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

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    One Ocean Diving program's safety diver and shark behavior expert Ocean Ramsey swims with a shark in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of ©juansharks and ©oneoceandiving.com

    One Ocean Diving program’s safety diver and shark behavior expert Ocean Ramsey swims with a shark in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of ©juansharks and ©oneoceandiving.com

    Ocean Ramsey wants you to know that sharks are vastly misunderstood. They’re scavengers, and rarely confrontational, said the biologist and scuba instructor, who has studied the animals for 15 years and leads cageless shark diving expeditions off the coast of Oahu. The ocean region is home to Sandbar, Galapagos, silky and tiger sharks, and scalloped hammerheads.
    A tourist swims with a sandbar shark on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    A tourist swims with a sandbar shark on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    The expeditions, run by the organization One Ocean Diving, are a form of eco-tourism. On the water, Ramsey educates each three-person team of tourists on conservation efforts, shark behavior and safe swimming procedures. Before swim fins touch water, the swimmers must know how to read basic shark body language and how to behave in a way that’s non-threatening to the sometimes-dangerous animals.

    Sharks, she said, are not particularly interested in human blood — they’re drawn more to dying or wounded fish. But instructors never get complacent with the wild sea animals.

    Sandbar sharks swim around during a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Sandbar sharks swim around during a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    She also describes the personalities of individual sharks, many of whom she knows well. Bully, for example, a sandbar shark, is known for pushing around the other sandbars. Ramsey describes him as endearing, and a bit of a camera hog.

    “We know all of the sharks by distinguishable markings, ID numbers and nicknames,” Ramsey said. “So it’s kind of cool to talk about their individual characters with people.”

    Shark ecologist Ocean Ramsey gives a pre-dive briefing before taking tourist on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Dive instructor Ocean Ramsey gives a pre-dive briefing before taking tourist on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Key to their efforts is conservation, as the shark population has taken a nosedive in the region. Conservationists estimate that roughly 100 million sharks are being killed each year for shark finning – a rate unsustainable for a species with a slow growth and reproductive cycle. One of the main culprits of this phenomenon is shark fin soup, a popular Chinese elitist dish often served at weddings or special events.

    Sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem, and losing them could upset its delicate balance. They consume weak, dying and injured fish, slowing the spread of disease, Ramsey said.

    Shark ecologist Ocean Ramsey surfaces after swimming with sharks on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Safety diver and shark behavior expert Ocean Ramsey surfaces after swimming with sharks on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    “Even a decade ago, I used to see three times more sharks than I see now,” Ramsey said.
    Shark ecologist Ocean Ramsey guides tourists on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Shark ecologist Ocean Ramsey guides tourists on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Sandbar sharks swim around during a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Sandbar sharks swim around during a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Shark ecologist Ocean Ramsey, center, guides tourists on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Dive instructor Ocean Ramsey guides tourists on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Shark ecologist and boat captain Juan Oliphant signals to tourists that a lot of sharks are approaching them on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Shark ecologist and boat captain Juan Oliphant signals to tourists that a lot of sharks are approaching them on a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Sandbar sharks swim around during a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    Sandbar sharks swim around during a cageless shark dive tour in Haleiwa, Hawaii February 16, 2015. Photo by Hugh Gentry/Reuters

    GoPro footage of the cageless shark dive shot by Juan Oliphant

    The post Photo essay: How to swim safely with sharks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart

    TJX Cos., the parent company of T.J. Maxx and other retail stores, announced they would raise their workers’ pay to $10 an hour in 2016. Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart

    The parent company that owns retailers T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods announced on Wednesday a plan to raise their workers’ wages to $9 an hour in June, with an eventual rise to $10 an hour by 2016. The move makes The TJX Companies, Inc. the latest mega-retailer to jump on the competitive wages trend, following an announcement from Wal-Mart just last week.

    Since announcing this raise, shares of TJX Cos. increased by 3.3 percent. The uptick is a turnaround for the company, which has shown sluggish sales and released a less-than-favorable outlook on the current quarter and fiscal year.

    The company also announced plans to advance their quarterly dividend by 20 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    The retailer says competitive wages will help them achieve their goals. “This pay initiative is an important part of our strategies to continue attracting and retaining the best talent in order to deliver a great shopping experience, remain competitive on wages in our U.S. markets, and stay focused on our value mission,” Carol Meyrowitz, TJX’s chief executive, said in a statement released today.

    This recent increase continues the movement started by retailers Ikea and Gap that, within the last year, boosted their wages — creating more competition for low pay workers.

    The post TJ Maxx parent company will raise workers’ pay to $10 an hour in 2016 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    "Texas 22 October 2001. One bag of assorted Jolly Ranchers." Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    “Texas 22 October 2001. One bag of assorted Jolly Ranchers.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green


    In January 2000, artist Julie Green was working at the University of Oklahoma when she noticed an unusual menu in her morning paper.

    “Three fried chicken thighs, 10 or 15 shrimp, tater tots with ketchup, two slices of pecan pie, strawberry ice cream, honey and biscuits, and a Coke.”

    At the time, Oklahoma had the highest per capita execution rate in the country. And the morning after an execution, newspapers statewide would post death notices, detailing the inmate’s life and crimes, the time and manner of his or her death – and the final meal.

    "California 27 September 1929. Hearty breakfast." Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    “California 27 September 1929. Hearty breakfast.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Green knew about capital punishment, but the tradition of offering the condemned a special final food startled her. She clipped that menu, and other notices as she found them.

    And soon after, she began painting the details of these meals onto second-hand porcelain plates, using a cobalt blue that reminded her of traditional English and Japanese china.

    Learning about the final meals “humanized the inmates on death row for me,” she told Art Beat in a phone interview from her studio in Corvallis, a city south of Portland, where she now teaches at Oregon State University.

    If she couldn’t find a final meal listed, she’d call prison wardens for the information. After she moved to Oregon, in 2000, she scoured the web for information about executions across the country. Final meal information nearly always came up quickly in her searches.

    “Montana 16 February 1917. One apple.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    “Montana 16 February 1917. One apple.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Over time, she delved into historical records to paint older final meals, too, like the single apple given to a man in Montana in 1917. She spends six months of every year on this project, sometimes churning out a plate a day in her quest to create 50 a year.

    To date, Green has completed 600 plates, which will be on display this spring at the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio, in conjunction with The University of Dayton, in an exhibit titled “The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates”.

    In her artist’s statement, Green says that her goal is “to continue painting fifty plates a year until capital punishment is abolished.”

    Julie Green at home. Photo by  Ha Lam, Whole Foods Market

    Julie Green at home. Photo by Ha Lam, Whole Foods Market

    Green spoke to Art Beat about her experience creating and displaying this project over the past 15 years. The transcript below was lightly edited for length and clarity:

    Art Beat: Is your goal to cover every last meal?

    Julie Green: The goal of the project is dialogue, and then to continue to show the plates. I’m looking for longer-term exhibitions, ideally a year, because the transport of 600 or more plates is challenging. Those are my goals, dialogue, and to continue to exhibit the work.

    Then, it’s my plan to continue to paint 50 plates a year. Those would be both contemporary executions as they happen, and then I also go back and do historical, very early ones as well as ones I’m behind on.

    I try to do an overview … to keep it somewhat appropriate, so that the project has a lot of executions from Texas and Virginia, since those have the highest number in the country.

    But my goal is grander than your question. My goal is to be part of the conversation of capital punishment, and to stop painting plates, to end the project.

    Julie Green applies cobalt blue mineral paint. Her technical advisor, Antoni Acock, kiln-fires every plate. Photo by Ha Lam, Whole Foods Market.

    Julie Green applies cobalt blue mineral paint. Her technical advisor, Antoni Acock, kiln-fires every plate. Photo by Ha Lam, Whole Foods Market.

    Art Beat: So you have political ambitions for the project?

    Julie Green: It’s actually important to me that the piece is presented neutrally … So while I am political in the piece, you can’t really tell people how to think, and my idea here is more to just point to our system and the meals.

    Art Beat: What does the tradition of offering death row inmates a special last meal mean to you?

    Julie Green: That’s a question I’ve thought a lot about, why we have that tradition. Our prison system is sort of based on Europe, and specifically England. That goes back to the gallows and the last beer. That’s certainly historical all over the world, actually. But I think the reason we continue the tradition is perhaps that it is something positive for the prison to focus on [for] its reputation.

    "New York 15 August 1963. A pack of Pall Malls." Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    “New York 15 August 1963. A pack of Pall Malls.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Art Beat: You identify each inmate by state and execution date. Why do you choose not to use their names?

    Julie Green: When I first read the meals in the paper, I was struck by how much they humanize, how personal they are. There’s a saying in painting, and maybe in life, too: “When in doubt, leave it out.” For my project, it wouldn’t add anything to have the prisoner’s name. I’m pointing to the state much more, and then the date. At this point, you can look it up if you’re curious, but I’m more interested in the system than in the individual.

    I didn’t really want to point to the family of the inmate, and also, for the same reason, [to] the victim. I think about all the sorrow that that might represent, a murder and then an execution. There’s so much attached to each plate that I didn’t feel that I needed to add that.

    “Indiana 05 May 2007. Pizza and birthday cake shared with 15 family and friends.”  Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    “Indiana 05 May 2007. Pizza and birthday cake shared with 15 family and friends.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Art Beat: Have any meals in particular stood out to you?

    Julie Green: Some of the really humble ones stand out, like a Honey Bun, or a bag of Jolly Ranchers, or a jar of dill pickles. Those are not the common ones, there are a lot of huge meals that are more common, but those quiet meals stand out to me.

