the automatic spending cuts that affected the military. Early next month, he expects the committee to confirm Ashton Carter as Obama’s new secretary of defense. He would like the outgoing secretary, former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, once a close friend, to testify when the committee considers the Pentagon budget.

    Witnesses, regardless of party, should not expect a comfortable experience, said someone who knows.

    “He would go after me just as much as anybody else,” recalled ex-Defense Secretary William Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine who served under Clinton.

    “He can embarrass you,” Cohen said. “But he’s got a really good heart in terms of his sense of fairness.”

    The post McCain hopes to define legacy with national security post appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address At U.S. Capitol

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Good everything. Thanks for joining us.

    President Obama reportedly will unveil a plan to offer tax relief for the middle class during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The plan would be paid for by increasing taxes the rich pay on investments and inherited property.

    For more about the president’s proposal, its chances of success, and its political impact, we’re joined now from Washington by Carol Lee. She is White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

    So, Carol, who does the administration say that this will help, and how?

    CAROL LEE, The Wall Street Journal: Their main target is the middle class.

    And they — their argument is that it will help the middle class by taking — closing certain tax loopholes that they say benefit the top 1 percent of Americans and making different changes to the tax code, including raising the capital gains tax from 23.8 percent to 28 percent by, as you mentioned, taxing some of these investments and assets that people transfer to their children that currently are not taxed and a number of other things.

    And what they do with that money, which is roughly several hundred billion dollars, is put it towards proposals such as tripling the child tax credit. So, that would go from $1,000 to $3,000. They’re proposing to create a new tax credit for households where both spouses work.

    And they would — the president has unveiled a proposal to offer free community college for folks. And that’s another thing that — that this would pay for. And so it’s kind of — it’s basically the president’s opening bid on a number of tax issues that have been vexing Washington for a long time.

    And, so far, it has not gotten a very warm reception from Republicans. But the White House’s argument is that this would help the middle class, the Republicans say that they are now focused on the middle class, the economy is doing better, and so now is the time to do things — things — take steps like this.

    And while conceding that they probably won’t get everything that they want, which is a very optimistic view of this package, given the response we have seen from Republicans, the hope is that this is an opening bid to what the White House hopes are broader negotiations on some of these individual tax code issues.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    So, what the political implications, even if it can’t get through Congress?

    CAROL LEE: Well, it sets the parameters of the debate for 2015, which is turning into 2016.

    And the two things that the parties have agreed on — and you have seen this in a number of potential Republican presidential candidates, you have heard it from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the White House is really pressing on this issue — is that the middle class is need — in need of help, and that wages are stagnant, and while GDP is growing and unemployment rate is at new lows, the middle class is still really struggling and requires some targeted measures to try and build them up.

    And so what you’re going to hear the White House and Democrats do when they get with these measures, this package that the president is going to roll out on Tuesday in his State of the Union address, is put the ball in Republicans’ court to say, OK, well, what are your proposals? What do you — what do you want to do? And if you don’t support this, then what do you support?

    And so it’s the — it’s designed to, even if it doesn’t pass, move the debate along to where the two sides are having to stake out their territory ahead of the 2016 election.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Carol Lee, joining us from Washington from The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    CAROL LEE: Thank you for having me.

    The post Inside Obama’s middle class tax plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope catches a "fast radio burst" in real-time. The cosmic radio blasts are a mystery, appearing for only milliseconds at a time from an unknown source deep in space. This is the first time such an event has been recorded in real-time. Courtesy: Swinburne Astronomy Productions

    CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope catches a “fast radio burst” in real-time. The cosmic radio blasts are a mystery, appearing for only milliseconds at a time from an unknown source deep in space. This is the first time such an event has been recorded in real-time. Courtesy: Swinburne Astronomy Productions

    On May 14, 2014, scientists at Swinburne University in Australia caught a huge high-energy burst of radio waves on CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope in eastern Australia. Called a “fast radio burst”, the signal lasted a few milliseconds, but it gave off as much energy as the sun does in a day, said Daniele Malesani, astrophysicist at the Dark Cosmology Center, University of Copenhagen.

    Whatever caused the cosmic radio burst must be cataclysmic, huge and at least 5.5 billion light years from Earth, astronomer Emily Petroff of Swinburne University told New Scientist. The study on the fast radio burst was published this week in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    Fast radio bursts are still a great cosmic mystery. These cosmic radio bursts were first discovered in the Parkes Radio Telescope’s archival data in 2007. It was called the Lorimer burst, and it lasted for only 5 milliseconds. For years, the scientific community debated if the radio bursts were real or a flaw in the data.

    Since then, seven events have been uncovered in Parkes’ data and in data from the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico. Based on early estimates, scientists believe there could be as many as 10,000 of these radio bursts a day, each lasting only a few milliseconds.

    No one knows where exactly they come from, or what causes them. Astronomers have postulated that the mystery radio signals come from exploding stars or supernovas. They could also be caused when binary neutron stars or binary white dwarf stars collide.

    Another possible source of the cosmic radio waves is a phenomenon called a “blitzar.” Blitzars are supermassive neutron stars that should have become a black hole, but they are spinning so fast they are temporarily prevented from collapsing.

    (Sorry, science fiction fans. Fast radio bursts are not likely caused by aliens.)

    Catching the fast radio burst in real-time did rule out several suspects, Malesani explained in a press release. When the Parkes telescope caught the burst, they alerted 12 other telescopes to take measurements in visible, infrared, X-rays and ultraviolet light. Those observations found nothing, which was important, Malesani said.

    “We found out what it wasn’t. The burst could have hurled out as much energy in a few milliseconds as the Sun does in an entire day. But the fact that we did not see light in other wavelengths eliminates a number of astronomical phenomena that are associated with violent events such as gamma-ray bursts from exploding stars and supernovae, which were otherwise candidates for the burst.”

    Petroff and her team are now waiting to catch another burst to get more answers about the phenomenon.

    “We have set the trap. Now we simply need to hold up for another burst to fall into it,” Petroff said in a release from the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The post Mystery radio bursts from space recorded live for the first time, but leaves few answers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    "Border States" is Jane Hoogestraat's debut collection of poetry.

    “Border States” is Jane Hoogestraat’s debut collection of poetry.

    For years, Jane Hoogestraat avoided writing about her native state of South Dakota.

    “When I talk about being from there, I’m often met with a blank stare,” she told Art Beat.

    At first, she thought it was snobbery. She later realized that most Americans simply have no reference point for South Dakota — or the rest of the middle of the country.

