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

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    A combination photo shows a sequence of an explosion erupting from a CSX Corp train derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia pictured across the Kanawha River in Boomer, West Virginia February 16, 2015. Photo by Steve Keenan/Reuters

    A combination photo shows a sequence of an explosion erupting from a CSX Corp train derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia pictured across the Kanawha River in Boomer, West Virginia February 16, 2015. Photo by Steve Keenan/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Fiery wrecks of trains hauling crude oil have intensified pressure on the Obama administration to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries.

    On Feb. 5, the Transportation Department sent the White House draft rules that would require oil trains to use stronger tank cars and make other safety improvements.

    Nine days later a 100-car train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed and caught fire in a remote part of Ontario, Canada. Less than 48 hours later, a 109-car oil train derailed and caught fire in West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation. As the fire spread across 19 of the cars, a nearby resident said the explosions sounded like an “atomic bomb.” Both fires burned for nearly a week.

    The most serious killed 47 people and destroyed the town center of Lac Megantic in Quebec, Canada, just across the border from Maine, in 2013.The two accidents follow a spate of other fiery oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada over the past few years. The most serious killed 47 people and destroyed the town center of Lac Megantic in Quebec, Canada, just across the border from Maine, in 2013.

    The government hasn’t yet unveiled its proposed regulations. But among them are a stronger tank car design that includes thicker tank walls and electronically-controlled brakes that stop rail cars at the same time rather than sequentially, said Brigham McCown, a Washington-based consultant who was head of the federal agency responsible for safe transportation of hazardous materials during President George W. Bush’s administration.

    Typically, safety regulators propose tough regulations and the Office of Management and Budget, which looks at economic and other implications of the rules, demands they be scaled back. This time, however, there may be less resistance.

    “The more incidents we have, the less likely the administration will be willing to listen to industry,” McCown said. “I think the railroad industry starts to lose credibility every time there is an accident.”

    Kevin Book, an energy industry analyst, said it has become harder to imagine the administration accommodating the industry.

    The oil and rail industries want thinner tank walls — half an inch thick, instead of the 9/16ths-inch that regulators propose. The thicker the shell, the less oil a tank car can hold, and with about a half-million carloads of crude hauled by rail in the U.S. and Canada last year, the cost difference could add up.

    The tank cars in the recent accidents were built to a voluntary standard written by industry in 2011 to answer criticism that cars used to transport flammable liquids were prone to rupture in an accident and spill their contents and ignite spectacular fires. But the two most recent accidents show that the newer cars — known as 1232s — also are prone to rupture, even at slow speeds. Both trains were traveling under 40 mph.

    “Those folks who were arguing that the 1232s may in fact be puncture-proof really can’t make that argument anymore,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., told reporters.

    A Transportation Department analysis predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.

    Chris Hart, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, urged federal regulators in a blog post this week to act swiftly to set new tank car standards, noting that while the government deliberates over new rules, more 1232 cars are entering service.

    Industry officials say they need every car they can get to meet shipping demands, and it will take time for manufacturers to retool for a new design. U.S. and Canadian officials also have not agreed on a phase-out period for the train cars that regularly cross their border.

    Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told The Associated Press that administration officials understand the gravity of the issue and are committed to a “comprehensive approach” that includes better braking and slower train speeds, as well as enhancing the ability of fire departments to respond to accidents.

    Railroads complain that electronically-controlled brakes would cost them $12 billion to $21 billion and that lower train speeds would back up other rail traffic through much of the country, slowing freight deliveries and passenger service. Last year they agreed to reduce oil train speeds to 40 mph in high-population areas. Regulators have discussed turning that voluntary limit into a requirement.

    But former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said that until safety is improved, oil trains shouldn’t be allowed to travel any faster than the typical school bus — about 25 mph.

    The post Fiery train wrecks put pressure on safety standards for oil transport appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Conservative Republicans have urged House Speaker John Boehner not to capitulate in a fight with Democrats over President Barack Obama's immigration policy that threatens a partial Homeland Security shutdown. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Conservative Republicans have urged House Speaker John Boehner not to capitulate in a fight with Democrats over President Barack Obama’s immigration policy that could threaten a partial Homeland Security shutdown. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Congress closed in Friday on approving a short-term funding bill for the Homeland Security Department that would avert a partial agency shutdown hours before it was to begin.

    The legislation also leaves intact Obama administration executive actions on immigration that Republicans have vowed to overturn. But Republicans insisted that passing a short-term bill preserved their ability to keep fighting them.

    An early vote in the House clearing the way for final passage of the bill was approved easily, 240-183.

    “The House must pass this bill in short order to keep the lights on at the Department of Homeland Security in the near term,” said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky. “Hopefully, this will buy us this additional time that we clearly need.”

    But Senate Republicans had already admitted defeat and were moving to approve a full-year bill free of contentious immigration provisions. Some House Republicans predicted that they would eventually end up doing the same thing.

    For now, the three-week stopgap measure would allow lawmakers to keep the Homeland Security Department running at a time of heightened threats worldwide — even if it does little more than postpone the fight for another day.

    “It’s the best solution that we have available to us right now,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. “Nobody wants to shut down the Department of Homeland Security.”

    The bill would extend current funding levels for the department until March 19. Without action, DHS would begin to shut down at midnight Friday, furloughing 30,000 workers. Another 200,000 would be deemed essential and continue to report to work, albeit without pay.

    In a complicated series of votes occurring simultaneously on both ends of the Capitol, the House prepared to vote on the three-week plan and send it to the Senate. The House also planned to seek Senate negotiation on a separate bill passed earlier by the House that funds the Homeland Security Department through Sept. 30, the end of the budget year, while also rolling back Obama’s immigration directives.

    The Senate held a separate series of votes that was ending with approval of a “clean” bill to fund DHS through the end of the year without immigration provisions. Then, once the House had acted on the three-week measure, the short-term bill was expected to pass the Senate and gain Obama’s signature.

    Adding an element of drama, House Democrats announced plans to oppose the three-week stopgap measure, forcing Speaker John Boehner to pass it with exclusively Republican votes. The bill appeared to command enough votes to pass, but it faced opposition from the right and the left.

    Some of the most conservative Republicans said they couldn’t support the legislation because it would allow Obama’s immigration policies to continue. The argument advanced by leadership-aligned lawmakers that a federal judge has already put those policies on hold was unpersuasive to this group.

    “I am not going to vote under any circumstances to fund illegal conduct,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala. “It does not make any difference whether the funding is for three weeks, three months or a full fiscal year. If it’s illegal, it’s illegal.”

    Some of the more establishment-minded lawmakers, by contrast, said the House should not be wasting its time with a stopgap bill but should accept the inevitable and vote to fund the department through the rest of the year with no strings attached. Since Senate Democrats have refused to agree to a spending bill rolling back Obama’s immigration policies, and Obama has threatened to veto any such legislation, these lawmakers argued the House would have to retreat in the end anyway.

    “The only question is when — tomorrow or in three weeks,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. “Some folks just have a harder time facing political reality than others.”

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who has been on Capitol Hill every day lobbying lawmakers to fund his department, sent a plea to congressional leaders Thursday asking them to pass a full-year bill, not a stop-gap measure. “A short-term continuing resolution exacerbates the uncertainty for my workforce and puts us back in the same position, on the brink of a shutdown just days from now,” Johnson wrote.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Charles Babington, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Daly and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

    The post Congress closes in on short-term Homeland Security bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An aerial view of the center of Tyrone, Mo, where a young girl called authorities after hearing gunshots late Thursday. Photo from Google Earth.

    An aerial view of the center of Tyrone, Mo, where a young girl called authorities after hearing gunshots late Thursday. Photo from Google Earth.

    Seven people were shot dead in rural Missouri before an alleged gunman turned his weapon on himself in a parked vehicle early Friday, USA Today reported.

    The crime scene is scattered across two counties and includes several different homes, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

    Police first responded to an emergency call placed by a young girl who said she heard gunshots at her home in Tyrone, Mo., according to USA Today. She placed the call from a nearby neighbor’s house. The shooting spree may have started at 10:15 p.m. Thursday, local media reported, and authorities are now processing 6 different crime scenes at five different residences.

    The 36-year-old man who authorities suspect was responsible for the multiple murders apparently went from house to house on a shooting spree. Two people were killed at one location and five more were killed and one wounded at three more homes. The alleged shooter then drove to neighboring Shannon County where he was found dead in his vehicle as the result of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

    An elderly woman also was found dead, but she appeared to have died of natural causes, USA Today reported.

    Authorities have not identified a motive, the Toronto Star reported.

    The post 8 people dead in rural Missouri shooting spree appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    rogersA few months before his death in 2003, Fred Rogers recorded this video message for those who grew up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” This message was one of the last things he recorded in the WQED studio, according to the Fred Rogers Company. He died of stomach cancer 12 years ago today.

    “… I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger. I like you just the way you are. And what’s more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe. And to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. Its such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.”

    The post Watch Mister Rogers’ heart-warming message to his grownup fans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Getty Images.

    Almonds are shown. Photo by Getty Images.

    “I have a life-threatening allergy to nuts.”

    That’s the line I use most often in restaurants. Simply asking that a dish be made without nuts, or informing a waiter that I have an “allergy,” isn’t enough. Between mild food allergies, stomach sensitivities, lactose-intolerance, digestive disorders, weight-loss diets, meat-free diets, health diets, and just general preferences, waiters and waitresses are inundated with special food requests.

    I can’t risk being taken casually. If I eat the wrong thing, I don’t just get sick to my stomach or break out in hives or gain weight or feel guilty or suffer an inconvenience. If I eat the wrong thing in a restaurant, I could die.

    In fact, in a way, I already have.

    •••

    My story begins in a restaurant in Lincoln, Neb., on the evening of May 20, 1995.

    I was a 19-year-old college student at the time and had gone out to dinner with my mom, who was visiting, and my then-boyfriend, Charlie. I started off the meal by informing our waitress that I had an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. But, by the time we ordered dessert, she’d forgotten.

