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- 05/14/15--15:20: _Will the proposed A...
- 05/14/15--15:25: _Cameroonian forces ...
- 05/14/15--15:30: _Did the Gulf nation...
- 05/14/15--15:35: _Philadelphia reside...
- 05/14/15--15:40: _Another fallout fro...
- 05/14/15--15:45: _News Wrap: Malaysia...
- 05/14/15--15:50: _Derailed train inve...
- 05/14/15--15:55: _What you need to kn...
- 05/15/15--06:11: _Legendary blues man...
- 05/15/15--08:30: _Gwen’s Take: Politi...
- 05/15/15--08:55: _ABC faces credibili...
- 05/15/15--13:11: _Dozens of Cubans st...
- 05/15/15--14:10: _Racism, riots and e...
- 05/15/15--14:25: _Blue Bell Creamerie...
- 05/15/15--15:15: _This high school tr...
- 05/15/15--15:20: _The blues was life ...
- 05/15/15--15:25: _Shields and Brooks ...
- 05/15/15--15:30: _GOP renews abortion...
- 05/15/15--15:35: _Why thousands of Ro...
- 05/15/15--15:37: _Women on Capitol Hi...
- 05/14/15--15:25: Cameroonian forces hunt for Boko Haram militants on the move
- 05/14/15--15:30: Did the Gulf nations summit fall short of U.S. hopes?
- 05/14/15--15:35: Philadelphia residents pitch in to help train crash victims
- 05/14/15--15:40: Another fallout from rail accident: debate over Amtrak’s funding
- 05/14/15--15:45: News Wrap: Malaysia and Thailand turn away migrant boats
- 05/14/15--15:55: What you need to know about the potential coup in Burundi
- 05/15/15--06:11: Legendary blues man B.B. King dies at 89
- 05/15/15--08:30: Gwen’s Take: Politics through a glass, darkly — trade edition
- 05/15/15--08:55: ABC faces credibility crisis over Stephanopoulos donations
- 05/15/15--13:11: Dozens of Cubans stranded at sea aboard Coast Guard vessel
- 05/15/15--15:15: This high school trains Baltimore’s students to be artists
- 05/15/15--15:20: The blues was life for legendary musician B.B. King
- 05/15/15--15:30: GOP renews abortion battle with eyes on the Supreme Court
- 05/15/15--15:37: Women on Capitol Hill dish on their experiences with sexism
JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, the Republican-controlled Senate put President Obama’s trade deal with Asia back on track, with a move that can clear the way for a final vote to give the president authority to negotiate the pact.
This week, we have spoken to leading senators and the head of a major labor union.
Now Hari Sreenivasan gets a business perspective.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents three million businesses and employers. It has been pushing hard for the deal.
John Murphy is a senior vice president who focuses on trade and joins me now.
So, why, in your opinion, is this a good deal for you and your members?
JOHN MURPHY, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Well, trade has risen to the top of the agenda in Washington because it’s one of the best ways we have to drive economic growth and job creation here at home.
It’s already provided about a third of our economic growth over the past five years. But we hope it can do a lot more, on top of the 40 million jobs that depend on trade today, on top of the one in three acres on farms that depend on trade. But if you dig into it a little bit, you find that the playing field for American companies and the workers they employ really isn’t always level.
As we’re shipping goods, services around the world, we find that they often face trade barriers, tariffs that are in the double digits and other kinds of non-tariff barriers that shut out made-in-USA products.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
JOHN MURPHY: So, trade agreements are one way we have to tear down the barriers.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But one of the criticisms I’m sure you have heard over and over again, especially in the last week, is, why is this being done in such secrecy?
Today, there was an NPR that said she found the secret hallway where actually members of Congress have to keep their cell phones off. They go in. They can’t take notes. If there’s nothing wrong with the deal, why not just make it public?
JOHN MURPHY: Well, actually, the debate about trade promotion authority is in part a way to regularize how these negotiations take place.
Trade promotion authority is about ensuring that the Congress and the White House actually work together on trade. It’s a commonsense notion, but one that we don’t get enough of here in this city. So this bill, in addition to laying out the parameters for the White House consulting with the Congress, and the Congress holding the White House accountable, it would lay out new provisions to ensure that members of Congress can review texts.
