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

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    braindrain

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: the struggle to draw college graduates back to the classroom.

    Teach for America has sent more than 33,000 participants into schools in low-income, high need communities since it launched in 1990.

    But as Brandis Friedman of public television station WTTW Chicago reports, the organization is now having a harder time recruiting new candidates.

    JUAQUAN SAVAGE, Teacher: Why do I do that?

    STUDENT: Because it’s a negative charge.

    JUAQUAN SAVAGE: Because it’s a negative charge.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN, WTTW Chicago: Today’s chemistry lesson is on ionic bonds.

    JUAQUAN SAVAGE: What does oppositely charged atoms mean?

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: Teacher Juaquan Savage feels he’s charged with making a difference in his students’ lives. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate recently finished a two-year Teach for America fellowship in Memphis. He’s now one of 950 Teach for America alumni working in Chicago public schools.

    This is Savage’s first year as a full-fledged teacher at this charter school, Butler College Prep. For years, the program has been a top choice for top grads.

    JUAQUAN SAVAGE: I do consider myself a success story, because I had strong teachers. And it’s very thought-provoking just to think of, had I not had those strong teachers, where my life would’ve ended up. And so I definitely want to be a catalyst for making sure that all leaders — no matter where they’re from, no matter what their socioeconomic background is, any situation that they have come from, that they have opportunity to obtain a quality education as well.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: Savage and Teach for America fellows get five weeks of intensive summer training before taking over a classroom.

    But the once highly competitive program is noticing a troubling trend: not enough recruits like Savage.

    JOSH ANDERSON, Executive Director, Teach for America – Chicago: We are facing greater-than-normal challenges on the recruitment front. And here’s what we’re seeing. As of December, we had 20,000 applications for the incoming corps. That’s behind pace from last year. And if this pace continues, we’d fall 25 percent short of what our partners around the country, our school partners around the country, have said they need from us.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: Teach for America’s Chicago director, Josh Anderson, says a number of factors are contributing to a tougher recruiting environment on the elite college campuses, where it finds many of its applicants. Among those factors: the concern that teaching is an underpaid profession.

    JOSH ANDERSON: In this post-recession moment, we’re seeing, especially for top talent on college campuses, greater and greater competition for folks out there. And so people have many more competing offers that they’re considering, very attractive competing offers that they’re considering, than they were just a couple of years ago.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: Anderson says he’s concerned that a smaller pool of candidates will mean a weaker pool of potential teachers.

    JOSH ANDERSON: We substantially increase the odds of having great teachers, the most effective teachers in front of our students the stronger, more robust, more diverse that pool of candidates is. And so that’s why this trend, if we’re not able to reverse it, if we’re not able to combat it effectively, is concerning, because it means real things downstream for student achievement in the very near future.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: Teach for America argues the problem isn’t just its own, but points to a national decline in graduates interested in becoming teachers. Experts say some of that is brought on by the highly politicized nature of modern-day teaching.

    Robert Lee runs the Chicago teacher education pipeline for Illinois State University, which produces most of Illinois’ teaching graduates. Even he has noticed that teacher prep enrollment is down slightly.

    ROBERT LEE, Illinois State University College of Education: It used to be a very reliable profession, one that was filled with joy, and that was a lot of joy in the teaching and learning process.

    And that somehow has been stripped away as well. There’s a lot of testing going on right now and high-stakes standardized achievement tests that try to pit teacher performance, if you will, based on that one exam. And I think that’s dangerous as well. I think it’s a problem, if we’re trying to recruit our best and brightest people to enter the field.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: But critics of the teacher corps say the organization has brought this problem of a shortage on itself.

    Eleni Katsarou directs elementary education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    ELENI KATSAROU, College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago: When your larger message is, you only need five weeks to become a teacher, it demeans, it reduces, it oversimplifies what it is that teachers ought to be doing and what they do.

    And, so, in that way, I think, again, they have contributed to making it less than what it actually is.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: Katsarou argues that sending so many untested and briefly trained teachers into the classroom to serve mostly low-income students is more than just unethical.

    ELENI KATSAROU: I don’t think it’s fair or ethical or professional to practice on kids. It just isn’t. And so we have practice-based teaching in programs that are solid and profound in the ways in which they let students understand community and understand classroom practices and so on. There’s a reason why we have practice-based approaches in schools, because it takes time.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: But Teach for America says their teachers are making a difference, and that they’re not only prepared after initial training, but they continue to receive mentoring and coaching throughout their fellowship.

    JOSH ANDERSON: The biggest reason that people sign up has, I think, little to do with the concrete things they get from organization, but most to do with the opportunity to be in front of and work with our students and families and make a big impact, because teaches can make a profound impact in the lives of students. I think that’s number one.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: And for teacher Juaquan Savage…

    JUAQUAN SAVAGE: Go around. Keep bonding. Keep finding different people.

    BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: … that impact is the bond he shares with his students.

    I’m Brandis Friedman, reporting for the PBS NewsHour from Chicago.

     

    The post Why is Teach For America struggling to recruit? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    tax forms

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The deadline for filing your taxes is just hours away, and for several million Americans, this year is turning out to be even more complicated than usual. It’s the first time since the health care law was enacted that individuals must pay a penalty if they don’t have health insurance. The penalty is 1 percent of income, or $95, whichever is greater.

    But, in some cases where people received subsidies, in the form of tax credits, the calculation is tougher. Moreover, surveys showed more than half of those who could be affected didn’t know much about the penalty.

    Well, let’s help clarify the picture with Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News and accountant Poonam Bansal. She’s owner of the firm Accounting Solutions in Virginia.

    And welcome you both.

    So, Julie Rovner, to you first.

    We said millions of Americans. How many people are really affected by this new health care law in terms of their taxes?

    JULIE ROVNER, Kaiser Health News: Well, we don’t know how many people are going to be paying the penalty because they didn’t have insurance in 2014. That’s partly because we don’t know precisely how many people remained uncovered, and also, mostly, we don’t know how many of those people who remained uncovered will qualify for one of the myriad exemptions from having to pay the penalty.

    We have a better idea of who is impacted in terms of the subsidies. There are just under seven million people who were signed up for insurance on the marketplaces. Those are the people who are being theoretically affected. About 80 percent of people who got insurance coverage through the exchanges got subsidies. Those are the ones who are having to do a very complicated calculation about whether they have to get money — some of them are getting money back, and some of them will owe more money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s whether it’s a state exchange or the federal exchange; is that correct?

    JULIE ROVNER: In both cases, yes. That money was federal tax money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

    So, Poonam Bansal, you’re the one who is dealing with these taxpayers. What are you seeing first in terms of the penalty that people are expected to pay? How much of an issue is that turning out to be?

    POONAM BANSAL, Accounting Solutions: There are a lot of taxpayers who filed their — who filed for the exchange programs, got subsidies when they filled out those forms.

    And let’s say somebody didn’t have a job. Then he got insurance through the marketplace, got a certain premium, got a certain credit, and then they got a job. They never thought they were supposed to change anything, and then they come and do their taxes and now they made way lot more money than getting the credit, and now they owe it all back.

    Those are the kinds of shockers people are getting. There are a lot of people out there who we did taxes for ended up paying back. And they were shocked.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It sounds like there are more people affected who bought insurance in one form or another and didn’t realize that this benefit they were getting was going to add to the total income.

    POONAM BANSAL: Exactly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Then there are people who didn’t — who didn’t buy health insurance at all, don’t have health insurance, and are having to pay a penalty?

    POONAM BANSAL: Yes.

    There are people who didn’t have health insurance at all. But those are not such a very high percentage, because a lot of them are really very low-income people who couldn’t afford it. And that’s the reason they don’t have it. And they were — or they were not very smart or educated to go to the marketplace and shop around.

    And in those cases, we are seeing they don’t really owe that much because they fall in the category that they’re exempt.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Julie Rovner, how good a job did the government do of educating people about this? Because we’re hearing — now we’re hearing that some people didn’t really understand — and we just heard Poonam say, they didn’t understand what they were going to owe.

    JULIE ROVNER: Yes. Well, there are still some number of people who think that the law has been repealed or that the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, neither of which has happened, just both of which have been debated.

    It’s not that surprising that there were some number of people who still didn’t realize they were supposed to have insurance. Now, one of the things that the federal government has done, they say this year only, if that you’re doing your taxes — remember, what’s due today are your taxes for last year, for 2014.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    JULIE ROVNER: If you still don’t have insurance, well the sign-up period closed in February. But there is a special enrollment period this year for people who are doing their 2014 taxes, finding out they have to pay a penalty, and thinking, oh, my goodness, I will have to pay another penalty for 2015, which is, by the way, larger.

    So those people are at least getting a chance to sign up, so they won’t have to pay a penalty next year for this year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But — so they’re being given a little more time to sign up. They still have to pay their taxes.

    JULIE ROVNER: Yes. They still have — they still owe whatever they owe for 2014.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    JULIE ROVNER: This is a chance for them to not owe for 2015 also.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Poonam Bansal, what are some examples of the kinds of issues you have described what some people are bringing to you? Are these difficult things to resolve? Are they relatively easy once people recognize what the issue is? How is it working?

    POONAM BANSAL: Well, tax time, as I always say, involves a lot of emotions, because it involves money. Any clients, we say you have a refund, they start hugging us. And anybody we say, you owe, feels like I’m the devil.

    And on top of it, we have the Affordable Care Act, which some people owe and some people don’t, and they just can’t understand it. They just feel like, I’m doing something wrong. It’s not that hard to resolve in terms of technicalities. I think it’s people’s mind-set and for them to accept it.

    Now, just say, for example, a father is claiming his daughter dependent on his return. She’s earning $10,000 a year. So, she’s still young. That income is counted towards the gross family income…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    POONAM BANSAL: … to get the exchange. But he didn’t know that. And he didn’t include that. And now he owes a penalty. So those kind of things, they just can’t understand it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So people are getting educated.

    Julie, is the government thinking — I know you’re not talking to everybody in the government. But is the sense that people will be better informed by next year, that this is just a rocky start for this whole thing?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, I think it’s fair to say that this year has gone more smoothly than many expected. There was expected, particularly people who have been watching this thought there would be all kinds of backlash from people suddenly going to do their taxes and realizing they are going to have to pay, when they thought they were getting a refund, or they’re losing half their refund, or the penalty for not having insurance is for most people more than $95.

    And, by and large, we haven’t heard a huge outcry about this. Obviously, there are situations where people are getting rude surprises, but there are also situations where people are getting bigger refunds than they thought because they didn’t sign up for enough of a subsidy.