    In “Border States,” her first published collection of poetry, published in November, her native state of South Dakota and her current home of Missouri, are as front and center as their geography.

    Over the years, South Dakota transformed from a place she left behind to a source of inspiration for her writing.

    “I’ve also become aware that I’m going to be a little bit claustrophobic anywhere else I live,” Hoogestraat said, “because I grew up under such an open sky.”

    The collection, which is organized by place, is a series of intimate dispatches. The poems often begin with the first person “I,” lending them the sense that a friend is leading you along a river road “when the fog lifts quiet laughter in the morning air,” as in the poem “River Roads”; or across the highway north of Sioux City where “the sky widens into South Dakota,” like in “At the Edge of a Time Zone.”


    Listen to Jane Hoogestraat read “At the Edge of a Time Zone” from her new collection “Border States.”

    At the Edge of a Time Zone
    Not the midnight sun exactly, or endless summer,
    just that extra hour holding steady, western
    horizon stable, as though shadows won’t lengthen
    when in August you can outrun the night
    or feel as though you do, latitude in your favor.

    North of Sioux City, the sky widens into South Dakota,
    turn west and you will think you could see all the way
    to Wyoming, and if you drive long enough you will,
    crossing the Missouri River, the bluffs gentle,
    then grasslands, the turnoffs for reservations.

    As dusk approaches, you may pass a stone house,
    long deserted, a star carved over the door, a small pond,
    wind stirring over it even now, forming a second thought,
    a space you will carry within your speech,
    your soul stirred by these great expanses.


    The notion of the border state applies to the people in collection as well as the setting, such as the Cistercian monks and Amish men whose lifestyle and location are on the margin lines of society.

    It’s about understanding cultural geography, Hoogestraat said. “that the places where people live and patterns of settlement can influence people in ways that we’re not always aware of.”

    That relationship between people and place is woven throughout the collection of poetry. The locations and lifestyles may be different from the reader’s own, but Hoogestraat never plays into a narrative of exoticism. She portrays the middle of the country with elegant simplicity.

    “I hope there is a fundamental optimism in the book,” she said. “I’ve tried to write a kind of poetry that doesn’t center exclusively on the self or exclusively on darker themes. That doesn’t mean it’s all sweetness and light, but I hope that the poetry is more optimistic than not.”

    “At the Edge of a Time Zone” from Border States by Jane Hoogestraat. BkMk Press, University of Missouri-Kansas City. ©2014. Reprinted by permission.

    The post Poet Jane Hoogestraat writes intimate dispatches from America’s hinterlands appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newshourshares

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    In our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, finally tonight, our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you too.

    Today marks the 60th anniversary of the first televised presidential news conference. And we wanted to show you what President Dwight Eisenhower’s exchange with the press in 1955 looked like. It turns out tensions in China and fights over the budget were making headlines then, too.

    Here’s a short excerpt:

    PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER: Well, I see we’re trying a new experiment this morning.  I hope that doesn’t prove to be a disturbing influence.

    QUESTION: In light of the latest fighting, would you consider that it would be useful to have a cease-fire between Communist China and National China, if that could be arranged through the U.N. or by some other means?

    DWIGHT EISENHOWER: Well, I should like to see the U.N. attempt to exercise good offices, I believe, because whenever there’s any kind of fighting and open violence in the world, there is always a — it’s always sort of a powder keg.

    QUESTION: Sir, the congressman on Capitol Hill say that if they can find a copy of the budget to read, that they can’t understand it.

    Is there anything you can do to tell these people who have to vote on this where the money is to be spent?

    DWIGHT EISENHOWER: It’s my understanding that’s what the committees of Congress are for.  And that’s is what the people that appear before these committees are for.  And I can’t be expected to take the details of a volume like that, which I forget the number of pages, and explain that in detail to individuals anywhere.

    QUESTION: Tomorrow is the second anniversary of your inauguration. I wonder if you would care to give us an appraisal of your first two years and tell us something of your hopes for the next two or maybe even the next six.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DWIGHT EISENHOWER: It looks like a loaded question.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So the press was just as respectful then as it is today.  

    The post 60 years ago, Eisenhower inaugurated the first televised presidential news conference appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch PBS NewsHour’s live State of the Union coverage in the player above. We will offer special programming surrounding the President’s speech on the evening of Tues., Jan. 20, from 9-11 p.m. EST.

    On Tuesday, Jan. 20, President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver his sixth annual State of the Union address. The speech will cover a wide range of issues facing the U.S. today, from immigration and health care reform to environmental policy and national security.

    Join PBS NewsHour live from 9-11 p.m. EST, Jan. 20, for reporting and analysis. In addition to a live broadcast of the President’s remarks and the GOP response, co-anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff will be joined by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks to discuss the President’s speech in depth. Watch our coverage on air (check local listings), or tune in to our live stream online at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/

    Follow PBS NewsHour on social media for additional real time coverage. @NewsHour will be live tweeting the speech, as well as Shields’ and Brooks’ analysis. We will also share video excerpts and clips from the speech in real-time, and provide regular updates via Facebook.

    A note for our west coast viewers: because the president’s address begins at 6 p.m. PST, local audiences will not be able to view our regular broadcast. But you can watch it live at 3 p.m. PST — also in the player above. Of course you can always watch a video of the full show on our website on the evening it airs here.

    The post How to watch Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    john cleese book cover

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next tonight: the making of a master comic.

    Jeffrey Brown is back with that.

    JOHN CLEESE, ACTOR: I wish to complain need to complain about this parrot that I purchased not half-a-hour ago from this very boutique.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All these years later, fans of the zany, brainy “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” can recall favorite skits.

    JOHN CLEESE: This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the players as well, very much including John Cleese, the minister of silly walks and so much else.

    Post-”Python,” a TV show on BBC from 1969 to 1974, the movies that grew from it, Cleese created and starred in the classic sitcom “Fawlty Towers.”

    ACTRESS: Why don’t you hang the picture now? Well?

    JOHN CLEESE: Yes, all right, I won’t do the menu. I don’t think you realize how long it takes to do the menu, but, no, it doesn’t matter, I will hang the picture now. And if the menus are late for lunch, it doesn’t matter. The guests can all come and look at the picture until they are ready, right?

    ACTRESS: Lower.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: And in a number of films, most famously perhaps “A Fish Called Wanda.”

    JAMIE LEE CURTIS, Actress: I love the way you laugh.