At the end of the day, though, it’s important to have a degree of confidentiality in negotiating texts. After all, a high school football coach doesn’t want to share his game plan with the opposing team. You risk giving away — showing your sensitivities and your red lines. And at the end of the day, that could result in a weaker agreement that is not in the interest of American workers.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
The head of a labor union on this program said the other night that 60,000 factories have closed since NAFTA, right, and that there are many parts of this agreement that are modeled on NAFTA or previous trade agreements. What kinds of protections are there for American jobs?
JOHN MURPHY: Well, actually, in the past 20 years, the output of American manufacturing is up by about 80 percent. American manufacturing has done quite well, and especially since the recession, we’re seeing new growth. We’re seeing hiring.
But there’s truth in this, that American manufacturers are employing fewer workers. That’s because there’s been a productivity revolution. There’s information technologies, increasingly sophisticated capital goods that allow them to make more products with fewer workers.
And that’s a reality in the global economy today that we all have to wrestle with. What we need most of all, though, is more customers for American manufacturers, so they can make the goods here with American workers and sell them around the world.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, there’s some concern that Vietnam is not a free-market country. And sometimes the average wage there is 56 cents an hour. If I’m an American company, would I choose to make, let’s say, socks for $10 an hour in the U.S. or, through this trade agreement, wouldn’t I want to offshore those shows jobs into a much, much cheaper market?
JOHN MURPHY: Well, wages reflect productivity.
And the reality is that American wages are a lot higher because American workers are that much more productive. What we need is a level playing field. And that’s why these trade agreements, by sweeping away the tariff barriers, are in the American interest. Our market’s pretty much wide open. But the other markets that we face, such as Vietnam, they have tariffs in the doubling and triple digits that shut out American farm goods and manufacturing products.
And by having that level playing field, you help American workers here to ship their goods there, because we already have one-way free trade with goods coming in.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, another concern is, is that this would give corporations a right to sue governments, not in our courts, but in these tribunals, and that sometimes the threat or the fines are so significant, that governments water down their own regulations, whether it’s environmental regulations, worker protections, and that even foreign companies that work in the United States could do that to us.
JOHN MURPHY: Yes.
You know, I think, in this debate, you’re hearing concern about this because most of the American people have never heard of these things. There’s a reason for that. They have been around for decades. There are thousands of — thousands of agreements around the world that have these provisions, but, in the United States, they’re almost never invoked.
There have only been 17 occasions in the past four decades when anyone has brought one of these cases against the United States, and the United States has never lost a case. That’s because we have rule of law here and companies use the domestic courts.
What these are most useful for, though, is when American companies are doing business abroad in countries where the rule of law isn’t so strong.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.
So, final question for you is, whether it’s on food or prescription drugs or, I should say, pharmaceuticals, there’s this concern that we won’t have the enforcement teeth to make sure that other countries are playing by these shared rules.
JOHN MURPHY: Well, that’s actually an argument for the agreements, because, right now, oftentimes, we have got nothing.
These new agreements have the opportunity to write new rules that will protect the intellectual property that 40 million American jobs depend on. They will have rules to ensure that labor rights are not watered down in an interest to try and attract investment. And there’s also environmental protections that are cutting new ground.
So I think, from across — across the board, that’s why you see growing support.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.
JOHN MURPHY: That’s why you have 65 senators voting for this today to move forward.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
JOHN MURPHY: That’s why you have the whole business community supporting it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: John Murphy, thanks so much.
JOHN MURPHY: Thank you very much.
The post Will the proposed Asia trade pact give U.S. companies more customers? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: Nigerian government forces have reportedly been making progress in their campaign against Boko Haram, winning back villages from the Islamic militant group in recent weeks. But there has been spillover into neighboring Cameroon, with increased incursions by fleeing extremists.
Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News was given rare access to the special forces in that country, as they struggle to keep Boko Haram at bay.
LINDSEY HILSUM: We’re on our way towards the border with Nigeria, speeding along in a Cameroonian military convoy. The villages are ever more remote, the land parched and rocky. We’re driving through territory Boko Haram wants to occupy, past people they want to rule.
