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

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    Gay marriage supporters hold a gay rights flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court before a hearing about gay marriage

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was a historic day at the Supreme Court, at stake, the definition of marriage.

    Justices split the issue into two questions: Must every state permit same-sex marriage? And, if not, do states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere?

    Protesters from both sides of the debate crowded outside the court building in Washington this morning.

    Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal was there and she joins us now.

    MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: Hi, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Marcia, big day at the court. Knowing that, what is it, 36 of the states…

    MARCIA COYLE: Plus the District of Columbia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … already declare same-sex marriage legal, what were the petitioners today asking the court to decide?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, basically, they’re laying claim to the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process of law.

    They’re saying that the court has recognized that there is a fundamental right to marry, and under the 14th Amendment, they have been — they deserve to be part and to participate in that fundamental right.

    The states that still do ban same-sex marriage, they claim, are excluding them from that fundamental right to marry. It was a packed courtroom, Judy, and the arguments were fast-paced and intense. And I hope anybody who is interested will listen to the full audio and read the transcript.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, we’re going to listen to some of them in just a minute.

    But how did the arguments initially unfold?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, the first argument was on the marriage question, whether the 14th Amendment requires states to license these marriages.

    And the arguments focused on several key issues. The justices probed, who should be deciding this? Should it be the court itself, or should it be the states through their electorate? Also, has enough time passed for us to gauge whether there’s any impact, good or bad, on the family unit and children in particular of same-sex marriages?

    And then also what is the states’ real interest here in banning these marriages, when it recognizes other types of marriages, and even though they still stick with the traditional definition?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we picked out — as you said, this is one rare cases where they do allow an audio recording.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you — we have worked with you today to pick out three different clips.

    The first one, Marcia, is an exchange initiated by the chief justice with the attorney representing the same-sex couple.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right. Almost off the bat, the chief justice probed her about the definition of marriage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And let’s listen to that.

    JOHN ROBERTS, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: My question is you’re not seeking to join the institution. You’re seeking to change what the institution is.

    The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.

    MARY BONAUTO, Special Counsel, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders: Two points on that, Your Honor. To the extent that if you’re talking about the fundamental right to marry as a core male-female institution, I think, when we look at the 14th Amendment, we know that it provides enduring guarantees, in that what we once viewed as the role of women, or even the role of gay people, is something that has changed in our society.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do we learn from that exchange?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, I think the justices are being very cautious here. They’re pointing out how long we have had this definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

    But what Ms. Bonauto was saying — and I think she got a real boost from Justice Ginsburg. Justin Ginsburg noted that the institution of marriage has changed over the years. There was a time when a woman was obligated to follow her husband. But the Supreme Court in a decision ended that, so marriage does evolve and change and this is just another instance of how it can change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Now, the second clip we’re going to listen to, this was initiated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, widely seen as a swing vote on the court.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s listen to that one.

    ANTHONY KENNEDY, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court: This definition has been with us for millennia. And it — it’s very difficult for the court to say, oh, well, we — we know better.

    MARY BONAUTO: Well, I don’t think this is a question of the court knowing better.

    When we think about the debate, the place of gay people in our civic society is something that has been contested for more than a century.

    And the American people have been debating and discussing this. It has been exhaustively aired, and the bottom line is that gay and lesbian families live in communities as neighbors throughout this whole country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, what about that? We know that Justice Kennedy had other questions at other times that were more sympathetic to the…

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes.

    Later, in the arguments, there were things he said that did indicate he was sympathetic to the marriage claim. But Ms. Bonauto is again, in a way, is reassuring the justices that this is not something that’s terribly new.

    As she pointed out, first same-sex marriage case came to the Supreme Court in 1972, over 40 years ago. And the Hawaii Supreme Court, I think it was back in the early 1990s, indicated that it might rule in favor of same-sex marriage.

    So she is saying that this is something that’s been around and has been talked about. And it’s time basically for the court to decide this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, just very quickly, when Justice Kennedy weighed in sounding sympathetic to the other side, what was that about?

    MARCIA COYLE: Justice Kennedy has written the three prior decisions of the court dealing with gay rights, basically.

    And if you read those decisions, as they come to the most recent one, U.S. vs. Windsor, involving the Defense of Marriage Act, he’s spoken about the dignity of the individual. And he’s also talked about the importance of marriage and dignity to gay couples and their children.

     

    So, in the questioning, he did bring that forward about how marriage does bestow dignity on those who participate in it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, now, the third clip, Marcia, is from an exchange between the attorney representing the states that bans same-sex marriage — his name is John Bursch — and Justice Sotomayor.

    Here’s that one.

    JOHN BURSCH, Former Michigan Solicitor General: This case isn’t about how to define marriage. It’s about who gets to decide that question. Is it the people acting through the democratic process, or is it the federal courts?

    And we’re asking you to affirm every individual’s fundamental liberty interest in deciding the meaning of marriage. And I think this whole case really turns on the questions that Justice Scalia asked.

    SONIA SOTOMAYOR, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court: I’m sorry. Nobody is taking that away from anybody. Every single individual in this society chooses, if they can, their sexual orientation or who to marry or not marry.

    I suspect, even with us giving gays rights to marry, that there’s some gay people who will choose not to, just as there’s some heterosexual couples who choose not to marry. So we’re not taking anybody’s liberty away.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does that tell us?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, the justices are trying to get from Mr. Bursch, what is the states’ real interest here?  And not so much who has to decide it, as he was making that argument. That is one of the state’s argument, but what is the state’s interest in banning these marriages?

    And Mr. Bursch will tell them, and he will be repeatedly asked what this is, that basically the state’s interest is in promoting the stability of the family unit and the bonding of children with their biological parents, an interest in procreation as well.

    And that’s developed as the arguments go along, as justices ask him if repeatedly also, what is the harm to children or the family unit if there are gay marriages?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, Marcia, there was a second question, as you mentioned earlier, that the justices were discussing. It was part of the argument, and that is whether states should recognize marriages performed in other states if that state itself bans same-sex marriage.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes.

    This question will become critical if those who are in favor of gay marriage lose on that first question. Then it does become a recognition issue. And, today, the lawyer for already married gay couples, Mr. Hallward-Driemeier, told the court there’s not only a fundamental right to marry, but there is a right to remain married.

    And these states that don’t recognize those marriages are basically destroying that family unit in their state. And he pointed to the historical practice of states to recognize marriages conducted in other states, so why not these?

    In reply, Tennessee’s lawyer said basically that that was the historical practice when all the states had the same definition of marriage. The landscape is different today, and the state can decide not to recognize a marriage that doesn’t comport with its own policies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marcia Coyle, the decision is coming in June.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, it is. It’s going to be a big June, Judy.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We thank you.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure.

    The post Supreme Court considers whether it’s time for nationwide same-sex marriage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.13.00 PM

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The issue of whether the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry went before the U.S. Supreme Court today. Justices heard two hours of arguments in cases from four states. Afterwards, lawyers on both sides said the court’s decision will be critical in the life of the nation.

    MARY BONAUTO, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders:
    The Constitution promises equal protection and due process and liberty to all right now. It’s not a popularity contest. The court, absolutely, it’s their job to ensure that every individual’s liberty and equality is protected, regardless of state laws.

    JOHN BURSCH, Former Solicitor General, Michigan:
    What is so important I think for the country to understand is that when the court takes social decisions like this away from the people, it cuts off debate, it hardens positions. And when people are forced to sit down with each other and talk civilly and compassionately and try to persuade, we are a much better democracy for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    A decision is expected by June. We will hear some of the audio from today’s arguments and analysis after the news summary.

    GWEN IFILL: Little by little, aid began getting to earthquake survivors in Nepal today, but the death toll kept rising, to more than 4,600.

    Mark Austin of Independent Television News reports from the ravaged capital city of Kathmandu.

    MARK AUSTIN, ITN: It is desperate, it is disorganized, and it is almost certainly too late.

    In the center of Kathmandu, still, they dig frantically in hope. A community overwhelmed is doing the best it can. But, in truth, it is hopelessly inadequate for the task in hand here. This was a temple, a favorite with the tourists. Some almost certainly lie buried here. And on the mound of rubble, those who came for a holiday are instead helping an ill-prepared country deal with catastrophe.

    Nobody who’s organizing us. We just do what we think is right. And people are giving us like different directions all the time.

    MAN: Considering the tools we’re using and the manpower, it’s amazing.

    MARK AUSTIN: But it looks just so chaotic to me.

    MAN: It is. It is, really. But it’s happening. It’s — looks like they might have found somebody.

    MARK AUSTIN: As we spoke, the shouts of the chaos signaling another body had been found.

    With every passing hour, the number of dead increases, and the chances of finding anyone alive diminish. They think they may find survivors here, still, but the cold reality has to be this is day four after the earthquake. And this is now really a recovery operation.

    And the frantic search for survivors is matched only by the growing clamor for food. Here, they are handing out small bags of cooking oil and noodles. But just look at the desperation. And just look at the queues. These are the people unable or too frightened to return to their homes. And just as nature has dealt them one terrible blow, the weather is frowning on them, too.

    The rain, a lack of sanitation and overcrowded conditions are all the ingredients needed for one crisis to follow another. This aid worker is very worried.

    SAGAR UPADHAYA, Volunteer Aid Worker:
    Any outbreak of waterborne diseases can happen anytime here. And if that happens, it would be — it would be a scenario of epidemic. You won’t be able to control in this population of 5,000 to 7,000 in this ground. And there are people on the other side as well. So it’s very, very difficult here.

    MARK AUSTIN: And you think that is a realistic possibility?

    SAGAR UPADHAYA: Yes. That’s a very, very realistic possibility.

    MARK AUSTIN: In this shattered city this evening, more international specialist rescue teams are finally getting down to work. If there is anyone still alive, these are the people who will find them.

    But no earthquake can stop the passing of time. It is four days and counting. Kathmandu is a place in need of miracles, when, tonight, all it has is despair.

    GWEN IFILL: After night fell, a French rescue team did free a survivor from the ruins of a hotel in Kathmandu. But closer to the quake’s epicenter, 250 people were missing after a mudslide and avalanche.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Saudi Arabia, authorities said they have broken up a plot to carry out a suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh. Two suspects were arrested, along with more than 90 others with alleged ties to the Islamic State group.

