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

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    davidbrooks

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: our newest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    In “The Road to Character,” our own David Brooks urges us all to rethink our priorities.

    I talked with him late last week at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant and bookstore chain in and around Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, thank you for talking to us about this.

    DAVID BROOKS, Author, “The Road to Character”: Good to see you in a strange setting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the people who see you every week on the NewsHour analyzing the news or read you in The New York Times may not realize that you have a lot of interest in things that go beyond politics and policy.

    And they may be asking, is this the same David Brooks I see on television who wrote this book?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I wasn’t born with a tie or with Mark Shields stapled to my left hip. I have another life.

    And that’s sort of the balance of what this book is about. The idea is based on the idea that we have two separate sets of virtues, which I call the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues. And the resume virtues are the ones we bring to the marketplace. Are we good at being journalists or teachers or accountants?

    And the eulogy virtues are the things they say about you after you’re dead. And they’re deeper? Were you honest, were you caring, were you courageous, were you capable of deep love?

    And we live in a culture and I have lived a life that’s spent a lot more time thinking about the resume virtues than the eulogy ones, but we all know the eulogy ones are more important. And so this book is about people who developed those deeper virtues and how they did it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why has that struck a chord with you? Why did you want to spend time thinking about that and writing about it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Sometimes, you go — you achieve a few things in life. I have achieved more career success than I ever experienced or that I ever thought. And I just realized, it doesn’t make you happy. It’s an elemental truth. It’s so true.

    Secondly, occasionally, you would meet somebody — I remember I was up in Frederick, Maryland. And I ran into some ladies who tutor immigrants on how to read English. And it takes years for them to do this. And I walk in a room with about 30 or 40 or them. And I was immediately struck by wave of inner light. They radiated an inner light of graciousness, of hope, of good cheer.

    They were patient. They weren’t bragging about what wonderful work they were doing. They weren’t thinking about themselves at all. And I looked — I remember looking at that inner light that they had, and I think I have achieved things in life, but I don’t have that. I would love to have that.

    And the book doesn’t get you there, but I wanted to study people who had that and figure out how they did it, so I could at least some day try to get closer to that inner spiritual goodness that they have.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and, in fact, you do. You pick out at least half-a-dozen extraordinary people, people who live lives of consequence, from, what, Saint Augustine to Samuel Johnson, Jane Addams, George Eliot, General Marshall.

    DAVID BROOKS: Dorothy Day and Frances Perkins and Bayard Rustin.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why did these people make the cut? What was it that sets them apart?

    DAVID BROOKS: There were two things they did really well.

    First, they started out as sort of a mess. They were all sort of disorganized. They all had a sin, a core sin. For George Eliot, she was so emotionally needy. For Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights leader, he had an ego. For Dwight Eisenhower, it was a temper. For Dorothy Day, just fragmentation.

    And — but they all overcame it. They identified their core sin, what was weakest in themselves, and they did spiritual exercises and activities that made — turned their made weakness into a strength. And by middle age, they had achieved remarkable depth, remarkable goodness, and really a tranquility.

    And so I wanted to see people who transformed themselves inside. Of course, they achieved great things outside, but it was more important than what they did, but who they were is so inspiring. But it’s nice to have that sort of community of friends and inspiration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If you could boil it down to one thing, in a very simplistic way, is it, we all need to be — to think less about ourselves, to be more self-effacing?

    DAVID BROOKS: Humility is what they all had. And some people think humility is thinking lowly of yourself. Some people think it’s not thinking about yourself.

    But, to me, the best definition of humility is radical self-awareness from a distance, seeing themselves from a distance and saying, what’s my problem? And so, for Eisenhower, he had this furious passion and an anger and a hatred, but he constructed — he knew he could not lead from a point of anger and hatred.

    So he constructed a persona that was gentle, that was convivial and sort of a country club guy. And, in some ways, he did it by very shallow and superficial means. He hated people, so he would write their names on pieces of paper and rip them up and throw them in the garbage can.

    In other ways, it was a deeper level of self-discipline. And so, in my view, success is earned externally by being better than other people. But character, that sort of unfakeable goodness, is earned by being better than you used to be. And it’s about self-confrontation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You also say, I think, toward the end of the book, the prescription is something like we all have to stand against the prevailing winds of whatever the culture is telling us to do.

    That’s hard.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    We live in a culture of a big me. We’re encouraged — we raise our kids to think how great they are, where we have to market ourselves to get through life. We’re in social media, where we broadcast highlight — highlight reels of our own lives on Facebook.

    And, you know, especially me, I’m a pundit. I’m, like, paid to be a narcissistic blowhard and be in front of the camera. But the key to this kind of world and this kind of life is stepping outside that. And so one of the conclusions I came to was that it’s your ability to make connections. The people who really have character make deep, unshakable connections to something outside themselves.

    They’re capable of a web of unconditional love and they’re committed to tasks that can’t be completed in a lifetime. Frances Perkins, one of my great heroes in the book, was committed to the cause of worker safety. And she was sort of committed to it for a little while. But then she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and saw hundreds of people die.

    And that was her call within a call. And after that crucible moment, her self quieted, her personal ambition went by the wayside. She just became an instrument for a cause. And she was a remarkable, remarkable person.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You said at the very beginning of the book you wrote this to save your own soul. Did you succeed in doing that? Are you — did you save your soul?

    DAVID BROOKS: No, reading a book and writing a book don’t get you there, but I think it gives you map.

    And I hope, in the years ahead, I can follow that map and become gradually a better person. I think, in the last five years, hanging around and being inspired by these people, I have changed a little. Hopefully, I have gotten a little better. I’m — one of the things I — now people confide in me. They didn’t used to confide in me, but hopefully I’m able to show a little more vulnerability.

    And I have read so much now about what suffering does to you, what love does to you. And I have put it in the book, that, hopefully, I have something to say to these people. So, I feel I have made a little progress. But, believe me, I’m capable of great bad behavior. I wouldn’t want to hold myself up.

    But I do think trying to live each day as a bunch of moral occasions, did I live up to what I would hope, and, if I didn’t, what can I do tomorrow to be a little better, I do think we can improve. We get better at life as we get older.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, we’re glad to be able to talk to you about it, “The Road to Character.”

    DAVID BROOKS: Thanks so much, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    The post Why character, not career success, is key to a life of consequence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    waterpower

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: the possibilities of getting more energy through water.

    Humans have long harnessed the power of water to perform work. In modern time, hydroelectricity, generated by the power of water flowing through turbines at the base of dams, has been a small, but key source of renewable energy.

    But experts say there is a lot of potential for new sources of hydropower. A startup in Portland, Oregon, has developed one system that may one day be in cities around the country.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report. It’s the latest story in our ongoing Breakthroughs series on invention and innovation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Industrial engineer Susan Priddy takes advantage of rare sunny days in Portland to ride her Harley to work. And in her job as director of operations for Lucid Energy, she takes advantage of the regions’s abundant water supply. This small start-up has developed a new technology.

    SUSAN PRIDDY, Lucid Energy: How’s it going today?

    MAN: Very well.

    SUSAN PRIDDY: What is our energy coming out today?

    MAN: Right now, we’re running about 40 kilowatts.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Priddy and Lucid engineers were monitoring the energy generated by drinking water as it flows through turbines integrated into these pipes. Lucid has designed the first hydroelectric system designed to harness the energy in gravity-fed drinking water pipes found throughout Portland and in many municipalities around the country.

    We dropped in recently for a tour.

    SUSAN PRIDDY: So, here we are down in the vaults. We have got water flowing this direction. The turbine is right here. And the flow of the water, because it’s a lift-based system, just turns the turbine. And then the turbine is connected to the generator. And from the generator, it goes through some power electronics across the street to the grid.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How much energy is this thing generating?

    SUSAN PRIDDY: Our nameplate is 200 kilowatts, so roughly enough energy for — to supply electricity for 150 homes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The system was installed in Portland late last year and recently began operating at full capacity. Unlike some parts of the country, there’s no shortage of water here. The city’s well-known downtown fountains and most homes and businesses are supplied with gravity fed drinking water from a pristine forest watershed near Mount Hood.

    GREGG SEMLER, Lucid Energy: There’s no mystery to what we’re trying to do. We’re just recovering energy that’s embedded in the flow of the water.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Gregg Semler is president and CEO of Lucid Energy. The privately funded company currently employees a handful of bike-riding engineers who spend their days thinking of new ways to tap liquid energy flowing through pipes.

    MAN: Is that actually something that was just floating in space?

    MAN: This one right here?

    MAN: Yes.

    MAN: It’s mounted to the wall.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Their office is based in a Portland incubator called Hatch, with other small environmentally and socially focused start-ups.

    GREGG SEMLER: The advantage of the Lucid pipe system is that we produce electricity all the time, around the clock, without any environmental impact. So, it’s very unusual to find sources of energy that you can produce electricity without any environmental impact in today’s world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And how does it compare to the renewable energy sources that most of us are familiar with today, solar and wind?

    GREGG SEMLER: When you compare the cost of the Lucid pipe power system with other traditional sources of renewables, like wind and solar, to generate the same amount of energy that Lucid is generating would cost three of four times more for the same amount of energy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The 60-foot pipe and four turbines inside cost nearly $2 million to build and install, far more than a conventional section of water pipe. But a group of private investors are taking the risk, so it costs the city nothing to try.