    JOHN CLEESE: Oh, I love you. You’re funny. How could a girl as bright as you could have a brother who is so…

    KEVIN KLINE, ACTOR: Don’t call me stupid.

    JOHN CLEESE: Jesus Christ!

    JEFFREY BROWN: His new memoir, “So, Anyway…,” is the first of a projected trilogy. And it looks back to his pre-”Python” life, a lower-middle-class child of an insurance salesman father and a difficult, often distant mother, through to Cambridge, where he began as a law student and almost accidentally found himself in a comedy troupe.

    We talked recently at the Miami Book Festival.

    It doesn’t seem like an obvious biography for someone who would grow up to entertain people around the world, or does it, as you look at it?

    JOHN CLEESE: No, it doesn’t at all. And I honestly regard so much of my life as an accident.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Your rise is at a moment when satire in England especially was taking off, was kind of exploding. Why was that? What happened?

    JOHN CLEESE: Well, what happened was that England had been a very, very stuffy country.

    If you think of what America was like under Eisenhower and then multiply it by 10, people didn’t make jokes about the prime minister. It was considered disrespectful, if you can believe that climate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    JOHN CLEESE: And when I was at Cambridge, a show came to Cambridge, “Beyond the Fringe,” the funniest show I have ever seen in my life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Quite a group. They had a great impact on you.

    JOHN CLEESE: Incredible impact, because they were doing jokes about politicians, about the Church of England, about the death penalty, about nuclear disarmament. They were making wonderful jokes about serious subjects.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You write about comedy being harder than drama. Why do you think comedy is so hard?

    JOHN CLEESE: Because, first of all, it’s got to be original in a way that drama doesn’t have to be original.

    There are certain dramatic themes that just repeat and repeat and repeat, whereas comedians have got to come up with something really that’s a little bit fresh every time, because you can’t laugh at the same joke a second time. And then, secondly, it’s got to be so precise before it works.

    Everything in comedy’s got to be exactly right, which is why making a comedic film is kind of a difficult process, because, for most of the two years of shooting it and editing it and reshooting and all of that, it’s not quite right. And it’s only when you just at the end, you put the final polish on it, it becomes really funny again.

    KEVIN KLINE: You’re really sorry?

    JOHN CLEESE: I’m really, really sorry. I apologize unreservedly.

    KEVIN KLINE: You take it back?

    JOHN CLEESE: I do. I offer a complete and utter retraction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I saw that your best advice to a young comedian is steal.

    JOHN CLEESE: Steal. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just out and out…

    JOHN CLEESE: Out and out steal. Steal people’s material, because — I don’t necessarily mean steal a specific joke, but steal a situation, steal a character.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Style?

    JOHN CLEESE: A style, because by the time you do it yourself, your own personality will have imprinted itself on the original thing you have stolen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    JOHN CLEESE: And it’s too difficult to start right from scratch and try and be funny out of the blue.

    So the first few things I ever did to get into the Footlights club room, which got me started at Cambridge, they were all — all things that I had stolen. And I say to people, if you love an actor or a comedian, just watch and watch them and watch them. And the key thing is watch them until you’re bored. When you stop laughing at them, then you can see the mechanisms. You can see how they do it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It just — it occurs to me, we’re sitting having a serious conversation about comedy. It’s a serious subject, in a way, right?

    JOHN CLEESE: Well, it is and it isn’t.

    I mean, the examples are funny, but when you start analyzing night like that, it’s not essentially a humorous thing to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think of yourself as a funny person? Or is that a stage person?

    JOHN CLEESE: It’s just a part of me. It’s just a part of me. When I’m with certain people, I’m much funnier than I am with other people. It’s more a function of their personality actually than anything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The kind of brainy humor or sophisticated humor, perhaps, even if it’s silly, it almost — you look back on a lot of “Monty Python” and “Fawlty Towers,” and it requires sometimes the audience to know the references, right

    JOHN CLEESE: That’s right. And I think the hard thing for young comedians now is that the majority of the young people in the audience out there don’t have the wide range of references.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s what I was wondering. So, is it harder now?

    JOHN CLEESE: It’s harder now. You can’t really do that stuff.

    Now, it’s like the Latin lesson in “Life of Brian,” when I catch Graham “Romans, go home” on the wall. And I correct his grammar and make him write it out.

    ACTOR: It says, Romans, go home.

    JOHN CLEESE: No, it doesn’t. What is Latin for Roman? Come on. Come on.

    ACTOR: Romanus?

    JOHN CLEESE: Goes like?

    ACTOR: Annus.

    JOHN CLEESE: Vocative plural of annus is?

    ACTOR: Anni?

    JOHN CLEESE: Romani.

    ACTOR: Eunt.

    JOHN CLEESE: What is eunt?

    ACTOR: Go.

    JOHN CLEESE: Conjugate the verb to go.

    That is something that was hilarious to an earlier generation. And I don’t think it means anything at all now. I made a reference on Joe Mars’ show to Latin the other day.

    And it was though the audience went, what’s that, you know?

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, somehow, people still need to laugh.

    JOHN CLEESE: Oh, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Humors goes on.

    So, this story is going to continue? It only takes up to…

    JOHN CLEESE: Oh, yes. It just takes us up to the beginning of “Python.”

    And some people said, well, we thought there was going to be much more about “Python” in it. And I said to the publisher, have we misled? And they said, no, no, if it had been about “Python,” the book would have been called “Monty Python by John Cleese.”  And there would be a lot of stuff to do. It was all “Fawlty Towers,” “A Fish Called Wanda.”

    There’s the psychiatry books. There’s the manager that sells training films. So, that will be the next one. And then the third one will be called, “Why There Is No Hope,” because I have decided there isn’t.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s it?

    JOHN CLEESE: That’s it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There’s no hope?

    JOHN CLEESE: No hope for planet at all.

    But I will be gone before the planet is gone, so it’s your problem.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On that very cheerful note.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, anyway, John Cleese, thanks so much.

    JOHN CLEESE: Pleasure. Nice talking to you.

    The post How John Cleese got his accidental start in comedy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    TRUST THAT REVIEW monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a perpetual dilemma. You go online to buy a product, or try a new service, or maybe find a restaurant you haven’t been to before, and frequently end up checking what others thought of it. You see a four-star review, a five-star recommendation, but wonder just how legitimate those appraisals are.

    Special correspondent Jackie Judd has been investigating those seeking to exploit the reviews and what businesses are doing to crack down.

