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- 04/04/15--10:14: _Clinton leases like...
- 04/04/15--12:02: _Pilgrims retracing ...
- 04/04/15--12:44: _‘Revenge porn’ site...
- 04/04/15--13:01: _Viewers respond to ...
- 04/04/15--13:03: _What does March’s j...
- 04/04/15--14:09: _Pizzeria at center ...
- 04/04/15--14:19: _France votes to ban...
- 04/04/15--14:42: _Special ops surveys...
- 04/05/15--09:04: _Stakes high for Cli...
- 04/05/15--09:17: _Iowa pastors hold s...
- 04/05/15--10:19: _Dutch nursing home ...
- 04/05/15--11:21: _Tax refunds for man...
- 04/05/15--12:29: _New York Boy Scouts...
- 04/05/15--13:17: _Corker: Congression...
- 04/05/15--14:57: _See images from the...
- 04/05/15--15:12: _‘Water is not rubbi...
- 04/05/15--16:02: _What do recent gain...
- 04/05/15--17:55: _Review calls disput...
- 04/05/15--20:00: _Nuclear negotiators...
- 04/06/15--12:29: _Ash Carter says U.S...
- 04/04/15--10:14: Clinton leases likely campaign headquarters in Brooklyn
- 04/04/15--12:02: Pilgrims retracing Jesus’ last steps may be going the wrong way
- 04/04/15--13:03: What does March’s job market slowdown mean for wage growth?
- 04/04/15--14:19: France votes to ban ultra-thin models in eating disorder crackdown
- 04/05/15--09:04: Stakes high for Clinton in Iran nuclear agreement
- 04/05/15--09:17: Iowa pastors hold sway in 2016 presidential election
- 04/05/15--10:19: Dutch nursing home offers rent-free housing to students
- 04/05/15--11:21: Tax refunds for many take hit or get bump from health law
- 04/05/15--12:29: New York Boy Scouts hires first openly gay summer camp leader
- 04/05/15--13:17: Corker: Congressional scrutiny essential in Iran nuclear deal
- 04/05/15--14:57: See images from the historic California drought
- 04/05/15--16:02: What do recent gains in Syria mean for the Islamic State?
- 04/06/15--12:29: Ash Carter says U.S. is opening new phase of Asia pivot
WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed a lease in a Brooklyn, New York, building for what is expected to house her presidential campaign headquarters.
A person familiar with the plans says Clinton has signed the lease for two floors in an office in New York’s Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. The person spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to speak publicly about internal planning.
Clinton is expected to announce her presidential campaign in the coming weeks. The decision to sign the lease likely sets off a 15-day period in which presidential candidates are required to make their intentions known.
The building also houses the U.S. attorney’s office of Loretta Lynch, who has been nominated to be President Barack Obama’s next attorney general.
The lease was first reported by Politico.
The post Clinton leases likely campaign headquarters in Brooklyn appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Thousands of pilgrims flocked to the walled Old City of Jerusalem on Good Friday, as part of the annual tradition to walk in the supposed footsteps of Jesus Christ.
But there’s an emerging theory that for the past few centuries, Christian pilgrims have been walking the wrong way.
The current route, which begins at the site of the Antonia Fortress and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is known as the Via Dolorosa, or the way of suffering. It’s believed Jesus carried his cross along this path on the way to his crucifixion, a moment commemorated by the world’s two billion Christians on Good Friday.
The pathway is marked by 14 stations of the cross, stops along the route where it’s believed Jesus fell under the weight of the crucifix, met his mother, encountered the women of Jerusalem, and other events on the path to his eventual crucifixion.
While no one’s exactly sure where Jesus walked, some historians and archaeologists believe Jesus wasn’t tried at the Antonia Fortress, where the traditional Via Dolorosa begins.
Instead, they say he was tried at Herod’s Palace on the opposite side of the Old City, the site of the present-day Tower of David Museum. If they’re right, the Via Dolorosa would run from the western side of the city to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre rather than from the east.
Last year, the Tower of David Museum opened an exhibition of a once-abandoned prison known as the kishle. Excavations that began in 1999 revealed a trove of archaeological data that traces more than 2,700 years of Jerusalem’s history. And, some speculate, that includes the trial of Jesus.
On Saturday’s PBS NewsHour Weekend, Martin Fletcher explores the controversy and spiritual debate around the Via Dolorosa.
The post Pilgrims retracing Jesus’ last steps may be going the wrong way appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
A San Diego judge has sentenced 28-year-old Kevin Bollaert to 18 years in prison for running a “revenge porn” website that featured explicit photographs and included identifying information such as links to the victims’ social media accounts.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 4, 2015
Bollaert solicited the photos from spurned ex-lovers who shared them without their former partners’ knowledge or consent. After posting the pictures, Bollaert charged victims around $300 to have them removed, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He was found guilty on six counts of extortion and 21 counts of identity theft in February.
“I ended up in mental hospitals twice because of this, and recently just had another break,” one victim of Bollaert’s “UGotPosted” website said at the sentencing hearing. “It’s been so traumatizing and I just want to get my life back to the way it was.”
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said in a statement Friday after the ruling was announced that sitting behind a computer “will not shield predators from the law or jail.”
“Today’s sentence makes clear there will be severe consequences for those that profit from the exploitation of victims online,” she said.
In a a Feb. interview with local media, Bollaert said he created the website for the money and had not posted photos of any of his own ex-girlfriends.
“I’m sorry for everybody that I’ve hurt and hope they can forgive me for it,” Bollaert told ABC 10News.
Advocates say domestic violence is a growing problem in the online space, as abusers can use new platforms and technologies to track and harass their victims, Reuters reported in March.
Last month, Facebook updated its community standards to explicitly ban images “shared in revenge or without permission from the people in the images.”
Twitter announced a similar measure in March, updating its abuse policy to specifically prohibit “intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.”
The post ‘Revenge porn’ site operator sentenced to 18 years for identity theft, extortion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to Viewers Like You: Your chance to comment on our work.
Last week’s segment about “The Conversation Project” prompted overwhelming response in support of end-of-life discussions.