    The city’s power utility, Portland General Electric, PGE, has agreed to buy the energy at the same price as other renewable energy sources for the next 20 years. The plan is for Lucid Energy, the city’s water bureau, and the investors to share profits.

    WOMAN: This is the first check for us delivering energy and being paid for it. So we are very excited.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Representatives from PGE recently meet with the Lucid team to see how the new system is working.

    MAN: Those two units over there are meters that really get to the power purchase agreement. And that’s where the money is.

    MAN: Yes. We want to see the cash register go up.

    MAN: You want it to spin, right?

    MAN: We want to produce as much energy as possible.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Charlie Allcock is PGE’s business development director.

    CHARLIE ALLCOCK, Portland General Electric: Here in Oregon, we have a renewable portfolio standard, where we have to meet, and — by the end of this year, 15 percent of our customers energy use with renewable sources. We have been doing it mostly with wind and some solar. But, if this technology performs well, it will be on our list.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Oregon isn’t alone. Hydroelectric power is getting new attention from scientists and investors.

    Several East Coast companies are developing turbines to harness the power of tides in New York’s East River and off the coast of Maine.

    Portland State University vice president Jonathan Fink studies urban sustainability issues. We met him at one of Portland’s ubiquitous food truck lots.

    Can we get two minted lemonades?

    As we began to chat, Portland’s notorious wet weather began to create streams of potential energy all around us.

    This is awesome.

    Fink sees Lucid’s technology contributing to a broader effort by communities to move away from non-renewable energy sources.

    JONATHAN FINK, Portland State University: In Portland, as an example, we get a lot of our energy from coal-fired power plants 200 kilometers east of here. That’s not great.

    So how do we replace that? We’re not going to replace it with one big nuclear power plant. We’re going to replace it with a lot of conservation, a lot of smaller steps like what Lucid is doing, with solar, with wind.

    What has to happen nationally and globally is, each city does these experiments, figures out what works, and then they have to exchange that information. And then you add it all up, and cities can really save a lot of energy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: CEO Semler says the focus is now on developing turbines that could be placed in smaller drinking water pipes found closer to homes.

    GREGG SEMLER: They might be able to power, like, an electric vehicle charging station essentially with free energy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The company is currently negotiating agreements with several cities in the U.S., including San Antonio and New York, as well as in other countries. And they hope to have more pipes and turbines in place in Portland over the next few years.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Hari Sreenivasan in Portland, Oregon.

    The post How drinking water pipes can also deliver electric power appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A sign is seen pinned to a tree during a demonstration against the kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria, outside the Nigerian Embassy in London

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    GWEN IFILL: One year later, we look deeper into the story behind the still-missing girls, the rise of Boko Haram.

    For that, we turn to Christopher Fomunyoh, regional director for Central and West Africa at the National Democratic Institute.

    Thank you for joining us again.

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH, National Democratic Institute: Thanks for having me.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s hard for those of us who watched this a year ago to imagine that, a year later, the girls are still — so many of these girls are still missing. Are there any theories, any working theories about what’s become of them?

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: Well, it’s a very sobering day for Nigeria, and I would say even for humanity, because this has become a worldwide story with Bring Back Our Girls.

    And there was some hope that, 365 days after the girls had been discovered, they would have been found and reunited with their families. But it’s sad to say that, as of today, it’s difficult to say where many of the girls are, whether they’re still alive, and whether they will be found in the not-too-distant future.

    GWEN IFILL: Has the search in the girls taken a back seat in some ways to this fight against Boko Haram?  Is that the bigger problem here?

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: No, I would say that the girls have come to represent the face of all of the brutality or all of the atrocities of Boko Haram and that, in the past two months, we have seen Boko Haram lose ground to the Nigerian military and also to the multinational forces from Chad and Niger Republic and from Cameroon as well.

    And so, in that process, I think finding these girls remains a priority, because they are like — I mean, they represent the worst of what Boko Haram has done to human life in that part of Nigeria. And I think, unless the girls are found or unless that story is brought to closure, there will be open questions as to how effective the Nigerian government is being in bringing down Boko Haram.

    GWEN IFILL: Explain to people who are as not as familiar with the geography of Nigeria exactly where this problem is. Right along the border, right?

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: Well, it’s in the northeastern part of Nigeria in one of the 36 states of the federation, in a state called Borno state.

    About three months ago, Boko Haram had expanded its reach into neighboring states of first Borno and then Yobe and Adamawa states. But, as of a month — as of two weeks ago, Boko Haram has been pushed back into one or two counties in Borno state.

    So, in terms of the geographic area of coverage, Boko Haram has really suffered some casualties and some losses in recent weeks. But, at the same time, the heart of the Boko Haram operations in the Sambisa — Sambisa forest, as well as in some of the neighboring towns such as Gwoza, remain really prominent.

    And until Boko Haram is driven out of those localities, it will be difficult to say that the phenomenon has been dealt with completely.

    GWEN IFILL: And, as Amnesty International reports, there have been other mass abductions. This hasn’t stopped.

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: There have been other mass abductions. There have also been other mass killings. In fact, there have been stories of Boko Haram when it was being driven out of villages, just going out and slaughtering ordinary civilians, men and women and children, sometimes people who had been under their — who had been captured by Boko Haram in the past.

    And so this phenomenon has caused a lot of havoc and a lot of mayhem in Northeastern Nigeria, as well as in neighboring countries of Cameroon and Niger.

    GWEN IFILL: Nigeria has recently elected a new president, who takes over at the end of May. You’re just back from Nigeria.

    How has the change in the political situation perhaps affected, if at all, or helped the search?

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: There is some hope and some optimism amongst Nigerians that Buhari will be better able to tackle the Boko Haram crisis than his predecessor.

    He’s a retired military general, so he’s had some familiarity with the need to beef up the morale of the Nigerian military and to better equip and train the forces. He’s also a northern Muslim, and so would have more leeway in dealing with Boko Haram, as opposed to his predecessor, who was a Christian from the south.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there anything that is expected of the U.S.?  Is there anything the U.S. is still doing, should be doing as this moves forward?

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: Well, I think there’s an expectation.

    Given that the U.S. has always said publicly, manifested its desire to have the people of Nigeria and the government of Nigeria deal with these extremist forces, there’s an expectation that the new president-elect will be able to quickly mend relations, bilateral relations between Nigeria and the U.S., especially with regards to defense-related and security-related matters.

    We may remember — you may remember that the Jonathan government took offense when the U.S. government couldn’t supply the Nigerian government with Apache helicopters.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: And that became a little bit of — that kind of weakened the diplomatic relations.

    There’s an expectation that Muhammadu Buhari will do much better, he will mend those relations quickly, so that the U.S. — with the expertise that the U.S. has, can help train and better equip the Nigerian military to face up to Boko Haram.

    GWEN IFILL: We hope that the goal is achieved, at least, the ultimate goal.

    Chris Fomunyoh of the National Democratic Institute, thank you very much.

    CHRIS FOMUNYOH: Thanks for having me.

    The post Can Nigeria’s new president advance the search for the missing schoolgirls? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Nigeria marks one year since Chibok girls' abduction

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s been one year since schoolgirls in Northern Nigeria were kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram, making headlines around the world.

    Gwen has the story.

    PROTESTERS: Bring back our girls home now and alive!

    GWEN IFILL: Nigerian activists paraded in the country’s capital, Abuja, to mark the grim anniversary and renew their demands.

    SOLAMIPE ONIFADE, Activist: We are here to appeal to the government to do better. We want our girls now and alive.

    GWEN IFILL: Boko Haram militants kidnapped 300 girls from this school in the northeastern town of Chibok a year ago today. Dozens of the girls managed to escape, but 219 disappeared.

    Their plight triggered worldwide calls for their release, with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Even first lady Michelle Obama took part.

    But Boko Haram’s leader dismissed the outcry in a video last May.

    ABUBAKAR SHEKAU, Leader, Boko Haram (through interpreter): Just because I took some little girls from their Western education, everybody is making noise. I repeat, I took the girls, and I will sell them off. There is a market for selling girls.

    GWEN IFILL: The attack on Chibok was part of a larger Boko Haram campaign to create an Islamic caliphate, allied with the Islamic State group in Northeastern Nigeria.

    In the process, the militants have killed thousands, and Amnesty International estimates they have also abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the beginning of 2014.

    DANIEL EYRE, Amnesty International: We found that Boko Haram is using torture, that they have also raped and forced these women and girls into marriage with their members, and is even training some of them to fight.

    GWEN IFILL: Since the Chibok attack, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan repeatedly promised to bring the captives home safely. But, in the end, his failure to make good on those promises contributed to his defeat in last month’s election.

    Today, the man who ousted him, president-elect Muhammadu Buhari, left open the possibility that the Chibok girls may never be rescued. He said in a statement: “Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.”

    Even so, today’s protesters emphasized that, while the girls are gone, they are not forgotten.

    OBIAGELI EZEKWESILI, Leader, Bring Back Our Girls: Our Chibok girls will remain an open sore on the conscience of our nation.

    AISHA YESUFU, Activist: We ought to have protected them. We failed them. Each and every one of us, we failed them. And the next best thing that we ought to have done is to have rescued them. And up until now, we have not done that.

