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

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    cheating scandal school monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A jury in Atlanta has convicted 11 former public school teachers, principals and administrators on racketeering charges tied to cheating on standardized tests.

    The convictions came on the eighth day of jury deliberations, after a six-month-long trial that detailed systematic cheating in more than 40 schools, involving more than 170 educators and administrators. Thirty-five people were indicted. And prior to the trial, more than 20 pleaded to lesser charges.

    Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard spoke afterward about the impact he hoped the trial will have.

    PAUL HOWARD, Fulton County District Attorney: Our entire effort in this case was simply to get our community to stop and take a look at our educational system. That’s what we wanted. We wanted people to look at the educational system that their children attended every day, to make some assessment, after they made that assessment, to look to see what we had to do as a community to move forward.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Signs of widespread sheeting in the Atlanta schools were first uncovered in 2008 by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation.

    Kevin Riley is the editor. And he joins me now.

    Kevin Riley, welcome to the program.

    Explain to us again what the charges were. How did cheating on a school test become something that people may go to prison for?

    KEVIN RILEY, Editor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Well, in the end, we all have to remember that there were bonuses and financial incentives tied to the performance of students on these test scores.

    So, in the end, teachers, administrators, and principals have to attest to the validity of the test. And that’s how the prosecutor pursued racketeering charges, because his case was based on illegal activity in the guise of a legitimate enterprise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, who were the people?  We named some of the positions. Who were the people who were being charged and what exactly did they do?

    KEVIN RILEY: Well, they really were in a wide range, from the schools’ principals, administrators, teachers.

    But, in the end, the most compelling and disturbing part of what we learned through all this was teachers were actually altering students’ answers on tests, giving students the clues to the answers. And I think that that was really the part that everyone found most disturbing, that educators would go that far, to literally cheat and change answers, in order to reach goals that they had been given.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what proportion of the entire Atlanta school system was involved?  We said 44 schools. What does that represent?

    KEVIN RILEY: It was never a majority of the schools

    But, at one point, the state’s investigation named dozens of schools and almost 200 educators. So it wasn’t a small thing, but there were still many, many more schools that legitimately gave the test, recorded the results, and dealt with students who were struggling to achieve those results.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There was very strong language that was used not only by the attorney, by the prosecutor, but others in describing what the former superintendent of schools — she passed away earlier this year, Beverly Hall, what she had done. But it sounds as if it was very much a systematic effort to change these results.

    KEVIN RILEY: Well, one of the most troubling things about what happened is that we never heard from Beverly Hall, the superintendent, and the central figure in this entire scandal. She was never under oath, never faced trial because of her illness.

    And she was adamant that these things went on without her knowledge and that she didn’t create a situation where they would be allowed to go on. But, in the end, many people felt that she was the main person behind what turned out to be a very sad conspiracy to cheat on tests.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Kevin Riley, what’s the effect been on the Atlanta school system of all this?

    KEVIN RILEY: Well, there have been a lot of changes in the system and a new superintendent, and I think renewed focus by the community on the system.

    And I think, if there is a lesson, an important thing to remember about the scandal, it’s this. Educating children in an urban school district is a big challenge. It’s a challenge in Atlanta. It’s a challenge across the country. And if a community is going to commit to that, it has to understand that the answers are not simple.

    Atlanta understands that now. And I think there are many of us that hope Atlanta will lead the way in finding new and better ways to educate urban schoolchildren.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about the community’s reaction, the city’s reaction to all of this, people who live there?

    KEVIN RILEY: It’s been very hard on the city, of course, because when a city is on the national news, you really hope it’s for a good reason.

    And Atlanta has made news in this case and will be known as the place where one of the — probably the worst cheating scandal ever recorded happened. But, in the end, I think it will give us — all of us a renewed focus on the importance of education. And Atlanta is the kind of place that always bounces back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the 11 found who were guilty, potential sentencing is, they could spend years in prison?

    KEVIN RILEY: Right.

    I mean, I think that one of the things to note about how the convictions came down is, they were convicted of racketeering, which is a very serious charge. And, usually, when you hear that kind of charge, it involves, you know, organized crime and career criminals.

    And the jury convicted them on those counts. And those sentences can be pretty stiff.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, what would you say the national impact has been?  You have been involved in journalism for some time. Do you think the country has seen, learned something from this?

    KEVIN RILEY: I think this scandal has called into question the wisdom of so much emphasis on standardized tests.

    And I think that that, again, will be the lesson from Atlanta, which is, you know, it’s a big job to educate kids. Of course we want to measure their progress. But just testing and testing and testing and putting teachers under enormous pressure, that’s not the answer. That has got to be something we think about and figure out a better way to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it certainly feeds into a much bigger debate about the wisdom of testing.

    Kevin Riley, the editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, thank you for talking with us.

    KEVIN RILEY: Thanks for having me.

    The post How cheating on standardized tests can be a criminal act appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    RIGHT TO DIE_Monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: Four U.S. states, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont, now have laws allowing doctors to help people die, as do a handful of European nations.

    But no country has ever launched physician-assisted suicide on the scale now under way in Canada.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court there ruled unanimously that all Canadians have a constitutional right to have doctors help them die.

    The court gave the government just one year to regulate medically assisted death for the entire nation.

    Special correspondent John Larson reports from British Columbia.

    ELAYNE SHAPRAY: My pain or discomfort is virtually constant.

    JOHN LARSON: When medically assisted death was argued before the Canadian Supreme Court, Elayne Shapray’s statement was exhibit A.

    ELAYNE SHAPRAY: I cannot move or turn over in bed.  In effect, I am a prisoner of my own body.  I no longer consider my life worth living unless I possess the means to leave it at the time of my choosing.

    JOHN LARSON: Shapray was a nurse, an active mother of two, until multiple sclerosis struck.  Now 68 years old, she can no longer do much of anything without help, including — and this is why she’s exhibit A — take her own life.

    How far away are you from that point where you would no longer be able to end your own life?

    ELAYNE SHAPRAY: I can see it from here.

    JOHN LARSON: The question of whether doctors should be allowed to help people like Elayne die was at the center of the Canadian Supreme Court decision.

    The court ruled that laws making physician-assisted death illegal violated Canadians’ constitutional rights in cases where an adult clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition.  The most recent polls show 86 percent of the Canadian general public approve.

    DAVID LEMON: There’s no question there’s going to have to be some serious thought about finding the right balance, but it is something whose time has come.  It has to be.

    SUSAN WAGNER: I think people do have the right to decide for themselves about the end of their life, and how — the quality of that.

    DR. DONALD LOW: Hi. I’m Dr. Donald Low.

    JOHN LARSON: Last year, a famous Canadian microbiologist pleaded for a change in the law just eight days before he died from brain cancer.

    DR. DONALD LOW: There’s a lot of clinicians — of opposition to dying with dignity. I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours, and I think they would change that — change that opinion.

    JOHN LARSON: The high court’s decision came sooner than he would have imagined.

    The court’s decision left room for interpretation, however.  For example, a patient’s condition must be, among other things, severe and incurable.  But that’s not the same as terminal.  For example, what if a patient has severe arthritis? Would they be eligible? Or what if they’re disabled or mentally ill?

    Remember, Shapray suffers from M.S., a debilitating, but not life-ending disease.

    You’re not in the end stage of a terminal illness.

    ELAYNE SHAPRAY: It’s an interminable illness.

    JOHN LARSON: Interminable.

    ELAYNE SHAPRAY: Interminable.  How do you weigh that? How do you measure that, unless you’re sitting in my wheelchair?

    DR. WILL JOHNSTON, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition: Well, it seems clear from what the Supreme Court has said that you need not be terminally ill to qualify.

    JOHN LARSON: Dr. Will Johnston, an outspoken opponent of physician-assisted death, says the court’s liberal language, that the patient may suffer from an disease or disability, and that suffering is only defined as intolerable to the individual, leaves the door open for abuse.

    DR. WILL JOHNSTON: You do not even need to be physically ill, because they specifically stated that psychological suffering would qualify as well.

    GRACE PASTINE, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association: So what the court said was that the right to assisted dying should be available only in narrow circumstances.

    JOHN LARSON: Grace Pastine of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which successfully brought the case to the Supreme Court, says the specifics of exactly who will be eligible for assisted dying have yet to be determined, but should be narrowly defined.

    GRACE PASTINE: The court made it very clear that physician-assisted dying would only be an option for individuals who are mentally competent and able to make a fully informed voluntary choice.  I think, for example, someone who suffered from a type of severe mental illness wouldn’t be able to qualify because they wouldn’t be able to meet the consent requirements.

    JOHN LARSON: The Canadian Medical Association, for years firmly opposed to doctor-assisted dying, this month announced it now supports patients who seek medical aid in dying, as well as a physician’s choice to participate.

    Still, opponents like Dr. Johnston hope pain management, palliative care, will be sufficient for most patients and doctors.

    DR. WILL JOHNSTON: We can do that without turning our 2,400 years of medical ethical history on its head, without crossing that bright line between attempting to treat the symptoms of the patient and intending to kill the patient.

    LESLIE LAFOREST: But many, many people do not, in fact, have that painless death.

    JOHN LARSON: Leslie Laforest was diagnosed three years ago with a recurrence of her stage four anal cancer.  But although her cancer is in remission, she knows, if it returns, her death could be prolonged and painful.

    LESLIE LAFOREST: I have absolutely the strongest will that I will not go through that final chapter, whenever that comes.

    JOHN LARSON: Laforest testified in the case that went to the Supreme Court that current law would force her to take her life early, while she could still do it herself, a point that the high court referenced in its decision.

    You want to walk down the black list for me?

    LESLIE LAFOREST: One of the scenarios is gassing myself, obviously, carbon monoxide from my car.  And then I plan in my mind, it’s got to be when my husband’s out of town, because it would be horrifying for him, and my daughter at school or away on vacation.

    Then I need to go to Home Depot and I have to buy some hose.  And then I have got to get some duct tape.  The problem is, then I start to think, but, wait a second, is there really going to be enough carbon monoxide to actually do the job? Or will it be just enough to kind of put me into a coma or make me in a vegetative state, where I actually don’t die?

    JOHN LARSON: An important twist on all of this, of course, is that the clock is ticking.  The high court gave the government just one year to come up with a new national law.  That’s just 12 months to agree on something they have been completely unable to agree upon for many years.