Bonnie Lofton commented: My doctor and I have had this discussion. I am glad that I live in Oregon. When the time comes that the benefits do not outweigh the suffering I want it well known by my family my wishes to how I am allowed to stop living.
Michelle Vietor said simply: I want the ability to decide when to go. I don’t see how that’s anyone else’s business…
B Wilds added: With people living longer and technologies ability to extend a person’s life well beyond where they feel it has any “real quality” the issue people wanting the right to “check out” will not go away.
And then there was this from Candid One: I’m a pre-boomer, who’s also retired, with lots of time to allocate to inevitability… The primary motivation that’s implied in this segment’s exposé is that we make living easier for all by not keeping death as an unmentionable.
There were some who told us about their own experiences guiding end-of-life conversations, like Brenda Adcock: Speaking as someone who was a church pastor for 35 years, I can tell you I wish more people were willing to have this conversation.
And Jana L. Johnsen: As a hospital/hospice chaplain I initiated or facilitated these interactions for years. It is finally being able to talk openly about the elephant in the room. And it is not morbid, but life-giving to be able to share these intimate conversations.
And Beverly Berg: When I worked at the VA, I dealt with dying and death on a fairly regular basis…Some just needed someone to let them know it was okay to die if this was what they wanted, that they didn’t have to fight anymore just to make everyone around them happy.
And finally, Noubar Gee offered this advice: Think about it, talk about it but do not be pre-occupied by it…
As always ,we welcome your comments. Visit us at pbs.org/newshour, on our Facebook page, or tweet us at @NewsHour.
The post Viewers respond to report on movement encouraging end-of-life discussions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: There was a bright spot in yesterday’s otherwise disappointing jobs report: wages, stuck for so long, are finally starting to go up.
For more about this, we’re joined now from Washington by Eric Morath of “The Wall Street Journal”.
So, is this truly a bright spot in an otherwise pretty bleak report?
ERIC MORATH, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, the report certainly was bleak, and we’re starting to see, though, the first signs possibly of stronger wage growth. We still have quite a ways to go before we can declare it’s a breakout, but there’s been some other news around wages that is also brightening outlook.
HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, we’ve been seeing these stories of companies like Walmart or McDonald’s announcing planned wage increases. Is that likely to have an impact on the overall economy considering the number of low-wage workers there are?
ERIC MORATH: Yes, I think it will have an impact in pockets of the economy. Keep in mind, one of the fastest growing areas during this recovery has been restaurant jobs, and not too far behind that has been retailers. A lot of folks have taken up employment in these fields, and so now that we might be seeing some wage growth by the leaders in those areas, that could translate into better consumer spending.
But it might not have a huge impact on the overall wage growth, because you have to keep in mind — these are low-wage jobs, often $8, $10, $12 an hour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And how does that compare with what the cost of living or the consumer price index is these days?
ERIC MORATH: Well, one good note, wages have been growing 2.2 percent over the past year, according to yesterday’s jobs report. At the same time, consumer prices, thanks to falling oil, has been barely moving ahead at all. So, these wage increases should feel real to consumers. So, it is a help.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And then how does this fit in this larger picture? You mentioned the price of oil. When the price of oil goes down, people feel like they have more money in their pockets. Is that the reason they go out to restaurants, and that’s the reason restaurants have to hire more workers. I mean, how does it all connect?
ERIC MORATH: Yes, there’s definitely a connection there. Restaurants have been one area, one of the few areas within consumer spending that we’ve really seen strong growth with the fall in oil prices. It hasn’t quite translated to other areas like your general merchandise stores yet. So, that’s connection, that people feel a little bit better and maybe they go out and spend.
But the consumers are still cautious. We are seeing the highest savings rates in several years, and we’ve seen, since the holiday season, not particularly robust overall consumer spending. So, I think there’s still a sense that, you know, after the deep recession, people just aren’t willing to open up their wallets quite as far.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And then how do these numbers about wage increases connect to this overall job creation report because this is all the jobs that are created, not necessarily just low-wage jobs, right?
ERIC MORATH: Oh, that’s right. So we had been seeing a quite robust job growth before March, the previous 12 months. We’d seen the strongest job creation on a monthly average since the 1990s.
So, certainly that was quite strong. We had a step-back in March. That could be for a number of reasons, including — you know, a stronger dollar reducing exports and there’s an economic slowdown in Asia and parts of Europe, and that might just be causing businesses to be a little bit cautious.
The trend for jobs is still up. We’d expect to see wages accelerate if we continue to be adding jobs at the pace we had been before last month.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Eric Morath of “The Wall Street Journal” joining us from Washington — thanks so much.
ERIC MORATH: Sure, anytime.
The post What does March’s job market slowdown mean for wage growth? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana closed its doors this week after receiving a spate of threats in response to the owners’ statements that they would not cater gay weddings. The controversy is part of a larger national discussion about religious freedom laws in Arkansas and Indiana, which have been criticized as anti-gay.
Now the pizzeria has seen an upswell of support, raising more than $800,000 in two days through an account that conservative radio host Dana Loesch set up on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.
The initial furor began early this week with comments that Crystal O’Connor and her father, Kevin, who co-own Memories Pizza, made to local TV news station ABC 57.
“If a gay couple was to come and they wanted us to bring pizzas to their wedding, we’d have to say no,” Crystal said.
The comments appear to have been hypothetical, since Kevin O’Connor told the Daily Beast that he had never been asked to cater a gay wedding.
“I don’t turn anybody away from the store, I don’t have a problem with gay people. I just don’t condone the marriage,” he said.
The O’Connors’ comments prompted a deluge of negative Yelp reviews for Memories Pizza and even death threats directed at the family. Critics and supporters of the pizza joint also traded words over social media.
— RiskyLiberal (@RiskyLiberal) April 1, 2015
— Victor Nikki (@hapkidobigdad) April 2, 2015
The GoFundMe account, titled “Support Memories Pizza,” initially aimed to raise $25,000 for the family. Thanks to social media attention and wide press coverage, though, roughly 30,000 donors contributed $842,592 over the course of two days. The page is no longer accepting donations.