    MAN: It takes me five, 10 minutes per review at most.

    JACKIE JUDD: Behind this blurred image is a scam artist, actually a scam writer.

    MAN: There’s a lot of people looking for this type of work, and there’s a lot of platforms from which you can sell and a lot of other people will advertise looking for services such as this.

    JACKIE JUDD: The service is writing fake online consumer reviews. And companies typically hired by small businesses advertise in brazen and public ways.

    WOMAN:  Silverman Slim, your number one review dealer. We offer Google reviews, Yelp reviews.

    JACKIE JUDD: Stephen G., who asked for anonymity, gets freelance gigs online for a few dollars a pop.

    If I were to ask you to come up with ideas right here, let’s say a cab company in Miami, what kinds of things — have you ever been to Miami?

    MAN: I have not been to Miami, but I would certainly take a review from Miami, yes.

    JACKIE JUDD: What would you say?

    MAN: I would say, Clipboard Cab Company was very prompt in their service. They arrived exactly at 7:00 at the airport, when I had asked them to arrive. I found the driver very, very pleasant and cooperative, and I was very satisfied with the service. I will definitely use it again next time I’m in Miami.

    JACKIE JUDD: Ka-ching, $8.

    MAN: It doesn’t take much.

    NICHOLAS WHITE, The Daily Dot: Pretty much all bad — all fake reviews are five-star or one-star reviews. Nobody leaves a fake three-star reviews. What would be the point?

    JACKIE JUDD: Nicholas White founded The Daily Dot, which covers life on the Internet.

    NICHOLAS WHITE: In the age of the Internet, we are living in the age of the inexpert opinion. We are living in the age where if you can think of it, someone is offering it in both authentic and fake, fraudulent ways.

    JACKIE JUDD: The possibilities do seem limitless, especially here in San Francisco, home of the online review giant Yelp.

    The number of consumer reviews posted online is mind-boggling. Just in the time that the NewsHour is on the air tonight, some 2,000 reviews will be posted on Yelp alone. That makes the task of identifying deceptive entries, as well as keeping one step ahead of the perpetrators, an ongoing challenge. Yelp is a pioneer in aggregating consumer reviews of local businesses.

    Its slogan used to be real people, real reviews. Now, not so much. Yelp labels about 25 percent of submitted reviews as suspicious or not recommended.

    VINCE SOLLITTO, Yelp: You would be surprised how many small business owners might just claim their page on Yelp and then actually go ahead and open up a consumer account and write a five-star business review of their own business and a one-star view of their competitor, and leave it at that. And we catch that, of course.

    JACKIE JUDD: In just over two years, Yelp has caught 400 companies trying to game the system and has let consumers know with something of a scarlet letter.

    It cooperated with an investigation by the New York attorney general, which led to 19 companies being fined for generating false reviews. Typically, though, this behavior goes unpunished.

    Fraud detection is a deadly serious pursuit. Yelp spends millions of dollars on it annually and about 10 percent of its employees are on the hunt. The human touch involves workers eyeballing specific reviews for telltale signs of fraud, and software engineers change algorithms multiple times a day.

    VINCE SOLLITTO: We’re constantly learning more information about patterns, machine learning, data analysis, gathering more signals, figuring out which are more efficacious than others, so it’s constantly being refined. There’s tons of data points that we use as we sift through the 67 million reviews we have to figure out which ones we can recommend.

    JACKIE JUDD: Here in Austin, Texas, there’s a little known company called Bazaarvoice. It operates behind the scenes on behalf of some of the world’s retail giants, including Costco and Wal-Mart. Bazaarvoice promises to weed out all but the authentic consumer reviews. It even monitors its own clients to make sure insiders are not posting five-star reviews.

    The scale of Bazaarvoice is remarkable. Through its clients, it gets half-a-billion, with a B, unique visitors a months to consumer review pages. But the fraud rate is a tiny fraction of Yelp’s because reviewers are verified customers of Bazaarvoice’s clients. That still translates to a lot of potential trouble.

    J.T. BUSER, Bazaarvoice: Nothing surprises me anymore.

    JACKIE JUDD: J.T. Buser’s title at Bazaarvoice, head of authenticity, is a sure sign of that.

    J.T. BUSER: When we first started this, we would see just typical small-scale attacks. And now that — that’s evolved into an entire significant way of getting reviews through the system. That includes high-end evasion techniques, evasion techniques to get around sophisticated anti-fraud systems.

    JACKIE JUDD: If it sounds like an arms race, it is, the scammed trying to stay ahead of the scammers, and vice versa.

    The advent of bots marked an escalation relation in the race, because they generate vast amount of content.

    NICHOLAS WHITE: Bots are machines. They are robots. They’re software programs that traffic on the Internet, that use the Internet just like you and I do, but for the purpose of generating clicks, which drives advertising revenue usually. And that is basically fraud.

    JACKIE JUDD: J.T. Buser says Bazaarvoice can identify this kind of attack quickly, but he won’t say how.

    J.T. BUSER: We’re being super secret, because one of the reasons is because we have to be. Years ago, we stopped looking at this as a review problem, and an actual legitimate fraud problem. And in that, we look at it in as the same mode or model of an anti-fraud shop at a financial institution.

    JACKIE JUDD: If I were to write, create five different e-mails from this iPad and sent it out under different names, would you know it was all coming from this iPad?

    J.T. BUSER: Right. Yes.

    Yes, but there’s also a lot things that we triangulate off of. So, it’s not just one simple thing that we look at.

    JACKIE JUDD: The reason so much effort is put into generating and detecting false reviews is, of course, money. Last summer alone, according to the government, online retail sales exceeded $78 billion, and that number is growing.

    J.T. BUSER: We collect content for our clients. They use that content not only to display on their sites, but they use it to make decisions on how to change their products. So imagine if they spent millions of dollars and made decisions based off of content that was inauthentic.

    JACKIE JUDD: So it’s not only the front end, the consumer, but it’s the back end too?

    J.T. BUSER: It’s the back end, too.

    VINCE SOLLITTO: They actually have 429 reviews that are not currently recommended. And that’s a lot.

    JACKIE JUDD: Yelp’s Vince Sollitto says there’s a cost in credibility as well.

    VINCE SOLLITTO: If a business misleads consumers by writing fake reviews and you go out and you have a bad meal as a result, so what? But what if you’re looking for a pediatrician? What if you’re looking for an urgent care clinic? What if you’re looking for a pet groomer?