    So, there’s people who a happy. But there’s nothing to quite educate people than going and doing your taxes and seeing this. I think a lot more people are going to know about this now than knew about it three months ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we sit here right now in Washington, there are about six more hours to go. They have got that much time to figure it out.

    Poonam Bansal, Julie Rovner, we thank you both.

    POONAM BANSAL: Thank you, Judy. It’s nice being here.

    The post Surprised by your health care tax penalty? Here’s what you need to know appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Demonstrators hold signs during demonstrations asking for higher wages in the Manhattan borough of New York

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    [nh_link align=”right”]

    GWEN IFILL: Income inequality is emerging as an enduring issue, as activists push to hike the minimum wage and increase livable wages. The debate played out across the country today, as organizers behind the Fight for 15,as it’s known, used Tax Day to make their case.

    WOMAN: Living on $8.75 an hour is very hard. I have to live in a shelter because I don’t make enough money to pay rent here in New York City.

    GWEN IFILL: Fast food workers in New York were out at sunrise, shouting their message.

    PROTESTERS: Whose city?

    PROTESTERS: Our city!

    GWEN IFILL: They are demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour. What they earn now, the workers say, is not nearly enough to support their families. Organizers billed this latest strike by low-wage employees as the largest yet, planned for 230 U.S. cities and dozens more around the world.

    WOMAN: I live from paycheck to paycheck. And I get paid every two weeks and it’s still not enough.

    PROTESTERS: Fifteen in my hands. I want 15 in my hands.

    GWEN IFILL: As the campaign continues, a number of cities have passed laws to require a higher minimum wage, if not as high as $15 an hour. In addition, big corporations like Wal-Mart have also begun shifting their pay scales upward. McDonald’s increased starting pay by a dollar an hour at locations it owns, but that doesn’t include franchisees, who operate 90 percent of its restaurants.

    The National Labor Relations Board is now considering whether to force McDonald’s to accept more responsibility for those franchise-owned outlets.

    So what is at the root of all this?

    For that, we turn to Tsedeye Gebreselassie. She is senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, which is connected with the Fight for 15. And Steve Caldeira is the president and CEO of the International Franchise Association, a trade group that represents fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, both at the corporate level and for franchise-holders.

    Tsedeye Gebreselassie, I want to start by asking you how widespread these protests ended up being today.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE, National Employment Law Project: They ended up being quite widespread, and not because just workers protested in more than 230 cities around the world, but because for the first time we’re seeing not just fast food workers strike, but we’re seeing retail workers, we’re seeing adjunct professors.

    These are part-time college faculty workers that are making poverty wages, that are making much less than $15 an hour. And we’re seeing just a growing groundswell of workers, of supporters saying, you know, our minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, even the dollar increased that has been promised by some of these companies, is simply not enough to make ends meet.

    GWEN IFILL: Steve Caldeira, how possible is what they’re asking to accomplish?

    STEVE CALDEIRA, International Franchise Association: First, I think it’s important to state I think what happened today was really less about the minimum wage and more about providing air cover for the Service Employees International Union, which has been behind all these protests.

    I think there’s no organic movement in our industry by food service workers. Just this past week, the Department of Labor in forms filed by the SEIU said they spent $18.5 million last year organizing these strikes. So, to me, we can have the minimum wage debate. A lot of cities and municipalities and states have passed that.

    But it’s really more about the unions trying to organize. Private sector union membership has been from 35 percent approximately in the mid-’50s to under 7 percent this year.

    GWEN IFILL: But my question was whether what they’re asking for is even possible?

    STEVE CALDEIRA: Look, I think 95 percent of quick service workers that start entry-level jobs, within six months, they’re making above $9 an hour. So we have to remember these are entry-level jobs for lesser skilled workers. Look, I started at a Burger King in college.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: I’m sorry.

    GWEN IFILL: I’m going to get to you in a moment. Because what I wanted to ask you today, Gebreselassie, is really whether…

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: First of all, obviously, I want you to respond to what he just had to say.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: But how much is this an effort to increase union engagement and membership at a time when unions are flagging?

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: There are — well, first, let me first address what he was saying about entry level.

    GWEN IFILL: All right.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: The fast food industry, you know, is an industry where 70 percent are over the age of 20. Many of them have been working in fast food jobs for years, and that’s because, while the fast food industry may have been a stepping-stone in past years toward a better-paying job in a different industry, the fact of the matter is, jobs in fast food, retail, home health care, child care, some of the workers that were out on strike today, those are the jobs that are disproportionately fueling job growth in our economy today.

    So we have got to figure on the a way to raise pay in those industries; 42 percent of workers in this country make less than $15 an hour, precisely because, as Steve was saying, unionization rates have gone down, which was a key way to raise the wage floor in our country, precisely because the minimum wage floor has so far eroded in its value. At $7.25 an hour, that hasn’t gone up since 2009.

    GWEN IFILL: So, now it’s my turn to ask you to answer the question I posed, which is…

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: … whether this is about union organization.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: This is about unions helping workers raise pay, which is traditionally something that unions and other worker organizations do.

    I mean, that is the job. That is the job, to raise wages and working conditions for members and non-members alike. And that’s why part of what has been said through this fast food movement over the last two years is the fact we have seen state after state, and now city after city raise the minimum wage through policy. That is a direct effect of the organizing that’s been happening on the ground.

    GWEN IFILL: And, in fact, Steve Caldeira, we have seen Wal-Mart, T.J. Maxx, we have seen Target agree to raise their wages.

    STEVE CALDEIRA: Sure.

    GWEN IFILL: I guess the question is, what is the difference with fast food — with the fast food industry? Is it the franchise problem, where so many – so few of the actual outlets are owned by the company itself?

    STEVE CALDEIRA: Well, McDonald’s, Target, Wal-Mart legally have the right to raise the wages of their employees in the corporate environment.

    I think the big distinction here is that franchisees put their own skin in the game. They’re independently owned. They have the right to hire, to fire, to set wages. They process their own payroll. They’re given an employer identification number by the Internal Revenue Service. These are the people that create the jobs in all 435 congressional districts across the country.

    And they have been dealing with more regulatory environment, higher taxes through the fiscal cliff deal, high commodity costs, and I think Tsedeye brought up a good point. Part of the reason why you see folks staying in these jobs longer is because of the lack of a pro-growth agenda coming out of Washington.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: No.

    STEVE CALDEIRA: And it’s just not the administration. It’s also Congress.

    We need to do things in this country that enable small business job growth. Two-third of all net new jobs in this country come from small business, as opposed to stifling small business job creation.

    GWEN IFILL: Ms. Gebreselassie?

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: When you talk to small business owners, the number one reason they cite for the reason why they can’t grow the way that they want to is lack of consumer demand. Consumers can’t spend what they don’t have.

    And when you are making $7.25 an hour, when you’re a 50-year-old fast food worker that has been making a minimum wage for the last 20 years, that is forced to rely on public assistance to make ends meet, because half the fast food workers are forced to do so, then you can’t spend. And that stifles economic growth for all of us.

    I think that what we learned in the economic recession and the resulting recovery is that if we want a recovery that is sustainable and that works for all Americans, then we have to figure out a way to rebuild the middle class. And the way to do that is to raise wages.

    We are in an economy right now where wages have stagnated or declined for the bottom 70 percent of the entire work force.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you both, finally, kind of…

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: And I’m trying to — looking for middle ground here.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: Sure.

    GWEN IFILL: So, if you were to say, Steve Caldeira, that it’s $15 — especially for franchisees, whose skin is in the game, is out of the mark — they just can’t do that, what is it that these companies can be doing to speak to the kind of concerns that Tsedeye was just now saying?

    STEVE CALDEIRA: I think the franchisees need to have flexibility. It’s all about supply and demand.

     

    So, if Wal-Mart, Target, and McDonald’s are raising the wages at the corporate level, there’s a reason why they’re doing — they’re competing for workers. I think it needs to be left up to the franchisee, who, by the way, wants to attract, develop, and retain great employees. So I think they need to be given the flexibility based on, where are they situated, what is the climate and the economic environment where they do business, because they want to do right by their employees.

    GWEN IFILL: And, Tsedeye Gebreselassie, is there any — is there a middle ground here?

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: Yes

    I mean, I agree that franchisees need some flexibility. And one way to give them that flexibility so that they can raise wages is for that corporate franchiser like McDonald’s to maybe lessen some of the fees that they’re forcing the franchisees to kick back to them. McDonald’s posted $5 billion in profit last year, so the argument that there is not money in the corporation to trickle down to raise wages and improve working conditions for their workers ring hollow.

    GWEN IFILL: Tsedeye Gebreselassie of the National Employment Law Project, Steve Caldeira of the International Franchise Association, thank you both very much.

    STEVE CALDEIRA: Thank you.

    TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE: Thank you so much.

    The post Would $15 save employees and break employers? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The European Union charged Google today with violating anti-monopoly laws. It’s the latest move in a five-year legal battle and it could lead to billions of dollars in fines. The E.U.’s competition commissioner said Google uses its dominance over Internet searches to promote its own services.

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER, Competition Commissioner, European Union: Our investigation so far has shown that when a consumer enters a shopping-related query in Google’s search engine, Google’s comparison shopping product is systematically displayed prominent at the top of the search results.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The E.U. also opened a separate probe into Google’s Android mobile system.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. Capitol had a brief security scare today, when a gyrocopter landed on the west lawn. The single-seat helicopter buzzed the National Mall and settled about half a city block from the Capitol Building. Police quickly cordoned it off, and a bomb disposal unit found nothing hazardous. The Web site of a Florida mailman, Doug Hughes, announced he carried out the stunt to protest political corruption.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in Germany, the head of the European Central Bank had his own scare from a protest against austerity policies. Mario Draghi was holding a news conference in Frankfurt, when a woman leaped onto the desk. She dumped confetti and shouted, “End the ECB dictatorship,” before she was dragged away.

    GWEN IFILL: Iran’s president today dismissed U.S. congressional pressure over a potential nuclear deal. That’s after President Obama accepted a compromise, giving the House and Senate a say. Hassan Rouhani told a crowd of thousands that his government deals with world leaders, not lawmakers. And he warned again Iran could still walk away.

    PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter): The world must know, the negotiating nations must know, the American Senate, Congress, the American president and government must know that if the end of the sanctions isn’t in this deal, there will be no deal.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, inspectors from the U.N.’s atomic energy watchdog arrived in Tehran. They’re on a much delayed visit to inspect activities at a military site.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fighters with the Islamic State group gained new ground today in Western Iraq. They have now overrun a series of villages outside Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, forcing hundreds of people to flee. ISIS forces have been advancing in Anbar, despite suffering losses in other parts of Iraq.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Jurors in Fall River, Massachusetts, found him guilty of fatally shooting a man in June 2013. Hernandez was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

    Afterward, district attorney Thomas Quinn hailed the verdict.