Crystal O’Connor told Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto that she believes God is responsible for the support.
“God has blessed us for standing up for what we believe, and not denying him,” she said.
For the time being, Memories Pizza remains closed, but O’Connor told Cavuto that she and her father plan to reopen the restaurant.
The post Pizzeria at center of culture war raises over $800k through crowdfunding appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: You’ve probably read stories for years now about how young girls are influenced by the advertisements they see featuring ultra-thin models. Ads, experts believe, that may make them more susceptible to eating disorders like anorexia. Now, the French are taking new steps to fix the problem.
For more about this, we are joined now via Skype from Paris by Alissa Rubin of “The New York Times”. She has been covering the story.
So, they’re proposing a law. What’s in the law?
ALISSA RUBIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, there are a variety of measures. The one that’s probably gotten the most attention is a requirement that models would have to present a doctor’s certificate saying that they were at a healthy enough weight to work. And anyone employing models who was employing people without such a certificate would be penalized, both financially and potentially with six months in jail.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And what would be considered healthy? What are some of the other provisions?
ALISSA RUBIN: Some of the other provisions are actually quite interesting. One of them is outlaws Internet sites that encourage anorexia, and that’s something that’s not much talked about but there are such sites. There are not a lot of them, I don’t think, but there are certainly kind of disturbing to look at.
And then a third provision would actually require that all photographs of — which show models’ bodies, if they had been retouched, either to make the figure — the French word is silhouette — look heavier or thinner than it really is, the photo would have to be labeled.
So, it’s three quite significant provisions, and we’ll see if they pass the French senate, which is the next body that will have to look at it.
HARI SREENIVASAN:: What’s the modeling industry or the fashion industry have to say about this?
ALISSA RUBIN: Well, it’s quite interesting. The fashion industry, the big fashion houses of which, as you know, there are a number of them here, have been publicly very quiet about it. But the union of modeling agencies has spoken up, and they feel the way the law has been drafted is very unfair and inaccurate.
The basis on which the law is — has been done is the — what’s called the body mass index, which is an internationally used index, and there’s a weight range for normal weight, for overweight, for obesity, and for underweight. And all models would have to be at least within the normal weight not the underweight range.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Any difference between the French and American sensibilities about this?
ALISSA RUBIN: No, I think, actually, the sensibilities are fairly similar, but the philosophy of government is quite different. The French are quite willing to regulate very extensively and in great detail many aspects of life and use the powers of government to do that, and Americans are much more reluctant to regulate. I think on this, they’re willing to be a bit more prescriptive.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And so, what do say they is the connection between the images that a young woman sees and her likelihood to be anorexic, which is sometimes a psychological disorder, right?
ALISSA RUBIN: Yes, very often, if not always a psychological disorder. Well, here, I think this is where it’s quite confusing. It’s not clear what the basis was for targeting the fashion industry. When I at least spoke with psychiatrists about this, they all say that there are so many factors that go into a young woman choosing or slipping into a state where she starves herself.
And so, it’s not really clear that doing this will have a very measurable effect, but more that it creates sort of different respected body images, other than ones that are often very seriously thin, which is what many of the fashion models who are, of course, very much a part of the Paris scene are and have to be in order to get work.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Alissa Rubin of “The New York Times” — thanks so much.
ALISSA RUBIN: Thank you.
The post France votes to ban ultra-thin models in eating disorder crackdown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Surveys find that men in U.S. special operations forces do not believe women can meet the physical and mental demands of their commando jobs, and they fear the Pentagon will lower standards to integrate women into their elite units, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Studies that surveyed personnel found “major misconceptions” within special operations about whether women should be brought into the male-only jobs. They also revealed concerns that department leaders would “capitulate to political pressure, allowing erosion of training standards,” according to one document.
Some of those concerns were not limited to men, researchers found, but also were found among women in special operations jobs.
Dan Bland, force management director for U.S. Special Operations Command, told the AP that the survey results have “already driven us to do some different things in terms of educating the force.”
About 68,800 people serve in the command, including 3,000 civilians. The main survey went to about 18,000 people who are in positions closed to women, and the response was about 50 percent. The high response rate, officials said, reflects the wide interest in the subject.
The studies are part of the Pentagon’s effort to open all military combat positions to women or provide reasons why any jobs should remain closed.
One survey, by RAND Corp., reflected doubts that women could meet the overall job demands, found concerns that sexual harassment or assault could increase, and cited worries about “unequal treatment” of special operations candidates and personnel. Some worried that if women were let in to some jobs, they might be treated more harshly.
Survey details have not been released. This was the first time that officials from Special Operations Command publicly discussed the results.
Andy Hamilton, who works with Bland and has expertise on this issue, noted that women in special operations jobs had concerns, too, about the broader integration.
“They’re concerned that this might result in the lowering of the standards in what are currently our male-only occupations, and that would then reflect on either them or on the women who come into those occupations,” said Hamilton.
Pentagon leaders lifted the ban on women in combat jobs in 2012, but gave the military services time to integrate women gradually and systematically into the male-only front-line positions. By January 2016, the military must open all combat jobs to women or explain why any exceptions must be made.
Positions within the special operations forces, including the clandestine Navy SEAL and Army Delta units, are considered the most grueling and difficult jobs in the military, with training and qualifying courses that push troops to their physical, mental and emotional limits. The commandos often work in small teams in harsh, remote locations.
As a result, those jobs are some of the last to be addressed as commanders review the qualifications needed and assess the impact of bringing in women.
As integration unfolds, the surveys have brought home the reality that there are “some reservations or misperceptions in the force in terms of why we’re doing this,” Bland said. Defense officials have stressed that they will not reduce standards in order to let in women.
Women have so far had mixed results as they try to move into the more demanding combat positions – jobs for which men also have difficulty qualifying.
So far, about 7,200 positions within the special operations forces have been opened to women, including combat jobs in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, a specialized unit used to fly forces fast, low and deep behind enemy lines at night. For the first time, a woman last year made it through training and began serving as a pilot in the unit. Three female pilots, 25 women in other jobs, and 16 other women are now going through initial training for these helicopter crews, known as Night Stalkers.