The troops are here for our protection, because, in Boko Haram’s eyes, foreigners are valuable commodities for kidnap. We’re going to a remote outpost, where there was fighting this very morning. We’re very near the border now, just where the incursions by Boko Haram and the clashes are happening all the time. I’m with the rapid reaction force, the elite of the Cameroonian army, trained by the Israelis and well-armed.
They have borne the brunt of these battles with Boko Haram, but they haven’t won yet. The outpost at Zelevet is less than half-a-kilometer from the border. Now the Nigerian army has started to flush them out of the forests beyond, Boko Haram is hiding in mountain caves and raiding into Cameroon more frequently. They ambushed a patrol last Saturday.
LT. MAXIM CLEMONT EBO’O, Outpost Commander (through interpreter): We were shot at from just over there. We returned fire. And at the end of this contact, we counted our casualties: two dead and four injured, including one civilian.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Amongst the injured now in the military hospital, the platoon commander. He was expecting this.
ETIENNE FABASSOU, Platoon Commander (through interpreter): They had already left a letter with a bullet in it at our base, 200 meters inside our borders. It was a threat that they would attack.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The next day, we’re in another convoy, even more heavily armed for our protection. We’re heading to Bia, a border village that was attacked by Boko Haram last month.
As we arrive, the villagers line the route. They’re used to daily military patrols now. They know the soldiers will gather them together under the trees in the village center. The women sit separately. They tell me Boko Haram killed 10 people and kidnapped three girls in the raid.
WOMAN (through interpreter): We were sleeping when they came. It was midnight. Suddenly, we heard gunfire, so we woke up. Mothers gathered up their babies and ran. So did the men. They set fire to houses and all our belongings were burnt. We have nothing left, absolutely nothing.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The people of Bia are from the Kanuri tribe which straddles the border. Most Boko Haram fighters are Kanuris, and some boys from this village have been recruited. Village elders say they’re caught between the two sides, and that’s why they were attacked.
BOULAMA MODI, Village Elder (through interpreter): The soldiers said there were Boko Haram in this village, but we said no. Then they said, if you catch one, you must hand him over to us, and if you refuse, we will do exactly the same to you as we would to him. The military threatened us.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Soldiers patrol the village. Under pressure, the villagers did indeed turn over a local boy who had joined Boko Haram. And the April attack was the jihadis’ revenge.
Boukar Malloum shows me his compound. Two of his relatives were burnt alive, he says. Boko Haram set fire only to the houses of those who refused to collaborate with them. They had intelligence. They knew which houses to target. The soldiers say that proves that some here are acting as informers, and they will already have called Boko Haram by mobile to tell them of our presence. They don’t trust the villagers, their enemy’s kinsmen.
LT. YARI EMMANUEL, Rapid Reaction Force: They’re brothers and sisters, children, others, all the like, people of the same family. It’s not easy for somebody to give up a brother or sister, even if it’s the devil.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Our last journey, to Minawao, the refugee camp where 35,000 Nigerians have fled. In the last two weeks, they have registered another 2,000. Those who’ve been here for a year or more suspect that the new arrivals are family members of Boko Haram fighters suddenly under pressure from the Nigerian army. Their proof? The newcomers are vague about their origins, and they have wiped the SIM cards on their phones.
Since the beginning of this year, the Cameroonian army has brought a modicum of peace. Kidnapping and killing has decreased. But until Nigerian forces take full control of Boko Haram areas, people in Cameroon’s far north will never feel safe from the men in caves across the border.
The post Cameroonian forces hunt for Boko Haram militants on the move appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama attempted to mend fences with concerned partners in the Arab world today.
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.
MARGARET WARNER: The gathering in the woodland presidential getaway of Camp David was designed to cool tensions between the U.S. and some its key Persian Gulf allies in the Middle East, reassuring them of U.S. backing amid regional upheaval and amid their concerns about the U.S. nuclear talks with Iran.
But Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the meeting with six members of the GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council, wouldn’t produce a NATO-like security treaty, which some had sought.
BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Adviser: We’re not initiating treaties, mutual defense treaties with our GCC partners. The interest in that type of arrangement, I will tell you, has not been uniform across the GCC.
MARGARET WARNER: Even before the leaders arrived here in the Maryland mountains, the divisions were clear. Of the Gulf states in attendance, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and the UAE, only two sent their heads of state. The most notable missing figure? The new Saudi ruler, King Salman.