    THOMAS QUINN, District Attorney, Bristol County: Aaron Hernandez may have been a well-known New England Patriots football player. However, in the end, the jury found that he was just a man who committed a brutal murder. The fact that he was a professional athlete meant nothing in the end. He is a citizen who was held accountable by the jury for his depraved conduct.

    GWEN IFILL: Prosecutors have suggested the victim, Odin Lloyd, was killed because he knew too much about the 2012 killings of two other men at a Boston nightclub. Hernandez still faces trial in that case.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A bipartisan bill reshaping how Medicare pays doctors is headed to President Obama’s desk. Last night, the Senate gave final approval to the $214 billion measure. Over the long term, it aims to tie doctors’ reimbursements to overall care, instead of individual office visits.

    It also prevents an immediate 21 percent cut in those payments. The president said he will sign it.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street today, rising oil prices and stronger corporate earnings pushed stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 76 points to close above 18100. The Nasdaq rose 33 points, and the S&P 500 added 10.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And 80 veterans of the World War II Doolittle Raid were honored today with the Congressional Gold Medal. They carried out the daring attack in April 1942, in the first direct strike on Japan after Pearl Harbor. It involved launching land-based B-25 bombers from an aircraft carrier. Only two of the 80 Doolittle Raiders are still alive today.

    The post News Wrap: EU charges Google for violating anti-monopoly laws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A pair of federal judges expressed their skepticism over challenges to the Obama administration's plan to reduce the effects of climate change by targeting pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants. Photo by  Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    A pair of federal judges expressed their skepticism over challenges to the Obama administration’s plan to reduce the effects of climate change by targeting pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Two out of three judges on a federal appeals court panel expressed doubts Thursday about a legal challenge to the Obama administration’s far-reaching plan to address climate change.

    The comments came during nearly two hours of argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in two cases challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cut heat-trapping pollutants from the nation’s coal-fired power plants that is blamed for global warming.

    Judges Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh seemed to agree with lawyers defending the EPA that the lawsuits are premature because the agency has not yet made the rule final.

    The lawsuits — one from a coalition of 15 coal-reliant states and another brought by Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest privately held coal mining company — are part of a growing political attack from opponents who say the move will kill jobs, force coal companies to shut down plants and drive up electricity prices.

    At issue is whether the EPA has legal authority for its plan under the Clean Air Act. But the agency and environmental advocacy groups say the court shouldn’t even get to that question until the EPA issues a final rule, expected in June or July. It was proposed last summer.

    “Typically, we’re not in the business of guessing what the final rule would look like,” Griffith told Elbert Lin, the attorney representing West Virginia and other states opposing the plan. “You’re inviting us into a morass.”

    Lin argued that the court doesn’t need to wait because the EPA has told everyone exactly what the rule will do and states are already being forced to spend huge sums of money to get ready for it. He said it’s not too soon to consider a challenge if what the EPA plans to do is illegal or unconstitutional.

    But Kavanaugh said it would be “highly unusual” for the court to consider the merits of a proposal that might end up getting changed. He and Griffith suggested opponents could just come back in a couple of months.

    While the court agreed to hear arguments over both the timing of the lawsuits as well as legal issues, the judges could simply dismiss the case as premature and leave the legal questions for a future case.

    The third judge on the panel, Karen LeCraft Henderson, seemed more sympathetic to Lin, noting that it could take between 18 months and four years for states to get ready for the new rule.

    “That’s an extraordinary type of cost right now,” she said.

    All three judges hearing the case were appointed by Republican presidents.

    The rule proposed by the EPA last year requires states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. It gives each state a customized target, and the responsibility for drawing up an effective plan to meet the goal.

    Griffith later had tough questions for Justice Department lawyer Brian Lynk over the EPA administrator’s public comments on the final rule.

    “What do we do with statements that there will be no change?” he asked. He wondered if the requirement for an agency to consider public comments was a “sham.”

    Lynk said the court still must wait for the final rule because it might be changed or revised.

    West Virginia and other states argue that the plan to regulate carbon emissions from power plants is illegal because the EPA already regulates other power plant pollutants under a different section of the Clean Air Act. They say the law prohibits “double regulation.”

    The legal debate focuses on dueling provisions added by the House and Senate to the Clean Air Act in 1990. The EPA says it wins under the Senate language, but opponents argue the House version should prevail.

    Even on their legal arguments, however, it seemed like opponents of the plan faced an uphill battle.

    Geoffrey Barnes, attorney for Murray Energy, likened the problem to a clerical error and argued that the House version should prevail. He said the EPA can’t simply roll out an entirely new way of interpreting a law because that is Congress’ role.

    But Griffith said “there’s no mistake here … you have two conflicting provisions.” Under Supreme Court precedent, “when Congress passes conflicting statutes, we let the agency decide” how to interpret the law.

    Amanda Berman, representing the EPA, insisted the EPA gets to interpret the law even if there is “a scintilla of a shred” of ambiguity.

    Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, ramped up GOP attacks on the proposal when he sent a letter urging the governors of all 50 states to defy the EPA by refusing to submit the compliance plans to the agency.

    Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are backing the Obama administration plan.

    The post Federal judges cast doubt on challenge to Obama administration’s plan for climate change appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that a gyrocopter that landed near the U.S. Capitol "literally flew in under the radar," the Associated Press reported.  Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that a gyrocopter that landed near the U.S. Capitol “literally flew in under the radar,” the Associated Press reported. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — The postal carrier who flew a gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol is facing two criminal charges. But he’s being released from federal custody to return to Florida.

    Doug Hughes made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Washington on Thursday. That’s one day after he steered his tiny aircraft onto the Capitol’s West Lawn after flying through restricted airspace around the National Mall. He was charged with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national airspace.

    Hughes said it was a political protest.

    Hughes was released on his own recognizance afterward and instructed to check in weekly with authorities in Tampa starting next week. In a soft voice, Hughes appeared to ask the judge a clarifying question about that obligation but otherwise he did not say anything significant.

    The gyrocopter that landed on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol “apparently literally flew in under the radar,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday, as concerned lawmakers questioned how it was allowed to happen and why.

    Johnson said it’s too soon to say whether Wednesday’s incident should prompt changes in security procedures. “I want to know all the facts before I reach an assessment of what can and should be done about gyrocopters in the future,” he said.

    But lawmakers said the incident exposed a gap in security, especially amid revelations that the pilot was interviewed by the Secret Service almost two years ago. The agency apparently determined he did not pose a threat, said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Cummings spoke Thursday with the Secret Service director.

    “I think that there’s absolutely a gap, and it’s a very dangerous gap, with regard to our airspace,” Cummings said. “I don’t want people to get a message that they can just land anywhere. Suppose there was a bomb or an explosive device on that air vehicle? That could have been a major catastrophe.”

    Johnson said the Secret Service passed along the information from the interview with Hughes, who was to appear in court Thursday afternoon, to “all of the appropriate law enforcement agencies.”

    House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the incident “stunning.”

    “What safeguards can we use? We don’t want to be a place where we’re saying ‘This is an iron-clad Capitol.’ And have such restrictions on people having access to it,” Pelosi told reporters. “Nonetheless, we have to ensure the safety of those people.”

    The tiny, open-air aircraft landed without injuries to anyone, but the incident raises questions about how someone could be allowed to fly all the way from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, right up to the Capitol. Hughes has said he was making the flight to publicize his concerns about the corrupting influence of money in politics, and deliver letters to all 535 members of Congress on the topic.

    “We are a democracy. We don’t have fences around our airspace, so we’ve got to find the right balance between living in a free and open society and security and the protection of federal buildings,” Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill. “And so we want to stay one step ahead of every incident like this, but then again, you don’t want to overreact, either.”

    Still, lawmakers questioned why, if authorities had been in touch with Hughes, no action was taken to stop him.

    “My concerns are the prior notice that he was going to do this and the lack of response,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

    “These small aircraft or UAV devices concern me because they could go undetected and cause damage, so that’s something we’re taking a look at,” McCaul said, adding he might hold hearings on the issue.

    Cummings and others also complained that they were not notified of the incident and that many first learned of it from the news media.

    Johnson defended existing protocols for dealing with the restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., federal buildings and monuments.

    “We’ve got a well-coordinated federal response to dealing with issues of those who penetrate the restricted airspace without permission,” he said. He said his first reaction on hearing of the incident was to ask, “What’s a gyrocopter?”

    It’s not unusual for a small aircraft like a gyrocopter to go undetected by conventional radar. Unlike most larger aircraft, a gyrocopter doesn’t have a transponder that identifies the aircraft, its altitude and heading. Even without a transponder, radar can detect “primary targets” — planes, flocks of birds, rain and other objects. But how well it can detect those objects depends upon several factors.

    The landing on the Capitol grounds “just illustrates how hard it is to have an impermeable barrier. It’s very hard to hermetically seal airspace,” said John Hansman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeronautics professor.

    The post Capitol Hill gyrocopter pilot faces criminal charges but released appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Thomas Favre-Bulle

    Photo by Flickr user Thomas Favre-Bulle

    PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs programs across the country have been investigating the changing definition of school safety as part of their series, “The New Safe.” Student journalists have reported on everything from how factors such as architecture and social media can impact school safety to how students should respond when their classmates make threats to the healing process in communities where a school attack has occurred. You can view the full series here.

    We asked some of the students, teachers and school administrators involved in “The New Safe” series to join us as we continued the discussion of school safety on Twitter. Student journalist Nick Weiss (@nickwoose), who was the lead filmmaker for the Student Reporting Labs segment, “The Whistleblower,” joined the conversation, along with his principal at Cedar Crest High School, Nicole Malinoski (@MrsMalPrincipal). Broadcast journalism teacher Heather Jancoski, who wrote a blog for NewsHour about her experience with school lockdown drills, also joined in, along with her students, who help produce their school’s news broadcast (@jaguarbroadcast). Check out the conversation below.

    The post Twitter chat: What does school safety mean to you? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker  recently proposed a budget that reduces oversight of for-profit colleges, hands control of the state's managed care system to private insurance companies and raises stakes for public schools  that lose students to private voucher schools, the Associated Press reports.

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently proposed a budget that reduces oversight of for-profit colleges, hands control of the state’s managed care system to private insurance companies and raises stakes for public schools that lose students to private voucher schools, the Associated Press reports.

    MADISON, Wis. — Best known nationally for his struggle with unions, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is staking out conservative ground in broader ways as he prepares for a likely run for the Republican presidential nomination.