    GWEN IFILL: There were also tributes to the missing girls around the world. Demonstrators in Paris carried banners and signs, proclaiming their solidarity at a rally near the Eiffel Tower.

    And tonight in New York, the Empire State Building will be lit up in purple and red, the colors of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

    The post Girls kidnapped by Boko Haram inspire protest and tribute one year later appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    senflake

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more, we are joined by Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He’s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

    Welcome to you, Senator.

    You know, it’s so unusual to see any compromise at the Capitol. How did this come about?

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) Arizona: You know, it is.

    A 19-0 vote, that’s something that’s quite odd now, but this came as a result of a lot of work between Bob Corker and Ben Cardin and a number of people on the committee. And so over the past several days, they have been working to try to make a bipartisan product. And they did so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, some of our Republican colleagues had staked out some pretty tough positions on the Iran nuclear deal.

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: They were asking for, among other things, compensation for the Iranian hostages going back to the 1970s and ’80s. They were asking for Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist. What happened on that? Why did they back down?

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Well, I think we all recognize that these are legitimate issues and need to be addressed at some point, but I think we came to the realization or at least agreed enough to put that off and to address that at another time and not part of this agreement.

    This nuclear agreement is too important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I know you were among those who had been working to try to see something worked out. For example, you didn’t sign that letter to the Iranian leaders urging them against a deal, a nuclear deal.

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why do you think it got to this point? I interviewed Secretary Kerry last week. And he said, after all, Congress — he said the Senate already has a vote on lifting any sanctions. Why was there the need for this additional role for Congress?

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Well, this role is really related to the sanctions.

    What this legislation does is just spell out what we will do when the final agreement is submitted, and our role comes because of the sanctions. We impose them, and only Congress can lift the sanctions. And so I think that this role really is because of the sanctions.

    And the fact that it’s coming now is just kind of setting up what happens after and if a final agreement is reached.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, we have seen so much pushback on the part of many members of Congress about this nuclear deal, a lot of criticism. How would you describe the atmosphere now? Do you think the tension is gone? Are the suspicions still there? How do you size it up?

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Well, there is still justified skepticism about Iran’s ability to abide by the terms of the deal once we see the deal.

    And what the ayatollah said a couple days ago just reinforces that skepticism, because he seems to have a different agreement — or — I’m sorry — a different interpretation of the agreement than we have heard.

    So there’s a lot of skepticism, but I think when we look at the alternatives, there are no good alternatives. And so I think it behooves us to see what’s in the final agreement and take it from there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know or we believe there are still going to be attempts on the Senate floor to amend this, to make changes. What do you expect to happen?

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Yes, the amendments, everybody kind of agreed to put off whatever amendments weren’t part of the so-called management — I’m sorry — the manager’s amendment.

    And so we didn’t entertain any amendments today on the — in the committee, but they probably will come on the floor. But my guess is, there will be a sufficient number of people who realize that we can’t have those amendments if we’re going to have the final deal, and, therefore, we will have votes on those amendments, but, in the end, the final bill will look pretty close to what it look like now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Senator, what is your expectation, that there will be a deal that will come out of U.S.-Iran negotiations by the end of June?

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: You know, I think it’s a — it’s — I don’t know. I really don’t.

    Every time I hope that they’re making progress, you hear statements that make it think we’re still a long ways off. But, frankly, I have been supportive of the negotiations, all there while being very skeptical that Iran will actually agree to it. But whether they agree to it or not, I think this has been an important process to go through.

    We have got to ensure that this coalition that we have maintained, this international coalition , stays together. And if we need to impose tougher sanctions, those sanctions need to be multilateral. And so it’s been important to go through this exercise, even if it were not to lead to an ultimate agreement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Jeff Flake, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we thank you.

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Thanks for having me on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now let’s turn to the NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, and our political reporter, Lisa Desjardins.

    You have both been watching this all day long and before that.

    Margaret, what happened here? I asked Senator Flake that, but you went from, 48 hours ago, the president was saying, I’m going to veto this to everybody saying, OK, we’re all on board.

    MARGARET WARNER: It became apparent to the White House that even many Democrats who support the diplomatic track thought this was a matter of congressional prerogatives. They had imposed a lot of these sanctions. They needed to have a role.

    And so the White House was trying to push this watered-down version which would say, after we get a deal, you get to look at it and let your views be known. But that would be meaningless, because the president could waive those congressional sanctions.

    This bill forbids him from doing that. So, his hand is stayed for 30 days. And faced with the possibility that you could have waves of defections on this bill, that would have left Secretary Kerry in an even weaker position dealing with the Iranians. They knew that.

    And, also, frankly, they feel Senator Corker is someone they can do business with. You saw him very effectively corral all of these members, including two presidential candidates on that committee, to all join in unanimously. That was quite a coup.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Flake was marveling to me before our interview that they had gotten all the members of the committee.

    Lisa, fill us in a little bit more about what’s in this agreement, this compromise.

    LISA DESJARDINS: There are a number of triggers in this bill.

    A lot of our viewers will hear 30 days, 10 days. Margaret was talking about this. But, basically, if you want to talk big picture here, this deal gives Congress just under two months to react to an Iranian deal it doesn’t like. They have two months to try and basically oppose it.

    Now, what’s important here — and Margaret also mentioned this — is the — you heard Jeff Flake say in the interview, only Congress can roll back these congressional sanctions. Only Congress can roll them back permanently. The president has power under the sanction law to roll them back temporarily.

    Now, what this deal does, it freezes that. It says, during this period of about two months, when Congress is reviewing the deal, the president cannot roll back these sanctions. Iran wants him to. This says, no, you can’t do it. That’s an important power for Congress. It gives them the room to maneuver.

    Ultimately, though, if Congress does get disapprove of a deal, they will need a supermajority to block it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, does this mean the White House has given up some of its prerogative to Congress?

    MARGARET WARNER: You know, yes and no. In other words, the president — a lot of the sanctions that Iran is most upset about were imposed by Treasury. They have to do with Iran’s access to the international banking system. Congress had nothing to do with that.

    This bill doesn’t prevent the president from rolling those back right away. It doesn’t prevent the E.U. from rolling them back. You heard Zarif talk about them. It doesn’t say anything, as I understand it, about what the White House’s position has to be at the U.N. about U.N. sanctions.

    And I think the one thing it does, it does somewhat tie Secretary Kerry’s hands. But he can now say to Zarif, to his counterpart, look, the alternative was the prospect of a hugely disorderly process, with members, Republicans all the time coming up with new sanctions rules. We have got a game plan now, a blueprint, and, you know, we’re going to — if you want a good deal and you want to satisfy the Congress, you might have to give a little more on centrifuges.

    So the White House doesn’t buy that argument. They would have rather had nothing, but you heard some Democrats making that point today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Lisa, it’s clear the president did some backing down on — or the White House did. But there was also some backing down on the part of the Republicans.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Absolutely.

    And talking to Republicans as this vote was coming to the committee, it was fascinating, Judy, because they kept saying to me, this is a difficult decision, but a little bit of what Jeff Flake said, we felt we had no other option, because, honestly, the president could waive these sanctions without us if we did nothing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the White House was making that argument all along. It wasn’t sticking.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s the problem. That’s it.

    And they felt like this was their only chance to have a choice. It doesn’t mean that they can get the votes they need if they ultimately oppose an Iran sanctions deal. They will need 67 votes in the Senate. Could get them, maybe not. But they like this because, Judy, if they can get 67 votes, that means it’s a bad deal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it sounds like — I mean, for both of you, it sounds like Senator Corker had to do some real talking and I don’t know, arm-twisting? What do you want to call it?

    MARGARET WARNER: It was arm-twisting, but also being incredibly reasonable.

    You had some of at the hearing today — every single person he spoke to, he said, oh, thank you so much for your input on this. It’s been so valuable.

    And he’s just been very cool and measured about it. He said, I’m just a businessman. I knew nothing about Iran.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARGARET WARNER: One interesting distinction — he’s hornswoggled everybody, but he — there is an interesting distinction here.

    It’s not like a treaty, where the burden is on the White House. You know, when you send up a real international treaty, the Senate can sit on it for years. And you have to get 60 senators willing to bring it.

    Here, as one Republican senator very upset about it was complaining, this isn’t like a treaty. We have got 30 days to make up our mind, and, otherwise, if we don’t disapprove of it, the president can just roll right on by us.

    So, the White House — it sounds like a technical timing issue, but it actually is quite important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But — and it sounds like, at the same time, it does give Secretary Kerry some wiggle room in the negotiating?

    MARGARET WARNER: Absolutely.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Both sides got something out of this.

    Now, the White House really wanted nothing, but at least they did get their wiggle room. They got a shorter timeline. And the White House, importantly, got a time frame for a congressional reaction. So, if Congress disapproves, there’s a veto back and forth. That could stay open forever.

    This says, you only have this amount of time to rule — to ring in on this deal. Also, Republicans, Judy, got a seat at the table now. They didn’t have a seat at the negotiating table. It’s not a full seat, but they do have a seat. And I think perhaps the American people got a win for statesmanship, honestly, out of this.

    MARGARET WARNER: But it’s a seat in the back of the room, and it’s no — you know, no potshots being thrown from the sidelines.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It’s not the expensive seats.