    LIBBY DAVIES, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East: Whether or not that will actually happen is, I think, a matter of speculation, because I think there’s, you know, a number of us who are worried that the government is going to drag its feet on this.

    JOHN LARSON: A liberal member of parliament, Libby Davies, has supported right-to-die issues.  She says, despite the court’s ruling, the current government may delay any new law until after the national elections next October.

    LIBBY DAVIES: Which would make it incredibly tight.  And if it were a different government that had, you know, a whole bunch of other things on their agenda, it would make it very difficult.

    JOHN LARSON: Difficult because Canadian provinces and territories, similar to our states, administer the country’s health care.  Ideally, they, too, would have to be consulted to craft any new law.

    Is there a sense here that that can get done?

    LIBBY DAVIES: Oh, I think it’s entirely possible.  I mean, we have provincial federal territorial discussions and policy developments all the time.  It’s part of the Canadian reality.  It’s the way this country works.  What is critical and what would make it an obstacle is if the federal government basically kind of walks away and says, well, you know, we really want nothing to do with this.

    JOHN LARSON: If no federal law is passed, current provincial law, in accordance with the court’s decision, will have to suffice, at least until something is sorted out.

    ELAYNE SHAPRAY: There’s not a lot left.

    WOMAN: Here’s your medicine, Elayne.

    JOHN LARSON: When the case went to the Supreme Court, lawyers requested Elayne Shapray be given special consideration, a waiver that would allow a doctor to end her life while the government writes a new law.  The court turned her down, meaning Elayne will have to wait a full year before a doctor could legally end her life.

    JOHN LARSON: You feel like you have a year?

    ELAYNE SHAPRAY: I think I would rather not answer that question.

    JOHN LARSON: For NewsHour, John Larson in Vancouver, British Columbia.

     

     

    The post Canadian court OKs doctor-assisted suicide, but who’s eligible? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The long-lasting and severe drought in California led Governor Jerry Brown to order new and historic water restrictions today. The mandatory rules are designed to reduce water use by 25 percent through 2016. The governor made the announcement on a day when winter snowpack is measured in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

    Today, there was no snow on the ground there and the snowpack is lower than at any time since 1950.

    Hari Sreenivasan is in California, and he joins us now from our public broadcasting station KPBS in San Diego.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In fact, Governor Brown went to the Sierra Nevada Mountains today to make his point. The restrictions would affect water use in a number of ways, including landscaping and lawns, farming, golf courses and more.

    The governor joins us now from Sacramento.

    Thanks for being with us.

    First, even going back to your state of the state address in 2014, you have been talking about this state of emergency. There has been plenty of scientific data to back up this drought, so what took so long to get these restrictions in place?

    GOV. JERRY BROWN, (D) California: Well, what takes so long is we’re a large state, 38 million people. We extend from the Oregon border to the Mexican border.

    We have hundreds of water agencies. And so to move a policy from conception to full operation and implementation does take time. And it is not done by two or five or 50 people in the state capital, but rather water districts, water engineers, water enforcement personnel, and citizens themselves all working together.

    I have taken dozens of measures over the last three to four years. And now I think we have really come to a culmination, where, instead of voluntary, it’s 25 percent is our goal. And it is mandatory, and that’s unlike what we had before. So, we’re talking about people taking out their lawns, using all these other different water-saving technologies, and then accelerating things like desalinization.

    In almost every way conceivable, Californians have to get used to a very different world, and we’re going to have to live just a little bit differently.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, Governor, encouraging people to decrease watering their lawns seems like literally a drop in the bucket, when 80 percent of the water by conflict is from the agriculture sector.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: And the agricultural sector, the farmers, have taken a lot of hits. People have — their fields are fallow in many cases. The trees are dying. They’re not getting the water that the federal government promised, not a drop. They’re getting only a small fraction from the state water project.

    Agriculture is fundamental to California. And, yes, they use most of the water, and they produce the food and the fiber that we all depend on and which we export to countries all around the world. So, we’re asking them too to give us information, to file agriculture water plans, to manage their underground water, to share with other farmers.

    This is a very comprehensive program that has never been attempted anywhere or at any time in California history. So, it’s bold. We have a lot to learn. We are going to have to listen to how it rolls forward and rolls out. But I think the farmers are suffering a lot. And they are being asked to do a lot through this executive order.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it time to start zeroing in on specific industries?  We know that it costs an enormous amount of water to have a single almond to eat or the fracking industry, where a lot of people are very concerned that they’re extracting a lot of water in that process as well. Is it time for us to start zeroing in on the largest customers or users of water?

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, then you’re putting government in a role of picking and choosing, maybe almonds instead of walnuts, or tomatoes instead of rice. I mean, that is a Big Brother that, outside a war or some absolute unprecedented catastrophe, shouldn’t even be considered.

    In terms of well stimulation and how you use water to get oil out of the ground, Californians drive 332 billion miles. That’s how far they went last year. They’re using 18 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel.

    So if we don’t take it out of our ground, we will take it out of somebody else’s. So I think what we have to do is get efficient, reduce wherever we can, and when we have just an ornamental lawn or something else that is just for your own pleasure, and we don’t have the water, that will generate, just the urban saving, 1.5 billion. That’s as big as one of our major dams, which people would like to build, and that’s $5 billion.

    So, we have to change many things that we have been comfortable with, and it’s all of us, Southern California, Northern California, farmers, homeowners, apartment dwellers. This is a big transition that I’m initiating with this executive order. And we’re going to have to work at it to get it right.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    You mentioned earlier the different water districts that all have to start agreeing to something like this. But there are so many disparities between county to county. And you have essentially got a race to the bottom from farmers who can afford to dig deeper and deeper wells, tapping into the same groundwater that’s depleting at a very rapid pace.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, for the first time, we are going to get all the information of where farmers are getting their water and how much under the ground and how much they’re actually using.

    And we have never been able to get that information before. Now we’re making it mandatory. And this is a complicated balance of forces, of businesses, of companies, of farmers, of families. And we’re trying our best to lay out a framework, an operational game plan that will reduce wasteful water use, unnecessary water use, and give incentives for new technologies, both for efficiency and new — generating new water, whether by recycling or from desalinization.

    And all that together is what we’re trying. And it’s unprecedented.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: It’s mandatory. And it will be enforced.

    So I think we ought to see how this goes forward, and then we can adjust up or down when we learn what the results are.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Governor Brown, very briefly, how will the rest of the country feel the impact of what’s happening in California?  What are the economic consequences of this drought?

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: Well, first of all, the price of food may go up because the cost of water is getting much higher. That’s one thing.

    And, in general, what’s happening in California is one variant of the change in weather and climate. And so other places have to look at this and understand we are — when I say we, humankind all over the world is putting billions of tons of chemicals, CO2, methane and other things, other greenhouse gases, and that’s warming and disrupting the very delicate web of life and balance in the hydrological cycle and in the climate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: So we’re all going to have to do a lot to adapt to the kind of changed world we’re bringing upon ourselves.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, thank you, Governor Brown, Governor Jerry Brown of California. Thanks so much.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: Thank you.

    The post Gov. Jerry Brown: California has to change what’s comfortable to address drought appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US Secretary of State Kerry checks his watch outside the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in a break during Iran nuclear program talks in Lausanne

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The talks between Iran and six world powers were extended today for yet another 24 hours. The deadline for a framework agreement expired last night. And no deal was reached today, but the U.S. said enough progress has been made to continue the negotiations.

    Major points of disagreement remain, and both the Americans and Iranians indicated it was up to the other side to bridge that gap.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: We have been very clear — and when I say we, I mean the international community, the United States sitting at that table alongside our German, French, British, Russian and Chinese counterparts — making clear to the Iranians that they need to make some specific commitments, and if they’re unwilling to make those commitments that, then, yes, the international community would be in a position where we would be forced to consider alternatives to the approach that we have demonstrated so far.

    MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran: As I have said all along, the recognition by all parties that they need to exhibit political will and flexibility in order to move forward. Iran has exhibited that political will. Iran has shown its readiness to engage with dignity. And it’s time for our negotiating partners to seize the moment and use this opportunity, which may not be repeated.

    GWEN IFILL: Joining us again for the latest at the talks is Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News.

    Indira, you have been watching this day in, day out. When you hear those two statements, one from the White House and one from the Iranian foreign minister talking about flexibility and willpower, translate for us. Where are they tonight?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, Bloomberg: Well, I think you need to examine both of those statements on two levels.

    One is the level of reality and what’s actually going on in these very, very difficult negotiations. And we know that they are having — they’re stuck on a couple of issues. And these are particularly research and development for Iran’s nuclear program, as well as relief from United Nations sanctions which are not about economic penalties. They’re about proliferation and military sales.

    So that’s a much tougher one for the international community to lift. That’s the reality. On the other side, you have the public messaging. And as you have heard from Josh Earnest and you hear from Mohammad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, each side is working really hard to get their message out. Each side wants to say that the other one is the one who needs to make the compromises and that they’re willing to walk away.

    But I think read between the lines. What the White House said was really interesting. They’re remaining at talks because progress is here. Remember, we’re going into double overtime. We’re going into the second overtime day here, and that’s because, if these talks fail, the White House doesn’t want to be blamed for it. They do not want to be seen as the ones who walked away from this. They don’t want that at their doormat.

    So, this is a game of brinksmanship. And in the end, I think they’re going to have to come up with something, but each side is holding out for the best deal they can possibly get, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: As we hear these little leaks here and there, it seems like the Iranians are consistently more optimistic than the Americans are. Is that gamesmanship?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: I think it is, because it’s trying to push the Americans, in, again, using the media, to say, look, we’re ready to make a deal, we’re ready to sign on the dotted line, it’s you who needs to back down from your entrenched positions.

    And we have seen so much of this, where we had one European delegation telling us that there was an ultimatum last night, which the U.S. and Iran then denied. We had Fabius, the French foreign minister, leaving. He’s just come back. We had the British foreign minister leaving. He has just come back.

    There’s a lot of brinksmanship going on. And, as I said, I think part of this is as a signal to the other side, trying to focus attention on what they wanted to be this deadline that would give them three more months to actually work out the technical aspects of an accord.

    My own opinion is that, at this point, the Iran talks have become something that is like the banks were in 2008, too big to fail. And I think they are going to have to pull out some kind of an accord, even if it’s far short of what the Obama administration and the Iranians wanted.