    Well, consumers have a right to be able to trust and rely upon this information. And efforts by businesses to mislead them are really quite harmful.

    JACKIE JUDD: The confidence of executives at both Yelp and Bazaarvoice about their abilities to catch most scammers may be misplaced. Knowing that with certainty the impossible. Nicholas White, the journalist and observer of life on the Internet, believes the arms race will never be won. It will just go on.

    NICHOLAS WHITE: As sites manage to actually tamp down the fraudulent reviews, there’s going to be some other way to manipulate money on the Internet and manipulate users on the Internet in a way that will make money. And people are just going to move on to that. So you have to be a savvy user to be a user of the Internet. Otherwise, you are going to be taken in.

    JACKIE JUDD: How do you be a savvy user? What do you do?

    NICHOLAS WHITE: First and foremost, you use your common sense on the Internet. If you read an online review and you can’t imagine a friend saying it — you know, think of a friend. Read it in your head in their voice. If it doesn’t sound authentic, it’s probably not.

    MAN: It’s a walk in the park. It’s nice, it’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s a little bit of extra cash.

    JACKIE JUDD: And you sleep at night?

    MAN: I do. I do, indeed.

    JACKIE JUDD: For the NewsHour, this is Jackie Judd in Austin, Texas.

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    WEALTH DEBATE monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s new tax proposal that emerged over the weekend is adding fresh fuel to the ongoing debate over economic mobility and inequality in this country.

    It’s a plan with many different components, but at the heart of it, the president is calling for a hike in taxes on wealthier households and using some of that money to boost tax breaks for middle- and lower-income earners.

    Jeffrey Brown gets some analysis about that framework and the political strategy around it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In his State of the Union speech tomorrow night, the president is expected to speak at length about changes to the tax code. His proposal calls for increasing the top tax rate on capital gains for higher-income earners to 28 percent and increasing the amount of inheritance subject to taxes, particularly for wealthier individuals and families.

    In turn, the president would boost the child care tax credit to $3,000 and add a $500 tax credit for families where both parents work. The plan has a number of other provisions related to education and retirement benefits also, according to the president, aimed at benefiting middle- and lower-income families.

    Neil Irwin broke it down for The New York Times’ Upshot page, and he joins me now.

    Neil, one of the interesting things about this moment, right, is the idea that things have changed, right, that the economy is a little better, the unemployment rate is down. Now what?

    NEIL IRWIN, The New York Times: Yes, some of the old battles, the old debates that characterized the first Obama term, they are really changing.

    And we’re no longer in an era of ultra-high deficits. The deficit has come down a lot. The economy is getting better, so as you see job growth, the urgency of any kind of stimulus is really passing. So now the question is, what’s next?

    What is economic policy going to look like in these economic policy debates in the years ahead? And I think what we’re zeroing in on is, the question is, how do you deal with inequality? How do you deal with the fact that middle-income Americans have not felt wage gains, have not felt improved standards of living for many years now?

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, when you look at these particular proposals, you could take the inheritance tax as one particular. But there’s methodology here, right, that really tweaks the income levels.

    NEIL IRWIN: Right.

    What President Obama is trying to do is zero in on the portion of the tax code that really benefit the ultra-rich, not just the comfortable, the people with a six-figure income, but the people making millions of dollars. One of those is, as you mentioned, what happens with inheritance taxes.

    Right now, if you have a large inheritance, there’s what’s called stepped-up capital gains tax basis. So essentially a rich family can pass along wealth over the generations and more or less never pay capital gains tax on it. The president wants to change that to say that whenever there’s a transfer of assets to the next generation, you don’t start over again in terms of the capital gains tax.

    This is one of many provisions that are designed to say the very wealthy have done well through this expansion, through this last generation. We want to take some of that wealth, tax them higher and use it to give working-class Americans a break.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, is your reading that this is overtly aimed at this inequality issue, as opposed to, as we have seen often, presidents talk about using the tax code for economic stimulus, or are they saying, we can do both?

    NEIL IRWIN: No, look, the stimulus debates are over. This is deficit-neutral. This is not something that is designed to pump more money into the economy. It’s not really expanding the reach of government. It is working through the tax code.

    But it very explicitly is designed to increase taxes on the very rich, increase capital gains taxes, all kinds of taxes on investments, while also funneling that money to the working class. And that’s a different message from what we have heard out of the president in the past and a sign of the new age that we’re in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I suppose it’s also aimed at countering the old tag, the tag that comes politically of spending — Washington spending more money on programs, on new programs.

    NEIL IRWIN: Yes, there’s no new programs out of this. It’s all working through the tax code.

    That said, Republicans are not going to like this idea. One central message out of the Republican Party for the last generation is that the key to economic growth is lowering the taxes on investment, lowering the capital gains tax. The president wants to reverse that. He wants to raise capital gains taxes. It’s hard to see any Republicans supporting this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, rhetorically, at least, the old political argument over taxes is still there and we heard it right away, right after these were announced.

    But what is new in this new era? What looks new as challenges or opportunities for both Democrats and Republicans? Start with Democrats. Is this a post-Obama era, perhaps?

    NEIL IRWIN: Yes. So, Democrats are — the one thing we do know is that Barack Obama will not be on the ballot in 2016.

    The Democrats have to decide what their message is going forward. And the reality is that in 2012 — or 2014, in the elections that just happened, a lot of Democrats were criticized for not really having a clear vision of the future. All they were is not the Republicans, rather than offering some coherent vision of their own.

    This is a try from President Obama to offer what that vision might be. We will see if the 2016 nominee from the Democrats embraces this same idea. But either way…

    JEFFREY BROWN: He’s just setting it up in some ways, you’re saying, for the Democrats?

    NEIL IRWIN: Absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about for Republicans? What…

    NEIL IRWIN: Well, Republicans, it’s interesting.

    We have seen some real change in language and how they’re talking about the economy. They seem to acknowledge that there is growth now. It’s no longer the crisis situation we were in a few years ago. But Republicans want to show that they have a plan to try and improve conditions for working-class Americans, too.

    So, out of Jeb Bush, for example, in his initial efforts toward a possible presidential campaign, a lot of language about making the economy work for the middle class and helping everyone rise up through entrepreneurship and free enterprise. So really what we’re seeing signs of is the 2016 election being a message, a of which party has the best plan for addressing this problem of working-class Americans not seeing raises over the last 25 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the battle, the tax battle starts tomorrow night, right?

    NEIL IRWIN: Absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Neil Irwin of The New York Times, thanks so much.

