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

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    WATCH LIVE: A news conference on the Amtrak train derailment, set for 10 a.m. EDT.

    An Amtrak train traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York derailed in north Philadelphia Tuesday night, killing at least six and injuring more than 100.

    Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 was carrying 238 commuters and five crew members when it derailed in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia around 9:30 p.m. EDT.

    In a late night news conference Tuesday, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said officials do not know the cause for the derailment.

    Initial reports said that five had been confirmed dead Tuesday night. This morning officials at Temple University Hospital said a sixth person had died. Follow Philly.com’s live updates.

    Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration are on their way to the scene. According to Philly.com, Train 188 jumped the tracks on a curve in a section of the Northeast Corridor known as Frankford Junction. The news outlet wrote that the area is normally under a speed restriction, and so determining the speed of Train 188 at the time of the accident will be part of the investigation.

    Amtrak has suspended all service between Philadelphia and New York. On Wednesday the company announced there would be modified service between Washington and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and New York and Boston. Check Amtrak’s website for details of its Northeast Corridor service.

    Amtrak has also set up a hotline: 800-523-9101.

    PBS NewsHour will continue to update this post throught the day.

    The post 6 dead as Amtrak train bound for NY derails in Philadelphia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A butcher prepares cuts of beef on January 13, 2014. Photo by  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    A butcher prepares cuts of beef on January 13, 2014. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The government will soon require labels on packages of beef tenderized by machines so shoppers know to cook it thoroughly.

    The Agriculture Department said Wednesday the labels will be required starting in May 2016. Mechanically tenderized meat is poked with needles or blades to make it tender, a process that can transfer bacteria from the outside of the cut of beef to the inside. Since many people eat cuts of meat that aren’t fully cooked in the center, that bacteria can pose a safety hazard.

    The labels will say that the meat has been “mechanically tenderized,” ”blade tenderized” or “needle tenderized.” They also will include cooking instructions to ensure consumers cook the meat long enough to kill any bacteria.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been six outbreaks of illness linked to mechanically tenderized beef in the last 15 years. USDA predicts that the new labels and cooking instructions could prevent hundreds of illnesses annually.

    “This common sense change will lead to safer meals and fewer foodborne illnesses,” said Al Almanza, head of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

    Meat industry officials say they have worked to make tenderized products safer over the years, and they don’t think the products need to be labeled. But the North American Meat Institute’s Barry Carpenter said USDA worked with the industry on the rules, which were initially proposed in 2013, and the meat companies will put them in place.

    “We are confident in the safety of products that are mechanically tenderized to increase tenderness, a trait that consumers desire in meat products,” Carpenter said.

    Consumer groups pushed for the labels, saying consumers don’t always know when meats have been tenderized or that they can be unsafe.

    Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who has long argued for stricter food safety rules, called the potential illnesses from tenderized beef a critical public health issue. She praised USDA for moving to require the labels.

    “The serious and urgent health risks associated with consuming mechanically tenderized meats are clear,” DeLauro said.

    The post USDA to require safety labels on mechanically tenderized beef appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pope Francis talks to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience in the pontiff library at the Vatican, October 17, 2013. Photo by Maurizio Brambatti/Reuters

    Pope Francis talks to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience in the pontiff library at the Vatican, October 17, 2013. Photo by Maurizio Brambatti/Reuters

    The Vatican announced today that it has finalized, but not signed, a treaty that would recognize Palestine as a state. While the Vatican has supported the U.N. General Assembly’s decision to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state of the U.N. since 2012, the treaty marks the first official document between the Holy See and Palestinian officials, according to the Associated Press.

    The Israeli foreign ministry has said it is “disappointed” with the decision.

    “This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations,” the ministry said in a text message received by the Associated Press. “Israel will study the agreement and will consider its steps accordingly.”

    According to the New York Times, the Vatican has religious interests in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories that contain Christian holy sites. The move “lends a powerful signal of moral authority and legitimacy” to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

    The treaty, which has been in works for about a year, covered the Vatican’s interests in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, including the churches and “other cultural and diplomatic matters.”

    The Vatican has informally referred to Palestine as a state for the past year, and Pope Francis has “long signaled” a hope for a Palestinian state.

    The post Vatican finalizes treaty recognizing Palestinian statehood appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The news poems  monitor Jeff Brown

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: a new and unconventional work of poetry from one of our own.

    Gwen has our latest conversation for the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    GWEN IFILL: You know Jeffrey Brown as NewsHour’s jack of all trades, who provides a window into breaking news, as well as books, culture, and poetry.

    It turns out Jeff writes poetry too. And his first collection is out. Aptly, it is called “The News: Poetry”

    And Jeff joins me now.

    JEFFREY BROWN, Author, “The News: Poems”: Oddly enough…

    GWEN IFILL: Oddly enough.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … sitting across, sitting on this side of the table.

    GWEN IFILL: Jeffrey, anyone who follows your work thinks of you possibly as a hard-bitten newsman, not someone who sees the world this way.

    I didn’t even know you were writing a book of poetry. Why did you decide to do it?

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know what?

    I am a hard-bitten news guy. I mean, that’s our world, right? We go out into the world, we see things, we tell stories, we meet people.

    But there’s a side of me that loves literature, that loves poetry, that loves history, that loves ideas, that loves music. It comes out, I hope, on the program as well.

    I started writing a long time ago. I wrote at different times during my life. I would write. I would pick up snippets from along the way.

    I started realizing that I wanted to go back and look at stories that I had done and sort of rethink them, reimagine them, tell them in a different voice with different words. And I — it was just — it was — it was fun for me. It was interesting to do.

    GWEN IFILL: Were you thinking of these stories through a poet’s eye at the time, or was it looking back at it?

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was looking back.

    GWEN IFILL: Huh.

    JEFFREY BROWN: No, when I’m doing it, I’m doing it the way you and I — we’re newspeople, right?

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, we’re telling stories.

    But I would sometimes hear things. And one of the things that was most interesting for me in writing the poems was a memory of something that had happened that hit me at the time or that stayed with me, you know, that stuck, that stayed there. I might have written down the phrase. In some cases, I went back and looked at the transcripts.

    I went online and looked at the transcripts of old stories I had done, because it was partly there, and I wanted to find that voice again.

    GWEN IFILL: When you did that, did you discover that Richard Avedon was right when he told you the camera always lies?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, it’s not so much that it lies.

    I use that quote, and I use quotes from people. And Richard Avedon said to me…

    GWEN IFILL: The photographer.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The photographer. He said — and we did an interview late at night in the Metropolitan Museum surrounded by his grand portraits.

    And we were talking, because this is a subject that fascinates me, as it does with him, anybody who has a camera in front of them. What does the camera tell you? Well, it tells you a truth, but it doesn’t tell you the whole truth.

    GWEN IFILL: Only a truth.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A truth.

    GWEN IFILL: I’m going to ask you to read some of your writing, because I — it took me places I didn’t know you had been.

    One poem you write is when you were in Haiti. And you went there on a reporting trip after the earthquake.

    JEFFREY BROWN: After the earthquake, but cholera had broken out. Things were very desperate.

    I went to a slum in Port-au-Prince. And then I went to a small village where people were dying in the Central Plateau. So, this is called “Haiti.”  And it begins and ends with actual quotes from that trip.

    “Epidemiologically, this area is terrifying. La Saline, the giant slum on a sun-soaked, trash-soaked morning, as the children filled their buckets from a makeshift well, the pigs scavenged while a rat watched all. Why bother to hide? La saline, somewhere nearby, the assaulted salted sea. Days later, the last light high in the Central Plateau, so far, so bone-crushed by the road, I had argued against going, Saut d’Eau. They filled the benches and told us of death upon death. A man who’d lost his son said, I am a bird left without a branch to land on.”

    GWEN IFILL: It’s beautiful.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I remember that. It was one of the saddest things I had ever heard in my life, when he said that.

    GWEN IFILL: You wrote another poem that caught my eye, because it kind of takes you behind the curtain here, what we do, what you and I do.

    And you kind of gave it a little bit away about the art of the interview, especially when…

    JEFFREY BROWN: A little bit away.

    GWEN IFILL: Especially when things don’t go as planned.


    Well, a lot on my mind was about what we do here every night. It’s an interesting transaction. Right? There’s somebody in our ear, the director talking. There’s the communication with — and we know there are people out there watching.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So there’s a lot going on.

    This is a little bit of a poem called “The Art of the Interview.”

    And it begins: “Engaged, open, curious, firm, prepared by all that’s come before, no surprises, but ready to be surprised again.”

    It goes on from there about what happens in an interview. But then there’s this thing that’s happened to both of us, right? “Once, a man froze, unable to speak. I asked and answered every question myself, then said, you agree? We could have gone on that way forever. Another night, the lights went out. We understood we were still, again, always in the dark.”

    You’re laughing because it’s happened to you. Right?