    GWEN IFILL: Tensions flared today in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. military said Iranian forces fired warning shots across the bridge of a cargo vessel sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands. It happened in the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians directed the ship to sail toward their navy’s main port at Bandar Abbas. There were no Americans aboard, but the U.S. Navy sent a destroyer to monitor the situation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Senate has begun debating a bill to let Congress review and possibly reject any nuclear agreement reached with Iran. The bill has bipartisan support, and Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted a vigorous discussion.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: Preventing the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism from gaining access to nuclear weapons should be the goal of all senators, no matter what party they belong to. The price of a bad agreement with Iran could be catastrophic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans have offered more than 50 amendments, on everything from Iran’s human rights record to its support for Islamist militants. Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats warned that some of the amendments are poison pills designed to disrupt the nuclear negotiations.

    SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader: A number of my Republican colleagues have stated publicly in their efforts to be a Republican nominee for president what they want to do with this bill. I am concerned that they and others want to use this good bipartisan piece of legislation as a platform for their political ambitions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s unclear exactly when the Senate might get to a final vote on the bill.

    GWEN IFILL: Eight convicted drug smugglers have been executed in Indonesia, despite international pleas that they be spared. Relatives of the convicted men today traveled today to the prison island, where a firing squad carried out the death sentences. Indonesia had rejected pleas from Australia, Brazil, and other nations to delay the executions. A woman from the Philippines was spared, at least temporarily.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: From Nigeria, there’s word that nearly 300 girls and women have been rescued from Boko Haram militants. The army announcement today said they’re being screened and profiled. But a spokesman said they do not include any of the 200-plus girls who were abducted from the village of Chibok a year ago.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today they’re determined to go ahead with a free trade agreement. The president acknowledged opposition in Congress to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but said it’s critical to expanding U.S. influence and exports in Asia. Abe addresses Congress tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The nation’s largest poultry producer will eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chicken flocks. Tyson Foods announced today it’s halting the practice in 2017. It’s the latest and largest such move in the poultry industry, amid concern that widespread use of antibiotics is generating supergerms.

    GWEN IFILL: The National Football League is giving up the tax-exempt status it’s held since the 1940s. In a statement today, commissioner Roger Goodell said the league wants to eliminate a recurring dispute with Congress over the issue. Individual NFL teams already pay taxes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 70 points to close above 18100. The Nasdaq fell about five points, and the S&P added nearly six.

    The post News Wrap: Kathmandu continues search for buried survivors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    National Guard troops stand watch along E. Pratt St. in Baltimore, Maryland

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Baltimore was a city in crisis today. Soldiers and police were out in force, determined to prevent a second night of rioting. Monday’s violence erupted after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died in police custody with a severe spinal injury. Today, the fires were doused, and a tense calm prevailed.

    MAN: This is Baltimore. We’re winners. We don’t lay down.

    GWEN IFILL: Volunteers were up at first light in Baltimore to start cleaning up the mess.

    GERALD MILLER: It’s going to take people getting involved, getting in the trenches, not just standing behind a lectern or when the camera’s on, or whatever. You got to get down here in it with the people. This is where the people are. This is where they’re hurting.

    GWEN IFILL: The hurting started in West Baltimore and spread overnight, leaving shop owners to watch as their livelihoods burned. In all, 15 buildings and 144 vehicles were set on fire by hundreds of youthful rioters. More than 200 people were arrested, even as Freddie Gray’s mother appealed for the violence to stop.

    GLORIA DARDEN, Mother of Freddie Gray: I want you all to get justice for my son, but don’t do it like this here. Don’t tear up the whole city, man. Just for him? It’s wrong.

    GWEN IFILL: Today, 2,000 National Guard troops patrolled streets, preparing to enforce the second night of a weeklong curfew. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he will call in several thousand more officers from the Mid-Atlantic region as needed.

    GOV. LARRY HOGAN, (R) Maryland: We’re still concerned about what might happen this evening. We’re continuing to bring more people in from around the state and around the country. We’re going to put as much manpower and as many resources as we can to make sure that we do not have that kind of situation tonight.

    GWEN IFILL: And, in an extraordinary move, the Baltimore Orioles announced they will bar the public from tomorrow’s game with the Chicago White Sox. They canceled games last night and tonight.

    Meanwhile, there were questions about the city’s response. Police said they were outnumbered last night, with 20 officers injured, six of them seriously. But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defended her decision not to ask the governor for help sooner.

    MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, (D) Baltimore: You know, there’s always going to be armchair quarterbacks that have never sat in my seat that see things differently, but this isn’t the first emergency that I have to deal with. But I know that you have to put in the work and manage the crisis on the ground. And that’s what we’re doing.

    GWEN IFILL: Other city leaders joined the mayor in condemning the rioting, and called for boosting the city’s economy to give hope to the young.

    BERNARD “JACK” YOUNG, President, Baltimore City Council:
    It is not about Freddie Gray. It is about the pain, the hurt and the suffering of these young people. And that is no excuse for them to loot, riot and destroy our city.

    I made a comment on yesterday out of frustration and anger when I called our children thugs. They are not thugs. They are just misdirected. And we need to direct them on a different path.

    GWEN IFILL: And President Obama weighed in from the White House. He, too, criticized the rioters, but said it’s past time for national soul-searching on what drives the anger.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant, and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped, but we’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important. And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.

    GWEN IFILL: As the president spoke, protesters in Baltimore staged a peaceful demonstration, watched closely by police in riot gear.

    We will have more on what the president had to say and take a closer look at the tensions in Baltimore later in the program.

    The post National Guard patrols Baltimore streets after night of violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) (R) addresses a news conference in support of a proposed constitutional amendment for campaign finance reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington September 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR45FDR

    U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, shown here at a 2014 news conference in support of a proposed constitutional amendment for campaign finance reform, will announce plans to run for president. Photo by Reuters/Jonathan Ernst.

    MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday, presenting a liberal challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Sanders, an independent who describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” will follow a statement with a major campaign kickoff in his home state in several weeks. Two people familiar with his announcement spoke to The Associated Press under condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.

    Sanders will become the second major Democrat in the race, joining Clinton. He has urged the former secretary of state to speak out strongly about issues related to income inequality and climate change. The former first lady and New York senator is viewed as a heavy favorite in the primary and entered the race earlier this month.

    The white-haired senator and former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, has been a liberal firebrand, blasting the concentration of wealth in America and assailing a “billionaire class” that he says has taken over the nation’s politics. His entry could be embraced by some liberals in the party who have been disenchanted with Clinton and have unsuccessfully urged Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to join the race.

    In recent weeks, Sanders has been a forceful critic of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which would eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers for the U.S., Canada and Asian countries conducting commerce with each other.

    “One of the key reasons why the middle class in America continues to decline and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider is because of disastrous trade agreements which have sent millions of decent-paying jobs to China and other low-wage countries,” Sanders said last week.

    He has called for universal health care, a massive infrastructure jobs and building program, a more progressive tax structure and reforms to address the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which Sanders says has unleashed a torrent of money from big donors to political candidates.

    The senator has generated some enthusiasm on college campuses and liberal enclaves in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and made several trips to court the influential Democratic voters there.

    “He will add color,” said Lou D’Allesandro, a Democratic state senator from New Hampshire. “He’s not bashful about anything.”

    Kathy Sullivan, a New Hampshire supporter of Clinton and a member of the Democratic National Committee, said Sanders’ decision was expected.

    “I know Hillary Clinton has always been expecting for there to be a competitive Democratic primary in New Hampshire,” Sullivan said. “I think he should be taken seriously.”

    Sanders will start his campaign as a distinct underdog against Clinton, who remains the dominant front-runner. The Vermont senator is likely to face other challengers in the primary, such as former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and ex-Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

    A feisty voice for liberal policies, Sanders has long championed working-class Americans. He grew up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn — his father, an immigrant from Poland, sold paint for a living —and his views about the distribution of wealth were formed early.

    “A lack of money in my family was a very significant aspect of my growing up,” Sanders told the AP in December. “Kids in my class would have new jackets, new coats, and I would get hand-me-downs.”

    After his graduation from the University of Chicago, Sanders moved to Vermont in the 1960s as part of the counterculture, back-to-the-land movement that turned the state from solid Yankee Republican into one of the bluest in the country.

    Sanders lost several statewide races in the 1970s before he was elected mayor of Burlington in 1981 — a race he won by 10 votes. He was elected to the House a decade later, then won a Senate seat in 2006. He has carried a consistent message during his political career, arguing that the system is rigged in favor of the wealthiest Americans to the disadvantage of the nation’s poor and working class.

    Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.

    The post Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to run for president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In classrooms across the country, students work on laptops and other devices connected to the internet. Photo by Flickr user Jeff Peterson

    In classrooms across the country, students work on laptops and other devices connected to the internet. Photo by Flickr user Jeff Peterson

    The most recent scores of eighth graders on national tests of U.S. history, geography and civics show students’ command of those subjects haven’t increased since the tests, part of a suite of exams known as the Nation’s Report Card, were last given in 2010.

    Just 18 percent of the nationally representative sample of eighth graders who took the tests in 2014 scored at a level considered proficient in U.S. history, 27 percent reached that level in geography and 23 percent did so in civics.

    The percentage of students scoring at proficient ticked up just one point since 2010 for history and civics and was flat for geography.

    The results prompted some concern among civics education organizations.

    “The Nation’s Report Card, is a difficult and complex test that successfully measures some key areas of civic learning and how well civics is taught,” Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University, wrote in a statement. “However, as the new Nation’s Report Card: 2014 shows, we are far from achieving an acceptable quality or equality of civics education.”

    When it comes to student scores, white students saw modest gains in their average scores in U.S. history and civics, while Hispanic students’ average scores increased in history and geography. The percent of students scoring in the lowest category, below basic, also fell slightly on each exam.

    What the test data does show is how classrooms have changed since 2010.

    The percent of students reporting that they read material from textbooks fell by 8 or 9 percent for each subject area but remained above 60 percent. The percent of students listening to online presentations or reading letters and other documents of historic people in U.S. history classes increased to nearly a quarter. The percent using a computer at school for social studies also increased to 25 percent.

    Another change was that just 23 percent of teachers administering the exams reported having taken a college-level course in any of the three subjects after completing their certification coursework in the last two years. That was down from 29 percent in 2010.

    When the next round of history, geography and civics tests are given in 2018, how students report learning in the classroom will likely see further change. But not only in the number of students accessing class-related materials online. The Common Core standards for what students should learn in English for each grade are now being used as guidelines in more than 40 states. Those standards include recommendations for teaching social studies like using more primary sources, having students write persuasive essays based on evidence found in documents and working in groups.