    GWEN IFILL: And 24 hours — briefly, 24 hours can make all the difference?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: Well, I think that we will see — I personally think we will something within the next day, because we got a statement from the State Department that John Kerry was going to stay at least until Thursday, so that gives him the option to stay longer.

    But I think, at this point, people are tired. The negotiators have been up all night long, and day after day, and I think they want to get this done. So I think what we’re probably going to be looking at is some kind of a declaration of agreed principles without too many details behind that.

    So, I don’t think you are going to see detailed codicils laying out that Iran has to do this and the other side has to do that. It is going to be more goals, rather than actual steps that have to be taken. And those steeps, which are going to be really the hard part, are going to be what they are going to have to argue about over every line over the next three months.

    So, even if we see an agreement today, it’s something that could fall apart within the next three months before the June 30 deadline.

    GWEN IFILL: But if there are details, we know you will be there to read and explain them.

    Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg, thank you.

     

    The post Is the nuclear deal ‘too big to fail’ for both the U.S. and Iran? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news, it appears one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists has been killed in the Philippines.

    Zulkifli bin Hir, known as Marwan, was a leader of militants linked to al-Qaida, and blamed for bombings in the Philippines. FBI officials say DNA tests show he died in a January police raid in the Southern Philippines.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama has signed off on a new way to hit back at foreign hackers, with sanctions. His executive order signed today imposes penalties for stealing trade secrets or damaging computer systems. Companies that knowingly profit from such attacks could also be targeted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Republican governor of Arkansas backtracked today, amid a backlash over a religious freedom bill. It followed a similar furor in Indiana that’s galvanized gay activists and prompted businesses to demand action.

    GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON, (R) Arkansas: I have asked them to change the current law and I have asked them to recall it and change the language on it. That’s my request today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The announcement from Governor Asa Hutchinson came a day after the Arkansas House passed the religious objection measure. Hutchinson’s office earlier said he’d sign it. But he changed course in the face of charges that the bill allows discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON: What is important from an Arkansas standpoint is that, one, we get the right balance, and, secondly, we make sure that we communicate that we’re not going to be a state that fails to recognize the diversity of our workplace, our economy and our future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hutchinson wants the Republican-dominated legislature to make the bill look more like the federal religious freedom law, which President Clinton signed in 1993. The federal law says the government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion. It doesn’t define person, but the Arkansas bill and a new law in Indiana do, and they include churches and corporations.

    In addition, the Indiana law bars private discrimination lawsuits against someone claiming a religious exemption. And the Arkansas bill sets the legal bar higher for the government to override a religious exemption claim. That makes it different from the 20 other states with a similar law on the books, including the one in Indiana.

    Just yesterday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence made news when he called for additional legislation to clarify the law he signed only last week.

    Meanwhile, in Arkansas, anti-discrimination activists welcomed today’s announcement, but called for more.

    CHAD GRIFFIN, President, Human Rights Campaign: Our work is not finished. And we are not at the end of the road until all Arkansans, all citizens of this state are treated equally under the law and are provided the protections that should be guaranteed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Retail giant Wal-Mart, based in Arkansas, had urged Governor Hutchinson to veto the bill. It commended his announcement today. And similar proposals are pending in more than a dozen states.

    GWEN IFILL: In Yemen today, there were claims and counterclaims after a missile strike killed at least 35 workers at a dairy plant. It happened in the Red Sea port city of Hodaida, as a Saudi Arabian coalition expanded its air campaign against Shiite rebels. The rebels said a warplane fired the missile that hit the factory. The Saudis said it was an anti-aircraft missile fired by the rebels.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Iraq has declared victory over Islamic State militants who had overrun the city of Tikrit. Black smoke rose over the city as Iraqi forces, along with Shiite militias, cleared away the remaining pockets of resistance. ISIS militants had seized the city last summer.

    Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hailed the achievement after a month-long offensive.

    HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through translator): Thank God the losses are in small percentage. Some talked about the delay of the offensive. It wasn’t delayed, but we had preparations to minimize the losses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. airstrikes in the last week helped the Iraqis. Their next target could be the city of Mosul, which ISIS still controls.

    GWEN IFILL: Nigeria began its first peaceful transition of power today, with the president-elect declaring his nation has suffered enough.

    Muhammadu Buhari spoke in the capital, Abuja, and vowed to battle corruption and the Islamist militants of Boko Haram.

    PRESIDENT-ELECT MUHAMMADU BUHARI, Nigeria:
    You voted with your heart. Your vote affirms that you believe Nigeria’s future can be better than what it is today.

    (APPLAUSE)

    MUHAMMADU BUHARI:
    You voted for change. And now change has come.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, supporters of the one-time military dictator celebrated in the streets for a second day. Buhari defeated sitting President Goodluck Jonathan in the election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, McDonald’s announced its raising base pay for workers at its company-owned restaurants. Starting July 1, new workers earn a dollar more than the local minimum wage. The raise applies to 10 percent of the 14,000 McDonald’s in the U.S. The rest are run by franchisees, and are not affected by the policy change.

    GWEN IFILL: There’s word that more than 61,000 bridges in the U.S. need repair or rebuilding. A report in USA Today cites a new analysis by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. The group says there’s been a slight improvement from last year, but it calls for new taxes to support the Highway Trust Fund. The fund has to be renewed by June.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In economic news, car companies in the U.S. posted mixed results for March. Hyundai and Subaru reported double-digit gains, while sales at GM and Ford slipped.

    Stocks also sank again today, mostly on discouraging economic news. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 78 points to close below 17700. The Nasdaq fell 20 points, and the S&P 500 was down eight.

    GWEN IFILL: And two deaths of note tonight.

    Misao Okawa passed away in Japan at the age of 117. She’d been declared the world’s oldest person in 2013. The title now goes to an American, Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas, who is 116 years old.

    And Gary Dahl, creator of the 1970s bewilderingly popular fad the Pet Rock has died. He made a fortune selling plain rocks, in a box, for $3.95 each. Gary Dahl was 78 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Philippines bombing terrorist dead, confirms FBI appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    robert menedez INDICTED monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: The Justice Department announced today, that, for the first time since the 1980 Abscam scandal, it is indicting a sitting U.S. senator on federal bribery charges.

    For more on the action against New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, we turn to Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times, who’s been covering the story.

    Matt, eight counts of bribery, 22 counts in all. Tell us a little bit about what you know, from reading the indictment, about what they’re charging.

    MATT APUZZO, The New York Times: Well, it’s a really big indictment, Gwen. I’m actually about two-thirds the way through it, and it’s — we all knew this was coming, but it’s a lot broader and a lot deeper than I think a lot of us who have been following this closely expected.

    It basically describes Senator Menendez turning his Capitol Hill office into a criminal enterprise, basically using his offices and using his staff to go out and solicit gifts, find out what his political patron wanted in return, and then make sure it got done, describes trading favors, political favors, for trips on a private jet, first-class airfare, vacations, a five-star hotel in Paris.

    It’s very, very broad. The indictment runs over 60 pages. It really is an aggressive move by the Justice Department.

    GWEN IFILL: Tell us about his political patrons.

    MATT APUZZO: Salomon Melgen, he is a Florida eye surgeon. And they have been friends since the 1990s, by all accounts, real friends.

    They vacation together. They exchange gifts. And that’s going to be key to the defense. Menendez is arguing that this is a friendship, and that friends exchange gifts. And the Justice Department says this went well beyond friendship; this was a corrupt bribery scheme.

    GWEN IFILL: So the Justice Department is saying they have evidence that there was something given in exchange?

    MATT APUZZO: Correct.

    It’s not unusual — I wouldn’t say it’s unusual to charge bribery, but it’s certainly — certainly easier to charge taking an unlawful gratuity. Bribery is like payment for something, whereas a gratuity is kind of like a tip thank you. They’re saying he did favors for gifts. And that’s a high bar, a much higher bar from a legal standard.

    And I think that’s why you see the totality of the evidence that the Justice Department is throwing out here.

    GWEN IFILL: Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times, thank you very much.

    MATT APUZZO: Always good to be here.

     

    The post Sen. Menendez traded political favors for patron’s gifts, says Justice Department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The body of Clemson University freshman and Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge Tucker Hipps was found floating under a bridge in South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell last September.

    In the six months that followed, questions have surfaced about the circumstances surrounding his death and if it was linked to fraternity hazing.

    425px-Clemson_University_Seal.svg
    On Monday, Hipps’ parents filed two $25 million lawsuits against fraternity members and run organizers Thomas King, Campbell Starr and Samuel Carney — the son of Delaware Rep. John Carney — the South Carolina Beta chapter of Sig Ep, as well as the national organization, and Clemson University.

    On Wednesday, the Sig Ep national fraternity denied allegations of wrongdoing in Hipps’ death.

    Hipps’ parents allege that Hipps — who was elected pledge class president — was ordered to bring “30 McDonald’s biscuits, 30 McDonald’s hash browns, and [two] gallons of chocolate milk” to fraternity members before a 5:30 a.m. run. When he was unable to deliver upon this request, he “went over the railing of the bridge into the shallow waters of Lake Hartwell head first” as part of a hazing tradition.

    Hipps’ parents also allege that defendant King shined a flashlight over the water after Clemson’s descent, but did not take further action to find him. After Sigma Phi Epsilon pledges and fraternity members returned to campus, King told the pledges that the run was “not hazing.” At 11:15 a.m., King told his fraternity brothers that Hipps was missing, and a report was made with university police at 1:15 p.m. — seven hours after the run.

    According to Hipps’ toxicology report, he was not intoxicated the night before or morning of the run.

    The run was organized after fraternity members learned that their chapter was going to be suspended for suspected “hazing and sexual misconduct.”

    In December, Clemson University fired Gail DiSabatino, the school’s vice president of student affairs.

    The post Parents of Clemson University student think fraternity hazing led to his death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new study suggests that babies are more likely to learn when an object acts in a way that surprises them. That may help to explain why games like peekaboo hold an infant's attention. Photo courtesy of Brian Warren/Flickr.

    A new study suggests that babies are more likely to learn when an object acts in a way that surprises them. That may help to explain why games like peekaboo hold an infant’s attention. Photo courtesy of Brian Warren/Flickr.

    It’s been well established that when infants see something surprising, they look longer. This is true for babies as young as two months.