He backed out just days after the administration said he’d take part. Though the White House denied his absence was a snub, the tensions over the West’s pursuit of a deal to curb Shiite Iran’s nuclear program before the end of June are obvious. If a deal is reached, many economic sanctions on Iran would be lifted. Gulf nations worry that will enable Iran to make more mischief in the region through proxies like Hezbollah in Syria and the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Saudis have led a month-long bombing campaign there against that uprising. Today, Rhodes sought to provide assurance the deal is only about one thing.
BEN RHODES: This is a nuclear deal that we’re doing on the merits of the deal itself, not as a part of a change broadly in the U.S.-Iran relationship.
MARGARET WARNER: Today’s summit also comes over differences over how to conduct the region-wide fight against Islamic State militants and Syria’s civil war, where the Gulf states want Washington to be more aggressive.
The president, who spoke just a short time ago, tried to use the gathering to reassure his partners.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We discussed not only the Iranian nuclear deal and the potential for us to ensure that Iran is not obtaining a nuclear weapon and triggering a nuclear arms race in the region, but we also discussed our concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.
MARGARET WARNER: At day’s end, they did announce agreements on ways to beef up the U.S.-Gulf defense partnership in areas like maritime security, missile defense, and cyber-security.
But despite the cooperative steps announced today, this U.S.-Gulf relationship is likely to hit more rough patches ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And joining me now from Camp David is Margaret.
So, you were telling us a little bit about what’s come out of this. Tell us more. Fill in some of the details.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, what the Gulf countries got was a very robust statement by the president and in this joint statement that the security of the Gulf states is very much in the national security interest of the United States, and the U.S. will use its power, frankly, including military power, to secure those states from any threat from the outside, any kind of aggression from the outside.
And then, as I just reported, in specific areas, the U.S. will also work with these partners to beef up their own capabilities in countering asymmetric warfare, whether it’s terror attacks or cyber-attacks.
So, from that point view, the Gulf states got something. But the Obama administration didn’t get — or let me put it this way — all it got on the Iran nuclear talks front was a statement by the emir of Qatar, who appeared with the president afterwards, and said the hope was that an Iran nuclear deal would have a stabilizing effect in the region.
That is not exactly what the administration wanted, but it is something.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, does that mean it fell short on the Iran side and the Gulf states didn’t get necessarily what they wanted — nobody is going home with everything they wanted?
MARGARET WARNER: Absolutely, Judy. On the U.S. side, what the U.S. had really hoped for was an endorsement of President Obama’s argument that the best way to keep Iran from being a destabilizing force in the region and becoming a nuclear weapons state is this diplomatic track; that’s the best way to restrict its nuclear program.
They didn’t get that kind of endorsement. The Gulf states, as I reported earlier, wanted a really NATO-like defense treaty. As one official said, we have always had a gentleman’s agreement. Now we want it on paper. They didn’t get that.
And Ben Rhodes today was quite frank about why. It’s not only that it’s very hard to get such a treaty through the Senate. It would take years, but also that NATO, remember, is founded on a partnership, not only a security and defense one, but the fact that all these are democracies, the U.S. and Canada and its European partners.
And the Gulf states are not democracies. And the Gulf states are very unapologetic about that. The ambassador from the UAE said last week publicly, no, we don’t share your democratic values, but we have fought together as partners in six conflicts, for example, in the conflict right now in Syria.
So, there’s a real division there, and as Rhodes said today, NATO is founded on a lot more than just defense.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner joining us from Camp David, thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: My pleasure, Judy.
The post Did the Gulf nations summit fall short of U.S. hopes? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: A different look now at the accident in Philadelphia and how the citizens of the City of Brotherly Love are helping the victims however they can.
The NewsHour’s Stephen Fee has our story.
STEPHEN FEE: A second day of cleanup and recovery here in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, where Amtrak Train 188 derailed Tuesday night.
While federal investigators continue to pore over the evidence, regional Red Cross officials, like Leo Pratte, have turned out to help victims and their families.
LEO PRATTE, American Red Cross: We’re going to be working with the mental health status of all the families that are involved in the situation. And then that’s where our disaster mental health teams will come into play and our spiritual care teams will come into play.
STEPHEN FEE: And so of all our cameras go away, you guys stay here?