    These ways are stuffed into his recent budget proposal and some of them are going to be a tough sell even with fellow Republicans who control the Legislature.

    In the proposal, Walker calls for eliminating oversight of for-profit colleges, letting private insurance companies into the state’s managed care system and cutting money for public schools that lose students to private voucher schools. This, on top of cutting taxes and the number of state workers as part of a scaling back of state government.

    That’s classic Walker, said conservatives who have followed his more than two decades in public office, the last four-plus years as governor.

    “Largely, it’s a victory for conservatives,” said Brett Healy, president of the conservative MacIver Institute for Public Policy. But polling suggests some of Walker’s moves are unpopular in the state.

    While Walker made his mark by effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers in 2011, then turning Wisconsin into a right-to-work state this year, he’s also checked off a battery of conservative priorities.

    He’s already cut income and corporate taxes by nearly $2 billion, lowered property taxes, legalized the carrying of concealed weapons, made abortions more difficult to obtain, required photo identification when voting and expanded the state’s private school voucher school program.

    And now this year, the first of his second term, he’s going even farther by proposing a $300 million, or 13 percent, cut in state money for the University of Wisconsin and freezing tuition there for two years while granting it more independence from state laws.

    A state poll out Thursday from Marquette University Law School found overwhelming opposition to some of his proposed cuts and a drop in his approval rating. In the poll, 78 percent of those surveyed opposed cuts to school aid and 70 percent were against cuts to the university. Walker’s approval dropped to 41 percent, lowest in the three years of the survey.

    The governor’s budget would lower property taxes $5 on average each of the next two years for median-valued homes. However, that comes at the expense of public schools, which would face a $135-per student loss in state aid.

    He wants to get government out of the business of regulating for-profit colleges, eliminating a board that oversees them. He’s also proposing to eliminate 66 science and education positions at the Department of Natural Resources, in the name of efficiency, but leading to charges that the move will increasingly politicize the agency.

    His budget also would require people seeking public benefits to pass a drug test, which Walker says would help prepare them for the workforce.

    Walker’s budget proposals will play well with conservatives nationally, said Brian Fraley, a longtime conservative activist in Wisconsin.

    Fraley summed up the priorities conservatives see fulfilled in Walker’s budget: “Spend less. Trim the number of state employees. Tax less.”

    But for all of that, he’s got a tough road ahead with Republican lawmakers, not to mention Democrats, before the Legislature passes a budget sometime in June.

    For example, concerns are being raised about Walker’s call to replace the system that provides long-term and medical care for the elderly and disabled with one designed to keep them in their homes.

    And his cost-saving move to have senior citizens in Wisconsin’s popular prescription drug program first enroll in Medicare Part D, where they would probably pay more for their medications, was declared dead on arrival by the Republican budget committee co-chair after a public outcry.

    The Republican-controlled Legislature is also pushing back against Walker’s plans for the university and his plan to borrow $1.3 billion for roads and $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium.

    The Bucks idea even drew an objection from Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch.

    “There should be no state dollars going for something like that,” said David Fladeboe, the group’s state director.

    Even so, Walker’s budget this year largely is a win for conservatives and a continuation of the progress he made during his first term, Fladeboe said.

    “It’s a very good budget for a fiscal conservative,” Healy said. “We’ve come to expect that from Governor Walker.”

    The post Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker makes strides toward presidential run appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama may be able to ease the sanctions Iran faces regardless of whether or not Congress cooperates with him, the Associated Press reported. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

    President Barack Obama may be able to ease the sanctions Iran faces regardless of whether or not Congress cooperates with him, the Associated Press reported. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

    WASHINGTON — Even if Congress rejects his final Iranian nuclear deal, President Barack Obama could use his executive pen to offer Tehran a hefty portion of sanctions relief on his own.

    Lawmakers have insisted on having a say on what could be a historic accord that the U.S. and five other nations are trying to finalize with Iran. The aim is to prevent the Islamic state from developing nuclear weapons, while in return Iran would get a break from U.S., European and U.N. sanctions that are choking its economy.

    Negotiators are working to complete a final deal by the end of June. Talks will resume next week in Vienna, it was announced Thursday.
    In the meantime, legislation is expected to pass both the Senate and House that would block Obama from using his current authority to waive congressional sanctions against Iran for at least 30 days after any final agreement, to give lawmakers time to weigh in.
    However, even if Congress rejected a final agreement, Obama could take unilateral actions that — when coupled with European and U.N. sanctions relief — would allow a deal with Tehran to be implemented.

    The president could suspend some existing U.S. sanctions with his waiver authority. He could issue new orders to permit financial transactions that otherwise are banned under current law. And he could simply take certain Iranians and entities, including nearly two dozen Iranian banks, off U.S. target lists, meaning they no longer would be subject to sanctions.

    Only Congress can terminate its legislative sanctions. And those are some of the toughest penalties against Iran because they target its energy sector, central bank and key segments of its economy. But experts say Obama can neutralize the effect of some of those sanctions, too, and work with the Europeans to neutralize others.

    Treasury official Adam Szubin told the House last month that the Obama administration doesn’t think congressional sanctions should be terminated for years to come — long after Obama leaves the White House — so that the U.S. continues to retain leverage over Tehran years into any final agreement.

    But there’s more to the story.

    Says Tyler Cullis, legal fellow at the National Iranian American Council, which favors an agreement: “Some have expressed doubt whether the president can provide Iran significant sanctions relief solely on the basis of his own authority. Such doubt should be put to rest.”
    He said the president “could almost gut” an entire segment of sanctions by taking Iran’s major banks off the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. Those on this list face asset freezes, and Americans are banned from doing business with them. Moreover, many U.S. and foreign banks and businesses have opted to steer clear of those on the list just to make sure they don’t violate U.S. sanctions.

    If the Europeans and other nations participating with the U.S. in the nuclear talks lift their penalties against Iran, the international sanctions regime will begin to unravel, and Cullis said Obama could tell lawmakers they should work with him to join the sanctions relief campaign.

    Mark Dubowitz, a leading sanctions proponent with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, agrees.
    “It is legally possible for him to go it alone,” Dubowitz said. “He can do a lot on his own and he can do a lot with the Europeans.”
    According to Dubowitz, if the Europeans lift the Iranian oil embargo, Iran could work to increase the 1.1 million barrels a day that it’s exporting now to pre-sanction levels of an estimated 2.1 million. At $50 a barrel, that would provide Iran with about $18 billion more in oil revenue every year.

    Currently, those importing Iranian oil are required to pay into locked escrow accounts in a handful of countries. There’s an estimated $100 billion sitting in those accounts, and that money could be released through presidential action.

    “So right way, there’s about $118 billion that Iran could access within about 12 months without Congress,” Dubowitz said.

    That’s potentially in the future. Now, a bipartisan bill being ushered through Congress by Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would stop Obama from easing sanctions on his own authority for at least a month while lawmakers weighed a final deal.

    If they rejected it, with a resolution of disapproval, Obama could lose his waiver authority altogether. Obama is betting, however, that he won’t.

    If Congress nixes a final deal, the president will almost certainly veto that disapproval. And, as long as he can get more than one-third of the Senate to side with him, he can prevent his veto from being overridden.

    Some have portrayed the Corker bill’s progress as a victory for Congress — an example of the president being one-upped. Yishai Schwartz, an associate editor at Lawfare, which is published by the Lawfare Institute in cooperation with the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, sees it differently.

    “The White House gained the high ground in any confrontation over the Iran deal the moment its lawyers discovered the sanctions regime could be dismantled by executive action,” Schwartz writes.

    Some businessmen might be wary of heavily investing in deals with Iran unless sanctions are not just temporarily waived or suspended by the president but actually lifted. And there also are political reasons why Obama might not want to blatantly exercise his authority to waive or dilute sanctions that have been ordered by Congress.

    For one thing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that too much unilateral action by Obama could prompt a pushback from Democrats and hurt Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chances to win the White House. “So I don’t think that’s a viable option.”

    Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Obama also needs to be mindful of lawmakers who believe that America’s constitutional framework “imagines congressional relevance to the conduct of foreign policy.”

    The post President Obama may not need Congress to defang sanctions against Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill in Indianapolis

    A crowd of demonstrators protests the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a controversial bill Indiana passed in March. Opponents of the bill say it promotes discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation. Photo by Nate Chute/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Indiana’s passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March immediately sparked criticism that the bill would allow private business to discriminate against LGBT individuals. Teacher Brad Layman describes how the bill, though disappointing to his students, also spurred an unexpected wave of support for them.


    When the students I teach heard about Indiana’s religious freedom law, many felt let down by our state leaders.

    teacherslounge

    As the teacher sponsor for the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at a small school of about 500 students in a rural town in north central Indiana, I try to build a tolerant learning atmosphere that helps all students feel welcome and accepted, a key ingredient to engaging students.

    Seeing all of the headlines in the national media made my students worried about how this law would affect everyone in our state. Many of them thought that this was going to be a major step backward for our community because it seemed to open the possibility of refusing services to people based on their sexual orientation. They wanted to believe the governor when he stated that the law wasn’t about discrimination, but his vague responses to questions on this topic left them worried that discrimination could still happen in our state. One student even wondered if the RFRA was an act of reprisal by our legislative leaders after a gay marriage ban was lifted last year.

    I hope my students, the next generation of leaders in this country, hear the message that we can be most constructive if we advocate for equal treatment and respect others.
    This fear is deeply personal for my students, some of whom have been raised to believe that religion and LGBTQ equal rights cannot coexist. While not all of the local churches in our community reject gay marriage, many LGBTQ students have been told that churches cannot accept their lifestyle. It is a challenging task for these students to understand that some people in their own community have a problem with their identity.

    But unexpectedly, the law inspired a backlash that was even more meaningful to them than the bill itself.

    Students heard many Indiana leaders say that Indiana is a welcoming and tolerant state and that Hoosiers are welcoming and tolerant of all people. Our students read on Twitter and other websites that business leaders, university leaders, political leaders and celebrities were denouncing the law. CEOs of major companies such as Angie’s list, Apple and Eli Lilly and Company criticized the law. The NCAA raised the question of whether Indianapolis would be a suitable site for future events like the Final Four of men’s college basketball. Each day after the law was signed, students came into school asking, “Did you see who else is against the RFRA?!” They felt supported by these leaders, and it was important for them to see they have allies.

    My social studies classes often discuss how social movements start with unpopular decisions from the government and authority figures of the time. Police abuse of gay men at the Stonewall Inn in New York City intensified the gay rights movement. In Selma, Alabama, a march that became known as Bloody Sunday inspired thousands more to join a second march.