    But until recently, few had asked why. A new Johns Hopkins University study has found that when an object behaves in an unusual way, the baby will explore more, learn more and “spontaneously test relevant hypotheses about the object’s behavior,” according to Aimee Stahl, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins who also is one of the study’s authors. The baby, in other words, becomes a tiny scientist.

    The study was released today in the journal, Science.

    “People have mused about it before, but nobody had directly tested whether that behavior — longer looking — served a particular purpose,” she said.

    That gap in understanding formed the backbone of this study’s research question, she said. She and Feigenson wanted to see whether or not “babies are taking these surprising events as special opportunities to learn.”

    According to their research, that is exactly what babies do.

    When something acts outside the bounds of a baby’s expectations, the child tests that object’s properties, banging it against a tray or dropping it on the ground. Is it solid? Can it really fly?

    This image demonstrates how an infant will test an object's properties if it appears to behave surprisingly. For example, if a car appears to float rather than fall when it rolls off of a table, the infant is inclined to drop the toy to see if it can still float. Image courtesy of Science.

    This image demonstrates how an infant will test an object’s properties if it appears to behave surprisingly. For example, if a car appears to float rather than fall when it rolls off of a table, the infant is inclined to drop the toy to see if it can still float. Image courtesy of Science.

    “Infants tailor their exploratory actions to the particular kind of surprising event they saw,” said Feigenson, director of graduate studies for Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and one of the study’s lead authors.

    The team created a device that served as an optical illusion. A ball rolled down a wooden incline and then, due to a lever system, appeared to go through the wall. Another ball visibly rolled to a stop when it hit the wall.

    Of the 11-month-olds who saw a ball “pass through the wall,” about 70 percent further investigated the object, Stahl said.

    They did this by banging the ball against the tray on their high chairs, putting it in their mouths or rotating it in their tiny hands, she said.

    “You can see them trying to figure it out,” she said.

    The second group of 11-month-old babies saw the ball stop abruptly. Fewer than one-fifth of those infants tested the ball’s solidity, she said.

    This study “opens up a new direction” for research about child development and infant learning, explained Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology and director of the Infant Language Lab at Temple University, who praised this new research.

    “That’s a very interesting wake-up call,” Hirsh-Pasek said. “Keeping things too routine is not the best way to help kids learn.”

    For example, research has explored why children love to play peekaboo and hide-and-seek. When an adult places their hands over their face and then suddenly reappears, that moment of surprise captures an infant’s attention, Hirsh-Pasek explained. The study from Johns Hopkins takes that idea a step further, she said.

    “Children wake up and re-attend, and possibly, it’s that reattendance that’s so key,” she said.

    But the study also touches on a classic debate in child development that pits nature against nurture. Are we all born with core knowledge of how the world works, or are we products of our environment?

    According to this study, both are true.

    “Nature and nurture are not alternatives to one another,” Stahl said. “Infants and babies can harness their really rich, really sophisticated knowledge about the world to guide what they should learn about in the future.”

    Going forward, Stahl said she and Feigenson want to know if an element of surprise is a helpful learning tool not only for 11-month-old infants, as in this particular study, but also older children and adults. Outside of a controlled laboratory, could a children’s museum with exhibits full of hidden moments of wonder create a richer learning environment?

    “Is this a general learning phenomenon across development throughout the lifespan?” she asked.

    The post Babies resemble tiny scientists more than you might think appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WATCH LIVE: Representatives from Iran and the European Union spoke on the current state of the nuclear deal from Switzerland. Shortly after, President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement at 2:15 p.m. EDT. Secretary of State John Kerry will speak after the president.

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama heralded a framework nuclear understanding with Iran as a “historic” agreement and warned Congress Thursday against taking action that could upend work toward a final deal.

    “The issues at stake here are bigger than politics,” Obama said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden. “These are matters of war and peace, and they should be evaluated based on the facts.”

    Obama spoke hours after negotiators in Switzerland reached a framework agreement outlining limits on Iran’s nuclear program and setting the stage for work on a final deal over the next three months.

    The president called the agreement “a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.” He said verification mechanisms built into the framework agreed to in Switzerland hours earlier would ensure that “if Iran cheats, the world will know it.”

    Obama has invested significant political capital in the nuclear negotiations. The talks have strained the U.S. relationship with Israel, which sees Tehran as an existential threat, and deepened tensions with Congress.

    One of Obama’s toughest challenges will be convincing lawmakers to hold off on legislation that would authorize new sanctions on Iran. He warned anew Thursday that approving new sanctions in the midst of the delicate diplomacy could scuttle the talks.

    “It’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of international diplomacy,” he warned.

    Obama said his administration would fully brief lawmakers on the agreement and he planned to speak to congressional leaders later in the day.

    The U.S.-led diplomatic negotiations have also sparked concerns among allies in the Middle East who fear Iran could be left on the brink of a nuclear bomb. Israel and several Arab nations also say the nuclear talks ignore Iran’s support for terrorism and destabilizing activity in the region.

    The president said he had spoken with the Saudi king and planned to discuss the agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also announced that he was inviting the leaders of six Gulf nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait — to Washington this spring.

    The post Obama hails Iran framework as ‘historic’ understanding appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Credit: Getty

    Credit: Getty Images

    As medical advances have lengthened our life spans and can improve quality of life as we get older, many people remain reluctant to have end of life conversations with their physicians and loved ones.

    Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ellen Goodman confronted this situation firsthand when her mother’s health began to deteriorate unexpectedly.

    “I think we all have this fantasy that we’re gonna live to 90 and then, Kaboom! You know? But in fact the reality is that many of us will face a long period of being frail and declining,” Goodman said.

    Today, Goodman has turned her personal experience into a mission to make death part of popular conversation. In 2010 she co-founded The Conversation Project, a non-profit to urge people to express their end-of-life desires before it’s too late.

    In a report released last September titled “Dying in America,” the Institute of Medicine encouraged individuals to start having end of life conversations early in life to “help normalize the advance care planning process…and to obtain guidance in the event of a rare catastrophic event.”

    Last year, Dr. Atul Gawande, author of “Being Mortal,” spoke to the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown about the difficulty of having these conversations from a physician’s perspective. Gawande further explored the “intersection of life, death, medicine and what matters in the end” in the PBS Frontline documentary “Being Mortal

    We brought the conversation to Twitter where we heard from Goodman (@convoproject), representatives from Frontline (@frontlinepbs), including Lauren Mucciolo (@LaurenMucciolo), one of the producers of the Frontline documentary “Being Mortal,” and neurologist and palliative medicine physician Maisha Robinson (@neuropalldoc). Participants discussed advice for broaching the topic of end of life care with physicians and loved ones, as well as different options for ensuring your wishes are followed. Read the full conversation below.

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    A general view of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 30, 2014.       AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON        (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

    A general view of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — Democrats are turning to some proven election losers as they aim to retake control of the Senate in 2016.

    In Ohio, Ted Strickland, who lost his bid for a second term as governor to former Rep. John Kasich in 2010, is running against Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

    In Pennsylvania, former Rep. Joe Sestak wants another shot at Pat Toomey, the onetime Republican congressman who defeated him five years ago.

    In Wisconsin, former Sen. Russ Feingold is considered the likeliest Democratic candidate to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, in what would be another 2010 rematch.

    Democrats do not have a candidate yet in North Carolina, Alaska or Georgia. But mentioned most often are the party’s losing Senate nominees from 2014: Michelle Nunn in Georgia and former Sens. Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mark Begich in Alaska.

    Democrat campaign officials note that in Illinois, California, Missouri, Florida and elsewhere, they are putting up fresh candidates, and they say that Strickland, in particular, is a formidable politician who lost narrowly in a difficult year for Democrats.

    “Losing in 2010 or 2014, for that matter, I don’t think that makes you a bad candidate — Democrats lost everywhere in those years and a guy like Ted Strickland actually ran a much more competitive race than Democrats did all over the country,” said Justin Barasky, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

    Those were nonpresidential election years, when Democratic President Barack Obama was not on the ballot.

    Still, even some Democrats acknowledge that turning to candidates who last ran and lost reflects a spotty bench for a party struggling to win statewide races in contested states. It also shows the difficulty, for either party, of recruiting a candidate willing to take on a solid incumbent such as Portman or Toomey.

    It’s evidence, too, off the challenge for Democrats struggling to reclaim the Senate, even in a presidential election year where a younger, more diverse electorate will help their party.

    “We’ve had some challenges so far in recruiting candidates for 2016,” acknowledged Jim Manley, a Democratic consultant and former aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “But after all it’s always difficult to put up a challenger against an incumbent.” Still, Manley said, “The math is on our side.”

    Democrats will be defending 10 seats in November 2016, compared with 24 for the Republicans. Seven of the GOP seats are in states Obama won in 2012.

    It’s a reversal from last November, when Democrats were playing defense and trying to hang on in seven states Obama had lost. Democrats ended up losing nine seats and their Senate majority. To retake it they must net four or five seats, depending which party wins the White House and can send the vice president to cast tie-breaking votes.

    To succeed, Democrats will need stellar campaigns in the states that represent their best pickup opportunities.

    At No. 1 is Democrat-friendly Illinois, where Republican Sen. Mark Kirk looks vulnerable and Democrats have a good candidate in Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

    Democrats say they are putting up strong contenders in Ohio with Strickland and Wisconsin, if Feingold runs. In Pennsylvania, they insist Sestak can win. Yet Sestak has crossed party leaders in the past, including by defeating their chosen candidate in the 2010 Senate primary. Many Democrats have made no secret they would prefer a different nominee.

    So far, no one has emerged.

    For now, it’s the same story elsewhere, including North Carolina — a state Obama won once and lost once — where Democrats are searching for someone to run against two-term GOP Sen. Richard Burr.

    Some hope to recruit Hagan, who lost her Senate seat last fall to Republican Thom Tillis. Others are cool to the idea of relying on someone who failed to defend her seat.

    Even in Ohio, despite Democratic leaders closing ranks around Strickland, 73, he faces a primary challenge from a Cincinnati councilman, 30-year-old P.G. Sittenfeld. His supporters say the party should be cultivating a new generation of leaders.

    The GOP faces recruiting challenges of its own as leaders search for candidates to run in several states, including the two that represent their best pickup opportunities: Colorado and Nevada, where Reid’s retirement creates a competitive open seat.

    Still Republicans are all but licking their chops at some of Democrats’ choices.

