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

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    File photo of hummus and carrots by Jamie Grill via Getty Images

    File photo of hummus and carrots by Jamie Grill via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Large food recalls have forced consumers to throw away hummus and ice cream that may be contaminated with the same potentially deadly bacteria — listeria.

    Tainted Blue Bell ice cream products are linked to eight listeria illnesses in Kansas and Texas; three of those who contracted the illness have died. Blue Bell has temporarily closed its facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and shut down a production line at its facility in Brenham, Texas, where the company is headquartered. Blue Bell has recalled more than two dozen of its products since last month.

    Sabra Dipping Co. announced a recall of 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible listeria contamination this week, though no illnesses have been linked to that recall.

    A look at the listeria bacteria and answers to questions that consumers may have:

    WHAT IS LISTERIA?

    Listeria is a hardy bacteria found in soil and water that can be carried by animals. It is often found in processed meats because it can contaminate a processing facility and stay there for a long period of time, and it can grow in the cold temperature of a refrigerator. It is also commonly found in unpasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized milk, and it is sometimes found in other foods as well — 30 people died in a 2011 listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe.

    WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

    When a person contracts the disease, it can cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and even death.

    AM I AT RISK?

    Listeria generally only affects the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies. Healthy, younger adults and most children can usually consume listeria with no ill effects or mild illness.

    WHAT HAS BEEN RECALLED?

    Blue Bell ice cream has recalled several products made on production lines in Texas and Oklahoma after the ice cream was linked to eight illnesses, including three deaths, in Texas and Kansas. The Sabra hummus recall came after a product sample in Michigan tested positive for listeria; there are no known illnesses related to that recall.

    HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

    State and federal inspectors are still investigating the ice cream outbreak and have not released a cause. Contamination is often the result of dirty equipment or unsanitary conditions in a plant.

    I THINK I MAY HAVE ONE OF THESE PRODUCTS IN MY HOME. WHAT DO I DO?

    The government’s motto is “when in doubt, throw it out.” If you throw something away that you think might be tainted, place it in a closed plastic bag in a sealed trash can to prevent animals or other people from eating it. The ice cream can have a shelf life of up to two years.

    HOW CAN I PROTECT AGAINST LISTERIA?

    In the case of the ice cream and hummus recalls, there is nothing you can do to prevent it — just throw away the food if you learn they have been recalled. With fruit, scrubbing is never a bad idea, but it may not rid produce of all contaminants. In the case of the cantaloupe, the listeria likely hid on the fruit’s thick, rough skin. Health officials think people may have been sickened when people cut into their cantaloupes, bringing listeria on the outside of the fruit to the inside.

    The government says the listeria bacteria can be killed by heating food to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until it is steaming hot just before serving it.

    WHY IS LISTERIA SO DEADLY?

    Listeria is less well-known than other pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, which cause many more illnesses in tainted food every year. But one in five people who get sick from listeria can die. The people who get sick from listeria are often already weaker and more vulnerable to disease.


    Online:

    Food and Drug Administration updates on the Blue Bell listeria outbreak: http://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm438104.htm

    Sabra hummus recall notice: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm441863.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

    The post What is listeria and how did it get in my hummus? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Oklahoma classroom

    There should be national standards when it comes to language about lockdown drills in schools says high school teacher Heather Jancoski. Photo by Flickr user KT King

    Editor’s Note: Schools across the country constantly grapple with how to keep students safe. PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs program asked student reporters to document how their communities approach school safety. Heather Jancoski, a teacher in the program, describes her students’ efforts to make sense of safety procedures and the need for clear communication in all school districts.


    The reverse lockdown announcement came over the speaker.

    teacherslounge

    I checked the hallway and swept in anyone I saw. I locked my outer door. I locked my two inner doors. I shut off the lights and covered my windows with black paper.

    I asked my students to turn off their electronics, move away from the windows and wait. Wait quietly.

    Then, the announcement came that we should release students to a staff member who would escort them off campus. The principal came with security and escorted the students out to safety.

    I have always taken lockdown drills seriously. During the first weeks of a new semester, we discuss with students how to handle drills and where to go. But since this drill happened so early in the school year, a lot of students did not follow procedure. Some went to locations on campus where they thought they could seek refuge, which left them vulnerable. It was clear we needed to make procedures more clear.

    The drill raised many questions. Why do we go to certain locations for safety on campus? Where is really the safest place to be? Students asked me: how did I, as a teacher, feel during the lockdown?

    We decided to cover the issue for our weekly student news show and when the administration heard our plan, they asked us to create a tutorial for the entire school.

    As we began to dig through our district’s information on safety drills, we realized how little we knew and how many questions we actually had. For example, we had always left our belongings at our desk during drills, but the procedures actually recommended that you take your belongings with you. But would that really be safe?

    We also ran into a vocabulary issue. Our school’s drills are called “shelter in place,” “fire drill,” “reverse lockdown” and “lockdown,” all terms that upperclassmen knew well but that freshmen did not necessarily learn in middle school. How could we give students a general approach to these drills so they understand what to do? And if we visited another school for a conference or sports competition, would we know what to do if they had a drill?

    Moreover, we found that very few schools put their procedures online. This is undoubtedly due to safety concerns, but complicated our challenge of determining what information should be presented in the tutorial.

    I’ve come to believe that we need a general vocabulary across schools — not only in the valley or the state of Arizona, but the whole U.S. — so that students have a universal understanding of what to do if an emergency occurs.

    The experience taught me how many “what ifs” schools deal with when it comes to safety. We can never prepare enough for actual emergency on our campus, but addressing these inconsistencies and language is a good start.

    Heather Jancoski teaches broadcast journalism at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Her story is part of the Student Reporting Labs school safety series “The New Safe.”

    The post What I learned when a lockdown drill at our school went wrong appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cuba's President Raul Castro, seen here at a summit in Caracas in March, Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    Cuba’s President Raul Castro, seen here at a summit in Caracas in March, could meet with President Barack Obama Saturday during the Summit of the Americas taking place in Panama City. Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    PANAMA CITY — President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved toward a groundbreaking meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas Friday in what would be a remarkable display of reconciliation between two nations with the leadership of the Western Hemisphere gathered around them.

    The powerful symbolism of a face-to-face exchange Saturday between the two leaders could signal progress even though both sides are still working through nettlesome issues that would lead to the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana, the first stage in a new diplomatic relationship.

    “The two leaders will be able to address and take stock in any discussion they have over where we are in the process of normalization, where we are in the discussions around the establishment of embassies and where we continue to have differences,” White House deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes said.

    The White House was coy over the status of the State Department’s recommendation to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror. Removal is a top issue with Castro because it would not only eliminate Cuba’s status as a pariah, but also ease Cuba’s ability to conduct simple financial transactions.

    Nevertheless, the pace of activity over the terror list suggested that even if Obama did not make an announcement Saturday, one would come soon.

    Indeed, the U.S.-Cuban outreach has entered a new, accelerated stage in recent days, with Obama speaking with Castro by phone Wednesday and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holding a lengthy meeting with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez late Thursday.

    The Cubans also put an optimistic face on the developments. The Cuban foreign ministry issued a brief account of the Kerry-Rodriguez meeting, saying that for nearly three hours they discussed the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in a “respectful and constructive atmosphere.”

    “Both parties agreed to continue discussing other matters,” the ministry said.

    It was the highest-level, face-to-face contact between officials from the two countries since the Dec. 17 announcement that Washington and Havana would move to restore diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961.

    For Obama and Castro, their conversation Wednesday was the first since they spoke Dec. 17.

    The flurry of diplomacy ahead of and around the seventh Summit of the Americas was recognition of the historic nature of the new relationship, one intended to end five decades of American presidents either isolating or working to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government. Officials were hoping to make the most of the exchange between the two men.

    Obama was already getting praise from allies in the Americas.

    “President Obama is going to leave a legacy the way he is supporting Hispanics in the United States, and also his new policy for Cuba for us is very important,” Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said as he met with Obama.

    Removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror would be a major milestone and likely generate controversy in the U.S., given the political repercussions of any Cuba opening. The sensitivities over Cuba are especially acute in Florida, a key presidential battleground, and they are likely to ignite vigorous debate among the presidential candidates.

    Congress would have 45 days from the day Obama removes Cuba from the list to issue a resolution of disapproval, but the margin of passage would have to be veto proof.

    Rep. Jeff Duncan, the chairman of a House panel on the Western Hemisphere, criticized taking Cuba off the list, saying a bipartisan coalition in Congress would demand that it first meet democratic, humanitarian and national security conditions.

    “Empty promises and false assurances from the Castro regime must be met head-on with leadership and accountability from democratic countries in the region,” Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, said in a statement from Panama City, where he was attending the summit.

    In a nod to lingering U.S. concerns about human rights and political freedoms, Obama made a point of attending a forum bringing together both dissidents and members of the Cuban political establishment while in Panama.

    Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez and Joshua Goodman in Panama City contributed to this report.

    The post Stage being set for historic Obama-Castro meeting Saturday appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PBS NewsHour is seeking a Reporter Producer, Online Arts who will serve as an integral member of the PBS NewsHour’s Online Arts unit while also working with the Segment Production Unit.  Primary responsibilities include reporting and writing news-driven, well-told and crafted stories for PBS.org/PBS NewsHour website and associated digital content and managing the online editorial content vertical, creating original text and multi-media content and coordinating regular contributors, features and columns.  College degree and a minimum of one (1) year experience working in online journalism, preferably for a national outlet required.  Experience or interest in issues around arts is a plus.

    Send your cover letter, resume and salary requirements to hr@weta.org or visit our website at www.weta.org for the full job description and on-line application. To confirm that a WETA or PBS NewsHour job posting is under recruitment, please visit our websites for our current job postings list: www.weta.org and www.pbs.org/newshour/.

     

    WETA is an Equal Opportunity Employer D/M/F/V.

     

    The post Reporter Producer, Online Arts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks about the Justice DepartmentÕs findings related to two investigations in Ferguson, Missouri, at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Holder delivered the remarks for an audience of department employees who worked on the investigations after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, sparking weeks of demonstrations and violent clashes.

    Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo to Justice Department employees on personal conduct, on and off duty.

    WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a memo to Justice Department employees reminding them that soliciting prostitutes is against agency rules and can lead to suspension or termination.

    The memo Friday came weeks after a scathing inspector general’s report that found the Drug Enforcement Administration had mishandled allegations that several of its agents attended sex parties with prostitutes in a foreign country.

    Holder said the department’s prohibition on soliciting prostitutes applies even when employees are off duty, and even in foreign countries where prostitution may be legal.

    He also directed a review of the security clearances of the DEA employees who attended the parties to ensure that they continue to qualify for the clearances. And he called for improvements in how the DEA investigates and handles allegations of misconduct.

    The post Memo to DOJ employees: don’t solicit prostitutes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Howard University Professor Eleanor Traylor, writer Nikki Giovanni, first lady Michelle Obama, Postmaster General Megan Brennan, Oprah Winfrey and artist Ross Rossin dedicate the newest Forever stamp to author Maya Angelou. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Howard University Professor Eleanor Traylor, writer Nikki Giovanni, first lady Michelle Obama, Postmaster General Megan Brennan, Oprah Winfrey and artist Ross Rossin dedicate the newest Forever stamp to author Maya Angelou. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    The U.S. Postal Service released a Forever Stamp in remembrance of the phenomenal woman, Maya Angelou. The limited-edition stamp, unveiled Tuesday, features a photo of the author and poet alongside the quote, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

    Maya Angelou recited the quote on social media and during interviews, and President Barack Obama did attribute the quote to her at the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal ceremony. However, the sentence was actually written by Joan Walsh Anglund, in her 1967 book, “A Cup of Sun.”