    GWEN IFILL: It has happened to me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Somebody freezes. And what happens in that moment? And the nights the lights went out was — actually, I was sitting over there with Mark and David doing the Friday’s politics. The power went out.

    GWEN IFILL: That’s right, and you had to keep talking.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Keep talking.

    GWEN IFILL: OK, one more.

    This — this is kind of personal, because this also takes us a little bit inside your life. And you wrote a book about what happened after the passing of your — a poem about what happened after the passing of your father.


    Some of the poems in here are more personal, and this is one that — you know, everybody deals with death of a loved one. And a lot of strange things happen at a moment like that, strange thoughts.

    This is on the day of my father’s funeral, which was a year ago. It’s called “Succession.”

    “One morning, state police escort us to your grave. The next, my flight is canceled. Maintenance issues breaking out all over. You would speak of a grand theory, something tying all this together. But you had none yourself, none that reached me then or now, as I drive your car slowly into the tranquil streets of my youth.

    “Here is where I learned to ride a bike, on this high hill that is no hill at all. And, still, I fell. And now you descend, and, still, I fall. And here is where I learned to doubt in the chapel where we donned black skullcaps that meant nothing, I tell you. If God speaks, it is elsewhere. And here our my own children, rooted and uncertain, watching me speak to you.

    “You watched the news every night, worried if I didn’t make air, traveling, sick, useless, lost. Now that you are gone, traffic parted by the state police, can, I, too, disappear?”

    It’s a hard one to read even sitting here, because…

    GWEN IFILL: It’s a hard one to read.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because my father would have watched us every night, and if I wasn’t there for a few days, he’d wonder, what happened? You know, where are you? And I would have to explain.

    GWEN IFILL: And the loss of a parent is a universal experience eventually.


    GWEN IFILL: I want to ask you one more question.

    As you put this book together, and as you just go through your life as a writer, a poet, a television personality, do you feel that you’re constantly looking at the world through multiple lenses?

    JEFFREY BROWN: I do. I do. And I like that. I like that so much. I think that’s what the world is about.

    I love what we do, you know, looking at the world through facts. And we are so careful every night to try to get it right. But I think the world is filled with all kind of other things, art and music. And I want that in my life. I want that to be part of our program. That’s why I care about it so much.

    I think that’s what’s happening in our world. When we tell people every night, here’s what happened today, I want it to be what they expect, but I also want to bring some of this. I want it in my life.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, we all want it. And that’s why we’re so glad you have written this book, “The News: Poems.”

    Jeffrey Brown, thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thank you, Gwen.

    The post Jeffrey Brown translates his reporting life into a new book of poetry appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    transgender piece 4

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now another installment in our series Transgender in America.

    A small number of children as young as 3 are beginning to understand their gender identity as something different from what they were assumed to be at birth.

    NewsHour special correspondent Jackie Judd has our story of doctors and families living through these discoveries.

    JACKIE JUDD: Eight-year-old Skyler Kelly is hoping for a career in the Major Leagues and enjoys the privileges of being big brother to 4-year-old Luke. It is not how life started for Skyler.

    TIFFANY KELLY, Mother of Skyler: I can totally see sitting on the hospital bed and days of a long labor and someone saying like, oh, what a sweet little girl.

    JACKIE JUDD: At a remarkably early age, Skyler, who lives in Seattle, began to let his parents know that what he looked like on the outside, a girl, is not how he felt on the inside.

    SKYLER KELLY: When people tried to brush my hair, I would try to push the brush away and I would cry and scream. And it was hard in the mornings to even get ready.

    JACKIE JUDD: Did you also have a fight over clothing, what to wear, what kind of clothes to wear?

    SKYLER KELLY: Well, I was pretty much allowed to wear what I wanted, except on school pictures. I had to wear a dress, and I hated it.

    JACKIE JUDD: So did you ever smile in those school pictures? Or…

    SKYLER KELLY: I smiled, but I didn’t like…

    JACKIE JUDD: But inside?

    SKYLER KELLY: I did not like it inside.

    JACKIE JUDD: The why of Skyler’s gender identity isn’t fully understood. The long-held and now controversial medical view links being transgender to a mental disorder or emotional distress.

    However, new science is emerging pointing to a complex set of factors. At the University of Washington, psychology professor Kristina Olson investigates the origins of being transgender.

    KRISTINA OLSON, University of Washington: Your biology determines a lot of your psychology, and I think that’s kind of where the feeling is right now, that there are probably biological contributors that make a big contribution towards our sense of gender identity, which is psychologically how we feel. Are we male or female or something else, something in between, neither?

    JACKIE JUDD: Endocrinologist Joshua Safer at Boston University treats hundreds of adult transgender patients and is a leader in the field. He firmly believes gender identity is hard-wired in all of us.

    DR. JOSHUA SAFER, Boston University: In most people, chromosomes, body parts, gender identity align. So, somebody with a male chromosome, somebody with male body parts is going to have male gender identity. That is the usual circumstance.

    All of these are independently controlled biologically, and therefore it is no surprise that, in a given subset of the population, one part is not aligned, that whatever genes are controlling that happen to be different for that individual, and that’s what’s happening with transgender individuals.

    JACKIE JUDD: Dr. Safer conducted the most extensive review to date of existing studies tying gender identity to biological factors.

    The most persuasive evidence he found was in experiments done over the past half-century on people born with the male XY chromosomes, but with the rare condition of ambiguous genitalia. Soon after birth, they were surgically given female genitalia, and then raised as girls.

    DR. JOSHUA SAFER: These kids were dressed in pink and given dresses and dolls and given estrogen when they hit puberty, so that they had appropriate breast development and such. And so we’re talking about a pretty extreme approach that, if any approach was going to work, it should have worked.

    But what happened instead is, the majority of these kids, if you query, say that they have male gender identity, despite that very, very extreme program.

    JACKIE JUDD: The conclusion, according to Dr. Safer, is that gender identity cannot be manipulated or taught. A second set of data he reviewed involved the anatomy of the brain. Postmortem testing of women and males at birth who transitioned to females found certain regions to be strikingly similar, though Dr. Safer says more research is needed to determine if those regions are linked to gender identity.

    At this lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, a unique long-term study is under way of transgender children, children as young as 3 years of age. With the support of their families, they have transitioned from the gender of their birth to what is called their expressed gender.

    Skyler, along with several dozen other kids, both transgender and not, went through a battery of tests in the first phase of the study to pinpoint how they see themselves. This very quick picture and word association, called IAT, or Implicit Association Test, is intended to take a true measure of the strength of a child’s identity.

    KRISTINA OLSON: If there is a kid who, at birth, the doctor said this kid is a girl, but later came to identify as a boy, and that kid is living as a boy today, that kid will show the same results on the IAT as any other boy and looks nothing like, say, his sister or another random girl that we just pulled off the street.

    JACKIE JUDD: Dr. Olson leads the study team.

    KRISTINA OLSON: So, this suggests that this isn’t just a thing a kid is saying or pretending to be. This doesn’t seem to be a kid being playful or being ornery. This is really, truly how the child seems to identify themselves at this age.

    JACKIE JUDD: Dr. Olson’s research cuts to the core of the dilemma parents of transgender children face, how to know if this is real.

    JOSH KELLY, Father of Skyler: I guess my concerns as it evolved, and we were not at the stage of him being an affirmed male, my concerns are, are we jumping the gun, and just wasn’t comfortable with that whole thing.

    JACKIE JUDD: Many people struggle with the same thing and believe transgender children are just going through a phase. Dr. Olson says, in two years of following the same group of youngsters, none has reverted to their gender at birth.

    Still, she encounters deep skepticism.

    KRISTINA OLSON: We see a lot of people saying things like, you know, my child thought that they were a dinosaur when they were 4, but I didn’t let them live as a dinosaur, and they didn’t really think they were a dinosaur.

    These kids who are saying, this is who I am, I am a girl, or I am a boy.

    JACKIE JUDD: The Kellys came to certainty one night when Skyler was about 6, and there was no denying what their child was trying to tell them.

    TIFFANY KELLY: I remember, God, this one awful night. I can still picture us upstairs, and Skyler was just having like a meltdown over nothing, but just a heartbreaking meltdown, like the kind — you can tell the difference between a tantrum and an, “I am just so emotionally unhappy.”

    And Josh and I both just finally saying, what is it? Is there something that you’re not telling us? And I said, do you want to whisper it to us? And he whispered and said, I want to start wearing boy’s underwear.

    JACKIE JUDD: And that is when Skyler transitioned, entering first grade as the person he knew himself to be.

    Dr. Olson now has about 100 transgender children in the study, and she hopes to follow them into adolescence and adulthood, and that, by learning more, the too-common trajectory of a transgender person’s life can be changed.