LEO PRATTE: Yes, sir.
STEPHEN FEE: Pratte and his group of volunteers have set up a relief center at a Marriott hotel in downtown Philadelphia.
LEO PRATTE: The fact that it happened in this city and everybody steps up to the plate when something like this happens is one of the great things about the organization such as the Red Cross, is that it’s driven by volunteers, it’s ran by volunteers. And these are people who are doing their job every day living life normal, and then, when something like this happens, they drop everything.
STEPHEN FEE: His team will be here as long as they’re needed. Red Cross officials are often the first on the scene after tragedies like Tuesday’s derailment. But here in the City of Brotherly Love, everyday residents are living up to that nickname as well, donating their time, effort, and even technological know-how to the recovery effort.
When Patrick Murphy first learned about Tuesday’s crash, he knew his company could help.
PATRICK MURPHY, Gridless Power: We happen to be right next door to where the Amtrak crash happened in Philadelphia.
STEPHEN FEE: Murphy’s company, called Gridless Power, makes compact battery packs, allowing first-responders to power their phones, laptops, and lights for potentially days on a single one-hour charge.
PATRICK MURPHY: So, it’s a big battery pack that can be charged from whatever power’s available. So it allows a responder to go into a disaster zone. You don’t have to worry about watt outlets or plugs. You can put the system down, push the on button, and then you’re good to go. You have got power wherever you need it.
STEPHEN FEE: The company has provided these 50-pound battery packs to emergency officials in places like New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy and Nepal following the recent earthquakes.
But Murphy says he never thought he’d be able to put them to good use so close to his hometown. They have offered four of their units to emergency officials here in Philly so far.
PATRICK MURPHY: There were no complaints from any of the guys here when we said, all right, Amtrak, a train just derailed. I know it’s after work hours. This was 10:00, 10:30 at night. Let’s just go see if we can help.
STEPHEN FEE: Minister Joe Furjanic also felt compelled to lend a hand. His congregation, the Block Church, is just blocks away from where the train skidded off the tracks.
REV. JOE FURJANIC, Pastor, The Block Church: This is what we do. This is our — this is who we are. You know, we just — let’s mehttp://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/scene-train-crash-beyond-disaster-movie-says-philadelphia-mayor/et a need. If there’s a need, let’s meet it.
STEPHEN FEE: Furjanic, his wife, and some of the church’s parishioners quickly got to the scene to pass out water bottles and clean up garbage. They haven’t left since.
JOE FURJANIC: Look, it wasn’t even — it’s not like a bunch of our people were in the train wreck. You know, it was people commuting and stuff like that, but just the energy and I think the passion of just our church, you know, here we are. Just, this is our block, this is our neighborhood.
STEPHEN FEE: Furjanic says it’s a small effort, but his church will be here for the rest of the week, helping out wherever they can.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Stephen Fee at the site of the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.
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GWEN IFILL: Following the deadly train derailment in Philadelphia, a House committee voted to cut money for Amtrak’s capital investment program. The move sparked a fight over funding infrastructure.
We talk to a pair of key lawmakers. Representative Chaka Fattah is a Democrat from Pennsylvania whose district includes Philadelphia. And Congressman John Mica is a Republican from Florida who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Welcome to you both.
Congressmen, I want to ask you both, starting with you, John Mica, do you think Congress has adequately funded Amtrak?
REP. JOHN MICA, (R) Florida: Well, I think, given Amtrak’s history of poor performance, I think they have given them more than enough money, subsidizing last year, for example, every ticket on Amtrak, all 30.9 million, $42 on average.
GWEN IFILL: Congressman Fatah?
REP. CHAKA FATTAH, (D) Pennsylvania: Well, there’s no passenger rail in the world that is not subsidized. That’s number one.
But the point here is that president and the transportation experts in our government proposed $2.4 billion for capital and safety improvements, that Congress on — yesterday, on the Appropriations Committee, cut that by $1.3 billion.
I asked for us to go back to the president’s request. Instead of doing that, what they did wasn’t honor the increase the president wanted. They cut last year’s appropriation by more than $250 million. So I think that it would have been better not to even have the committee yesterday, because it got merged into the story about the train accident in Philadelphia.