    So in honor of Maya Angelou’s misquoted stamp, can you guess who didn’t say these oft-repeated quotes?

    The post Quiz: Famous quotes that are always misattributed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    I test drove a pair of indoor sunglasses that claimed to correct colorblindness. A Mountain Dew product was among the many items that caught my eye. Photo by Ariel Min

    I test drove a pair of indoor sunglasses that claimed to correct colorblindness. A Mountain Dew product was among the many items that caught my eye. Photo by Ariel Min

    SUBJECT: STRONG EMOTIONS

    Guys, I’ve been staring at a Mountain Dew can for 10 minutes now. By the end of this day, I may even shed a tear. Holy hell … … … emotions, y’all.

    xo,
    Josh


    This was my first reaction, in all of its unvarnished glory, after I thought I was seeing red and green for the first time.

    Not long ago, I learned that a company called EnChroma had developed glasses that claimed to “correct” colorblindness for red-green colorblind people like myself. So I sent for a pair. They arrived, nestled in a black carrying case, a couple days later.

    Before their arrival, I had laid out a plan. I would thrust myself into colorful situations. I would stroll through botanical gardens, peruse the color swatches at my local Home Depot and study a Roy Lichtenstein painting.

    I never expected I’d get emotional over a Mountain Dew can.

    The can was half-empty, directly in my line of vision as I put on the glasses for the first time. I found myself fixated on the Mountain Dew logo, studying all the different shades of green it contained. I was awash in awe. You might call the design garish, but to me, at that moment, it looked magnificent. Elsewhere on my desk, a red ball and a red pen called for attention.

    On the left, is a photo of Venice as seen by someone with colorblindness wearing the EnChroma glasses. On the right is the same scene as seen with someone with colorblindness. Image courtesy of EnChroma

    On the left, is a photo of Venice as seen by someone with colorblindness wearing the EnChroma glasses. On the right is the same scene as seen with someone with colorblindness. Image courtesy of EnChroma


    While the manual warns against “flipping,” or raising and lowering the glasses, as it weakens the effect, I ignored the warning. I couldn’t help peering over the glasses, comparing the two views in disbelief.

    As a kid, I was forced to sit out science experiments that involved color. There was the embarrassing time my graphic design professor described my business card as “flesh-colored.” And don’t even get me started on green-colored paper. When teachers printed assignments on green paper — and they do more than you’d think — I’d have to tilt the paper so the black ink reflected in the light.

    I never felt deprived by being colorblind. I had no plans to be a pilot or a wedding planner. Instead of labeling my clothes as many colorblind people do, I opted to own only one green shirt. Usually, I rely on another set of eyes — a friend, a co-worker or a stranger — to avoid minor embarrassments in our highly-coded world.

    Whoa, brick is that red? Wait, I have two green shirts?
    Yet with the EnChroma sunglasses, the revelations came fast: My houseplant has hints of red on its leaves! Whoa, brick is that red? Wait, I have two green shirts? The utter dullness of the reds and greens I see had been lost on me, I realized.

    The term “colorblindness” suggests that the colorblind shuffle through life in a black-and-white reality. And while such a condition exists — achromatopsia — the majority of colorblind people have a mild form of color vision deficiency. In other words, we have difficulty distinguishing certain colors.

    Colorblindness affects about 14 million Americans, mostly men, and ranges from mild to severe. Although in rare cases, people have trouble with blues and yellows, the most common form is red-green colorblindness. About eight percent of males are born with the inherited color deficiency, while fewer than one percent of women, who are normally the carriers for the genetic anomaly, have it, according to the American Optometric Association.

    In the back of our eyes are cones in the retina that allow us to see a vast range of colors. Pigments in these cones absorb specific wavelengths of light and transmit signals to the brain. These signals help us identify color. In the case of colorblind individuals, the red and green cones overlap too much, sending muddied information to the brain, said EnChroma co-founder Donald McPherson, who is also a glass scientist.

    “When the brain does the calculation to figure out a color, it comes up with the incorrect sensation,” McPherson said.

    Before EnChroma would send me the glasses, I was asked to take a test. It turns out I have a particular type of red-green color deficiency known as Strong Deutan. Symptoms for that include “significant color confusion,” according to the results of the test. “Green, brown, yellow, orange, and red may appear confusingly similar. This makes ‘naming’ the color difficult. Blue and purple are frequently confused. Pink can be very ‘muted’ so it looks essentially gray.” I nodded in agreement at every instance listed.

    EnChroma’s sunglasses, then, act as a filter by carving out specific wavelengths along the visible spectrum that enable the photoreceptors in the eye to distinguish between red and green, thus reducing the overlap. EnChroma said the sunglasses works for four out of five people.

    The manual suggests that the wearer observe the colors of things during a so-called “adaptation period.” While some people immediately notice real differences, McPherson said, others experience a much more delayed response.

    As an extreme example, McPherson relayed the story of a retired Berkeley neuroscientist who took the glasses on vacation to Hawaii. He reported finding the experience underwhelming. Then he saw a green traffic light.

    “[He] said he had to pull over because he had this epiphany that he has finally seen [green],” McPherson said. “He had been receiving the right information, he just hadn’t been able to process it.”

    After that first day, I test drove the sunglasses in many situations. The first thing I noticed at the botanical gardens was the moss. Without the glasses, the moss appeared to me as one shade — a dull greenish-brown. With them, I saw many different shades of yellow, green and brown. With them, I saw where the patches of green ended and the brown and yellow ones began. This was one of the most striking effects of the glasses. It wasn’t just colors I’d been missing, but the nuances within the colors.

    While visiting the local botanical gardens, I took pictures of every plant that jumped out at me while wearing the EnChroma glasses. Photos by Joshua Barajas

    While visiting the local botanical gardens, I took pictures of every plant that jumped out at me while wearing the EnChroma glasses. Photos by Joshua Barajas


    A trip to a local year-round Christmas store was both overwhelming and nauseating. Traffic lights, too, were much more brilliant.

    The glasses worked best in strong sunlight. The color-boosting effect diminished on cloudy and rainy days and other low-light environments. And although indoor models have to work with less light, I could still see a co-worker’s busy tie come into better view.

    Through all of this though, a question nagged me. Was I truly seeing reds and greens as people with normal color vision do?

    EnChroma says yes, promising “color for the colorblind” with its products. In an email, McPherson insisted I was “really, truly seeing the correct colors.”

    But not so fast, said Dr. Karl Citek, chair of the AOA Commission on Ophthalmic Standards, a group of experts that deals with product claims regarding color vision. The enhancement from the EnChroma sunglasses and other iterations of these specially-tinted eyeglasses are impressions of the real thing, but likely fall short.

    “Perhaps a better word is ‘compensate,’ but I see where EnChroma is coming from,” Citek, also a college professor of optometry at Pacific University, said in an email. “By the same token, the glasses I wear because I’m nearsighted don’t ‘correct’ my nearsightedness, only compensate for it (even though all medical professionals will call my prescription a ‘correction.’)”

    I may never have an answer to my question. But I now have a gateway to a richer, eye-catching world — and a Mountain Dew can as my guide.

    The post What it’s like to see colors for the first time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination Sunday. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination Sunday. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Hillary Rodham Clinton owns a singular resume: first lady, senator and secretary of state. She is also a lawyer who worked on the Watergate investigation and a four-decade veteran of campaigns. Add two-time presidential contender. Here is a look at where Clinton stands on ten key issues.

    Education: Against No Child Left Behind. Position unknown on Common Core.

    In her 2008 campaign, Clinton decried President George W. Bush’s trademark education program, calling No Child Left Behind an unfunded mandate and pledging to end it if elected. She has not been in elected office since the evolution of Common Core and has not weighed in on the state-driven curriculum standards.

    Immigration: President should waive deportation for some immigrants. Give undocumented residents a path to legal status.

    Clinton supports comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. She voted for the 2007 plan endorsed by then President George W. Bush which ultimately died in the Senate.

    Late last year, Clinton spoke in favor of President Obama’s executive actions to waive deportation for some immigrants illegally in the country.

    Marijuana: “Wait and see” on overall legalization.

    Clinton told CNN last year she wants to see more studies and research, expecially in states which have legalized marijuana, before forming her opinion on the federal level.

    NSA: More transparency. Find the balance between security, privacy.

    Clinton believes the National Security Agency needs to be more transparent. In an interview in February, she also said that the nation needs to “draw a line” and generally find balance between security needs and privacy.

    In 2014, when asked about Edward Snowden and his leak of classified security documents, Clinton stressed her concern for security threats and appreciation of intelligence she’d seen while in the Senate. She also questioned Snowden’s decison to flee the country and take refuge in Russia.

    Obamacare: Keep it. Strengthen it. Tout it.

    The former Obama cabinet member strongly supports the Affordable Care Act, telling NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill last year that Democrats should tout the health care law and run on its success, rather than running away from it. Clinton has said the law should be improved upon where possible. Clinton led a White House task force on health care in 1993. That plan included a mandate that all employers cover health care for their workers, but it did not get any traction in Congress.

    Social Issues: Abortion should be legal. So should same-sex marriage.

    Clinton is a staunch supporter of legal access to abortions. As secretary of state, Clinton told a Congressional hearing that, “Family planning is an important part of women’s health and reproductive health includes access to abortion.”

    On gay marriage her stance has “evolved.” Clinton now supports same-sex marriage. But she has acknowledged that this was not always her viewpoint. Her conversation on the topic with NPR’s Terry Gross last year made headlines. Clinton recently blasted Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, tweeting that it was “sad.”

    Taxes: Consider closing loopholes and cutting middle class taxes.

    Clinton aides tell the New York Times that she is considering proposals to close corporate tax loopholes and cut middle class taxes as part of her campaign. In the past, she has indicated concern over concentrations of wealth by higher incomes, including at a speech last year where she said, “extreme inequality has corrupted other societies.”

    She may propose to keep capital gains taxes below 20 percent, as she did during a primary debate in 2008. In 2008, Clinton proposed suspending the federal gas tax for the summer as consumers faced rising prices at the pump.

    Israel: Work toward a two-state solution. Do not necessarily freeze settlement building.

    Clinton recently affirmed her commitment to a two-state solution in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. She said that the U.S. needs to return to a more constructive footing in the region, following tensions between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She has differed with the president on the issue. Clinton also has said she would not have pushed to freeze Israeli settlement building in 2009.

    Iran: Support framework for nuclear deal. Continue diplomacy efforts and some sanctions.

    Clinton supports the current Iran framework and has praised President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for their diplomatic efforts. As secretary of state, she backed sharp sanctions against Iran, but has recently said additional sanctions, proposed by Congress, would be detrimental to striking a deal.

    During the 2008 campaign, Clinton criticized Obama’s suggestion that the U.S. could negotiate with Iran without precondition.

    Islamic State: No boots on the ground. Use regional troops.

    Clinton believes the U.S. should use air support to fight the Islamic State, that American and other Western troops should not be fighting on the ground. Instead she argues that regional forces, especially the Iraqis, should provide ground troops.

    Clinton wrote in her memoir, “Hard Choices,” that she pushed the Obama adminstration to become more involved in Syria earlier. During an August interview with The Atlantic, Clinton said the failure to help Syrian rebels as directly led to the rise of the Islamic State.