    MARGARET WARNER: At least, that’s what the White House thinks this deal means, though I think when you were talking to Senator Flake, it was pretty clear on the floor, it’s probably not going to be quite as orderly as it was today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it has to be a weight off the shoulders of Secretary Kerry.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: Lisa knows that is ahead.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I predict this goes through fast. Corker and Cardin have made a deal. They will block all amendments.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. We heard it here.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, Margaret Warner, we thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: Always a pleasure.

    The post Despite skepticism of Iran, ‘no good alternatives’ to making a deal, says Sen. Flake appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    on April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: a bipartisan breakthrough to let Congress vote on a final nuclear deal with Iran. A compromise bill won committee approval today 19-0, and a presidential veto threat evaporated.

    News of the compromise came as senators entered a briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry.

    Tennessee Republican Bob Corker chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) Tennessee: I believe Congress should play a role in ensuring that all the details that need to be in place are there, and that, on behalf of the American people, before the congressionally- mandated sanctions are lifted, that we on their behalf ensure that this is something that holds Iran accountable, is enforceable, and certainly is very transparent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was echoed by Corker’s opposite number on the committee, ranking Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland.

    SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D) Maryland: I think this is the right way for Congress to be — to take up this issue. I think this is congressional prerogative and we’re the ones who imposed the sanctions. We’re the ones who are going to have to take it up for permanent changes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Under the compromise, Congress will have 30 days to review a final nuclear deal with Iran. If it disapproves the deal, the president gets 12 days to veto that action. Then, Congress has 10 days to try to override any veto.

    But the congressional review period reverts to 60 days if a final agreement with Iran comes after July 9. That’s nine days past the negotiators’ deadline. Senate supporters have been working to make sure the measure would garner a veto-proof majority of 67 votes.

    But the White House suggested today a veto is no longer in the cards.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: We have gone from a piece of legislation that the president would veto to a piece of legislation that’s undergone — that’s undergone substantial revision, such that it is now in a form of a compromise that the president would be willing to sign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That set the stage for this afternoon’s unanimous vote in the Foreign Relations Committee, while, in Madrid, Spain:

    MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran: I think we are, in fact, close to an agreement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran’s foreign minister announced talks on the final deal will begin April 21. But he insisted again on lifting economic sanctions all at once, something the U.S. has rejected.

    MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Whatever happens inside the U.S. and however they want to spin it, all the sanctions, economic and financial sanctions that have been imposed on Iran by the U.N., by the E.U. and by the United States must go in the first stage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of which suggests negotiators still have a way to go before there’s any agreement for Congress to review.

    The post Senators reach bipartisan agreement on Iran oversight bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Image via Marvel/Netflix

    Netflix heard the message from blind fans of the blind hero Daredevil. Image via Marvel/Netflix

    “Daredevil,” Netflix’s newest original series that features blind lawyer Matt Murdock take to the streets as the eponymous protagonist, ironically didn’t come prepared to aid blind fans in watching the blind hero.

    However, like the agile Daredevil, Netflix made a quick move to rectify the problem — only four days after the series’ April 10 release.

    Starting today, Netflix added an audio description track to “Daredevil,” allowing blind and visually impaired fans an alternate way to enjoy the series without needing to see the visuals. The new feature, Netflix explained, “is a narration track that describes what is happening on-screen, including physical actions, facial expressions, costumes, settings and scene changes,” adding that viewers could access the narration “just like choosing the soundtrack in a different language.”

    “At Netflix, we work hard to continually improve the experience for our members when viewing movies and shows on our service, including providing accessibility across devices,” Tracy Wright, director of content operations at Netflix, wrote in a blog post for the company. “Now we’re expanding our accessibility options by adding audio description on select titles, beginning today with our new critically acclaimed series, Marvel’s Daredevil.”

    Entertainment Weekly described how the audio description track worked in a post today, even revealing that the narration includes a description even for the Netflix logo:

    Netflix has introduced audio descriptions to all episodes of Daredevil, an English audio option that will overlay each episode with a voice describing the action in between dialogue. The voice picks up right from the start, even explaining how the Netflix logo appears — “Letters pop out from a white background, then turn red. Netflix,” a voice says. The voice then narrates characters, locations, actions, and more from each episode so that those physically unable to see the screen still have a sense of what is happening beyond the dialogue.

    The move comes after some negative reaction over the revelation that “Daredevil” would be released without an audio description track. CNBC quoted comic book creator Rich Bernatovech, who posted to Facebook after getting no response from Netflix about his concerns.

    “Am I the only person who finds it bad that there is a show about a blind superhero coming on TV and people, more importantly children, who are visually impaired will not be able to enjoy this show unless they find their own way to get audio description?” he wrote.

    Wright wrote that Netflix was “actively committed to increasing the number of audio-visual translations for movies and shows in our English-language catalogues,” adding that the company would explore “adding audio description into other languages in the future.” Though Daredevil is currently the only Netflix original series to carry audio descriptions, Netflix says they’ll be adding the feature to their other original series, including “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Marco Polo,” in the coming weeks. Netflix also expect to add audio description to be available for other content in the future.

    The post Netflix adds audio descriptions for visually impaired to ‘Daredevil’ and other shows appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) from his office after party policy lunch meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington April 14, 2015. McConnell said on Tuesday he was optimistic the Senate would pass legislation to fix Medicare doctor reimbursements before midnight. Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the legislation to fix Medicare doctor reimbursements was “a sensible compromise.” Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Legislation permanently overhauling how Medicare pays physicians won approval Tuesday from an atypically united Congress as lawmakers banded together to erase an irritant that has dogged them for years.

    Adding urgency to legislators’ work, the measure headed off a 21 percent cut in doctors’ Medicare fees that would have hit home Wednesday, when the government planned to begin processing physicians’ claims reflecting that reduction. The bill also provides billions of extra dollars for health care programs for children and low-income families, including additional money for community health centers.

    Working into the evening, the Senate approved the measure 92-8 less than three weeks after the House passed it by a lopsided 392-37. With Republicans controlling the Senate since January, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been eager to demonstrate his party’s ability to conduct Congress’ business efficiently.

    Conservatives were unhappy that two-thirds of the bill’s $214 billion, 10-year costs were financed by simply making federal deficits even bigger, while liberals wanted added money for children and women’s programs. But McConnell defended the measure.

    “It’s another reminder of a new Republican Congress that’s back to work,” he said after the vote. “And while no bill will ever be perfect, this legislation is a sensible compromise with wide bipartisan support.”

    Top Democrats also expressed support for the legislation.

    “Tonight is a milestone for the Medicare program, a lifeline for millions of people,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

    President Barack Obama has promised to sign the bill, which marks a tandem effort by Democrats and Republicans at a time when the two parties are far likelier to block each other’s initiatives.

    The bill’s chief feature was its annulling of a 1997 law aimed at slowing the growth of Medicare that has repeatedly threatened deep cuts in reimbursements to physicians and led to threats by doctors to stop treating the program’s beneficiaries. Congress has blocked 17 reductions since 2003, an exercise that invites intense lobbying and difficult choices about finding budget savings that both parties detested.

    Instead, the measure would create a new payment system with financial incentives for physicians to bill Medicare patients for their overall care, not individual office visits.

    While Democrats touted the legislation’s added funds for children and the poor, Republicans were claiming victory in changes the bill makes in Medicare that would have a long-term though modest impact on the huge program’s finances.

    While $141 billion of the measure’s costs over the decade would come from added federal red ink, about $35 billion would come from Medicare beneficiaries, mostly by raising the medical and prescription drug premiums paid by some upper-income recipients starting in 2018. Though the affected beneficiaries already pay higher premiums than lower-earning people, Congress seldom increases costs on seniors, fearing retribution come the next Election Day from older voters.

    The bill would raise another $37 billion by cutting Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and other providers.

    Before passage, senators rejected six amendments, three from each party, that were all but sure to lose but let lawmakers demonstrate their disapproval of provisions they opposed.

    A Democratic proposal to extend the two years of extra money the measure provided for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program to four years lost on a 50-50 vote — short of the 60 votes needed to prevail. By 58-42, the chamber rejected an effort by conservatives to force Congress to find enough savings to pay for the entire measure without increasing federal red ink.

    “Honestly it’s my hope that the amendments are not approved, because we need to get this bill down to the president for signature before midnight,” McConnell told reporters.

    Senators faced conflicting pressures from lobbying groups.

    The American Medical Association and other providers’ organizations were urging lawmakers to pass the bill. AARP, the senior citizens’ lobby, wanted legislators to back an amendment ending Medicare’s annual coverage limits for therapy but stopped short of urging the bill’s defeat without that change.

    Conservative groups including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America pressed lawmakers to support the GOP amendment — which lost — to require Congress to pay for the entire bill.

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who crafted the compromise with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warned senators of the impending doctors’ cuts and underscored the futility of trying to amend the bill.

    “The House legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, and we do not plan to act again, so we urge the Senate to approve the House-passed bill without delay,” Boehner said in a written statement.

    The 21 percent cut in doctors’ fees technically took effect April 1. Citing federal law, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stopped processing those claims two weeks ago — in effect giving lawmakers time to complete the legislation. The agency processes around 4 million Medicare payments for doctors daily.