    In 2014 fewer than 25 percent of students reported doing group work in social studies and less than 20 percent reported participating in debates or panel discussions and less than 10 percent wrote something for class that expressed an opinion.

    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Even as online learning grows, America’s students struggle with U.S. history, civics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Chef, restaurateur, author and TV producer Eddie Huang. Video shot by Mori Rothman and Elisabeth Ponsot. Edited by Eric Krupke.

    Growing up, chef, restaurateur, author and TV producer Eddie Huang didn’t see himself reflected in the characters on TV and in the movies. “I never watched television with any Asian-Americans that I related to or felt like were real people,” said Huang, who identifies as Taiwanese-Chinese-American. “I saw black people and I saw white people on television.”

    Huang described this dearth of representation with a food metaphor. “It’s like going to a restaurant that only has chicken or pork, and some people want beef, some people want vegetables, some people want seafood.”

    The new ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat,” based loosely on Huang’s memoir of the same name, attempted this season to add some variety to the network television menu. PBS NewsHour reported on the show, which aired its season finale last week, after its premier in February. Its debut marked the first time a network sitcom centered around an Asian-American family in more than 20 years.

    While some hailed the show as a breakthrough, others worried that the limitations of the sitcom format would serve to perpetuate stereotypes. Huang, who is a producer of the show and provides its voice-over narration, has publicly expressed his own conflicting feelings about the show on numerous occasions. Most recently, he took to Twitter, where he described it as, “so far from the truth that I don’t recognize my own life.”

    Huang sat down with the NewsHour at the Museum of Chinese in America in New York City to discuss his feelings about the show and how it fits into a larger conversation about race in America.

    While the show may not be representative of Huang’s own childhood experiences, Huang seems to view it as a baby step in the right direction. To complete his food metaphor, he added: “An entire race of people in America who’ve been starving for representation finally got, like, a crumb.”

    The post Chef, author Eddie Huang says TV needs to add more variety to its menu appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People stand outside the burned community center and apartments across the street from the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland April 28, 2015. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    People stand outside the burned community center and apartments across the street from the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore on Tuesday, a day after riots across the city. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    The violent riots that broke out in Baltimore following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who is suspected of having been a victim of police brutality, ended with fires, looting and destruction that affected many of the city’s homes and businesses.

    During crises like these in American cities, it’s easy to feel helpless. We’ve researched five ways you can help the city rebuild and recover:

    1. Finance education

    The Baltimore Community Foundation, which invests in education, and race equity and inclusion, has established a Fund for Rebuilding Baltimore and is working with the community to determine how best to apply the donations. 100 percent of donations will go to rebuilding efforts.

    Click here to donate.

    2. Volunteer

    If you live in the area and can volunteer your time, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods has created a Google doc listing places around the city that could use a few extra hands, whether it be for cleanup, delivering supplies or organizing peaceful walks around the city.

    Click here to help.

    In what will be a first for Major League Baseball, the Baltimore Orioles will host the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in a stadium closed to fans as Baltimore copes with some of the worst U.S. urban rioting in years. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    In what will be a first for Major League Baseball, the Baltimore Orioles will host the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in a stadium closed to fans as Baltimore copes with some of the worst U.S. urban rioting in years. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    3. Give to Camden Yard employees

    Bill Baer, a Philadelphia sports writer, created a fund for employees of Baltimore’s baseball stadium who will be missing out on up to a week’s worth of pay, after two games were canceled, one was closed to the public and three have been relocated.

    Click here to donate.

    4. Help rebuild a senior center

    A fund has been set up to rebuild a $16 million community center that was burned to the ground on Monday. The center was expected to house 60 low-income senior citizens and was pioneered by the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore.

    Click here to donate and specify that the donation should go to the Mary Harvin Transformation Center.

    5. Invest in Baltimore’s youth

    Founded in 2012, The Inner Harbor Project is staffed and run by youth leaders from Baltimore who help train police officers on ways to better communicate and engage with young people. The program also mediates conflicts between teenagers and sends 25 “teenage ambassadors” to the Inner Harbor on the weekends and after school during the summer to promote positive behavior.

    “What I see in the Inner Harbor and what was being expressed is the feeling of being discriminated, excluded from mainstream society and retaliating in the only way they know how,” Celia Neustadt, the executive director of Inner Harbor Poject, who founded it in the summer of 2012, told NewsHour.

    “These kids don’t have anything to lose. They are not engaged academically; they are not engaged in traditional social structures,” she said. “They have created their own independent structures to support the things they care about, but they don’t have anything to lose in our current mainstream society because we haven’t created space for them,” she said.

    Neustadt believes the teenagers need to be a part of finding a solution to the youth violence in Baltimore. “Without the teens on the inside, we have no hope for knowing it, understanding it, or working to resolve it,” she said.

    Click here to donate.

    The post 5 ways you can help Baltimore appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Marines secure the landing zone for evacuation choppers while under Viet Cong fire at Tan Son Nhut airbase in Vietnam, during the fall of Saigon, April 15, 1975. Photo by Dirck Halstead/Liaison

    U.S. Marines secure the landing zone for evacuation choppers while under Viet Cong fire at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam, during the fall of Saigon, April 15, 1975. Photo by Dirck Halstead/Liaison

    HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — By April 29, 1975, the fall of Saigon was imminent and only a few dozen U.S. troops remained – down from more than half a million in 1969. The war was about to end, Vietnam about to be unified under communist rule. Americans had been evacuating for weeks. And the city was in a state of chaos.

    North Vietnamese forces had surrounded the South Vietnamese capital and were using rocket and artillery fire to disrupt air operations at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Two marines, 21-year-old Charles McMahon and 19-year-old Darwin Judge, were killed. The U.S. military – already in the midst of a disorganized and hurried evacuation – shipped its final forces out early the next day.

    Master Sergeant Juan Valdez was the last Marine to board the last helicopter to leave the roof of the U.S. Embassy two hours before Saigon surrendered.

    Back in Vietnam 40 years later to observe the evacuation’s anniversary, we spoke with him and others who were there during the war’s final hours.

    Master Sergeant Juan Valdez, U.S. Marine Corps

      Master Sergeant Juan Valdez, U.S. Marine Corps

    Master Sergeant Juan Valdez, U.S. Marine Corps

    “We began seeing the South Vietnamese military changing out of their uniforms into civilian clothes because they didn’t want to be caught once the North came in. It’s hard to describe how surrounded we were at the embassy. We had no idea who the enemy was and who we should try to let in and evacuate.”


    Sergeant Kevin Maloney, U.S. Marine Corps

    Sergeant Kevin Maloney, US Marine Corps

    Sergeant Kevin Maloney, U.S. Marine Corps

    “Early in the morning of the 29th, I was on duty with the last two Americans killed in the war, Darwin Judge and Charles McMahon at the Ton Son Nhat airport. I picked up their remains with two Vietnamese ambulance drivers and sent them to the hospital… I never anticipated [the situation] would unravel like it did. The war had gone on for years and I thought it would continue for many more.”


    Sargent Pham Cong Dung, North Vietnamese Army

    Sergeant Pham Cong Dung, North Vietnamese Army

    Sergeant Pham Cong Dung, North Vietnamese Army

    “We had come from Khe Sanh and were on the edge of Saigon, and we were very excited by the thought that the Americans were leaving. I thought we finally had victory. Our officers told us we didn’t have permission to shoot down any helicopters leaving.”


    Lance Corporal Jerome Thomas, U.S. Marine Corps

    Lance Corporal Jerome Thomas, US Marine Corps

    Lance Corporal Jerome Thomas, US Marine Corps

    “We began burning documents in the incinerator on the roof of the embassy for three to four weeks straight before we finally left. We didn’t get to all of them, not even close.”


    Lance Corporal John Stewart, U.S. Marine Corps

    Lance Corporal John Stewart  (Marine Security Guard)

    Lance Corporal John Stewart (Marine Security Guard)

    “I had come to Vietnam for the first time eight days before the fall. I was 18 years old, and like all MSG’s I fell under the State Department. They needed bodies that could help process evacuations. And when it became apparent that the country was going to collapse and you see people that just want to escape potentially horrific circumstances, you don’t really worry if their ID is current or if they even have one. It got to that point. We helped some people out, and we often looked the other way, so to speak.”


    South Vietnamese Army Sergeant Nguyen Cong Ton, Combat interpreter for U.S. and Australian forces, 1969-1974

    Nguyen Cong Ton

    Nguyen Cong Ton

    “After the war was over, many of us interpreters were put in re-education camps. I had friends who served many years there without pay, without food. One of my good friends died there. I made up a story that I was simply a driver and office worker, so I only got 10 days. You always had to try to find a way to be alive.”


    You can now watch the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Last Days of Vietnam” online or on PBS stations across the country. And you can hear more from those profiled above in an upcoming documentary titled “A Return to the End”.

    The post The last Marines of Vietnam remember the fall of Saigon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A man passes a damaged statue of Lord Buddha in Bhaktapur, Nepal, a day after an earthquake struck central Nepal on April 25. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

    A man passes a damaged statue of Lord Buddha in Bhaktapur, Nepal, a day after an earthquake struck central Nepal on April 25. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

    It’s no mystery that Nepal — precariously perched atop two shifting geologic plates — is vulnerable to earthquakes. For the past decade, Nepal has been working on preparing for the next big one. It established a Department of Disaster Management and started using sturdier building codes for new construction.

    But between its political and economic troubles, the impoverished nation just couldn’t get all of its disaster preparation and response systems in place in time for Saturday’s massive quake, said one geologist who had been working with the Nepalese government on its readiness.

    The death toll from Saturday’s massive earthquake is now more than 5,000, with more fatalities expected in remote villages that haven’t reported in yet.

    A monastery and shrines at the Swayambhunath Stupa, a UNESCO world heritage site, collapsed after Saturday's earthquake in Nepal. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

    Shrines and a monastery at the Swayambhunath Stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, collapsed after Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

    The Nepalese “were not prepared for such a strong earthquake. They just simply had not had time to get all of the things they’d done operationalized,” said geologist Allen Clark, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii.

    And such a major earthquake required a coordinated international response that could launch on-the-ground quickly, but in Nepal the logistics are very difficult, said Clark. Nepal’s one international airport and smaller airports can’t handle the influx of supplies, nor can they be distributed efficiently over damaged and landslide-blocked roads.

    “It’s going to be a very difficult situation to get people and supplies and capacity into the outer areas around Kathmandu,” he said. “That’s going to take unfortunately probably several weeks, not a couple days.”

    Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit midway between the capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara was the worst to rattle Nepal since 1934, when an 8.2-magnitude quake killed more than 17,000 people.

    Kathmandu is built on a large ancient lake along the front of the Himalayas, so it is primarily on sediment — not rock, said Clark. The sediment allowed the transmission of ground waves which added to the destruction.

    A map shows the vulnerability of households in Nepal following the April 25, 2015, earthquake. The data model uses a range of variables related to population density, housing construction materials and household dependence on LP gas and piped water. These are combined with earthquake-specific data to create a Severity Impact Estimate Index. Map by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

    A map shows the vulnerability of households in Nepal following the April 25, 2015, earthquake. The data model uses a range of variables related to population density, housing construction materials and household dependence on gas and piped water. These are combined with earthquake-specific data to create a Severity Impact Estimate Index. Map by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

    For the last 10 years, Nepal had been working with the United Nations and other international groups on disaster management and preparedness. The government put an overall disaster plan in place, including reinforcing and constructing stronger buildings, and training people to monitor the construction. Clark helped set up the disaster management system and evaluated areas at risk.

    “They did as well as they could under the circumstances. We have almost a decade of constant turmoil in the country, during which the disaster management system was set up and put in place,” said Clark.

    It’s too early to tell if the management system worked, he said, but preliminary reports show the more modern portions of Kathmandu, including new industry- and tourist-related buildings, did not receive as much damage as the older parts, indicating Nepal’s efforts to make buildings safer seemed to be working.

    “The activities that had been going on by the U.N. and other organizations were successful, they simply didn’t have enough time to revamp the system adequately,” said Clark.

    The older areas that didn’t fare as well included many UNESCO World Heritage Sites built in the 1700s and 1800s that were damaged or completely destroyed.

    Nepalese rescuers and onlookers gather at the collapsed Dharahara Tower in Kathmandu on April 25, following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake. Photo by Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

    Nepalese rescuers and onlookers gather at the collapsed Dharahara Tower in Kathmandu on April 25, following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake. Photo by Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

    For example, the landmark Dharahara Tower, built in 1832 for Queen Lalit Tripura Sundari, collapsed in Saturday’s quake with a reported 180 bodies inside.

    “It’s going to be a very significant blow to the historical legacy of the city,” Clark said.

    Rebuilding will cost an estimated $10 billion, about half of Nepal’s $20 billion economy, according to Nepal’s finance chief.

    But, despite the probability of more earthquakes to come, there’s no question the city will rebuild, since it’s the capital and there aren’t other options for available flat, stable space, said Clark.

    “It’s going to be rebuilt and hopefully it will be rebuilt to even better standards this time,” he said. “You might think of it like Los Angeles, where there has been and going to be another major earthquake someday and yet we build right back on it all the time.”

    The post Nepal not prepared for intensity of earthquake, geologist says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks about the recent violence in Baltimore during a news conference at the Justice Department April 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks about the recent violence in Baltimore during a news conference at the Justice Department April 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday called the rioting in Baltimore “senseless acts of violence” that were counterproductive to improving relationships between the police and community.

    In her first public remarks on the unrest since being sworn in two days ago, Lynch said the city could in some ways be seen as a symbol of the national debate on race relations and law enforcement.

    “But,” she added, “I’d ask that we remember that Baltimore is more than just a symbol. Baltimore is a city. It is a great city. It is a beautiful city.”

    She said it was a city that police were trying to protect and peaceful protesters were trying to improve, all while “struggling to balance great expectations and need with limited resources.”

    Lynch, the former federal prosecutor for parts of New York City, was sworn in Monday to replace Eric Holder, becoming the first African-American woman to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

    She spoke about the situation in Baltimore at the start of a cybersecurity summit Wednesday at the Justice Department.

    The rioting in the city began hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered severe spinal injuries in police custody. The FBI and Justice Department have been investigating the death for potential civil rights violations. Lynch said she had been in contact with officials in Maryland to offer whatever federal support was needed.

    The Justice Department is also conducting a separate voluntary review of the Baltimore police department’s use of force practices. The police department requested that review, which is run by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services branch, after several cases involving physical force by officers resulted in public outcry and millions of dollars in legal settlements. The Justice Department has said it expects to announce results of that investigation soon.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a profile of a teacher whose approach has caught international attention.

    President Obama today recognized some of the country’s best educators at a White House ceremony honoring the teacher of the year.

    Shanna Peeples, who teaches high school English teacher in Amarillo, Texas, received the top prize. Last month in Dubai, a teacher from Maine took home the first ever Global Teacher Prize and $1 million. Nancie Atwell is using her time in the spotlight to continue her life’s work.

    The NewsHour’s April Brown reports for our American Graduate series, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    APRIL BROWN: For roughly 40 years, Nancie Atwell has thought of herself first and foremost as a teacher. But recently in Dubai, she got a major title bump.

    MAN: The Global Teacher Prize goes to Nancie Atwell.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    APRIL BROWN: Today, many are calling her the world’s best teacher, after winning what’s been dubbed education’s Nobel Prize. Along with that honor, she was awarded $1 million from the Varkey Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to improve educational outcomes for underprivileged children across the globe.

    NANCIE ATWELL, Global Teacher Prize Winner: I was delighted, shocked, you know, gobsmacked, and so proud to represent my profession.

    The goal is excellence, always.

    APRIL BROWN: Atwell was among 10 finalists competing against nominees from countries including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, and Kenya.

    NANCIE ATWELL: This is going to work if you can play it out slowly.

    APRIL BROWN: She won in large part because of the small independent K-8 school she started in 1990 in Edgecomb, Maine, with the goal of teaching more than just students.

    NANCIE ATWELL: I started to plan a school where I could teach kids and teach teachers at the same time. And that’s the genesis for the Center for Teaching and Learning. It’s a demonstration school and it exists for those two audiences, local kids and then teachers from around the country, and even now around the world.

    And you’re from Wyoming as well. So, welcome. We hope you have a great week.

    APRIL BROWN: Those teachers complete four-day internships at the Center for Teaching and Learning, finding out how Atwell’s teaching philosophy works in the classroom.

    Here, the entire school day is driven by a simple motto: Let kids have choices, whether it’s the book they want to read, or where they want to read it.

    NANCIE ATWELL: Anybody’s achievement is driven by interest. You know, adult, child, boy, girl, it doesn’t matter.

    APRIL BROWN: As they would in public schools, Atwell’s 75 students follow a curriculum in every subject. But within the traditional framework, her kids choose what topic they want to explore in history, or what they want to research in science class.

    Atwell believes this gets them to invest in what they are learning.

    NANCIE ATWELL: And not just invest arbitrarily, but invest in the way a literary critic does, a writer does, a mathematician does, a historian does, a scientist does, out of real curiosity, real passion, a real sense of motivation.

    MAN: There’s a flat character. Forester said they really fit a specific kind of role.

    APRIL BROWN: Atwell also doesn’t believe in tests and quizzes. Teachers assess their students’ progress daily, as English teacher Glenn Powers did in this discussion on flat vs. round characters, which ended up crossing many literary genres.

    STUDENT: In the beginning of the trilogy, he’s a flat character, and, by the end, he changes how he thinks and by how he feels about other people.

    NANCIE ATWELL: When we evaluate our students, it’s on the basis of portfolios of their work, and students self-assess as part of the portfolio process. They answer question on every discipline about what they have been thinking, doing, learning. It’s a question not of being accountable to the state, but of being accountable to our students’ parents.

    These are the first and second graders who have just come back from swimming.

    APRIL BROWN: The way students are evaluated isn’t the only unusual feature of this school. The environment is too. Atwell designed it to encourage interaction and collaboration.

    NANCIE ATWELL: It’s just so friendly to open a door and be, you know, in another space. And teaching can be lonely. We have tried to build this building so that people would feel connected.

    MAN: There are at least 20 titles.

    APRIL BROWN: Jennifer Wilson is a teacher from Charlottesville, Virginia, who came to Atwell’s school to see what methods here could be used in her own English classroom.

    Wilson says she is convinced many of the principles would translate well, but she isn’t ready to adopt the model wholesale.

    JENNIFER WILSON, English Teacher, Field School of Charlottesville: I love the freedom of the writing workshop, where some kids are working on a poem and some kids are working on micro-fiction. But I might need to make it a little bit more structured and a little bit more linear, in terms of, this is what is due on this day and this is what is due on this day, because it seems things could kind of get lost in the shuffle.

    APRIL BROWN: For Atwell, that’s perfectly fine. The internships are meant to get teachers thinking more about their craft and how best to reach their own students, no matter what kind of system they work in.

    NANCIE ATWELL: The idea was to start the school so that other teachers wouldn’t have to start schools of their own, and especially and essentially public school teachers.

    Our mission here is to experiment for the good of everybody’s children, and then pass those methods along.

    APRIL BROWN: Most of the kids attending Atwell’s school live nearby, and 80 percent don’t pay the full $8,000-a-year tuition, because it’s calculated on a sliding scale based on parental income.

    NANCIE ATWELL: We keep the tuition low on purpose, because we want to attract regular kids. So the kids that you see in our classes, their parents are farmers, fishermen, lobstermen, small business owners, the whole range of professions that people work in the mid-coast of Maine.

    APRIL BROWN: For many of her students, there is no question why Atwell is being called the world’s best teacher.

    NICCO BARTONE: She was able to teach people who then could teach other people. And so she kind of — she grew a web of teaching, and it’s just — it’s spread. And so I think that’s why she was up for it.

    SYDNEY SULLIVAN: She can engage everyone and make one topic that would be really hard to relate to just something amazing to every kid in the class.

    APRIL BROWN: This popular teacher says she’s already made plans to maximize her newfound fame.

    NANCIE ATWELL: I would like to speak up for the brilliance of teachers, for the privilege of being a member of this profession, and for the need for it to transform again, so that it’s viewed as an intellectual opportunity, because, right now, it’s not.

    APRIL BROWN: Atwell plans to invest the million dollars she won back into her school. Some of the money will fund scholarships and much of the rest will go toward keeping the Center for Teaching and Learning open for years to come.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m April Brown in Edgecomb, Maine.

    The post ‘World’s best teacher’ does not believe in tests and quizzes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe for a State Dinner at the White House

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    GWEN IFILL: One of the biggest economic fights taking place behind the scenes in Washington and around the country this year is a battle over a far-reaching new trade deal.