    There’s a birthday cake and a pizza. The inmate said that he’d never had a birthday cake, so they made a birthday cake for him. For me, I think all the plates tell a story, but that one tells a bigger story about the circumstance and childhood of that person who’d never had a birthday cake.

    photo by

    The Last Supper, 2000-ongoing. Installation view of 357 plates in the 2009 exhibition Counter Intelligence, California State University, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Art Beat: Have you learned anything surprising about the practice of administering final meals?

    Julie Green: There’s a lot of state-by-state variations. The ritual, the eating of the meal varies a lot. Sister Helen Prejean has written some fine essays on this process that has influenced me. In Louisiana, you’ll have a meal with family and friends and the prison warden — they’ll all eat together. That’s an anomaly. That’s the only state I can think of that’s like that. Most often, the meal is eaten alone, or with a guard, perhaps. And then even the rituals of having a cigarette; you’re not supposed to have a cigarette, it’s illegal, and alcohol is illegal. I think about that, the variations from state to state, or the relative standards from state to state.

    Mississippi 23 July 1947. Fried chicken and watermelon to 15- and 16- year old boys. Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Mississippi 23 July 1947. Fried chicken and watermelon to 15- and 16- year old boys. Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Art Beat: What kind of reactions have you gotten from people who have seen this work in the past?

    Julie Green: I have a comment book. Part of the reason I started the plates was, I realized people don’t know about this, and it’s of interest to them as it is to me, and people also are not informed that well about capital punishment, but they’re opposed simply because of the cost of it or whatever. The comments, sometimes there are several hundred comments for each exhibition. I really encourage people to write them down. It’s really fascinating, keeping all of them. It’s kind of a document of … say, Chattanooga, Tenn., or Chicago, what that particular region that year, who went to the exhibition feels about it.

    And it does vary quite a bit. [University of California at Santa Cruz] is more of a liberal audience, as you would expect. And then sometimes there are angry people, the full range. Angry is not the right word, but people opposed to the project, or opposed to capital punishment. And that’s great, I want conversation.

    Usually their responses are actually not about the meals but often go into our feelings about capital punishment. People seem to want to express their views or think about it out loud. And that’s been great.

     “Oklahoma 29 April 2014. 20 boneless hot wings from KFC, large potato wedge, two fruit cocktail cups, cole slaw, 20 ounce Coca Cola. Inmate has since been granted stay of execution.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    “Oklahoma 29 April 2014. 20 boneless hot wings from KFC, large potato wedge, two fruit cocktail cups, cole slaw, 20 ounce Coca Cola. Inmate has since been granted stay of execution.” Photo courtesy of Julie Green

    Art Beat: Do you feel that you provide a venue to start those conversations?

    Julie Green: I hope so, and it feels that way. I’m an optimistic person, and it’s been far more conversation than I even hoped for. And it helps sustain me to continue. Because it’s a sad project. I’m ultimately hopeful, but it’s not light, happy painting. So to see this conversation I think is really healthy, and it definitely helps sustain the project.

    Art Beat: You’ve said you want to keep doing this till the death penalty is abolished. Do you foresee that happening in your lifetime?

    Julie Green: Yes, I’m hopeful that it will. Even in the years that I’ve been working on this, a number of states, including the one I live in now, Oregon, either have stopped having capital punishment or have a moratorium. So I think as a country we’re really looking at it. So I am hopeful.

    Editor’s note: this article originally stated that Corvallis was located in southern Oregon. Corvallis is actually in central Oregon, in the Willamette Valley. The corrected was made on Feb 25.

    The post Painter immortalizes last meals of 600 prisoners put to death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Speaker of the House John Boehner's invitation for Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress was not appropriate. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

    A planned speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress has raised tensions between the U.S. and Israel. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Trading barbs, the U.S. and Israel escalated their increasingly public spat Wednesday over Benjamin Netanyahu’s GOP-engineered congressional speech next week, with the Israeli prime minister accusing world powers of rolling over to allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry openly questioned Netanyahu’s judgment on the issue.

    The comments injected new tension into an already strained relationship between the close allies ahead of Netanyahu’s address to Congress next Tuesday. More Democratic lawmakers announced they would skip the speech, which was orchestrated by GOP leaders without the Obama administration’s knowledge.

    Netanyahu hopes his speech will strengthen opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy objective. U.S. and Iranian officials reported progress in negotiations this week on a deal that would clamp down on Tehran’s nuclear activities for at least 10 years but then slowly ease restrictions.

    Netanyahu lashed out at the U.S. and other usual staunch allies of Israel.

    “It appears that they have given up on that commitment and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, will develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons,” he said in Israel.

    “They might accept this but I am not willing to accept this,” he said in remarks delivered in Hebrew and translated. “I respect the White House, I respect the president of the United States, but in such a fateful matter that can determine if we exist or not, it is my duty to do everything to prevent this great danger to the state of Israel.”

    Kerry, testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, dismissed Netanyahu’s worries. He argued that a 2013 interim agreement with Iran that the prime minister also opposed had in fact made Israel safer by freezing key aspects of the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

    “He may have a judgment that just may not be correct here,” Kerry said.

    His comments, as well as statements from other top U.S. officials, made clear the Obama administration had no plans to mask its frustrations during Netanyahu’s visit.

    In an interview Tuesday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said plans for Netanyahu’s speech had “injected a degree of partisanship” into a U.S.-Israel relationship that should be above politics.

    “It’s destructive to the fabric of the relationship,” Rice told the Charlie Rose show. “It’s always been bipartisan. We need to keep it that way.”

    Netanyahu’s plans to speak to Congress have irritated many Democratic members, but also have put them in a difficult spot — fearing they will look anti-Israel if they don’t attend.

    Still, a number of Democrats have said they plan to skip the session, with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky becoming the latest on Wednesday.

    Kaine said Netanyahu’s speech was “highly inappropriate” given its proximity to Israel’s March 27 Israeli elections.

    Schakowsky said she was concerned that the address could end up scuttling delicate negotiations with Iran.

    “If the talks are to fail, let Iran be the party that walks away from the table rather than the United States,” Schakowsky, who is Jewish, said in a statement.

    Senate Democrats invited Netanyahu to meet with them privately while he is in Washington, but the Israeli leader refused the invitation, saying such a meeting could “compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his visit.

    “I regret that the invitation to address the special joint session of Congress has been perceived by some to be political or partisan,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California. “I can assure you that my sole intention in accepting it was to voice Israel’s grave concerns” about a nuclear deal with Iran.

    Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

    The White House has been weighing ways to counter Netanyahu’s address to Congress, as well as his separate speech to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The administration is considering whom to send to the conference, with some officials pushing for a lower-level representative than normal.

    There are no plans for Obama to meet with Netanyahu next week. The White House has cited its practice of not engaging with world leaders in close proximity to their elections, though it’s no secret that Obama and his Israeli counterpart have little personal affinity for each other.

    Other top administration officials plan to be out of the country during Netanyahu’s visit, including Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden. Both will be abroad on trips that were announced only after Netanyahu accepted the GOP invitation to speak to Congress.


    AP writers Donna Cassata, Matthew Lee and Deb Riechmann in Washington and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

    The post U.S.-Israel tensions continue to rise ahead of Netanyahu speech appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    rowhouses

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    GWEN IFILL: As we reported last night, the nation is in the midst of dramatic demographic change. One key shift: Many African- Americans are leaving the city for the suburbs. But some urban communities are trying to get them back.

    Jeffrey Brown recently traveled to Houston to see how one group there is fighting to preserve its history through art.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On a recent Saturday, neighbors from Houston’s Third Ward came out to celebrate the life of the Flower Man. Cleveland Turner, who died at age 78, was a beloved folk artist who turned found objects into art and made his own home a kind of gallery.

    Rick Lowe was one of the speakers.

    RICK LOWE, Project Row Houses: The thing that makes it not so sad is that this neighborhood is full of people that are creatively expressing themselves in different ways. And we see them. They walk through our doors all the time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The doors are those of Project Row Houses, an effort to rejuvenate and energize a neighborhood and its people through art, economic development, and social services.

    Last year, Lowe, who raises funding from foundations, corporations, and individuals, was recognized for his efforts with the MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant. Lowe told me it began in the 1990s, when he was working as a traditional painter and sculptor.

    RICK LOWE: I had a group of high school students at my studio. And this student came to me, and he said, that’s not what we need. He said, if you’re an artist, why can’t you create a solution?

    JEFFREY BROWN: The historic Third Ward, just south of downtown Houston, is a mixed-income, predominantly African-American era, dating back to end of the Civil War. It was where the city’s first sit-in protest took place during the civil rights era.

    But, by the early 1990s, it was riddled with abandoned homes, crime, and drugs. Lowe, then in his early 30s, joined with fellow artists to buy and renovate 22 of these small shotgun-style homes, originally built in the 1930s. He based the work, now his artwork, on the ideas of German artist Joseph Beuys.

    RICK LOWE: He had coined the term social sculpture. And he defined it as the way that we shape and mold the world around us. And so that’s what kind of what got me inspired to think of these little shotgun houses as being the basis or the foundation for social sculpture.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Some of the houses were use for art itself, as workspaces and for exhibitions. They still are.

    And during our visit, we saw work by established artists, including Julia Brown, who had created a video showing from different perspectives the life of a single mother and her children.

    JULIA BROWN, Artist: I think that’s an opportunity to just get a really intimate kind of look at what someone’s life is look. And the space that you’re looking at is literally on the other side of this wall.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The other side of the wall in homes also part of Project Row Houses, where another side of the work goes on, providing shelter to single mothers and children.