    The post What does Hillary Clinton believe? Where she stands on 10 issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BIG EARS monitor music

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s called Big Ears, a musical gathering that Rolling Stone magazine called the most diverse festival in the country.

    Jeffrey Brown recently traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee, to have a listen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Big Ears Festival is a feast of strange sounds, a mix of traditional musical styles and decidedly new ones.

    ASHLEY CAPPS, Founder, Big Ears Festival: The idea for Big Ears is to invite people in. It’s to share the experience. I want it to be seductive, not frightening.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For more than a decade, Big Ears founder Ashley Capps has been best known for another festival, Bonnaroo, a massive gathering in the blazing June heat of Middle Tennessee that features major pop and rock stars of the moment.

    Started in 2009, Big Ears is altogether different, smaller and more personal, eclectic in its tastes, aiming to show how different genres influence one another, rather than exist in separate musical boxes.

    A big part of its charm is that it unfolds not in New York or San Francisco, but within a walkable area of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.

    You get this reputation for — it’s weird music, right? You’re putting these things together, avant-garde. Does that scare people off?

    ASHLEY CAPPS: I’m not sure what avant-garde means in 2015.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You don’t like it because it scares people?

    ASHLEY CAPPS: Well, I don’t like it because it scares people. If I wanted to do an avant-garde festival, I could really scare people.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This year, the festival centered around a group that’s been breaking musical barriers for more than 40 years, the Kronos Quartet, led by violinist David Harrington.

    DAVID HARRINGTON, Kronos Quartet: When I started Kronos in 1973, I hoped we would survive a week. Society didn’t really welcome our work at first.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because you didn’t fit into any box?

    DAVID HARRINGTON: We didn’t fit in. It was hard to explain what we wanted to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kronos looks like a traditional quartet, but the group has made its name by stretching the form.

    At Big Ears, for example, Kronos performed with, among many others, the Chinese pipa player Wu Man, minimalist composer, Terry Riley, and a Canadian Inuit throat singer named Tanya Tagaq.

    DAVID HARRINGTON: The world of music is a cool, wonderful place. What I want is for music, and concerts, and musical experiences to be these places where we learn new things about each other, about instruments, about culture, about life. And music is the greatest teacher.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kronos looks around the world for its inspiration. One performance here featured folk music from all over, including a piece from Iraq.

    Later, the group was joined by singer and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens for American folk ballads. Giddens is a classically trained singer who then spent years exploring and playing African-American Appalachian styles. Big Ears offered a new way into that music.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS: It’s great because it gets you out of your comfort zone and it makes you just go, OK, I’m going to consider something from a totally different point of view. And I just think that’s really important. You can’t make art by thinking, this isn’t going to fit. You just do what seems right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Rock music also had a central role at Big Ears, but again in unusual forms.

    Guitarist Nels Cline, best known for his work with the band Wilco, performed here with a painter, Norton Wisdom. Another genre-bending guitarist, Bryce Dessner, a rock star with the band The National and a classical music composer, played a piece he wrote for the Kronos Quartet.

    BRYCE DESSNER: We are blessed now, my generation, where there’s a much more open, and thanks to them, very much so, where the path has been paved. The world is just a very open and beautiful environment, where we can — and a place like Big Ears is obviously kind of the most pure celebration of that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A still small celebration of listening and finding connections between genres, but one that’s finding an audience of open-minded and big-eared music lovers.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in Knoxville, Tennessee.

     

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    BUYER BEWARE monitor  supplement vitamin store

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A study out this week is calling new attention to the health risks of some dietary supplements, and whether the industry and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are doing enough to protect consumers.

    It found that some popular weight loss and workout supplements contains a chemical called BMPEA that includes an ingredient nearly identical to amphetamine.

    And again to Hari, who has the latest on this from our New York studios.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Researchers found the amphetamine-like stimulant in 11 of 21 products they tested, including in popular ones like JetFuel Superburn and JetFuel T-300 that are sold at stores nationwide.

    Last year, Canadian health officials pulled some supplements with those chemicals from shelves over concerns of stroke risk and cardiovascular health. Today, the Vitamin Shoppe chain announced it would stop selling any products in the study that were believed to contain BMPEA.

    The study is raising flags once again about the regulation and responsibility of a $30 billion-a-year industry.

    Dr. Pieter Cohen of Harvard Medical School was the lead author of the study. And Daniel Fabricant is with the industry trade group the Natural Products Association. He also ran the FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplements from 2011 to 2014.

    Pieter, let me start with you. What did your study find?

    DR. PIETER COHEN, Harvard Medical School: Well, what we found was that yet another synthetic stimulant has appeared in supplements.

    We have seen a plethora of things trying to replace ephedra since banned in 2004. And what we found was this new stimulant extremely similar to amphetamine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Daniel Fabricant, when at the FDA, you actually did your own study. You discovered this synthetic drug. So, why is it still on the shelves and why wasn’t it pulled then?

    DANIEL FABRICANT, Natural Products Association: Well, the study was initiated towards the end of my career at the end of 2013.

    And the types of studies, in FDA’s evidentiary burden, they have got to Fourth Amendment stuff. There has got to be due process. So it was a scientific study not necessarily done for regulatory purposes. But it was started during my time. And in all fairness, FDA should have continued the work, and have the authority to take a product like that off the market.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: They don’t have the authority now?

    DANIEL FABRICANT: They do have the authority.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    The FDA did send a response to the NewsHour. I just want to read I out.

    It says: “It is true that under current law the agency faces a high burden before we can take enforcement action on a dietary supplement. That said, we recognize that more can and should be done. We’re committed to leveraging our limited resources to address the various concerns being raised.”

    So, Pieter, why should this be off the shelf? What’s the danger inside it?

    DR. PIETER COHEN: Well, the danger is that this is a new synthetic stimulant that has never — its effects have never been studied in people.

    All we know is that when it was invented in the 1930s, it was used in experiments in cats and dogs, and it increased the heart rate, it increased blood pressure of the cats and dogs. But what we don’t know, what we have no idea is, what’s going to happen when people actually take it?

    So this is literally an experiment we’re watching before our eyes, which is what happens when consumers take this brand-new drug.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Daniel, mark me as a naive consumer, perhaps, but when I go to the store and I get something off the shelf and I put it in my body, I just have an assumption that the FDA has said it’s OK. Well, why shouldn’t I believe that?

    DANIEL FABRICANT: Well, you can believe that. FDA does have ample authority to regulate the space.

    I think the difference with dietary supplements is, people look at a dietary supplement like a pill and they think that it’s been approved by the FDA. But I think people would be shocked to know even some over-the-counter products like aspirin have not been approved by the FDA, but are still out there and used safely every day.

    Over 180 million Americans use dietary supplements every day. And the plane landing safely rarely, if ever makes the news.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Pieter, is that the case here, that there is so much that the FDA already does correctly, that we’re focusing on the exception vs. the rule, when there have not been cardiovascular risks or strokes that have presented themselves in hundreds of cases around the country by people taking these supplements?

    DR. PIETER COHEN: No.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have an effective system to detect risk from supplements. So, it’s well-known that doctors often don’t realize that their patients are being harmed. And when they do realize it, they often don’t know to inform the FDA about the case.

    So basically there are hundreds, if not thousands of serious reactions to supplements throughout the United States every year that are not reported to the FDA. So, absolutely, we have no idea what’s actually happening.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Daniel, what do we do the figure out that risk tolerance with supplements that people assume are like just drugs, but they are not?

    DANIEL FABRICANT: Well, actually, Dr. Cohen is mistaken.

    The adverse event reporting requirements for dietary supplements are identical to those for over-the-counter drugs and Rx drugs. Actually, when the law was written for dietary supplements, which my association worked on, it was — over-the-counter drugs were brought in at the same time. So the same notification systems doctors use to notify the FDA of problems with drugs is identical to that for dietary supplements.

    So the risk-detection warning system is clearly there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Daniel, I want to ask. You mentioned that you worked for this group that you’re working for now. Then went to the FDA. Then you went back. Obviously, the case for the revolving door is that there are experts hopefully looking at and regulating the industry that they’re from. Right?

    But, in this kind of scenario, people are going to wonder, wait, are you too chummy and did you not make the rules hard enough on the industry that you represented and still do?

    DANIEL FABRICANT: Well, the agency benefits from experts from academia and industry, which I was both.

    And if you look at my track record at the FDA, we did more on dietary supplements in my three years there than they did the 16 years prior. Precedent cases, as well as if you look at the number of injunctions we took, which is shutting firms down, we actually led all of FDA in injunctions, my little division of only 25 people.

    So I think that would be a hard case for anyone to make if they actually look at the facts.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, right now, it looks like the New York attorney general’s office is the one that is doing what the FDA couldn’t do.

    DANIEL FABRICANT: Well, in this case, I agree with Dr. Cohen. He was one of the first ones on the scene to point out the science in the attorney general’s study was flawed. They used a technique that wasn’t really appropriate for those particular commodities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Pieter, sorry. Continue. I was just going to say, but what are other academics saying about this? Is this entire field being researched? Just — you focused on a specific set of drugs, but dietary supplements, you’re saying, is a very broad category.

    DR. PIETER COHEN: It’s a very broad category.

    And we’re particularly concerned with a whole — whole — hundreds, or if not thousands of different supplements that are using something that’s legal under the law called the structure function claim. This allows these supplements to be sold for — to improve your workouts, to help you lose weight, even if there’s not a shred of data that they actually work in people.

    So, like you have pointed out, they look like drugs. They’re being sold as if they have effects in humans, but there’s absolutely zero need for evidence to support those claims.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Daniel, do you agree with that?

    DANIEL FABRICANT: No.

    And structure function claims have to be substantiated by law. And also FTC regulates structure function statements that are made on products as well if they’re made in advertising. Firms have to have substantiation. They have to have science behind it. Those that don’t, there are laws are being enforced that people can act. Products have to be truthful and not misleading and FDA does take action where those products harm human health.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, Daniel, in this particular scenario, the products were labeled as if they were having some sort of supplement from a dry grass somewhere, so there was also a false labeling concern, trying to convince the people that are buying the product to say, hey, you are going to get the stimulant from this little grass, but it’s not really — it’s a totally synthetic supplement.

    DANIEL FABRICANT: Right. And FDA has authority to take action, and they should.

    And also I think all of our mothers and fathers taught us if something sounds too good to be true in the marketplace, it probably is, especially where weight loss is concerned and things like that. If dietary supplements are claiming to have a pharmacological effect, to act like drug, that’s not what dietary supplements are authorized by law to do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Pieter, so what should a consumer do when they’re out there looking at the store shelves?

    DR. PIETER COHEN: Right now, consumers really need to avoid anything that suggests it will have a positive effect on the body, because unless you have talked to your doctor and you need a supplement like iron or calcium for your health, there is no reason the supplement should have immediate effect on your body.

    So if you’re feeling better, if your workouts are better, if you’re losing weight or any other claim, like your diabetes is better controlled, I would steer well away from those types of supplements, because they’re more likely to be spiked with harmful ingredients.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, Daniel Fabricant, I want you to just quickly respond to that.

    DANIEL FABRICANT: Well, again, I think Dr. Cohen’s never worked in public health.

    I think the key issue there is structure function claims are important to convey messages to consumers that they’re looking for. We know that things like calcium do build strong bones. You have to engage consumers on those sorts of issues, so I think that’s important for the medical community to do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Daniel Fabricant, Pieter Cohen, thanks so much for your time.

    DR. PIETER COHEN: Thank you.