    That agreement could translate into hundreds of billions of dollars in business, exports and profits. With so much at stake, Japan and the U.S. used a state visit this week to step up their lobbying campaign.

    Japan’s leader spent yesterday at the White House and today on Capitol Hill.

    It was the first time a Japanese prime minister has ever addressed a joint meeting of Congress.

    SHINZO ABE, Prime Minister, Japan: I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you for inviting me.

    GWEN IFILL: And it came at a critical moment in the fight to establish a sweeping U.S. trade deal with 11 Asian Pacific Rim nations, not including China.

    Once in force, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, would account for about 40 percent of the world’s economic output. It’s aimed at opening up trade by removing tariffs and other barriers. It also deals with labor standards, investments and patents, among other issues.

    The prime minister today touted the possibilities.

    SHINZO ABE: TPP goes far beyond just economic benefits. It is also about our security. Let us bring the TPP to a successful conclusion through our joint leadership.

    GWEN IFILL: But, first, President Obama is trying to win renewal of fast-track negotiating authority that would make it harder for Congress to change any deal once an agreement is reached. He admitted yesterday he’s got a fight on his hands.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, it’s never fun passing a trade bill in this town.

    GWEN IFILL: Many Democrats warn that an Asian trade pact would cost American jobs, and wouldn’t include enough environmental protections. But Abe argued today the trade deal is vital to the future.

    SHINZO ABE: We must turn the area into a region for lasting peace and prosperity. That is for the sake of our children and our children’s children.

    GWEN IFILL: That was an indirect reference to the TPP’s potential to counter China’s growing power across Asia.

    Joining us to unpack more of the politics and consequences of the trade deal is Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has been following the trade talks closely.

    So, why are Japan and the U.S. in particular so insistent that this happen?

    EDWARD ALDEN, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, I think it’s a big deal for both governments.

    For the United States, this is really the culmination of an effort to create free trade in the region that goes back 25 years, to the early 1990s. And for Japan, it’s critical to Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to reform the Japanese economy. Japan hasn’t grown in a significant way in almost two decades now. And he’s hoping this will really jump-start what has been a moribund economy.

    GWEN IFILL: We mentioned the fast-track trade authority which Congress is going to be asked to vote on. Why — what is it about what Congress could do that could possibly derail this deal?

    EDWARD ALDEN: Well, there’s a longstanding tradition of Congress passing trade authority that gives the president the right to go out and negotiate the deal and bring it back to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

    The concern is, negotiate an elaborate package, it goes back to Congress, and then Congress amends it. And then you will have to go back to Japan and the other 10 countries and say, well, we have got to amend the deal because Congress didn’t like it.

    The fast-track trade authority is intended to say, bring us back the deal, Congress will vote it either up or down.

    GWEN IFILL: But the same problems cropped up around NAFTA, especially among Democrats, who are not crazy about this.

    EDWARD ALDEN: Yes. Yes, this has been a contentious debate for a long time.

    Many of President Clinton’s supporters in the Democratic Party were not with him on the NAFTA vote. But, even then, about 100 Democrats supported it in the House. This time, the numbers could be as low as 20 Democrats supporting in the House, which is an extraordinarily low number, given that we have a Democratic president.

    It really goes back to that agreement, and the feeling that these trade agreements have hurt United States workers in various ways. You have seen a big decline in manufacturing employment, offshoring of jobs. Wages have been pretty stagnant for most people for a couple of decades. And there are many on the left who blame the trade agreements for that.

    I think the consensus among economists is trade has some effect in this respect, but there are a lot of other things going on, technology in particular.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about China for a moment, because this is something both the — I noticed in an interview with The Wall Street Journal this week, the president kept pressing the idea that China may have an upper hand here. And, of course, Japan has expressed the same concerns.

    What is at the root of that?

    EDWARD ALDEN: Yes, I mean, China is really the elephant not in the room in these negotiations. China is not part of the deal.

    The concern among many countries in the region, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, others, is that China is really becoming the dominant power in the region, and they don’t want to see China set the rules for economic engagement throughout Asia.

    From the U.S. perspective, the U.S. wants to be a player there. This is really the key part of President Obama’s pivot to Asia. And the idea is to create a set of trading rules that really will work in the United States’ favor, but then also to hold an offer out to China and say, look, if China wants to join, we are open to that, but they’re going to have to play by the rules that the U.S. and these other countries negotiated.

    GWEN IFILL: Has China signaled in any way that they’re interested in joining?

    EDWARD ALDEN: Yes, tentatively, tentatively. They have certainly indicated that they see the potential for disadvantage if companies that are located in these TPP countries have special rules that make trade easier and cheaper in those countries.

    China is worried about losing foreign investment, which has been very important to China’s development. So, yes, they have indicated they might be interested.

    GWEN IFILL: So, and the very definition of a deal is everybody gets a little bit of something, but, in this case, Japan and the U.S., for example, get to protect certain industries as well.

    EDWARD ALDEN: So, some of the toughest issues between U.S. and Japan have to do with the most sensitive industries.

    Japan, for instance, incredibly high tariffs on agriculture, hundreds of a percent on rice and beef. It’s impossible to sell into that market. The U.S. wants to see those import duties eliminated. Japan wants to sell more cars to the United States, even though they sell a lot. And we are saying, well, you need to buy a few American cars, too. Japan buys fewer American cars now than it did 20 years ago. So, there are some pretty sensitive issues there.

    GWEN IFILL: It sounds, at the end of the day, as well, that there are a lot of odd bedfellows who are climbing in together to make this thing work.

    EDWARD ALDEN: Yes, very much.

    So, for instance, there’s controversy over a provision that allows companies to sue governments over regulations that harm their business. Philip Morris is suing the government of Australia because Australia says you can’t put your brand on cigarettes. We want to discourage cigarettes, and so you have to use plain packaging. Philip Morris is suing the government.

    So, that has upset a lot of folks on the left in the Democratic Party, but it has also upset libertarians in the Republican Party. So, you do get — you get some odd alliances on this.

    But, at the end of the day, if fast-track passes Congress, it will be with the support of a Democratic president, an overwhelming majority of Republicans, and very few of the Democrats in Congress.

    GWEN IFILL: And timing?

    EDWARD ALDEN: Well, Congress is going to start debating it seriously next week. Could well be done by the end of June.

    GWEN IFILL: Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations, thanks for making it clear.

    EDWARD ALDEN: Good. It’s good to be here, Gwen.

    The post What’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership for U.S. and Japan? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    michele roberts basketball pbs newshour the atlantic  2

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: As part of our ongoing partnership with “The Atlantic” magazine, my profile of Michele Roberts, the first woman to serve as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.

    An article featuring Roberts is in the magazine’s May issue that is currently on the stands.

    Last year this time, Michele Roberts was one of the country’s leading trial lawyers. An unknown quantity in the world of basketball, she was still chosen out of 300 candidates, receiving almost 90 percent of the vote from player representatives to lead their union.

    MICHELE ROBERTS, Executive Director, National Basketball Players Association: When I initially got the job, there were literally mornings I would get up, and I would remember that I was no longer in D.C., I was no longer practicing law, and then I would just burst into laughter, thinking, this is so cool.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MICHELE ROBERTS: My two older brothers were basketball fans. We had one television growing up. And we saw a lot of Knick games.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MICHELE ROBERTS: And so, just by osmosis, I started watching the game and loving the game. And that love of basketball never changed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The first woman ever to run a professional sports union in North America, Michele Roberts, is undeniably on top of what is still very much a man’s world.

    When I caught up with her at a Knicks game last month, it was clear that even big-time players like the legendary Walt Frazier understand her value.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: I spent about 12 seconds thinking I won’t get this job because I am woman. I got over that a long time ago.

    Now, having said that, I had to at least assure them that I wasn’t some wuss.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Shattering glass ceilings is Roberts’ specialty. One of the country’s top litigators, she honed her skills as a public defender, where losing a case could mean a life sentence for her clients.

    LOU AMUNDSON, New York Knicks: The fact that she has the background in litigation was big for us. You know, and just she’s — she’s a tough one. She’s not going to take any — any B.S. from anybody.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Players like the New York Knicks’ Lou Amundson and Jason Smith, both very active in the union, were impressed from the beginning.

    JASON SMITH, New York Knicks: We had a lot of different people in mind. And she presented to us multiple times, so I think we kind of had a mind-set as a union that we wanted to have her to lead us into kind of battle.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now nine months into the job, she took me from the Harlem headquarters, where she presides over the union, back to the South Bronx, where it all began.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: It’s been a long journey.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Melrose Houses, a low-income apartment project, was home for Michele, her four siblings and her mother, Elsie.

    This was your building?

    MICHELE ROBERTS: That’s where I lived, on the 10th floor.

    She was a no-nonsense, no excuses, no pity, I don’t want to hear it kind of woman. Her view was, I will feed you. I will clothe you. I will make sure that you have a shelter, and in exchange for that, there’s one thing you’re going to do. You’re going to come in here with the best grades you can.

    We would just come to watch. In the summer, they’d have tournaments. Basketball was huge.

    She didn’t have a high school diploma. She was on welfare. She had five kids, and her husband split. I don’t know where she found the nerve and the commitment to even encourage us, but she did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For high school, Elsie Roberts strategically guided her daughter towards a scholarship at the prestigious Masters School, an all-girls boarding school only 50 miles from home, but worlds away.

    Michele went on to Wesleyan University and then to U.C. Berkeley’s top-notch Boalt Hall Law School, fulfilling her dream to become a lawyer, a career inspired by one of her mother’s peculiar hobbies.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: Don’t ask me what in the world motivated her to go watch trials, but she did. And when I accompanied her, I, like her, thought this was really a lot of fun. And it was fascinating.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: She would sit in on trials at the Bronx Supreme Court, sometimes with Michele in tow.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: Even though I could understand probably 4 percent of what I was watching, I could tell that this lawyer wasn’t doing such a great job. And my mother told me, explained to me, well, you know, that’s a court-appointed lawyer. Poor people who end up in the criminal justice system, if they’re not able to afford counsel, they get whoever the court appoints.

    And, at that moment, I knew I was going to be a public defender.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Elsie Roberts didn’t live to see her daughter’s illustrious legal career or her historic entry into the world of professional sports.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: You are obviously not the only rookies in the room.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just how unlikely a match was it, do you think?

    MICHELE ROBERTS: It’s not as unlikely as people think. Being the executive director of a players union means understanding what the members want, what the members need, and helping them get there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That promised land for players is a new collective bargaining agreement with owners, up for negotiation in 2017.