    I took one bite of our cheesecake and knew immediately — from my itchy palate — that there must be nuts in the topping. Spitting what I could into my napkin, I went to the bathroom and tried to wash my mouth of the rest. Within minutes, I was feeling sick to my stomach. Apologetic, the waitress confirmed there were crushed almonds on top of the cheesecake. We called it a night and drove home.

    Back at my apartment, Charlie and I said goodbye to my mom, who began her two-hour drive home across the Nebraska-Missouri border. Charlie headed to a video store to get us a movie (No DVR back then!), and I decided to have a bath. But when I bent down to run the water, I was seized by the strangest sensation. Heat in my face. Trouble breathing. I looked in the mirror to find my face swelling up like an inflated balloon.

    I knew something was terribly wrong. I called 911, then ran to the porch to wait for an ambulance. Charlie arrived just then, video in hand, and noticed the swelling and the panic in my eyes. I could barely talk. Within seconds, I was laying flat on the wood porch, struggling against my ever-shallowing breath. The effect was terrifying. I can still feel the chipping paint on the wood slats below me as my body thrashed around, desperate for air.

    “Try to relax,” Charlie said, as he held me in his arms, trying to reassure me. “You’re breathing. You’re breathing. You’re breathing.”

    And then I wasn’t breathing anymore.

    •••

    Today, more than 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies — at least 2 million of them from nut allergies alone. But when I was a kid, in the 1970s, nut allergies were anomalies. There were no “peanut-free schools” or pretzel options on airplanes. “You’ve never had a PB&J?” people would say to me, SO FREAKING OFTEN, with absolute incredulity. “I can’t imagine.”

    This is the wristband I wore during my hospital stay. After my recovery, my brother, Larry, asked: “Is that your allergy or your diagnosis?”

    This is the wristband I wore during my hospital stay. After my recovery, my brother, Larry, asked: “Is that your allergy or your diagnosis?”

    On Monday, a landmark study in Britain showed that exposing children who are at risk of nut allergies to peanut butter at some point during their infancy (between four and 11 months) makes them about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthdays. It is an amazing discovery, considering that complete avoidance of peanuts has been the reigning approach for a solid decade.

    Why I acquired this allergy — why anyone acquires this allergy — is a mystery. As a small child, I always refused peanut butter sandwiches, opting instead for bologna. My parents assumed it was simple preference. It wasn’t until I made a peanut butter birdfeeder in preschool that we realized my aversion to nuts was an allergy. I was sent home that day with hives covering my hands, arms, face and neck.

    I tried my best to avoid nuts after that, of course. But I was young, and people just didn’t take it as seriously as they do today. I had countless allergic episodes. The symptoms were always the same: My mouth and throat would feel itchy and raw. My stomach would churn. I would eventually throw up, sleep it off and feel better in the morning.

    And then came that fateful night in Lincoln.

    •••

    As Charlie tells it, my body went rigid, and my lips turned blue. He tried to administer CPR, but my tongue had swelled to the point where he couldn’t do anything. From the look of it, he said, I was either dead or dying.

    By the time the paramedics arrived, I was in full respiratory arrest. Their first rule of business was to get a tube down my throat so they could push air to my lungs. It wasn’t easy. According to the paramedics’ report, the first several efforts failed because my throat had closed up; there was nowhere to slide the tube. But they didn’t stop working. They never stopped trying. Not for a second.

    Finally, they got the tube down my throat and began pumping air into my lungs — or, to be accurate, my lung. Singular. My right lung had collapsed by then, leaving only my left to receive the air. Unfortunately, as the paramedics loaded me into the ambulance, it was apparent that my situation wasn’t improving. I had a pulse, but a weak one. And I’d been without air for at least two minutes. When I got to the emergency room at Lincoln Memorial Hospital, I was still in respiratory arrest.

    There, the doctors took over. I was injected with all kinds of drugs, fitted with a chest tube for the collapsed lung, and placed on a respirator. I was stable, but comatose, and the prognosis was grim. As I lay in a coma in the ICU, my parents and Charlie at my side, doctors revealed the distinct possibility of severe brain damage.

    •••

    Some people worry about earthquakes. Others about car wrecks. I worry about whether there’s pesto in the ravioli or pistachios in the ice cream. It’s been 22 years since a bite of a cheesecake almost ended my life. But, because of fast-acting paramedics and trained doctors (this world’s REAL miracle workers), I made a complete recovery.

    Today I am married — to Charlie, of course. (How could you not marry the girl you watched come back to life?) Nine years ago we had a daughter. When it came time to find out if she was allergic to any food, we took no chances — skipping over the skin pricks and going straight for the blood test. The results were almost as miraculous as my survival: She wasn’t allergic to a thing.

    But millions of other kids are — more than ever before. And, although we still know precious little about what causes allergies and even less about how to fight them, research like that conducted in Britain is bringing a degree of relief and hope to those of us who have seen the deadly side of cuisine. To think that a family — even one family — could be spared the terror that mine felt during those long hours in the ICU all those years ago does good things for my heart.

    •••

    When I came out of the coma, my parents were beside me. My mom was holding my hand. That’s what moms do, don’t they? I couldn’t speak (or even swallow) because of the tube running down my throat. Seeing the fear in their eyes, I knew instinctively that they didn’t know whether I was going to be okay. Not being able to communicate with them was unbearable.

    Finally, I decided to get a message to them by tracing words with my index finger. At first, neither of them knew what was happening. But then my dad figured it out and offered me his palm to write on.

    GET THIS DAMN THING OUT OF MY MOUTH, I scrawled.

    When I got to the word “damn,” a huge smile — I’ll never forget that smile — spread across my dad’s face. Not only was I alive and awake. Not only was I able to form words. But, by God, I was cursing again. All was right with the world.

    The post How it feels to almost die from a nut allergy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Paul J. Richards/Getty Images

    Photo by Paul J. Richards/Getty Images

    The Affordable Care Act is once again before the Supreme Court.

    On March 4, the justices will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a case challenging the validity of tax subsidies helping millions of Americans buy health insurance if they don’t get it through an employer or the government. If the court rules against the Obama administration, those subsidies could be cut off for everyone in the three dozen states using healthcare.gov, the federal exchange website. A decision is expected by the end of June.

    Here are five things you should know about the case and its potential consequences:

    1: This case does NOT challenge the constitutionality of the health law.

    The Supreme Court has already found the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. That was settled in 2012’s NFIB v. Sebelius.

    At issue in this case is a line in the law stipulating that subsidies are available to those who sign up for coverage “through an exchange established by the state.” In issuing regulations to implement the subsidies in 2012, however, the IRS said that subsidies would also be available to those enrolling through the federal health insurance exchange. The agency noted Congress had never discussed limiting the subsidies to state-run exchanges and that making subsidies available to all “is consistent with the language, purpose and structure” of the law as a whole.

    Last summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond ruled that the regulations were a permissible interpretation of the law. While the three-judge panel agreed that the language in the law is “ambiguous,” they relied on so-called “Chevron deference,” a legal principle that takes its name from a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that held that courts must defer to a federal agency’s interpretation as long as that interpretation is not unreasonable.

    Those challenging the law, however, insist that Congress intended to limit the subsidies to state exchanges. “As an inducement to state officials, the Act authorizes tax credits and subsidies for certain households that purchase health insurance through an Exchange, but restricts those entitlements to Exchanges created by states,” wrote Michael Cannon and Jonathan Adler, two of the fiercest critics of the IRS interpretation, in an article in the Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine.

    In any case, a ruling in favor of the challengers would affect only the subsidies available in the states using the federal exchange. Those in the 13 states operating their own exchanges would be unaffected. The rest of the health law, including its expansion of Medicaid and requirements for coverage of those with pre-existing conditions, would remain in effect.

    2: If the court rules against the Obama administration, millions of people could be forced to give up their insurance.

    A study by the Urban Institute found that if subsidies in the federal health exchange are disallowed, 9.3 million people could lose $28.8 billion of federal help paying for their insurance in just the first year. Since many of those people would not be able to afford insurance without government help, the number of uninsured could rise by 8.2 million people.

    A separate study from the Urban Institute looked at those in danger of losing their coverage and found that most are low and moderate-income white, working adults who live in the South.

    3: A ruling against the Obama administration could have other effects, too.

    Experts say disallowing the subsidies in the federal exchange states could destabilize the entire individual insurance market, not just the exchanges in those states. Anticipating that only those most likely to need medical services will hold onto their plans, insurers would likely increase premiums for everyone in the state who buys their own insurance, no matter where they buy it from.

    “If subsidies [in the federal exchange] are eliminated, premiums would increase by about 47 percent,” said Christine Eibner of the RAND Corporation, who co-authored a study projecting a 70 percent drop in enrollment.

    Eliminating tax subsidies for individuals would also impact the law’s requirement that most larger employers provide health insurance. That’s because the penalty for not providing coverage only kicks in if a worker goes to the state health exchange and receives a subsidy. If there are no subsidies, there are also no employer penalties.

    4: Consumers could lose subsidies almost immediately.

    Supreme Court decisions generally take effect 25 days after they are issued. That could mean that subsidies would stop flowing as soon as July or August, assuming a decision in late June. Insurers can’t drop people for non-payment of their premiums for 90 days, although they have to continue to pay claims only for the first 30.

    Although the law’s requirement that individuals have health insurance would remain in effect, no one is required to purchase coverage if the lowest-priced plan in their area costs more than eight percent of their income. So without the subsidies, and with projected premium increases, many if not most people would become exempt.

    5: Congress could make the entire issue go away by passing a one-page bill. But it won’t.

    All Congress would have to do to restore the subsidies is pass a bill striking the line about subsidies being available through exchanges “established by the state.” But given how many Republicans oppose the law, leaders have already said they will not act to fix it. Republicans are still working to come up with a contingency plan should the ruling go against the subsidies. Even that will be difficult given their continuing ideological divides over health care.

    States could solve the problem by setting up their own exchanges, but that is a lengthy and complicated process and in most cases requires the consent of state legislatures. And the Obama administration has no power to step in and fix things either, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a letter to members of Congress.


    Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit national health policy news service.