Most female soldiers do not want combat jobs, an earlier survey found. But among those who do, the Night Stalkers were a popular choice.
Women have moved into Army artillery jobs and serve on Navy submarines and in the naval Riverine units. But none has made it through the Marine Corps’ officer infantry course.
Special operations command leaders have made it clear that genuine concerns exist about incorporating women into some jobs.
In 2013, when the planning was in its infancy, then-Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick spoke of demanding nature of missions requiring forces “to operate in small, self-contained teams, many of which are in austere, geographically isolated, politically sensitive environments for extended periods of time.”
In an email last month to members of the special operations forces across the services, Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said leaders had done initial analysis on training, facilities, education and other policies. Now, officials are examining “the social and cultural challenges of integrating females” into male-only jobs.
Next, Votel said, officials will analyze requirements for the jobs to make sure standards are accurate and gender neutral.
“We will continue in our commitment to provide the best manned, trained, and equipped special operations personnel to execute our nation’s most difficult and sensitive missions,” Votel said. “With that in mind, we can assure you that our high standards will not be lowered.”
Bland said that in addition to Votel’s email to service members, leaders have discussed the issue with commanders at frequent meetings so they can better educate their troops.
The post Special ops surveys: troops doubt women cut out for elite combat roles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton can claim a piece of the victory if the U.S. and other world powers ultimately complete a final nuclear deal with Iran.
She will own a piece of the failure if the negotiations collapse or produce a weak deal.
Her statement after Thursday’s tentative agreement suggests the soon-to-be Democratic candidate for president knows those are her stakes.
She called the framework “an important step,” while cautioning that “the devil is always in the details.”
“The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high,” said Clinton, who helped lay the groundwork for the diplomacy with Iran as President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state. “There is much to do and much more to say in the months ahead, but for now diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.”
The issue will figure prominently in the foreign policy debate of the 2016 presidential campaign. Nearly all the expected GOP candidates said the outline agreement was dangerous to U.S. interests.
“This attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He is likely to make foreign policy a centerpiece of his candidacy.
But Clinton occupies a unique space on the nuclear issue because of her role in Obama’s Cabinet. She sent a close adviser, Jake Sullivan, to participate in the secret talks with Iran that led to the start of the international negotiations over the country’s nuclear ambitions.
Clinton is also navigating delicate ties with Israel and the American Jewish community, an influential group of voters and donors. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the Obama administration’s outreach to Iran, described the framework deal as a threat to “the very survival” of his nation.
“I don’t know how you can maneuver all aspects of this politically,” said Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “You can be supportive and skeptical. I suspect that’s the direction.”
The tentative agreement announced Thursday by the U.S. and its negotiating partners – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – is aimed at keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Negotiators have until June 30 to settle the technical details.
The deal would remove economic penalties against Iran once the U.N. nuclear agency verifies Tehran’s compliance.
At times, Clinton has tried to play up her connection to the historic diplomacy. The U.S. and Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1979 after the Islamic revolution and the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where 52 Americans were held hostage for more than a year.
When Obama was getting credit for the clandestine negotiations, Clinton’s aides made sure reporters knew that the approach had started during her tenure at the State Department.
Clinton wrote in her memoir of how she set the negotiations in motion by facilitating back-channel discussions with Iran through the sultan of Oman, who suggested the talks after he helped free an American hiker held by Iran. Clinton tapped Sullivan to establish contact with the Iranians in 2012, an important step in the path to Thursday’s preliminary agreement.
Sullivan has closely consulted with Clinton on policy as she prepares to announce her presidential campaign this month. The 38-year-old Sullivan is seen as her likely pick, if she wins the presidency, as national security adviser.
Yet Clinton also expressed doubt as the talks dragged on and she neared a return to politics.
Last year, Clinton told an American Jewish organization that while Obama had given 50-50 odds of an agreement, she was “skeptical the Iranians will follow through and deliver.” She said she had “seen many false hopes dashed through the years.”
Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress who focuses on national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia, said if a full deal is reached by the summer, Clinton would be “part of something historic” because of her initial role.
If it failed, he predicted she still would be “in a strong position at the center of the debate, because Iran would be widely viewed as the spoiler.”
With public polling showing a majority of Americans favor a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Katulis said, “any effort by Republicans to criticize Clinton’s support for diplomacy might ultimately push them to the margins of today’s national security debate and away from the center.”
Clinton appears set to go on offense against the Republicans in the race on Iran. After dozens of Republican senators sent a letter to Iran’s leaders warning that Congress could upend a deal, Clinton said the lawmakers were “out of step with the best traditions of American leadership.”
“Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander in chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy,” she said. “Either answer does discredit” to the letter-signers.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Cary Gordon isn’t a political operative, a top dollar donor or an elected official. But that hasn’t stopped Jeb Bush’s team from already reaching out as the 2016 Republican presidential campaign revs up in Iowa.
Gordon is a well-known evangelical Christian pastor with a church in Sioux City that can draw 600 people on Sundays and a voice that echoes far beyond the pulpit. Gordon backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the 2012 GOP field, sending out text messages, tweets and a video announcement to deliver his message.
In some states, big city ward leaders or union bosses are the go-to guys to deliver votes. When it comes to Iowa’s Republican caucuses, evangelical pastors are kingmakers, with sway over an important bloc of participants. Long before the campaign heats up, leading ministers are showered with personal attention from likely candidates, and they can negotiate their policy positions on issues such as gay rights and abortion.
With the power comes perks.
For example, Brad Sherman, pastor at Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville, was among a group of Iowa pastors invited on a complimentary trip to Poland and London in late 2014 with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is considering a 2016 race.
“Just being in Iowa and being involved opens certain doors,” said Sherman, who went on a trip to Israel with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Both were funded by evangelical leader David Lane, who is working to grow the number of conservative Christian voters in early voting states.
Going into 2016, the power of the Iowa pastors is considered indisputable. Four years ago, pastors united behind Santorum, who eked out a victory in the caucuses and saw his stature rise in the crowded field. Back in 2008, evangelical support was part of Huckabee’s winning coalition.