    Even as we make steps as a nation in our laws and culture toward acceptance for the LGTBQ community, there will be setbacks. I hope my students, the next generation of leaders in this country, hear the message that we can be most constructive if we advocate for equal treatment and respect others. Hate only breeds more hate; being respectful is how we engender respect from others.

    Brad Layman teaches world history, sociology and psychology and sponsors the Gay-Straight Alliance at Wabash High School in Wabash, Indiana.

    The post Backlash to Indiana’s religious freedom bill helped my LGBTQ students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    innercityhockey

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The National Hockey League playoffs begin this week, and for years now, the NHL’s teams and players have made time during their long season to broaden the game’s appeal, working with youth teams in neighborhoods not normally known as hockey hotbeds.

    We recently caught up with the Fort Dupont Cannons, the oldest team in the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone urban outreach program, who are getting an assist from stars of the Washington Capitals.

    NEAL HENDERSON, Founder & Head Coach, Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Program: The ice rink was the only one in Washington at the time, so with the kids in the neighborhood, I came over to the rink, and from then on, it’s been known as the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Program.

    My name is Neal Henderson. I’m the founder and owner. I’m the head coach there. We have been in operation since 1977. And our rink is right on a fort that was there during the Civil War.

    The southeast side of the capital wasn’t ever touched, because the slaves guarded that section and they fought anyone who came on that side. The black represents the slave. The gold represents the brass buttons on the uniform. And the white represents their officers. So, this is why we wear these colors.

    BENTON O’NEILL, Goalie, Fort Dupont Cannons: People think that I’m crazy for playing hockey, because it’s scary when the puck comes at you.

    My name is Benton O’Neill. I play goalie for the Fort Dupont Cannons, and I’m 14 years old. And when I tell them I play hockey, they’re like — kind of like surprised that I’m a black kid playing hockey. And my family, they encourage to be myself, so that I wouldn’t like follow the crowd.

    ALECIA WILSON: Because it’s such a rough area, it gives the children an outlet. When there’s issues going on at home, they have somewhere to go.

    I’m Alicia Wilson. I’m Benton’s mom. I have never had an issue with him because he’s always wanted to play. I’m always emphasizing to other parents of how great hockey is.

    NEAL HENDERSON: Hockey is a tool. And kids will learn anything. And if you don’t have them in a positive mind, they will do something wrong.

    I have very high standards. You can only have one C on your report, but you must strive for A’s and B’s. I have a young lady that’s interested in either Harvard or Cornell to play on the ladies hockey team there.

    KATHERINE BAKER, Defense, Fort Dupont Cannons: Hockey at the collegiate level, I know it’s going to be very competitive. But I also known that I’m going to do.

    My name is Katherine Baker. I play for the Fort Dupont Cannons. I play defense. To my neighborhood and to myself, it’s been very important; it’s my safe haven. It’s where I go every free moment I get, basically. I started playing hockey because a group of my friends were also playing, and I really enjoyed watching it.

    BENTON O’NEILL: I chose to play hockey because I watched it on TV, and I saw Joel Ward playing for the Caps, and I wanted to be like him.

    JOEL WARD, Right Wing, Washington Capitals: It’s an inspirational spot to be at if anyone gets a chance to visit Fort Dupont.

    I’m Joel Ward and I play right wing for the Washington Capitals. I have been there for a couple years now. And it’s just not about hockey. It’s just about life lessons and learning and a lot of discipline. And I think it’s just guys like myself, it’s our jobs to help promote it.

    NEAL HENDERSON: The NHL helps us quite a bit. How many kids get the opportunity to meet the greatest player in ice hockey?

    ALEX OVECHKIN, Left Wing, Washington Capitals: If you have a chance to help the kids, you have to do it.

    I’m Alex Ovechkin. And I play on the Washington Capitals. If they’re not going to be a hockey players, then maybe they are going to be a good businessman.

    KATHERINE BAKER: This wasn’t my first time playing with Ovechkin. This was actually my second.

    The first time I actually played with Ovechkin, it was very ecstatic. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. I just saw a great hockey player and me being able to skate on the ice with him. It didn’t really hit me until after the fact. And then, I’m looking back on it like, wow, times have really changed, and I still look up to him.

    ALEX OVECHKIN: For me, actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s white or black. If he is a good player, he can help the team, and he love the hockey, like, he’s going to be out there.

    JOEL WARD: To see that many black kids out there black kids playing hockey like that on one surface like that, I have never seen that growing up my whole life. It’s no secret. If you look out, hockey’s a predominantly white sport.

    When I first came to D.C., I wanted to choose a number. It was a new chapter in my life. I wanted to pick a number that was kind of really meaningful. And I thought 42 was available, for the honor of Jackie Robinson. And hopefully I wear it with honor and pride and do the number some justice.

    Obviously, hearing Willie’s story and following him, his past, here I am today. And, obviously, if it wasn’t for those guys, I would not have this opportunity.

    WILLIE O’REE, Former NHL Player: My name is Willie O’Ree. I played for the Boston Bruins in 1958, ’60 and ’61, and it was the media that gave me the name the Jackie Robinson of hockey. I didn’t give that name to myself. I didn’t realize that I had broke barriers and opened doors for other black players and players of color.

    Players on the opposition would call me the N-word. But, later on, there were more black players and players of color coming up. After I retired in 1980, I felt that I had something to give back to the sport. We want to make hockey available to every boy and girl possible.

    NEAL HENDERSON: A hockey puck doesn’t care who hits it, and I don’t care who hits my hockey puck. As long as they want to learn to play hockey, they come to the right place.

    KATHERINE BAKER: The Fort Dupont Cannons, it’s a family. I couldn’t describe it any other way. With coach Neal and his team being like parents, they make sure everything is OK.

    NEAL HENDERSON: I’m their uncle. I’m their dad. I’m their big brother. And I’m someone that they can call at midnight, if necessary. I love doing it, because what happens is, that’s a kid that I saved.

     

    The post NHL stars pass the puck to inner city youth appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Floodlights illuminate the Albert P. Mur

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a moment that shocked the nation and changed the way we think about threats at home.

    Two minutes past 9:00 on the morning of April 19, 1995, downtown Oklahoma City is torn apart.

    MAN: I went under the table when the ceiling started falling in. And that’s what saved me, I guess.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A Ryder truck loaded with a diesel fuel and fertilizer bomb blew up next to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, cutting it in half; 168 people, including 19 children in its day care center, died. More than 650 were injured.

    On April 21, Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh and another former soldier, Terry Nichols, were arrested, and later formally charged with the bombing.

    Two days later, then President Bill Clinton came to comfort the city and the country.

    PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: For we will stand with you for as many tomorrows as it takes.

    (APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: McVeigh and Nichols, members of far right-wing anti-federal-government groups, timed the attack for the two-year anniversary of the fiery end to the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians. That breakaway religious sect, in Waco, Texas, had staged a 51-day standoff with law enforcement, which ended with an FBI-led assault on the heavily armed compound; 76 members of the group died that day.

    In 1997, McVeigh was found guilty on 11 federal counts of murder and conspiracy. He was sentenced to death and executed in 2001. Nichols was later found guilty on federal charges of conspiracy and manslaughter and 161 state counts of first-degree murder. He is serving multiple life sentences in a Colorado federal prison.

    The anniversary will be recognized throughout the coming weekend in Oklahoma City, and there will be much attention on how survivors and families are faring.

    Our colleagues at the PBS station OETA produced a documentary called “Resilience” and spoke with many of them. It was done in conjunction with The Daily Oklahoman newspaper. Here’s an edited excerpt.

    It features the now-grown daughters of a bombing victim, the sister of another, a 21-year-old man who was one of six children who survived from the day care center in the building. It burned his infant lungs and left third-degree burns over half his body. And, finally, the head of the credit union in the Murrah Building at the time.

    WOMAN: I don’t know how we did it. The first morning we opened up for business, there was probably 500 members of the credit union that some of them had been housed in the Murrah Building. Nobody had anything to do. In fact, everything in Oklahoma City stopped. Everybody stopped when that happened.

    ROSSLYN BIGGS, Mother killed in bombing: Our dad thought it was really important for us to continue with — you know, continue with life. And that’s really been — even from the immediate incident, that’s really been a defining kind of trait as we have — as we have gone along. Otherwise, you sit glued to the TV and you can only — you can only watch — watch so much over and over again.

    CINDY ASHWOOD, Sister killed in bombing: A counselor once told me that you have body memories. Your body remembers what your mind processed in a traumatic event, and that sometimes your body reacts, sometimes in similar fashion. And I think that’s really true, and you do. You just start getting kind of tense.

    And, sometimes, it’s funny. I will just almost not feel well, and I will think, huh, I wonder what’s wrong?  And I will be like, it’s April.

    PJ ALLEN, Survivor: I constantly deal with that day every — every day of my life, so it’s never really pushed to the aside. I always am thankful that I was able to make it through that day. And what I take from it whenever I think about it is that God had a plan for me to survive that day, and why I’m at college to try to figure out what that plan is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Three perspectives now on lessons learned from the attack and how we face domestic threats today.

    Jamie Gorelick was the deputy attorney of the United States at the time, the second highest position in the Department of Justice, and a point person in the response in the trial. She served on the 9/11 Commission and is now a partner at the law firm WilmerHale. Barry Grissom is the United States attorney for the district of Kansas. And Kerry Pettingill was a lieutenant with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on the day of the bombing and an early responder. He would later become the first director of homeland security for the state.

    And we welcome all three of you to the program.

    Kerry Pettingill, as we said, you were with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on the day this happened. You got the call. What did you see?

    KERRY PETTINGILL, Former Director of Homeland Security, Oklahoma: Well, when I first started responding to the downtown area, I had approached from the north. It was — there was already gridlock. I had to drive across sidewalks in order to get as close as I could.

    And I had to walk in from the north, and I had in my mind that it was going to be a — we knew it was some type of an explosion. But I was thinking natural gas or perhaps even an airplane had crashed into the building, because we — at that time, we had a downtown airpark.

    But when I turned the corner and I saw the building, or what was left of the building, I knew immediately that this was no natural disaster or not natural, but a disaster — an accident. And then the observations were just the way the people were going about helping each other and, for me, it was trying to determine what to do next.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you think, looking back on it, Oklahoma City and the state did deal with it at the time, and how are they doing today?

    KERRY PETTINGILL: Oh, I think the immediate response was tremendous. It was a coming together of everyone, not just the responders, but also I say the professional responders, the actions of those men and women that were involved in the blast, those that were injured, but could care for others, the way that they assumed certain roles and cared for each other and helped get everyone to safety.