    The post 5 things to know about the Supreme Court case challenging Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Face it, we hate change.

    We like our eggs not too runny, our chairs angled at just the right height, and our politics in sync with our beliefs.

    But most days we must adjust to overcooked eggs, tilting chairs and political gridlock at nearly every turn.

    Trouble is, the years ahead promise far more change than stability, chiefly because the face of the nation is undergoing drastic change.

    The U.S. Census has been foreshadowing this for years, but it took a joint project between the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for American Progress this week to fully highlight the political implications.

    Simply put, the browning of America is about more than an expanding melting pot. It also has immediate implications for education and tax policy; for elective and strategic politics.

    Witness this week’s congressional tug of war over immigration. The Department of Homeland Security’s budget would have won easy approval if the question was simply about keeping America safe. That’s why DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson trotted out not one, but two, of his Republican predecessors to decry the ongoing standoff on Capitol Hill.

    The nub of the debate, instead, is about change — in this case demographic change.

    Currently, just four states are majority-minority, places where non-whites are a greater percentage of the population than whites — California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas. But by 2060, that will jump to 22 states. Graphic by NewsHour

    Currently, just four states are majority-minority, places where non-whites are a greater percentage of the population than whites — California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas. But by 2060, that will jump to 22 states. Graphic by NewsHour

    The CAP/AEI report calls it the “10 big trends that are transforming America.” They are significant and steep. The number of majority-minority states — where more residents are people of color than white — is on track to jump from four to 22 states by 2060. This is in a nation that was 80 percent white as recently as 1980.

    And that’s just the tip of the spear. Americans will be less likely to be married, more likely to be old, most children will not be white, the white working class will shrink, and the college-educated population will increase.

    It’s conceivable that there are those who will view this as bad news. Change, as I may have mentioned, is hard.

    But Ruy Texeira of CAP, a Democrat; and Karlyn Bowman of AEI, a Republican, see a bright side, especially when it comes to the nation’s politics.

    The United States is rapidly transforming into a more diverse, more educated and older nation. Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute and Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress discuss a collaborative report that analyzes the implications of these changes and what they mean for American politics.

    “The Democrats will have to deliver for the constituencies that currently favor them,” Texeira told me on the PBS NewsHour. “And I believe Republicans will have to compete much more vigorously for their votes, because really that is our future and the future cannot be ignored.”

    Bowman, too, lays the challenge at the doors of both major parties.

    “I think that Republicans have some significant problems going ahead,” she said. “And as the Democratic National Committee reported on Saturday, the Democrats, in looking at their performance in 2014, realize they have some very serious problems going ahead. But certainly in terms of presidential politics, Republicans are going to have to do better with the minority vote going forward.”

    Of course there is always the possibility that everyone — black, white, Latino, Asian and other — will simply stop listening. That will be especially true if political leaders fail to take advantage of the changing environment at hand.

    The 2016 Presidential campaign will present the next big test. But there will be pop quizzes along the way as well.

    The post Gwen’s Take: Demographics as political destiny appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New research from Tel Aviv University recently suggested that unconscious teacher bias discourages girls in the classroom from studying  math and sciences later in life.

    New research from Tel Aviv University recently suggested that unconscious teacher bias discourages girls in the classroom from studying math and sciences later in life.

    Here’s another reason to read science stories to your daughter at bedtime. Elementary school teachers may unintentionally discourage girls from pursuing math and sciences later in life, new research suggests.

    According to a study conducted at Tel Aviv University and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, these unconscious biases could help explain why so few girls and women ultimately choose classes and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

    However unintended these biases may be, they help to shape women’s career paths for years to come, said Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and economics professor at Tel Aviv University.

    “It isn’t an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement,” Sand said in a released statement. “This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school.”

    Researchers administered two tests to three groups of students in Israel who they tracked from the sixth grade through high school. One test was graded without student names, and the other was scored by someone who knew the students. Girls whose tests were objectively graded received better scores than boys, but the opposite was true in the tests submitted to teachers who knew the students, the study found.

    The post Teachers unintentionally turn girls away from math and science, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Students, adjunct faculty and community members marched through the campus of the San Francisco Art Institute on National Adjunct Walkout Day. Photo by  Jennifer I. Smith-Camejo/SEIU Local 1021 for Making Sen$e.

    Students, adjunct faculty and community members marched through the campus of the San Francisco Art Institute on National Adjunct Walkout Day on Feb. 25. Photo by Jennifer I. Smith-Camejo/SEIU Local 1021, used by permission for Making Sen$e.

    Adjunct faculty across the country Wednesday went off syllabus. They staged teach-ins and demonstrations to raise awareness about what it means to be an adjunct professor in America.

    Adjuncts make up half of all college and university professors, but they earn an average of only $2,000 to $3,000 per course. Mary-Faith Cerasoli, an adjunct professor of English and Italian, made $22,000 last year, with no health insurance. She taught a full course load, but made too much to qualify for public assistance. Unable to afford her own place to live, she was homeless when Making Sen$e spoke with her last year.

    Just to get a full course load, many adjuncts have to teach on multiple campuses, miles apart. Like academic nomads, their cars are their offices, and their backpacks are their filing cabinets.

    Feb. 25 was originally conceived on social media as National Adjunct Walkout Day, but it grew as a grassroots effort that took on many different forms in different places. Teach-ins, rallies and talks were much more common than walkouts, given contract and union agreements that made walking out risky for many adjuncts.

    At least 25 chapters of the American Association of University Professors participated, as well as many other union-affiliated and independent adjunct groups. Organizers are still tallying exactly how many campuses saw some sort of action, but the map below from National Adjunct’s Tumblr gives an idea of its breadth.

    The largest actions were on the West Coast, according to Inside Higher Ed.

    Students organized and led San Francisco Art Institute’s walkout, which was planned for lunchtime, said adjunct English and critical studies professor Jessica Beard. Because SFAI’s adjunct union is still at the bargaining table with the administration, they didn’t want to disrupt the schoolday or put pressure on anyone to abandon classes, she said. Winning people over to their cause, Beard explained, was much more important.

    The SFAI administration responded skeptically in a public statement. “The SFAI Administration would be surprised if our own adjuncts were participating, as SFAI faculty are represented by SEIU and we are currently in contract negotiations, which they have agreed we are conducting in good faith.”

    The argument that students are the ones most affected by the increasing reliance on underpaid adjuncts is central to the adjunct movement, as former adjunct Joe Fruscione has explained in detail on Making Sen$e.

    “As a student, it’s difficult to form a relationship with your professor when neither of you know if your professor will even be employed next semester,” SFAI student organizer Ross McKinney told Inside Higher Education.

    There’s plenty of focus on the economic injustice of adjuncting, said Beard, but relatively little attention is paid to the commitment to students that adjuncts want to — but often cannot — provide, given that they’re only on campus for short stints. The struggle, Beard said, “is about loving what we do and investing in the students, and not having that reciprocated by the institution.”

    At Mills College, the adjuncts’ nine-month-old union opened up their monthly meeting to the public as a teach-in and community forum. About 40 people — from tenure-track faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and other activists from the Fight for 15 campaign and Strike the Debt — showed up. There was no walkout because of ongoing union bargaining, said Mills adjunct professor of English David Buuck.

    The alliance between fast-food workers and Ph.D. adjuncts was especially powerful, said Miranda Merklein, an adjunct organizer with New Faculty Majority, who attended various campus actions in the San Francisco Bay area. Buuck agreed. The purpose of Mills’ activities, he added, was to create a larger conversation about what it means to be a so-called “precarious worker” in higher education specifically, and in America more generally.

    Discontent among adjuncts has been brewing for decades, but the death of Duquesne adjunct Margaret Mary Vojtko, chronicled in a Pittsburgh-Post Gazette op-ed in September 2013, was a rallying cry for the community, said adjunct organizer Robert Baum.

    “When I read ‘Death of an Adjunct,’ that was the moment. I was fully activated,” echoed Merklein.

    Across the country, adjunct faculty have started forming unions to represent themselves. Adjunct Action is the higher education campaign of the Service Employees International Union, and some campuses have started their own chapters, like Georgetown’s SEIU. SEIU Local 1021 represents five schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, including those that staged activities Wednesday.

    There are also non-profit organizing groups, like the New Faculty Majority, which connect adjuncts with unions in their areas if they want to organize. NFM members have briefed Congressional staffers about the struggles of so-called contingent faculty. The recently founded non-profit PrecariCorps, which provides emotional and financial support to adjuncts, began accepting donations on Wednesday to coincide with the walkout day.

    This latest movement emerged somewhat mysteriously on Twitter last October, said Baum. “I was afraid it was just a bot or an avatar,” he said. No one knew who was behind the hashtag or what would come of it.

    Screenshot courtesy of adjunct organizer Miranda Merklein from Oct. 2013.

    Screenshot courtesy of adjunct organizer Miranda Merklein from Oct. 2013.

    The precursor to Wednesday’s actions actually started much earlier than last fall, Merklein said, with a different hashtag calling for an #AdjunctGeneralStrike at the end of 2013. But organizers quickly realized that publicizing that kind of action on the Internet could deflate their efforts and put their jobs at risk. Activists then kept their discussions to private chat rooms instead.

    When one adjunct from San Jose State University tweeted #NationalAdjunctWalkOutDay last fall, now also known as #NAWD, the movement took off organically. But while it gained momentum on social media, no one knew what exactly would happen on Wednesday. “Up until a week ago, we thought maybe it would just be a digital revolution,” Baum said.

    “I think yesterday showed everyone,” Merklein told Making Sen$e on Thursday. “We do have the power, we always did.”

    Watch Paul Solman’s 2014 report on “adjunctivitis,” featuring Joe Fruscione, below.

    The post How a hashtag turned into an international adjunct movement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Leonard Nimoy, who played  the iconic role of Spock in the "Star Trek" television series and movie, died at his home on Friday. He was 83.

    Leonard Nimoy, who played the iconic role of Spock in the “Star Trek” television series and movie, died at his home on Friday. He was 83.

    Best remembered by “Star Trek” fans as the iconic Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy died Friday. He was 83.