    The post Congress OKs bipartisan bill changing doctors’ Medicare fees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo of chickens at a Maryland farm by Lance Cheung/USDA

    Photo of chickens at a Maryland farm by Lance Cheung/USDA

    WASHINGTON — Consumer interest in the organic label continues to grow.

    The organic industry says U.S. sales of its products jumped 11 percent last year alone, to more than $39 billion, despite tight domestic supplies of organic ingredients. And the number of U.S. organic operations has grown by 250 percent since the government started certifying organic products in 2002, according to new Agriculture Department data released Wednesday.

    The industry estimates that organics now make up almost 5 percent of total food sales in the United States. But much of the growth is also in nonfood items like textiles and personal care items. The Organic Trade Association says those nonfood sales jumped almost 14 percent last year and totaled more than $3 billion.

    The industry has been rapidly growing since the United States put strict rules in place for organic labeling 13 years ago — some critics say growing too much, as food giants like General Mills and Kellogg have entered the organic game and many small organic food companies have grown into large businesses.

    Laura Batcha, head of the trade association, says that growth has helped the industry move beyond a niche market.

    “The only way to create change is for there to be widespread adoption,” Batcha said.

    Organic foods generally are grown with fewer chemicals and artificial ingredients and are produced according to a strict set of government standards. Foods cannot be labeled organic unless their production adheres to those rules, and those extra steps mean prices for organic products are generally higher.

    USDA said the number of organic operations grew 5 percent last year and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced it will create a new database so consumers can track companies’ organic certifications.

    “The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

    Despite its success, the industry is facing some major challenges, including struggles to source enough organic ingredients. Much of the shortage is in organic milk and eggs, due to low inventories of organic corn and soybeans that feed cattle and poultry. The industry says there have also been some shortages of fruits and vegetables, which make up the largest sector of the organic market, due to difficulties finding land suitable for organic farming.

    Some of the supply issues trace back to cultural issues in highly agricultural areas, where farmers see organic as an enemy that is disparaging the quality of their conventional product. Growing organics also means you can’t use as many chemicals like herbicides, which many farmers have grown used to.

    The industry is also fighting confusion in the marketplace, with many food packages touting “natural” ingredients — a term the industry believes consumers confuse with organic. To combat that, organic producers are pursuing an industry-funded Agriculture Department “checkoff” campaign — think the milk industry’s “Got Milk?” ads — to promote itself and make those distinctions.

    The Organic Trade Association data released Wednesday show sales growth in all areas of the country. But the strongest sales remain in the Northeast and on the West Coast, and 73 percent of organic buyers are white. Just 16 percent of those who buy organic are Hispanic and 14 percent are black.

    The trade group says sales among minorities have jumped sharply, and note the breakdown closely resembles the demographics of the United States.

    “Our survey shows organic has turned a corner,” said OTA’s Batcha.

    The post Consumers buying more organic products, new data show appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Older woman working at a computer

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.

    Moeller is a research fellow at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-
    author of “How to Live to 100.” He wrote his latest book, “How to Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” with Making Sen$e’s Paul Solman and Larry Kotlikoff. Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoeller or e­mail him at medicarephil@gmail.com.


    Your Medicare Questions

    Medicare rules and private insurance plans can affect people differently depending on where they live. To make sure the answers here are as accurate as possible, Phil is working with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). It is funded by the government but is otherwise independent and trains volunteers to provide consumer Medicare counseling in state and local offices around the country. The nonprofit Medicare Rights Center is also providing on­going help.


    Jan – N.J.: At age 65, I was forced off my employer’s health care plan and had to enroll in Medicare. I also purchase Medicare supplemental insurance. I am 68, continue to work and collect my Social Security. Why are the medical premiums I pay not deductible on my taxes unless my medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of my income, which they don’t? When I had health coverage through my employer, my insurance was pre-taxed. This does not seem fair. My younger co-workers are not taxed on their insurance premiums.

    Phil Moeller: Jan, I am very sympathetic. You’ve discovered yet another disconnect when moving from employer health insurance to Medicare. This is an unpleasant shock in many ways, and this jolt does not spare your wallet.

    You’ve discovered yet another disconnect when moving from employer health insurance to Medicare….and this jolt does not spare your wallet.
    Tax deductions for employer-provided health insurance premiums are a terrific workplace perk that Medicare beneficiaries don’t enjoy. While this doesn’t help you, imagine how people feel who buy health insurance on a state exchange through the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? They get no tax deductions on their premiums, either, even though their coverage may be similar if not identical to employer-provided health coverage. Of course, lower-income folks may qualify for ACA premium tax credits. Over time, if more employers stop providing health insurance and force employees onto exchanges, the pressure will grow to change if not end the deductibility of premiums for employer-provided health plans.

    Lastly, at the risk of piling on, that 7.5 percent threshold for deducting medical expenses is now only available to taxpayers 65 or older. It will rise to 10 percent for everyone beginning with the 2017 tax year.


    Eileen – Wisc.: I’m turning 65 in two months, but I plan on working full-time through January 2016, and will have an employer health plan. Can I postpone Medicare until then or do I have to enroll/suspend all or some of the various parts (A, B & D). Is there anyone locally, at a government agency, I can meet with to discuss these issues?

    Phil Moeller: The short answer is that you should not need to sign up for any type of Medicare unless your employer has 20 or fewer employees. The rules for these small-employer plans may require Medicare to become the primary payer of insurance claims with the employer plan the secondary payer. Even if you work for a larger employer, you are very smart to want to check out these matters ahead of time. Talk with someone in human resources to find out if there are any changes to your health insurance when you turn 65. Also, find a SHIP contact for your state and talk with one of its counselors.

    If you decide to begin taking Social Security benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Parts A and B of Medicare. If Social Security payroll taxes have been deducted from your pay for at least 10 years, Part A hospital insurance is free. Part B coverage does have a monthly premium but you can, as indicated above, decline this coverage. Send back the Medicare card you should have received in the mail, along with the form you received stating that you do not want Part B. You should then receive a new Medicare card that does not have Part B on it.

    If you collect Social Security, you will not be able to participate in a high deductible health plan with a health savings account.
    Also, be aware of a big Social Security-Medicare “gotcha.” If you collect Social Security, you will not be able to participate in a high deductible health plan with a health savings account (HSA). Readers are still discovering the nasty reality that filing for Social Security at 65 or older automatically enrolls you in Medicare Part A, and this will disallow your continued participation in an HSA provided by your employer’s health plan. I know of no way to decline Part A short of not claiming Social Security benefits at all. This seems like a sure money loser, even if it permitted continued participation in an HSA.

    Here’s what Fay from Idaho had to say, in part:

    I mostly want to raise awareness of the problem. Most agents have not been trained to deal with these issues; the Social Security literature and website do not inform applicants about the matter; my husband’s human resource and benefit manager people gave me incorrect information. Local Social Security agents said it wasn’t their responsibility and that my health insurance company should have informed me. When I asked for a written copy of these policies, they couldn’t produce them but said they were in the consumer literature for Medicare and Social Security and on the website — a claim I feel pretty sure they have not tested. I certainly didn’t see this information when I was trying to research how enrollment would affect participation in an HSA before I filed.

    I am a flaming liberal, at least by the standards of Idaho where I live, but I am gaining great insight into the complaints about government that are a staple of politics in this state…. This makes me sad because I believe in government. I want it to be transparent, reasonable, equitable and capable of admitting and correcting its mistakes.


    Joby – Texas: In your story, “Guess who really pays for your Medicare,” you state that: “Most of the projected costs of the fix during the next 10 years would be paid by Medicare and thus add to federal budget deficits.” You are working with the same misguided premise that lawmakers use, which is that Medicare is part of the federal budget. All the time I was working, in addition to the standard income tax that was taken out of my monthly paycheck, I also paid a separate Social Security tax, and a separate Medicare tax. This means that both Social Security and Medicare have nothing to do with Congressional budgets, and can neither add to nor detract from the discretionary budget Congress works with…. My question is this: How do we get this information into the heads of the lawmakers so hell-bent on reducing Medicare payments so as to “save” their budget, thus making us seniors pay even more out of our Social Security check? How do we explain to them that Medicare is NOT part of their budget, any more than Social Security is?

    Phil Moeller: What Joby says is true for Medicare Part A, which covers hospital costs. Like Social Security, it has a trust fund that is funded with Medicare payroll taxes – 1.45 percent of payroll for both the employee and the employer. Unlike Social Security, there is no wage ceiling on Medicare taxes. The Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund is sufficiently funded to pay all claims for the next 15 years or so. But, like the much larger Social Security retirement trust fund, it needs attention much sooner than that to avoid running out of funds. And the second Social Security trust fund that deals with disability claims is going to run out of funds next year. The Republican majority in Congress has, to date, disallowed the short-term fix of siphoning funds from the bigger retirement trust fund to the smaller disability fund. Leaders say it’s time to fashion longer-term solutions and stop kicking the can down the road.

    So far, so good. But what Joby says about Medicare in general is not true, which the story he cites documented very clearly. The Medicare payroll tax pays nothing beyond Part A. Beneficiaries do pay premiums for Part B (physicians plus certain outpatient and medical equipment expenses), Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (stand-along prescription drug plans). But as the story noted:

    According to the 2014 Medicare Trustees’ Report, these premiums totaled $73 billion in 2013. While that’s hardly chump change, total Medicare outlays for these programs were $316.8 billion. Nearly all of the difference, or more than $236 billion, came from general government revenues. By law, in fact, Medicare Part B premiums need cover only 25 percent of projected Part B expenses.