    I think that the leadership from the governor’s office, the mayor’s office, the Chief Marrs at the fire department, Chief Gonzales at the police department, and Bob Ricks, who was the special agent in charge of the FBI, the way everyone came together and made decisions very quickly, I think, helped us maneuver through the immediate processes of trying to gain some type of control over the incident.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Barry Grissom, as we said, you were in — you are in Kansas. You were in Kansas at the time. That’s where Timothy McVeigh rented the truck. And we know that’s where he got the materials to make the mom bomb. What did this mean to that part of the country?  You could argue that was the last place people expected there to be an attack like this?

    BARRY GRISSOM, U.S. Attorney, District of Kansas: Yes, ma’am. That’s the refrain you always hear, that, how could this happen here?

    To believe that and to ultimately find out that the Ryder truck was rented in Junction City, Kansas, and that the ammonium nitrate was purchased in Herington, Kansas, and the blasting caps were stolen from a rock quarry in Marion, Kansas, and no one detected or connected the dots that ultimately led to the tragedy, that was the thing that really shocked us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And something that you didn’t think would happen in that part of the country?  And how do you think that the midsection responded?

    BARRY GRISSOM: I think the midsection responded just like we want them to. As Kerry described what the folks did here in Oklahoma City, the outpouring of support from Kansas, from Texas, from Arkansas, from Colorado was amazing.

    What it did do for us, though, it was an awakening. It made us understand that this isn’t an East Coast or a West Coast phenomena, that this is something that can take place in our backyards, in our neighborhoods. And, as a result of that, the evolution that’s happened in law enforcement through joint terrorism task force working together has been really great.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    And, Jamie Gorelick, from where you sat, number two, we said, at the Justice Department in 1995, how — what was it like to deal with it from here?  And how did you know — there was no playbook for something like this.

    JAMIE GORELICK, Former Deputy Attorney General: There was definitely no playbook.

    And to your earlier question, Judy, this was entirely shocking to have something like this happen in the heartland. And when we found out that it was one of us, that was doubly shocking. Dealing with the event itself was an extraordinary effort. You had many state and local responders, and you had many different federal agencies that had to be deconflicted.

    And one of my jobs was to make sure, working with the governor, that we knew who was doing what. You had a crime scene and a rescue scene in the same place. And that active investigation had to start right away, even as we were clearing through the rubble and trying to save people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As you look at it from a federal perspective, and looking at how the state and the local area responded, how good a job did everybody do?

    JAMIE GORELICK: Fantastic. I mean, people really did pull together. The people of Oklahoma were terrific. The country was so shocked by this, that there was an enormous pulling together of resources and feeling.

    I thought the president — you had some of his remarks — was terrific in a healing role and making sure that the people of Oklahoma City understood that the rest of us were there for the people of Oklahoma.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Barry Grissom, back to you.

    You have seen since them as a U.S. attorney in Kansas that part of the country, the entire country having to deal much more with domestic terrorism since then than anything we knew at the time. How have you seen the responses evolve and change?

    BARRY GRISSOM: Well, the responses can best be defined as this.

    Roles have dissolved. It’s very rare that it’s federal, state, and local name tags. It’s law enforcement. Through these joint terrorism task forces that we have now, we’re able to work with law enforcement partners, cross-designate folks, and work closer to — with one another than we ever have in the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what has that meant?  How is it more closely together and understand that it is going to happen again?

    BARRY GRISSOM: Yes, ma’am, that’s right.

    And I can give you a perfect example. Less — a little over a week another, we stopped a young man who wanted to drive a carload of explosives on to Fort Riley and kill soldiers. That was just the past week. A year-and-a-half ago, we had someone who wanted to drive a carload of explosives onto the tarmac in Wichita, Kansas. And that was stopped.

    Tragically, we weren’t able to stop a white supremacist who committed an act of domestic terrorism by three people at a Jewish community center in Overland Park. So, having been U.S. attorney for only five years and having to deal with three what I perceive as major terrorist potential events, that’s — that we stopped two of the three, we take some pride in that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jamie Gorelick, how do you see Washington’s response?  I know you’re out of the federal government now, but you watch it very closely. You were a member the 9/11 Commission.

    But how you have seen the government’s response to domestic terrorism change from what it was 20 years ago?

    JAMIE GORELICK: Well, I would agree that we’re much less atomized and more cohesive than we ever were.

    If you think about the numbers, let’s say the FBI has 40,000 people and state and local police are about a million, you have to knit those resources together. And, you know, the federal government is not going to know what’s happening on every street corner the way a local cop is going to.

    So there has to be that sharing. It’s much better. It’s not perfect, but it’s much, much better. There are all kinds of mechanisms for jointness. There’s much better information-sharing, again, not perfect but a lot better.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And less likely to be the element of surprise, even though no one wants or wants to believe anything like this could happen again?

    JAMIE GORELICK: Well, when you have just a few people or a single person who wants to do something bad, it’s really hard to stop it, unless you have so much surveillance in your society that it’s unattractive, to say the least, to the American people.

    And that’s the balance that we are constantly debating and trying to trying to measure for ourselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Kerry Pettingill, back to you, how do you see Oklahoma, the people of your state, changing as a result of what happened 20 years ago?

    KERRY PETTINGILL: I think that Oklahoma City has grown tremendously. It’s a great city today. It’s very progressive, and it is — Barry and I were talking earlier about how much it’s changed.

    But the people were very resilient. And it was, as you guys talked about, the president saying that we weren’t alone. Knowing that we weren’t alone if our recovery was, I think, very beneficial in that process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s very difficult to look back, but it’s important that we do. And we thank all three of you for being with us.

    Kerry Pettingill and Barry Grissom and Jamie Gorelick here, we thank you.

    JAMIE GORELICK: Thank you.

    KERRY PETTINGILL: Thank you.

    BARRY GRISSOM: Thank you.

    The post ‘There was no playbook’ for handling the Oklahoma City bombing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Benefit increases have a positive -- if temporary -- effect on consumer spending. Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty.

    Benefit increases have a positive — if temporary — effect on consumer spending. Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty.

    A new Kansas law restricts the ways in which recipients of government assistance can spend their benefits. While many states have placed restrictions on how benefit cards can be used, prohibiting purchases such as alcohol, tobacco products and adult entertainment, the Kansas law goes further, banning the purchase of items ranging from lingerie to movie tickets. The law also limits ATM withdrawals of cash assistance to $25 per day. Similar legislation has been proposed in Missouri pertaining to that state’s food stamp program. The Missouri law would prevent food stamp recipients from buying cookies, chips and other junk food items, but also seafood and steak.

    Supporters of these laws argue that state governments have a right to control the way funds they distribute are allocated. Dissenters claim the restrictions undermine government assistance programs and serve to dehumanize that nation’s poorest citizens. We’re inviting you to weigh in on Twitter. Attorney Chelsi P. Henry (@chelsiphenry), who has written about how her own family’s experience with welfare has led her to support the Kansas and Missouri laws, will join the conversation, along with representatives of Kansas Action For Children (@KansasAction), an advocacy group that opposes the law. Follow along and share your opinion this Thursday, April 23, from 1-2 p.m. EDT using #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter chat: Should the government tell welfare recipients how to spend their money? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WELFARE TO WORK_Monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s a growing push at the state level to crack down on welfare spending. In some cases, it’s about how much is spent and for how long. In other cases, it’s about making sure the money is spent well.

    Kansas became the latest state today, when Governor Sam Brownback signed a law establishing stricter limits on eligibility and the use of benefits. Nearly two dozen states have made some kind of change to their rules.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has been looking into welfare reform and how it’s been working before these latest moves. It’s part of our ongoing reporting Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

    ASHLEY MURPHY: The wait is crazy there, like almost three to four hours.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Three to four hours?

    ASHLEY MURPHY: Minimum to just go, like, into the office.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In Boston, 24-year-old Ashley Murphy, single mother of a boy, 4, and girl, 1. She’s been on welfare since 2013, would do anything to get off.

    ASHLEY MURPHY: I feel like they kind of look down on you in a way.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Murphy is now in a privately funded career training class, hoping to get a job in nursing and off welfare, which she’s on because she quit her last job in retail.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And why did you quit?

    ASHLEY MURPHY: I was working there for over two years, and I just got $9 an hour.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And how many hours did you get in a typical week?

    ASHLEY MURPHY: It decreased to like four to eight hours a week.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So you were only getting four to eight hours a week at $9 an hour?

    ASHLEY MURPHY: And paid every two weeks.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, you obviously can’t live on that.

    Thus, it was welfare for Murphy. But to get welfare, you have to work, as of the 1996 welfare-to- work law, passed over skepticism from liberals by a Republican Congress, with support from President Bill Clinton.

    PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: When I ran for president four years ago, I pledged to end welfare as we know it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so he did. This story is about how that effort has fared.

    PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: Today, a hope of many years standing is in large part fulfilled.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Welfare as we’d come to know it began in 1935 as part of President Roosevelt’s Social Security Act, the aid to dependent children program to help subsidize families that had lost an income-producing father. By the 1970s, welfare had long been a lifeline for single-mother families, and a target of critics, encapsulated by Ronald Reagan’s references to it in runs for the White House.

    PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: It’s now common knowledge that our welfare system itself has become a poverty trap, a creator and reinforcer of dependency.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Alina Gardner, a manager at a Boston employment center, doesn’t disagree.

    ALINA GARDNER, Career Counselor: I had my first child in 1990. And this was before the welfare reform went in. In those days, you could just be on it forever. You know, there was — there weren’t many expectations.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But you were just sitting home collecting benefits. Bad for you?

    ALINA GARDNER: If you’re idle and you’re home all day and you’re not taking time to invest in yourself, so then you’re raising children to move into a direction that you want them to be self-sufficient, yes, it’s bad.

    WOMAN: You cannot be absent and you cannot be late.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Thus, the Clinton welfare-to-work program, which we have covered since its inception, single mothers ushered off the dole and into the work force, often groomed by private contract job placement programs like America Works. The jobs weren’t always great in the late ’90s.

    WOMAN: I have cashiers that I need for Krispy Kreme.

    WOMAN: Cashier, food prep at Bruegger’s Bagels on 42nd and Sixth.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But some held out the hope of upward mobility.

    MAN: Dawn, I have a great position for you. You will be involved in some of the creative end of the job, as well as dealing with their client base.

    MAN: I also have accounts receivable positions with Time Warner Cable.

    HILARY HOYNES, University of California, Berkeley: Research from the 1990s and early 2000s seems to show that the families seem to be doing pretty well.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Berkeley economist Hilary Hoynes studies social safety net programs.