“In our church, the last four cycles we’ve probably had almost 100 percent of our people vote,” said Bill Tvedt, pastor at Jubilee Family Church in Oskaloosa, who has not endorsed a candidate. “In our local county, we control the Republican party pretty much – our church and another church.”
Lots of the potential 2016 GOP candidates are wooing pastors.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Paul have appeared before groups of religious conservatives. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talks frequently about being a pastor’s son. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father is a pastor, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal recently addressed a gathering of pastors in Des Moines.
“I believe our country is in crisis and I think it’s incumbent on people of faith to stand up and defend our values,” said Cruz, who was joined by his father, Rafael, at the event.
Iowa pastors have been politically active for years, but became more involved after the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 decision allowing gay marriage, which incensed many. Their turnout machines are formidable, with more than half of the 2012 caucus participants identifying as evangelical or born-again Christian, according to exit polls.
“They provide a voice in the pulpit,” said Jamie Johnson, a pastor from Story City who is working for Perry.
Said Gordon, executive pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach, “I teach our people that civic responsibility is a part of our Christian heritage.”
Some pastors arrange buses for people to attend the Iowa Straw Poll, the summer event viewed as an early test of campaign organizations.
So far this year, a chief concern for some pastors is that there may be too many good options.
“I’m concerned that the truly conservative base will get split up so many ways and we’ll end up with a moderate,” said Sherman.
Still, some Iowa pastors think faith leaders should not be working to help candidates.
Judy Winkelpleck, the pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, said she identifies as a progressive, but has still gotten outreach from Republican candidates, including an email recently on behalf of Paul.
“I do not believe pastors should endorse candidates. I do believe faith questions should be raised so people can make their own political decisions,” said Winkelpleck.
The post Iowa pastors hold sway in 2016 presidential election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
A nursing home in the Netherlands allows university students to live rent-free alongside the elderly residents, as part of a project aimed at warding off the negative effects of aging.
In exchange for small, rent-free apartments, the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, Netherlands, requires students to spend at least 30 hours per month acting as “good neighbors,” Humanitas head Gea Sijpkes said in an email to PBS NewsHour.
Officials at the nursing home say students do a variety of activities with the older residents, including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and, perhaps most importantly, offer company when seniors fall ill, which helps stave off feelings of disconnectedness.
Both social isolation and loneliness in older men and women are associated with increased mortality, according to a 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
“The students bring the outside world in, there is lots of warmth in the contact,” Sijpkes said.
Six students from area universities Saxion and Windesheim share the building with approximately 160 seniors. They are allowed to come and go as they please, as long as they follow one rule: Do not be a nuisance to the elderly.
Sijpkes joked that this is not difficult for the younger residents, especially since most of the older people living at the home are hard of hearing.
The program started two years ago after Sijpkes received an inquiry from a Onno Selbach, a student who complained about the noise and poor conditions of school housing. Sijpkes responded and they began to talk and design the exchange program.
Similar intergenerational programs exist in Lyons, France and Cleveland, Ohio, according to the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing. One program that began in Barcelona, Spain in the late 1990s has been replicated in more than 20 cities throughout the country.
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WASHINGTON — As the April 15 tax deadline nears, people who got help paying for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s law are seeing the direct effect on their refunds – hundreds of dollars, for better or worse.
The law offers tax credits so people without access to job-based health insurance can buy private coverage. Because these subsidies are tied to income, consumers must accurately estimate what they will make for the coming year.
That’s been a challenge for millions of people.
Guess on the low side, get more help now with premiums, but owe money later at filing time. Overestimate income, expect bucks back from the taxman.
Many consumers may not have understood that is how it works when they signed up. Some experts caution that such complications could discourage uninsured people from getting covered.
Rob Tuck of Dublin, California, said he had anticipated a refund of about $400 on his 2014 taxes. But that almost has been wiped out because he had to repay some of the subsidy. He changed jobs during the year, and his income went up a little.
Tuck, who works for a San Francisco area tech-support company, said he enrolled to avoid tax penalties for being uninsured, but feels penalized anyway now.
“I was expecting to get dinged a little bit, but I was actually kind of surprised when it came down that much,” he said.
Kelsey Park started out 2014 in Dallas, earning good commissions by selling wedding gowns. She left for graduate school at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and signed up for coverage through the law. She ended up overestimating her income because she didn’t get another job as anticipated.
Park’s tax refund came to $2,500, partly because she had too much income tax withheld and partly because she received a smaller health care subsidy than she was entitled to.
“It was hard to estimate what I would be earning because I was transitioning in life,” said Park, who’s studying for a master’s degree in marketing. “I tend to overestimate because I don’t want to have to pay back,” she said.
The average refund is large enough to offset any repayment in most cases, according to the Treasury Department. The White House says the Affordable Care Act is working even better than anticipated.
But this is the first year that the complicated connections between the law and the tax system are playing out for consumers.
Initial reports suggest a fairly even split between tax-return winners and losers.
Earlier in the filing season, tax preparation company H&R Block reported that 52 percent of its customers who got health insurance subsidies owed money back. Repayments averaged $530, reducing expected refunds by 17 percent.
On the other hand, roughly one-third of customers with subsidies overestimated their incomes. As a result, their refunds went up by $365 on average.
In a recent study, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that half those eligible for a subsidy would owe money, while 45 percent would receive a bigger refund.
The estimated average repayment was $794, and the refund was $773. The estimates were based on an analysis of census data about income changes among people likely eligible for health care subsidies.
Kaiser calculated that overall between 4.5 million and 7.5 million households have to account to the IRS for their subsidies.
This year is “a learning experience” for consumers and the government alike, said Kaiser’s Cynthia Cox. “To the extent this makes people unsure of how much financial help they are going to get, it could be a discouragement for some to sign up.”
To avoid tax surprises, consumers should contact the health insurance exchange if their income changes during the year.