    Some of the houses are for temporary use, helping young women get on their feet. Others, designed by the Rice University Building Workshop, working with Rick Lowe, offer more permanent subsidized housing.

    NIKALA ASANTE: Oh, wow. You turned it into a bird.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s where we met Nikala Asante, who told us of a difficult childhood, having to work two jobs as a teenager and leaving school, before turning her life around with the help of Project Row Houses.

    NIKALA ASANTE: I really was attracted to the program because it focused on budgeting. It focused on parenting skills. And so it wasn’t just a place to stay. It would also develop me to become a better mother and to become a better than important.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Asante has graduated from college, published a book of poetry, now works at the University of Houston, and has an enthusiasm that seems boundless.

    NIKALA ASANTE: People always give Third Ward a bad rap. Like, even now, when I tell people I live in Third Ward, they say, oh, it’s dangerous there. I don’t want to drive there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?  Even now, they say that to you?

    NIKALA ASANTE: Yes. Even now, they say that. And I say, no, I live in an artist community. They’re like, oh, OK, I want to come see it.

    ASSATA RICHARDS, Young Mothers Residential Program: I was working in abject poverty, making about $700 a month for me and my son.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Perhaps the program’s biggest success story is the woman who now runs it, Assata Richards.

    ASSATA RICHARDS: And I came into this organization, and this organization said, set the highest, grandest dream for yourself and we will support you. And so by ’99, I graduated from the University of Houston and went on to Penn State to get a Ph.D.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Richards taught sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, but decided she wanted to come back to mentor young women here.

    ASSATA RICHARDS: We do more than give housing. We give a community to young mothers. So, our concept is that believing that investing in young mothers and their children is an investment in the future of the neighborhood. What I believe is art and creativity has the potential to transform the lives of individuals and lives of a community.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now there’s a new focus, economic development. Project Row Houses has created a business incubator, providing space and support, for example, for a food co-op, to address the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the neighborhood and for a round-the-clock live Web radio station, All Real Radio, in one of its row houses.

    Its founder, a longtime Houston deejay, who goes by the name Zin, says this is yet another way to empower and unite those in the community.

    ZIN, All Real Radio: Radio can give them that voice. Radio can give the person who didn’t have that spotlight the opportunity to be spotlighted. So I think it offers the community a voice, a vision, an opportunity. You know, it’s from business to art to, you know, social activism. I think it fits in all of those categories.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So many categories, indeed, for Project Row Houses, from social services to low-income housing to business development.

    The obvious question for artist Rick Lowe, why is this art?

    RICK LOWE: Why it’s art is because there’s a symbolic value that is evident in this project that is beyond normal social service projects or redevelopment projects and so on and so forth.

    I mean, you know, it comes in the same shape, but it completely departs when you start talking about its intention.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the intention of an artist?

    RICK LOWE: Is to look at what it means to be in a house, you know, and to create something that is symbolic to get people to talk about. What does it mean to be in a house?  What is the value of a house?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Call it what you will. Many other cities are now calling Rick Lowe to come see what he might do with them.

    Meanwhile, here in the Third Ward, there’s still plenty of work to do. Old houses sit abandoned on some streets. There’s also new building everywhere, including a $33 million renovation project at nearby Emancipation Park. It’s a sign of gentrification, as condos are built and rents and property taxes rise.

    Lowe’s biggest fear now is that the character of this place will change and longtime residents will be pushed out.

    RICK LOWE: As we embrace the awareness of the historic value of this neighborhood, I think it gives us some ground to continue to stay in this development process.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There was no preventing the razing of the Flower Man’s home. Mold tests revealed that it couldn’t be saved.

    But Rick Lowe’s organization owns this plot as well, and he told us it will be put to good use to preserve the legacy of the folk artist and his neighborhood.

    Reporting from Houston’s Third Ward, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

     

    The post Art empowers and preserves Houston community appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    China flag

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to a controversial warning about China from a new bestselling book that’s becoming a lightning rod for criticism.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner explains.

    MARGARET WARNER: Since the 1970s, Michael Pillsbury has focused on China, as a Pentagon official and consultant and now at the conservative Hudson Institute.

    Over the years, the Mandarin speaker has grown ever more hard-line in his views, and it is clear in his bestselling, but controversial new book, “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower.”

    He says it’s based on Chinese and American documents and books and conversations with Chinese military officials and defectors. Critics have shot back, accusing him of sloppy use of evidence.

    I spoke with Pillsbury last week.

    The very title of your book asserts that America has been in denial, that China has a secret strategy to replace the United States. What is that strategy based on?

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY, Author, “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower”: The strategy is based on two things, first, China’s historical role in what we would today call the leader of the world. They want to restore themselves to the role they played for 2,000 years.

    The second part of the strategy is, they know from their economists that they can’t build China into a replacement for us by themselves. They have got to get certain things from the outside world, and they have worked very hard in the last 30 years to get those things.

    MARGARET WARNER: And is that so surprising?

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: It’s surprising because they have denied publicly such an ambition.

    They portray themselves as weak, backward, and in great need of assistance from us.

    MARGARET WARNER: And the United States has been a very willing partner in assisting them.

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: Yes, because of false assumptions.

    We thought, going back 30 or 40 years ago, if China becomes prosperous, the middle class will demand democracy, and so we’re looking at a country that, yes, was stronger, but it has our values. That didn’t happen. That’s what I call the greatest intelligence failure in our history.

    MARGARET WARNER: But there are other countries in the world that consider themselves great historical powers and want to restore that greatness. What makes China, as you portray it, so malevolent or so inimical to U.S. interests?

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: I think it’s the unreformed China that I’m worried about.

    They plan to keep the Communist Party structure, the approach to human rights, the approach to pollution. They plan to keep all that and become the dominant economic power. This is what I’m warning against.

    MARGARET WARNER: But wasn’t it inevitable, given China’s size and its resources, its population, that it was bound to grow by leaps and bounds?  It didn’t need the United States for that.

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: No, they did need us from for that. It’s very clear from their own writings.

    They believe that roughly half their growth over the last 30 years was brought about by favorable terms of trade and investment from America. We’re crucial to their strategy.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, you yourself made a personal evolution. You say you used to be what’s known in the trade as a panda hugger.

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: Yes.

    Well, a panda hugger, that I was before, is someone who uncritically just wants to help and support China, has a sense of the old — what I call the old narrative. I came to realize I had been wrong from the beginning about who was really managing whom in this relationship. We have, I hate to say been their pawns because we have got a lot of benefit from our trade with China and our investment.

    And they have made some enormous progress. But I think, overall, the Chinese are managing us much better than we are managing China.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, people who have looked at this book criticize it for relying way too much on the view of the hawks inside the defense and intelligence and military establishments, and that there are many other competing voices in the Chinese establishment.

    Aren’t there?

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: Yes, that criticism is valid.

    But the rise of the hawks has happened. It’s a fact. President Xi Jinping shows more attention to them, has involved them more in his deliberations, goes to meet with them in person. So, I think the rise of the hawks that I’m claiming has taken place is not up for debate. It’s happened for sure.

    Other civilians are involved, too. It’s not just the military. They have a much more nationalistic view that China should speak out and really be something now, and not wait until 2049.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, now, what would a Chinese-led global order look like that is detrimental to U.S. interests?

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: The Chinese concept of the new global order, they say in very pleasing language, will be fair. The south and the poor countries of the world, there will be no pressure anymore against dictators, that issues of a global nature, like climate change, pollution in general, these matters will be handled by consensus, not by pressure groups from what they perceive as, you know, unusual concern with American values. That will all be gone.

    The key point about the new Chinese-led global order is America will not be a global leader. The removal of the United States as what they call the hegemon is the most important thing. So the new order itself is just going to have no American leadership. That’s the fundamental point.

    MARGARET WARNER: There is a counterview, which is the U.S. and China are now the world’s two biggest economies, and if we enter into a period of conflict with them, we do so at our own peril.

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: Well, it’s true. We want to cooperate with China, but what I’m arguing is a little bit different.

    I’m saying we need to be shaping China at the same time as they’re shaping us. They have enormous influence in our political system, with our businessmen. There’s no reason we can’t try to have the same kind of influence in Beijing.

    MARGARET WARNER: So if the United States wants to forestall this, being replaced as the global superpower, what does it most need to do?

    MICHAEL PILLSBURY: We need to strengthen organizations that are dedicated to shaping China.

    We have to wake up that the Chinese are not poor and backward anymore, and it’s time to shape them. But, secondly, we are falling behind in almost all the competitiveness indicators there are. We have got to get our own house in order first, or the Chinese are going to win the marathon by default.

    MARGARET WARNER: Michael Pillsbury, thank you.

     

    The post Does China have a secret plan to take America’s place? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Women technology Silicon Valley

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    GWEN IFILL: A discrimination lawsuit in California is shining a light on the hiring and promotion practices of high-tech businesses, especially when it comes to women.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The case centers on one of the industry’s most prominent venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins.

    Ellen Pao, a former employee there, filed a gender discrimination suit, claiming she was pressured into a relationship with a married colleague, was barred from key meetings, and passed over for promotion.

    The company says the relationship was consensual and there was no discrimination.  But the case also has a larger echo, playing into a long-running critique of the role and treatment of women in the big-money, male-dominated world of Silicon Valley, with a Harvard Business Review study finding a — quote — “hostile work environment” for many women, and another by Babson College finding that just under 3 percent of Silicon Valley firms that receive venture capital funding have female CEOs.

    More now on the case and the larger issue.