But this was a committee that had been set to meet a month ago. The subcommittee had already voted these cuts, and the majority decided, notwithstanding what happened in Philadelphia, that they wanted to make the point, as you heard from my colleague here, that they don’t think that we should be subsidizing passenger rail.
I think we should, and I think we need to invest the dollars necessary to make sure that it’s safe.
GWEN IFILL: Congressman Mica, Speaker Boehner said today that this accident was about speed, not about infrastructure or about funding Amtrak in general. Was that your point of view as well?
REP. JOHN MICA: Well, that’s my point of view.
And let me say that, again, when President Obama was elected, he was going to create high-speed rail in the United States. Instead of putting it in the Northeast Corridor, which is the only track, the 600 miles that Amtrak owns — the rest of Amtrak runs over private freight rails — he took $10 billion. About $6 billion is going to California, mostly where there’s fruits and vegetables to move, Illinois, where they’re going to have high-speed rail which runs about 65 miles an hour, $1.5 billion there.
Instead of investing it in the Northeast Corridor, where we could have high-speed rail, where we have the connections, we could have the revenue and expand the system, but they didn’t do that.
GWEN IFILL: Are you saying that if the president had spent money that was already allocated differently, an accident like yesterday would have been less likely?
REP. JOHN MICA: Oh, absolutely.
We couldn’t have in the Northeast Corridor high-speed service and dramatic revenues and changed the pattern of traffic. And there are — contrary to what my colleague has said, there are systems that do make money. Virgin Rail installed in the north-south from London to North England route, they increased passengers from 14 million to 28 million, went from a deficit of 400 million, subsidized by the federal Europe — or British government, to that much in revenue coming in to the British treasury in 10 years.
REP. JOHN MICA: The model is there across the world, and we’re a Third World Soviet-style train operator.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let me let your colleague respond to that.
REP. CHAKA FATTAH: Well, what I want to say is, you don’t have to listen to a Democrat or Republican member of Congress.
We have the world premier innovator, the National Transportation Safety Board, and they have said, in terms of the Philadelphia accident, that it wouldn’t have happened if we had positive train control. We know that that investment could have been made. It hasn’t been made.
So we hear not from politicians, but from experts, that, yes, we could have safe passenger rail travel in our country. We have to make the investment needed to do so.
GWEN IFILL: And when you say positive train control, I just want to make sure everyone understands. That would automatically override the engineer to slow a train that was going faster than the speed limit.
So, you believe — now, that could — that’s supposed to be in all trains by the end of this year. Do you think that’s going to happen or is that going to be delayed?
REP. CHAKA FATTAH: Well, the Congress has mandated it by the end of the year. There were a number of members in the Senate who wanted to delay it to 2020. I don’t think there’s going to be any delay now. I think we are going to move forward.
And the technology save lives, at least based on what experts say, not on what politicians say. So, there’s a debate whether we should have passenger rail and whether we should subsidize it. The point is, we have it and we should make sure it’s safe. Just like when people drive over bridges, we want them to be safe. We want our highways to be safe.
We have to invest in infrastructure. We have — the World Economic Forum, since my colleague wants to talk about international measurements, says that America now has the 12th worst infrastructure in the world. So, you know, if the government’s not going to step up to its responsibility, then we’re going to continue to have our economy take a back seat.
GWEN IFILL: Congressman Mica, how much of this is about ideology, when it comes right down to it, that you and your party just don’t agree that this should be a public rail system, and they believe there should be more spent?
REP. JOHN MICA: Gwen, you’re talking to one of the most strong — well, the strongest advocate in Congress for passenger rail.
It’s cost-effective. We should have it. In fact, I put in the last passenger rail bill that we passed the creation of a Northeast Corridor commission, which I tried to empower to get them to advance improvements. They just came out with a report two weeks ago, and I support that report. It calls for $20 billion.
But Congress isn’t going to give it to Amtrak, which fumbles every bit of acquisition money, and they did — they have had the money since October to put in the positive train control and the other improvements, and they didn’t do it.
So that could have been avoided if they’d considered safety first when they spent will more than $1 billion we gave them last October.
GWEN IFILL: Congressman Mica, I gave you the first word. Let me give Congressman Fattah the last word.
REP. CHAKA FATTAH: Well, it’s true that my colleague put in place this commission. He wanted to have 228-mile-an-hour trains in the Northeast Corridor.