    There are many, many reasons to support the continuation and even expansion of Medicare programs for people aged 65 and older. But the common battle cry – These are our benefits! We paid for them! – is simply not one of them.

    The post Beware this Medicare gotcha when you file for Social Security appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Oklahoma classroom

    Demonstrators in 2012 burn their student loan bills on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to protest the rising cost of higher education. Getting an education is important, but is college right for everyone? Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: This month, thousands of students across the country will receive college admission letters and will have to make their decision on which college or university to attend. But teacher Jillian Gordon argues that this decision could be the first step on an expensive, illogical path for many students, not all of whom will need a four-year degree or benefit from a college environment.


    As the flowers start to bloom and it begins to look a little greener outside, many teachers are feeling the weight of winter stress lifting off of them. But the opposite is happening to high school seniors across the country who are in the midst of making a tough decision: where, and if, they should go to college.

    teacherslounge

    I teach agricultural science, an elective course at my school. I am lucky that the students in my room walk in each day because they made the choice to be there, and for the most part, this allows me to connect with these students in a way that is more difficult in the core class environment. I get to know them, their families and their siblings. Because of this connection, it is really important for me to talk to my students about their plans for after graduation.

    I tell many of my students not to go to a four-year college. Many of you are gasping at this point, I’m sure. But with student loan debt reaching an all-time high of $1.2 trillion (surpassing credit card debt), and little research to support that the investment is worth it, I am cheating my student by not encouraging them to make the best choice for themselves. And a four-year degree is not always synonymous with “best choice.”

    A bachelor’s degree is not a piece of paper that says “You’re a success!” just as the lack of one doesn’t say “You’re a failure!”
    There is an epidemic of college students across the country choosing majors at four-year universities that do not lead to a viable career path after graduation. The “underemployment rate” for young college graduates is 44 percent. What does that mean? Almost half of the recent graduates in the United States are employed in positions that do not require a college degree.

    A few years ago, I worked closely with a student who very much wanted to be a reporter. She was passionate about it, and spoke about her dreams with wide eyes and a contagious smile. The issue? This student’s writing was subpar at best, and her talents, while immense, were not shown through her academic ability. She simply did not have the grades to make it through four more years of college.

    Guilty of it myself, I watched as all of her teachers smiled at her and encouraged her to follow her dreams, no one having the courage to push in her a direction that was more logical for her to take. We smiled and watched as she dropped out of college and moved back home with no back-up plan in place. I had to learn the hard way that sometimes it’s our jobs as teachers to tell students no, otherwise life will do it for them — and life is rarely ready to catch them when they fall.

    We are doing a disservice to our students. We are assuming all students need the same thing: that they need to go to college. When we know that it may not be the best choice for them, we are cheating them of reality and a worthy, challenging education simply because they are the textbook version of a “good student.” We do not have the courage to tell them no, so instead, we let the much harsher voice of life do it for us.

    Many may argue that getting a four-year college degree is the key to achieving the American dream and the only path to upward mobility in terms of economic prosperity.

    But when my students can go to a two-year technical school for about $20,000, receive an associate degree in welding technology and reliably earn a wage of up to $59,000 (some specialties, like underwater welding, can command up to $90,000 and more, with experience), I find the idea of a four-year university, where students graduate with an average of $30,000 in loan debt, the least logical path of upward economic mobility.

    For some of my students, a four-year university is by far the best option for them. But this isn’t the case for all students, and we need to stop pretending it is. A bachelor’s degree is not a piece of paper that says “You’re a success!” just as the lack of one doesn’t say “You’re a failure!” As educators, it’s time to stop pushing all of our students to go to college, and instead push them towards the path that is right for them.

    Jillian Gordon is a student teacher in agricultural education at Ridgemont Public Schools in Ridgeway, Ohio.

    The post Why I’m telling some of my students not to go to college appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tax Forms Ahead Of 2014 Income Tax Deadlines

    Well done, you have finally filed your taxes! Don’t you think you should be rewarded for that?

    Whether you are like the 90 million other taxpayers that filed early or were waiting until the last day (which is today), you should be entitled to get a little something for filing your taxes. Luckily, there are many companies that feel the same way and are willing to give you that extra pat on the back.

    • Free Chips and Queso at California Tortilla
    • Yes, today only you can give your chips queso (or salsa) for free. All you have to do is purchase a meal and say their secret password “Taxes Shmaxes.”

    • A meal for a song at Hard Rock Cafe
    • California Tortilla isn’t the only food chain that is making you work just a little extra for your meal. The Hard Rock Cafe has a “Sing For Your Supper” promotion. Today, if you get on stage and sing your favorite tune you will be given a free Local Legendary Burger.

    • Buy one, get one free at Boston Market
    • Walk into any Boston Market and buy an individual meal and get another individual meal for free. (You can’t use any other discounts or promotions and it’s only limited to three “BOGOs” a person.) You can get a meal, whole sandwich, a sandwich combo, salad bowl or a market bowl.

    • Half off burgers at Sonic
    • Burger chain Sonic is hosting happy hour prices throughout the day today. All cheeseburgers at Sonic will be half price.

    • At participating IHOPs, kids will eat for FREE.
    • Another good reason why kids are great during tax day. At participating IHOPs when you bring your children in from 4 p.m to 10 p.m, they will eat for free. Just another reason to love your kids a little extra this time of year.

    • Win free gift cards at Pizza Hut
    • Keeping in the spirit of filling out forms, Pizza Hut is hosting a contest for customers to win free Pizza Hut gift cards. All you have to is fill out this P-2 form and mail it in. Winners will be announced April 21, 2015 and last day to mail in your “form” is on April 18th.

    • Free Shredding at Staples
    • Spring is here and Staples will help you out with some spring cleaning. Staples is offering to help you clean the clutter of documents that has been piling up over the years. Just go to Staples.com, print out the coupon and shred up to five pounds for free.

    • Check your local bars.
    • Most bars all across the nation is having their own Tax Day special. Some are hosting all day happy hours while others have great deals on drinks. So depending on your own drinking well, the deals are endless!

    So, congratulations! You’ve gone through another year filling out those dreaded tax forms. You can now sit back, relax and enjoy some freebees. After all, you deserve it.

    The post Take your tax pain away with some Tax Day deals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A man was arrested after landing a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. The small helicopter was painted with a U.S. Postal Service logo. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

    A man was arrested after landing a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. The small helicopter was painted with a U.S. Postal Service logo. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

    WASHINGTON — Police arrested a man who steered his tiny, one-person helicopter onto the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, astonishing spring tourists and prompting a temporary lockdown of the Capitol Visitor Center.

    Capitol Police didn’t immediately identify the pilot or comment on his motive, but a Florida postal carrier named Doug Hughes took responsibility for the stunt on a website where he said he was delivering letters to all 535 members of Congress in order to draw attention to campaign finance corruption.

    “As I have informed the authorities, I have no violent inclinations or intent,” Hughes wrote on his website, thedemocracyclub.org. “An ultralight aircraft poses no major physical threat — it may present a political threat to graft. I hope so. There’s no need to worry — I’m just delivering the mail.”

    Capitol Police identified the aircraft as a “gyro copter with a single occupant.”

    House Homeland Security panel Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the pilot landed on his own, but that had he made it much closer to the Capitol authorities were prepared to shoot him down. “Had it gotten any closer to the speaker’s balcony they have long guns to take it down, but it didn’t. It landed right in front,” McCaul said.

    Witnesses said the craft approached the Capitol from the west, flying low over the National Mall and the Capitol reflecting pool across the street from the building. It barely cleared a row of trees and a statue of Gen. Ulysses Grant.

    John Jewell, 72, a tourist from Statesville, North Carolina, said the craft landed hard and bounced. An officer was already there with a gun drawn. “He didn’t get out until police officers told him to get out. He had his hands up'” and was quickly led away by the police, Jewell said. “They snatched him pretty fast.”

    Downtown Washington is blanketed by restrictions on air traffic that generally prohibit aircraft from flying over the White House, the Capitol, the national Mall and key buildings without special permission.

    The situation was under investigation and streets in the area were shut down. Emergency vehicles were dispatched to the area and a robot bomb detector was sent over to the craft.

    Amid the commotion, the small craft presented a strange sight sitting on the green lawn of the Capitol, its rotors slowly spinning.

    The post Gyrocopter lands on Capitol lawn; pilot arrested appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) waves to the crowd after he announced his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech at Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida April 13, 2015.  Photo by  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) waves to the crowd after he announced his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech at Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida April 13, 2015. Rubio raised over $1 million during his first day as a presidential candidate. Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio raised $1.25 million online during his first full day as a White House candidate.

    A source close to Rubio’s campaign said Wednesday that the amount is the entire sum the Florida Republican had hoped to raise before July 1. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the campaign’s inner workings.

    Rubio launched his presidential campaign Monday evening in Miami and his campaign made an aggressive online fundraising push Tuesday.

    Rubio’s haul is on par with other presidential hopefuls. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky each raised $1 million online in their first 24 hours.