    Nicole Sanchez is the founder and CEO of Vaya Consulting, a group that helps recruit and retain diverse employees in Silicon Valley.  And Nellie Bowles is a journalist who covers the high-tech industry.  She is reporting on the trial for Re/code, and was in the courtroom today.

    Nellie Bowles, this is really being bitterly fought, isn’t it?  You were there.  Fill us in briefly on the claims and counterclaims.

    NELLIE BOWLES, Re/code: Yes, it’s very intense.

    This is a hugely historic case.  Kleiner Perkins is a really respected venture capital firm here.  And Ellen Pao is a really respected entrepreneur now.  She is the CEO of Reddit, one of the largest Web sites on the Internet.

    And she is alleging that she was passed up for promotions and ultimately fired from Kleiner Perkins based on her gender and on her complaints about gender discrimination while she was there.  And so the stakes are high.

    If she wins, it’s a very big deal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Nicole Sanchez, you know, every case of course has its particulars, but why is this one resonating so much in the larger world out there?

    NICOLE SANCHEZ, Vaya Consulting: Well, I think it’s the first time anybody has really taken on a firm the size and stature of a Kleiner Perkins.

    I think, anecdotally, women in Silicon Valley know this thing happens quite frequently.  Whether or not we found out that this is the case with Ellen Pao, it is — we are all watching to see what happens because nobody has taken on a firm with this much power in Silicon Valley before.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Staying with you, Nicole, how does it manifest itself?  What do you see happening on a daily basis for women?

    NICOLE SANCHEZ: Well, I think, you know, we need to separate out what we mean by women first of all, because I think, when we say women, there are several groups of women who are facing similar, yet different enough things, that it’s worth bearing out.

    Predominantly, the women in Silicon Valley are still white and Asian, and they face a lot of discrimination, harassment, things like micro-aggressions that cause people to leave jobs, death by 1,000 cuts.  And I think there’s a very interesting study that came out of U.C. Hastings recently by a woman named Joan Williams called double jeopardy, where women of color, particularly black and Latino women, are facing an additional layer of harassment around race, as well as gender.

    And this plays out in a lot of different ways, both online in social media, but also in the quiet recesses of tech companies, where a very male-dominated and particularly white male-dominated sector, can — has been getting away with a lot for a really long time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Nellie Bowles, you cover the industry.  So, what result do you see?  Are people walking way from the industry?  Are they fighting back?  What happens?

    NELLIE BOWLES: I think they’re fighting back.  I think some of the cases that we’re seeing are so egregious.

    Like, what I’m seeing in the courtroom are a lot of really egregious examples of — whether it’s gender-based discrimination or what, of gender issues within Kleiner Perkins are coming to light.  So, for example, there was today the revelation that there was an all-male ski trip in which one entrepreneur said, hey, let’s try to bring some women on this.  And a partner on Kleiner Perkins said, actually, no, on this trip, let’s have it be no gals.

    And then there’s another story in which a — one partner sort of lured a Kleiner Perkins — a female Kleiner Perkins partner to New York on the auspices of meeting with an important Internet executive, and he turned out not to be there, and it was just a date between the two of them.  And then that night, he tried to push his way into her hotel room, and she had to push him out.

    And then, when she went to her Kleiner Perkins superiors to say that she’d like this man not to be on her review board, they actually denied that request, and he was her reviewer.  And so later he was fired, to be fair.

    But I think we’re seeing some really bombshell, like, events coming out of here, and so I think the ripple effect will be huge.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, Nellie Bowles, we’re also seeing the company — I mean, the company is putting up a strong defense, right?

    NELLIE BOWLES: Yes.  Oh, yes, they came out swinging.

    It’s not — there’s little room to compromise, to put it lightly.  They are saying that Ellen Pao was hired basically as a secretary to do scheduling and calendaring, and then that she was never up to the job of being a venture capitalist, and just didn’t have the skill set, didn’t have the interpersonal skills, wasn’t — just wasn’t capable of it, with very strong language.  So, there’s little compromise here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    Nicole Sanchez, back to the industry more broadly.  It’s interesting, at the same time you see these kinds of cases, we also see some very high-profile women in the tech industry.  What is — explain.  Is there a disconnect?  How do you explain that?

    NICOLE SANCHEZ: Well, I think that there are some disconnects.

    And I think that the danger, just like in any sector, is to point to one or two.  In this case, I am assuming you mean Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, who are at the top of their game, no doubt.  But it’s very easy to point to two and say, well, if they made it, why can’t you?  And there are things about their profiles, their education, their socioeconomic background that allowed them to do that and really supported them in doing it.

    And I don’t knock them for that.  For every Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, there are literally thousands of women who don’t even come close to that, but are no less talented.  So, I think any time we hold up anybody as a role model for all of us, it’s very dangerous.  It certainly doesn’t bear to mind the struggles.

    I see some of the women I was with yesterday, with one of my clients, some of the engineers who are just trying to get good code out.  They’re not wanting to be on an executive track.  They’re not wanting to be managers.  They want to be engineers and design really cool things, and still they are facing a set of micro-aggressions to harassment that causes them to not even be able to do that.

    So that would be my caution about holding up a couple of women as success stories and saying that the rest of can do it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will leave it there.

    Nicole Sanchez, Nellie Bowles, thank you both very much.

    NICOLE SANCHEZ: Thank you for having us.

    NELLIE BOWLES: Thank you so much for having us.

     

     

     

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    spaceinvaders_atari

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: Playing video games might seem like child’s play.

    But, as Tom Clarke of Independent Television News reports, it’s also at the frontier of artificial intelligence.

    TOM CLARKE: It was the late 1970s, and for the first generation of video gamers, Atari was king. By the standards of the day, the graphics were mind-blowing, the sound out of this world.

    And the selection of games just went on and on and on.

    Ah.

    Compared to the video games of today, Atari looks pretty clunky, but the games are still quite difficult to play, especially if you haven’t picked one up for 30 years, like me. But it’s that exact combination of simple graphics, but quite challenging game play, that has attracted the cutting edge of artificial intelligence researchers back to the 1970s.

    This version of “Space Invaders” isn’t being played by a person, but a system of computer algorithms that is learning how to play it just by looking at the pixels on the screen. It may not sound like it, but it’s something of a breakthrough, the work of one of the finest young minds in A.I. research, North Londoner Demis Hassabis.

    DEMIS HASSABIS, Vice President, DeepMind Technologies: We don’t actually give any clues to the system about what it is supposed to do in the game, what it’s controlling, how it gets a score, what’s valuable in the game, what the right strategies are. It has to learn all those things from first principles.

    TOM CLARKE: Hassabis shows me his system playing the classic paddle game “Breakout.”

    DEMIS HASSABIS: So now, about two hours in, now it can play the game pretty much as good as any human, professional human player could, even when it’s coming at very fast angles. And then we thought, well, that’s pretty good, but what would happen if we just left it playing for another couple of hours?

    And then it did this unexpected thing where it found the optimal strategy was to dig a tunnel around the side and send the ball behind the wall, which is obviously the optimal strategy and the safest strategy.

    TOM CLARKE: Out of 49 completely different Atari games tested, the system played more than half of them better than a human, a simple demonstration of what A.I. researchers call general nontrivial intelligence.

    DEMIS HASSABIS: This is what the essence of intelligence is, is finding structure and meaning in your perception inputs, and then being able to act intelligently to make a plan using that model of the world.

    TOM CLARKE: And that’s what this is?

    DEMIS HASSABIS: And that’s what the system does, yes.

    But it’s important to discuss some of the risks and make sure we’re aware of those. And it’s decades and decades away before we will have anything that is powerful enough to be a worry, but we should be discussing that and beginning that conversation now.

    TOM CLARKE: They have been around since the 1970s, and the machines haven’t taken over yet, but, humanity, watch this space.

    The post Teaching computers how to play Atari better than humans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GettyImages_537618197

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    GWEN IFILL: Now we turn to the Supreme Court, where the justices today heard the case of a woman who went to a job interview wearing a head scarf, and didn’t get the job, but why? At the heart of the case, business rights vs. religious freedom.

    As always, NewsHour contributor Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal” was in the court today.

    How did this case get to the Supreme Court, Marcia?

    MARCIA COYLE, “The National Law Journal”: OK.

    Well, Gwen, Title VII is our nation’s major job bias law, and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. It actually makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail to reasonably accommodate religious beliefs or practices, unless that would create an undue hardship on the business itself.

    A lower federal appellate court here ruled that Abercrombie & Fitch wasn’t liable under Title VII when it failed to hire Samantha Elauf, who is Muslim and wears a head scarf, a hijab, because the appellate court said, an employer can only be liable if the employer receives direct notice from the job applicant or the employee that there is a need for a religious accommodation.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought the appeal to the Supreme Court challenging that rule, and that was the case that the court heard today.

    GWEN IFILL: In this case, Abercrombie & Fitch, which kind of caters to the youth market and has a certain look…

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: … said that her hijab, or the way she was dressed for this job interview didn’t match their look that they wanted their employees to have. Did they say at any point that it was because of religion?

    MARCIA COYLE: No, Abercrombie & Fitch’s lawyer today said that the so-called look policy is a religion-neutral policy, and that she wasn’t hired just because her hijab would violate the look policy.

    The arguments were very spirited today. And I would say that the Abercrombie & Fitch’s counsel really bore the brunt of the questioning. It seemed as though more than a majority of justices were skeptical of that argument — of the company’s argument.

    GWEN IFILL: For example?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, here’s the real problem.