    The last agreement, in 2011, was reached only after a lockout.

    DAVID STERN, Former NBA Commissioner: In light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full NBA season any under circumstances.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It cost the players much of their season and depleted their total revenue by as much as $3 billion.

    ANDREW ZIMBALIST, Smith College: It was very favorable to the owners.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Andrew Zimbalist, a top sports economist at Smith College, points out that players were earning more a decade ago.

    ANDREW ZIMBALIST: The players’ share of total revenue in the NBA, or what they call basketball-related income, has fallen. It was up around 60 percent. It fell to 57 percent. Now it’s roughly at 50 percent. So it’s gone steadily down. It’s gone down as revenues have gone up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In 2016, the largest television deal ever made by the NBA will go into effect, to the tune of $24 billion over nine years.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: The amount of revenue that’s coming in is three times what it was under the last TV deal. And these teams are not going to, I think, with a straight face try to suggest that they are broke.

    And so that’s a different environment. Gate receipts are up, and so the game is more popular than ever.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Roberts is still battling uphill. There’s not much public sympathy for millionaire players squaring off against billionaire owners.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: Everyone knows what the players’ compensation is, but they don’t know what the profit is of these teams. The focus is not going to be on how much Kobe Bryant makes, but we’re going to be focusing on how much the Lakers make.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nonetheless, the average player salary is $5 million, and almost 30 percent of players are making more than that.

    JAMES JONES, Cleveland Cavaliers: We never, ever run from the fact that we are well-compensated. That’s why we have so much respect for our fans, because, without them, none of this is possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: James Jones, a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, is the secretary-treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association.

    JAMES JONES: But make no mistake about it. We’re still labor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of Roberts’ biggest coups thus far is getting superstar LeBron James to take on the role of union vice president. Roberts’ hope is to strengthen the union by getting more players involved.

    ANDREW ZIMBALIST: It’s hard to have a proletarian or working-class solidarity attitude if you’re making $5.5 million. Over time, these players have gotten paid more and more. They have become more and more reluctant to say, let’s have solidarity, guys, and let’s stay out and let’s fight the bad guy owners.

    JAMES JONES: A lockout is something we want to avoid. Either way, we know that she will be prepared, that she will have the best game plan in place for us to hold us together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: With negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement still two years away, Roberts has time to build her relationship with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who was also appointed just last year.

    ADAM SILVER, NBA Commissioner: I look forward to serving you.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: Right now, I have an opponent who would like to be a partner. And to the extent we can maintain civility and understand that we have respective clients that we have to represent, I think — I think the future is optimistic for CBA negotiations. I don’t want the community to believe that we’re going to have another lockout or strike.

    ANDREW ZIMBALIST: The outcome is going to be determined by leverage. And the leverage will only come if Michele Roberts ultimately is able to fashion that unity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Whatever’s in store, Michele Roberts says she is more than ready.

    MICHELE ROBERTS: I plan to be the best executive director in the history of this union. But I’m proud of it. And I’m proud of the players for — for being — quote, unquote — “bold enough” to give a girl a chance.

    The post NBA union boss wants to prove players were right to ‘give a girl a chance’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A local villager walks carrying a child amid debris at a devastated area following Saturday's earthquake, at Paslang village in Gorkha, Nepal April 28, 2015. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha

    A local villager walks carrying a child amid debris following Saturday’s earthquake, at Paslang village in Gorkha, Nepal. Geologists say another earthquake in the region is inevitable. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha

    On Saturday, a portion of the thrust fault underneath central Nepal ruptured, causing an earthquake that killed at least 5,200 people, injured more than 10,000 and destroyed centuries-old temples, towers and buildings.

    Nepal rests on the most dangerous portion of the Himalayan collision zone, a set of earthquake-prone faults stretching 1,200 miles from Afghanistan to Myanmar. Within the last century, this strip of land has hosted two earthquakes classified as “great” by the U.S. Geological Survey — with magnitudes exceeding 8.0. The most recent great earthquake occurred in 1950, when a magnitude 8.6 event struck the eastern portions of the Tibetan plateau near Rima.

    science-wednesday

    To better understand this seismic region, a team of scientists search for evidence of ancient earthquakes in dried-up riverbeds, relying on a database of Medieval texts and archaeological records to guide the way. And by parsing the region into smaller bits, geologist Paul Tapponnier of the Earth Observatory of Singapore and his colleagues have found that individual segments of Nepal’s fault host great earthquakes on a surprisingly regular schedule.

    Two weeks ago, these geologists approached the Nepal Geologic Society, warning that a major earthquake in the precise region where Saturday’s earthquake struck was relatively imminent.

    “In the talk, we looked at historical descriptions in the Himalayas going back to 1,200 A.D,” Tapponnier said. “Reports of destructive earthquakes in certain areas and not others, along with surviving architecture, can give an idea of a prior earthquake’s location and size.”

    Summer monsoons flood these waterways, but during the dry seasons, scientists can walk along the sediment. Ruptures in the seismic fault are hard to spot with modern techniques – like satellite imagery – so walking in dry mudbanks remains one of the best ways to catch signs of a former earthquake.

    Sir Khola river-cut cliff, Nepal. On the left hand side, a ruptured thrust fault (zigging cut in the rock) is clearly visible. Photo courtesy of Paul Tapponnier Tectonics Lab

    Sir Khola river-cut cliff, Nepal. On the left hand side, a ruptured thrust fault (zigging cut in the rock) is clearly visible. Photo courtesy of Paul Tapponnier Tectonics Lab

    Evidence of these old quakes can be seen in Z-shaped rips embedded in the sides of the riverbeds. The zagging pattern is the signature of a thrust fault – the geologic phenomenon responsible for the devastation in Kathmandu and other severe earthquakes, such as those near Los Angeles.

    “Imagine you’re trying to move a carpet on a floor by pushing on the edge,” said geologist Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado Boulder who also studies tectonics in the Himalayas. “Rather than budge, it rumples at the edge that you’re pushing from.”

    The same happens with thrust faults. In the case of the Main Central Thrust, the fault that lies under Nepal, where the Indian subcontinent smashed into the tectonic plate holding the Tibetan Plateau some 40 million to 55 million years ago, neither plate wanted to move, so the ground was forced upward over time, eventually forming the towering Himalayan Mountains.

    When the team sees a Z-shaped deformation in the riverbed, they dig a shallow trench in search of charcoal. Using radiocarbon dating, they can pinpoint the dates that earthquakes occurred.

    “Putting these things together, we found a site in eastern Nepal – 30 miles east of Kathmandu — that had seen a repeat of two large earthquakes: one in 1255 and the other in 1934,” Tapponnier said. “These two seemed to have ruptured the same length of the main frontal thrust.” In 2013, his group reported these findings in Nature Geosciences. Follow-up excavations have since unearthed evidence for four more earthquakes prior to 1255.

    And each of these earthquakes, the team found, has occurred at roughly the same interval of 670 years.

    Recently, the search expanded into central Nepal between Kathmandu and Pokhara, where Saturday’s event originated. There, they found evidence for a previous earthquake in 1344, approximately 670 years before Saturday’s quake.

    The pattern suggests great earthquakes are unloading in an east-to-west fashion in Nepal. The last great earthquake west of Pokhara happened in 1505, meaning the next will likely occur 670 years later — two centuries from now.

    Saturday’s earthquake relieved some, but not all, of the strain built over those long centuries, moving the ground by about 10 feet in 30 seconds, according to the USGS.

    “But there are [26 to 30 feet] left, Tapponnier said. “That’s pretty ominous.”

    The post Why the Nepal earthquake may have been inevitable appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Baltimore Police Conduct Investigation Into Death Of Freddie Gray, After He Died From Injuries Sustained While In Custody

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    GWEN IFILL: We return to the upheaval in Baltimore and the forces driving it with Ta-Nehisi Coates national correspondent for The Atlantic, Lester Spence, professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University, and Laurie Robinson, the co-chair of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing and professor of criminology at George Mason University.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates, you wrote this interesting piece for The Atlantic in which you talked about growing up in Baltimore, the fact that your mother was raised in the public housing projects where Freddie Gray was actually killed.

    And I wonder whether you think that things have changed now in the time since you were growing up, your attitude towards the police then and now.

    TA-NEHISI COATES, The Atlantic: I’m not sure what the attitude towards the police has changed much.

    The general situation in terms of African-Americans has certainly changed around the edges. Certainly, the achievement possibilities for individual African-Americans are, you know, much greater than they were during my mother’s time, as evidenced by the president of the United States.

    But this feeling African-Americans have, this skepticism towards the police and the skepticism that the police show towards African-Americans is actually quite old. And it may be one of the most durable aspects of the relationship between black people and their country really in our history.

    It goes back to slavery, has endured through slavery, and here we are today, in 2015, pretty much dealing with the same thing.

    GWEN IFILL: Lester Spence, what is the appropriate response? First of all, do you agree with Ta-Nehisi on this, and what is the appropriate response to this?

    LESTER SPENCE, Johns Hopkins University: Yes, I agree.

    So, here’s one way to think about it. I don’t think I would be a professor at Johns Hopkins University where Ta-Nehisi’s mom was living in the public housing projects. But yet, at the same time, you’re talking about a dynamic where Freddie Gray wasn’t the first person to have his spine basically broken by police.

    You have had approximately 110 Baltimoreans killed in police custody, I think the vast majority of them being African-American. There has been a sense among black Baltimoreans in general that the police are basically illegitimate, and they have reason to think that way.

    GWEN IFILL: But what should the response be? We have seen silent, peaceful protests. We have seen violent protests.

    LESTER SPENCE: Oh, yes.

    GWEN IFILL: What should it be?

    LESTER SPENCE: Yes.

    Well, it’s important to know that people have been organizing to make police be more humane in Baltimore for — since I have been here, so approximately 10 years. And there have been a lot of push to make police in Baltimore and in the state in general, in the state of Maryland, be responsive and be more accountable to their citizens.

    So I’m hoping that, given that what’s happened, there will be a lot more support for that type of legislation. But as far as the economic violence, and that’s an important piece to consider, there’s also been people organizing about that issue. So, hopefully, we will get more traction for people who are working on that.

    GWEN IFILL: Laurie Robinson, you recently gave the president a report on these issues post-Ferguson, post-everything else, and in which you gave him almost 60 recommendations about what — how the nation, nationally, should be responding to things like this.

    Loretta Lynch, the new attorney general, said today, you know, Baltimore is not just a symbol. It’s all — it’s just a city. It’s more than that.