    HILARY HOYNES: Going into it, there was a very strong fear that incomes would really plummet. And that didn’t happen. There might have been a small group sort of left behind, but, for the most part, I think many people were surprised that it worked.

    PAUL SOLMAN: If you just look at the welfare rolls, it more than worked, the number of families on welfare slashed from 12 million 20 years ago to some 3.5 million today. And back in the ’90s, bottom-tier wages were going up, but, says Hoynes:

    HILARY HOYNES: That increase in real wages for low-skilled workers in the late 1990s is not experienced in the 2000s.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s the welfare-to-work problem today, says job counselor Alina Gardner: You may find low-wage work, but how do you ever move up?

    ALINA GARDNER: Where’s that middle ground, right? There is no more middle ground. It’s either you’re down here or you’re up here, you know?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Sociologist Mary Gatta confirmed this when she went undercover at a New Jersey job center, pretending to be unemployed.

    MARY GATTA, Wider Opportunities for Women: After a class, I went up to an instructor and I said, I’m looking for a waitressing job. And she said, this is great. We have a job fair on the boardwalk. Go to the job fair. You will get a job. So my next question to her was, well what happens after Labor Day weekend? On the boardwalk after Labor Day, there are no more jobs. And she said, don’t worry. We’re doing a holiday job fair at the mall.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, seasonal low-wage jobs have always been an issue for the poor entering the work force, but it’s been traumatizingly true since 2008.

    HILARY HOYNES: Extreme poverty increased by much more in the great recession than we would have expected, and all the evidence suggests that that’s due to welfare reform.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Food stamps, housing and health care outlays are up, but welfare checks have shrunk so much that the very poorest single-parent families received 35 percent less than they did before welfare-to-work began.

    And there’s another major problem for welfare recipients right now: significantly reduced funding for job placement and training. After being told that work as a waitress would be on and off, undercover sociologist Mary Gatta took the all-important class in how to find a job training program.

    MARY GATTA: At the end of the class, they said, well, unfortunately we have run out of training dollars, so you have to wait until the next cycle.

    PAUL SOLMAN: You mean the class was literally about what training was available, and then there turned out to be none?

    MARY GATTA: Yes, there turned out to be no funding.

    VANESSA COOPER: I applied for the training in May, but they were not with funds at the time.

    PAUL SOLMAN: At the Boston center, Vanessa Cooper also was stymied after the training prep class.

    VANESSA COOPER: It was pretty frustrating waiting for funding that wasn’t there.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Neil Sullivan has run job placement for the poor in Boston for more than 30 years.

    NEIL SULLIVAN: We were much better off in the late ’90s, when the federal investment in welfare reform and job training for welfare recipients was enormous, as compared to the pittance the federal government is able to invest these days.

    The result is, welfare recipients languish in the system, and many others are rejected from the system and left to make it on their own. And, quite frankly, they don’t.

    WOMAN: What would be the average blood pressure rating?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ashley Murphy is actually lucky to have gotten into a job prep program foundation-funded through the city of Boston.

    Let’s hope it gets her a decent job, 19 years after welfare-to-work became the law of the land.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from Boston.

    GWEN IFILL: Join us for a Twitter chat next week, where we will discuss laws that limit how welfare recipients can spend their benefits. Details are on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

     

    The post Why it’s so hard to get off welfare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

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    GWEN IFILL: And the European Union’s commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, joins me now.

    For the record, we extended an invitation to Google to join this conversation, but they declined.

    Welcome.

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Thank you very much.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the offense in a company deciding that they’re going to arrange their search engines so that they promote themselves?

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Well, then the consumer doesn’t necessarily get the best answer to their query.

    Sometimes, it may be the best answer to be presented with Google shopping. But, sometimes, the best answer may be another answer. And what we see is that Google has systematically been favoring its own services and displayed that dominantly in the page when you search on your computer in European countries.

    GWEN IFILL: Do other tech companies like Amazon not do that?

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Well, they do not hold a 90 percent dominance in the general search market, as we see it in the European markets, and that’s a very important difference.

    GWEN IFILL: How is this different from the Microsoft — we mentioned in the setup there the Microsoft, the Intel cases before, some of which have been settled?

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Well, it’s about a completely different matter, and a lot of water on the beach since then.

    The digital market has developed dramatically in those years, a lot of innovation, and a lot of other consumer choices being made over the years. For me, it’s very important to see this as an individual case and not to, you know, think about other cases or precedent, because this is one case, and it has to be, you know, judged by its own facts and its own sort of proofs.

    GWEN IFILL: Consumers in America are kind of used to seeing that. They expect that the top four research results are going to favor whoever — whatever search engine they’re using, whether it’s Yahoo!, whether it’s Google.

    Is it different in Europe?

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Well, I think that consumers expect Google to present them with the best answer to their query.

    And I think they’re very reluctant to accept that the best answer is always the same. And, therefore, of course, we state our preliminary view, saying, well, this is how we see it, and now we expect Google to answer within 10 weeks or — and/or to call an oral hearing, where they can present their case, and where, also, the complainants, of which there is quite a number, can tell how they see the case.

    GWEN IFILL: Google, of course, has already responded in part. Part of their defense is, well, the industry has changed. Competition has changed, and, more important, the technology has changed. Even though we may dominate the market in Europe, people can still — it’s their choice. They can still go somewhere else if they want to get a different kind of result.

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Yes.

    And, of course, you can go somewhere else. You can find other search engines, but Google holds a very dominant position. And if you do that, well, you shouldn’t sort of misuse or abuse the powers that you have. Of course, I think it’s obvious you should congratulate Google for being successful and innovative, and helping us all quite a lot, but, for me, the congratulations stops when you see that a dominant position it being used in a neighboring market, where you’re not dominant, to — sort of to help yourself to a better position, but not on the merits of competition.

    GWEN IFILL: I know you said that all these cases are different, but Microsoft in the end paid billions of dollars in fines and it took themselves years and years. Intel is still appealing and still in a struggle against the European Commission on this.

    What — how do these kinds of complaints, these charges that you’re bringing, change corporate behavior?  Do they make things better, or are Microsoft and Intel, for instance, doing what they had always done?

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Well, I think that it’s very important. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of businesses who compete on the merits, who present their products to the customers, and who, of course, expect competition on the merits, that the game is not rigged in one way or another.

    And I think consumers expect of us that we enforce the law that enables choice and affordable prices and innovation to take place. And, therefore, I think that the case, this is very important to keep everyone sort of straight focusing on consumers and on innovation.

    GWEN IFILL: You said also yesterday that you’re going to be looking at the mobile system, the mobile operating system, Android system, which operators like Samsung use.

    How is that different for an operator to use something that somebody else produced to allow people that they can — if you have an Android phone, if you have a Samsung phone, you can use other operating systems, can’t you?

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Well, these are very early days.

    What we are saying by saying that now we have formally opened an in-depth investigation is also to tell them that, now it’s in the open. People can come forward if they have information for us, and it’s a high priority. We have put resources into this, also, in order to finalize it relatively quick.

    But, of course, we worry if we hear that those who manufacture our tablets, our smartphones are being very strongly sort of incentivized to use one certain system, which would be Android, followed by Google’s suites of products.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, we will be watching it all very carefully.

    Margrethe, Margrethe Vestager, European Union competition commissioner, thank you very much.

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

    The post Is Google’s search engine dominance hurting EU consumers? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GOOGLE CRACKDOWN monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: Now a look at the antitrust action the European Union has filed against Google.

    We start with a little background.

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER, Competition Commissioner, European Union: Today, we have adopted a statement of objection to Google.

    GWEN IFILL: After a five-year investigation, the European Union has charged Google with using its Internet search dominance to favor its own Google shopping engine.

    E.U. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager:

    MARGRETHE VESTAGER: What we would like to see is that consumers are certain to see the best comparison shopping results, and they shouldn’t just be shown the Google shopping results.

    GWEN IFILL: The move could lead to billions of dollars in fines for Google, which handles more than 90 percent of Internet searches in E.U. countries. Its U.S. share is around 70 percent.

    Google responded to the accusations yesterday, insisting that its shopping results have not harmed the competition, adding, “Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation in sectors dominated by one player. Yet that is exactly what’s happening in our world.”

    In a separate probe, the E.U. is looking into Google’s Android mobile system. Officials say the company is illegally obstructing rival systems, applications and services. Google has 10 weeks to respond. The case is just the latest in Europe’s battles with major U.S. tech companies. Microsoft was forced to pay more than $2 billion in fines during a decade-long antitrust fight. And Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have also faced off with European regulators.

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    WOMEN IN THE CHURCH vatican nuns monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There was an important and surprising change from Vatican City today. It has ended a crackdown placed on the major umbrella group for U.S. nuns.

    The group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had been accused under the previous pope, Benedict, of straying from church teaching and overemphasizing social justice. The Vatican’s earlier actions were seen as especially tough on women in the church.

    Pope Francis met with some of the sisters for nearly an hour today.

    A look at the significance and what this was all about with Rachel Zoll. She’s national religion writer for Associated Press.

    Rachel Zoll, thank you for being with us.

    First of all, remind us, what was the origin of this dispute between Women Religious and the Vatican and the previous pope?

    RACHEL ZOLL, Associated Press: Well, the investigation started about seven years ago.

    And the Vatican never said specifically why they started it, but it emerged from tensions over church teaching and the modernizing reforms of the 1960s, when the Second Vatican Council convened, and the church went into the modern era. The nuns followed them along. They shed their habits. They took on higher-level professional jobs in academia, and they focused on social justice issues, such as fighting poverty and fighting war.

    And what happens is that theological conservatives within the church started becoming concerned. They wondered if and very openly questioned whether the sisters had left behind the kind of traditional prayer life that was so important to the church, and many people openly questioned whether the sisters had actually been violating church teaching in some of the programming and some of the issues that they had emphasized.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what proportion of the Women Religious of the nuns were affected by the action the Vatican took a few years ago?

    RACHEL ZOLL: Well, there were two separate investigations that ran parallel. One was for this organization called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. It’s an umbrella group for the heads of women’s religious orders.

    And, separately, but parallel, there was an investigation, or a review, called an apostolic visitation of all the women’s religious orders in the United States. And while both of these investigations differed in some ways, they did also together look at the fidelity to church teaching of the sisters in United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So many women were affected by this. So what is the significance then of what the Vatican announced today?

    RACHEL ZOLL: What happened today was very much an abrupt about-face from the tone of the investigation itself.