Tucker Bush, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Tacoma, Washington, basically broke even. He ended up giving back $19 of his subsidy, but not before he had spent an hour trying to figure out IRS Form 8962, which taxpayers must use to account for their subsidies.
“It caused me a little bit of a headache, and I have a college degree,” said Bush, who volunteers at a nonprofit dental clinic for children. “If you are trying to help someone who may not have a college diploma, this is going to be a nightmare.”
Bill Preus of St. Petersburg, Florida, was covered under the health care law for three months last year before transitioning to Medicare because of disability. Preus once had his own insurance agency, selling life and health policies. He is used to complexity, but said he never has seen anything like this.
Preus said he faces the prospect of paying back close to $4,000 because of poor coordination between HealthCare.gov and his insurer, the government’s failure to discontinue his health law subsidy after he went on Medicare, and forgiveness of a student loan debt that caused his income to go up.
“There is no one to talk to who can coordinate when extenuating circumstances like this come up, and it’s a total mess,” he said.
Preus said a tax preparer and an IRS representative both advised him to file an incomplete return so as to trigger an audit, suggesting that may be the best way to straighten things out.
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The New York chapter of the Boy Scouts of America has hired its first openly gay summer camp leader, the organization announced Thursday.
Eighteen-year-old Pascal Tessier, who was also the first openly gay Eagle Scout, will work as a counselor at the Ten Mile River Scout camp in upstate New York this summer.
In 2014, Tessier was influential in the Boy Scouts’ decision to lift its longtime ban on accepting openly gay youth into the program. The ban, however, remains in effect for openly gay leaders who are 18 and older.
On his 18th birthday last August, Tessier wrote in an open letter to Boy Scouts of America President, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates:
Today is my 18th birthday, a milestone on my path to becoming an adult and the day I am no longer eligible to be a Boy Scout because I am gay. Despite the Boy Scouts’ historic decision last year to open its ranks to gay youth, the Scouts still ban gay adults. And as of today, that means me.
The New York affiliate’s move in hiring Tessier is a direct challenge to the national organization’s policy.
The Boy Scouts of America has said it doesn’t “proactively inquire” about members’ sexual orientation, akin to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred openly gay soldiers from the military.
Gates oversaw the end of this ban during his time as defense secretary in 2010.
Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality has described Tessier’s hiring as a “watershed moment.”
“We are proud to see such an important Boy Scout council standing up for the full inclusion of gay members,” he said in a statement.
But Tessier’s lawyer, David Boies, warned of possible litigation between the New York chapter and organization’s national headquarters.
The Boy Scouts’ chief spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement the organization’s policies for adult leaders and employees have not changed and that they are “looking into the matter.”
Richard Mason, a board member of the Greater New York Council, described Tessier as “very well qualified” and said they passed on his application to the national board for review.
“They have not, to my knowledge, rejected him, so, as far as we are concerned, this young man is coming to work, is ready to do so this summer,” he told Buzzfeed News.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional scrutiny and approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran are essential and will help ensure the deal isn’t a bad one, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Congress has a responsibility to scour the details of a final plan – including any classified annexes – ask the Obama administration hard questions and then vote on it. Negotiators announced on Thursday a framework deal, which would be finalized by June 30.
“It’s very important that Congress is in the middle of this, understanding, teasing out, asking those important questions,” Corker said.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Corker sought to counter President Barack Obama’s assertion that partisan politics in Washington could derail the landmark agreement to curb Iran’s bomb-capable nuclear technology.
Congressional oversight “doesn’t mean there won’t be a deal,” Corker said. “We just set in place a process to insure that if there’s a deal, it’s a deal that will stand the test of time, that will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to meet April 14 to consider Corker’s legislation to ensure that Congress debates and signs off on any pact. The bill requires the president to transmit, within five days of reaching a final deal, the text of the full agreement along with materials related to its implementation.
With key elements still to be finalized, the framework agreement sealed by U.S.-led world powers describes a program for stunting Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons while giving Tehran quick access to assets and markets now blocked by international sanctions.
In defending the framework and a potential final pact, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz cited what he called “unprecedented access and transparency” into Iran’s nuclear activities that will allow the U.S. and its partner negotiators to know almost instantly should Iran try to evade the oversight. This is a long-term arrangement, he stressed, with requirements lasting a quarter century or longer.
“We’ll have eyes on the entire supply chain of uranium,” Moniz said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” “Going back to mines, the mills, we’ll have continuous surveillance of centrifuge production.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the framework as deeply flawed and a threat to Israel’s very existence. He is urging negotiators to improve the agreement or scuttle it.
Other Republicans have echoed Netanyahu’s concerns. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday the proposed deal is a bad one – but it was the best one Obama could get because the Iranians don’t fear or respect him. Graham said he favors waiting until a new president, Democratic or Republican, takes office in January 2017 and then trying again. In the meantime, economic and financial sanctions would stay in place.
“Is there a better deal to be had? I think so,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
But a senior Senate Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, warned that bashing the proposed deal could backfire on Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister and other critics of the framework agreement have offered no viable alternatives, she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Feinstein said imposing more and stiffer economic sanctions would only drive Iran’s nuclear program deeper underground and make it more difficult to monitor.
“I wish he would contain himself,” Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said of Netanyahu.
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Following years of severe drought and the lowest winter snowpack ever recorded in the state, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced a plan Wednesday to impose a 25 percent reduction on most of the state’s local water supply agencies.
NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan spoke Wednesday with Gov. Brown about the cutbacks and the impact that the drought is having on California’s citizens and economy.
The historic drought is now in its fourth year and shows little sign of abating in 2015.
HARI SREENIVASAN: When Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympic Games back in 2009, the organizers made a promise: To clean up 80 percent of the trash and sewage in the notoriously polluted Guanabara Bay.
But just last week, with less than a year and a half before the games are set to open, Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes, said the promised cleanup would not be completed in time.
In the last six years, Rio has spent millions of dollars on the cleanup, yet the water still smells of sewage. Last year, during test events, sailors said they came upon a floating sofa and a dead dog in the water.
This past December, specialists from Rio’s public health research organization Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, announced they found a drug-resistant “super bacteria” in these same waters.