    His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed reports of Nimoy’s death at his Los Angeles home, saying that he succumbed to end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the New York Times reported. Last year, he attributed his declining health to his smoking habit, which he had successfully quit more than 30 years earlier.

    For decades on both the “Star Trek” television series and movie franchise, Nimoy played the character of Mr. Spock, a half-Vulcan, half-human science officer who operated under a rigid adherence to logic that guided the crew of Starship Enterprise through the galaxy. It was a role that Trekkers, or devout “Star Trek” fans, came to adore. Nimoy won three Emmys for his work on Star Trek and established a life-long role as a science fiction icon.

    Leonard Nimoy in character as the iconic Mr. Spock in a third season episode of "Star Trek." Photo by CBS via Getty Images

    Leonard Nimoy in character as the iconic Mr. Spock in a third season episode of “Star Trek.” Photo by CBS via Getty Images

    News of the actor’s death elicited countless reactions from former co-stars and fans alike. Former “Star Trek” castmate George Takei remembered the actor on his Facebook page:

    On Instagram, actor Zachary Quinto, who played a younger Spock opposite Nimoy’s original in 2009’s “Star Trek” film reboot and its 2013 sequel, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” posted a tribute.

    Beyond “Star Trek,” Nimoy was a consummate artist who directed film, composed poetry and photography and taught acting.

    The post Leonard Nimoy, best remembered as Mr. Spock on ‘Star Trek,’ dies at 83 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sign stands at the headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

    OXON HILL, Md. — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was skeptical of some conservatives’ efforts to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security unless President Barack Obama’s immigration actions are derailed.

    Bush, who is weighing a presidential bid, told party activists huddled near Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that he backs efforts to roll back Obama’s executive actions. But coupling those efforts with the Homeland Security budget left him confused.

    “Look, I’m not an expert on the ways of Washington,” the son of one president and brother of another said. “It makes no sense to me that we’re not funding the control of our border, which is the whole argument. I’m missing something.”

    With directives issued in 2012 and earlier this year, Obama largely eliminated the threat of deportation for more than 4 million immigrants who entered the country illegally, including some brought to the U.S. as youngsters.

    Conservatives in Congress initially linked those actions with funding for the Department of Homeland Security. But the department’s current budget was set to run out late Friday night, and Congressional Republicans were trying to approve a short-term spending bill that would avert a partial agency shutdown hours before it was to begin. The interim plan would leave in place the actions that Republicans have vowed to overturn.

    Bush said he considered Obama’s actions extraordinary and illegal. He predicted they would be struck down if Congress fails to act first.

    A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the administration from carrying out Obama’s 2014 policy. The White House has appealed that ruling, and Obama has said he would take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

    “The simple fact is the president has gone way beyond his constitutional powers to do this. Congress has every right to reinstate their responsibility,” Bush said.

    Bush also used his turn to try to win over conservative activists who are queasy about his record on immigration and education policies.

    But several dozen people walked out of the room in protest shortly after Bush started his speech.

    “No more Bushes! No more Clinton!” chanted Georgia tea party activist William Temple, who led the walkout. “What’s he doing here? He’s an establishment candidate, not a conservative candidate.”

    ___

    Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

    The post Bush: Borders less secure if Congress cuts off DHS dollars appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scottish musician Caitlin McNeill and her band were arguing over what color this dress is. She posted the photo on Tumblr and the internet quickly divided into two camps: those who saw blue and black and those who saw white and gold. Image courtesy Tumblr/swiked

    Scottish musician Caitlin McNeill and her band have been arguing over the color of this dress: is it blue and black or white and gold? Image courtesy Tumblr/swiked

    Color scientists already have a word for it: Dressgate. No surprise to those of us whose minds were collectively blown by the dress that’s blue and black to some, and white and gold to others (though frankly kind of ugly in any color.)

    More surprising is the power it holds. It raises, on the one hand, some fascinating scientific questions: What is this thing called color? And how in the world can two people see one color so differently? (We’ll get back to that.)

    But there’s a third, more philosophical, question at play here: Why are people so fascinated by this dress? And what caused it to spin so virally out of control?

    Beau Lotto, professor of neuroscience at University College London, thinks he knows the answer. We inherently think we see the world objectively, as it really is, he said. The photo of this dress reveals the fallacy of that kind of thinking. It makes us question how we see, not just the dress, but everything.

    He calls it “seeing yourself see.” Say you see the dress as white and gold — like me — but you know that somebody else, Taylor Swift, for example, perceives it as blue and black.

    At that moment, the brain is doing something remarkable, Lotto said. “It’s entertaining two realities that are mutually exclusive. It’s seeing one reality, but knowing there’s another reality. So you’re becoming an observer of yourself. You’re having tremendous insight into what it is to be human. And that’s the basis of imagination.”

    This hideous little dress, it seems, is tapping into questions that extend far beyond the dress itself and have far greater implications. If two people see color so differently, what does that mean for how we perceive each other. What does that mean for how we perceive ourselves?

    But back to color.

    “A color only exists in your head,” says neuroscientist Beau Lotto. “There’s such a thing as light. There’s such a thing as energy. There’s no such thing as color.”
    Color is, quite literally, a figment of your imagination, Lotto said. It only exists in your head. Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist who studies color and vision at Wellesley College, explained it this way: “Color is this computation that our brains make that enables us to extract meaning from the world.”

    Of course, if you want to get technical about it, there are receptors called cones in our eyes that act like little color channel sensors. One cone processes blue, another processes red, another green. An elaborate network of sophisticated cells in the brain compares the activity of these cones, and then signals from our brain produce the impression of colors. This system is working furiously, all the time.

    “For me, the amazing thing about it is, we have all this circuitry that does all this stuff, and we’re not aware of any of it,” Conway said.

    But there’s something else. How we see an object has everything to do with how that object is illuminated. Our brains have adapted to see white as white whether it’s under harsh fluorescent light or soft daylight, blue light or yellow light. That’s called color constancy, said Anya Hurlbert, professor of visual neuroscience at Newcastle University. It’s something that Monet played with all the time, painting the color of haystack shadows blue, for example, to compensate for the light that was illuminating them.

    “Most don’t see that blue,” Conway said. “They discount it.” Most people perceive it as black.

    Humans mostly see the world in the context of natural daylight, which is blue and orange — blue from the sky and orange from the sun. Those natural daylight colors are the context for everything else we perceive. They set the scene. They don’t tell us the color of objects. They just illuminate those objects.

    Then, as we look at an object, our brain automatically gets rid of the blue and orange to make room for the new color, Conway said.

    Normally, our brains are adept at compensating for this changing light.

    But enter the dress.

    It’s difficult to tell what color is illuminating the dress, which may be what’s making our systems go haywire when we look at it.

    Our brain tells us the dress is white even though it actually appears pink. But because we can see that the entire room is shaded by hues of pink light, our brains are adept at compensating for this changing light." Photo by Getty Images

    Our brain tells us the dress is white even though it actually appears pink. But because we can see that the entire room is shaded by hues of pink light, our brains are adept at compensating for this changing light. Photo by Getty Images

    The room, Hurlbert said, is under one light, a yellow light, but the dress is in a shadow. Since the dress is not being illuminated by that yellow light, it appears blue-ish. Some brains compensate for the changes in light — other brains don’t.

    This dress, Lotto said, “seems to be sitting at a stage where it’s bistable. It is, by definition, ambiguous. It could be spinning one way, but it’s almost, just as likely, spinning the other way as well.”

    If you turn your computer monitor down, you might see it more as a dark grey and blue, if you turn your monitor up, it looks more gold and white. If you tilt your phone, you’ll again see it differently, because you’re changing the amount of contrast.

    Color is perception, and this picture drives that home. It makes us consider something altogether nonintuitive: that there’s no such thing as white or gold or blue or black.

    “A color only exists in your head,” Lotto said. “There’s such a thing as light. There’s such a thing as energy. There’s no such thing as color.”

    The post That dress isn’t blue or gold because color doesn’t exist appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The House has rejected a stopgap spending bill for the Homeland Security Department with just hours to go before a midnight deadline to fund the agency or see it begin to partially shut down.

    The surprise 224-203 defeat of the legislation was a major embarrassment for House GOP leaders. Next steps were not immediately clear.

    Some conservatives opposed the bill because it left out provisions to block executive actions President Barack Obama took on immigration, which Republicans have vowed to overturn.

    House leaders tried to win lawmakers over arguing a three-week extension bought them more time to fight Obama while his immigration directives are on old in court.

    But conservatives abandoned the bill in droves and Democrats refused to make up the difference, pressing for a full-year funding bill instead.

    The post Stopgap Homeland Security spending bill fails in House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shieldsbrooks20150227b

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

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, Mark, CPAC, the gathering, regular gathering of conservatives, seemed to be mixed messages coming from these potential candidates. What should we take away from this?  What are we learning?

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: We should take away, first of all, there’s a generational divide in that room, which Rand Paul reaches across to particularly younger voters.

    But what I found most — I guess — and I thought Jeb Bush did a lot better in a question-and-answer than he did in a set speech last week. I thought he was far more effective.

    But, Judy, what’s coming out of that room — and it’s basically the first primary for Republicans — is exactly the kind of language of no consensus, no compromise, compromise is capitulation, compromise is surrender. And it’s exactly the wrong message that was going to Capitol Hill this week, where Republicans collapsed in handling Homeland Security.

    And I just think the atmosphere created by that room and by the people there is harmful to the party. It could be crucial to the nominating process, but it’s an unelectable message.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But isn’t that the message — isn’t that message of no cooperation, David, what — that’s been the trademark for these conservatives, hasn’t it?

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes. Well, this is CPAC, remember. There’s conservatives, and then there’s conservatives, and then conservatives, and then way over on the other side of the room is CPAC.

    And so you look at the people they have nominated over the years as their favorite speaker, it’s Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father. President Ron Paul has been elected, Gary Bauer, Christian conservative. So this is like the hardest of the hard core.

    MARK SHIELDS: Mitt Romney three times.

    DAVID BROOKS: Mitt Romney did get it, but he packed the house.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: They all do pack the house.