    In 2012, the Vatican’s Doctrine Office announced that they were mandating a reform, a top-to-bottom overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. And they issued a report that was very harsh in its condemnation. They said that the programming for this organization was undermining church teaching on issues such as same-sex relationships and the priesthood, that they had given platform to people who had been — gone too far in terms of their questioning of church teaching.

    And the phrase that stuck out for a lot of people was that they were accuse of promoting radical feminist themes in some of their programming. Now, the leaders of the organization themselves said that these conclusions were deeply flawed, that, yes, that they were — there was questioning of church teaching, but it was well within the bounds of fidelity to the church.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just in a nutshell, today’s announcement means what?

    RACHEL ZOLL: That the Vatican review is over, that the oversight that the bishops themselves had taken of the organization is over, that the Leadership Conference is free to go forward and do the programming and the work that they want to do.

    There’s one caveat, though, and that is that within the very short report that was released from the Vatican today about what is going to happen, there was some talk of some continuing review of the — whether or not their programming was doctrinally sound.

    It’s not clear what that means. However, most people feel that the that the investigation itself is over and that this is good news for the nuns.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the fact that you described it as an about-face is significant and certainly bears watching going forward.

    Rachel Zoll with the Associated Press, we thank you.

    RACHEL ZOLL: Thank you.

    The post Under Pope Francis, Vatican changes its tone toward American nuns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    TRADE DEAL  monitor capitol dome

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    GWEN IFILL: It appears that, for today at least, bipartisanship may be alive and well on Capitol Hill. As we reported a few moments ago, top lawmakers from both parties struck a long-sought deal to give the president — to give President Obama the authority to negotiate a sweeping trade pact with Pacific nations.

    Here to fill in the picture, NewsHour political editor Lisa Desjardins.

    So, they agreed do, as we reported, is allow a yes-or-no vote on this negotiation — on this trade pact.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the significance of that?

    LISA DESJARDINS: A lot of the viewers might remember fast track authority. That’s what this is.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Let me explain this. We can look at a graphic here. Fast track authority means that the president can bring the outlines of a deal to Congress. If it meets the objectives that Congress is setting in the deal today, then the president gets it fast-tracked. He gets an up-or-down vote.

    And, Gwen, that’s so significant because it means Congress can’t amend a trade deal. That’s important to all of those Pacific nations and other nations we’re negotiating with, who don’t want to agree to a deal and then have Congress have the ability to change it. Here, Congress, yes or no.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the Asian nations are so anxiously waiting on us to act on?

    LISA DESJARDINS: This is a very significant trade deal.

    The transpacific nations incorporate 40 percent of the world’s GDP. These are some of the countries highlighted right here. One of the most important partners in that group is Japan, who, by the way, their prime minister will be here on an eight-day tour in just a couple of weeks. Timing a coincidence? No, not at all.

    That’s why they want to move this fast track now. They want him to be here and they want to be able to say we are open to this Trans-Pacific Partnership with you, which opens, basically, more doors for trade. There’s a debate over whether it’s good or bad.

    GWEN IFILL: As you know, all politics is local, all politics is domestic.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: And a lot of Democrats are not happy about this and unions are not happy about this.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.

    This is fascinating. The president has broken with unions here. Unions think this is a terrible deal. They think it will mean lower wages for their workers here. They think it will mean human rights violations possibly overseas. They also think it could have problems, including the environment. Unions oppose this adamantly.

    And, in fact, Gwen, the AFL-CIO told me today they are going to launch ads against particular senators and House members. If this has a weak point on the Hill, it’s the House. Right now, the Senate looks like it’s behind this agreement generally.

    GWEN IFILL: Except for Chuck Schumer, who may be rising in the ranks of the Senate shortly.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Thank God you said that. That’s right.

    Chuck Schumer is the one to watch here, Chuck Schumer, who is the heir-apparent to Harry Reid. He today, in a hearing on this, said he’s skeptical about it. And here’s what he needs to get on board. They need better currency manipulation protections. They feel that there’s no teeth in this deal, that all these Asian countries can just manipulate their currencies and increase trade in their direction.

    Schumer wants more currency manipulation protections.

    GWEN IFILL: In the blink of an eye, the president came out with a statement supporting this agreement today. What is the significant of a White House endorsement?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Oh, I think it’s huge. We knew the president liked this, but what was interesting in that statement, Gwen, is, he went out of his way to say: I care about American workers. I think this is good for American workers.

    He knows this is a problem for him on the left with unions.

    GWEN IFILL: And, at the very least, he can say to President Abe when he comes here, we’re working on it — Prime Minister Abe.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. That’s right.

    This is huge for the State Department and also for the trade reps that have been working on this for a long time, and not only on this one, but also other trade deals, one with Europe that is in the works as well.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, Lisa Desjardins, as usual, going behind the scenes for us. Thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I love it. Thank you.

    The post Why unions aren’t happy about a fast-track trade deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    news wrap

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    GWEN IFILL: Lawmakers struck a bipartisan deal to let President Obama fast-track trade deals. It comes just as negotiations with 11 Pacific nations are ramping up. Under fast-track authority, Congress could give any deal a yes or no vote, but it could not make any changes. The deal faces hurdles, many from within President Obama’s own party.

    Every major labor union has vowed to fight it, but, late today, the president issued a statement of support for the compromise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Al-Qaida militants in Yemen took over a major airport, seaport and oil terminal in the country’s south today. Officials said the militants clashed with military forces outside Mukalla before seizing control. Al-Qaida militants overran the city earlier this month, and have been fighting with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and with Saudi-backed government forces across the country.

    GWEN IFILL: Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual televised call-in show today, and addressed pre-screened questions from an audience on a range of subjects. He was adamant that Russian military forces are not in Ukraine. And he defended his decision to deliver an S-300 missile defense system to Iran, even as world powers negotiate a final nuclear deal.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): There is absolutely no threat to Israel. It’s exclusively defensive weapons. Moreover, we think that given the conditions in the region, particularly in relation with events in Yemen, the supplies of this type of weaponry are a deterrent factor.

    GWEN IFILL: Putin also accused Washington of prohibiting world leaders from attending a military parade in Russia next month. The celebration marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: More than 40 people seeking to migrate from Africa are feared dead in the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian media reported a small inflatable boat left Libya Saturday and sank while making the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe. More than 10,000 people have tried to make the trip this week alone.

    GWEN IFILL: South Korea observed a day of mourning on the one-year anniversary of a ferry disaster that killed 304 people. Ceremonies were held across the country to pay tribute to the victims. But relatives canceled one memorial service in protest, over the government’s failure to improve safety standards and hold high-level officials accountable.

    South Korea’s president assured families they’re working to raise the submerged vessel soon.

    PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE, South Korea (through interpreter): There are still nine missing victims in the sunken waters. The government will take all measures, so that those victims can return to their families. Recently, there was an announcement that it is technically possible to salvage the ship. We will quickly take necessary measures so that we can salvage the ship as soon as possible.

    GWEN IFILL: Raising the sunken ferry is expected to take as long as a year-and-a-half and cost as much as $137 million.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A new study on smoking found teens are lighting up less, but using electronic cigarettes at triple the rate they were a year earlier. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was based on a national survey of 22,000 students at middle and high schools. It found, in 2014, that 13 percent of high schoolers tried e-cigarettes. A year ago, the government proposed regulating e-cigarettes, including banning sales to minors.

    The entertainment giant Sony is facing a new round of problems over last year’s cyber-attack. WikiLeaks has created a searchable online archive of thousands of leaked e-mails and documents from the hack. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, asserted the material is public. Sony officials say it’s stolen information that has cost the company millions of dollars in damage.

    GWEN IFILL: General Motors will be shielded from some lawsuits over its faulty ignition switches and potentially $10 billion in damages. A bankruptcy judge upheld a legal shield yesterday that protected the new GM from claims that originated before it declared bankruptcy and restructured in 2009. About 150 lawsuits contend GM concealed a defect in ignition switches that led to the recall of 2.6 million vehicles.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, stocks finished the day nearly in line with where they started. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost seven points to close at 18100. The Nasdaq fell three points. The S&P 500 lost more than a point.

    GWEN IFILL: And a first for the U.S. record books. A woman in Houston gave birth to quintuplet sisters. Danielle Busby delivered all five girls last week, in four minutes, by C-section, after a 28-week pregnancy. In a video posted on YouTube, the parents said all five sisters are doing well, and require only modest breathing support. The last known quintuplet sisters were born in London in 1969.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s going to be a handful.

    The post News Wrap: Al-Qaida seizes airport, oil terminal in Yemen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Tom Merton via Getty Images

    Photo by Tom Merton via Getty Images

    Business groups praised a proposed new rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarifying how employers can construct wellness programs, but consumers advocates said the new policy could harm workers.

    The EEOC published the long-awaited rule Thursday.

    “This is a big step forward, primarily because the EEOC has defined what it means for a wellness program to be voluntary,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy at the National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

    The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their health. But they can ask workers for details about their health and conduct medical exams as part of a voluntary wellness program. Before this proposal was unveiled, employers and consumer advocates alike had been uncertain how the commission defined voluntary.

    Under the proposed rule, a wellness program is considered voluntary if employees aren’t required to participate, it doesn’t deny or limit health insurance coverage if people don’t participate, and it doesn’t retaliate against or otherwise interfere with employees who don’t participate.

    In addition, as employers increasingly link participation in wellness programs to financial incentives, the proposed rule would also allow an incentive of up to 30 percent of the cost of employee-only coverage for workers’ participation in a wellness program or achieving health outcomes.

    Consumer advocates say adopting such a standard would diminish employee protections.

    “I think most people would say that giving people a choice of answering questions [about their health] or [workers] paying several thousand dollars is not a voluntary choice,” says Jennifer Mathis, director of programs at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “That makes it coercive.”

    Last year, the EEOC made a similar argument when it brought an action against Honeywell International.  The commission claimed that penalties in the company’s wellness program made the program involuntary. Under the company’s program, an employee and spouse could face financial penalties of up to $4,000 in insurance and tobacco surcharges, among other things, for not participating.

    A federal district judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order sought by the EEOC that would have prevented the company from imposing its wellness program incentives this year.

    “The EEOC’s proposed rules are a positive step toward enabling the implementation of the President’s health care law and the desire of all Americans to lead healthier lives,” Honeywell said in a statement.

    In recent years, wellness programs have become a favored tool for employers who are seeking to encourage their employees to stop smoking, lose weight and keep their blood pressure and cholesterol under control. The Affordable Care Act allows companies to offer workers wellness incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage, or up to 50 percent for activities that aim to help people quit smoking.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Proposal on wellness program garners business praise, consumer concerns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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