    KRISTINA OLSON: We all look at the news, and we see those terrible statistics about what life is like for transgender adults; 41 percent of transgender adults attempt suicide. They have extremely high rates of unemployment and discrimination, violence

    And what I want to know is, how do we change that? Is there a decision that could be made in a child’s life, and instead put them on a path that’s more like the other kids that they go to school with and are in their families, where they have just as a good a chance as anyone else?

    JACKIE JUDD: Of all these words, which words would you choose to describe yourself? Happy, angry, proud, sad? Which words?

    SKYLER KELLY: Happy, proud.

    JACKIE JUDD: Happy, proud?


    JACKIE JUDD: Why happy, proud?

    SKYLER KELLY: Because I’m happy now that I get to live how I want. And I’m proud — well, I’m proud because my parents understood it, and they’re — they’re great.

    JOSH KELLY: He’s super well-adjusted, very happy.

    TIFFANY KELLY: He’s braver than I have ever felt. And I hope that he can keep that and that the world doesn’t break him of that.

    JACKIE JUDD: The Kellys say the emerging science of gender identity is less important to them than their child finding acceptance and support. They know it may not be an easy life for Skyler, but it will be an authentic one.

    For the NewsHour, this is Jackie Judd in Seattle.

    The post Is gender identity biologically hard-wired? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Amtrak Train Derailment Causes Mass Injuries In Philadelphia

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s return now to the investigation into the deadly Amtrak derailment and its potential cause.

    Hari Sreenivasan picks up that part of the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier, as we heard, investigators announced a stunning finding: Before the engineer tired braking the train, it was going more than 100 miles an hour. That’s more than twice the speed limit for that part of the rail.

    Joining me now from the scene of the accident is Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board.

    So, first, I want to ask you kind of your reaction to that fact. Most people in the TV audience are going to say, well, that’s why the train derailed. It was going too fast.

    ROBERT SUMWALT, National Transportation Safety Board Member: Well, certainly, we want to find out why the train was going over twice the speed limit. We want to find that out.

    And then another factor is, why did the train derail? And you’re right. It probably has something to do with the speed. So we want to understand the crash dynamics. We want to understand why the train was going that fast.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You and your agency have investigated several different types of accidents before. What are some of the reasons that make a train get to that speed, especially heading into a curve?

    ROBERT SUMWALT: Well, I think one thing that will be key to the investigation is being able to interview the engineer.

    We want to find out what his thoughts were, what was going through his mind. We want to check the — very carefully, we want to check the mechanical condition of the train. We want to check the train’s signal system to see what it might have been indicating. So we’re taking a holistic approach. We want to look at everything and try to understand just the very question that you asked. Why was the train going that speed?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But one of the things that you mentioned earlier in your press conference this afternoon was something called positive train control. Most people in our viewing audience don’t know what that is. What is it? How does it work? And why wasn’t it in this specific section of track?

    ROBERT SUMWALT: Well, positive train control is a device that will — basically, it knows what the speed limit is for the track through GPS, and if the speed — it the train is exceeding that speed, it will actually bring the train to a stop.

    It will also protect against trains running red signals and things like that. We — Amtrak has a system that they call ACSES, which is basically a positive train control system. They have got ACSES installed throughout much of the Northeast Corridor. However, unfortunately, it wasn’t installed in this particular section of the track. We want to find out, why was it not here?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Amtrak has other systems in place as well. What are you going to be able to learn from those?

    ROBERT SUMWALT: I’m sorry. There was a truck going by right when you asked that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s all right.

    I said Amtrak has other systems in place as well for safety. What are you going to be able to learn from those when you keep digging?

    ROBERT SUMWALT: What are we going to be able to learn from Amtrak’s other systems?


    ROBERT SUMWALT: I’m sorry. I’m having trouble hearing and understanding.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes. That’s right.

    ROBERT SUMWALT: So, maybe you can rephrase the question.


    If this particular set of tracks didn’t have the positive train control, you said Amtrak also has other systems in place on its trains. Is there any indication that any of those systems failed as well?

    ROBERT SUMWALT: Well, when I talk about positive train control for Amtrak, that is a system called ACSES. So we want to find out why their system, the ACSES system, wasn’t installed in this particular section of the track.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, you said that — you basically got here after the emergency responders got out of their way at about 2:00 in the afternoon. You just got here today. If we have this conversation again tomorrow, what are you going to be able to tell us that you just don’t know today?

    ROBERT SUMWALT: I think tomorrow will be a big day for us.

    I mean, today, you’re right. We had investigators arriving on the scene at between 4:00 and 5:00 this morning. And the rest of our team pretty much got here by 9:00 or 9:30. So — but we have not been able to get up and really do extremely detailed measurements of the track, the cars, the train cars.

    We have not been able to do that, because the recovery effort’s been going on. But we will begin getting in there, doing a very detailed survey of the site. We will be looking at the mechanical condition of the locomotive, of the rest of the train. We will start collecting records — or continue collecting records.

    We have got a lot to do for the next few days. I think, though, for the first day, we have gotten a lot done, but I think, tomorrow, we will have a lot more.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what’s that event recorder, the black box of the train, going to be able to tell you? You have taken it to Washington now. You’re going to get all of the information over the next 24 to 36 hours. What is that going to be able to tell you?

    Also, you’re probably going to have video pictures of the camera that was pointing out in front of the train, right?

    ROBERT SUMWALT: Yes, we do. We do have, as you mentioned, the forward-facing video. We will take that to Washington and begin examining that, conducting analysis of that.

    The event data recorders can tell us a lot, and it’s not just a matter of pressing a button and saying, tell us everything. They have to go through complex algorithms to decipher these data. That’s why we don’t just have every piece of information we’d love to tell you right now.

    We were very concerned about the speed, so that’s why we were able to get the speed so early. But this investigation will go on for quite some time. It will be complex. But I’m confident, I’m very confident that, at the end of the investigation, we will be able to determine not only what happened, but why it happened, so that we can keep it from happening again.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board, thanks so much.

    The post Why was a speed control system not installed at site of the train disaster? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    sen warren

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And let’s hear now from one of the more vocal opponents in this fight, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She is a Democrat who has clashed over this issue with the president. And she is one of the leading voices of the left.

    Senator Warren, we welcome you to the program.

    So, now that they have cleared these procedural hurdles today, is it your concern that the proponents of this trade legislation are now going to be able to move ahead and pass it all?

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) Massachusetts: Well, of course. I am concerned about that, because I am very concerned that we are going to pass a trade promotion authority that greases the skid for a deal that is really good for some of the biggest multinational corporations in the world, but not so good for the American worker.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just quote — there are many I could quote, but we just heard Senator Hatch say in a couple of answers that he believes strongly what this is going to do is, it’s going to — yes, corporations are going to make money, but they’re also going to be creating jobs, and this — the idea that the trade agreements of the past took jobs away is just not true.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Well, there’s a lot of data about what’s happened in the trade agreements of the past, and the American worker has not done well.

    What worries me here is about the whole process around this trade agreement. You know, it has been negotiated in secret, but there have been 28 working groups that have worked on specific parts of it. But those 28 working groups, they have, all together, more than 500 people who are involved in them.

    Eighty-five percent of those people are either senior executives in the industries that will be affected or they’re lobbyists for those industries. In other words, the people who’ve been whispering in the ear of our negotiators, who have been helping shape it, who have read every draft and helped mark it up, all represent big multinational corporations, not the American worker.

    And my view on this is, when you have a tilted process, you end up with a tilted outcome.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you know, Senator, when President Obama has been asked about this — and he’s working pretty hard to get this legislation passed — he’s made the opposite argument, that in no way is he out there defending the big corporations, that he’s looking out after ordinary Americans and about creating jobs for generations to come.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: You know, if the president is confident that this is a great trade deal for American families, then the president should let that trade deal be public.

    Let the American people see it before we vote this week, next week, the week after to grease the skids to make it much easier to pass this deal with no amendments, make it much harder to be able to slow down this deal or block this deal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I know you heard — or perhaps you didn’t — but what Senator Hatch was just pointing out is that there’s some confusion, that some people may not understand what’s going on, the trade promotion authority will give the Congress the ability, an even greater ability, to look at what’s in this legislation, and that once the Trans-Pacific Partnership language is available, that it will be out in the public for debate.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Well, that’s like saying, once we make it public, we will make it public.

    The point is, the first vote is going to be to grease the skids, so that it will pass with only 51 votes, and there can’t be any amendments to it. The trade agreement that we’re talking about, the first one up, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is largely already negotiated. And the president could make it public.

    In fact, I want to make clear, President Bush, when he negotiated a trade agreement, he posted it months in advance of asking Congress to give him even partial trade promotion authority to move this thing through quickly.

    But I want to make one other point, because I think it’s really important. And that is, this trade promotion authority is about a whole lot more than just the first deal that’s lined up, the one for the Pacific side. It is a six-year greasing of the skids. In other words, the next president and potentially the one after that will have the same ability to ram through trade deals.