    But you learn a few things. First, Jeb Bush did well. And so that was important, that if he stumbled, then a little rhythm gets going that Jeb Bush can’t really campaign very well, and so he did well. Scott Walker seems to do OK with Tea Party and with the establishment part. So that’s good.

    Marco Rubio, fine, but what was, I guess, interesting was the foreign policy split. As we just heard, the hard-core interventionists were cheered. Rand Paul was cheered on the other thing. So, people are looking everything right now.

    But I suspect the two main trends, so far, we see — I’m about to list three one, after saying two — one, pretty good candidates, better than last time, a lot of good candidates. Two, the party doesn’t know where it stands on foreign policy, but it’s a little more interventionist than they seemed. And, three — I’m not Rick Perry — I do remember — the social issues, abortion, a little less emphasized than in years past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying this is a new Republican — this is a new conservative, conservative, conservative piece of the Republican Party?

    DAVID BROOKS: The party — like every party, the mood of the party shifts. The Democratic Party is clearly shifting an economic populist direction. But the party shifts.

    And I think it’s a little more interventionist, a little less Tea Party, a little less social conservative than it seemed two years ago.

    MARK SHIELDS: Let me take a slight dissent with David.

    He’s absolutely right. Historically, CPAC was a splintered group. It was the Young Americans for Freedom, it was the American Conservative Union.

    It is now a trade show for all Republicans. You don’t — you miss this event and you do so at your own peril. Chris Christie wasn’t invited last year. He was happy to be there this year. It is now approaching Iowa and New Hampshire as events that, if you’re a Republican candidate, you can’t afford to skip.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right. But there are also — there are more quieter events on Wall Street, where the message is very different, but we aren’t invited to. But those are also…

    MARK SHIELDS: But this is where their cameras are and this is what the message comes. And it was harmful on Capitol Hill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But how does that — and I want to get to that a minute.

    MARK SHIELDS: OK.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But how does that square?  When you say it’s a place you have to be, but on the other hand, David’s point is, the winner there never goes on to become president.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, that’s not always true.

    MARK SHIELDS: No. Romney is one. Reagan — Reagan swept it. Reagan really made it an important event.

    And since then — David is right — Ron Paul did well. There’s a libertarian streak there among the younger members, and that’s traditionally the Young Americans for Freedom.

    DAVID BROOKS: One thing, to segue, Jeb Bush talked about the DHS issue, and he said he disagreed with what was going on, on Capitol Hill, which was a shift toward a more middle, mainstream, establishment, less confrontational thing.

    So it was interesting that even at CPAC he did the less confrontational posture.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about, Mark, what you raised, what has happened on Capitol Hill. The Republicans have been saying for weeks, for days that they are not going to fund the Department of Homeland Security until the president backs down on immigration.

    Finally came to vote, and nothing happened today. I mean, what do we see?

    MARK SHIELDS: Something happened pretty serious, Judy. And that is, the speaker of the House moved — actually voted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, I mean, there was no vote to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

    MARK SHIELDS: No, that’s right. No, no, exactly.

    But, I mean, it was a stinging rebuke, I mean, a major defeat for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. They had a three-week extension, three weeks into March, and they couldn’t — they lost 51 members of their own caucus, and with the speaker himself, which is rarely done, going down and casting a vote for the losing side to pass a three-week extension.

    So they rejected a three-week extension. So now, with the Senate having by a 68-31 margin today having passed a clean — that is, with no entangling amendments, just to fund Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year, the 31 Republican — the 31 senators who voted against it were all Republicans.

    So a majority of Republicans voted against it, but Leader McConnell is so secure in his own leadership that he could pass it and not worry about any kind of revolt. What John Boehner has is a 57-margin in the House of Representatives. He’s got the biggest margin since — Republicans since 1928.

    And yet his speakership is so shaky that he really is looking over his shoulder every minute. He had 25 members of his own caucus vote against him when he was elected speaker in January. And now 50 of them took a walk on him today. And it’s just a terrible position to be in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You agree the speakership is shaky?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It just looks like unseemly. It’s like a retreat. I’m thinking of the great retreats in history, Napoleon coming back from Russian.

    It was like that, bedraggled, people split. And it’s a failure of vision. Like, this was a day that was preordained weeks ago, when they decided to take up this issue, which was going to be a failure anyway. And, second, it was a political failure. You ask people around the country, OK, do you approve of the immigration?  That doesn’t matter. Whether they approve what Obama did on immigration or not, they don’t like the idea of shutting down government because it brings back to mind all the Ted Cruz shutting down government.

    It brings back dysfunction. It gets you lost in the legislative morass that Mark just described. Why they did not foresee this is a mystery to people who are professionals at this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as we are sitting here talking early on Friday, what happens?  Where do we go from here, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House whip, told the membership after the vote to stay in town. Could be votes tonight. Could be votes all weekend.

    But we know that the funding ends for the department.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s….

    MARK SHIELDS: And you’re going to ask people to work, some at considerable risk over the next two weeks, without being paid.

    It’s almost as though they’re out of touch. They don’t understand that there are millions and millions of American families who live paycheck to paycheck, who worry about car notes and children’s tuition bills. And they are expected to work for nothing?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, there is some — there is some point being made that the Democrats could have pushed this over the top.

    The president had said he would sign a short-term funding, a three-week funding bill, but Democrats in the House didn’t go along.

    MARK SHIELDS: Oh, I mean, but the speaker’s position has been that he would pass a majority of the majority, that he would — he could pass it, and that — you’re absolutely right. I mean, the Democrats said, we want a vote on what the Senate just passed, which was an extension.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, are we left — is this the end of the new Republican leadership, David?  How big a blow is this?

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s a bad childhood.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: So, it’s just — you know, it’s a blow. You know, they will come back. There are other issues.

    Presumably, they will get to the issues that are facing the country, maybe at some point, the economy. Iran is going to be on us next week. And so some big things will be happening, but it’s just been weirdly undermined.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, speaking of Iran, the prime minister of Israel, we heard Margaret Warner’s report a few minutes ago, Mark, coming to Washington, coming to speak to the Congress on Tuesday, at the request of the man you have both been talking about, Speaker Boehner.

    Margaret talked about all the splits that have happened in the American Jewish community between the administration and Israel. Is this — how big a division is there now between this administration and Israel?  How does it compare with previous splits?  Because we have seen tension in the past between the Americans and the Israelis.

    MARK SHIELDS: The most recently and probably memorably was 1991. Jim Baker was secretary of state and George H.W. Bush, and the freeze on the settlements. And the administration, the Bush administration held back $10 million in guaranteed loans to the Israelis and aid to the Israelis.

    But this is big, Judy. Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, support has been bipartisan. I think that this was a political move made by both the prime minister of Israel and his supporters and the speaker of the House.

    The prime minister was pretty open in his support and endorsement of Mitt Romney against President Obama, could be accused of having meddled in our election. And now, on the 3rd of March, the Congress of the United States will be used as a photo opportunity for a campaign stop for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who faces the voters on the 17th of March, and has some problems, basically domestic and doing what everybody does when they’re in trouble, as a leader, is, you make it a matter of national security.

    I’m not questioning there is national security involved, but that’s what this is. It was a dumb political move to begin with and it’s backfired on — I think on both Netanyahu and Boehner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As I turn to you, David — full disclosure — your son serves in the Israeli army.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We talk about this.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But how do you see this?

    DAVID BROOKS: So, I sort of agree with Mark. I think it’s a political disaster. It’s a substantive disaster for the state of Israel.

    I think it’s political disaster for Bibi Netanyahu back home, because they’re — most Israelis are really worried about the state of the relationship. It’s different than the past times, in part because it’s — as Mark said, it’s partisan now. Suddenly, Republicans are pro-Israel. And what are Democrats supposed to do?

    Second, support for Israel, especially on the Democratic left, especially on college campuses, is more fragile than it’s ever been before. Third, the Iran situation is just this gigantically big issue, and existential for Israel, a serious issue for the United States. And to mess this up at a time when this issue is looming is cataclysmic, distracted the debate over the — what’s being settled between the U.S. and Iran into some sideshow.

    And I happen to think Netanyahu’s concerns about what — the deal we’re apparently getting close to with the Iranians are legitimate, but he has sidetracked that debate into something very self-destructive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it makes it harder to get a deal?  It complicates it in some way?

    DAVID BROOKS: I hope so. I hope so. I think the deal is a very dangerous deal, because I think we’re granting a very rogue regime access to at least a nuclear capability, which I think is a very perilous thing to do.

    But we’re not having that debate. We’re talking about whether Bibi’s coming.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will have to leave it there.

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, we thank you both.

     

     

    The post Shields and Brooks on House GOP vs. Homeland Security, Netanyahu speech rift appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jeb Bush shakes hands after speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Maryland

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: the fight to win over the right.

    It was day two of speeches at the largest gathering of conservatives in the country.

    Political director Domenico Montanaro reports on the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and current front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2016, was the highlight of the day.

    FORMER GOVERNOR JEB BUSH, (R) Florida: I have to show that I care about people, about their future. It can’t be about the past. It can’t be about my mom and dad or my brother.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: He was met with some boos for his support of immigration reform and Common Core educational standards, but he defended his record.

    JEB BUSH: So, I would describe myself as a practicing reform-minded conservative, that I have actually done it.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Another Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio, struck out at President Obama.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) Florida: Sometimes, you wouldn’t know we’re an exceptional nation by listening to the president, who has described our nation as sometimes being arrogant or dictating terms to others.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s message of smaller government and a less interventionist foreign policy is always popular with some of the younger libertarian activists at CPAC. And this year was no different.

    SEN. RAND PAUL (R), Kentucky: As conservatives, we shouldn’t succumb to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow become successful abroad.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: But former Senator Rick Santorum, like most other speakers, took a hard line on fighting the Islamic State militant group.

    FORMER SENATOR RICK SANTORUM, Pennsylvania: If ISIS wants to establish a seventh century caliphate, well, let’s oblige them by bombing them back to the seventh century.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: The activists will vote on their favorite tomorrow in the annual CPAC straw poll.

    Domenico Montanaro, PBS NewsHour.