    DANIEL FABRICANT: Thank you.

    The post Is the supplement industry doing enough for consumer safety? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    brooksmarcus

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Potential Republican candidates talking guns, with the leading Democrat expected to jump into the race for 2016, and that police shooting in South Carolina raises questions about use of force.

    For this and more, we turn to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That’s New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

    Welcome to you both.

    RUTH MARCUS: Hi.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, that disturbing video we just watched again, we have seen it all week, raising questions about how the police are using force against everyone, but particularly minorities, black men. That’s really been the subject, Ruth and David.

    David, is this an issue that’s going to be around and discussed for the foreseeable future? I mean, do you see this lasting on into the campaign this year and next year?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I’m not sure it will be a national presidential issue, but it is certainly going to be a national issue, just not affecting the campaign.

    But it’s national because the relations between the African-American community and local police forces has been a sore spot and a source of tension for decades. And to me, one of the immediate debates is over cop cams, whether policemen themselves should be wearing cameras. And I confess, I can’t make up my mind on the subject.

    On the one hand, if they do wear the cameras all the time, which some — is happening in a lot of jurisdictions, it’s a blow for truth. You get these guys who are abusing their authority and in some cases apparently shooting people in the back. We can see what’s happening.

    On the other hand — and in addition, memory is so bad, the witness testimony is so bad often that we would see the truth or some version of the truth. On the other hand, a lot of the what cops is do a not violent arresting of a felon. It’s mediation in a troubled situation. And it’s going into a home in a case of domestic violence.

    And in that case, you want the cop to be approachable and trustworthy. And I find it’s very hard to have a conversation if somebody is wearing a camera. You want to have an intimate conversation. And so I think it would be a gain for truth, but sort of a blow for intimacy.

    And cops have to get better connected to the communities. And so this is sort of a tension as the technology gets more widespread.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that resolve?

    RUTH MARCUS: I think I only have one hand on this one.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: I think that body cameras are a very good idea. I think they can be unobtrusive enough that you don’t really pay attention to them in those situations where you do want a calming influence.

    But I think they can be — we saw this week how valuable and powerful that video is. But the real value is not just to have ascertain the truth, when memories are faulty, at best, and sometimes people just don’t tell truth, at worst, but also as a restraining influence on officers.

    If we all knew that we had cameras following us all the time, I don’t know about you guys, but my behavior might be better.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, does this — do we now have the kind of discussion that is just going to be reenergized every time there’s another police shooting like this?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, that’s been the case, and for the good. We should have this conversation. And based on what we just saw this week in South Carolina, there’s probably a lot more of this going on than we were aware of.

    RUTH MARCUS: And David said, correctly, that this has been a source of tension for decades, but I think this conversation that we have had this year since Ferguson has really been a wakeup call for the white community about the degree of resentment and tension and harassment that many citizens experience that they don’t, that I don’t when I’m — don’t feel scared or harassed when I’m, rarely, stopped by police.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: When you’re pulled over by a policeman, right.

    RUTH MARCUS: And, also, it’s been — I thought this week, in addition to the news out of South Carolina, there was actually good news out of Ferguson, where we saw two additional African-Americans elected to the city council. It’s now half African-American.

    The participation rate, voter participation rate was like 30 percent, which sounds low, but it’s way higher than it was. If we can get the white community to understand the real frustrations that African-Americans feel, if we can get the African-American and minority communities to participate in their governance, we can end up with a better country as a result of this national conversation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of — you brought up elections. Let’s broaden that way out and talk about the presidential.

    Just in the last, I guess, 24 hours, David, we have learned not only that Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island governor and senator, is forming an exploratory committee to look at the Democratic nomination, but Hillary Clinton, we understand, is going to announce on Sunday. Where does this leave the Democratic race?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, obviously, I think Lincoln Chafee is inevitable.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: I think he’s a juggernaut. No one will stop him.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: No. He’s not.

    Hillary, it is going to be fascinating to see. She is going to do it very gradually, very slowly, and which is wise, but she’s got a lot of interesting choices to make. The first choice is whether to be interesting at all. She wrote a book and just now she’s released an afterward to that book which was not exactly that interesting. So is she willing to take a risk or is she going to sort of coast?

    Second, how is she going to deal with some of the splits in the party that have emerged since her husband was in office? Economically, the party has shifted left. It’s shifted a more anti-Wall Street direction. How does she handle that?

    And just it seems like — and from her perspective, I’m sure, like a small step to the White House. She has sort of got pretty open ground. But I have watched so many politicians who seemed to be front-runners just have a defensive strategy and not take risks and not really earn it. And they have faltered. And she’s sort of in the unfortunate position of being a monopoly player, which is, she has got no real competition to keep her sharp.

    Now, the one thing we do know about her is, she’s a super hard worker and she’s super smart. So, she will probably overcome these. But how she does that will be interesting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you size it up? And what does she need to do?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, first of all, want to say that I don’t think most monopolists regret their monopoly position.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: It’s a — you can have an argument about whether it would toughen her up to have real competition. And I’m sorry. Lincoln Chafee doesn’t rise to that level, nor do the others who are talking about or entering the field.

    If you have a choice between having somebody pummel you every day and a nice, stately march to the nomination, you would choose the nice, stately march. And let me say, Hillary Clinton is going to get enough grief both from Republicans, the Republican Party, and from us in the media, that she will be fine in getting toughened up.

    I think I agree with what David said about her challenges. But I do think that there’s really — I would put it into two categories. One is to sort of soften this air of entitlement and inevitability. And the second is to present her theory of the case, other than, I’m really well-prepared for it, which she is, of why she should be president.

    And that’s why I actually thought her epilogue was very interesting, because she’s used it to tie together an argument about those two things. And she did it with the interesting point of her grandma-hood. And she…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: She talked about her daughter, Chelsea, having a baby.

    RUTH MARCUS: It softens her. It makes her human. I got a little misty imagining being a grandma myself, not too soon.

    And also it gave a theory of the case about how she wants to make sure that other children growing up in America have the same incredible opportunities that baby Charlotte does. And so there’s a risk in looking — in emphasizing age, but I actually thought it was an interesting epilogue.

    DAVID BROOKS: My grandma juice is not flowing that much, so…

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, no.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You were not impressed?

    DAVID BROOKS: I wasn’t. I liked Charlotte, the story. I liked — I understand…

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, you’re not a suburban woman in her demographic, and I am. So there you go.

    DAVID BROOKS: Internally, I am.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: But every — open opportunity for everybody is — it’s anodyne. In my view, that’s what every candidate runs on. How hard is she going to press it?

    I don’t expect — this is the afterward, to be fair. But, you know, the party’s moved to the left. Inequality’s gotten more stubborn than the last time she ran. And so how hard is she going to push some of that? Her advisers, the natural Democratic economists, have moved. They’re not where Bill Clinton was. They’re not even where Barack Obama was when he took office.

    Does she move with them? And just there’s a lot of interesting choices.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But when is she going to have to answer those questions, Ruth?

    RUTH MARCUS: In the very intimate conversations with thousands of reporters watching in living rooms in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But do we think voters, ordinary — I mean, ordinary Americans are going to be asking her these questions?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, she is going to — no. They are not going to be saying, what is your position on TPP, or do you think that one of — one of the interesting questions — and you’re totally right, David — that she is going to have to explain where she is.

    And the party’s moved. We have had a financial crisis since she ran. She is going to have to open herself up to questions from us. One really interesting issue is going to be trade. Another is going to be the push by many sectors of the Democratic Party, not to put Social Security on a more sustainable financial footing by trimming benefits or increasing taxes, but by expanding Social Security benefits.

    And that’s going to be, I think, a new emerging Democratic Party litmus test. So it is going to be fascinating to watch her. But she needs to, in addition to those discrete issues, wrap it into — all politicians’ prescriptions are anodyne — but into a larger theory that allows people to connect with her.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, David, you don’t think it’s a detriment that she doesn’t have a tough — or any primary serious opposition?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I agree with Ruth. If you were the candidate, you would rather have no opposition.

    But I do think it makes you a better candidate. We have covered these campaigns. The candidates get so much better over time when they’re forced to debate. And she will — I actually think there’s a chance that somebody could emerge. I don’t know who that will be. And maybe it’s too late. But I just think there’s a market there.

    Just one final word. There are two things that I think any candidate has to show. One is imagination, something new. And I don’t think she’s — she’s shown many great virtues as a candidate — or a public figure. Imagination, not always so much.

    Second, how is she going to get anything passed? And this is true for Republicans and Democrats. Do you have an agenda that can get 61 votes in the United States Senate? That’s important, because we have had no legislation for five years. That’s just incumbent on every candidate, to have an explanation for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And maybe we will hear some of that on Sunday.

    So, the other person who threw his hat into the ring, jumped into the pool or whatever we’re calling it, is Rand Paul, Ruth, this week.

    Libertarian-ish.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Where does he fit on the Republican spectrum?

    RUTH MARCUS: Libertarian-ish, but not as much as Libertarian as he used to was.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: And that’s, I think, the really intriguing part of Rand Paul and perhaps his downfall, which is think he — I have always thought — I have thought he is a very interesting figure in the Republican Party, one of the few who can really address the fact that, as he has said, Republicans — as Domino’s pizza saying that their crust was no good, the Republicans need to re-improve the taste of their pizza.

     

    And he has offered the opportunity, with talking about surveillance and talking about secure — drones and things like that, to attract millennials. However, that looked a lot more attractive a few years ago than it does now, with the emergence of ISIS and the emergence of more foreign threats. So I kind of think, not the right moment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see?

    DAVID BROOKS: I agree.

    The party is less libertarian than it was three years ago, both on domestic and foreign affairs. Second, on a matter of his personality or personal presentation, his whole shtick was authenticity. And an authentic figure cannot be a trimmer. And he’s become — tried to make himself more mainstream and more acceptable to parts of the party, but has chipped away at the edge of authenticity.

    So, he’s caught in a tragic bind there. As a libertarian, he can’t get elected. As a trimmer, he’s a trimmer, and he’s stuck there.

    RUTH MARCUS: And there is where I might need to say shush to you, because there’s one other thing about Rand Paul.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I was going to say, when he’s been challenged by reporters on positions and whether they have changed or not, he’s gotten a little upset.

    RUTH MARCUS: And when your defense of that is not that you’re sexist, but that you’re equal opportunity short-tempered, that’s not a successful presidential rollout.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: And I do have to say, perhaps he is short-tempered with everybody, but I have really bristled watching him trying to say shush to women reporters interviewing him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That may not be a strategy.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    No, you have to be — if you’re president, you’re a national anchorman for — or anchorwoman for…

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: Oops. Whoops.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: … for four years. And people have to like you, and you have to come off well. And if you don’t, you have got a problem.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

    David Brooks, Ruth Marcus, we thank you.

    The post Brooks and Marcus on recording the police, Clinton’s campaign launch appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police shooting protest sign

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week has brought questions about police violence front and center once again, and demonstrated the power of what’s captured on video, frequently by citizens — the latest case, an arrest in San Bernardino, California, that appeared to involve excessive force.

    Today, 10 deputies were placed on paid leave following the release of news video showing the violent arrest of a man who fled on horseback. It comes nearly a week after Walter Scott was shot in the back and killed by a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina. His funeral is this weekend.

    Hari Sreenivasan has a report on efforts to use video to document violence abroad and in the U.S.

    And a warning: It contains images that are disturbing, including the shooting of Walter Scott.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Everyone is shooting everything with camera phones. The shooting of Walter Scott proves that sometimes video can be used as evidence against police wrongdoing.