    NEIL IRWIN: Thank you.

    The post Obama offers plan to raise taxes on ultra-rich, put more money in middle class pockets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    IMMIGRATION DIVIDE_Monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The divide over immigration was a major theme of this year’s congressional elections. But the issue is not just roiling politicians.

    As our Gwen found on a weekend trip to Nevada, the president’s policies and Republicans’ opposition to reform has meant difficult splits within many families.

    GWEN IFILL: Far from Washington’s politics, positioning and policy, here’s what the immigration debate looks like, a Saturday afternoon gathering of friends and relatives at a family-owned restaurant little more than a mile from the Strip in Las Vegas.

    Susana Flores, the owner, is a legal resident who tried unsuccessfully to teach me how to make tortillas.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: Susana’s sister, Rocina Sandoval, who works as a waitress, is not here legally. She could easily be deported.

    ROCINA SANDOVAL, Nevada (through interpreter): I would like some kind of documentation so I could work legally and help the family more.

    GWEN IFILL: Most of the family members have lived in Las Vegas for decades. Rocina’s son, Juan Salazar, joined his parents here when he was just 7 years old. He is now covered by President Obama’s 2012 executive action which protects so called dreamers, young people who arrived in this country illegally when they were children.

    He runs a pool business with his father, Juan Sr., and attends a local community college. But good fortune has its limits, even for a dreamer.

    JUAN SALAZAR, Nevada: My parents do not qualify, because I’m not a born citizen and neither are my sisters. So my mom or my dad, they’re not protected. So that’s still that fear that they could come take your parents away any moment.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s a mixed bag of legality that casts a shadow over entire families here in Nevada who are among the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S.

    Republicans and Democrats in Washington agree that the nation’s immigration system is broken. What they can’t agree on is the correct way to fix it. The president has opted to expand the legal pool by executive fiat, a step that has infuriated Republicans. Most recently, he announced temporary protections for parents of U.S. citizens like Tere Dorame. She is also a waitress at the restaurant and has a 9-year-old U.S.-born son.

    GWEN IFILL: What difference would this make for you?

    TERE DORAME, Nevada (through interpreter): I will be able to have health insurance. And I will be able to work legally to provide for my son.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama has been here to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas three times, once when he was running for president in 2008 campaign, and twice more in 2013 and 2014 to sign immigration action. That is no accident.

    In a state where nearly a third of the population is Hispanic, nearly 20 percent of Nevada’s students have parents who are undocumented.

    ASTRID SILVA, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada: President Barack Obama.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    GWEN IFILL: One of them is Astrid Silva, who introduced the president here last time. Under the measure passed by the House last week, she would lose her recently granted legal status.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Part of what makes America exceptional is that we welcome exceptional people like Astrid.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    BARACK OBAMA: It makes us stronger.

    GWEN IFILL: Silva, who volunteers for PLAN, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, supports the president’s executive actions, but says even his approach falls short.

    ASTRID SILVA: Congress has been definitely playing with our lives. Unfortunately, they don’t see us as human. They see us as a number. They see us as — as how many people they can deport. And to us, it’s our families, and that’s what it should be to them.

    GWEN IFILL: There is a political tightrope at work here. Nevada’s three congressional Republicans all voted against repealing the DREAM Act last week. But they also voted to prevent the president from extending protection to parents of citizens.

    David Damore is a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

    DAVID DAMORE, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: Immigration is the top issue for Latino voters. It is sort of a gateway issue. Certainly, they care about education, they care about health care, jobs, those other things.

    But if you’re a Republican and the first word out of your mouth is they want to deport you, what comes second, no one’s listening to.

    GWEN IFILL: But this is not your typical red/blue divide. Niger Innis, for instance, runs CORE, a civil rights group that offers classes to help Las Vegas immigrants prepare for their citizenship exam.

    WOMAN: What are two Cabinet-level positions?

    MAN: Secretary of the commerce, secretary of defense, secretary of energy.

    GWEN IFILL: But as a self-described Tea Party Republican, he says the president is abusing his power.

    NIGER INNIS, Executive Director, TheTeaParty.net: This president had a real opportunity to really engage the country in a proper way on the question of immigration. You know, he had two years. His first two years in office, he had overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate. He didn’t move immigration reform.

    These executive actions have largely poisoned the well, and I don’t know that we’re going to have real substantive immigration reform progress until there’s a new president, unfortunately. And I don’t say that with joy. I say that with regret.

    GWEN IFILL: About 11,000 people in Las Vegas qualify for the 2012 dreamer protection. But nearly 31,000 people would qualify for the expanded program, which is expected to go into effect in May.

    Workshops have sprung up around the state to help immigrants used to living in the shadows learn how to manage the paperwork and to learn how to manage expectations.

    JUAN SALAZAR: We need something that we’re going to be fully protected, because who knows what’s going to happen? The president leaves, another president comes, and then they’re just playing. It just feels like sometimes they’re just playing with so many lives.

    GWEN IFILL: A cycle of lawmaking, veto threats and unilateral action that has become all too familiar in Washington and all too frustrating for those whose lives will be most directly affected.

    The post Political divide on immigration reform looms over Nevada families appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Armed police stop traffic during a vehicle search on London Bridge in London

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: From Yemen, we now turn to Europe.

    This month’s deadly terrorist attacks in France continue to loom large across the continent. Today E.U. officials called for an alliance with Muslim majority countries in the fight to secure Europe.

    The NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, is on assignment in London, where she looks at how Britain is reacting. And I spoke to her a short time ago.

    Welcome, Margaret.

    I know you just arrived over the weekend, but are you finding and talking to ordinary British citizens that there is a feeling, a heightened sense of anxiety, worry?

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes, there is, Judy.

    There’s definitely a sense of uneasiness here. The people feel, whether they’re terrorism expert or ordinary British, that there is not only a chance of a Paris-style attack here, but that it’s now more likely. So, yesterday, on a street of cafes in South Kensington, one young woman said to us she found it quite scary that the Paris attacks had happened so close by.

    And the manager of a nearby cafe of Bangladeshi descent shared her view of the risk to the city, as you can hear right here.

    SARAH DAVY, England: It does make you think about it. It does make you suddenly think that something that happened so close, it could happen here as well. And it does make you think you would like to see that something is being done, that you would like to see that security is heightened, you would like to see that it is being taken really seriously.