    And so, when President Obama says, for example, that he refuses to work on a trade deal that would weaken financial regulations, he can’t bind the next president. And, right now, there’s a lot of pressure on the next deal that’s coming up with the Europeans. We have heard European officials, we have heard the Republicans, we have heard big financial institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, who have all pushed to try to weaken financial regulations.

    If trade authority passes, it is going to make it a lot easier to do that in the next trade deal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, my understanding, the administration’s pushback on that is that that’s going to be the case with any legislation, that those battles have to be fought as they come along.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Well, but you have to remember what the difference is in the vote.

    If the Republicans want to do a direct attack on Dodd-Frank, they have got to get 60 votes to do it. But if they want to be able to do it through trade, then they can do it — if this fast-track passes, they can do it with 51 votes. And anyone who’s looked around Washington over the past few years understands there is a big difference between having to get to 51 votes and having to get to 60 votes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Senator Warren, so a lot being written lately about whether there’s some personal animosity between you and President Obama over this. He’s been pretty vocal. You have been pretty vocal. He made the comment the other day to the effect you’re a politician, too, like everybody else, and you’re just wrong on this.

    Is there something personal going on?

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: There’s nothing personal for me about this.

    You know, this is my life’s work. I have spent really all my adult life working on what’s happening to America’s middle class. And I am deeply, deeply worried that another trade agreement will be another punch in the gut to hardworking families.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Elizabeth Warren, we thank you so much.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our series of conversations on trade, the subject of a fierce debate over a proposed pact with Asia.

    President Obama and supporters of such a deal ran into a roadblock yesterday when a test vote failed unexpectedly in the Senate after opposition from Democrats. It was just the opening bid of an effort to give the president authority to so-called fast-track a deal that Congress could approve, but not amend. Today, lawmakers announced a compromise to let that vote happen, but it signaled just how tough it could be to get a much bigger trade deal done.

    We talk to two leading players on Capitol Hill who will influence the final outcome, first Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. He’s a co-sponsor of the fast-track legislation.

    Welcome, Senator Hatch.

    I guess my first question is, is this compromise that — been reached today purely on procedural grounds or has either side given in on the substance?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), Utah: Well, no, it’s basically a procedural compromise, but it’s what we wanted to begin with, and that is to have the four bills brought up and voted upon individually.

    And so we’re going to start with the preferences bill, and then we will start with the — which will include the African free trade agreement and others, and Haiti as well, and then we’re going to go to the — to one of the — to the customs bill, and then we will dispose of those. It’s going to take 60 votes each to pass those. I think they both will pass.

    And then we go to trade promotion authority bill, which, of course — and trade adjustment assistance. The trade promotion authority bill is one of the most important bills in our country’s history. It’s been decades since we have really done a trade agreement that is going to be effective as this one.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about some of the basic tenet of this one.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: As I know you know, the opponents are saying, yes, there may be some jobs created in the short term, but in the longer run, if you look at what happened to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, over time, many jobs were lost. And they have done studies. They say hundreds of thousands of jobs, maybe even a million jobs were lost.

    How do you counter that argument?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Over time, the NAFTA bill created millions of jobs, too.

    The fact of the matter is, is that this bill will probably do even better than that, because we have to be in the real world. This bill will enable the trade representative to negotiate agreements on what’s called TPP, the trade promotion authority — or — excuse me — the Trans-Pacific project over there.

    And that involves 11 nations, plus our own, and then, of course, TTIP, which the European trade agreement of 28 nations, plus our own, giving — putting us on an equal footing in many respects to everything in those countries, and opening the door to free trade from our country to all of theirs.

    It’s a — it could amount to trillions of dollars over the years and free trade benefits to the United States. And I think it will create a tremendous number of jobs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Senator, I think, as you know, many Americans have come over time to associate a trade deal with a draining of jobs out of the United States. How do you turn that impression around?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, first of all, the impression is false. There were some jobs lost under NAFTA, like some textile jobs and so forth, but there were a lot of jobs that were created under NAFTA, too.

    And anybody who says otherwise is just not telling the truth. In this particular case, we’re talking about trillions of dollars of free trade over the years. And the United States, you know, we’re talking about up to 40 percent to 60 percent of the World Trade. Now, 95 percent of trade people live outside of the United States of America.

    And we have got to be in the real world where we can trade with all these other countries and receive all the benefits of those free trade agreements. The president happens to be right on this.

    I like Elizabeth Warren. She’s a nice person and we’re friends, but, in all honesty, the president is right on this and he deserves support. And I’m supporting him, and hopefully we will get these bills through.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you mentioned Senator Warren, and we are going to be talking to her right after we talk with you.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: But one of her main objections is the secrecy that has surrounded this, the fact that the American people can’t look at the terms of this deal, that members of Congress have to go into a closed room, can’t take any notes out, but mainly that it’s not in the public eye, and that, once Congress passes this so-called fast-track authority for the president, whatever is done can’t be amended.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, wait a minute.

    What this bill does is, it provides the procedural mechanism where Congress can get into all of those issues once we pass this bill. In other words, it’s the way we can have total transparency. Plus, the reason that they’re — you can — members of Congress and their staffs can go see these matters right now, but the reason that they’re so tightly controlled is because they haven’t entered into them yet.

    They have got to complete them. They didn’t want people tearing them down before they actually get them done. But, when they’re done, we will be able to look at them. We will know every aspect of them. It will be TPA that provides the mechanism for us to really look at those.

    And so I think sometimes people get mixed up on, you know, the trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, for an example, they get mixed up on that, when that is currently being negotiated, and forget that the that the trade bill that we’re talking about provides the mechanism whereby we can enter into these agreements and get them to correspond with what America really needs and what America really deserves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you know, the argument that she’s making, though, is that, at this point, the American people are shut out of this very important debate. Let me finally ask you this.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, let me just answer that, because that’s not a good point.

    The fact of the matter is, is — is that all of this — this — this trade agreement will require transparency and will give the Congress the ability to really look into any matter that they — any treaty they entered into. And it’s the way we get there.

    And for people to fight this, this is the one way that those who are concerned about what goes on — and all of us should be — will be able to really look at these matters and come to some really informative and good conclusions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think this ultimately will pass?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Oh, yes, I really do. I think we — I think we have the votes to pass it. It’s going to be — well, it’s going to be hard-fought. There’s no question some people just hate the concept of free trade authority.

    And, frankly, at least two of them are going to fight it with everything they have got. And they have that right. I have no problem with that. But, then again, we have to also act in the best interests of the country, and, really, this bill is one of the most important bills in this president’s whole tenure. He happens to be right on it, and I support him in it.

    And I think the vast majority of Republicans will wind up supporting the president on trade promotion authority.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Orrin Hatch, we thank you.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: You bet.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: President Obama welcomed Saudi Arabian leaders to the White House today, amid a dispute over a potential nuclear deal with Iran. Saudi King Salman declined to make the trip to attend a six-nation Gulf Arab summit. Instead, the crown prince and deputy crown prince met with the president. And he praised the Saudis, while indirectly acknowledging the tensions.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to Franklin Roosevelt and King Faisal. And we are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In addition to Iran, the summit will also focus on Yemen, where the Saudis and their Sunni allies are trying to beat back Shiite rebels.

    A cease-fire began today, but there were violations almost immediately. Meanwhile, Iran warned the Saudis against intercepting an aid ship heading to a rebel port in Yemen. A top general in Tehran said — quote — “If they cause trouble with regard to sending humanitarian aid, it will spark a fire.”

    Attackers struck a hotel this evening in Kabul, Afghanistan, during a party for foreigners. The U.S. Embassy said one American was killed. There was word several dozen people were being held hostage. The attack triggered a gun battle with police that continued into the night.

    In Pakistan, gunmen stormed a bus in Karachi, ordered Shiite Muslim passengers to bow their heads, then opened fire. At least 45 were killed. The bus was headed to a community center when six attackers forced their way on. A witness said at least one gunman wore a police uniform. A Taliban splinter group and a faction allied with the Islamic State made competing claims of responsibility.

    The political unrest in Burundi took a new turn today, when an army general announced a coup. He made his move as the president was at a summit in Tanzania on the rising turmoil in his East African nation.

    MAJ. GEN. GODEFROID NIYOMBARE, Burundi Army (through interpreter): President Pierre Nkurunziza has been relieved of his duties. The government has been dissolved. We demand that all regional commanders, regional commissioners and all governors work hand in hand with us to reinforce the security for the citizens of Burundi and for all foreigners, residents, and all visitors.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, the president tweeted that he’s still in power. His plans to seek a third term have sparked weeks of protests and violence, and news of the coup attempt sent thousands streaming into the streets of the capital city, dancing and cheering. The U.S. and the U.N. appealed for calm.

    The death toll from Nepal’s latest earthquake is now at least 76; 2,700 others were injured yesterday in the Himalayan nation’s second major quake in three weeks. Meanwhile, a search continued for a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that disappeared while delivering aid.