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    HEAVY BURDEN monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two major trends are on a collision course in the United States: the aging of the U.S. population and a decades-long surge in obesity.

    The elderly population is projected to double to 80 million by 2050. And, as that’s happening, obese individuals are far more likely to become sick or disabled as they age.

    Special correspondent Sarah Varney has the story from Alabama, produced in collaboration with our partners at Kaiser Health News.

    SARAH VARNEY: Bayou La Batre calls itself the seafood capital of Alabama. Residents here depend on fishing and shrimping for their livelihood. And when they sit down to eat, they like most things fried.

    Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin has been trying to reverse the nation’s obesity epidemic one patient at a time at her Bayou clinic.

    REGINA BENJAMIN, Former U.S. Surgeon General: Bake, boil, and broil. Say that again.

    GARI QUALLS: Bake, boil, and broil.

    REGINA BENJAMIN: So no more fried shrimp.

    SARAH VARNEY: Gari Qualls is 69 years old and a retired crab picker. She spent most of her life seriously overweight and was diagnosed with diabetes age 39.

    As obesity became commonplace around the U.S., health care providers like Benjamin began seeing the impacts of the disease all around them.

    REGINA BENJAMIN: We saw our patient population get heavier. We also saw chronic diseases start to rise, hypertension, strokes, diabetes. We’re now called the Stroke Belt, where we are. So we saw all those things start happening. And if we continued, our entire community would totally be crippled basically based on chronic diseases and chronic illnesses.

    SARAH VARNEY: That grim assessment stretches beyond Bayou La Batre.

    Here along Alabama’s Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the South, one in three adults is obese and many who have lived for decades with excess weight, diabetes, and heart disease are now heading into their senior years.

    Their problem has been deepening everywhere. As you can see, the obesity rate grew in many states from 10 to 15 percent, shown in blue, to more than 30 percent, shown in red. That is going to have profound effects as the country ages.

    Dr. Virginia Chang, a demographer at New York University, says lifelong obesity, now common in the U.S., is poised to undermine improvements in disability rates among older adults.

    VIRGINIA CHANG, New York University: We’re potentially going to have a larger older population that’s more likely to be obese, surviving longer with cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. I think the primary fallout from increasing obesity is probably not going to be some huge hit to mortality, right? It’s going to be disability.

    At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, biology Professor Steven Austad is studying the effects of diet and nutrition on aging using mice.

    STEVEN AUSTAD, University of Alabama at Birmingham: What aging researchers used to think is that aging was all of these different processes and had your heart age, your brain age, something, feet age.

    But now what we realize, there’s a handful of processes that are involved in aging all parts of your body. And it turns out that one of the processes is inflammation.

    SARAH VARNEY: Inflammation naturally increases as we age, but that process is exacerbated by belly fat, which secretes chemicals that cause further inflammation around the body.

    STEVEN AUSTAD: If you’re obese, then your system-wide levels of inflammation are higher, particularly when you get to be older.

    WOMAN: My mother had vascular dementia.

    SARAH VARNEY: That’s one reason scientists think men and women who are obese are more likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers as they age.

    Birmingham resident Bob Parker says his own weight is starting to catch up with him. As a realtor and Democratic Party activist, he often attends meetings at restaurants. He says all those nights dining out make it hard to eat well. Now at age 60, he’s being treated for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. He’s lost 90 pounds twice, and gained it back.

    BOB PARKER: There’s no question. I mean, I can just feel it. I get tireder. When I do projects around the house or something like that, I can’t do them as long. And I find myself resting more when I am doing it. I like to do things out in the yard and have a couple of various little projects going on that have stopped for the winter.

    And I can’t — I just can’t work on them as much. So that’s pretty galling, to be honest.

    SARAH VARNEY: To get help he’s been coming here, to the university’s weight loss clinic to see Dr. Tarnay Solamani.

    TARNAY SOLAMANI: Tell me what is making it challenging for you to adhere to the diet plan that we discussed last time.

    BOB PARKER: The choices are things, frankly, that I don’t much like.

    SARAH VARNEY: Obesity is an expensive diseases, especially for aging seniors. One study found that while obese 70-year-olds live as long as healthy weight 70-year-olds, they will spend $39,000 more on health care.

    DAVID ALLISON, University of Alabama at Birmingham: Obese people have higher health care costs than non-obese people. This is true virtually those life.

    SARAH VARNEY: David Allison directs the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    DAVID ALLISON: As one gets into the age where health care spending goes up — 25-year-olds don’t spend that much on health care, but as you progress through age, that difference is going to be bigger and bigger and more and more important.

    SARAH VARNEY: Two hours from Birmingham, in the northwest corner of the state, Generations of Red Bay is one of the only nursing homes in the region willing to taken to the added expense of caring for heavier patients. Patients come from as far away as Texas.

    Surveys show more obese people are heading into nursing homes at younger ages and staying long than non-obese residents.

    WOMAN: Are you feeling OK?

    WOMAN: Yes, I’m fine.

    SARAH VARNEY: Margaret Hill Douglas arrived two years ago at age 47 after she broke her knee. Surgery was considered too risky because of her congestive heart failure, so she languished in the hospital for weeks while a social worker looked for a nursing home that would accept her. Patients like Hill Douglas require additional staff and costly equipment, says Aundrea Fuller, the nursing home’s chief operating officer.

    That includes everything from specialized beds and lifts to larger blood pressure cuffs.

    AUNDREA FULLER, Generations of Red Bay: There are two certified nursing assistants for eight to 10 residents and that’s about twice the staffing that you would have for the general population of a skilled nursing facility.

    SARAH VARNEY: Fuller says most of the people that move in, even the younger ones, will need this type of care for the rest of their lives.

    Back at the weight loss clinic in Birmingham, Bernard Rayford, age 55, says he wants to avoid that fate.

    BERNARD RAYFORD, Birmingham: I have always prayed, lord, before I be a burden, just take me. So I saw myself being a burden and me being a major problem. So the end was for me not to make it, or me for being — end up being an invalid. And that’s a direction I don’t want to be in.

    SARAH VARNEY: Rayford is working hard now on his diet and in the clinic’s gym. He says there is much at stake. He wants to be around to enjoy retirement with his wife and years with his grandson.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Sarah Varney in Birmingham, Alabama.

     

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: When it comes to the battle against the Islamic State, much of the world’s attention is

    focused, of course, on the murders and the mayhem it has wrought. But there have also been a series of attacks on antiquities and cultural heritage.

    And, today, there’s both condemnation and sadness over a video showing what happened this week in Northern Iraq.

    Here’s Jeffrey Brown.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the video, Islamic State militants knock statues to the floor, take sledgehammers to centuries-old artifacts, even employ a jackhammer to reduce a work to rubble. Released through social media Thursday, the five-minute video uses music and slow motion to dramatize the destruction at Northern Iraq’s Mosul Museum.

    MAN (through translator): To all Muslims, these statues are idols of the people in previous centuries which were worshipped other than God. God almighty says: “And we sent a messenger to you just to reveal that no God but I, so worship me.”

    The prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Mosul Museum reportedly housed more than 170 genuine antiquities. Others were replicas, and it’s unclear how many original works were destroyed.

    But the act fits into a broader campaign by the Islamic State, to brazenly and publicly destroy cultural relics in the name of religious purity. Since its incursion into Northern Iraq last summer, the group has laid waste to libraries, temples and shrines. And the region now under its control contains nearly 1,800 of Iraq’s 12,000 registered archaeological sites.

    In Paris today, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called this newest act in Mosul a — quote — “war crime” that the world must punish. but she added this:

    IRINA BOKOVA, Director-General, UNESCO: I know that there is not much that we can do in order to go there on the site. UNESCO doesn’t have an army. UNESCO doesn’t have blue helmets or anything else.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, in war-torn Syria, satellite images show extensive looting of archaeological sites for relics reportedly sold on the black market to finance Islamic State operations.

    Today, UNESCO announced the creation of a global coalition against the trafficking of illegal objects, to meet in the coming weeks.

    For more now on the losses and the motives of the militants, we turn to Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near East studies at Princeton University and Michael Danti, a professor of archaeology at Boston University, part of a team documenting what is happening to cultural sites in Syria and Iraq.

    And let me start with you, Michael Danti.

    I know experts have been looking at this video to authenticate the museum, to try to determine the extent of the damage. What do we know so far?

    MICHAEL DANTI, Professor of Archaeology, Boston University: We know that some of the objects that we are seeing are plaster casts or restorations, but the majority of what we’re looking at, both at the site of Nineveh and in the Mosul Museum, is sculpture from antiquity, from — you’re seeing material from the site of Hatra, which is the ancient city of Hadr, and material that comes from the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh from the first millennium B.C.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how important a collection is this?  What context — put some context to these works.

    MICHAEL DANTI: The material from Hatra is really unparalleled in art history. There’s very little material outside the Mosul Museum.

    In terms of the sculpture that we see from the Assyrian Empire, a large amount of that material graces the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre. But the works that we’re seeing that remained in Mosul were the hard work of Iraqi archaeologists and museum professionals.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Bernard Haykel, what — why the focus on art and antiquities, and who is — who’s the intended audience?

    BERNARD HAYKEL, Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University: Well, the Islamic State presents itself as a puritanical movement, claiming to be the authentic version of Islam. And part of their presentation of this version of Islam has to do with the smashing of idols, what we call iconoclasm.

    And they’re to appeal to — it’s a major P.R. kind of campaign to present themselves as the real Muslims. Now, it should be underscored that most Muslims don’t share their views at all. And in fact, you know, Islamic art has had a lot of figural representation, even of the prophet, but their version of Islam is very literal and it’s very radical. And they are trying to present that as the real thing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the packaging of a video, you’re putting in the category of public relations, of reaching out and saying, here’s what we can do?

    BERNARD HAYKEL: Yes, and it’s propaganda. It’s trying to appeal to — much of what they do is trying to appeal to young people to bring about recruits and saying that, we adhere very closely to the injunctions of Islamic law, one of which is to command good and forbid wrong, and these statues are considered idols.