Earlier this year the last few months, inspectors found thousands of dead fish washed up on shores just a little over 6 miles from where the competitions will take place. And, just last week, aerial shots revealed household trash floating throughout the bay, including in the sailing lanes to be used in the events.
And now, an art exhibition called Achados da Guanabara (Found in Guanabaraa) is trying to call attention to the problem by putting trash from the bay on display in a shopping mall.
The objects in the exhibition have “price tags” to symbolize the environmental cost of the waste, which one biologist estimated at $320 for every year it takes for an item to decompose.
FERNANDA CORTEZ, PROJECT DIRECTOR: “This is to show that we are facing a great structural problem in terms of sanitation, but also that there is a big problem in terms of educating the population that water is not rubbish.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: It is estimated that 70 percent of untreated sewage from Rio, including its surrounding municipalities, flows into the Guanabara Bay.
Nevertheless, Carlos Nuzman, head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee said last week “The area of competition for the Olympic Games will be ready.”
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Iran, of course, is working alongside the United States in the fight against ISIS. Despite being ousted recently from Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, the extremist group made important new gains this weekend in Syria, taking control of an area near Damascus.
Part of what is driving ISIS’ success is the growing role of former officials from Saddam Hussein’s military, members of the once dominant Baathist Party. They are now playing a key role within ISIS.
Liz Sly of The Washington Post wrote about this, joins us now via Skype from Beirut, Lebanon.
So, first of all, how are they involved? Where are they involved? And what roles do they play?
LIZ SLY, The Washington Post: Well, really, they’re involved at every level of the senior leadership. Most of the senior leadership are former Baathists. They are officers in the army.
The senior leaders of ISIS served in Saddam Hussein’s army. They lost their jobs after the de-Baathification law in 2003. They went through various permutations of insurgency. Maybe they left the insurgency. Maybe they went back. But, in the past few years, we have seen an aggressive attempt by the current leader of ISIS to recruit them into the ranks of ISIS. And, really, the organization is run and controlled by Iraqis.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, there were two big rounds of de-Baathification, when we essentially took Baathist Party out of any roles in government, one in 2003 by the U.S. government, and again in 2011 by Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister.
So what did that do? And how did that contribute to those leadership positions in ISIS being filled by these former Baathists?
LIZ SLY: Well, the de-Baathification of 2003, I think the consequences of that already are quite well known.
I think people know, you know, that about 400,000 Iraqis who were serving in the army lost their jobs. They were sent home. They were not eligible for future employment. They kept their guns, but they weren’t allowed to join in the military again. And that created a ready pool of recruits for all the different insurgent groups.
The second round in 2011 is less well known. After the Americans left, Maliki started to fire even some of the ones that they had tried to rehabilitate, realizing that it wasn’t such a good idea to have these guys out there without jobs, without contributing to society.
And it meant it was really very easy for those guys to just go and sign up with ISIS, because they felt they had no — no other choice but to fight for their future, because they didn’t have another future.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Liz Sly of The Washington Post joining us via Skype from Beirut, thanks so much.
LIZ SLY: Thank you.
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An independent review of a Rolling Stone article about the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student has found the magazine failed in the “reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking” of the now-discredited story.
The review found Rolling Stone relied too heavily statements made by the story’s subject, a UVA student referred to as “Jackie,” and failed to strictly observe “basic, even routine journalistic practice – not special investigative effort” in reporting, editing and fact-checking several of Jackie’s key assertions.
Rolling Stone did not make a serious effort to identify and interview three of Jackie’s friends who she said picked her up after the assault took place, despite portraying them in an unflattering light in the article, the report found.
When contacted by the writers of the Columbia report, the three friends challenged basic details of Jackie’s account.
The review cited confirmation bias, a tendency to focus on facts that support a preconceived version of events and ignore those that contradict it, as a factor in the mistakes made by reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who penned the story.
“Erdely believed the university was obstructing justice. She felt she had been blocked,” the report said. “Jackie’s experience seemed to confirm this larger pattern.”
Rolling Stone officially retracted the article following the release of the Columbia review.
In a statement to the press, Erdely apologized for what she called “the mistakes and misjudgments” in her reporting.
“I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone’s readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the UVA community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article,” she said.
There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.
The initial article detailed the horrific seven-man gang rape of a University of Virginia freshman named only as “Jackie,” which she said took place during a 2012 party at the prestigious Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The piece used Jackie’s story to examine what it called UVA’s “troubling history of indifference” to incidents of sexual assault and the issue of sexual violence on U.S. college campuses generally.
The piece reinvigorated a national conversation about sexual assault on college campuses — and placed both Phi Kappa Psi and UVA in the hot seat. But two weeks after the story was published, that conversation was supplanted by questions about the story’s reliability.
A Washington Post report cast doubt on many of the story’s key details, and Rolling Stone acknowledged that Erdely relied almost entirely on Jackie’s version of events, never contacting the alleged rapists, per Jackie’s request.
These and other revelations prompted harsh criticism of Rolling Stone’s reporting and editorial choices in publishing the story, damaging the magazine’s reputation and credibility.
Adding fuel to the fire, Rolling Stone responded with a note to its readers that said, in part, “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.” The last line has since been removed from the note.
Many saw the statement as an instance of victim blaming, and an attempt to disguise Rolling Stone’s failures in reporting the story.
In December, Rolling Stone tasked the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism with conducting a review of the editorial process that led to the story’s publication.
The review was led by Sheila Coronel, Dean of Academic Affairs, and Steve Coll, the journalism school’s dean. Coll will discuss the review’s findings on Monday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: We wanted to spend a few minutes tonight talking about an aspect of the recently concluded nuclear talks with Iran that you might have heard much less about.
We’re referring to the role other countries involved in the talks from Western Europe played in the negotiations, and also the roles played by Russia and China. And another question, what will a tentative deal mean for all of them?
For more, we are joined now by Gary Sick. He served as National Security Council staff under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan.
He was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis, and is the author of two books on U.S.-Iran relations. He now teaches international affairs at Columbia University.