    KELLY MATHESON, Senior Attorney and Program Manager, WITNESS: I think that cameras in everyone’s hands means that there will be more transparency and more accountability. The camera is the new DNA technology.

    The DNA is only available to specialists. It’s only available to scientists. The camera is available to everyone worldwide.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Video as Evidence program of WITNESS, an organization founded by musician and humanitarian activist Peter Gabriel, trains citizens around the world to safely and effectively document abuse, so that video is as effective in the courtroom as it is on the Web.

    PETER GABRIEL, Musician and Humanitarian Activist: With cameras everywhere, we can document and share what is really going on. We can build campaigns with millions and billions of others and we can leverage those numbers, which are large enough that politicians can’t ignore them, to create real change.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Shocked citizens took to the streets after NYPD concluded there would be no indictment in the choking death of Eric Garner, despite the viral video.

    There’s a difference between what makes a protest video or a human rights video go viral on the Internet and what it takes for that video to stand up in court.

    KELLY MATHESON: Most of the video that we see on YouTube and that goes viral and on the media is about the crime. It’s about the what. An important part of my job is to teach people also how to document who did it and how it was done, so that we can convict perpetrators, the people who are committing these crimes, in court.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Part of the training emphasizes basic video shooting techniques, such as holding a steady shot for at least 10 seconds, proper framing of people and objects and gathering a variety of shots that show details like I.D. badges, street signs and license plate numbers.

    Senior program manager Priscila Neri oversees the organization’s work in Latin America.

    PRISCILA NERI, Senior Program Manager, WITNESS: You need to do things like not deleting your original file. You need to do things like making sure you can prove that that filmed the day you say it was filmed, and making sure you can find it later, and that it’s stored in a safe place.

    So, all of these things about how to increase the chance of your video mattering and being useful in the fight for accountability.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The fight for accountability can be dangerous, especially overseas.

    When the government takes a drastic step and tries to evict people forcibly, what do you see?

    ANIETIE EWANG, Social and Economic Rights Action Center: I see a lot of terror. I see a lot of pain in the eyes of the woman, the child, the old lady that is being kicked out of her home, without any alternative.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Anietie Ewang is a staff attorney at the Social and Economic Rights Action Center in Lagos, Nigeria. She took part in this workshop practicing interviewing techniques and other skills she could use to defend her community back home.

    ANIETIE EWANG: I see something that tugs at my heart and I think the hearts of many of the people that have access to these videos. This is what I take to the courts to try to get justice on their behalf.

    After I educate myself, I can tell the people that I come across are eager about documenting these violations how they can do it most effectively.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Activists walk a fine line between safely standing away from the abuse and potentially becoming a target by recording it.

    KELLY MATHESON: The very first question that we advise activists to ask themselves is, should I or should I not press record? Is it worth it? Part of our goal is to help people really think through what sort of a footage will move people to act.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As the world becomes more brutal, do the videos that inspire change also have to be that?

    KELLY MATHESON: I think that if we look back in time, we basically start with the Rodney King incident. It’s considered the first viral video for human rights.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Even before the Internet, yes.

    KELLY MATHESON: Then we have a situation like Oscar Grant. This was a young boy that was shot on the BART platform.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Fruitvale.

    These are the scenes from the 2013 movie “Fruitvale Station” about the incident. Often, police respond to situations that require split-second reactions and rely on their training to make calculated decisions. Some argue that more police oversight in the field won’t make effective policing better. It will only make it worse.

    Dr. Maki Haberfeld teaches police ethics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

    MAKI HABERFELD, John Jay College of Criminal Justice: To see somebody who is potentially holding a weapon or something that can be dangerous to police officers’ lives, and the decision needs to be made right now. And in the back of police officer’s head will be, oh, my goodness, I’m going to be on tape and maybe my career is over.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The fatal shooting of Michael Brown introduced body camera technology into the national debate. Police departments around the country began outfitting their officers with miniature recording devices, but the cameras don’t solve all problems.

    MAKI HABERFELD: It can start with the dispatch call. It can start with whatever conversation was going on between the police officers. But, on the other hand, it’s only a visual and an audio, but it’s not going to record the fear of police officers.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: WITNESS, in collaboration with the International Bar Association, are developing a smartphone app called InformaCam for users to upload pictures and video on to a secure cloud repository. It records the time, date, and GPS location of each upload, who uploaded it and records every edit made to the media to ensure complete transparency if subpoenaed in court.

    KELLY MATHESON: Video alone isn’t ever going to bring a perpetrator to justice, isn’t ever going to free someone who is falsely accused. It’s used in combination with witness testimony. It’s used in combination with forensics. It’s used in combination with documents. And so you take all of those different sources of evidence and you triangulate it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: With hope that good video will lead to prosecutions and convictions around the world.

    Hari Sreenivasan, PBS NewsHour, New York.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: About three-fourths of the work the WITNESS program does is aimed outside the U.S.

    Online, we have compiled six steps you can take to safely document police and public officials in your own community. That’s at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    Supreme Court Rules To Protect An Individual's Right To Own Guns

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was widely reported today that Hillary Clinton will formally announce her run for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday. The former secretary of state, senator and first lady is expected to enter the ring via social media and then travel to early primary states.

    Meanwhile, a dozen potential Republican presidential contenders took to the stage at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Nashville to woo one of their biggest constituencies, the gun lobby.

    GOV. SCOTT WALKER, (R) Wisconsin: I’m proud to stand up and fight for law-abiding citizens and your right to possess firearms. I’m proud to stand up for the great American traditions that are true in my state and across this country of hunting and shooting, but, most importantly, I’m proud to stand up for freedom.

    DR. BEN CARSON: I remember seeing people lying on the ground with bullet holes waiting to die.

    Then, as a surgeon, I spent many a night operating on people with gunshot wounds to their heads. And all of that is horrible. But I can tell you something. It is not nearly as horrible as having a population that is defenseless against a group of tyrants who have arms.

    FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH, (R) Florida: I earned an A-plus rating from the NRA. I was proud of that. Florida’s pro-gun laws have been the model for other states. Today, there are well over 1.3 million law-abiding Floridians with a valid concealed weapons permit, 1.3 million.

    (APPLAUSE)

    JEB BUSH: That’s the most in the nation, nearly double that of the second state, which is Texas.

    Sorry, Governor Perry.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some of the potential Republican contenders speaking at the NRA meeting today.

    A broader look now at the politics of guns and how that debate is playing out at the state and local level.

    We are joined by Josh Horwitz. He’s executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. And Alan Gottlieb, founder of The Second Amendment foundation, he is in Nashville for the NRA convention.

    We welcome you both.

    Alan Gottlieb, it used to be that the gun debate played out here in Washington. There were these — heavy lobbying, big debates over the Brady bill, over the ban on assault weapons. Today, the action seems to be moved to the states and the cities. Why is that?

    ALAN GOTTLIEB, Second Amendment Foundation: Well, that’s because the results of the midterm elections, when a lot of anti-gun politicians in Washington, D.C., got defeated for office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meaning what? Meaning that the Congress is overwhelmingly pro-gun rights now?

    ALAN GOTTLIEB: Oh, it most definitely is. The House was before. Now it’s even stronger. And, of course, the leadership change in the Senate made a big difference, because now no anti-gun bills can even get out of committee in the United States Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Josh Horwitz, does that mean for your side, the side that supports gun control, you have given up on Washington?

    JOSH HORWITZ, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: No, not at all.

    And we’re going to work hard over the next two years to make sure that things like background checks that have some bipartisan support can get moving. I think it’s important though to understand that Congress doesn’t work very well, and trying to get anything through D.C. and through Capitol Hill is going to be hard. They can’t do immigration. They can’t do a host of other things.

    So, looking at this issue, it’s difficult, like all issues are in Washington, which is one of the reasons we’re focusing on the states.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what does that look like? Where are you focusing your efforts? What kinds of things are you trying to do?

    JOSH HORWITZ: Well, I think it’s important to go back and look what at happened the last couple of months.

    Washington State just passed a historic referendum on background checks. And now we will be looking for other states. So I think that you’re looking at Oregon. There’s a real push for background checks in Oregon. We will see another referendum in Nevada in 2016.

    There’s also an effort to — we want to make sure we have background checks on all gun sales, but we also want to make sure that what’s in the background check system makes sense, so that we want to make sure that people who are domestic violence abusers and violent misdemeanors with long records can’t buy, access firearms.

    So we’re doing two things, working on background checks and making sure that those checks stop the people who are dangerous from getting firearms.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Alan Gottlieb, what is the gun rights movement doing to push back on these efforts?

    ALAN GOTTLIEB: Well, Judy, in the last month alone, 16 states have passed pro-gun rights legislation in the areas of extending conceal-carry rights, where you can carry a firearm, reciprocity, and even Kansas now, which allows you to carry firearm for self-protection concealed without a permit.

    So we have scored 16 big victories in the last 30 days alone. And we plan to have more next month, as legislators roll up their legislation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And is it — are you targeting this? Are you picking places where you think you are going to have a better shot, one assumes? How do you make those decisions?

    ALAN GOTTLIEB: Well, you pretty much make decisions on where you think you can get a bill passed.

    And the only places we tend to have problems are a couple of states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, states that already have very strict gun control laws that don’t work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that pretty much, Josh Horwitz…

    JOSH HORWITZ: I will push back a little bit on that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

    JOSH HORWITZ: I think, if you look at a state like Virginia, where you have a Democratic governor, it’s a purple state, a number — small number of bills did got through the legislature this year, but the governor vetoed them all.

    ALAN GOTTLIEB: No, he didn’t. He just signed two of them.

    JOSH HORWITZ: I think that the battleground now is really these purple states, places like Minnesota, like Washington, like Oregon. These are the places — and they’re not — they’re well outside of Massachusetts, right?

    We saw Colorado pass an historic background check last year. So, we’re really looking at the purple state. And the reason is, is because the people want these policies, and a lot of politicians are realizing it’s finally good politics to do so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Alan Gottlieb, if it’s playing out in the so-called purple states, where the Republican-Democrat balance is — where it’s more evenly divided, what are these battles look like? What is it coming down to? Is it background checks?

    ALAN GOTTLIEB: Well, most places have background checks. Sometimes, it is background checks.

    Like, in Colorado, as Josh just mentioned, a purple state, the state Senate just repealed some of the gun control that was passed last year. So we’re making some gains in repealing some of the stuff that have just gotten through on the other side. I have no problem with background checks. The problem is how the bills are written, when they end up registering gun owners, and creating gun registries and making it impossible to loan a firearm to a friend or your secretary overnight to protect herself when she has a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend.

    Those are the kinds of laws that hurt gun owners. And we can’t support them. You give us legitimate background check bills, we can support those. The problem is, is the ones being proposed have a lot of baggage in them. The devil is always in the details.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And are you finding, Josh Horwitz, are you finding it possible to come together on this legislation, on this kind of legislation anywhere in the country?

    JOSH HORWITZ: There actually are.

    I think this — the idea of keeping guns away from domestic abusers is gaining a lot of traction around the country. You’re seeing Republicans and Democrats come together in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Louisiana, Virginia, working hard to make sure that those types of abusers, those types of people who are dangerous don’t have access to firearms.

    So I think you have to pick in these specific issues. But I do think you’re starting to see, look, we need to make sure that — even Alan is saying this — we need to make sure that people who are dangerous don’t have firearms. We need to make sure that those people are in the database.