    “National Democrats are clearly placing a priority on recruiting candidates with strong name ID and established fundraising networks. The problem is they also have long legislative records that voters soundly rejected,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant who’s worked on Senate races. “So it’s going to be difficult for Democrats to make the case that they represent a new path.”

    Associated Press writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.

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    Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) exits the podium after speaking to the media during a news  conference in Newark, New Jersey, April 1, 2015. Menendez said on Wednesday he was outraged at the U.S. Justice Department's move to indict him on corruption charges and vowed "he will be vindicated." REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTR4VT5E

    Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) exits the podium after speaking to the media during a news conference in Newark, New Jersey, on April 1, 2015. Photo by Reuters/Eduardo Munoz.

    WASHINGTON — The federal indictment against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez turns in part on prosecutors’ ability to show that the lavish gifts and political favors at the center of the case amount to outright bribery rather than reflections of a decades-long friendship between the lawmaker and the donor.

    That burden of proof is among the issues that make public corruption cases more complicated for the government than they would appear from a one-sided indictment.

    “It relies very heavily on quid pro quo — giving this official action for that thing of value. It’s not a fuzzy relationship, it’s not an iffy relationship,” said Robert Walker, a former Justice Department corruption prosecutor who also served as chief counsel for the House and Senate ethics committees. “It can be difficult to prove quid pro quo.”

    A second potential hurdle for prosecutors is a protection the Constitution gives members of Congress for their legislative acts.

    An indictment issued Wednesday in Newark charges Menendez with accepting a series of gifts, including round-trip flights aboard a luxury jet and a Paris vacation, from Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, political donor and friend of more than two decades. Prosecutors accuse Menendez, in exchange for gifts and campaign contributions, of acting to advance Melgen’s business interests, including intervening in a Medicare billing dispute worth millions of dollars.

    Menendez pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday to charges including bribery, conspiracy and making false statements. Melgen also pleaded not guilty.

    The New Jersey Democrat had earlier defiantly asserted his innocence in a public appearance hours after the indictment, predicted he would be vindicated and said Justice Department prosecutors “don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption.”

    Menendez lawyer Abbe Lowell picked up on that theme following Thursday’s arraignment. “Prosecutors at the Justice Department often get it wrong,” Lowell told reporters. “These charges are the latest instance of that.”

    As the case moves forward, both sides are likely to present dramatically different portraits of the relationship between Melgen and Menendez.

    In the government’s telling, the gifts were given with the corrupt intent to spur specific acts on Melgen’s behalf. But defense lawyers are likely to cast the gifts as tokens exchanged between men who’ve shared a close bond for 20 years. What prosecutors call unlawful favors will invariably be characterized by Menendez’s defense as actions that fall within a senator’s ordinary responsibilities and duties — and done for the right reasons.

    “Because this was a real friendship and not a corrupt relationship — and because Senator Menendez’s actions were proper — this case too will become another of those mistaken cases that should have never been brought,” Lowell said.

    The close relationship here stands apart from the one at the center of last year’s corruption case against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife Maureen, which involved a businessman who became intertwined with the couple only after they had entered the executive mansion.

    “I suspect this will be a hard-fought argument on both sides — whether these gifts were the result of a close long-term family friendship” or something more nefarious, said Scott Fredericksen, a Washington defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor.

    A separate looming legal issue is the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which protects elected officials from being questioned by prosecutors, among others, about their legislative work. The provision has been invoked with varying degrees of success by other members of Congress seeking protection from prosecution, or law enforcement searches, for their legislative acts.

    But courts have historically understood the clause to shield members of Congress from legal scrutiny for votes and other core legislative acts.

    Edward Loya, a Los Angeles defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said that despite the legal complexities inherent in public corruption cases, it might be hard for Menendez to convince a jury that the actions he took were part of the ordinary legislative process — or that he wasn’t “going out on a limb” for Melgen by contacting Cabinet secretaries and other agency heads on the doctor’s behalf, in certain instances.

    “The official acts that Sen. Menendez engaged in don’t have a clear explanation other than his apparent interest in trying to help a personal friend who was providing him benefits and things of value,” added Loya, a former member of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, an anti-corruption unit that is handling the prosecution.

    The Menendez case holds special significance for the anti-corruption prosecutors because it is the first against a sitting senator since the botched case against the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, which the Justice Department ultimately dismissed after admitting that it failed to turn over evidence. Since then, prosecutors lost their campaign corruption case against another Lowell client, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, but last year helped win convictions against the McDonnells.

    Outside court Thursday, Lowell cited both the Stevens and Edwards cases as examples of Justice Department “mistakes” — a clear public salvo in what figures to be a high-stakes, high-profile legal fight.

    “This is shaping up as a quite good battle,” Fredericksen said.

    Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Sean Carlin in Newark contributed to this report.

    The post Potential hurdles await prosecutors in Menendez case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Over the course of five months, Andy Davidhazy hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,660-mile walk that began in Mexico and snaked up the West Coast. He took a selfie at every mile, and by the time he reached his destination in Canada, he was 50 pounds lighter and completed what he calls an “unambiguous challenge.”

    “I was looking to do something that I could derive confidence and meaning and apply to other aspects of my life,” the 47-year-old designer told the NewsHour. The weight loss, Davidhazy said, was a “collateral benefit.”

    One of the hardest parts of the 2013 hike was right in the beginning, when Davidhazy began the journey with not enough water. He also got lost, a product of his being unprepared. He allowed himself only two to three weeks before embarking on the trail.

    “I learned a valuable lesson to be very aware of where I was,” he said, adding that he quickly realized how much water was needed for the hike.

    Eventually, he created a time-lapse of the selfies that captured the long, arduous journey in just four minutes.

    “The taking of the photographs were a way for me to fully commit to the hike,” he said. “If I were to skip ahead or cut my trip short at any point, most importantly, (I) would know it and everybody else would know it.”

    The post Man walks 2,660-mile trail, takes selfie every mile to prove it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HEATED BATTLE Arkansas Indiana  gay symbols monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: Lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas worked quickly today in attempts to prove their religious freedom laws do not allow discrimination. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a new version that tracks more closely with federal law.

    And hours later, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed his state’s revised Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he said won’t allow businesses to turn customers away for sexual orientation and gender identity.

    But Republican and Democratic lawmakers disagreed on the fix.

    BRIAN BOSMA, (R) Indiana Speaker of the House: What was intended as a message of inclusion, inclusion of all religious beliefs, was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community. Nothing could have been truer from — further from the truth, but it was clear that the perception had to be addressed.

    SCOTT PELATH, (D) Indiana House Minority Leader: We have to look at how we got here. I want to hear somebody say we made a grave mistake and we caused the state tremendous embarrassment that will take months and possibly years to repair.

    GWEN IFILL: The religious freedom debate has stirred up a hornet’s nest at the crossroads of business, religion and politics.

    For more on how the argument has been unfolding, we are joined by the Reverend Tim Overton, pastor of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana, Micheline Maynard, director of the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University, and Ron Brownstein, editorial director for The National Journal.

    I’m going to start with Reverend Overton.

    Give me a sense of how your religious community sees this debate right now.

    REV. TIM OVERTON, Halteman Village Baptist Church: Well, there’s a huge concern in the religious community after the Hobby Lobby case, where the government basically wanted to tell that Christian-owned company that you need to buy medicine that cause abortion for your employees, or the subpoenaing of the pastor’s sermons in Houston that, as society is changing, we may be losing some of our religious liberties.

    And so we were supportive of this law to set a high bar for government to interfere in the private practice of religion. And the original bill, we were very pleased with.

    GWEN IFILL: And, yet, Micheline Maynard, one of the most remarkable parts about — unfolding in this debate this week has been the series of companies who have lined up against that argument, not what we saw with the Supreme Court case.  Why?

    MICHELINE MAYNARD, Arizona State University: That’s right, Gwen.

    So, we got a preview of this a year ago here in Arizona, where the Arizona legislature approved something very similar to the Indiana law, and there was a business outcry before the bill got to the governor. Governor — former Governor Jan Brewer actually vetoed it because people like the NFL were saying, if you pass this, we might not put the Super Bowl in Arizona.

    So, if you go to Indiana, Indiana is a state that has marketed itself to the world as a forward-looking, innovative, technology-focused state. And they have attracted a number of new investors in Indiana. So that is one of the reasons why this became such a hot button with the business community. They have choices. They can go elsewhere. They don’t want their employees or their customers to feel that they aren’t welcome.

    GWEN IFILL: And, Ron Brownstein, we saw this also play out, this very same kind of business-religious axis, political axis, play out in Arkansas as well, two Republican governors caught up in the heart of this.

    What were the ripples, and were they to be expected?

    RON BROWNSTEIN, National Journal: Yes, I think what we’re seeing is really remarkable.

    I started covering politics in the 1980s. And in that era, it was Republicans who consistently tried to escalate, instigate cultural collisions, confident that they had the winning hand, and that emphasizing these issues would fracture the Democratic coalition.

    Well, you fast-forward through 20 years of changing cultural attitudes and changing underlying demographics, and on most of these questions, whether it is access to employer-provided contraception or gay rights or gay marriage or immigration, it is Democrats who are now confident that they represent the majority of the country.

    And they are the ones who I think are most confident forcing these issues to a head. And I think the retreat that we saw in Arkansas and Indiana is really emblematic of that.

    GWEN IFILL: Reverend Overton, I want to ask you about that retreat, because do you — did you see that as a setback for what you consider to be a simple matter of free speech and religious freedom?

    REV. TIM OVERTON: Well, I do believe government needs a good reason to interfere with the private practice of religion among our citizens in this country.

    And so retreating from that was very disappointing to me. Our biggest concern with the changes is that Christian-owned businesses or religious-owned businesses are not going to be able to carry their faith as they would like to into the business realm. And I think we need to make a distinction between services that require speech and services like gasoline, groceries and a hamburger that nobody thinks anyone should be discriminated against on that basis.

    But, say, a photographer who is Catholic, they believe that one of the sacraments of their church is marriage. And for the government to compel them to show up to a gay union that they believe is against their religion is just a step too far, I think, for government power.

    Religious liberty has been a long tradition here, and we need to make sure that, as gay rights are asserted in the culture, that we don’t lose something precious that is very unique in the history of mankind, which is religious liberty.

    GWEN IFILL: Micheline Maynard, one of the things that was interesting about this is that we saw Apple — and their CEO is openly gay — but then we saw Wal-Mart and we saw NASCAR and Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, companies which aren’t known for being on the cutting edge of liberal politics, all lining up on the same side.