So, it is still constructed as a conversation between the United States and Iran. And we — today, the news cycle is primarily about fact sheets and what are the differences. But there were other parties at the table, and they were integral to this happening.
GARY SICK, Columbia University: Yes, it’s a funny thing, because, well, the reason that the U.S. is so important is, the U.S. had vetoed deals in the past.
So, without us, it was never going to happen. But, at the same time, the United States, as the sort of lead negotiator, had really a four-part negotiation to go on, one with Iran, one with the heads of the Security Council, Russia, China, and so forth, one with the U.S. Congress, and another one with countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are terribly skeptical about the whole thing.
And keeping all of that balanced at all times was really pretty astonishing.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so what do the European countries, what does the U.K. or Germany get out of this deal?
GARY SICK: You know, in a funny thing, this is kind of a revenge on Benjamin Netanyahu.
He has, for years, been scaring everybody to death that there was going to be another war in the Middle East, that Israel was going to launch a unilateral attack against Iran and so forth, to the point where all of these countries said, anything is better than having another war in the Middle East, so let’s actually cooperate with each other, put something together that works.
And I think that’s where we are. And the fact that Netanyahu is unhappy with the result is kind of ironic, but it’s the reality of where we actually happen to be.
HARI SREENIVASAN: I didn’t mention France in that question, but France said as soon as the negotiations, well, listen we were actually toeing a harder line.
What do they want out of it?
GARY SICK: Well, they have — they have become a little more ideological in the process.
It wasn’t so much that they have anything specific to gain that France would gain that Germany would not or that the British would not. I mean, basically, the Europeans were in this together. It was — it was, you know, chaired by the head of the E.U. foreign minister, basically.
And so this wasn’t something that they were in it competing with each other. But each country was there because of its own national interests. I think the first thing was that they all really wanted to avoid another war in the Middle East. And they saw this as the way to do it. And they were prepared to pay a certain price for that.
In fact, most of the countries involved have paid a much higher price than we have, and — because many of them had much greater trade with Iran. They had more to lose. Their companies had to pull out. And they weren’t happy about it. But they did it. And so they have actually paid a price to get to this point.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Economically, right.
So, what about Russia and China?
GARY SICK: Well, Russia doesn’t really want a nuclear-armed Iran on its southern border. I think, basically, when you talk about what could be hit, actually, Moscow is a lot closer than, say, Rome. So, it was actually in their self-interest to make sure that Iran didn’t get a nuclear weapon, though I’m not sure they really thought that Iran was about to get a nuclear weapon.
They also wanted — both countries, I think, wanted to keep the United States on their side. They have deals that they will want to do on other issues, including things like the Crimea and Ukraine and with China, a series of issues about human rights and the South China Sea.
They need to be able to work with the Americans. And they also knew that, in this case, you had to work with the Americans, or it didn’t work, that, basically, the United States had put this coalition together.
The Obama administration, President Obama personally, had put together the greatest coalition in history in a peacetime environment of putting together sanctions on one country.
And that was all held together by the Obama administration. And everybody knew that, to undo that and to actually make any progress, you had to have the Americans on board.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Gary Sick of Columbia University, thanks so much.
GARY SICK: Pleasure to be with you.
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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Obama administration is opening a new phase of its strategic “rebalance” toward Asia and the Pacific by investing in high-end weapons such as a new long-range stealth bomber, refreshing its defense alliance with Japan and expanding trade partnerships, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.
“I am personally committed to overseeing the next phase of the rebalance, which will deepen and diversify our engagement in the region,” Carter said in a speech outlining the administration’s rationale for trying to devote more attention to Asia.
At a time of increasing conflict and uncertainty across the Middle East, as well as growing worry about Russian intervention in Ukraine, Carter’s remarks seemed designed to convince Americans, and perhaps more importantly, the country’s Asian allies, of the American commitment to the so-called Asia pivot.
His speech at Arizona State University’s McCain Institute touched on themes he expects to raise on a week-long trip to Asia, his first since becoming Pentagon chief in February. He will visit Japan and South Korea for meetings with top government officials and also spend time with U.S. troops.
Carter urged Congress to give President Barack Obama authority to complete a free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation accord that Carter said holds “enormous promise” for jobs and economic growth in the United States. He said it is expected to increase U.S. exports by $123.5 billion in the next decade.
He called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, one of the most important parts of the administration’s effort to shift more attention to Asia and the Pacific after more than a decade of focusing on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said TPP is as important to him as a new aircraft carrier.
He described the Asia-Pacific trade arrangement as an urgent priority. “Time is running out,” he said, as countries in the region forge their own trade agreements without the U.S.
The Obama administration is not the first to tout the importance of building stronger relationships in Asia; the George W. Bush administration made similar arguments while expressing the same concerns about the implications of China’s rapid military modernization.
Yet Bush launched the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that would consume his administration and limit his options in Asia. Obama came into office committed to ending the wars, but the rise of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, as well as the collapse of Yemen, has raised new obstacles.
Carter, who advocated strongly for shifting more U.S. attention to Asia when he served as the deputy secretary of defense in 2011-2013, said in his Arizona State speech that the Asia-Pacific is “the defining region for our nation’s future.” He rattled off numerous statistics meant to highlight the importance of Asia to America’s future, including what he called an expectation that half of the world’s population will live there by 2050.
Carter, who is expected to visit China later this year, said the U.S. is deeply concerned about some aspects of Beijing’s increasingly assertive approach, and he said the central strategic challenge of today’s generation of Americans is to assure peace and prosperity across the Asia-Pacific “as China continues to rise.”
He dismissed the prediction by some that China will attain predominance over the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific or that its economic growth will squeeze out opportunities for younger Americans. He asserted that the U.S. and its Asian allies have spent more than $16 trillion on defense since the end of the Cold War in 1990, which he said is about 10 times more than the next highest spending country, China.
“I reject the zero-sum thinking that China’s gain is our loss because there is another scenario in which everyone wins, and it is a continuation of the decades of peace and stability anchored by a strong American role in which all Asia-Pacific countries continue to rise and prosper,” he said.
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