    IMRAN SHERIF, England: Obviously, London is one of the biggest cities in the world and the more popular cities. Definitely, we are under threat. So we’re definitely scared. We have — afraid. We have phobias. But as long as the people are all together, it’s OK.

    MARGARET WARNER: That’s said, Judy, British citizens have been dealing with terrorism on their soil for a very long time, certainly since the Irish Republican Army campaign of bombings of early 1970s.

    There was the 2005 underground bombing attacks here in London that killed close to 60 people, the 7/7 attacks. Just a year-and-a-half ago, four — or two British Muslims who were converts, actually, hacked to death an army officer, saying it was to avenge the killings of Muslims overseas by British soldiers.

    So one retired teacher said to me yesterday, I’m not saying we’re used to it, he said, but we have learned to endure it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, we know — we heard one of the people you talked to, the woman, saying she hopes the government is taking all this seriously. What is the British government doing?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, the government actually stepped up their threat level to severe last fall, which is essentially saying they think a terrorist attack is likely. And it’s a much higher threat level than there’s been before in quite a long time.

    And at that point, they stepped up security at all the obvious public buildings in a visible way, but also many ways which are not visible. This coincided with the two spokesmen of the Islamic State calling on supporters in the countries that are part of the so-called anti-ISIL coalition — and that’s the U.S., Canada, Australia, and most of the European countries — that if these supporters couldn’t come fight in Iraq or Syria, they should mount terror attacks at home.

    Just last week, the head of MI5, Andrew Parker — that’s the internal counterintelligence, domestic counterintelligence service here — said there have been at least in recent months three major terrorist attacks or plots that have been foiled that would have definitely have resulted in more deaths.

    And the counterterrorism chief of Scotland Yard said much the same late last year. And so they had been rounding up suspected plotters for quite some time. On a completely different front, today, it came to light that the — a minister of David Cameron’s cabinet had written a letter to all 1,100 imams in all 1,100 mosques in Britain calling on them to root out extremist voices in their midst and to preach to young Muslims of how their faith in Islam can be compatible with British identity.

    So I would say they’re moving forward on many fronts, including a call by Prime Minister Cameron for increased surveillance powers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Margaret, what’s the reaction in the Muslim community to all this?

    MARGARET WARNER: Oh, they took great umbrage, Judy, and they said they were being held to a different standard than Christian clerics when violence is committed by Christians. And they said, is Mr. Pickles suggesting that there is something incompatible?

    That said, there is a great tension here or certainly an undercurrent of unease, I would say, with the Muslim leaders saying they are being held to a different standard, but many non-Muslim Brits telling us they don’t think Muslim voices have been prominent enough in decrying the violence committed in the name of their faith.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret, we know that across Europe there is stepped-up protection of Jewish sites. What do you see of that in Great Britain?

    MARGARET WARNER: The same is true here, Judy.

    Last Friday, in response to Paris and in response to requests from the Jewish community here, the U.K. government did step up security at Jewish sites, especially schools. They wrote to the parents of every child in a Jewish school in the country promising increased protection, and this very night, there are very security briefings being held in many, many Jewish schools across this country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner, we thank you, reporting from London.

    And, Margaret, we look forward to your reports for the rest of this week.

    The post Heightened anxiety and vigilance in U.K. after Paris attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Houthi fighter sits in a military vehicle belonging to Houthi fighters on a street leading to the Presidential Palace during clashes in Sanaa

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The ongoing conflict in Yemen intensified today. The country’s been a stronghold for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the most active and dangerous branches of the Islamic terror network.

    Today, violence rocked the country. Gunfire and explosions erupted in Yemen’s capital city, Sanaa, as government and Shiite rebels battled near the presidential palace. Streets emptied and the heavily armed rebels, known as Houthis, seized control of state-run media. The Houthis have been in a tense standoff with government forces since taking over much of Sanaa last September.

    Since then, the U.S.-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has seen its influence severely weakened. The Shiite rebels have now carved out large swathes of Northern Yemen and extended their reach westward. They have vowed to wipe out the Sunni forces of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which holds sway in much of Central Yemen.

    AQAP has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks in the West, including the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris.

    For more on what drives this violence and Yemen’s links to global terror, I’m joined by Abdulwahab Alkebsi of the Center for International Private Enterprise. It’s an affiliate of the National Endowment for Democracy. He was born in Yemen and he regularly visits the region.

    And we welcome you to the program.

    So there’s been instability in Yemen for a long time, as we know. What is different? What’s significant about today’s events?

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI, Center for International Private Enterprise: Today’s events are very significant.

    And it didn’t start actually today, Judy. That started on Saturday, when the Houthi rebels arrested the president’s chief of staff and then they took him to Saba in the north. And there was negotiation — there were negotiations between the president and the Houthis for his release.

    Suddenly, today, they go to the presidential palace, surround it and a battle broke out. Fortunately, there has been a cease-fire since about 4:30 p.m. local time and there have been calls for a meeting tomorrow for the president, the government, the Houthis and the two houses of parliament to try to find a solution moving forward.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we saw — we showed on a map a little bit about who controls what parts of the country. But help us understand more about who these different groups are in Yemen.

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: There are many different groups.

    And to show the conflict today as the government against Shia rebels from the north, I think, is oversimplifying. Just to explain that, the battle today in Sanaa had put multiple forces. The Houthis, on one hand, they have a core group of Shia Zaidis. Unlike the Iranians, unlike the Lebanese Shia, they are completely different Shia group.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: They’re Shia, but…

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: They’re Shia, but Zaidis, which is a completely different group.

    And then today’s battle was between them and the presidential guards, those responsible to protect the president’s palace. The Republican Guards were also a part of that. These are forces that are still loyal to the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    Within all of this, the regular army, the military stayed aside and they didn’t even fight the war. So it’s much, much more complex to say it’s Shia against Sunni. And also forming it as Shia and Sunni makes it even worse. It is not that simple.

     

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, of course, what we hear in the United States about when we hear about Yemen, we think of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP.

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: Of course. Of course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How is AQAP affected by what’s going on and what could happen in Sanaa and elsewhere?

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: Well, terrific question, Judy.

    In the one hand, the Houthis are facing al-Qaida, and whenever they have faced them, they have defeated them, whether it’s north of Sanaa, whether it’s in the south, whether it’s in al-Jawf.

    And that right now, the Houthis seem to be gearing up for a strong battle between them and the AQAP east of Sanaa in Marib. Now…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, they’re fighting the regime?

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: Exactly. Exactly.