    And I think that’s really where we’re going to find some movement. And I think, over the next couple of years, you will see this play out in a very positive way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Alan Gottlieb, we started out listening to a few of the potential Republican candidates in their remarks today at the NRA.

    Did you hear something that stood out particularly for you? Or do these candidates all pretty much reach the same level of support for gun rights, in your view?

    ALAN GOTTLIEB: Yes. I think everybody who spoke at the NRA convention who is a candidate for president pretty much supports gun rights. They may have some differences on what kind of bills they support or don’t support, but they’re all pretty much A-rated candidates, so to speak. There’s no doubt about it.

    The problem we have, when Josh was saying trying to make progress, our problem, it’s hard to make progress when people like President Obama polarize the issue so much, looking to ban certain bullets, ban magazines, ban certain firearms. It polarizes things and it makes everybody go into two sides and two camps. And, as a result, we don’t get anything accomplished.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you respond?

    JOSH HORWITZ: Look, I’m glad to hear this.

    I think that there’s — Alan is saying that there are some opportunities to go forward. I agree with that. I think one of the things that was unfortunate that the NRA convention today was this — so much — so many — all the Republican candidates were pledging fealty to the NRA and bashing Hillary Clinton.

    I think there is room in the middle. I think the American people want background checks. I think they want to make sure that violent people don’t have access to firearms. I do think we’re going to come together on those things.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should say some of the Democratic candidates support gun rights as well.

    JOSH HORWITZ: It goes — there is some bipartisan across there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

    Well, gentlemen, we thank you. And we’re going to leave it there.

    Josh Horwitz here in Washington, Alan Gottlieb joining us from Nashville, thank you.

    ALAN GOTTLIEB: Thank you.

     

     

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama and Cuba’s president Raul Castro will meet tomorrow — a historic encounter en route to restoring diplomatic ties. That word came from White House officials today, at the Summit of the Americas being held in Panama. Leaders of the two countries have not held any substantive, face-to-face discussions in decades.

     

    Federal authorities have charged a Topeka man with plotting a suicide car bomb attack at Fort Riley, Kansas.

     

    John T. Booker allegedly planned a strike in support of the Islamic State group. He was arrested today near Manhattan, Kansas. The FBI said security at the base was never breached.

     

    Tiny towns in northern Illinois picked up the pieces today, after a tornado struck late Thursday, killing two people.

     

    At least one twister cut a path through Fairdale and Rochelle — some 80 miles northwest of Chicago.

     

    70 or more homes were destroyed and fire officials reported just about every building in the area was damaged. The local sheriff lost his own home.

     

    BRIAN VANVICKLE, Sherriff, Ogle County: The damage is pretty significant. I mean, the houses that are affected are severely affected. They’re gone for the most part. Uninhabitable. There’s no – doesn’t appear to be houses with minor damage, it’s pretty much just devastation to where the tornado went through. This time it appears to be at least a quarter mile wide if not a little bit wider than that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some people were trapped in wrecked buildings for 90 minutes after the tornado struck. Officials said today they’re trying to determine if anyone is still missing

     

    In Yemen, much-needed medical assistance arrived in the embattled capital of Sanaa. Thirty-five tons of equipment and supplies were unloaded from two planes sent by the Red Cross and the United Nation’s Children’s Fund. And the situation in Aden was growing desperate, as well.

     

    Dounia Delkhili of Doctors Without Borders had been in Aden until yesterday.

    DOUNIA DELKHILI, Program Manager, Doctors Without Borders: So it’s more than 20 days we witness daily, heavy street fighting in different part of the city. Really heavy, we have received so far more than 6,000 injured.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also in Pakistan, the accused mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India was released on bail.

     

    A Pakistani court ruled that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was to be freed, pending trial.  He’s facing terrorism charges in the deaths of 166 people in Mumbai.

     

    India criticized the release, and the U.S. State Department said it’s gravely concerned.

    China today rejected president Obama’s complaint that it’s intimidating neighbors in the South China Sea.

     

    The Chinese have been aggressively building up bases on man-made islands in the disputed region.

     

    But in Jamaica yesterday, Mr. Obama said just because china is larger, does not mean countries like the Philippines and Vietnam can be elbowed aside.

     

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Where we get concerned, with China, is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its size an muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.

     

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That drew a response today in Beijing, where the Chinese foreign ministry turned the charge back on Washington.

    HUA CHUNYING, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman (through interpreter): You’ve said that the U.S. leader has said that China is showing its size and muscle. I think everyone can see very clearly who it is showing the biggest size and muscle. I think you would agree with my words that China has always been a resolute maintainer and pusher of peace and stability in the South China Sea.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Beijing claims the bases its building will be primarily for scientific research and environmental preservation

    Back in this country, Wall Street scored gains across the board, partly on the news that General Electric will sell its financial arm, GE Capital. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up almost 100 points to close above 18-thousand.The NASDAQ rose 21 points. And the S&P 500 added 11. For the week, the Dow and the S&P gained more than 1 and a half percent. The NASDAQ rose more than 2 percent.

    The post News Wrap: Leaders of U.S. and Cuba to meet for first time in decades appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Lindsey Oliver (L) and Nicole Pries stand during a ceremony performed by Robin Gorsline outside the John Marshall Court's Building in Richmond, Virginia October 6, 2014. Tax Day is an accounting nightmare for same-sex couples who live in states that do not recognize their marriages. Photo by Jay Paul/Reuters.

    Lindsey Oliver (L) and Nicole Pries stand during a ceremony performed by Robin Gorsline outside the John Marshall Court’s Building in Richmond, Virginia October 6, 2014. Tax Day is an accounting nightmare for same-sex couples who live in states that do not recognize their marriages. Photo by Jay Paul/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON– A necessary burden for most Americans, Tax Day is an accounting nightmare for thousands of gay and lesbian couples as they wrestle with the uneven legal status of same-sex marriage in the United States.

    They live in a country that recognizes their marriages, but some reside in the 13 states that do not, an issue that will be argued before the Supreme Court later this month.

    At tax time, and Wednesday is the filing deadline, it gets complicated because most state income tax returns use information from a taxpayer’s federal return.

    Straight couples simply copy numbers from one form to another. But that doesn’t work for same-sex couples reporting combined incomes, deductions and exemptions on their federal tax returns. These couples must untangle their finances on their state returns, where they are still considered single.

    “We’re adults, we’re contributing to the welfare of society and yet, here’s this one thing that just reaches up every year and kind of slaps us in the face,” said Brian Wilbert, an Episcopal priest who lives in Oberlin, a small college town in northern Ohio.

    Wilbert married his husband, Yorki Encalada, in 2012, at a ceremony in upstate New York. He is filing a joint federal tax return for the second time this year. But Ohio, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, requires the couple to file their state tax returns as if they were single.

    “It may not be the most burning thing,” Wilbert said. “But as we think about equality and marriage equality, this is an important thing because it’s part of what couples do.”

    The number of states that recognize same-sex marriages has grown to 37, plus the District of Columbia, since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

    After the ruling, the IRS announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes, even if couples lived in states that did not.

    The Supreme Court is scheduled hear arguments in another same-sex marriage case April 28. Advocates hope the court will compel the remaining states to recognize gay and lesbian marriages.

    Opponents of same-sex marriage want the court to send the issue back to the states. They note that recognition of same-sex marriage has spread largely through court orders, rather than the ballot box.

    “It’s not about the rights of a handful of people who want to change the institution of marriage,” said Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, an Ohio group. “It’s about the will of the people.”

    The benefits of marriage are a mixed bag when it comes to taxes. Some couples, especially those with disparate incomes, can lower their combined tax bills by getting married. Others pay a marriage penalty.

    The vast majority of married couples in the U.S. file joint federal tax returns in which they combine their incomes, exemptions, deductions and credits to calculate their tax liability. But same-sex couples are not allowed to file joint tax returns in most states that don’t recognize their marriages. Instead, they have to unravel their finances and file separate state returns.

    “So you have this one return that would normally give you the numbers to do your state tax return, but instead you have to split all your incomes again and pretend like you’re not married,” said Deb L. Kinney, a partner at the law firm of Johnston, Kinney & Zulaica in San Francisco.

    “Your health care benefits will be taxed differently and your credits will be different. Your interest deduction could be different, and then you have to go through the allocation on each return,” Kinney said. “It’s much more expensive and cumbersome.”

    With the tax filing deadline approaching on Wednesday, states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages are dealing with these issues in different ways. Five states require same-sex couples to fill out multiple federal tax returns, sometimes called dummy returns, so they can come up with the appropriate numbers for their state returns. This is how it works in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and Nebraska.

    First, a same-sex couple fills out a joint federal income tax return, just like any other married couple. This is the return they file with the IRS.

    Next, each spouse fills out a separate federal return as if the filer was single. Information from these returns is used to fill out state income tax returns, which are filed as if each was single.

    “You have to literally make out five returns and file three,” said Scott Squillace, a tax lawyer who wrote a legal guide for gay and lesbian couples called, “Whether To Wed.”

    “It’s dizzying.”

    There’s more.

    “If someone with a joint bank account writes a check for a charitable donation, the question is, do you split it 50-50? Or is it that person’s deduction when they file a single return?” said Arianne Plasencia, a tax lawyer at the Carlton Fields law firm in Miami.

    Kansas, North Dakota and Ohio take a different approach. These states provide worksheets that same-sex couples must complete to separate their finances. In Ohio, the form has 31 lines, though most couples don’t need to fill out every line.

    “There is no way that I, as a Joe Q. Public, who happens to be gay and in a same-gender marriage, would figure out how to fill this form out,” said Wilbert, the Episcopal priest. “I mean, it’s just impossible.”

    Wilbert said he had to hire an accountant to do his taxes for the first time in his life. “I also had to get an extension, which I never had to do.”

    The issue is moot in South Dakota because there is no state income tax. It’s less of an issue in Arkansas and Mississippi because these states don’t use information from federal returns on their state income tax forms.

    Alabama has same-sex married couples divide the income and taxes they report on their federal returns, based on each spouses’ share of their combined income.

    Missouri doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, but Gov. Jay Nixon issued an executive order requiring gay and lesbian couples to file joint state tax returns if they file a joint federal return.

    This is much simpler than in other states. But what if filing as a married couple causes your taxes to go up?

    “For the people it hurts, how unfair,” said Janis Cowhey, a law partner at the Marcum accounting firm in New York. “You won’t recognize my marriage, but you’re going to make me pay more in taxes because I got married somewhere else.”

     

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    MIKE TAIBBI: They’re everywhere on Oahu: on the roofs of businesses, libraries, and one house after another.

    The amount of rooftop solar now accounts for 12 percent of the electric utility’s users. That’s more than 20 times the national average. It’s by far the highest penetration of individual rooftop solar in the country.

    But in this tropical state, where the combination of sky-high energy prices, abundant sunshine, and federal and state tax credits makes going solar a no-brainer, the very popularity of these panels has become a problem.

    MIKE TAIBBI: So we drive up and you have these lovely solar panels on your roof. How’s that workin out for you?

    CARLTON HO: It’s not!

    MIKE TAIBBI: Not working out because by the time aircraft mechanic Carlton Ho joined the rooftop solar parade in September 2013, there were so many people in his area that had installed panels that the local utility company told him  ‘don’t turn on that switch yet.

    MIKE TAIBBI: So it’s just a question of turning the switch on and you have juice.

    CARLTON HO: Yeah.

    MIKE TAIBBI: From your own roof.