    Thailand’s military rulers took a hard line today in a burgeoning crisis over migrants at sea. They insisted they will keep pushing the boats back to sea, and a top official in Malaysia said the same. Migrant organizations say that 6,000 or more people from Bangladesh and Myanmar may now be stranded at sea.

    The Vatican has formally recognized the state of Palestine in a new treaty. The Holy See today joined several European countries in taking that step, despite Israel’s objections. Pope Francis will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later this week.

    Back in this country, the House of Representatives passed a bill late today that bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It makes an exception in cases of rape or incest, but it requires women to receive counseling first. The debate on the House floor split largely down party lines.

    REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER, (D) New York: How incredibly cruel it is that we want to take that decision from away the woman and her doctor, whomever she wants to consult, but certainly scientific laws ought to apply, and put it in the hands of legislators?

    REP. MIKE KELLY, (R) Pennsylvania: This is incredible that we have to even come forward and debate this. My goodness, this is just so intuitive of who we are, not as a Republican or Democrats, but as human beings. We have to protect the unborn because they cannot protect themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican leaders dropped provisions that had angered a number of GOP women. The bill now moves to the Senate, but it’s unlikely to pass there.

    There were peaceful protests in Madison, Wisconsin, today after a prosecutor decided not to charge a white officer for killing an unarmed teenager. Demonstrators gathered near the apartment house where 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot in March. From there, they marched to the county courthouse to stage a mock trial.

    In economic news, new data underscored just how much China’s economy is slowing down. The country’s money supply grew in April at the lowest pace ever. And investment growth was the worst in nearly 15 years. On Wall Street, the major indexes were little changed on the day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost seven points to close at 18060. The Nasdaq rose five points, and the S&P 500 slipped less than a point.

    And honey bees disappeared at a staggering rate over the last 12 months. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their colonies. The study authors blamed pesticides, loss of food and tiny mites that attack the bees.

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    Rescue workers search for victims in the wreckage of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia Tuesday night. A passenger train with more than 200 on board derailed in north Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least five people and injuring more than 100, several of them critically, authorities said. Authorities said they had no idea what caused the train wreck, which left some demolished rail cars strewn upside down and on their sides in the city's Port Richmond neighborhood along the Delaware River. Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to Philadelphia Mayor’s, Michael Nutter. I spoke to him a short time ago.

    Mayor Nutter, thank you for talking with us.

    MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, Philadelphia: Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us what it’s like dealing with this. I know you have had other accidents, crises in the city of Philadelphia. How does this compare?

    MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: Well, I don’t think we have had anything that is comparable. I mean, we have never had a derailment like this in recent times.

    But the level of devastation, the loss of life, again, tragically, we have — I have to confirm seven passengers deceased on that train. But the miracle of a few hundred pretty much walking off of that train last night — I was out here last night and saw many of the people who came off of that train.

    The cars themselves, it is beyond anything that you would see in a disaster movie. The cars are mangled, turned upside down, turned sideways, the engine separated, and it just must have been a horrific scene and experience for those passengers. So — but we have an incredible level of coordination on the ground here, Philadelphia Fire Department in command of the scene, police department supporting Department of Homeland Security as a part of the Philadelphia Police Department.

    Amtrak, state police, NTSB now on the ground conducting their investigation, so it’s a full-blown investigation. We’re still searching for some of the passengers from the manifest that we have — Amtrak provided to us. So everybody is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and we’re praying for all these passengers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s what I wanted to ask you about. How is the rescue effort going at this point?  I mean, how many are still unaccounted for?

    MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: Well, we don’t have a hard count on that, and the reason is because the manifest, of course, that’s the number of people who actually bought a ticket. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of those individuals actually were on the train. Obviously, sometimes, people miss trains.

    Some of the Amtrak personnel could have gotten on the train, you know, without — obviously, they don’t have tickets necessarily for their own personnel. So we’re comparing the manifest to all the individuals that we transported last night or people who checked in at the hospitals, either on their own or that we took them, and so that is the step-by-step process that we’re going through.

    And, again, unfortunately, seven confirmed dead, and we’re going through the notification process with their families.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Nutter, we just learned the NTSB confirming that the train was going 106 miles an hour on this stretch of track before this happened. What’s your reaction to that?  I mean, this is a — this is your city.

    MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: Well, there are, obviously, regulations from an Amtrak standpoint which I believe is governed by the Federal Railway Administration. So, I mean, it’s not like the city of Philadelphia government is in charge of Amtrak.

    But the tragedy took place here. It’s my understanding that that stretch of the track and that curve has a 50-mile-per-hour speed limit on it.


    MICHAEL NUTTER: So, obviously, something went completely wrong in that particular case. I will leave it, obviously, to NTSB to determine why that happened, how did that happen. I think they’re still gathering that information.

    But, I mean, that would certainly explain — that level of speed at that part of the track would certainly explain why there was so much devastation to this particular train and how it separated from the engine and all the other things that we have seen down at the crash site — or the derailment site, rather. So that’s NTSB’s jurisdiction. I will take them at their word.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What sort of other concerns have you had before this accident about Amtrak, about the tracks, about the infrastructure associated with this rail line in your city?

    MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: Well, I mean, look, I’m a huge Amtrak supporter of this entire corridor and of Amtrak as an organization.

    I have been on that 7:10 train out of Washington, D.C. I’m on Amtrak all the time, going to New York or Washington, or I have gone from Philadelphia to New York to D.C. and back to Philadelphia. But, today, of course, is a day where we’re really trying to be respectful to the families.

    I would love to talk about infrastructure and public policy and all those kinds of issues, but, for the moment, we’re going to hold our respect for these families and those who are injured and leave the policy and the politics to another day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Michael Nutter, we thank you for joining us, and I know our hearts go out to those who are affected.

    MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    And we will hear from a top federal safety investigator after the news summary.

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    Officials survey the site of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia Wednesday morning. The accident left rail cars mangled, ripped open and strewn upside down in the city's Port Richmond neighborhood along the Delaware River. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Seven dead, more than 200 injured, at least 10 in critical condition. The catalogue of casualties grew today in the Amtrak disaster in Philadelphia. At the same time, potentially crucial evidence began to emerge.

    Daylight brought the derailment clearly into focus: a scene of mangled metal, with all seven cars of the Northeast Regional off the tracks. Search teams were already busy, and the National Transportation Safety Board said they’d recovered the data recorders.

    The train derailed shortly after 9:00 p.m., on its way from Washington to New York, with 238 passengers and five crew members on board. They were passing through the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia when the train hit a curve and careened out of control.

    PAUL CHEUNG, Accident Survivor: Suddenly, the train went dark, and then it seemed like someone had slammed the brakes, and everything started shaking. People were just kind of panicking, and I could smell the smell of smoke.

    MAN: I could see the blood on people’s faces. They can’t move. Their knees were out. It was — so I just tried to do my best to help people get out of that car because it was smoking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The NTSB said this afternoon the train was moving at more than 100 miles an hour on a curve where the speed limit drops to 70, then 50.

    ROBERT SUMWALT, National Transportation Safety Board: Just moments before the derailment, the train was placed into engineer-induced braking, and this means that the engineer applied full emergency — a full emergency brake application. When the engineer-induced brake application was applied, the train was traveling at approximately 106 miles per hour. Three seconds later, when the data to the recorders terminated, the train speed was 102 miles per hour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In addition, the Federal Railway Administration said inspectors had checked the tracks hours earlier, and found no defects.

    In the wreck’s immediate aftermath, passengers worked in the chaos and darkness to aid others. Former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy was among them.

    FORMER REP. PATRICK MURPHY, (D) Pennsylvania: My military training just kicked in. And I just — the guy next to me was unconscious, so I just kind of picked him and just kind of slapped him in the face a little bit, saying, hey, buddy, get up, get up. And he came to. And he was OK. And there was just a lot of blood and a lot of people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement, President Obama called it a tragedy that touched everyone in a part of the country where Amtrak is a way of life for many. The shutdown of rail service between New York and Philadelphia affected Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, serving more than 11 million people a day. That meant thousands of would-be rail-riders were stranded in Boston, New York, Washington and points in between, and searching for ways out.

    FATEMA PETWARY, Amtrak Passenger: At 7:00 in the morning, they woke up us and told us about everything. And they say that, whenever you get off in Washington, D.C., they are going to bus you to New York. Now they are saying, we don’t have anything to do with busses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And as rail passengers hunted for alternative transportation, investigators hunted for answers.

    ROBERT SUMWALT: Our mission to find not only what happened, but why it happened, so that we can prevent it from happening again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Philadelphia police said the train’s engineer declined to talk to authorities. But Amtrak’s chairman pledged full cooperation with the investigation.