    The post Rubio raises $1.25 million online during first campaign day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rhiannon Giddens performs “Julie,” a song inspired by a conversation between a slave and her mistress during the Civil War. Video by Frank Carlson and Mike Fritz

    Singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens is the first to admit that she’s big into history, and in particular the history of the South and the Civil War.

    In the video above she performs “Julie,” which she wrote after reading “The Slaves’ War,” by Andrew Ward, a book that draws on hundreds of primary and secondary sources to recount the Civil War from the perspective of a the slaves. Included is a story of conversation between a mistress and her slave as the Union Army was set to liberate her plantation.

    “And it struck me really forcibly hard — that idea of the complicated relationship between the owners and what they thought of as their property, but were actually in so many ways their family,” Giddens said. “It just really struck me how in the institution of slavery … no matter how it seems like one group of people wins, everybody loses.”

    Giddens, who for years toured as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is now touring to promote her new solo album, “Tomorrow Is My Turn.” She performed “Julie” at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee, while there for the Big Ears Music Festival.

    Watch Chief Arts Correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s full profile of Giddens and her new album on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    The post Rhiannon Giddens performs ‘Julie,’ a song inspired by a slave’s story appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    rihannon

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: a singer celebrating American roots.

    At the White House last night, Rhiannon Giddens performed in a concert honoring the history of gospel music. And that’s just one American tradition Giddens is helping to repopularize as she tours the country for her first solo album.

    Jeffrey Brown has our profile.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a powerful song, “Waterboy,” made famous by the folk singer Odetta, now becoming a signature for a powerful new voice of today belonging to Rhiannon Giddens.

    At 38, Giddens has just released her first solo album, titled “Tomorrow Is My Turn.”

    And though now stepping out into the spotlight, here recently at the Big Ears Music Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, she told me she hasn’t lost sight of what’s important to her.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS, “Tomorrow is My Turn”: I’m just so passionate about the history. I’m always reading books about history, and, you know, I feel like my mission is to perform. You know, of course, that’s what I was here to do, but, like, that extra thing is to bring attention to music that doesn’t necessarily get the light of day a lot.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The album “Tomorrow Is My Turn” is named for a song made famous by Nina Simone. And like Simone, Giddens grew up in North Carolina and trained as a classical musician.

    Her debut celebrates women who influenced her, some famous like Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline, others, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Libba Cotten, much less so.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS: I have been really thinking about the women in Americana music and the women in American history, and just kind of thinking about all these really strong women who broke down doors, and had to kind of overcome lots of hardship to, like, even have a music career, and just how much I benefit from that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The album also showcases Giddens’ range through gospel, blues, country, and jazz.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS: To me, all of those songs, blues, jazz, country, all of them actually do belong side by side, because they’re all coming out of this common well of sort of the proto-American music, like this roots stuff, you know, and so it was just kind of irresistible to be able to do them all together.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Giddens studied opera at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. It was there, she came back to earlier loves, folk music, first through contra dance, similar to line dancing, and then string band music from Appalachia.

    That led to an exploration of the often-overlooked role of African-Americans in the genre. Her group, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, won a 2010 Grammy for best new folk album.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS: String band music is a cross-cultural thing. It’s not a white thing. It’s not a black thing either. I’m a mixed-race person, you know, and I was raised with both culturally, and I was raised sort of with the Southern sort of the melange of cultures.

    And so, to me, getting that information out there is way, way important, because it’s like, look, guys, like, this is why American music is so strong.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Then, one of those moments that can change a career, a concert in New York in 2013 put together by legendary music producer T. Bone Burnett to celebrate the film about the early folk music scene “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

    Many stars performed, Joan Baez, Jack White, Patti Smith, and Elvis Costello among them. But, by all accounts, Giddens stole the show, including with a rousing song in Gaelic.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS: It was like, don’t screw it up, don’t screw it up, don’t screw it up, you know, and the rest of it just kind of came as a total surprise.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Soon after, T. Bone Burnett offered to produce Giddens’ first solo album.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS: I would be a fool to not use all the tools at my disposal, you know, because really the important thing to me is music and the mission.

    So, if me being a soloist is going to be the best way to get it out to more people, I will do it. If me, like, putting on makeup and a nice gown is going to help the mission and to get the whole project taken forward, I will do it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you’re being, in a sense, for the larger public, discovered at 38.

    RHIANNON GIDDENS: Yes, and I’m so grateful for that. I was an idiot at 28. You know what I mean? Like, I like have to say, you know, that I’m a half-idiot now. So, you know, you just learn so much as you get older. I have got kids. Like, I just know what’s important in this life. It’s a good spot to be in at the moment.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At the moment and into tomorrow.

    From Knoxville, Tennessee, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there’s more from Rhiannon Giddens online, where you can see her play the banjo and sing a new song. It’s called “Julie” and was inspired by a conversation between a mistress and her slave during the Civil War.

    The post Singer Rhiannon Giddens taps America’s deep musical roots appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    iran1

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: As the international debate continues about reducing Iran’s nuclear capacity and lifting punishing international sanctions, there is still considerable anger on the streets of Tehran and it’s directed at the West.

    Those messages have often emanated from mosques across the country during Friday prayers.

    New York Times Tehran bureau chief Thomas Erdbrink meets one of the true believers in this latest installment of his video diary. It’s produced by Dutch public broadcaster VPRO. We call it Dispatch: Iran.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK, The New York Times: Every Friday morning, Hamid-Reza Ahmadabadi steps on his motorcycle in a town close to Tehran and drives to a weekly Friday prayer session, just as he has been doing so for years.

    The weekly Friday prayers have long dominated the image of Iran, and despite the recent attempts to mend ties with the West, it is still business as usual here.

    MAN (through interpreter): Thirty years ago, Imam Khomeini told us we shouldn’t have any contact with the U.S. The reason was that America is the big Satan. If you chant death to America, they will be lonely and sick.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK: It is a powerful propaganda machine that simultaneously in 700 locations across the country disseminates the state’s most important decisions and policies.

    MAN (through interpreter): As long as America continues with their devilish actions, we will keep chanting, death to America.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK: There are some guys here who are like warming up the crowd. Let’s have a look at them.

    One man who has become famous in Iran symbolizes the declining, but determined power base of the hard-liners, who control the Friday prayer sessions. He is always in front of the cameras, and his nickname is Mr. Big Mouth.

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI, Iran (through interpreter): Hello. Welcome.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): You are famous.

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Please come in. I am at your service.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): So, you are every week at the Friday prayers and always in front. And when you are there, you shout more slogans than all the others.

    Like, what kind of slogans?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): We shout, death to America, but first we say, Allah is great. We say that three times. And then we shout, Death to Israel, death to England, death to all of them, we say, and also to the seditionists. We shout so much, so our screams are heard in the entire world. These are our laws and regulations. Death to America, death to Israel, and death to England. All divisions are because of England.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): When I see you, I think to myself, this man really hates something. Do you hate America?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Yes.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Do you hate Israel?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Yes.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Do you hate England?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Exactly.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Do you wake up in the morning and think, I hate all of them?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Even in our sleep, we shout death to Israel. In our sleep, we say this.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): You hate them that much?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Yes. We feel this hate. The world of Islam hates them.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Doesn’t that give you negative energy?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): No, no, it actually gives me more energy. We do this in order to get more energy.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): How does that give you more energy?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): When you shout with foresight Allah is great, it circulates more blood.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK: Mr. Big Mouth’s hate towards the United States is so deeply rooted that he even refuses to meet his own nephew, who decided to leave Iran and start a new life in the West.

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): You know why?  Because I know that, when he returns, his wife will come with him. His wife is a foreigner. When she comes, you know, with their democracy, freedom, without a head scarf, she will wear a tank top, perhaps. We do not agree with such things.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Will it confuse you?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Yes, of course. We have problems with that. That is why we will never accept it.

    MAN (through interpreter): America needs to be destroyed. America is our enemy. As long as the world exists, America will be our enemy. Imam Khamenei has said, America is the great Satan. Death to America.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK: While Mr. Big Mouth might seem to be a caricature, he does resemble the faction that in reality holds almost all power in Iran. These hard-liners, a small group of Shiite Muslim clerics and military commanders, are not interested in real change.

    Actually, for them, any change from their rigid interpretation of their ideology poses great dangers. Mr. Big Mouth is one of their loyal foot soldiers.

    (through interpreter): When I talk to you, I get the impression are you afraid of change.

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): I am very afraid of change.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Why?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Because I don’t like change.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): The change you fear has already taken place. The country has changed.

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): It became prosperous.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): No, it changed.

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): Yes, I accept that it exchanged.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Do you think that time will ever return?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): No, that time will never return. It will never return.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): So you are engaged in a battle you will never win?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): My intent is to show that everything has its own place. At times, you must be tough. At other times, you must be gentle. Be calm with the people.

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Those who are against it?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): What do you mean by against?

    THOMAS ERDBRINK (through interpreter): Against your ideology. What should they do?

    HAMID-REZA AHMADABADI (through interpreter): They have three options. Shut up, or get the hell out of the country, or go to prison. We give them these three options. That is how we deal with people who oppose.

    The post Tehran’s ‘Mr. Big Mouth’ on his deep-rooted hatred of the West appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    lincolnslegacy

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Abraham Lincoln died 150 years ago today. He had been shot by actor John Wilkes Booth while watching a play at Ford’s Theatre in the nation’s capital. His assassination came just five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the main Confederate forces in Appomattox, Virginia, ending four years of civil war, with over 750,000 casualties, two events with long-lasting effects.