    Was this just about the bottom line?

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: I think that, obviously, business considerations come first here, but you have to remember something.

    The LGBT community in Indiana is pretty small. I think it’s only about 3.7 percent of the population. But the people who have been moving to Indiana, especially to Indianapolis, to work in the tech sector, to work in innovative companies may be gay or lesbian, but they also have — if they’re straight, they might have gay or lesbian friends.

    And so I think this was a question of businesses looking across their customer bases at some gays and lesbians who might work with them or shop with them, but also looking at the support that surrounds that community and saying, you know, we just can’t risk this.

    GWEN IFILL: Ron Brownstein, giving shifting public opinions and demographic changes, who’s most at risk in these kinds of cultural clashes, Democrats or Republicans?

    RON BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, by and large, at this point, on balance, the Republicans face a more difficult challenge.

    There is a reality that the Republican primary base, the base of voters, includes the components of society that are most uneasy about these changes. In 2012, 90 percent of the primary Republican voters were white, 60 percent were over 50, half of them were evangelical Christians. That is a reality that every Republican candidate has to navigate.

    On the other hand, opinion on these issues is moving in the other direction, especially among younger people. Even on this question of whether businesses should be required to provide service to gay couples, over 60 percent of people under 30 say yes.

    So, there’s no question about where the underlying current in society is moving. The challenge Republicans have, that we saw figures like Mike Pence struggle with and ultimately fail with this week, was trying to navigate between that changing center of public opinion and the views of their own base.

    So, I think it is going to be a challenge for all of the Republican presidential candidates in 2016.

    GWEN IFILL: Reverend Overton, let’s take politics out of it for a moment and just talk about how your church, your denomination, your ministry survives as the waters are shifting under your feet. Or are they?

    REV. TIM OVERTON: Well, America is a very religious country. And I think the more people know about this bill — there’s been a lot of misinformation out about this — the more people will come over to our perspective and support what we’re trying to do.

    I don’t believe that Americans believe government ought to be intrusive into the private lives and religious belief of the citizens. And a Religious Freedom Restoration Act was voted for by Ted Kennedy, by Chuck Schumer, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Even President Obama, when he was a senator in Illinois, voted for a RFRA.

    So, these are not controversial issues. They have just been controversial recently. And I really feel for the politicians that are in Indianapolis. They have got to deal with all this. It’s very difficult. A lot of them have had personal sacrifices. As you know, many legislators own businesses. And those businesses have taken a hit.

    So I admire the men and women in our legislature who are standing and trying to defend religious liberty. And I just believe this is something that we can all agree on. And we just need to figure out a way to come together and assert that people are treated with dignity, but at the same time religious liberty is preserved.

    GWEN IFILL: Micheline, has there been any kind of Democratic — I mean, business backlash in favor of Reverend Overton’s position, which is to say, they have said, stay out of our business?

    MICHELINE MAYNARD: Well, you know, Gwen, one of the things about business in the United States is that, when you open up your doors and you sell something to the public, I think the principles in this country have been that you welcome all comers.

    Now, there are certainly some businesses that will say, you know what, I would rather close than serve gay or lesbian patrons. And that’s certainly their right. But I think one of the fundamentals that underlies our economy is that, you know, if you sell a product, you need to be able to take the money from whoever wants to give it to you.

    GWEN IFILL: And, finally, Ron Brownstein, how do you square the circle?  If you’re a politician and you’re trying to figure out how to navigate these treacherous waters, how do they do that?

    RON BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think that what we just heard is really the principle.

    I think Americans do believe in religious liberty, but they do not believe that extends to the point of denying equal treatment to all Americans. That is an inexorable current. The single most, I think, consistent trend in our views of kind of social relations in this country is, we expand the circle of equality.

    GWEN IFILL: OK.

    RON BROWNSTEIN: That is the American story. It is now inexorably happening for same-sex couples. And I think there’s no reversing that.

    And to the extent any political party or politician seems to be standing in the way of that, ultimately, I do not think that position can stand.

    GWEN IFILL: Ron Brownstein, Micheline Maynard, and Tim Overton, thank you all very much.

    RON BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

    REV. TIM OVERTON: Thank you.

    The post Faith, politics and business converge in debate over Religious Freedom laws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CHOCOLATE STORM_Monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Walk through the aisles of any drugstore lately and it’s quite clear the Easter season has become a critical part of the year for candy makers. But what’s less obvious are some battles over the chocolate in those eggs and bunnies you may be buying.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman has the story, part of our ongoing reporting Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In New York City’s Greenwich Village, British expat Nicky Perry and her husband, Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett, have recreated a little bit of the London they left behind, with two restaurants and a specialty shop.

    And while they love living in the USA, they have got a beef with an all-American icon, Hershey’s, which owns the U.S. license to the equally iconic British brand Cadbury.

    NICKY PERRY, Owner, Tea and Sympathy: The problem is, Hershey has stopped us from selling our Cadbury’s chocolate.

    SEAN KAVANAGH-DOWSETT, Owner, Tea and Sympathy: We have got a huge corporation trying to ban the import of something that’s so important to people.

    NICKY PERRY: This is what I do for a living, and I am not going to be told I am not going to sell my chocolate.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And where do you get the authentic Cadbury’s now?

    NICKY PERRY: If I told you, I would have to kill you.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, give me British Cadbury, or give me death?

    NICKY PERRY: We will fight them on the beaches. We will never — listen, you don’t mess with British people, because once you upset us, it is war all the way, and we do not give up.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The British counterrevolution began earlier this year, when Hershey’s successfully sued a New Jersey company that was importing the British original, and distributing it not just to small specialty shops, but to large retailers.

    NEHAL PATEL, Cadbury Marketing Director, The Hershey Company: We bought this trademark in 1988 for $300 million, and we own this trademark, and we own every aspect of it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nehal Patel is the Cadbury brand manager for Hershey’s.

    NEHAL PATEL: Cadbury is a very important brand to The Hershey Company. It is a brand that we have grown to be an iconic Easter brand. We’re going to sell 50 million Creme Eggs this year.

    NARRATOR: Everyone wants to be the Cadbury bunny, because only he brings delicious Cadbury Creme Eggs.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And 50 million is hardly chicken feed. Easter has the largest share of seasonal candy sales in the U.S., over $2.3 billion last year, topping Valentine’s Day, Christmas, even Halloween. So given the fact that Hershey’s Cadbury brand generates over $200 million a year in sales, why doesn’t Tea and Sympathy simply stock the American-made version?

    NICKY PERRY: We have been here for 20 years in this shop selling Cadbury’s chocolate, not just to British people, but to Americans, who all know that the English Cadbury is way, way better than the Hershey facsimile.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And customers here concur.

    DEBRA BROTHERSON, Chocolate Buyer: I prefer it to the American because it’s much smoother and tastier.

    MARK ALLEN, Chocolate Buyer: I wouldn’t buy the American version because it’s not — to me, it’s not the same thing.

     

    DANIEL NEIDEN, Chocolate Buyer: It’s not the same recipe. It doesn’t taste the same. Unfortunately, it tastes just like Hershey’s.

    SEAN KAVANAGH-DOWSETT: Chocolate is such a strange thing. It triggers memories and emotions and feelings of well-being, yummy warm feelings.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And why so yummy?

    SEAN KAVANAGH-DOWSETT: The number one ingredient in English Cadbury’s is milk. The number one ingredient in the American version of Cadbury’s is sugar.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, so much for the British side of the story.

    But what do they say in the American city synonymous with chocolate, Hershey, Pennsylvania?  That the recipes are nearly identical.

    Jim St. John is Hershey’s master chocolatier.

    JIM ST. JOHN, Vice President for Chocolate Product Development, The Hershey Company: The milk, sugar and chocolate were all cooked together in the British Isles. So we’re buying their stuff. It’s their specification. It’s what the Cadbury family first brought over here to the States.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, on the package, it says milk first on the English Cadbury and sugar first on the American Cadbury.

    JIM ST. JOHN: Yes, that’s true. And that’s because the rules around labeling are different in England than they are in the United States. They count all the milk, including the water that was in the milk. In the United States, we can’t count the water.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But there is one crucial difference, and why Hershey’s had to change the recipe to comply with U.S. federal regulations.

    JIM ST. JOHN: What they sell in England can’t be sold in the United States and be called milk chocolate, because they add fats other than cocoa butter. They’re using palm and shea oils. We’re only using cocoa butter.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, palm oil, shea oil, that’s not part of what’s considered chocolate in the United States, according to FDA standards?

    JIM ST. JOHN: Right. Right. So, that is not a chocolate in the United States.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So those remembrances of warm feelings past are triggered by palm and shea oils?

    Well, even so, why not let the little store in Greenwich Village sell the original Cadbury chocolate?  What’s the big deal to Hershey?

    NEHAL PATEL: Our intention is not to go after the smaller shops, but when we started seeing this formula in the mass retailers, that’s when we got concerned, because it’s a slippery slope.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, say the Brits, it’s not just about Cadbury. Hershey’s has successfully blocked other British brands, like Toffee Crisp, made by Nestle in the U.K., because its wrapper, says Hershey’s, looks like their Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

    And England’s Yorkie bar can no longer be imported because its name sounds like Hershey’s York Peppermint Pattie.

    NARRATOR: Get the sensation.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So now here is a Yorkie bar from England. And you all won’t allow this because the name is too similar to a York Peppermint Pattie?

    JIM ST. JOHN: We own the name York. York Peppermint Pattie started out in York, Pennsylvania.

    SEAN KAVANAGH-DOWSETT: York, Yorkshire, you know, War of the Roses.

     

    (singing): The grand old duke of York, he had 10,000 men. He marched them up to the top of the hill, and they wouldn’t eat Cadbury’s again.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, as Easter nears, where are we?  Cadbury U.S. vs. Cadbury U.K., a tempest in a tea shop, perhaps, but when it comes to Toffee Crisps and the Yorkie bar, non-nationalist observers, like lawyer and Tea and Sympathy customer Yetta Kurland wonder, if Hershey’s isn’t being just a tad overprotective of its intellectual property.

    YETTA KURLAND, Lawyer: We want to recognize and respect licenses and contracts between companies, but we ought to be careful that we’re also letting people engage in commerce and run their businesses.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Reporting for the PBS NewsHour from New York, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman.