    Now, in Sanaa, they’re also — so, while they’re fighting this front against al Qaeda, they’re also fighting inside Sanaa. Now, at first sight, you say, wow, they’re defeating al-Qaida, they’re doing something good for us, right? They’re defeating them. And so al-Qaida is getting weaker because of that.

    But, on the other hand, when we make this battle between them as one between Shia and Sunni, it creates such a recruitment cry for al-Qaida for the Sunni fanatics to join them, those even who are not fanatics who want to protect Sunnis. And they become recruitment fodder for al-Qaida to fight.

    So, it’s — again, at one hand, they seem to be allies with us fighting al-Qaida, but at the same time, al-Qaida is benefiting from this to recruit more and more supporters for them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, for the United States — is the United States rooting for one side or another? The U.S. of course has been backing the current president.

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But he seems to be in a very difficult position.

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: He is. He’s in an extremely difficult position. I don’t envy him at all.

    And at the same time, the United States policy in Yemen, on the one hand, it’s from the security prism, as it should be. The reason we’re in Yemen is because of the threat of al-Qaida, which has shown that it can hit in the United States. It has shown that it can hit in Paris in the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

    It’s the main enemy. But the United States’ policy in the region also includes political support for the political process moving forward. The United States is the biggest supporter of the political process. And without that, the security situation will not be better.

    What is missing, in my opinion, is the economic support, the economic growth, creating the jobs for the Yemenis, so they don’t become, again, recruitment fodder for one side or the other. Most of these people are angry young men who have no jobs, who have no future, and they need that and they find friendship and family within either the Houthis or al-Qaida. We need more jobs in Yemen. And that’s the only way it will stop.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I know that’s a theme we’re hearing across the region.

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: Let’s hope so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we thank you very much, Abdulwahab Alkebsi. We appreciate it.

    ABDULWAHAB ALKEBSI: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

    The post Clashes raise fears of power vacuum in vulnerable Yemen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    KING DAY  monitor MLK JR

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This Martin Luther King Day was marked with all the traditional marches and observances. But it also brought new emphasis on past sacrifices and modern-day divisions.

    From Indiana to Los Angeles, and Boston to Denver, the marches and rallies came at a time of heightened focus on race in America.

    MAN: Much has changed, but much has remained the same. Income disparity, there’s still that big gap that exists in 1967-’68. There are many changes that need to be made, so we march.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This year’s events coincided with the Oscar-nominated film “Selma” about Dr. King and the 1965 voting rights marches in Alabama.

    The lead actor, David Oyelowo, addressed today’s services at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father once served. The movie’s stars also joined hundreds in a memorial march in Selma on Sunday, honoring those who braved violence there 50 years ago.

    And Alabama’s Republican governor, Robert Bentley, evoked that time as he was sworn in today in Montgomery.

    GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY, (R) Alabama: Government will never change unless we change it. Just ask the thousands of brave men and women who a half-century ago marched the 54 miles from Selma to the very steps where I stand now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The events of this day also came amid national protests over police killings of black suspects.

    Vice President Biden spoke to that issue in Wilmington, Delaware.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This is a new day. It’s the second half of the second decade of the 21st century, and there’s no reason on earth we cannot repair the breach that we have recently seen between law enforcement and minority communities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: MTV made its own appeal, airing its programming today in black and white in a bid to spark conversations about race.

    And it was also a day filled with tributes and volunteerism. President and Mrs. Obama joined that effort, taking part in a service project at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.

    And in other news this day, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah blamed Israel today for an airstrike that left a senior Iranian general and six Hezbollah fighters dead. They were killed Sunday in the Syria-controlled part of the Golan Heights. Israel didn’t confirm or deny it carried out the attack.

    But, in Beirut, thousands of Hezbollah supporters chanted, “Death to Israel.”  They marched in the funeral of one of the victims, the son of a late commander. Hezbollah and Iranian advisers are heavily involved in Syria’s civil war, supporting the Assad government.

    A Muslim backlash against the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo fueled huge new protests today. Hundreds of thousands rallied in Russia’s Chechnya region and in Iran. They carried signs and chanted slogans denouncing a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed in Charlie Hebdo’s latest issue.

    KHAVA AKHMATOVA, Protester (through interpreter): I think we Muslims have been insulted all over the world. Our religious feelings are hurt, and our religious right is also hurt. I think it is the duty of every Muslim to come out and take part in this march, not to demonstrate aggression, not to demonstrate the superiority of one religion over another, but simply to show that good is greater than evil.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The demonstrations came on the heels of sometimes violent protests over the weekend in Pakistan, Niger, Jordan, and Algeria.

    Investigators in Indonesia said today they have found no evidence that terrorism played any role in the AirAsia plane crash. They said they have now listened to all of the cockpit voice recordings from one of the black boxes.

    ANDREAS HANANTO, National Transportation Safety Committee, Indonesia (through interpreter): The voice from the cockpit doesn’t show any sign of a terrorist attack. It is only the pilot sounding very busy on handling the airplane. There was no sign showing that there was a threat on the plane.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, efforts to survey and recover the plane’s fuselage were thwarted by bad weather again. Investigators hope to have an initial report on the crash next week.

    There’s word that the U.S. breached North Korean computers in 2010, and that provided the basis for claims that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures. Today’s New York Times reports that the National Security Agency used Chinese and Malaysian networks to infiltrate North Korean networks. The Obama administration has not publicly discussed its evidence for saying that North Korea hacked Sony.

    A Chinese watchdog group blamed Beijing today for hacking Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail service inside China. GreatFire.org said the attack followed last month’s disruption of Google’s Gmail service. The group says the government wants to force Chinese users onto domestic services that can be controlled.

    China is denying its hackers stole plans for the American F-35 stealth fighter jet. The allegation is contained in secret U.S. documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published Saturday in the German magazine “Der Spiegel.”  The U.S. military has acknowledged that the F-35 program was hacked.

    The stock market in China took its worst beating today in six years. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plunged nearly 8 percent. That’s after Chinese regulators imposed curbs on margin trading. That’s letting investors buy stock with borrowed money. U.S. markets were closed for the King Day holiday.

    And American Lindsey Vonn is now the winningest woman ever in World Cup skiing. She captured her 63rd career victory today at a competition in Italy. Vonn finished the Super-G race nearly a full second ahead of Austria’s Anna Fenninger in second place. That broke the women’s record for World Cup wins that had stood for 35 years.

    The post News Wrap: MLK Day inspires tributes, protests and service appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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