    First of all, is that the approach? Is that the proper reaction, to look at this as a national issue, or is this Baltimore-specific?

    LAURIE ROBINSON, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: No, our report has a set of 59 recommendations.

    And we believe that there are a number of things that individual police departments should be doing, for example, adopting a culture of fair, impartial, and respectful policing, adopting what we call a mind-set of a guardian mind-set, not a warrior mind-set, where you’re going in and effectively appearing to occupy communities.

    We also think there should be a culture of transparency, so that the policies of the department are very clear and that departments are working with communities to co-produce public safety, that they’re really collaborating with the communities that they’re working for.

    GWEN IFILL: These all seem to be commonsense recommendations.

    LAURIE ROBINSON: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: But they also don’t seem to be happening everywhere.

    LAURIE ROBINSON: They are happening in some communities, but not in very many communities.

    GWEN IFILL: Ta-Nehisi Coates, you wrote that calls for nonviolence are the right answer to the wrong question.

    Tell me what you meant by that.

    TA-NEHISI COATES: Well, I think, like, the way we often approach this is like, what would we like to see? And we all would like to see a protest that is nonviolent. I think everybody can agree with that.

    I think everybody can say that when they see a CVS burning down or any sort of violent response, none of us are joyous about that. But the response of people on the street is not an independent variable. It doesn’t exist independently of the actions of other forces.

    The fact of the matter is, the violence in Baltimore didn’t begin with the protesters on Tuesday. The actions, as Lester just outlined, in terms of people trying to get some attention, pay attention to the actions of the police in Baltimore, didn’t begin with the protest. The violence started with the actual police.

    Freddie Gray wasn’t the first person. It’s just that the cameras suddenly arrived when the CVS starts burning down. And that’s where we begin the narrative. And what I’m trying to say is that, you know, we have to adopt a longer view of history. We have to get beyond just these sort of blanket condemnations of people in the street and say, well, why is this happening?

    How can it be that we’re almost two weeks after Freddie Gray was taken into custody, and we still don’t know how he died? How can that be? That is just unconscionable.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you about that, Lester Spence, because you just heard Laurie Robinson talk about the way it ought to be. You heard Ta-Nehisi Coates talk about the way it is. Where is the action, and where is the reaction? Where is the appropriate place?

    LESTER SPENCE: So, there are people organizing right now to get the Maryland State Assembly to pass legislation to kind of roll back some of the — like, the police officers have kind of like a bill of rights.

    We’re working on peeling that back, and I think that’s a great place to start. It didn’t have a lot of movement in the Maryland State Assembly this past session, but we think that this is the perfect moment to generate support for it the next session.

    And, again, this is not just about police violence. This is about economic violence, right? So that census tract that Freddie Gray lived in spent $47 million incarcerating its residents. That money is basically — that money could have been spent in so many different ways and generate a condition in which his census tract is basically like a police state. I mean, nobody should want that.

    GWEN IFILL: Laurie Robinson, is it policy that’s lacking here, or is it policing that’s lacking? Which is — or are they related?

    LAURIE ROBINSON: One of our overarching recommendations in the report, Gwen, was that the administration needs to look beyond policing, certainly needs to look at policing, but also needs to look at economic policy, at health and education, and very pointedly at poverty.

    GWEN IFILL: But you heard the president say yesterday, I’m proposing these things, and I don’t — he didn’t sound very optimistic that any of it is happening.

    LAURIE ROBINSON: Well, what we said is that the criminal justice system alone, policing alone, changes in policing, cannot solve these problems.

    GWEN IFILL: What do you think, Ta-Nehisi Coates? Where is — what is at the root of this? It’s one thing for to us say we have identified the problems. It’s another to say that we have identified the solutions.

    TA-NEHISI COATES: Well, I think there are two factors.

    I think the sad fact is, there’s a long history in this country at looking at African-American as subhuman. And I think that’s reflected in the fact that, when we have problems that really are problems of employment, that are really problems of mental health, that are really problems of drugs, our answer is the police. Our answer is the criminal justice system, where, if it were another community, that might not be the answer that we would give.

    And so I think it is true, in fact, that those two things are related. It’s not just a matter of, you know, criminal justice solutions. But the very reason why we default to criminal justice systems have to do with who we are and how we view African-Americans. It’s a very, very sad truth.

    GWEN IFILL: Lester Spence, one of the things that people have been arguing this week is that this is less of a race issue and more of a class issue. What do you think?

    LESTER SPENCE: Well, it’s interacting. Right?

    So, for example, me, as a professor in Baltimore, 46 years old, I don’t have problems with the police, right? And that’s in part because of my class background. But the reality is, is that if you take the poor black neighborhoods that Freddie Gray lived in and a lot of African-Americans live in, and you compare them to the poor white neighborhoods in places like Dundalk and Essex here in Baltimore, the black people in those neighborhoods likely experience harsher policing, they’re likely poorer, and they’re likely sicker.

    So, class is operating, but it’s hard to imagine a black kid — a white kid having his spine broken and it be like a week or two later and we still don’t really know what happened.

    GWEN IFILL: Lester Spence of Johns Hopkins University, Laurie Robinson, the co-chair of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and Ta-Nehisi Coates of “The Atlantic,” thank you all so much.

    TA-NEHISI COATES: Thank you.

    LAURIE ROBINSON: Thank you.

    LESTER SPENCE: Thank you.

     

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    Makeshift shelters for earthquake victims are seen on an open ground in Kathmandu

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have more now on Nepal.

    Earlier today, the NewsHour acquired this video shot by a film crew using an aerial drone showing the devastation above the ancient city of Bhaktapur, not far from the capital, Kathmandu. The city of 300,000 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s been known for having the best preserved palace courtyards and old city center in Nepal.

    Reports are that some 200 people were killed there during Saturday’s earthquake. Apart from Nepal’s rich mountaineering and cultural history, most Americans know little about the tiny nation.

    To help fill us in on the country’s politics, economy and infrastructure, I’m joined by Jonah Blank, an anthropologist and a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation.

    Jonah Blank, welcome.

    And before I ask you about this other — I understand your wife’s family, Nepalese — or Nepalis — they were in Kathmandu when the earthquake struck, but they’re doing all right?

    JONAH BLANK, RAND Corporation: Yes. Thank you, Judy.

    They’re all safe, but they are trying to get enough water and fuel and wondering what happens next.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it gives you another connection to this terrible disaster.

    So, this is a country that has — for most of its existence was ruled by a monarchy, but there has been a lot of political upheaval there in recent years.

    JONAH BLANK: Nepal was, until recently, the world’s only Hindu monarchy.

    In 2006, a 10-year civil war ended, and the Maoists, who were the rebels in that fight, came into the government. In 2008, the monarchy was abolished. Since then, it has been a constitutional democracy without a real constitution. The Maoists won the first election. Other parties won the subsequent one, and there’s been a little bit of jockeying ever since.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what has that meant for the stability of country? And a lot of has been raised recently about corruption in the Nepalese government?

    JONAH BLANK: Well, the stability has been a pretty good picture up until Saturday.

    In fact, Nepal had been doing better economically and by most other measures since 2006, when the year the civil war ended, than it had been before. Corruption is a major issue. Nepal ranks about 150th out of about 175 on Transparency International’s ranking, so this is really going to hinder long-term reconstruction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And which has raised the question for people sending — organizations sending in aid money, can they be confident that money is going to be spent the way it’s supposed to be spent?

    JONAH BLANK: I feel they can, because the relief phase is the phase when international organizations are going to be spending the money and running their own projects.

    So, if people are sending money to a reputable charity, there’s a very good chance, a very — an almost certainty that the money is going to be spent the way that they intend it. The longer-term project is when the government tries to rebuild.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me earlier — we were talking about the economy of Nepal, and you were saying, to such a large extent, it depends on money sent back by people who are Nepalese who live around the world, the Nepalese diaspora.

    JONAH BLANK: That’s right.

    Twenty-nine percent of GDP comes from remittances sent back from Nepalis working particularly in the Gulf and also in India. So, they face a devil’s choice here. Do the labor force — does the labor force go back to Nepal to rebuild its own country and thereby give up almost a third of the GDP, or do they keep sending the checks back, but have no one who has the hands and the backs to rebuild the country?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any indication at this point what they’re doing?

    JONAH BLANK: Well, a lot of them are flocking back because they want to to tend their own families.

    But a longer-term question is what happens in the weeks and months to come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One other thing, Jonah Blank.

    And that is, with all the warnings that came from the geological experts about the fact that a big earthquake was coming here, why wasn’t more done to make sure that buildings were safer than they were?

    JONAH BLANK: Because Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. It’s really by far one of the poorest countries in Asia. It’s almost on par with countries like the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo.

    And it costs a lot of money to prepare for earthquake — buildings that are going to withstand these tremors. That is why Japan, a country that is racked by earthquakes, but very few fatalities, manages to do all right, but Nepal, a country that everyone knew was due for a terrible earthquake, has lost 5,000 so far, and we fear maybe 10,000 before this is all done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which calls to mind Haiti, another very, very poor country, of course, had its own catastrophe with the earthquake there.

    Jonah Blank with the RAND Corporation, we thank you.

    JONAH BLANK: Thank you, Judy.

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    local villagers walk amid debris at a devastated area following Saturday's earthquake, at Asslang village, in Gorkha

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The magnitude of the devastation in Nepal following a massive earthquake is still largely unknown in some of the most remote parts of the country.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News traveled Northeast from Kathmandu to the town of Bahrabise, where he met desperate survivors who have yet to see any aid at all.

    JONATHAN MILLER: Seismologists say the tectonic shockwave unleashed by the quake had the power of 20 thermonuclear weapons.

    Exactly 100 miles east of the epicenter, that shockwave hits the towns and the villages of Botakose River Valley with deadly ferocity. As we drove north, the seismic scars became more and more evident. Those who live in these Himalayan foothills have had the foundations of their very lives shaken. The sickly stench of death blew in through our windows.

    After three hours and 20 miles short of the Chinese frontier, we were stopped in our tracks by a landslide. It was the end of the road. As we watched the first efforts to clear it, a cluster of people emerged. Such was their desperation to get to our side, they charged through. They’d come from Tatopani, a Nepali town right on the Tibetan border, and along with their few scant possessions and blankets, they brought with them stories of the world they had just left behind.

    MAN: All around, all were dead bodies. They’re smelling. No tents. No medicine.