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    Former Maryland Governor and probable Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley speaks at a "Politics and Eggs" breakfast in Bedford, New Hampshire on March 31, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Former Maryland Governor and probable Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley speaks at a “Politics and Eggs” breakfast in Bedford, New Hampshire on March 31, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    BOSTON — Martin O’Malley plans to announce his presidential intentions on May 30 in Baltimore, a move that could present another Democratic challenger to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    The former Maryland governor will hold a conference call with top supporters on Thursday night to discuss his plans for the announcement in his adopted hometown, where he served as mayor, an O’Malley aide said Thursday. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning and was not authorized to speak publicly.

    O’Malley, who completed his second term as governor earlier this year, has been considering a potential challenge to Clinton, the leading Democratic contender, and made repeated trips to the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He has cast himself as a champion of progressive causes during his time as governor and appealed to liberal voters within the party who are hesitant to support Clinton.

    “My timeline for awhile has been by the end of May and that remains my timeline. So stay tuned,” O’Malley told reporters Wednesday in New Hampshire, home of the nation’s first presidential primary. O’Malley’s plans were first reported by The Washington Post.

    Staging the announcement in Baltimore could carry risk. O’Malley’s record as Baltimore’s mayor a decade ago has faced scrutiny since rioting broke out in the city following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody. O’Malley has defended his work to curb violent crime in the city and signaled it would play a leading role in his campaign if he enters the presidential race.

    O’Malley remains largely unknown on the national scene but has offered glimpses of what his campaign agenda might look like, emphasizing that he would focus heavily on economic inequality, campaign finance reform and a foreign policy focused on national security threats and creating new global alliances.

    In a field dominated by Clinton, the 52-year-old O’Malley has sought to present himself as a fresh face representing a new generation of leadership.

    “I’ve been struck by the number of people who say to me, repeatedly, two phrases, ‘new leadership’ and ‘getting things done,'” O’Malley said in Manchester, New Hampshire.

    If O’Malley enters the race with Clinton, as expected, he will join Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, who has courted liberal voters in the party. Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb also might run. Each of the Democrats looking to challenge Clinton is hoping to become a viable alternative for a segment of Democrats who want a competitive primary.

    O’Malley has been building out his staff in his political action committee and a film crew followed him during stops in New Hampshire, steps that would precede a presidential campaign.

    In New Hampshire, he also indicated how he might wage a contest against Clinton, who would be the first female president if elected. In Durham, O’Malley was asked what his presidency might offer to the aspirations of women. O’Malley noted Democrats had elected the country’s first black president in Obama and pointed to his policies in Maryland that have benefited women.

    He said while some voters may want to send a woman to the White House, “there is also a yearning of the next generation of Americans who want a new perspective and … to solve those problems with new leadership and new perspective.”

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    An employee stocks produce near a sign supporting a ballot initiative in Washington state that would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified crops at the Central Co-op in Seattle, Washington October 29, 2013. Major U.S. food and chemical companies are pouring millions of dollars into efforts to block approval of the initiative. Photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

    An employee stocks produce near a sign supporting a ballot initiative in Washington state that would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified crops at the Central Co-op in Seattle, Washington October 29, 2013. Major U.S. food and chemical companies are pouring millions of dollars into efforts to block approval of the initiative. Photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Agriculture Department has developed the first government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.

    USDA’s move comes as some consumer groups push for mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

    Certification would be voluntary — and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a “USDA Process Verified” label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the department’s plan in a May 1 letter to employees, saying the certification was being done at the request of a “leading global company,” which he did not identify. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

    Right now, there are no government labels that certify a food as GMO-free. Many companies use a private label developed by a nonprofit called the Non-GMO Project.

    Vilsack said the USDA certification is being created through the department’s Agriculture Marketing Service, which works with interested companies to certify the accuracy of the claims they are making on food packages — think “humanely raised” or “no antibiotics ever.” Companies pay the Agricultural Marketing Service to verify a claim, and if approved they can market the foods with the USDA label.

    “Recently, a leading global company asked AMS to help verify that the corn and soybeans it uses in its products are not genetically engineered so that the company could label the products as such,” Vilsack wrote in the letter. “AMS worked with the company to develop testing and verification processes to verify the non-GE claim.”

    A USDA spokesman confirmed that Vilsack sent the letter but declined to comment on the certification program. Vilsack said in the letter that the certification “will be announced soon, and other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service.”

    Certification would be voluntary — and companies would have to pay for it. The USDA label is similar to what is proposed in a GOP House bill introduced earlier this year that is designed to block mandatory GMO labeling efforts around the country. The bill, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., provides for USDA certification but would not make it mandatory. The bill also would override any state laws that require the labeling.

    The food industry, which backs Pompeo’s bill, has strongly opposed individual state efforts to require labeling, saying labels would be misleading because GMOs are safe.

    Vermont became the first state to require the labeling in 2014, and that law will go into effect next year if it survives a legal challenge from the food industry.

    Genetically modified seeds are engineered in laboratories to have certain traits, like resistance to herbicides. The majority of the country’s corn and soybean crop is now genetically modified, with much of that going to animal feed. GMO corn and soybeans are also made into popular processed food ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and soybean oil.

    The FDA says GMOs on the market now are safe. Consumer advocates pushing for the labeling say shoppers still have a right to know what is in their food, arguing that not enough is known about the effects of the technology. They have supported several state efforts to require labeling, with the eventual goal of having a federal standard.

    The post USDA develops first government label for GMO-free products appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    NTSB officials on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 Derailment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in this handout photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board on May 13, 2015. Handout photo courtesy of NTSB/Reuters

    NTSB officials on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 Derailment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in this handout photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board on May 13, 2015. Handout photo courtesy of NTSB/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The deadly Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia appears to be yet another accident that didn’t have to happen.

    It could have been avoided if a long-sought safety technology had been installed on its tracks and trains, according to information gathered by accident investigators.

    Seven years ago, Congress gave Amtrak and freight and commuter railroads until the end of this year to install the technology, called positive train control, on their trains and tracks. But few, if any, railroads are expected to meet the deadline. Now lawmakers are proposing to give railroads another five to seven years to get the task done.

    The technology uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train position. It can automatically brake to prevent derailments due to excessive speed, collisions with other trains, trains entering track where maintenance is being done or going the wrong way because of a switching mistake. It’s all aimed at preventing human error, which is responsible for about 40 percent of train accidents.

    A preliminary review of the Amtrak train’s event data recorder, or “black box,” shows it was traveling at 106 mph in an 80 mph zone just before it entered a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday. The train’s engineer applied maximum braking power seconds before the crash, but it was too late.

    “We feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” Sumwalt told reporters.

    At least seven people were killed and about 200 injured in the derailment.

    The train’s engineer applied maximum braking power seconds before the crash, but it was too late. The Philadelphia accident shares similarities with a 2013 derailment in New York on the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving. A Metro-North commuter train derailed in the Bronx, killing four and injuring dozens of others. The train’s engineer had fallen asleep and failed to slow the train from 82 mph to the maximum authorized speed of 30 mph as it entered a curve. An NTSB investigation concluded that crash would also have been prevented by positive train control.

    Not counting Tuesday’s derailment, the NTSB has investigated 29 passenger and freight train accidents that officials say could have been prevented by positive train control since 2004. Sixty-eight people died and more than 1,100 were injured in those crashes. The board has been urging installation of the technology, or its precursors, for 45 years.

    In 2008, a month after a commuter train and a freight train collided in Chatsworth, California, killing 25 people, Congress passed a law requiring that positive train control be installed by Dec. 31, 2015. But railroads have long complained that complications will prevent them from meeting that deadline.

    In March, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a bill that would give railroads until 2020 to install the technology, and another two years after that if they need more time. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which opposed the bill, complained at the time that some of its provisions would make it virtually impossible for federal regulators to ever force freight railroads to implement the technology.

    At least three of the bill’s key sponsors — Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. — have each received more than $100,000 in contributions to their campaigns and political committees from the rail industry over the course of their careers in Congress, according to the political money-tracking website OpenSecrets.org.

    The three senators said in statements or through their aides that reports by government agencies show railroads need more time. One of the hurdles is getting all the railroads to agree on systems that will work on everyone’s tracks despite differing policies and operations. Such interoperability is necessary because freight railroads frequently operate on each other’s tracks. Commuter railroads and Amtrak also often operate on freight rail tracks.

    Amtrak has been one of the more aggressive railroads in installing the technology. Three years ago, Amtrak announced it expected to finish installing positive train control throughout its busy Northeast Corridor by the end of 2012. While positive train control is in operation in much of the corridor between New York and Boston and on some other Amtrak lines in the Midwest, other portions still lack the technology. Amtrak officials didn’t reply to questions from The Associated Press about why the technology hadn’t been installed on the Philadelphia tracks where the derailment took place.

    “For decades we have seen preventable derailments and collisions occur,” said former NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “If we do not implement technology such as PTC to prevent these events, we will continue to see them for the foreseeable future.”

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a commerce committee member who voted against the bill, blamed the Federal Railroad Administration in part for not leaning hard enough on railroads over the past seven years to get the job done.