    The government believes that the burden should be on the employer, because the employer here — to take the first step in a job interview, because the employer has superior knowledge, knows the work rules. And if the employer senses, perceives, understands or knows that there could be a religious issue, the employer should just bring it up and start what Congress intended, a dialogue with the job applicant, to see if there was a religious issue, and is there a need for an accommodation?

    Otherwise, if you put the burden on the employee or job applicant, as the lower court here did, they’re reluctant to bring religion up in a job interview.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    MARCIA COYLE: An employer can remain silent, perhaps knowing there’s a religious issue, discriminate, and escape liability.

    GWEN IFILL: Even Justice Alito, who usually comes down in favor of business in these kinds of cases, was among the skeptical ones today.

    MARCIA COYLE: He was. And he’s actually very concerned about religious discrimination in general, and he said — he really simplified this and said, look, why can’t an employer just say — for one of the hypotheticals, you have somebody wearing a beard in front of you, why can’t an employer just say during the interview, we have a work policy that excludes beards? Do you have a problem with that?

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    MARCIA COYLE: It doesn’t draw religion into it right away. But it gives — then the onus shifts to the job applicant to say if he or she does have a problem with it.

    GWEN IFILL: I have a very quick question for you, which is, we have had a couple of other religious freedom cases before the court, whether it’s the Hobby Lobby case, whether they have the right to hire people — to give abortion benefits, or whether it was the — you mentioned the beard, a Muslim prisoner who had a beard.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes. Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Is this similar or different?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, it’s different because it falls under a particular statute that does make it illegal to fail to reasonably accommodate religious beliefs.

    But the court — I mean, the law is very clear, and the court, even under the First Amendment and religious freedom, is quite protective of those freedoms. This is an important case. Business is watching it closely, too, because it believes that if it loses here, it’s going to be forced into stereotyping people who apply for jobs in order to avoid liability.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about right now.

    Thank you, Marcia Coyle, for this, as always.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: For more on the two sides of the argument, we turn to Munia Jabbar, a civil rights attorney, formerly of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Rae Vann, who is an attorney with the Equal Employment Advisory Council.

    Munia Jabbar, what is an employer’s responsibility, in your opinion, in this case?

    MUNIA JABBAR, Civil Rights Attorney: An employer’s responsibility is not to bury their head in the stand when they are on notice that a potential employee will need a reasonable accommodation from them to work for them.

    So, for example, in this case, there were supervisors, employees who recognized the young woman’s head scarf as a hijab, and that a hijab is a religious garment. Instead of engaging in a dialogue with her at all, or asking her, do you think you’re going to have any problems doing this job, here is our look policy, they basically decided to avoid the issue altogether and not to extend her a job offer, even though otherwise she seemed to be a good candidate.

    GWEN IFILL: And, Rae Vann, in your opinion what is an employee’s or an applicant’s responsibility in a case like this?

    RAE VANN, Equal Employment Advisory Council: Well, the applicant in this context has an obligation to put the employer on notice of his or her sincerely held religious belief.

    It would be very problematic, as a practical matter, to impose an obligation on employers, under a broad rule, the type of rule that the EEOC is proposing here, that the employer delve into, try to divine an applicant’s religious beliefs based merely on how he or she presents him or herself at the interview.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you this, Rae Vann. If an applicant was wearing a yarmulke, is that something the employer or the employee should have to mention, if for some reason the employee policy doesn’t allow for head gear?

    RAE VANN: I think it’s very dangerous to get into the business of requiring an employer to engage in that conversation.

    The cases like the yarmulke, like the example that Justice Alito provided in court today about the applicant who appears in a nun’s habit, those are not necessarily difficult questions. The more difficult case comes when you have someone, for instance, who appears for a job interview covered with tattoos and is applying for a front-of-the-house position.

    The employer doesn’t wish to hire that person because that is not the image that it wishes to project in that particular position. Under the EEOC’s formulation, the employer would have an obligation to inquire of that person, inquire as to whether or not the display of tattoos is based on a sincerely held religious belief.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask Munia Jabbar about that.

    Are we talking about discrimination? Or are we talking about religious freedom? Or does the tattoo example hold up?

    MUNIA JABBAR: I think the tattoo example can easily be dealt with, because if an employer is not concerned about the person’s religion, but is instead concerned about the person’s ability to do the job, I would think that the employer would just ask the job candidate, look, I have noticed you have some tattoos, here is our look policy, or these are our policies with respect to front-of-the-house or public interaction jobs. Would you have a problem complying with this in some way?

    And that could surface the discussion.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you another thing. Here’s a — is it possible, or conceivable, that someone could be — appear for any reason in a head scarf and not be religious at all, and it not be a religious item at all?

    MUNIA JABBAR: It’s possible, but, again, I think that what would happen in that case is that the employer would ask, well, you know, again, here is our policy. I notice you are wearing a scarf. Would you have a problem complying with the policy for any reason?

    And the other thing is that I think that it’s naive to think that employers at this point aren’t savvy enough to be able to identify the most common hallmarks of religious grooming. For example, some studies have shown that the general American public, over 90 percent, can recognize a hijab head scarf and how it often looks, covering the hair and the neck, when it is worn.

    So I think that even if the applicant doesn’t give verbal notice, the employer will often still be on notice, because they’re going to see the scarf, and they’re going to recognize it.

    GWEN IFILL: Rae Vann, why don’t you reply, respond to that?

    RAE VANN: That may well be the case with respect to the yarmulke or even perhaps a hijab or a nun’s habit, but that does not hold water when you talk about body piercings, tattoos, facial hair, hair length.

    Those are all personal styles that can be attributed to or be the result of a sincerely held religious belief, or they could be symbols of a style, a style that an individual seeks to display. So, I think that, again, it’s a complex issue, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this is not about Abercrombie & Fitch not wanting to provide workplace reasonable accommodations to applicants or employees or any employer wanting to do that.

    It is what triggers the obligation to engage in the discussion. And we believe that there are numerous practical difficulties associated with requiring employers across the board to simply engage in the discussion based on some assumption or belief.

    GWEN IFILL: We will see how the Supreme Court rules.

    Munia Jabbar, civil rights attorney, and Rae Vann of the Equal Employment Advisory Council, thank you both very much.

    RAE VANN: Thank you.

    MUNIA JABBAR: Thank you.

    The post Supreme Court weighs how religious freedom affects business dress codes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dangling icicles in the ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. Photo by Flickr user The Cut.

    Dangling icicles in the ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. Photo by Flickr user The Cut.

    Grab your ice cleats and snow poles this weekend for a 1.1 mile trek over icy Lake Superior to witness the stunning, naturally-formed ice caves at Apostle Island National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. Park rangers determined today that the lake ice en route to the caves is thick and sturdy enough to handle visitors starting Saturday. Even so, rangers are warning it will be a treacherous walk in windy conditions.

    Visitors in 2014 making the trek across Lake Superior to get to the ice caves. Photo by Flickr user pixn8tr.

    Visitors in 2014 making the trek across Lake Superior to get to the ice caves. Photo by Flickr user pixn8tr.

    The ice caves aren’t accessible every year, but this will mark the second year in a row the ice cover of Lake Superior is strong enough to take the pedestrian traffic. In the two months the caves were open last year, about 138,000 people made the journey.

    Extreme winter cold has covered 95.5 percent of Lake Superior with ice as of Feb. 23, 2015. The record ice cover for Lake Superior was in 1996 at 100 percent.

    Lake Superior almost completely frozen in February 2015. Satellite image from NOAA, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

    Lake Superior almost completely frozen in February 2015. Satellite image from NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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    US-POLITICS-HOMELAND-FUNDING

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    GWEN IFILL: Congress now has just three days left to pass a budget for the Department of Homeland Security, but it hasn’t agreed exactly on how to get there.  The agency’s funding has been caught up in a wider debate over President Obama’s use of executive action to change immigration law.

    The disagreement has made for a rare, but clear split among Republicans leaders in the House and the Senate.

    Political editor Lisa Desjardins has the story.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This shutdown split, for Republicans, is a question of priorities.  Everyone agrees the Department of Homeland Security must be funded.  And Republicans in general all oppose the president’s executive actions to protect more undocumented immigrants.

    But House Republicans say the immigration issue is priority.  They voted to fund Homeland Security, but only with a block of the president’s policies attached.  But that bill has died in the Senate, where Senate Republicans are prioritizing Homeland Security with a bill that does nothing but fund the agency.

    It is a back and forth with an agency in the middle.  Today, Speaker Boehner pointed back to the Republican-led Senate.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: I’m waiting for the Senate to act.  The House has done its job to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president’s overreach on immigration.  And we’re waiting for the Senate to do their job.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And the Senate responded within hours, voting overwhelmingly to start debating its no-strings-attached funding bill.

    MAN: On this, the yeas are 98, the nays are two.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In the halls of the Capitol, it is a fight among conservatives.

    Alabama’s Mo Brooks is determined and defiant on immigration.

    REP. MO BROOKS, (R) Alabama: I am not going to vote for any legislation, whether it be long-term or short-term, that supports illegal and unconstitutional conduct.  And so I don’t know what the speaker’s plan is going forward, but I can tell you what my position is.  And my position is — and I think that there are a substantial number of Republicans in the House of Representatives who would agree — that the United States Constitution comes first.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But Representative John Carter of Texas worries about Border Patrol agents.

    REP. JOHN CARTER, (R) Texas: I want to make sure that those guys down in the Carrizo cane down in South Texas, where drug dealers cross everyday with — carrying heavy, heavy firearms, those guys are getting a paycheck.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This policy debate over immigration and the Department of Homeland Security, of course, has very political underpinnings.  Right now, I’m standing just a few feet away from the House chamber.