    Jeffrey Brown takes it from there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d, and the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.”

    Walt Whitman wrote those famous lines about the death of Abraham Lincoln.

    We take our own look at that moment and the legacy of the Civil War.

    We’re joined by Martha Hodes, a professor of history at New York University and the author of the recently published “Mourning Lincoln.”  James McPherson, professor emeritus of history at Princeton University, his new book is “The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters.”  And Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.”

    And, Martha Hodes, I want to start with you.

    Is it possible to speak of one reaction to Lincoln’s assassination? What happened in the days that followed?

    MARTHA HODES, Author, “Mourning Lincoln“: Well, it isn’t possible to speak of one reaction.

    African-Americans, both North and South, and white Northerners felt that there was one reaction. They felt the whole country was in shock and in grief, but in fact they knew that there were other people who were not responding as they were responding, Confederates, Lincoln’s Northern enemies, the Copperheads. Even some members of Lincoln’s own party were relieved that he had been assassinated because they thought he would be too lenient on the Confederates.

    James McPherson, you know, we look at President Lincoln through the shroud of time. Who was he? Who did you come to see him at, at his death?

    JAMES MCPHERSON, Author, “The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters”: Well, Lincoln was a master politician. Politics was in his blood. It had been from the time he was a young man.

    And as president of the United States and commander in chief of the Army, he wielded this political experience in a way that could unite the country on behalf of the war, to save the Union and eventually to abolish slavery. I think it all stems from his shrewdness and his skill as a politician.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Isabel Wilkerson, you would write about the aftermath of all of this for so many African-Americans. What about in that first period, in those first days?

    ISABEL WILKERSON, Author, “The Warmth of Other Suns”: Well, in those first days, there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty and yet hopefulness that somehow, after so many generations of having been enslaved, that this would finally be the moment after the war that there would be this opportunity truly to be free and to partake of the country that they had helped to build.

    It’s important to recognize that, at this particular moment, African-Americans had been enslaved for 246 years, 12 generations. So that was a long buildup of hopefulness and uncertainty about what the future would hold.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so now let’s try to build out from some of these things, Martha Hodes, with you first.

    When you think about the legacy, all that came afterwards, from the war, you were looking at personal stories, right, in your work? Did you see things already that kind of stayed as themes through time, even up to our own time?

    MARTHA HODES: Yes.

    What I found was, at the moment Lincoln’s assassination, those hours, days and weeks right afterwards, which is a time that people haven’t explored deeply — and that’s the reading I did in all these personal source — those responses foretold clashing visions of the nation’s future, and we see the legacies of that today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was there already?

    MARTHA HODES: It was there already, right from the start.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what kinds of clashes were most obvious from the start?

    MARTHA HODES: Well, the question of black freedom was very, very important. So African-Americans and their white allies wanted more than freedom. They wanted equality. They wanted suffrage. They wanted land and education, and they wanted that with federal enforcement.

    The former Confederates wanted their own political rights back. White Southerners wanted to be back the political process again, and they wanted no federal interference, and that’s a legacy that we see to this day.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, James McPherson, you wrote in your recent book about one of the things that Lincoln did was take this plural idea, the United States are, and turn it into a singular, the United States is, one nation.

    Pick up — explain that. Was that there from the beginning? Was it an easy path?

    JAMES MCPHERSON: Well, the United States, on the eve of the Civil War, was a federation of independent and quasi-independent sovereignties, which we know as states.

    The federal government was superior in some ways, but it didn’t touch the lives of many people, except with the post office. And, at the beginning of the war, the idea in the North was to preserve the Union, this union of states. And, in fact, Lincoln’s language in his early wartime papers and addresses reflected that. He talked about restoring the Union.

    But, as time went on, the idea was that this was a nation, not merely a union of states, but a nation. That’s what the war accomplished, the transformation of the United States from a union and from a plural noun, the United States are a republic, to a singular noun, the United States is a powerful nation.

    That was Lincoln’s major contribution. That was Lincoln’s major legacy. And the strength of that nation was then invoked to free the slaves, and in the 14th and 15th Amendments after the Civil War to grant them civil and political equality.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Isabel Wilkerson, a nation, a sense of a moment of possibility that you were speaking of a little earlier, right after the war, and yet so much pain still to come for so many people, as you document, later.

    ISABEL WILKERSON: Well, absolutely.

    There were — there was that 12-year period of time that we call Reconstruction, that brief window of opportunity, in which there — we often think of civil rights legislation applying to the 20th century, but the civil rights legislation, as the professor mentioned, of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment, which were to have secured the rights, the new rights for the newly freed people, ended up only being recognized for an all-too-brief period of time, and then set in motion.

    After the doors had been opened, they were quickly slammed shut with the introduction of what would be called the Jim Crow caste system, in which there were rules and laws and customs that repressed the efforts of these newly freed people just as they were beginning to hope for something better.

    And this set in motion essentially 90 years of repressive laws, of what we think of as the water fountains and the restrooms, would have been just the beginning of it. But every aspect of life for people was restricted and could be punished with severity, meaning the lynchings that would occur at one point every four days in the American South.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I just want to go around to all three of you briefly, if I could, because there’s so much fascination.

    I will start with you, Isabel Wilkerson. We will go in reverse order here.

    There was so much — there is so much fascination with this period. And I wonder why, for you personally, you’re so interested in looking at the Civil War and its legacy.

    ISABEL WILKERSON: Well, I think it’s the fulcrum of the identity of our country. It’s the — and it was a moment at which people very passionate about how they felt about our country were making choices about and arguing and willing to fight and die for what the country was supposed to be, who — what we are as a country, who could be a citizen of our country, what did the country stand for, and what was it going to be going forward.

    And I think that we — because we are still dealing with the long shadow of that war and of the consequences of that war and the unresolved questions of that war, it still haunts us to this day.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, James McPherson, I was interested in reading your recent book, where you look back at your younger self, right, when you first got interested in this.

    JAMES MCPHERSON: Well, I was a graduate student in Baltimore in the late 1950s and early 1960s at Johns Hopkins University.

    Those were the years of the Montgomery bus boycott, the sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Freedom Riders, extended into the early 1960s, Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

    I was struck by the parallels between the time in which I was living and the events of exactly 100 years earlier, a confrontation between North and South, between the national government and Southern political leaders vowing massive resistance to national law, federal troops being sent into the South to enforce national law.

    There was a kind of deja vu about what was going on in my own time, and I decided that I need to learn about the historical roots of my own world, my own time and place. And those historical roots were in the Civil War era.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Martha Hodes, a final brief last word?

    MARTHA HODES: Absolutely.

    The resonances of the Civil War are so deeply with us today. And when I teach the Civil War, my students are so amazed at how those resonances are available all around them in the present day.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right there in the headlines.

    MARTHA HODES: Absolutely, right there in the headlines.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Martha Hodes, Isabel Wilkerson, James McPherson, thank you, all three, very much.

    ISABEL WILKERSON: Thank you.

    MARTHA HODES: Thank you.

    JAMES MCPHERSON: Thank you.

     

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    An aerial view of rows of flower fields near the Keukenhof park, also known as the Garden of Europe in the Netherlands. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

    An aerial view of rows of flower fields near the Keukenhof park, also known as the Garden of Europe in the Netherlands. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

    The world’s second largest flower garden, the Keukenhof park in Lisse, the Netherlands, was awash in a palette of colors today as its seven million bulbs covering 79 acres came into bloom. The Keukenhof, or Garden of Europe, is open for eight weeks, from mid-March to mid-May and over that time an estimated 800,000 visitors peruse the garden’s profusion of floral colors.

    Thousands of visitors descend on the Garden of Europe in Lisse, the Netherlands each year to see millions of flowers bloom. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

    Thousands of visitors descend on the Garden of Europe in Lisse, the Netherlands each year to see millions of flowers bloom. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

    The Keukenhof was established in 1949 when a group of 20 flower bulb exporters were given permission to use part of the estate of the Keukenhof Castle for a permanent display of spring-flowering bulbs. About 100 suppliers bring their best bulbs to the park each fall for planting and a team of about 30 gardeners oversee the designs, taking into consideration height, color and flowering time. Tulips, the national flower of the Netherlands, are in abundance, with 800 varieties in the gardens alone.

    Tulips bloom alongside a windmill in the Garden of Europe in Lisse, the Netherlands. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

    Tulips bloom alongside a windmill in the Garden of Europe in Lisse, the Netherlands. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

    This year the Keukenhof is showcasing a garden that pays tribute to the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, on the 125th anniversary of the artist’s death. Famous for his own self-portraits, the tribute takes the form of a “selfie” garden, where visitors can send their own smartphone photos ahead of their visit to go on display in the garden. The garden was also designed with plenty of selfie opportunities. The exhibit includes a massive portrait of Van Gogh made entirely out of different colored flower petals.

    Children place the last petals on a portrait of painter Vincent Van Gogh at the Keukenhof park. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

    Children place the last petals on a portrait of painter Vincent Van Gogh at the Keukenhof park. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

     

    The post Fields of flowers bloom, brighten the Netherlands appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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