    CARLTON HO: And everything is awesome!

    MIKE TAIBBI: But it’s not that simple.

    When you install solar panels, you’re still reliant on the local utility. When it’s dark or when the sun isn’t shining, you need the grid to provide electricity.   Even so, solar customers have a fundamentally different relationship with the utility. Because when the sun is shining any extra energy their panels generate is supplied back to the grid. That earns a credit, further reducing their electric bill.

    But in areas of Oahu, with so many homeowners going solar, the utility said the safety and reliability of the grid could be threatened and slowed to a crawl the approval of new systems.

    COLTON CHING: We’ve made a lot of progress but we know there is still a lot to do as we increase rooftop solar.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Colton Ching is Vice President for Energy Delivery at Hawaiian Electric Company or HECO as the utility is known.

    COLTON CHING: What was happening was that power, which normally flows from the grid to our customers was now beginning to flow back into those substations. Substations which were not 30, 40 years ago designed to operate in that manner.

    MIKE TAIBBI: In addition, HECO had a hard time measuring all that solar.

    COLTON CHING:  Right now we don’t know exactly how much power rooftop solar is producing at any given moment.

    MIKE TAIBBI: So you can’t see at all what 10 to 20 percent of your customer base is producing?

    COLTON CHING: We cannot. We cannot see that.

    MIKE TAIBBI: But while HECO studied the problem, homeowners like Carlton Ho were left waiting. It had been a year and a half that his system had sat unused.

    MIKE TAIBBI: It’s got to be frustrating.

    CARLTON HO:  Yes. Like you come home, you look at the panels on your ceiling nad you know you can’t do anything with it. The bill comes every month. You know you’ve got two bills because I still have my financing. I have to pay for that. I have my electric bills. So.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Ho was left paying his regular electric bill: about $150 a month. Plus another $240 a month in payments for the $23,000 solar panels he’d bought but couldn’t use.

    COLTON CHING: Hawaiian Electric needs to and has taken steps to work with our customers to find solutions that work for them and work for the grid. And we haven’t been perfect. It hasn’t been a perfectly smooth process.

    MIKE TAIBBI: There have been some ugly moments, frankly.

    COLTON CHING: There have been some very very tough moments. It’s been learning moments for us within the utility.

    MIKE TAIBBI: And for the solar industry which took a big hit when the utility slowed new approvals: There were hundreds of layoffs and stockpiles of solar equipment.

    But those solar customers waiting to turn on their systems or even get permission to start construction knew that going solar would still be a good deal— a system up and running would reduce their energy bills dramatically.

    In the meantime, non-solar customers– still the majority– were paying much more to maintain the public grid than those with their own panels on the roof– a disparity HECO suggested could be unfair.

    HECO PROMOTIONAL VIDEO: it makes sense that everyone who uses the grid should pay their share to maintain and improve it because everyone benefits from it.

    MIKE TAIBBI: HECO says that non-solar customers have in a sense been subsidizing those with rooftop solar when it comes to keep the grid humming. A cost shift estimated at more than $50 million dollars.

    All these problems – delays, questions about grid reliability, and fairness – could soon be seen all across the country as the penetration of rooftop solar continues to increase. Solar panels are no longer just for sunbelt states…even the White House had panels installed last May.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA [MAY 2014] : Over the past few years, the cost of solar panels have fallen by 60 percent. Solar installations have increased by 500 percent.

    MIKE TAIBBI: But rooftop solar on a massive scale has consequences still being measured.

    MARCO MANGELSDORF: States on the mainland will eventually be having to deal with some of the issues that we’re dealing with here.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Dr. Marco Mangelsdorf is a solar contractor who also teaches energy politics. Hawaii has been called a “postcard from the future” because of how much rooftop solar is already out here.

    MARCO MANGELSDORF: We are on the new frontier in Hawaii as far as trying to come up with a practical, safe answer to a very, very difficult question which does not have a definitive answer.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Namely, how much rooftop solar can the grid accomodate. And while delays for rooftop solar customers have angered many in Hawaii, Mangelsdorf argues that the caution shown by the utility is warranted.

    MARCO MANGELSDORF: You cannot allow a free for all, anybody and everybody to connect to a utility grid without any type of requirements or monitoring. Just as you can’t have anybody and everybody get on a freeway with a bicycle with a horse, with a buggy, with a moped. I mean the utility grid is a public good, public infrastructure that must be maintained.

    MIKE TAIBBI: But some say delays in approving rooftop solar are less about prudence and more about profit and about preserving the utility’s century old business model as a monopoly.

    ROBERT HARRIS: The problem is that they inherently don’t want to see more of this rooftop solar, and yet they are also arbiters of what power can come on or what’s reliable and what’s safe.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Robert Harris is director of public policy for SunRun, another solar contractor. He says utilities are cautious by nature, but that they can’t ignore the changing landscape around rooftop solar.

    ROBERT HARRIS: The comparison would be, for example, the typewriter industry trying to stop computers because they want to preserve their own business model. And here you could argue that there’s a better model out there that’s going to be cheaper and cleaner. You know, we need to be working hard and trying to make that work better, not just trying to stop it.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Did HECO fail in some fundamental way to see the future?

    COLTON CHING: I don’t think we failed. I do, in hindsight, believe that we could have seen it sooner. We are undergoing a literal transformation process as we speak. It is this change in relationship, the change in the compact between the utility and its customers. It’s no longer the monopoly that’s making all of the decisions and passing it down to its customers.

    MIKE TAIBBI: HECO has pledged to get approvals for rooftop solar moving again and hopes to triple the amount of rooftop solar by 2030.

    But it may not be in a position to decide.

    Last December, HECO announced it was being sold to NextEra, a Florida-based utility giant.

    MIKE TAIBBI: If the deal with NextEra does go through, Hawaii’s electricity consumers will be serviced by a company that says it is committed to renewable energy sources. At this point, primarily utility-scale solar and wind installations.

    That means big solar and wind farms, which today produce more renewable energy across the country than the small-scale rooftop systems that are so popular on Hawaii.   Still the old model though: a utility producing all the power, just using a different source, and selling it virtually as a monopoly. That is not the Hawaii way or at least the way many here have said they insist on going:  to have a choice.

    CARLTON HO: Once we get this thing powered, yeah. A year and a half of frustration, we’ll get over it.

    MIKE TAIBBI: For Carlton Ho and his family that day finally arrived after a year and a half of waiting, They got permission to turn that switch on last month and their solar system is now up and running.

    The post Gridlocked by the power grid: Why Hawaii’s solar energy industry is at a crossroads appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Antiretroviral pills Truvada sit on a tray at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV.  (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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    JOHN CARLOS FREY: At Ward 86, a bustling outpatient HIV clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, nurse Diane Jones drops everything when this pager goes off.

    It means that someone in the city just tested HIV positive.

    DIANE JONES: So, I’m going to make him an appointment.

    Jones is following a protocol called ‘RAPID’ which is designed to get new HIV positive individuals into treatment immediately.

    DIANE JONES: Just got diagnosed today, last negative was June.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Jones scrambles to make plans for the new patient who is seen just hours later.

    It’s part of an ambitious plan in San Francisco to completely end new HIV infections.

    Each year about 50,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV. And while the disease has moved off the front pages as treatment has made infection more of a manageable chronic condition, an estimated 13,700 people still die from AIDS in the U.S. each year.

    Globally, an estimated 1.5 million people are killed. It’s the 6th leading cause of death.

    In San Francisco there are relatively few new HIV infections — 359 in 2013 and overwhelmingly found in gay men. It’s a number that has been falling over the past eight years. But new infections haven’t gone away.

    Today, public health officials, doctors, and activists are increasing their efforts to bring that number all the way down to zero.

    DIANE HAVLIR: We are talking about ending the HIV epidemic.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Dr. Diane Havlir is chief of the HIV/AIDS division at San Francisco General Hospital and a founder of the city’s ‘Getting to Zero’ Consortium.

    DIANE HAVLIR: HIV is one of the worst epidemics of its time.  It’s taken a huge toll on our city, a huge toll all around the world.  We know how to prevent this disease, we know how to treat this disease.  So why would we not want to prevent every single infection, and prevent every single death?

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: In San Francisco, which has spent $400 million dollars fighting HIV over the last decade, this plan calls for controversial new drugs as well as established prevention strategies. But it starts with immediate treatment for new HIV infections.

    DIANE HAVLIR: It did, okay.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: One of Dr. Havlir’s patients, Jose, who is openly gay but asked that we conceal his identity because his family doesn’t know about his health issue, went through the ‘RAPID’ protocol when he was diagnosed with HIV almost a year ago.

    DIANE HAVLIR: Say Ahhhh.

    Within 24 hours of being diagnosed Jose was here at Ward 86, and days later receiving HIV medication.

    JOSE: I was on medication on the third day.  And undetectable within less than 30 days.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Undetectable, meaning his HIV viral load had been reduced by medication to the point where it couldn’t be detected. And the faster a new patient is undetectable, the faster he reduces his chance of transmitting the virus to others.

    In San Francisco, about two-thirds of HIV positive individuals are virally suppressed, like Jose, more than double the national average. But that requires an enormous effort.

    SANDRA TORRES: They might end up in the hospital, that’s when we’re going to meet them again.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: We followed social worker Sandra Torres on the bus as she checked up on a few patients who needed extra help keeping up with their appointments. She and other social workers are continually tracking people down.

    SANDRA TORRES: We’re going to knock on the door.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: In the gritty Tenderloin district we went to a single-room occupancy hotel where an HIV positive patient was staying. He’s an intravenous drug user and not taking medication.

    SANDRA TORRES: Hi Honey, how you doing?

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Torres dropped off an appointment reminder and I asked her about the patient afterward.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: It seems like an enormous effort for one person.

    SANDRA TORRES: That’s what it’s gonna take, though.  That is absolutely what it’s gonna take.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: But in San Francisco, getting to zero is also banking on the expanded use of a new tool: a drug that protects individuals from becoming infected with HIV.

    It’s called Truvada.

    SCOTT WIENER:  If you take the pill once a day, and you take it consistently, you will reduce your risk of HIV infection by, at least, 90%, and perhaps as high as 99%.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Scott Wiener is an elected city supervisor and a member of the ‘Getting to Zero’ consortium.

    SCOTT WIENER: It  just makes sense for people to consider-this additional prevention tool. It made sense for me. And I’m I’m glad that I’m on it.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Wiener, who represents the largely gay Castro district and who is gay himself, went public about his own use of the drug regimen last Fall and makes taking the once-a-day-pill part of his routine each morning.

    SCOTT WIENER: My decision to disclose is really to raise awareness, so more people know about it and look into it, to try to increase access and provide momentum– for better access and to try to reduce stigma.  So whatever stereotypes people have, maybe we can help break those stereotypes.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Including the stereotypes raised by some critics that taking a pill that prevents HIV infection would lead to more promiscuous behavior.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: We’re talking about a drug that in some circles has a stigma of opening the door to a free-wheeling sex society.  HIV’s no longer a threat and we don’t have to worry about unprotected sex.  Do you get any of that backlash?

    SCOTT WIENER: There are some people who have that view.  And it’s really the same argument as when people would argue if you give women access to the birth control pill, you’re just gonna encourage them to be promiscuous.

    Or if you vaccinate young girls against HPV you’re gonna turn them into, I think one person said, “You’ll turn them into nymphomaniacs.”