    “There is more evidence than ever that it is irresponsible and reprehensible to grant so long an extension,” Blumenthal said.

    One of the obstacles is the cost to industry of implementing positive train control, estimated in the billions of dollars. A Republican-controlled House panel approved deep spending cuts to Amtrak’s budget on Wednesday just hours after the Philadelphia accident. An attempt by Democratic lawmakers to boost Amtrak spending by $1 billion was rebuffed.

    The post Safety technology might have prevented deadly Amtrak crash appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama (C right) walks with Kuwaiti Crown Prince Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (C left) as he plays host to leaders and delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries at the White House in Washington May 13, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama (C right) walks with Kuwaiti Crown Prince Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (C left) as he plays host to leaders and delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries at the White House in Washington May 13, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    CAMP DAVID, Md. — President Barack Obama and leaders from six Gulf nations were gathering at Camp David Thursday to work through tensions sparked by the U.S. bid for a nuclear deal with Iran, a pursuit that has put regional partners on edge.

    Obama is seeking to reassure the Gulf leaders that U.S. overtures to Iran will not come at the expense of commitments to their security. He is expected to offer them more military assistance, including increased joint exercises and coordination on ballistic missile systems.

    But when Thursday’s meetings at the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains conclude, it’s unlikely Obama will have fully assuaged the Gulf’s deep-seated fear of Iranian meddling in the region.

    “My guess is that the summit is going to leave everybody feeling a little bit unsatisfied,” said Jon Alterman, the Middle East director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Obama and the leaders from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain opened their talks with a private dinner Wednesday night at the White House. Just two heads of state are among those meeting Obama, with other nations sending lower-level, but still influential representatives.

    The most notable absence in Saudi King Salman. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that the king was skipping the summit, just two days after the White House said he was coming.

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were representing Saudi Arabia instead. They held a separate meeting with Obama before the other leaders arrived.

    The president made no mention of Saudi skepticism of the Iran talks as he opened the meeting, but acknowledged the region is in the midst of a “very challenging time.”

    The White House and Saudi officials insist the king is not snubbing Obama. But Salman’s conspicuous absence comes amid indisputable signs of strain in the long relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, driven not only by Obama’s Iran overtures, but also the rise of Islamic State militants and a lessening U.S. dependency on Saudi oil.

    “There have been disagreements under this administration and under the previous administration about certain policies and development in the Middle East, but I think on a set of core interests, we continue to have a common view about what we aim to achieve,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. The Gulf summit comes as the U.S. and five other nations work to reach an agreement with Iran by the end of June to curb its nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions. The Gulf summit comes as the U.S. and five other nations work to reach an agreement with Iran by the end of June to curb its nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions. The Gulf nations fear that an influx of cash will only facilitate what they see as Iran’s aggression.

    The White House says a nuclear accord could clear the way for more productive discussions with Iran about its reputed terror links. The U.S. has criticized Iran’s support for Hezbollah, as well as terror attacks carried out by Iran’s Quds Force.

    In 2011, the Obama administration accused Iran of plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington.

    The Saudis are also particularly concerned about the situation in Yemen, where Houthi rebels with ties with Iran have ousted the U.S.- and Saudi-backed leader.

    For more than a month, a Saudi-led coalition has tried to push back the Houthis with a relentless bombing campaign. On Tuesday, a five-day humanitarian cease-fire went into effect, though the pause in fighting was already at risk. A jet fighter from the Saudi coalition on Wednesday struck a military convoy belonging to Shiite rebels and their allies in southern Yemen.

    Saudi officials cited the cease-fire as one of the reasons why King Salman needed to stay in Riyadh and not make the trip to the United States.

    The Saudi king isn’t the only head of state sending a lower-level representative to the summit. The heads of the United Arab Emirates and Oman have had health problems and were not making the trip.

    Bahrain’s royal court announced Wednesday that rather than travel to Washington, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa would be attending a horse show and meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.

    Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Dubai contributed to this report.

    The post Obama convenes Camp David summit with Gulf state leaders appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An EB-5 visa means that $500,000 can buy U.S. citizenship. Photo by Flickr user LucastheExperience.

    An EB-5 visa means that $500,000 can buy U.S. citizenship. Photo by Flickr user LucastheExperience.

    Millions each year apply for U.S. visas, hoping it will be the ticket to a better life. The process often takes years, and there are few guarantees of success.

    But what if you could buy your way to the front of the line? One visa allows investors willing to dish out half a million dollars a fast pass to a green card.

    To qualify for the so-called EB-5 visa, an investor must inject $500,000 into a project or business that will create 10 new jobs in a high unemployment or rural area. The visa has become so popular among Chinese millionaires looking for a ticket to citizenship that for the first time since it was introduced 24 years ago, the government has run out of available slots… until October.

    But since the EB-5 visa was created in 1990, some have seen it as selling citizenship to the highest bidder. Supporters of the visa argue it is a painless way to employ U.S. workers, stimulate the economy and create funding for American businesses. In fact, the program has generated $8.6 billion in investment and created more than 57,000 jobs since 1990, according to the State department.

    Still, critics say the government needs to keep a closer eye on investors applying for the visa to ensure they have met the employment requirements adequately. Investments built in high-end neighborhoods that employ workers from poorer areas often fulfill the visa’s rural and low-income job quota. With vthe isa up for renewal this September, some are urging Congress to reconsider.

    For more, check out this week’s Shortwave Podcast with P.J. Tobia.

    The post How Chinese millionaires buy U.S. citizenship appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    GWEN IFILL: Now to our NewsHour Shares of the day, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

    It’s said to be the world’s oldest known letter on parchment, at least in private hands. It was written in 1190 from one Italian businessman to another. And it’s on view to the public this week in London, part of an exhibition for stamp enthusiasts and historical document buffs.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A pioneer of the food movement has long been stirring the pot to get quality organic integrated into America’s diet.

    Jeffrey Brown has the latest addition to our NewsHour Bookshelf.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Nora Pouillon’s day begins early, tending to the herb garden at her Washington, D.C., restaurant named Nora, and then working through the menu with her chefs.

    On this day, it featured gingery carrot soup with creme fraiche, grilled sustainable salmon with roasted parsnips, rapini, and minneola orange ginger vinaigrette, and bittersweet molten chocolate cake.

    It’s all part of running a restaurant, and a special one at that, the nation’s first certified organic restaurant.

    NORA POUILLON, Author, “My Organic Life”: You have to learn about the season. You have to learn about agriculture. You have to learn about the chemistry of food. You have to learn to have a budget. You have to learn about food cost, about labor cost. And every day, it’s like, nearly showtime, will all the people show up?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pouillon’s new book, “My Organic Life,” tells how she got there, growing up on a farm in the Austrian Alps and later Vienna, then moving in the 1960s with her then husband, a Frenchman, to the United States, where she was shocked by the highly processed, hormone-infused food she found.

    NORA POUILLON: The produce department was the smallest department. Iceberg lettuce was everywhere, and oranges and apples and pears, and no fresh garlic, no fresh herbs, no bowl of lettuces, nice lettuces.

    In Europe, you go from little place to place, and you go from your butcher to your green grocer to the baker, and you have a — you have a discussion. The experience of going to a supermarket was different.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And also, as you write, Wonder Bread, right, the great staple.

    NORA POUILLON: Rows and rows of Wonder Bread, rows and rows. And I remember when Pepperidge Farm came in or — it was like, wow, this is like a revelation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She started out cooking for friends, then became a cooking instructor, before opening Nora in 1979. It would become a great success, a destination for presidents.

    But, in the beginning, she remembers, healthy food was a tough sell. She first called it additive-free, but a friend convinced her that didn’t sound very tasty.

    NORA POUILLON: You have to educate people of — that it’s important what they put in their bodies, very important, because that’s how they feel and that’s how they behave and that’s how they think.

    I mean, in this country, the health problems are enormous.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what about the cost of organic food? From 20 to 47 percent more, depending on the study. Pouillon insists that is the wrong way to look at the economics of food and the value of making organics available to all.

    NORA POUILLON: It’s only more expensive because, in this country, the cost of food is not really the true cost, and so much of the food here is subsidized. And all the bad food is subsidized, unfortunately.

    So, I just feel my motto is always, I prefer to spend my money on food and not on the doctor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Much has changed, of course, making organic foods more accessible and affordable. Pouillon helped found Washington, D.C.’s first producers-only farmers market, the kind of market now found in many cities around the country.

    She works with local growers to build a pipeline of seasonal organic food close to her restaurant.

    NORA POUILLON: You cannot start out your day with bacon and eggs, and then have for lunch a big hamburger, and then have for dinner pork chops and then apple pie. I mean, that doesn’t work.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy eating.

    NORA POUILLON: This restaurant, my point was to show people that, if you have wholesome, nutritious ingredients, then you can cook whatever you want. But you can have all these things, but not on the same day.