    But if I step aside and you look over my shoulder, you can see the long hallway that leads to the U.S. Senate.  It’s about 600 feet between the two chambers, just two football fields in length.  But for Republicans this week, that difference has never been greater.  And it has everything to do with the different political problems for Republicans in the House and the Senate.

    STAN COLLENDER, Policy Analyst: Following the 2010 census, the GOP made congressional districts that they have control over in various states more Republican, not only more Republican, but more conservative.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Stan Collender is a policy analyst and strategist for Qorvis Communications.  He says while the House swept with more conservative districts, Senate Republicans won their majority by winning overall in purple states with moderate votes, like North Carolina and Iowa.

    STAN COLLENDER: If they go too far to the right, that is, if Republican senators do try to duplicate what the Republican House members try to do, it will hurt politically.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This is what’s fueling the GOP divide.  In the Senate, Mitch McConnell has a thin majority with 54 seats.  If he loses four seats, the Senate is tied.  Problem is, next year, McConnell has seven seats that could be vulnerable.

    Now look at Speaker Boehner’s situation in the House.  He has a wide majority, 57 seats more than Democrats.  Republicans could lose all of their vulnerable members and still keep the House.  A bigger issue there is finding agreement.  Boehner has some 20 to 60 conservatives calling for tough, no-compromise stances.  That makes any vote difficult. And add to that some conservatives regularly question if Boehner should be speaker.

    Result? For now, Boehner is not taking a firm position either way.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I don’t know what the Senate’s capable of passing.  And until I see what they’re going to pass, no decision’s been made on the House side.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Which is precisely the problem for Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

    JEH JOHNSON,  Secretary of Homeland Security: There are concrete, dramatic consequences for the homeland security of this nation if we allow the funding of the department to lapse.

    GWEN IFILL: Lisa joins me now from U.S. Capitol

    So, Lisa, if this passed 98-2 in the Senate, what’s the real holdup in the House?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right, an overwhelming vote in the Senate.

    I think, Gwen, it comes down to the fact that, among conservatives, the Houses has more conservatives and those folks are in fact more conservative themselves.  It’s just a more conservative body in the House, and they are approaching this immigration issue with kind of tougher stances, digging in farther than the Senate.

    Also, Gwen, I would like to mention, I think the two bodies just operate differently.  They always have, and what we’re seeing here is that Republicans have yet to fully synch up.  They are in charge in both bodies, but they haven’t yet figured out how to make the machinery work while they’re in charge.

    GWEN IFILL: So is there a plan to get through this?  Is there an endgame, or is it going to come to another standoff like we have seen before?

    LISA DESJARDINS: There is not an endgame yet officially, but reading the tea leaves, Gwen, talking to sources up here on the Hill, it looks like what will likely happen is some time tomorrow we could see the Senate move forward with perhaps a final vote on its funding plan.  That, of course, depends on maybe, will there be objections from Ted Cruz or from Jeff Sessions and others?

    But likely a Senate vote some time tomorrow night — then, if that moves to the House, that would be a funding bill without any strings attached — the pressure is on the House.  Are they ready to shut down government over this — or, rather, shut down Homeland Security over this issue?  They know that a shutdown really is not the right word, that in fact most of Homeland Security will stay operating, and just in fact Homeland Security officers will not get paid immediately.

    They’re trying to figure out what the tradeoff is there.  How much will they get blamed for such a problem?  And, in fact, Gwen, it looks like a lot of talk right now means we could be here this weekend working out this problem.  Perhaps there’s a partial shutdown of a day or two for Homeland Security, technically, but already in Congress’ mind, it’s Monday that matters, when Homeland Security work force in bulk would go back to work.

    GWEN IFILL: OK, Lisa, so here’s a theory.  We saw Jeh Johnson, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, just now in your piece, but we also know he came out today.  Standing beside him were two former Republican DHS secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge, who called the plan to try to hold — I think the word that Chertoff used was hostage, holding it hostage, and the term that Tom Ridge used was folly.

    They disagree with the president on his overreach, as they called it, in executive power, but they don’t think this is the right way to speak to that.  Is that the strategy?  Is that a persuasive argument for these very conservative Republicans who just disagree with the president on this?

    LISA DESJARDINS: This is a theory that’s out here, put pressure on Republicans from Republicans.

    But, Gwen, honestly, I don’t think that pressure is working yet on the House.  That is certainly something that the Senate is responding to.  That’s why we saw such a big vote today to move along, let’s get this agency funded.  But in the House, the priorities are different, as we said in the story.  They are concerned about this immigration action and there are conservatives there that say they don’t want anything else to happen until immigration is dealt with.

    One other note, Gwen.  I think that this is a sign of more things to come.  While this immigration showdown could be resolved within a few days, there are many more cliffs, showdowns like this ahead.  We will see if Republicans can get on the same page several more times this summer.

    GWEN IFILL: Lisa Desjardins watching it all unfold up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: You got it.

     

    The post Why Senate and House Republicans are split over a Homeland Security bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: FBI agents in New York arrested two men today who they say were planning to join Islamic State forces in Syria. One was stopped at Kennedy Airport, before he could board a flight to Turkey. The other was arrested in Brooklyn.  He’d allegedly spoken of trying to kill the president. A third man, in Jacksonville, Florida, is charged with helping finance the effort.

    Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters in Syria have cut a key Islamic State supply line from Iraq. The Kurds launched an offensive over the weekend, with heavy fighting just a few miles from the Iraqi border. Amid the fighting, ISIS combatants have seized up to 150 Christians in the region.

    A war of words escalated today between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It involved his planned address to Congress next week on the nuclear talks with Iran. Republicans invited him without consulting the White House.  Some Democrats have now said they will skip the speech. Last night, National Security Adviser Susan Rice offered the sharpest criticism yet, to PBS’ Charlie Rose.

    Netanyahu, who’s in the middle of an election campaign, fired back today during a visit to a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter):
    There are many reasons to worry about the agreement that is forming now. The world powers have committed.

    GWEN IFILL: The Obama administration has said, despite early reports, no deal is in place.

    Iran staged a major show of military force today, taking aim at a life-size model of a U.S. aircraft carrier. State television broadcast war games near the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Spectators looked on as speedboats raced in and missile batteries fired on the mockup, doing heavy damage. The U.S. Navy dismissed the exercise.  A spokesman said, “They have attempted to destroy the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set.”

    In Afghanistan, at least 124 people died in avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall. Homes in four northeastern provinces were buried in the snow slides. The hardest-hit area, about 60 miles outside Kabul, affected hundreds of families.

    Back in this country, a new winter storm rolled into the Deep South and Mid-Atlantic today, with up to eight inches of snow expected overnight. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency, and said, this time, officials are ready.  Last year, a winter storm crippled the city for days.

    Far to the north, the weather caused havoc in Maine, where more than 75 vehicles crashed on a snowy stretch of Interstate 95 early today. At least 17 people were hurt.  And Boston got two more inches of snow overnight, taking its total over 100 inches this winter. Only the winter of 1995-’96 was worse.

    The former Marine who killed “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle will serve life in a Texas prison, without parole. Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty last night of fatally shooting Kyle and another man in 2013.  A jury rejected his insanity defense.  His lawyers said they will appeal.

    The race for mayor of Chicago will go to a runoff in April. Incumbent Rahm Emanuel fell short of winning a second term outright on Tuesday. He got 45 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. As the results came in, they urged their supporters on.  And the runoff takes place April 7.

    Wall Street failed to make much headway today. The Dow Jones industrial average managed a gain of 15 points to stay above 18200. But the Nasdaq fell a point. And the S&P 500 was down slightly as well.

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    The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, begins today in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, begins today in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Morning Line taking a hiatus
    • What to watch at CPAC
    • U.S.-Israel tensions – is this the lowest point?
    • Two possible ways the Homeland Security shutdown showdown ends

    Farewell Domenico!

    Farewell Domenico!

    Morning Line going on a “Winter Break”: A note to our readers … tomorrow is one of your authors’ last day at PBS NewsHour after writing this item for the better part of the past year. Happily, Domenico Montanaro will stay within the public broadcasting family, going to NPR. But he will be missed here. It seemed like a good time for Morning Line to take a late-season “Winter Break.” Check back on the NewsHour website for all the latest political news and updates, and look for more in the coming weeks from the political team. Keep e-mails and thoughts coming to Lisa and Rachel. (E-mail addresses below.)

    Bush’s, Walker’s, Paul’s CPAC challenge: To the politics, and there’s plenty of it. It’s that time of year again — time for CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, when potential Republican presidential hopefuls try to woo activists from around the country who gather in Washington (technically now just outside D.C.). A couple of things to watch:

    (1) How is Jeb Bush received? He is going to face pushback in this presidential campaign for his support of Common Core and immigration reform. Does that begin today? In fact, CPAC is holding panels on both issues: “Common Core: Rotten to the Core?” and “Immigration: Can Conservatives Reach a Consensus?” Bush is taking something of a risk in not addressing the crowd in a traditional podium speech, but instead taking questions from Fox’s Sean Hannity. It could pay off, if nothing else for having the courage to have a give and take.

    (2) Does Scott Walker continue his momentum? This is going to be a long presidential campaign. Lots can and will change. Right now, Walker continues to have the momentum among the conservative base as the most viable alternative to Bush. The latest Iowa poll has him up by double-digits. But how does he do in the CPAC straw poll? (More on that below.)

    (3) Does “Paul” still have the juice: Someone named Paul has won four of the last five CPAC straw polls, as Amy Walter pointed out in the NewsHour Politics Monday segment this past week. His father Ron inspired deeply passionate followers who came out to organize at these confabs. Rand looked to carry that torch, but he has not held quite as firmly to purist libertarian ideology as his father.