    Of course, Islamic law says that idols that are not worshiped need not be destroyed, and none of these statues were being worshiped. So it is a gratuitous and barbaric act, frankly, but one that is intended to appeal to an audience that is looking for some sort of authenticity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Michael Danti, you’re nodding your head. You have been watching this unfold at a number of sites in Syria and Iraq.

    Are there fears about more?  What steps are or can be taken at this point?

    MICHAEL DANTI: During the conflict, there obviously is very little that we can do.

    To try to prevent these sorts of things, you you’re have to take measures before the outbreaks of conflicts. Since July of last year, we have seen scores of these sorts of destructions. The main targets have been Shia and Sufi sites in Syria and Iraq.

    And, in reality, ancient material culture has not really been the preferred target of Islamic State.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, flesh that out a little bit. So there are patterns you see?

    MICHAEL DANTI: Yes, there’s definitely a pattern to target Shia and Sufi material culture, primarily shrines, mosques and tombs.

    The hardest-hit area has been Aleppo governorate in the north of Syria in the Deir el-Zour area. And this is a way to try to increase sectarian tensions and proliferate the conflict. It also is a cold, calculated form of psychological warfare.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and Bernard Haykel, this does gets the world’s attention. Here we are talking about it, although I must say we felt we had to. There was no way not to.

    But does that proliferate?  Do you expect more to happen?

    BERNARD HAYKEL: Absolutely.

    I mean, I think this is a group that is determined to attract as much media attention as possible and to shock and to — because they see this as a form of humiliating the enemy, the enemy being all people they disagree with, but mainly the unbelievers. And Sufis and Shias and Muslims who disagree with them are considered unbelievers.

    So, they are desperate for this kind of attention and shock value.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Michael Danti, just very briefly on the question of the looting that continues, reports about the sale of those antiquities for — to finance some of these operations, do we know much about that at this point?

    MICHAEL DANTI: We know that material is making it to Lebanon and Turkey, on its way to international markets. What’s difficult to fill in are the dollar values and the exact belligerents in the conflict that are involved in the looting and the trafficking. But we do have good in-country information that almost everyone in the Syria-Iraq conflict is looting to some extent

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Michael Danti, Bernard Haykel, thank you both very much.

    MICHAEL DANTI: Thank you.

    BERNARD HAYKEL: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A rift escalated this week between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his planned address to Congress next Tuesday.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: As he nears the March 17 finish line in his reelection campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking an unusual 6,000-mile detour Sunday to lobby Congress against President Obama’s drive toward a nuclear deal with Iran.

    The prime minister made his feelings about that clear on Wednesday.

    PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israel (through interpreter): The world powers have undertaken to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon. But from the agreement coming together, it appears they have given up on this commitment.

    MARGARET WARNER: Secretary of State Kerry responded, saying Netanyahu had also disparaged the late 2013 interim deal with Iran.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: He called it the deal of the century for Iran, even though it has clearly stopped Iran’s program.

    MARGARET WARNER: What angers the administration is not the substance of Netanyahu’s criticism. It’s where and when it will be delivered, here, before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, and how the visit came about.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: I didn’t consult with the White House. The Congress can make this decision on its own.

    MARGARET WARNER: In January, Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced he’d invited Netanyahu to speak, without conferring with the White House or Democratic leaders.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world.

    MARGARET WARNER: It later emerged that he’d orchestrated the visit with the Israeli ambassador, longtime Netanyahu political adviser Ron Dermer.

    The administration fired back, saying neither the president nor Vice President Biden would meet with Netanyahu so close to Israel’s election.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) Vermont: It politicizes foreign policy in this country in a way that it shouldn’t be politicized.

    MARGARET WARNER: Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, plans to boycott the speech. He faults Boehner for playing politics with a sensitive security issue that divides Congress on how to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

    What about Prime Minister Netanyahu?  Did he cross a line here?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: The answer is yes. I don’t think it’s a good idea for the speaker to bring the prime minister of Israel to come to the floor of the Congress to trash the president of the United States. And I don’t want to see the United States Congress being used as a prop for a political candidate.

    MARGARET WARNER: Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz maintains Netanyahu’s visit is driven by the end-of-March deadline to reach a political framework in the Iran talks, not by Israel’s election calendar.

    YUVAL STEINITZ, Minister of Intelligence, Israel: So this is the last opportunity for Prime Minister Netanyahu to explain why Israel is so disturbed, and to convince the Congress, the United States of America, and maybe other world powers not to sign a bad deal with Iran.

    This is not neutralizing the Iranian nuclear threat. This is simply postponing, delaying, restraining. This is really about the future of the world, but also about the existence of Israel, of the Jewish state.

    MARGARET WARNER: Besides, he says, how could Netanyahu turn down an invitation from the speaker of the House?

    YUVAL STEINITZ: If the prime minister was invited by the Congress, I don’t know of any world leader who would refuse such an invitation.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think what a world leader would have done, and I suspect most would have, is got on the phone and say, hey, President Obama, guess what?  Speaker Boehner invited me. How do you feel about that?

    MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. and five other world powers seek an agreement to put verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program for a decade or more to ensure that Iran couldn’t quickly produce enough fuel for a bomb.

    President Obama also sees a deal as a way to avoid military action by the U.S. or Israel against Iran’s nuclear sites. Prime Minister Netanyahu wants far more, to have Iran’s nuclear enrichment program dismantled entirely. But these differences, the president said, aren’t why he won’t see Netanyahu this visit.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party. The way to preserve that is to make sure that it doesn’t get clouded with what could be perceived as partisan politics.

    MARGARET WARNER: But it’s certainly seen as political in Israel, where Netanyahu is running against a center-left coalition partly on a stand-up-to-Washington message, as in this TV ad.

    In Tel Aviv’s largest market, voters were divided on the election, an on the trip.

    Vegetable seller David Cohen is not sold on the prime minister, nor on the speech.

    DAVID COHEN, Vendor (through interpreter): He is going for himself, not for me. He is going there to win the elections.

    MARGARET WARNER: Luggage importer Ztafrir Salomon said Netanyahu has to go make Israel’s case.

    ZTAFRIR SALOMON, Luggage Importer (through interpreter): Bibi totally understands what he is doing, and he is doing it with his chin up.

    MARGARET WARNER: But American-born Israeli Carmel Garber is troubled.

    CARMEL GARBER, Real Estate Financier: I think it’s terrible. Whether or not Netanyahu likes Obama or not, it’s a crucial ally, and you can’t just kind of push him aside as if he’s not important.

    MARGARET WARNER: The personal relationship between Mr. Obama and Netanyahu has been distant and often testy from the start, notes Aaron David Miller of the Wilson Center, a former Middle East peace negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations.

    AARON DAVID MILLER, Vice Pres. & Distinguished Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars: You have perhaps the most dysfunctional relationship between an American president and an Israeli prime minister in the history of the relationship.

    MARGARET WARNER: Tamara Wittes, a former State Department official in the Obama administration, agrees.

    TAMARA COFMAN WITTES, Director, Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution: What I see today is a bitterness, I think, that is different. This is, I think, a much deeper crisis of confidence than I have seen before.

    MARGARET WARNER: The tension and distrust between the two extends beyond the Iran issue, to the stalled Israeli- Palestinian peace process and the conduct of last summer’s Gaza war.

    Now some Democrats feel caught in a bind, forced to choose between showing support for the president’s top foreign policy priority or showing support for Israel.

    So far, three Democratic senators, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, Virginia’s Tim Kaine and Hawaii’s Brian Schatz, say they won’t attend. Some 36 House members are staying away too, warning it could damage longstanding bipartisan cooperation on Israel.

    National Security Adviser Susan Rice raised that red flag Tuesday evening on “Charlie Rose.”

    SUSAN RICE, U.S. National Security Adviser: There has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship.

    MARGARET WARNER: Aaron Miller concedes the dangers of partisan divisions. But he doesn’t think this incident will shake the fundamental U.S.-Israel alliance.

    AARON DAVID MILLER: Unlike Lehman Brothers, this relationship is too big to fail. As the region melts down, the natural tendency to support stable allies, who presumably share and do share American values, goes up. During a crisis, frankly, I think, is when you will see more consensus, rather than division, between the two sides.

    MARGARET WARNER: But Brookings’ Tamara Wittes is worried the effects will linger and spill over.

    TAMARA COFMAN WITTES: If their fundamental relationship is rocky, it’s going to impede their ability to cooperate. It’s not just about the relationship between the leaders. The tone permeates down to officials at every level.

    AARON DAVID MILLER: Have the last five years created some permanent dysfunction in the relationship?  The only way to actually test that is to test the alternative, a new American president and a new Israel prime minister. For the next 20 months, more than likely, this very odd couple is going to continue this rather peculiar dance.

    MARGARET WARNER: A dance 73-year-old beautician Pnina Sherman in Tel Aviv expects to continue too.

    PNINA SHERMAN, Beautician (through interpreter): Give me a break. Our position is strong, also in the United States. He will give a speech, he won’t give a speech, he doesn’t risk a thing.

    MARGARET WARNER: A risk that Netanyahu will run next week.

    I’m Margaret Warner for the PBS NewsHour in Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Margaret joins me now.

    Margaret, thanks for that.

    So, you were telling me not only all these other divisions you were just reporting on, but that this has opened up a split inside the American-Jewish community.

    MARGARET WARNER: It has, Judy, in the politically active organizations.

    The strength of the so-called Israel lobby has always been its bipartisan nature. So, in AIPAC, for example, the number one in this group, you have got Republicans and Democrats, try really disagree on domestic issues, but they are rock-solid in support for Israel. And that helps undergird the support Israel gets on the Hill.

    Well, AIPAC was caught completely flat-footed. Some of its Democratic members said, hey, we can’t be part of this ploy to undercut Obama and help Netanyahu win. But while AIPAC stood back, some of the groups on opposite sides weighed in.

    So the Republican Jewish Coalition essentially is threatening to spend money to undercut members who don’t show up for the speech. The liberal J Street group has come out to raise money to protect those. Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, called on Netanyahu to cancel this speech.