    And if the ingredients themselves are pure and wholesome, then I don’t see any point on keeping a special diet. Your diet is the way you eat, is just to use certified organic ingredients.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That certification comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    NORA POUILLON: It means is that they have no pesticides, no antibiotics, no hormones, no — I mean, this is all vegetables. It wouldn’t have that.


    NORA POUILLON: They have no fungicides, no — basically no pesticides.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, cooking organically, having an organic kitchen means having to deal with — I mean, it makes it harder in some ways. Right?

    NORA POUILLON: Yes. First of all, I deal with 35 different farmers, and — because one of them does for me only the chicken. The other one does only the beef. And the other one does only the pork.

    Everybody does something different. Somebody has only the eggs, and the milk, and the yogurt. Suddenly, he doesn’t have enough chickens because it was too cold and the chickens didn’t want to eat. And so the chicken doesn’t weigh 3.5 pounds, weighs only two pounds. So, I…

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then for you, it’s uh-oh.

    NORA POUILLON: For me, it’s, oh, I have no chickens.


    JEFFREY BROWN: No chickens one day, so more creativity required in the kitchen.

    There seems to be more of that in American kitchens these days. There are now well over 100 certified organic restaurants in the U.S.

    Reading and hoping to eat, for the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in Washington, D.C.


    The post Organic food pioneer shares her life’s work, from farm to cafe table appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: raising wages for the lowest-paid workers here in the U.S.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at why some companies use it to boost their bottom lines.

    It’s part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

    KENDRICK BROWN, Aetna Customer Service Representative: There are necessities and then there are wants. You know what I mean?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Forget his wants. Health insurance claims servicer Kendrick Brown has barely been able to afford life’s necessities, like a car, after his was totaled.

    KENDRICK BROWN: I actually got in an accident. My insurance paid off what the car was worth, but, as far as what I had borrowed to actually purchase the car, I still owed. Once you get in such a hole, you’re like, OK, would it make more sense for me to actually, you know, file bankruptcy?

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, when his employer, Aetna insurance, recently, voluntarily and suddenly raised its minimum wage to $16 an hour:

    KENDRICK BROWN: It was a happy day. After taxes, it was like somewhere between $100 and $150 dollars every check. And that goes a long way. That goes a long way.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Brown is one of the roughly 6,000 lowest-paid Aetna employees, out of a work force of 49,000, who got raises this spring, on average, 11 percent, with some as high as 33 percent.

    Call centers like this one in Fresno, California are home to many of the firm’s lowest-paid workers. We visited on the payday the raises took effect.

    KRISTEN SARGENT, Aetna Customer Service Representative: Everyone went in and looked and were like, oh, it’s there. You know, this, it’s really there.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Kristen Sargent among the 233 workers here whose paychecks rose.

    KRISTEN SARGENT: It’s like, on paper. You know, it’s there. It went into effect.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Sargent will earn over a dollar more an hour, lives some 40 miles from the office.

    KRISTEN SARGENT: My husband works in construction. And, of course, that’s a seasonal job. And so we’re dependent on just me. And we’re a family of five. I have three kids. And it’s hard to tell them they can’t go hang out with the other kids and do what the other kids are doing just because you don’t have the money. Kids don’t understand that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Erica Garcia is grateful for her raise. One of her young sons is still in day care and another is coming soon.

    ERICA GARCIA, Aetna: I have already delegated that money towards day care for my new baby.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And next year, Aetna also plans to offer lower-cost benefits to those below a certain income threshold.

    CEO Mark Bertolini is the driving force.

    MARK BERTOLINI, CEO, Aetna: It’s not just about paying them more. It’s about creating for them a higher level of personal disposable income that allows them to engage in the economy, feel part of their communities and feel good about the place they work at.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The CEO does have his reasons.

    MARK BERTOLINI: We now have a lot of financial capital in the system. And we can borrow money cheaply as corporations, $3.8 trillion around the world in capital sitting in — inside of companies. So let’s invest and husband our scarce resource, which is talent, a motivated, engaged, present worker. And let’s put at risk some of our capital to do it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, after decades in which corporate America was all about maximizing shareholder value, Aetna is raising wages at the bottom unilaterally.

    Gravity Payments, a 120-person credit card payment processing firm, is going even further, raising its minimum to $70,000 a year, effectively doubling the pay of its 30 lowest-paid workers. The Gap, Starbucks, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s have also announced increases, perhaps tied to public pressure, minimum wage campaigns, picketing.

    Economist Arin Dube:

    ARINDRAJIT DUBE, University of Massachusetts Amherst: There’s growing attention and public pressure to raise wages at the bottom. So I find it really interesting that these companies aren’t just simply raising wages for all their workers, but also raising specifically at the bottom.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dube has studied the effect of higher wages on worker productivity.

    ARINDRAJIT DUBE: When companies raise wages, they actually do reap the benefits of increased productivity via increased effort, morale, lower turnover, better pool of applicants they can select from.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Or, as Aetna’s CEO puts it:

    MARK BERTOLINI: The idea was, is, if people can’t make ends meet at home with food and with benefits, health — health care in particular, how can they be present, engaged, knowledge workers in the workplace when they come to work?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Especially as their jobs, servicing insurance customers, can be something of a trial.

    KRISTEN SARGENT: You may have to hit the mute button and just go, OK, back in, here we go.

    KENDRICK BROWN: I try to stay upbeat and just — you know, just remind them, hey, we’re on the same team. Sometimes, they don’t believe that, but I do my best to let them know that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: CEO Bertolini hopes to improve customers’ satisfaction. Their feedback has not been kind to insurance companies.

    MARK BERTOLINI: You guys are worse than the cable industry and you’re worse than the airlines. Not high praise. And the only thing that saves us is that we’re higher than Congress.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Another goal of the wage hike, to reduce turnover costs, some $120 million a year.

    MARK BERTOLINI: The higher your turnover, the more difficult it is to carry on a culture that’s focused on taking care of customers in a knowledgeable and more empathic way.

    KENDRICK BROWN: No, I’m going to pay the whole amount, instead of the past due amount this time.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it wouldn’t be a shock if Kendrick Brown were now be a more productive worker.

    KENDRICK BROWN: I don’t have to stress that, oh, my God, on my break, I need to call and make a payment arrangement with Comcast, or, oh, my God, on my lunch break, I need to call PG&E and figure out how I’m going to pay the rest of that bill.

    PAUL SOLMAN: More money makes Erica Garcia less inclined to leave Aetna.

    ERICA GARCIA: I think what it does is helps me feel comfortable in my decision that I wanted to — to stay with Aetna long-term.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The pay raise and benefit program for low-wage workers will cost Aetna only $26 million, while the CEO alone made $15.6 million last year, though most of it in stock options.

    So, you’re really not talking about a huge investment here?  So, why don’t you do more?

    MARK BERTOLINI: We will over time. As the company’s more successful, we will share in that success. And we will find different ways to do it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And if the company’s not more successful?

    MARK BERTOLINI: Well, then everybody suffers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Including Aetna’s investors, notes economist Dube.

    ARINDRAJIT DUBE: It will be interesting to see if there’s been a real change in the way investors in America react to the news of rising labor costs.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For now, though, Kendrick Brown is among those thankful for the investment.

    KENDRICK BROWN: That living check-to-check thing is not my goal in life, and not that I need to go out and, you know, spend money and be rich, or whatever, but, at the same time, just be comfortable and happy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Aetna is betting that comfortable and happy workers will mean less uncomfortable and unhappy customers, and, in the end, a better bottom line.

    This is economics correspondent Paul Solman reporting, happily, for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Do better-paid workers equal better business? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Chipotle Becomes First Non-GMO US Restaurant ChainLast week, Panera Bread announced that it will be removing more than 150 artificial ingredients from the items on its menu. The restaurant chain follows Chipotle and Kraft as the latest company to jump on the menu-makeover bandwagon.

    Allison Aubrey, who covers food and nutrition for NPR, and Michael Moss, author of the book “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” recently joined Gwen Ifill to discuss some of the forces driving this trend.

    “The reason why these companies are making these changes now is that they’re talking to their customers, and consumer sentiment has really changed,” Aubrey told Ifill.

    “Much of what this is about are these food giants trying to regain the trust of customers who are caring more and more about what they put in their bodies and caring less and less for some of the strategies we have seen from the processed food industry over the years,” Moss agreed.

    To what degree is consumer pressure contributing to brands’ decisions to strike artificial additives, GMOs and more from their menus and ingredients lists? What factors sparked the natural food revolution? How great are the health risks posed by these ingredients, and what is the impact (both economic and in terms of taste) of these changes?

    We discussed this topic with Aubrey (@AubreyNPRFood) and Moss (@MichaelMossC) on Twitter. Read a transcript of the conversation below.

    The post Twitter chat: What’s behind the push to remove artificial ingredients from restaurant menus? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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