    Or if you give sex ed to high-school students or middle-school students you’re gonna encourage them to be promiscuous.  These are completely specious arguments.  This is about giving people every tool available to protect their sexual health.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: The use of Truvada for HIV prevention was approved by the FDA in July 2012. The Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines in May of last year recommending the drug for those with substantial risk of HIV infection.

    In San Francisco, researchers believe that wider adoption of the drug could dramatically reduce new HIV infections, but so far only a few thousand San Franciscans have taken the drug in the last year.

    So why isn’t the use of this drug more widespread?

    There are some side effects, as well as speculation that doctors may be hesitant to prescribe a preventative drug to healthy patients, and then there’s the price. Although covered by most insurance, Truvada, is listed at more than $1000 a month

    Even so, it’s not nearly the solution that its proponents make it out to be according to Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, one of the largest AIDS organizations in the world.

    MICHAEL WEINSTEIN: I think the evidence shows that it is not a good public health strategy.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Why is that?

    MICHAEL WEINSTEIN: Well, because people don’t adhere.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: While studies have shown that the regimen can be over 90% effective when taken everyday, Weinstein points out that the efficacy drops off when people miss their daily dose. He also says that relying on a pill instead of a condom may lead to a rise in other sexually transmitted diseases.

    MICHAEL WEINSTEIN: The motivation that people have for taking Truvada is to be able to have sex without a condom.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Do you think that people don’t want to wear condoms either?

    MICHAEL WEINSTEIN: I think men in general don’t wanna wear condoms.  That’s just an absolute truth.  I mean, and it’s not surprising. But, you know, we don’t wear seatbelts either, you know, or helmets or a lot of other things.  But  they’re a necessity.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: So wouldn’t it be better then, to just take a pill every day instead of worrying about transmitting H.I.V.?

    MICHAEL WEINSTEIN: You know what?  If it was guaranteed that everybody would take it every day as prescribed. Obviously our attitude about it would be completely different if we didn’t have to rely on the person to take that pill every single day.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: San Francisco Department of Public Health Chief Barbara Garcia says the city is working to make sure the drug is taken as prescribed, and that doesn’t lead to other safe sex practices being abandoned.

    BARBARA GARCIA: We have already started in trying to educate young people, particularly about this.  And that’s one of the challenges of having even if we had a cure, that would be the same challenge we would have.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Do you see that happening though?  I mean, obviously, if you’re having unsafe sex, you’re going to be transmitting other sexually-transmitted diseases here

    BARBARA GARCIA: And, in fact, we’ve seen a little bit of a rise in S.T.D. here in San Francisco. And we’re addressing that as well.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: It’s not clear that an increase in STDs is related to an increase in the use of Truvada. And Garcia is committed to the drug regimen being a part of ‘Getting to Zero’ in San Francisco. And believes that the city’s approach to ending HIV, including the lives and money it will save, will eventually trump any controversy.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: You can prove to them that you can save money by your model?

    BARBARA GARCIA: Absolutely.  An H.I.V. prevention versus an H.I.V. positive client in care, yes, we can.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: San Francisco has made tremendous advances in battling an epidemic that his this city harder than most. And according to Dr. Havlir actually getting to zero is within reach.

    DIANE HAVLIR:  I think we would all acknowledge that it is going to be difficult to do, but I think if, as we say, if anybody can do it, we think that we can show people how it can be done starting here.

    The post How San Francisco plans to ‘get to zero’ new infections of HIV appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dave Greene, who is living off the grid in Hawaii, stands in front of his house. Courtesy: Dave Greene

    Dave Greene, who is living off the grid in Hawaii, stands in front of his house.

    In Hawaii, the combination of sky-high electricity prices and abundant sunshine have made installing solar panels enormously popular. In fact, the state has the highest percentage of rooftop solar users in the country.

    And while most of those who have installed panels still remain tied to the local electrical grid in order to store the energy they produce and get energy when there’s no sunshine, some residents have also installed their own battery storage system to move off the grid completely.

    In the video above, learn more about how two men in Hawaii have cut manged to cut ties with local utility providers and live off the grid.

    Whether as a hobby or as an experiment in energy independence, both agree it’s only a matter of time before more people make the switch to also become grid defectors.

    What do you think? Share your views on off-the-grid living in the comments section below.

    The post A tale of two grid defectors: Why some are quitting electric companies in Hawaii appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    1.jpg.CROP.original-original

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    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: It’s always just been called “Young African-American Couple in Front of Segregated Movie Theater.” Didn’t have a firm date, we didn’t know anything about it.

    JARED BOWEN: This was the picture that launched the Museum of Fine Arts’ Karen Haas on a curatorial quest: To learn what brought photographer Gordon Parks Back to Fort Scott, Kansas, his hometown, in 1950. What she uncovered was a trove—a comprehensive look at black life under segregation.

    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: He had the power to go back and tell the stories of African American families. Friends of his, people who trusted him, who looked right into his camera. And who really believed that he would do right by them. That he had this opportunity to sort of counter all the stereotypes of African Americans.”

    JARED BOWEN: This exhibition comprises the photographs Parks took on assignment for Life Magazine. He had pitched the story—to return home to Kansas for an extremely personal take on segregation.

    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: He decides to go back and seek out his classmates from elementary school and it turns out it was the entire class of 1927 that he was looking for, all the 11 classmates. And to look at where their lives had gone and what their experiences had been in the 20-plus years since he had seen them.

    JARED BOWEN: It wasn’t easy for Parks to return home. Kansas and Fort Scott had been rife with racism throughout his hardscrabble childhood.

    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: He was the youngest of 15 children. His father was a tenant farmer, his mother was a maid. He described his life as having been very tough later on, having been discriminated against and really felt the need to get away.

    JARED BOWEN: As he tracked down his classmates some 20 years after he’d last seen them, he found that nearly all had moved away—some to Chicago’s South Side.

    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: He found one friend Masel, who was in very dire straights, and he described her as the class tragedy. She was living with an abusive husband, who actually held up Gordon Parks with a gun, and took all his money.

    JARED BOWEN: She was the exception. By and large Parks found his classmates, like himself, had improved their lives.

    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: There was another classmate who had found a very big job at Campbell Soup which apparently was a factory that hired a lot of African American workers.

    So some people were living very middle class lives, but nearly all of the families that he met with were living in mostly African American neighborhoods. And the sad part for me was that recently in revisiting those neighborhoods and trying to find those homes and to go back to the place to get a sense for myself of what they looked like.

    They’re very changed today.

    JARED BOWEN: Haas re-traced Parks’ trip last year—like Parks, her intent was personal too. And tinged with sadness for the homes no longer standing.

    What compelled you to go there?

    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: I am not sure, except to say that I’ve really have become obsessed with this story. I feel as though these are people I’ve come to know through reading Gordon Parks’ notes, reading his notebooks, going through his correspondence, looking through the contact sheets, studying the images.

    I’m really fascinated by these people’s lives. I’m realizing in the process of this research, how little I know of this moment in history.

    JARED BOWEN: And were it not for Haas, we wouldn’t have seen this history. Life magazine never published the Parks story. Haas speculates it was bumped for breaking news and by the time it could be published, the subjects’ lives had already changed dramatically. So here, 65 years later, Parks’ perspective finally sees the light of day.

    KAREN HAAS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: One very exciting thing is that we’ve recently reproduced one of the images from the exhibition, a little girl playing the piano with her mother sitting next to her.

    And just out of the blue have been contacted by this little girl who turns out to be now in her late 60s living in Arizona, a fascinating story.

    Had a wonderful conversation with her about her mother about growing up in Chicago, and I’m thrilled to see that in many ways, her life was exactly what her mother had hoped for her. And she went on to do many of the things her mother was not able to do in her own life.”

    JARED BOWEN: Progress through the lens of Gordon Parks.

    The post Photographer Gordon Parks’ hunt for childhood friends reveals 1940s black life under segregation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The US Capitol is reflected in a fountain, January 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Congress is set to tackle Medicare issues, the Iran nuclear deal, and Loretta Lynch. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

    The US Capitol is reflected in a fountain, January 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Congress is set to tackle Medicare issues, the Iran nuclear deal, and Loretta Lynch. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON  — Racing the calendar, Senate leaders are pushing toward congressional approval of a bipartisan compromise that reshapes how Medicare pays physicians as lawmakers return from a spring break tangled up in domestic and foreign policy disputes.

    Republican and Democratic senators are trying to influence an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, and there’s a fight over abortion. Also, President Barack Obama is awaiting Senate action on his long-delayed nomination of federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to become attorney general.

    For Senate Democrats, the two-week break proved tumultuous.

    Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced he will not run for re-election in 2016. Reid anointed Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to succeed him, creating uncertainty over the rest of their leadership posts.

    New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges and relinquished his job as top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, just as it plays a pivotal role on Iran.

    The Medicare doctors’ legislation presents Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with his most pressing problem. The $214 billion package would permanently retool how Medicare reimburses physicians and it also would provide money for children’s health, community health centers, low-income patients and rural hospitals.

    The normally divided House rallied behind the measure last month with a 392-37 vote. Eager to signal that Republicans now running the Senate can do so effectively, McConnell said the bill would be handled “very quickly” when lawmakers return and he envisioned passage “by a very large majority.”

    The measure would block a 21 percent cut in physicians’ Medicare reimbursements that technically took effect April 1. By law, the federal agency that writes those checks can’t do so until 14 days after it receives a claim, and it plans to start making payments at the lower rate on Wednesday. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services makes roughly 4 million Medicare payments to doctors daily.

    The Senate returns to work Monday, which gives leaders two days to finish the bill or risk fielding complaints from physicians and seniors. Doctors say payment cuts make them less likely to treat patients of Medicare, which helps the elderly pay medical bills.

    McConnell’s biggest problem is that senators from both parties are clamoring to amend the legislation, which was a rare compromise between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

    Congressional aides and lobbyists say conservatives, including GOP Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Mike Lee of Utah, want to require savings so the measure will not add a projected $141 billion to federal deficits over the coming decade.

    Democrats, including Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, want to expand the bill’s two years of extra money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to four years and offer other amendments, though Wyden said Thursday he would support the measure without changes.

    Leaders were hoping to avoid votes on any amendments, and the chances that any would pass seemed small. Any changes would return the measure to the House, where its fate would be uncertain.

    On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes center stage, debating whether a push by lawmakers of both parties to influence a potential deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program will hamper negotiations among Tehran, the U.S. and other world powers.

    The committee plans to vote on legislation by the chairman, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Menendez that for 60 days would block Obama from waiving Iran sanctions imposed by Congress. The White House wants lawmakers to hold off until the June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal passes.

    Iran says its program is for civilian purposes, but the U.S. and other countries suspect it is developing nuclear weapons.

    The Senate also is trying to settle a dispute over legislation cracking down on sex trafficking. Democrats are blocking action because they say the bill would toughen restrictions on abortions. Efforts to reach a compromise have fallen short for weeks.

    Lynch’s nomination as attorney general is backed up behind the trafficking legislation. McConnell says the bill must be cleared before he will hold a confirmation vote. Lynch appears to have a narrow majority in her quest to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder and become the first black woman to hold the job.

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees said formal negotiations to resolve disputes over defense spending and complete a compromise budget-balancing plan could start this week. A deal is crucial because it would let Republicans send filibuster-proof legislation repealing Obama’s 2010 health care law to his desk later this year.

    With the tax-filing deadline Wednesday, the House plans votes this week on repealing the inheritance tax on large estates and other bills trimming taxes and curbing the IRS.

    This report was written by Alan Fram of the Associated Press.

    The post Break over, Congress faces fights over Medicare, Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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