    I think they’re trying to paper it all over now, Judy, but it has made many Democrats and Republicans uncertain and unhappy that it’s opposing — it’s injecting a partisan rift that would undercut support for Israel.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Every which way you look, it’s complicated.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes, very.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner, thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Uncertainty reigns at the U.S. Capitol this evening in the funding fight over Homeland Security. House Republicans failed late today to pass a temporary bill, as conservatives rebelled.

    MAN: We can’t let the department stop working.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The daylong drama unfolded, as a midnight deadline neared for the federal Department of Homeland Security to run out of money.

    On the House side, senior Republicans, including Kentucky’s Hal Rogers, pushed a three-week funding measure.

    REP. HAL ROGERS, (R) Kentucky: We’re putting before you a bill to temporarily finance them while we go to conference on the main year-end financing of the department. That’s what this is all about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A number of Republicans were still demanding that the main year-end funding measure overturn the president’s directives on immigration. But Democrats in the Senate have blocked that effort, and their House counterparts pressed the GOP today to accept reality.

    REP. SAM FARR, (D) California: Mister Speaker, let your Republicans go. Let them come to the floor and vote on a clean bill. We could pass it before this afternoon. That bill would be in the White House tonight, and we could go home, sleeping, knowing that this nation’s security is in good hands.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As the day went on, House Republican leaders had to call a lengthy recess to round up votes. In the end, it was in vain.

    WOMAN: The yeas are 203. The nays are 224. The joint resolution is not passed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But GOP leaders insisted that’s not the end of it.

    MAN: Members are advised additional votes are now possible later this evening and maybe this weekend. And I yield back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Senate Republican leaders have given up on including immigration in a funding bill. Instead, the Senate today approved a clean bill that funds the Homeland Security Department through September. It was unclear if the House Republican leadership will bring that bill to a vote.

    The White House signaled earlier that if a short-term funding does finally pass, the president would sign it.

    A small town in South Central Missouri was in shock today, after a night of killing left eight people dead. It happened in Tyrone, near the Arkansas border. Police said a gunman killed seven people and then took his own life. The victims were found in four separate homes. Police identified the shooter as Joseph Jesse Aldridge, and said four of the victims were his cousins. It was unclear what his motive might have been.

    In Mexico, police have captured one of that country’s most-wanted drug lords. Servando Gomez is a former teacher who came to be known as La Tuta. He ran the Knights Templar cartel that once dominated part of Western Mexico, but he’d been a fugitive for a year.

    There’s word that the Islamic State group has run into a budget shortfall. A global task force reported today that falling oil prices have helped cut the group’s revenues. The report also cited U.S.-led airstrikes.

    And, at the Pentagon, Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed it.

    REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: They still have resources at their disposal, but we know that they’re feeling the pinch because they aren’t able to grab new ground and therefore aren’t able to rob new banks and steal — and steal more cash.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The task force report did call for targeting the militants’ online fund-raising.

    The four-month extension of Greece’s financial bailout took a major step forward today. Germany’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to back the extension. The finance minister told lawmakers that it’s in everyone’s best interest.

    WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE, Finance Minister, Germany (through interpreter): We have to bring Greece into a situation that finance markets trust them again and that Greece can act without any support on its own. It’s called competitiveness. And for Greece, there’s a longer road to go than for any other European country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Germany has pushed Greece to adhere to spending cuts and other austerity measures.

    There’s word this evening from Moscow that Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure, was shot and killed today. The Interior Ministry says it was a drive-by shooting just outside the Kremlin. Nemtsov was a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin.

    On Wall Street, stocks lost ground after fourth-quarter growth came in weaker than first estimated. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 82 points to close near 18100. The Nasdaq fell 24 points. And the S&P 500 slipped six, but for the month, the Dow and the S&P gained more than 5 percent. The Nasdaq rose 7 percent.

    Two men who had profound, but very different effects on American life have died. They were Father Ted and Mr. Spock, Notre Dame’s Reverend Theodore Hesburgh and “Star Trek”‘s Leonard Nimoy.

    He was beloved by generations of “Star Trek” fans.

    LEONARD NIMOY, Actor:
    Enterprise, this is Spock.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Leonard Nimoy’s journey to sci-fi immortality began in 1966, as Mr. Spock, the strictly logical science officer. He was featured alongside William Shatner’s Captain Kirk for three seasons, and later in a series of movies.

    LEONARD NIMOY: The needs of the many outweigh…

    WILLIAM SHATNER, Actor: The needs of the few.

    LEONARD NIMOY: Or the one.

    I have been, and always shall be, your friend.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nimoy’s career also included directing and writing. But he was forever linked to the half-Vulcan/half-human Spock and his famous salute.

    LEONARD NIMOY: Your family, your friends, whatever, and especially to you, live long and prosper.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Twitter last year, Nimoy revealed he’d been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He died today at his Los Angeles home at the age of 83.

    Hours earlier, the Reverend Theodore Hesburgh passed away in South Bend, Indiana. Father Ted, as he was widely known, became Notre Dame’s president in 1952 and, over 35 years, helped reshape Catholic education. The school’s current president, the Reverend John Jenkins, said in a statement today: “He turned a relatively small Catholic college known for football into one of the nation’s great institutions for higher learning.”

    Along the way, Hesburgh advised, and sometimes clashed, with presidents, as well as popes. He also pressed for peace in the Middle East and championed civil rights at home and human rights around the globe. He kept pressing that agenda even as he retired in 1987.

    REV. THEODORE HESBURGH, Former President, University of Notre Dame: We don’t know where we’re going from here and we don’t know what we’re going to do, but I can guarantee you there are a lot of battles yet to be won for justice.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hesburgh was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000. And that same year, on the “NewsHour,” he summed up his career:

    REV. THEODORE HESBURGH: I never thought I was a priest just to give sermons, and work in church, and hear confessions and marry people, bury people and so forth. I felt, I’m part of a big life out there, and I have got to contribute to that, one way or the other, I hope for the good.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Reverend Theodore Hesburgh was 97 years old.

    And in another passing of note, Earl Lloyd, the first black player in the National Basketball Association, died Thursday. He entered the league in 1950. In 1955, he helped the Syracuse Nationals win the NBA title. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. Earl Lloyd was 86 years old.

    The post News Wrap: House rejects stopgap bill for Homeland Security appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sign stands at the headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

    A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sign stands at the headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Bordering on dysfunction, Congress passed a one-week bill late Friday night to avert a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department, as leaders in both political parties quelled a revolt by House conservatives furious that the measure left President Barack Obama’s immigration policy intact.

    The final vote of a long day and night was a bipartisan 357-60 in the House, a little more than an hour after the Senate cleared the measure without so much as a roll call.

    That sent the legislation to the White House for Obama’s signature, and capped a day of bruising political battles and rhetoric to match.

    “You have made a mess,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at one point to Republicans, as recriminations filled the House chamber and the midnight deadline neared for a partial shutdown of an agency with major anti-terrorism responsibilities.

    Even some Republicans readily agreed.

    “There are terrorist attacks all over world and we’re talking about closing down Homeland Security. This is like living in world of crazy people,” tweeted Rep. Peter King of New York, a former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

    Hours after conservatives joined with Democrats to vote down a three-week funding measure, 224-203, the Senate presented a one-week alternative to keep open the agency, which has responsibility for border control as well as anti-terrorist measures.

    That amounted to a take-it-or-leave it offer less than three hours before the deadline.

    Some Republican opponents — members of a “Freedom Caucus” — sat together in the chamber as the vote total mounted in the legislation’s favor.

    This time, Pelosi urged her rank-and-file to support the short-term measure, saying it would lead to passage next week of a bill to fund the agency through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year without immigration add-ons. Aides to Speaker John Boehner promptly said there had been no such promise made.

    Taken together, the day’s roller-coaster events at the Capitol underscored the difficulty Republicans have had so far this year in translating last fall’s election gains into legislative accomplishment — a step its own leaders say is necessary to establish the party’s credentials as a responsible, governing party. Republicans gained control of the Senate in November’s balloting, and emerged with their largest House majority in more than 70 years.

    Further demonstrating GOP woes, House GOP leaders abruptly called off a vote on a major education bill that had attracted significant opposition from conservatives as well as Democrats and the White House. Aides attributed that decision to the need to work separately on rounding up enough votes to pass the funding measure for Homeland Security.

    For their part, tea party conservatives in the House unflinchingly defended their actions.

    “It does not make any difference whether the funding is for three weeks, three months or a full fiscal year. If it’s illegal, it’s illegal,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

    He referred to a pair of immigration directives issued by Obama. The first, in 2012, lifted the threat of deportation from many immigrants brought to the country illegally as youngsters. Another order last fall applied to millions more who are in the United States unlawfully.

    The unexpected House defeat of a three-week spending bill was accomplished by 52 conservatives upset by the deletion of the immigration provisions, alongside solid opposition from Democrats who wanted the agency funded through Sept. 30.

    That set an unpredictable chain of events in motion. Homeland Security officials circulated a lengthy contingency plan indicating that about 30,000 employees could expect to be furloughed without passage of funding legislation.

    Then the White House announced Obama had spoken with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Moments later, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky strode onto the Senate floor and swiftly gained approval for the seven-day measure.

    The Senate had waited all day to play its part in the funding of the agency.

    Earlier, a largely symbolic attempt to advance legislation that would repeal Obama’s immigration directive of last fall failed on a vote of 57-42, three short of the 60 required.

    That separate proposal was “commonsense legislation that would protect our democracy from the egregious example of executive overreach we saw in November,” said McConnell, who successfully led his rank and file in recent days to a decision to pass Homeland Security legislation without immigration-related provisions.

    Some House Republicans said the entire strategy of passing a short-term measure and seeking negotiations on a longer-term bill that included changes in Obama’s immigration policy was flawed. They noted that Senate Democrats had demonstrated their ability to block any challenges to Obama’s immigration policies, and that the president had vowed to veto them in any event.

    “Some folks just have a harder time facing political reality than others,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., speaking of other Republicans.


    Associated Press writers Charles Babington, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Daly and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

    The post Congress approves bill to fund Homeland Security for a week appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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