     

    The post Why some Cadbury-lovers are bitter that they can’t buy their favorite sweets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jill Clardy/Flickr

    Photo of Stanford’s quad by Flickr user Jill Clardy.

    Stanford University announced today that recently-accepted students whose parents have less than $125,000 in income or assets won’t have to pay anything toward tuition. And for those making below $65,000, room and board will also be free.

    Previously, the threshold was $120,000 for waived tuition and $60,000 for waived room and board.

    “Our highest priority is that Stanford remain affordable and accessible to the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances,” Stanford provost John Etchemendy said in a statement.

    Stanford is not the only school with income-based waived tuition. According to CNN Money, at Princeton, parents making less than $140,000 do not have to contribute toward tuition, and parents making less than $100,000 only pay a percentage of room and board.

    At Harvard, room, board and tuition is waived for parents making below $65,000, and those making between $65,000 and $150,000 pay between zero and 10 percent of their income. At Yale, parents making less than $65,000 do not have to pay Yale’s tuition.

    The post Stanford waives tuition for families making below $125,000 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: We take a closer look now at Al-Shabab and its activities in Kenya with Ken Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson College who has done extensive research and consulted with the United Nations on the Somali group’s activities.

    Thank you for joining us, Professor.

    Assuming that this is Al-Shabab’s work, as they say, what is their goal here?  What is their mission in this kind of attack?

    KENNETH MENKHAUS, Davidson College: Well, their publicly stated goal is retribution for the Kenyan military intervention in Southern Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping forces there.  They’re trying to drive the Kenyan forces out of Somalia.

    But, in reality, they have other goals.  The fact they have consistently separated Christians and Muslims in their attacks and then massacred the Christians suggests that what they’re trying to do is drive a wedge between Kenya’s Muslim population, and the Kenyan government and the rest of Kenyan society.

    They also are trying to grab some media attention.  They have been completely eclipsed by ISIS over the past year and have lost recruits and interest.  And this one way to regain that very quickly.

    GWEN IFILL: For an American audience that is not familiar with the geography of Kenya, why this area?  Why Northern Kenya?  Why Garissa?

    KENNETH MENKHAUS: Northern Kenya is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Somalis of Kenyan citizenship.

    And that means that Al-Shabaab, which is a predominantly Somali movement, can move freely in and out of that area largely undetected by the Kenyan government.  Kenya also has, across Northern Kenya, as in the rest of the country, thousands of soft targets.  It’s an open society.

    So, it makes it easier for Shabaab to attack there than, say, in Nairobi, where they would be more closely monitored. They could still pull it off, but it would be more difficult in Nairobi.

    GWEN IFILL: How does — aside from the horrificness of it, how does this attack compare to the Westgate Mall attack, which we paid such close attention to not so long ago?

    KENNETH MENKHAUS: Westgate was more earth-shaking for Kenyans, I think, because it occurred right in the heart of the capital and because it lasted for four days.

    This one is actual more lethal, but because it’s occurring out in a peripheral zone of the country in Northern Kenya, it might not have as much impact on the Kenyan psyche as did Westgate. But it’s still going to have a major effect on tourism, on business investments.

    This area was slated and still is slated to be part of a major infrastructure development project of $26 billion, the LAPSSET project. Those kinds of investments could be thrown into question if this kind of violence continues there.

    GWEN IFILL: There are some reports that there were some advanced — there was some advanced warning, flyers around the college campus, that sort of thing. Was that really a warning or was that intimidation?

    KENNETH MENKHAUS: Well, that’s part of the problem is separating signal to noise in Kenya, because Shabab often issues death threats against non-Muslims in predominantly Muslim areas. And it’s difficult to know when the threats are credible and when they’re not.

    In this particular case, though, there were a number of embassies that sounded alerts that there was actionable intelligence apparently that something was afoot. But even so, it’s very difficult to know which soft target they are going to hit and when and where.

    GWEN IFILL: How does the Kenyan government or the world at large mobilize against Al-Shabab? And is there a concern that they will inspire others to act?

    KENNETH MENKHAUS: The concern that they inspire others has been there some time. And they have actively sought to recruit Somalis from around the very large diaspora around the world to join them. That has been less successful in recent years than in previous years.

    How to stop them, it’s not going to be enough to engage in security operations. This is a network. They are engaging an asymmetrical war against soft civilian targets. This is going to be a long, drawn-out affair, I’m afraid. They have now got roots in Kenya, so this is increasingly a homegrown problem for Kenya, not just a cross-border one.

    And it’s going to ultimately involve Somali-Kenyans and Somalis having enough of this group, because they are shouldering huge costs for the violence that this group has meted out in Kenya.

    GWEN IFILL: Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College, thank you very much for your insights.

    KENNETH MENKHAUS: Thank you.

    The post Why al-Shabab is trying to inspire Muslim backlash against Kenya appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    DEADLY ATTACK Monitor kenya

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: the attack in Kenya that sparked a daylong siege and killed 147 people.

    It began at daybreak and finally ended after dusk, when security forces killed four Somali gunmen and freed their remaining captives.

    All day long, ambulances and military vehicles raced the wounded away from Garissa University College. It was the bloodiest terrorist attacks the country had ever seen, and the Somali group Al-Shabab, linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility.

    Police said gunmen stormed the college at dawn, firing at students in their dormitories. Survivors said the attackers separated out Christians, taking some hostage and killing many others on the spot. Those who managed to escape recounted the horror.

    MAN (through interpreter): I jumped out the window and fell down. I ran to the gate, and that’s when I met a biker, who helped me get to the hospital.

    GWEN IFILL: Security forces quickly surrounded the college, about 120 miles from the Somali border. And an overnight curfew was imposed on the entire the region.

    In a nationally televised address, President Uhuru Kenyatta urged his people to stay calm and alert.

    PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA, Kenya: This is a moment for everyone throughout the country to be vigilant, as we confront and defeat our enemies.

    GWEN IFILL: Kenyatta also announced expedited training of 10,000 police recruits. The government identified the suspected mastermind of the attack as Mohamed Mohamud, also known as Dulyadin, and officials posted a $220,000 bounty for him.

    He’s alleged to be the leader of Al-Shabab’s cross-border strikes. They began after Kenya sent its military into Somalia four years ago. Until today, the worst of those came in 2013, when Al-Shabab attacked a Nairobi shopping mall, and 67 people were killed.

    The post Kenyan security forces end al-Shabab siege that killed 147 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We dig in now to today’s deal with Iran and its broader implications with Republican Representative Ed Royce of California. He’s chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

    George Perkovich, he has written widely on nuclear proliferation, and he served as an adviser to then Senator Joe Biden. He’s now vice president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Robin Wright is an analyst and fellow at both the U.S. Institute of Peace and Woodrow Wilson International Center. She also writes for “The New Yorker.” And Karim Sadjadpour, he’s senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, where he focuses on Iran.

    And we welcome all of you to the program.

    George Perkovich, I’m going to — let me just go around the group and ask each one of you, starting with you, George Perkovich, what is your main reaction to this framework agreement, as you see it?

    GEORGE PERKOVICH, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: I think it is a very positive step forward. It’s not the introduction to the story. It’s not the conclusion to the story, but it’s a very solid middle the story that now we have to watch unfold over the next couple of months.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chairman Royce, your reaction?

    REP. ED ROYCE, (R) California: Well, we had a lot of leverage in this agreement, or should have. We had not only the sanctions we had imposed, but Congress had a bill up, my legislation, that would have put additional sanctions and additional pressure on Iran and the falling price of oil.

    So, the question is this. When we read the details, will we find out whether or not the inspectors will be able to go anywhere, any time in order to inspect? And will it curtail the research and development of the new centrifuges 16 times more powerful that recently Iran announced it had the capability to run?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will get into that in just a minute.

    Robin Wright, your reaction.

    ROBIN WRIGHT, The New Yorker: I think it begins to change the dynamics of a tense relationship of 36 years between Washington and Tehran.

    I think the deal provides more than the United States anticipated. And I think it could help prevent an arms race in the region that would be detrimental to not just the Middle East, but to the whole world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Karim Sadjadpour?

    KARIM SADJADPOUR, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: I agree with Robin and George.

    The metaphor I think about, Judy, is a wedding engagement. The marriage is scheduled to take place in July. There is going to be vigorous debates about the size of the dowry and the prenuptial agreement. And if indeed the wedding happens on time, which is — past as precedent, it will likely be delayed — the marriage is going to have profound mistrust between the two sides and many saboteurs, but there is no great alternative.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s go — let’s try to hit some of these points that all of you have raised.

    George Perkovich, what are the main elements of this framework, as you see it, that you think will prevent Iran from breaking out with a nuclear weapon

    GEORGE PERKOVICH: Well, there are several.

    The key that people have focused on is in the enrichment area. And there, there are limits, very importantly. So, for 15 years, Iran won’t be able to have more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. That, paired with limits on the number of centrifuges, means that they won’t be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb within a year’s time for those first 10 and then 15 years of the agreement. So that’s a big one.

    The second thing goes to inspections. And it’s very important. In an unprecedented way, they have agreed to monitor the supply chain for all of Iran’s nuclear program and that everything Iran procures would have to go through a declared channel. Well, that would mean there is no secret procurement that would be allowed in Iran.

    So, if intelligence agencies detected them trying to buy things secretly or procuring them secretly, that would be a violation of the agreement, which makes intelligence much easier to manage here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chairman Royce, what about that? You raised inspections, and you also raised their capacity to enrich.

    REP. ED ROYCE: Right, because the question is, will the military facilities be inspected? Fordow, for example, was supposed to be closed.

    Now it’s our understanding that that particular research facility will remain open. Prior to these latest rounds of negotiation, the word was, don’t worry too much about it; they won’t have the uranium in their hands; it will be sent offshore; it will be sent to Russia to be reprocessed there.

    Now we find out that the ayatollah, obviously, has stepped in on the negotiation and said, no, no, we don’t — we’re not going to lose control of that uranium.

    Now, it might be treated, but, nevertheless, the stockpile will remain in the hands of the Iranian regime, unless — unless, somehow, we reverse and win on this point. So what I see is a steady erosion, starting with the loss of this argument over enrichment, where originally we weren’t going to give up on the right of Iran to enrich. Now we suddenly find out that, during the negotiations, they have been developing a new centrifuge 16 times faster, the supersonic centrifuge that will obviously put them closer to undetectable nuclear breakout capability.