    JONATHAN MILLER: And this is the haven Tatopani’s quake refugees have escaped to. Parts of Bahrabise lie wrecked and abandoned, a ghost town laid waste on a Saturday lunchtime.

    Well, if news from the Tibet border villages is terrible, it’s pretty bad around here too. We’re in the largest town of Bahrabise, again, just a few kilometers from the Chinese frontier. And it too has been visited by death and destruction. Yet nobody I have talked to up here has said they have had any outside help at all.

    They have all heard promises from their government, but four days after the earthquake, nothing at all has arrived. Twice today, we saw helicopters, one of them circling briefly. Local people say none has landed. The desperation of some contrasts with the stoicism of those picking through the rubble of the wrecked homes. For those in this aid-free earthquake zone, there is only one maxim: God helps those who help themselves.

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    newswrap gwen

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    GWEN IFILL: Los Angeles County has approved a settlement over systematic abuses of minorities. The Justice Department said the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department targeted blacks and Hispanics with traffic stops and with using excessive force. Under the settlement, the sheriff’s department agrees to three years of federal monitoring. And it will pay up to $700,000 to people who can prove they were targeted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It turns out this past winter nearly froze the U.S. economy in its tracks. The federal government reported today that first-quarter output, the gross domestic product, rose at an annual rate of just two-tenths of 1 percent. Analysts cited a sharp decline in exports and slower consumer spending.

    But the White House cited the bigger picture.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:
    The GDP has grown by 3 percent over the last year. And that does reflect the kind of economic strength that we see across a range of other economic metrics. And that GDP growth is actually 50 percent faster than at some earlier stages of the ongoing economic recovery.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the Federal Reserve downgraded its view of the economy, but said it expects improvement later in the year. It offered no further hints on when it plans to raise interest rates.

    GWEN IFILL: In Nepal, the number of dead in Saturday’s earthquake neared 5,200, with more than 10,000 injured. Demonstrators took to the streets in Kathmandu to protest the slow pace of humanitarian aid efforts. We will have a full report from the quake zone after the news summary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The operator of a cargo ship seized by Iran confirmed today that the crew is safe. The vessel was taken yesterday at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Today, it sailed to Bandar Abbas, the Iranian navy’s main port.

    But, in New York, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif insisted that Iran is not trying to be provocative.

    MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran: For us, the Persian Gulf is our lifeline. And nothing is more important for us than freedom of navigation in those waters, and we are committed to it, and we will respect freedom of navigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    The ship sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands. The Iranian government said there’s a court judgment against the company that chartered the vessel.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, capital punishment was back before the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices heard arguments on whether a drug used in several botched lethal injections amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Separately, the court upheld state laws that bar elected judges from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Thirty states have such laws.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: California Governor Jerry Brown today ordered the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Brown called it the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America. Measures to enforce the cuts will be worked out over the next year.

    GWEN IFILL: The Obama administration is on track to deport the fewest number of immigrants in nearly a decade. The Associated Press reports that’s based on figures for the first half of the fiscal year. About 127,000 people have been sent home so far. It’s part of the president’s efforts to shield more than four million immigrants from deportation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 70 points to close back near 18000. The Nasdaq fell 30 points, and the S&P 500 slipped eight.

    GWEN IFILL: And American kids still don’t know much about history, or civics, or geography, for that matter. The Education Department said today that, in 2014, only a quarter of eighth graders showed solid performance in those subjects. That’s little changed since the last national assessment in 2010.

    The post News Wrap: LA County OKs sheriff’s dept. abuse settlement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MLB: Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Baltimore was a portrait of contrasts today, 48 hours after riots catapulted the city into crisis. In some places, people returned to normal routines, while, elsewhere, there were scenes that bordered on the bizarre.

    Hari Sreenivasan begins our coverage.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The presence of 3,000 police and National Guardsmen, plus an overnight curfew, appeared to stabilize Baltimore. By and large, crowds who gathered last night demonstrated without incident.

    WOMAN: I’m here to say that we can be peaceful. We still are upset, but we can be peaceful.

    WOMAN: Go home tonight. That’s all we’re asking.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s not to say the night was trouble-free. Brief scuffles broke out when the 10:00 p.m. curfew rolled around, and police arrested 35 people.

    WOMAN: This is where we live. They can’t tell us to be in the house at 10:00. We live down the street. No. Uh-uh.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:
    But Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said today the city is getting back to normal.

    GOV. LARRY HOGAN, (R) Maryland: Schools are open, businesses are open, the state government is open. We want to get people out there today, and going about their business. We think the city — there’s no question in my mind that the city is now safe.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Safe enough that the strains of classical music echoed downtown, as the Baltimore Symphony moved outside to play a free concert for young and old alike.

    MICHAEL LISICKY, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: We weren’t here to make any statement, other than to just kind of take a break, get together, play some music, and do so for everybody that was walking by or whatnot. That’s what we do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: On the other hand, it was anything but normal at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles played the Chicago White Sox in a stadium closed to the public.

    Meanwhile, community leaders organized a march to refocus attention on the case of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died in police custody with a severe spinal injury.

    NATHANIEL MCFADDEN, (D) Maryland State Senator: This issue has been with us throughout this nation of how especially African-American men, unarmed, are treated by law enforcement. This is simply the tip of an iceberg that has been with us too long.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, in Washington, newly installed Attorney General Loretta Lynch echoed that call, and pledged full assistance to Baltimore city officials.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I spoke with Hari a short time ago.

    Hari, hello.

    You and the NewsHour team have spent this day on the ground in Baltimore. What are you seeing?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, you know, it depends on what parts of the city that you go to how affected everyone is by this, because there aren’t any major disruptions to infrastructure, freeways, trains, or commerce.

    So people in some parts of the city are perfectly fine. And, of course, the other parts that we have seen over the past couple of days are still recovering.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are people willing to talk about this? Do you find, you and the team, have you found some people receptive when you ask them what they’re thinking?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, you know, we saw a group of schoolchildren being led here on a field trip by their teacher because they were concerned about fears. And their teacher wanted to take them to City Hall, show them that the wheels of justice are in motion, that it’s not just the city, that the entire country is paying attention to what has happened here.

    There’s quite a few people that told our producers and myself, you know, we want to get the focus back to what happened to Freddie Gray. We want to figure out how to learn from this particular incident and have less of the focus be on some of the riots.

    I spoke to a 61-year-old who was doing needlepoint, and she was making an image of Jesus walking on water, and she said this is more likely to repeat itself than actually getting justice for Freddie Gray.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Hari, you minded us that in a way it depends on where you are in Baltimore, that there are different pictures of this depending on what part of the city people live in.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s right. That’s right. There are certain neighborhoods that are still reeling from this. They’re still thinking about this on a — this is incredibly pressing to them, and this is all that they can think about, because, for a glimmer, they feel like the rest of the city and the rest of the country got a chance to see what they have to live through on a daily basis.

    And then there’s other parts of the city where life is pretty normal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hari Sreenivasan reporting for us from Baltimore, thank you.

    And in another development, Baltimore police said they will turn the results of their investigation into the death of Freddie Gray over to prosecutors, instead of issuing a public report.

    And hundreds of people gathered this evening for another protest. Organizers said they will march to City Hall. We will return to what’s driving the unrest in Baltimore and other cities later in the program.

    The post Recovering from riots, Baltimore tries to refocus on Freddie Gray appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A House committee voted to subpoena Department of Veterans Affairs personnel as part of an expanding probe that explores how veteran disability and pension claims have been handled. Photo by Karen Gleier/Getty Images

    A House committee voted to subpoena Department of Veterans Affairs personnel as part of an expanding probe that explores how veteran disability and pension claims have been handled. Photo by Karen Gleier/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — A House committee voted Thursday to issue a subpoena of the Department of Veterans Affairs for personnel and complaint files at its Philadelphia office, part of an expanding probe into mishandling of veterans’ disability and pensions claims.

    Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee, said his panel has repeatedly asked for the information since last December with limited success from VA Secretary Robert McDonald and other officials as it digs into allegations of leadership misconduct and whistleblower retaliation. It was only the third time in the committee’s history that lawmakers resorted to a subpoena, a sign of continuing impatience with a department still struggling after last year’s health scandal involving the Phoenix VA medical center.

    The last time subpoenas were issued was last May, when the committee demanded documents in that Phoenix scandal relating to lengthy wait times and falsified records.

    “I have not come to this moment lightly,” Miller said. “There is no doubt that there are serious issues plaguing the operations of the Philadelphia regional office, and we can no longer afford to allow the VA to stonewall legitimate requests for information about that or about any other VA facility.”

    Miller said that after repeated requests the VA responded late Wednesday with three discs containing documents, but that they remained incomplete with large portions redacted.

    The motion for a subpoena was approved by voice vote with no objections. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the panel, did not attend because of a schedule conflict with another committee.

    The subpoena seeks all documents and communications in the Philadelphia office relating to matters investigated or pending before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Merit Systems Protection Board from Dec. 31, 2008, to present. The committee said it was probing allegations of employee mistreatment.

    Responding, the VA released a letter to Miller dated Wednesday in which McDonald expresses confusion over the planned subpoena vote, saying the department had offered to make available the full, unredacted information if the committee agreed to certain privacy conditions. The VA secretary wrote that the material involved employee grievances often provided with the expectation of confidentiality and that it was redacting information such as Social Security numbers, home addresses and bank accounts considered not necessary for the committee’s investigation.

    McDonald said the VA had devoted as many as seven employees full-time to gathering the voluminous material and began providing much of it earlier this month. “A subpoena is a needless and unhelpful step that unnecessarily erodes the confidence of veterans and the American people,” he said.

    In a scathing audit this month, the VA’s inspector general confirmed a litany of problems first raised by whistleblowers in Philadelphia. They included mishandled or neglected mail, manipulation of dates to make old claims look new and millions of dollars in duplicate benefit payments, part of a department-wide rush to reduce backlogs. The report said it took an average of 312 days for VA employees to respond to inquiries; the department has a five-day standard for response.

    The IG has since expanded its review of Philadelphia to two senior leaders for potential misuse of position.

    The VA launched an internal review of the Philadelphia facility that is due to be completed in June, pledging the “harshest action” against employees who intentionally violated policies and mulling department-wide changes. It also has called for additional money to hire claims processors.

    Described by the VA as one of its largest, the Philadelphia office oversees the administration of benefits to 900,000 veterans in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. The site also houses a Pension Management Center, one of three in the nation.

    The post House panel expands probe into how Veterans Affairs handled disability and pension claims appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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