    Watching the straw poll: Rarely does the CPAC straw poll predict who will be the GOP presidential nominee. In fact, just one person since 1974 has won the straw poll prior to an election year and emerged as the eventual nominee. That was Reagan who won the 1976, 1980 and 1984 straw polls. (Back then, they didn’t vote every year.) George W. Bush won in 2000, but Gary Bauer won in 1999. Mitt Romney won in 2012, but Ron Paul won in 2011. Does someone surprising emerge, like, say, Marco Rubio, who finished second last year? Or is his stance on immigration too toxic? Also, don’t be surprised if Jeb Bush does win it. Even though this is a conservative crowd, straw polls are all about organization. That’s why Mitt Romney won four of these between 2007 and 2012.

    Here’s today’s speaking schedule today:
    8:40 a.m. Ben Carson
    1 p.m. Chris Christie
    1:20 p.m. Carly Fiorina
    1:40 p.m. Ted Cruz
    5 p.m. Scott Walker
    5:20 p.m. Bobby Jindal
    5:40 p.m. Sarah Palin

    Tomorrow:
    8 a.m. Newt Gingrich
    8:40 a.m. Marco Rubio
    9 a.m. Rick Perry
    10:20 a.m. Rand Paul
    Noon Donald Trump
    12:20 p.m. Rick Santorum
    1:40 p.m. Jeb Bush
    4:20 p.m. John Bolton

    Tensions flare between U.S.-Israel: Tensions between the U.S. and Israel flared into the open in the last couple of days ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled address to Congress Tuesday. First, on Charlie Rose’s show Tuesday night, National Security Adviser Susan Rice called Netanyahu’s forthcoming address “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.” Then, Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday took a shot at Netanyahu’s credibility on what to do about Iran, because of his support for the Iraq war. “The Prime Minister was also profoundly forward-leaning and very outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq and George W. Bush,” Kerry said during questioning on Capitol Hill. Netanyahu is upset with Western allies for forging ahead with Iran nuclear negotiations over his opposition. This is the most outspoken U.S. officials have been publicly in the Obama administration about Netanyahu, whose speech before Congress comes two weeks before voting in Israel for his reelection. The White House had previously been stressing that it had a long-standing policy of not inviting world leaders to public U.S. events in the weeks leading up to their elections back home and were irked that the address had been worked out between House Speaker Boehner and Netanyahu adviser Ron Dermer, a former Republican operative.

    Lowest point in U.S.-Israeli relations? Some high-profile Democrats are not attending the speech, but several pro-Israel Democrats invited Netanyahu to meet with them. Ironically, Netanyahu turned them down, so as to not look “partisan.” “Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit,” Netanyahu wrote in response to Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California. So is this the lowest point of U.S.-Israeli relations? As we wrote back in August, Obama is not the first U.S. president to have a tense relationship at times with Israel. We cited that in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan expressed frustration with Israeli bombings in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Bloomberg today notes that the dustup between Obama and Netanyahu has “brought comparisons to a low point in relations in 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush tussled with Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir over Israeli settlement construction.” And, it’s worth pointing out, that this tension comes even as Democratic candidates have consistently won two-thirds or more of American Jewish voters over the last 30 years.

    DHS shutdown showdown — How will this end? As you may have seen on NewsHour last night, there is currently no single funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that has the votes to pass both chambers of Congress. With funding due to run out tomorrow night, how does this end? Two leading possibilities: (1) The Senate passes a bill with no strings attached today. Possibly late today or early hours of tomorrow. Then the pressure is on the House. If all Democrats (188) vote in support of a “clean” Senate funding bill, just 29 Republicans votes (out of 245) are needed for passage (With two vacancies, a majority in the House is currently 217 members.) In theory, such a bill could pass in the next two days. (2) House conservatives dig in and push for a shorter-term bill, a few days, to try and extend the immigration debate.

    In both of these scenarios, votes could happen today, tomorrow or over the weekend, meaning there is a possibility that DHS funding could lapse briefly. For now, the leading end-game theory is that the Senate will take a firm stance for funding DHS, and only funding DHS, and the House will then have tremendous pressure on it to accept that bill.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1929, President Coolidge signed a bill creating the Grand Teton National Park. Who was the first president to create/designate a national park? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Kenneth C. Davis (‏@kennethcdavis) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: Who were the four original members of Washington’s cabinet? The answer: Alexander Hamilton (Treasury), Thomas Jefferson (State), Henry Knox (War) and Edmund Randolph (Attorney General).

    2016

    • The Clinton Foundation disclosed Wednesday that it accepted donations from seven foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

    • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took a shot at the media in a USA Today op-ed, saying he won’t “take [their] bait.”

    • Jeb Bush is accepting money from donors who favor same-sex marriage, which could complicate things for him among conservatives.

    • When asked during a radio interview if he feared having “a third Bush war,” Jeb Bush responded, “I wouldn’t be conflicted by any legacy issues of my family. I actually … am quite comfortable being George Bush’s son and George Bush’s brother. It’s something that gives me a lot of comfort on a personal level, and it certainly wouldn’t compel me to act one way or the other based on the strategies that we would be implementing and the conditions that our country would be facing.”

    • GOP super PAC representatives gathered Tuesday at the Wyoming home of Joe Ricketts, along with other big donors including Paul Singer and Linda McMahon.

    • A measure to curtail private sector unions is being fast-tracked through Wisconsin’s GOP legislature, and Gov. Scott Walker says he’ll sign it.

    • At his first town-hall in his state in six months, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that he can govern New Jersey and run for president at the same time.

    LINE ITEMS

    TOP TWEETS

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org, Lisa Desjardins at ldesjardins-at-newshour-dot-org, or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

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    Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch at her Confirmation Hearing. Photo by Jeff Malet

    Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch during the Senate Judiciary hearing in January. Photo by Jeff Malet

    WASHINGTON — Loretta Lynch won approval from a key Senate committee Thursday to serve as the nation’s next attorney general, as divided Republicans clashed over her support for President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.

    The 12 to 8 vote in the Judiciary Committee sent Lynch’s nomination to the full Senate. Three Republicans joined all committee Democrats in voting “yes.”

    “The case against her nomination, as far as I can tell, essentially ignores her professional career and focuses solely on about six hours that she spent before this committee,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as he criticized fellow Republicans for using Lynch’s testimony in support of Obama’s executive actions on immigration as a reason to oppose her nomination.

    Timing is uncertain, but Lynch is all but assured approval by the full Senate as well, under new rules that will require only a majority vote instead of the 60-vote margin required for most legislation.

    But she appears unlikely to win confirmation resoundingly, as Thursday’s debate demonstrated that many Republicans will oppose her over Obama’s executive actions granting work permits and deportation stays for millions of immigrants in the United States illegally.

    “We should not confirm someone to that position who intends to continue that unlawful policy,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

    Lynch, 55, now serves as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She would replace Eric Holder and become the first black woman to hold the nation’s top law enforcement job.

    The post AG nominee Loretta Lynch passes Senate Judiciary committee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jin Lee/Bloomberg

    The FCC is scheduled to vote today on net neutrality rules, meaning websites like Netflix would load at about the same speed, for the Internet. Photo by Jin Lee/Bloomberg

    WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission has agreed to impose strict new regulations on Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

    The regulatory agency voted 3-2 Thursday in favor of rules aimed at enforcing what’s called “net neutrality.” That’s the idea that service providers shouldn’t intentionally block or slow web traffic, creating paid fast lanes on the Internet.

    The new rules say that any company providing a broadband connection to your home or phone would have to act in the public interest and conduct business in ways that are “just and reasonable.”

    Much of industry opposes the regulations, which it says constitutes dangerous government overreach. The rules are expected to trigger lawsuits, which could drag out for several years.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama gestures next to First Lady Michelle Obama at a reception celebrating African American History Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington February 26, 2015. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama gestures next to First Lady Michelle Obama at a reception celebrating African American History Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington February 26, 2015. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is celebrating what he calls “the central role that African Americans have played in every aspect of American life.”

    Obama was joined by his wife Michelle as they hosted a White House reception Thursday for Black History Month.

    The president said his family, including daughters Sasha and Malia will visit Selma, Alabama next week to honor the 50th anniversary of historic civil rights marches across the state. He said the trip will also note the upcoming 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

    Obama said the visit is to pay tribute to civil rights legends who participated in the march like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis — now a congressman from Georgia — as well as “countless American heroes whose names aren’t in the history books, that aren’t etched on marble somewhere— ordinary men and women.”

    The president said the trip will also remind his daughters of their own obligations “because there are going to be marches for them to march, and struggles for them to fight. And if we’ve done our job, then that next generation is going to be picking up the torch as well.”

    The Black History Month celebration fell on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death. The unarmed 17-year-old was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer during a 2012 confrontation. Obama thanked Martin’s parents for attending on the difficult day, and said part of all parent’s task is to show their children “every single day that their lives matter.”

    Guests at the reception included House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Mattie Atkins, who participated in the violent Selma marches in the 1960s.

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    jihadjohn1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: To help fill in both stories, I’m joined Peter Neumann.  He’s director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College in London.

    Peter Neumann, welcome back to the NewsHour.

    Is there any doubt that this man is the man in those terrible videos?

    PETER NEUMANN, King’s College London: I don’t have any doubts.  I think confirmations have come from different angles.

    And I read today that a member of the U.S. intelligence services, even though he didn’t want to be named, confirmed the identity.  So I’m pretty certain it is the man.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is it about him that you see and his journey from being born in Kuwait, moving to London?  What is it about that journey that stands out to you that may be distinctive or like what you have seen happen to others who have become radicalized?