    So the last argument is, how do we make absolutely certain that the 12 questions asked by the IAEA are answered about the thousand pages of documents about them developing a nuclear weapon that exist there need to be answered, so that we know where they are on that program, and how do we get access to those military sites?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you answer some of the points he’s raising, George Perkovich?

    GEORGE PERKOVICH: Well, the issue about sending fuel out of the country wasn’t necessarily about sending fuel out of the country. The issue was keeping them below 300 kilograms. That’s been agreed.

    So, whether there’s only 300 kilograms in Iran, if that’s one way to do it, or they had had more, they were supposed to send it out. Now they have agreed to only have 300 kilograms. That was the objective in the first place.

    The Fordow facility the congressman mentioned, that will be inspected. It is inspected now and it will be inspected going forward. The issue about a super centrifuge, the agreement talks about monitoring and only doing research and development as agreed. So it’s been addressed. They will do some R&D. That has to be negotiated, but it would be under agreed terms going forward and there will be a limit in terms of time when they could do that.

    The last issue he mentioned, the possible military dimensions, this is about the past activities of Iran.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    GEORGE PERKOVICH: And that does have to be addressed. And this preliminary statement doesn’t say exactly how that will be done. It says that it should be done.

    And the whole point is, this is now a gateway into another couple of months of negotiating, where that obviously would have to be addressed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to bring in Chairman Royce in just a minute.

    But I want to bring in Karim Sadjadpour and Robin Wright right now.

    Karim, this is what the Americans are hearing about this deal. Are Iranians going to be hearing the same thing? And what is the reaction going to be there?

    KARIM SADJADPOUR: The reaction is just trickling out now, Judy, and so far some of the hard-line forces have come out very critical of the deal.

    Tomorrow is Friday in Tehran. It’s a big day. It’s Friday prayers. And I think you will see more of the official reaction then. But I think the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has a dilemma at the moment, because either he can — he has 75 million euphoric Iranians. He doesn’t want to demoralize them by coming out against this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Euphoric because the sanctions — the prospect that maybe the sanctions are going away?

    KARIM SADJADPOUR: Sanctions are being removed, and the dream they have of being reintegrated with the outside world.

    But then has his longstanding hard-line political base. And if he endorses this agreement, he is going to alienate them. So this is really a dilemma for him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the — not only the reaction in Iran, Robin, but the reaction in the region? The president’s already been on the phone today with the king of Saudi Arabia trying to reassure him.

    ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, it’s very clear that the region is going to be very nervous about a nuclear deal, not just because it again opens a xenophobic regime that’s been isolated, and given the Gulf states particularly, a political, a military, an economic edge with the outside world.

    This changes the balance of power. Until 1979, Israel and Iran were the two pillars of U.S. policy. And with a deal, Iran reintegrates, effectively, in the international community. It’s again a player. It’s the most populous country. It has the largest economy. It can — it is a huge attraction for whether it’s Western business, Western tourists, just some kind of engagement.

    And the Gulf states are very nervous that their — the role that they have played, particularly Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well, since 1979 will be replaced by Iran, which, of course, has interests across the region and is a player in a lot of different countries that we also have concerns about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Royce, how much does it matter to you and others in the Republican majority in the Congress what the reaction is of the Israelis? We know Prime Minister Netanyahu has been very critical, of Israel.

    We know — and we just heard Robin describing what the concerns are of others. Is that going to be a factor as Congress looks at the elements of this framework?

    REP. ED ROYCE: Well, I think when the ayatollah is calling for death to the little Satan, death to Israel, he’s also calling for death to America, death to the great Satan.

    So it’s not just through the lens of what he’s saying about Israel. Eight, nine days ago, in a rally, as people were chanting “Death to America,” he chimed, in with, “Yes, yes, death to America.”

    And the head of the Basiji said recently the destruction of Israel is not open to negotiation in this agreement, so — or the destruction of Israel. Israel has been called a one-bomb country by Iran.

    So, given these attitudes, I want to make the point that it’s not just Israel that’s concerned. Recently, one of the Iranian ministers said that they now control four Arab capitals after taking Yemen, and they mean they control Damascus and Beirut and have this influence now in Baghdad.

    So the aggressiveness of the ayatollah is the problem. And the other problem is, regardless of what the negotiator agrees to at the table, it’s the ayatollah that makes the final decisions in that system. And that’s where I want us to be clear-eyed about Iran’s past negotiations and the way we have been played. We don’t want this to end up like North Korea, where we think we have an agreement, like we did in the ’94 framework agreement, and then find out that somebody cheated, crept out from underneath the agreement and suddenly has both the ICBMs and the undetectable nuclear breakout capability to deliver them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Karim Sadjadpour, how concerned should Americans be? How should we understand, I should say, the role of the ayatollah, the supreme leader?

    And should Americans, should congressional leaders be concerned about some of this anti-American, anti-Israel language coming from Iranian leaders?

    KARIM SADJADPOUR: Well, the debate within Iran, I would argue, are between those who want Iran to remain a revolution, a revolutionary cause, and those who want Iran to become a nation, to prioritize economic and national interests before revolutionary ideology.

    And what we’re trying to do in U.S. policy toward Iran is to empower and incentivize those Iranians who want the country to be reintegrated and weaken those who want it to be a cause. So, certainly, I think the world view of the supreme leader is not going to change. But Iran’s hard-liners are isolationists by nature. By isolating them, it is more of a carrot than a stick.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Robin Wright?

    ROBIN WRIGHT: But the revolutionists are also aging now.

    And when we talk about a deal that is 10, 15 years, Ayatollah Khamenei is in his late 70s. We’re likely to see a political transition across Iran in a lot of different ways. The majority of the population is under the age of 35. They are very connected with the outside world. And they’re the ones who will most applaud a deal. They’re well — they’re looking for something different, even if they honor the system, the political system they have in place now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are just beginning to dissect all of this.

    And we thank all four of you for joining us tonight, on the day this framework was announced.

    George Perkovich, Chairman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Karim Sadjadpour, and Robin Wright, we thank you all.

    ROBIN WRIGHT: Thanks.

    KARIM SADJADPOUR: Thanks.

     

    The post Can Iran nuclear framework agreement win over skeptics in Washington and Tehran? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: In other news this day, investigators in the Germanwings air disaster announced they have found the second black box.  The flight data recorder was discovered more than a week after the plane smashed into the French Alps.

    The prosecutor overseeing the recovery operation spoke in Marseille.

    BRICE ROBIN, Marseille Prosecutor (through interpreter): This box is the same color as the mountain rocks.  It was on the left side of a gully which had been explored several times before, but it was totally buried.  But, when digging, an officer found it.  Apparently, it was exposed to flames, because it is completely blackened.

    Its general state let us reasonably hope that it will be possible to exploit it.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, German prosecutors said the co-pilot accused of crashing the plane apparently researched suicide methods and cockpit door security. They found evidence of the searches on a tablet computer at his apartment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Islamist militants in Egypt staged deadly new attacks in the Northern Sinai today. Gunmen killed at least 15 soldiers at one checkpoint. Three civilians died in other attacks in the same area at about the same time. The attackers also seized two armored vehicles and may have taken soldiers hostage.

    GWEN IFILL: In Eastern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber killed 16 people and wounded up to 60 at an anti-corruption protest. TV footage showed the moment the bomb went off in the midst of the marchers in Khost. Ambulances raced from the scene carrying dozens of injured bystanders.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At least 56 people are dead after a fishing trawler capsized off Russia’s far east coast early this morning. The ship sank within 15 minutes in the Sea of Okhotsk. Investigators said it likely hit drifting ice. Fishing boats rescued 63 of the 132 people on board.  The crew of one boat also had to be winched to safety when they veered too close to the rocky coastline.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.  He’s accused of taking $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from a longtime friend in exchange for political favors.  After a hearing in Newark, the veteran Democrat said he will show the charges are false.

    SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), New Jersey: For nearly three years, the Justice Department has pursued allegations based on smears launched by political opponents trying to silence me. Now they have laid out their case. We will finally have an opportunity to respond on the record in court with the facts.

    GWEN IFILL: Menendez is staying in the Senate, but has stepped down as ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fourteen state attorneys general asked Congress today to investigate the herbal supplements industry.  They’re also pushing for stronger regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. New York State has alleged that the testing of some supplements found none of the herbs listed on the labels.

    GWEN IFILL: Food prices around the world have reached their lowest point in almost five years. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported the news today. It’s due in part to rising production and the falling cost of crude oil.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, the Iran nuclear deal sent oil down a dollar to $49 a barrel. And stocks made up a little ground. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 65 points to close at 17760. The Nasdaq rose six and the S&P 500 added seven.

    GWEN IFILL: A pioneering televangelist, the Reverend Robert H. Schuller, died early today in Artesia, California. For years in many households, his weekly program was Sunday morning appointment viewing.

    REV. ROBERT H. SCHULLER: If you’re going to become everything you’re meant to be, you better start dreaming bigger dreams than you have. You have to make your dreams big enough for God to fit in.

    GWEN IFILL: Radiating optimism and energy, Schuller became one of the country’s best known religious figures in the second half of the 20th century. He was ordained in the Reformed Church in America, and began with a drive-in ministry in Southern California that reached members indoors and those outside in their cars.

    In 1970, Schuller went national with his “Hour of Power” television program.  By 1980, he had built his $20 million Crystal Cathedral, one of the first mega-churches.

    REV. ROBERT H. SCHULLER: We invite you to rejoice with us now.

    GWEN IFILL: Schuller’s broadcast reached 20 million viewers in 180 different countries at their peak, offering an upbeat theology without fire or brimstone or politics.

    REV. ROBERT H. SCHULLER:
    Lord we thank you for 30 years of bringing hope into hurting hearts, for giving new inspiration to live.

    GWEN IFILL: But it didn’t last.  After the turn of the century, Schuller and his children feuded over control of the church, as attendance and donations fell.  In 2010, Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy, and Schuller quit the church in 2012.

    A year later, he was diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer, and died today at a care facility in Southern California.

    GWEN IFILL: The Reverend Robert H. Schuller was 88 years old.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, new research shows Islam is rapidly gaining on Christianity in believers worldwide.  The Pew Research Center reports that, if current trends hold, the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians by 2050, at just under three billion each.  The survey cites differing birth rates and other factors.

    The post News Wrap: Missing Germanwings black box located appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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