    PETER NEUMANN: So there’s a lot of pieces of the puzzle that we do not have yet.  It’s certainly not unusual for someone from a fairly middle-class background who went to university to become radicalized.  It is a fallacy to think that you necessarily have to be poor and uneducated to become attracted to that kind of ideology.

    What we often observe with people like that is that wherever they come from, they do not feel that they have a stake in their society, and that they have conflicts of identity that do not automatically turn them into terrorists, but that make them receptive for the sort of black-and-white message that comes from extremists, the sort of message that says, you do not have a stake in this society because you do not belong to that society.  You have to pick.  Are you British or a Muslim?  You cannot be British and Muslim at the same time.

    I think, in the case of this particular individual, that may have happened too at the university where he was going, which is known to have been a university where radical groups were active.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There was also — there seemed to be a suggestion that — from the information coming out of London that he — that he had been harassed by British intelligence, and that maybe this was something that pushed him over the edge.  How do you see that?

    PETER NEUMANN: Well, I think this is an argument that has been put forward by a group called CAGE.  CAGE is calling itself a human rights group, but it is quite controversial, because it essentially always tries to portray people who have become involved in terrorism offenses as victims.

    And, again, I think they are confusing cause and effect.  The reason why he was harassed by the security services is because even before the Syria conflict started, he tried to go to East Africa and join Al-Shabaab.  So, if you want, the harassment of the security services was an outcome, it wasn’t the cause of his radicalization.

    What I’m really interested in is what happened in the years before he went to East Africa, because that is his real radicalization.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Peter Neumann, now let me ask you about these two men in Brooklyn who — one who was Uzbek.  The other one was Kazakh in background.

    They were involved in Internet chat rooms.  What do you see about their background that helps us understand what happened here?

    PETER NEUMANN: It’s very difficult.

    I mean, we would consider them — in our research, we would consider them to be so-called fanboys.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the Internet who are making supportive statements of — in favor of ISIS.  And they were unlucky, from their point of view, in the sense that the FBI picked up on them and involved them in a so-called sting operation.

    We do not know what would have happened to them had the FBI not picked them up.  What’s really difficult, though, in defense of the FBI, is, because there are so many people out there, it is very, very difficult to distinguish which ones of these people on the Internet are just talking and which ones are actually ready to pack their bags and go to Syria.

    We have seen evidence of both, and I guess, in this particular case, the FBI didn’t want to take a chance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Peter Neumann with King’s College in London, we thank you for being with us again.

    PETER NEUMANN: Thank you, Judy.

    The post How did Mohammed Emwazi become ‘Jihadi John’? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Following yesterday’s discovery of three men in the United States attempting to join the Islamic State, the world learned today the identity of Jihadi John, one of the extremist group’s most infamous members.

    MOHAMMED EMWAZI: I’m back, Obama. And I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards Islamic State.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The British voice behind the mask has repeatedly threatened the U.S., Britain and their allies in videos showing hostages being brutally murdered.

    MOHAMMED EMWAZI: We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, it was widely reported that British and U.S. intelligence have identified the man as Mohammed Emwazi.  Born in Kuwait, he grew up in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in West London and graduated with a degree in computer programming from the University of Westminster.

    In 2009, Emwazi traveled to Tanzania on what he said was a safari.  He told a Muslim advocacy group that British intelligence accused him of trying to reach the Al-Shabaab terror group in Somalia, and he was deported.  Later, he moved to Kuwait, and visited London at least twice.  He ultimately traveled to Syria in 2012.

    Outside his former London home today, neighbors expressed disbelief at Emwazi’s alleged actions.

    MAN: What he thinks, he thinks this is jihad.  No, it is not jihad. I am telling him it is not jihad.  You killed the people as jihad.  No, it is not jihad, sorry.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Jihadi John news came a day after the FBI charged two Brooklyn men of Uzbeki and Kazakh background with trying to fly to Syria to join Islamic State fighters.

    New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton:

    WILLIAM BRATTON, Commissioner, New York City Police Department: It was made quite plain, based on their own statements, that if they were not able to go, that they would seek to acquire weapons here, handguns, machine gun, and seek to attack very specifically police officers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The two men, plus a third man in Jacksonville, Florida, are being held without bail on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group.

    The post Identity of militant ‘Jihadi John’ unmasked appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: House Republicans are now considering a short-term measure to keep the Homeland Security Department functioning. Republican sources tell the NewsHour the temporary bill could fund the agency for three weeks. Otherwise, it runs out of money tomorrow night. Until now, the House GOP has been demanding a funding bill that rolls back the president’s immigration policy. Senate Democrats repeatedly blocked it.

    Their leader, Harry Reid, stuck by that today.

    SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader:
    If they send over a bill with all the riders in it, they have shut down the government. We are not going to play games. We have been working for a month to come up with a clear funding proposal the president can sign. So they can — they can put all the riders on it they want. We will not allow that to take place.

    GWEN IFILL: Senate Republican leaders have now agreed to go ahead with a long-term funding bill without the immigration language.

    But House Speaker John Boehner would not say — would still not say today if that’s acceptable.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: It is not a fight amongst Republicans. All Republicans agree that we want to fund the Department of Homeland Security and we want to stop the president’s executive actions with regard to immigration.

    So, we are waiting to see what the Senate can or can’t do. And then we will make decisions about how we are going to proceed.

    GWEN IFILL: Unless something is signed into law by the weekend, 30,000 Homeland Security employees will be furloughed. Another 200,000 will have to work for a time without pay.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    A sweeping regulatory shakeup is coming to the Internet to ensure net neutrality, the idea that no one has favored or faster access than anyone else. The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 today for a new rule. It says Comcast, Verizon and other service providers must act in the — quote — “public interest.”

    They’re barred from slowing or blocking Web traffic or creating special for-pay fast lanes. The broadband industry vowed to challenge the rule in court.

    GWEN IFILL: Russia has now become the leading cyber-threat to U.S. national security. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said as much to Congress today. It’s part of an annual assessment. But, this year, Russia displaced China as the lead threat. Clapper offered no explanation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, the number of Christians abducted by Islamic State forces this week has risen to at least 220. That’s according to a report today by Syrian activists.

    Meanwhile, in Iraq, a new Islamic State video showed militants smashing ancient artifacts at a museum in Mosul. They declared the objects were unholy idols. Some were nearly 3,000 years old.

    GWEN IFILL: The death toll from avalanches in Northeastern Afghanistan rose to at least 186 today. Funerals were held for many of the victims in the Panjshir Valley 60 miles from Kabul. Relatives hand-carried the bodies through deep snow.

    KHODA DAD, Afghanistan (through interpreter): The snow was too strong and so heavy. I have never seen such a heavy snow in my 60-year life. It was too strong. We could not even reach out to our neighbors for several hours.

    GWEN IFILL: Officials say the death toll could go higher once crews reach the hardest-hit areas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A judge in Argentina has dismissed allegations that President Cristina Fernandez covered up Iranian involvement in a 1994 bombing. The attack killed 85 people at a Jewish community center. A prosecutor filed the complaint before he died, under mysterious circumstances. But the judge ruled today is no evidence implicating Fernandez.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, a federal jury in New York convicted a Saudi Arabian man today in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies.

    Prosecutors said Khalid al-Fawwaz was an early leader of al-Qaida. The bombings in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224 people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Loretta Lynch today to be attorney general of the United States. Three Republicans joined committee Democrats in the 12-8 vote. If the full Senate confirms her, Lynch will be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general.

    GWEN IFILL: Running back Adrian Peterson has been cleared for reinstatement to the Minnesota Vikings. The National Football League had suspended him through mid-April over a child abuse case. Today, a federal judge found the league punished him under a policy that wasn’t yet in force when he was charged with the crime. The NFL said it will appeal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And on Wall Street, a fresh drop in oil prices hurt energy stocks. That sent the Dow Jones industrial average down 10 points, but it’s still above 18200. The Nasdaq rose 20 points, and the S&P 500 slipped three.

    The post News Wrap: FCC votes to bar Internet providers from offering ‘fast lanes’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Senator Jim Webb has worn many hats in his long career: U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy, best-selling author and officer in the Marines.

    He is also an Emmy-winning journalist, thanks to a special report he produced for “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” in 1983.

    Webb was sent to Beirut in September of that year to offer his perspective on the U.S. presence during the Lebanese Civil War. Anchor Jim Lehrer introduced the video essay as “personal, a commentary.”

    Now, as Webb explores the possibility of a presidential bid in 2016, his 30-year-old segment offers some insight into his views of governmental leadership. In particular, Webb returns to the disconnect that can exist between those who make policy in Washington, and those who implement it militarily.

    “The military does not make policy. That responsibility belongs to members of Congress and, of course, the President,” he said in the essay’s outset. “The military simply implements their policy, often at great cost. A politician might suffer bad press or a lost election if things go wrong. The military man suffers the loss of his friends, early and often.”

    He also speaks about a politician’s responsibility to American service members and veterans.

    “I and many of my fellow Vietnam veterans still feel the pain of having made greater a commitment than the political process was willing to uphold,” he said. “These men are trusting their very lives to the wisdom of our leaders. Our government’s obligation to them … is to proceed with a clarity of purpose that matches their own trust and commitment.”

    A week after his essay aired, 241 Americans were killed in a suicide bombing at military barracks there. Webb returned to the program to reflect on those events.

    The post NewsHour flashback: Jim Webb’s Emmy-winning report on Lebanese Civil War appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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