They call for not the $20 billion, but for $117 billion in investments, in order to have that happen. I think that would move our economy forward. It’s going to need the investment of the federal government if that’s going to happen. And so I support him, if that’s the way we’re going to proceed.
GWEN IFILL: Congressman John Mica, Republican of Florida, Congressman Chaka Fattah, Democrat of Pennsylvania, fundamentally different points of view about a very serious issue. Thank you both very much.
REP. JOHN MICA: Thank you.
The post Another fallout from rail accident: debate over Amtrak’s funding appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today, Malaysia and Thailand turned away three more boats crammed with more than 1,100 migrants. A flood of people from Bangladesh and Myanmar have been abandoned at sea by human traffickers and then refused entry to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Some of the refugees have been taken in and given shelter in Thailand and Indonesia.
Many are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar. But the Thai prime minister said his country doesn’t have the resources to host everyone.
GEN. PRAYUTH CHAN-OCHA, Prime Minister, Thailand (through interpreter): Do you think we can take on 3,000 to 4,000 people? We’d have to find space for them and hold them as they go through legal processes. If we take them all in, then anyone who wants to come will come freely.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the head of the European Union’s border agency warned the migrant problem in Europe is set to grow. Fabrice Leggeri said there’s a shift in where migrants are trying to enter Europe, from the Central Mediterranean to the east by way of Turkey. As a result, the E.U. border agency is boosting its operations near Greece in coming weeks.
GWEN IFILL: The Taliban claimed responsibility today for a hotel attack that killed 14 people in Afghanistan’s capital. The dead included an American, a British citizen, an Italian, two Pakistanis, and four Indian nationals.
The militant group said it targeted the Park Palace Hotel last night because it’s popular with foreigners. The hours-long siege ended early this morning. Kabul’s police chief said it’s still unclear how they were able to infiltrate the building.
GEN. ABDUL RAHMAN RAHIMI, Police Chief, Kabul (through interpreter): Our investigative teams are working to figure out how the attack happened, because it didn’t start with an explosion at the main gate or the killing of guards. Whatever it was, it started from inside the hotel. Our investigative teams are working to figure out how these terrorists managed to enter the guest house.
GWEN IFILL: Police said all of the attackers were killed in a shoot-out with Afghan troops.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fighting broke out in Burundi in Central Africa today in the wake of yesterday’s coup attempt. Plumes of smoke rose above the capital and gunfire rang out in the streets, as fighters loyal to the president battled rebel forces. The president’s office says he was back in the country. He’d been in Tanzania when the coup attempt happened.
GWEN IFILL: In Nepal, the prime minister admitted his country was overwhelmed and underprepared for its second earthquake in less than three weeks. At least 110 people died in Tuesday’s quake. April’s earthquake killed more than 8,100 people.
Dan Rivers of Independent Television News traveled by helicopter for a remote rescue today.
DAN RIVERS: Finally, the awful scale of Nepal’s suffering is being laid bare, the bright orange of dozens of shelters amid the rubble. We’re flying up the Khumbu Valley toward Mount Everest. Our pilot has been told of a woman who needs urgent medical care in a remote village. We fly east over a Buddhist monastery now lying in ruins.
You can just about make out the monks around temporary shelters that they put up.
The mountains are scarred by violent seismic activity, which has left the hillsides dangerously unstable. As we approach village of Aiselukharka, we’re looking for a distress signal.
MAN: Spotted. Spotted.
DAN RIVERS: Far below, a group of people and a faint wisp of smoke, but it’s a tricky landing on a steep hillside. We find 40-year-old Gori Maya Ban on a stretcher and in pain. The villages are clearly distressed, but relieved. They say she has internal bleeding after being hit by falling debris during Tuesday’s quake. They have endured not one, but two disasters here. And, on every face, it shows.
These helicopter flights are the only way into these remote areas of Nepal. And for the injured, they are a lifeline. As carefully as they can, they get her into the helicopter. Her husband, Prakash, bids farewell to this village, cut off 6,000 feet up in the Himalayas. The weather is closing in. And our pilot knows how perilous these mountains can be.
Forty-five minutes later, we touched down at a hospital in Kathmandu. Gori Maya Ban is rushed inside and our pilot rushes off on another rescue.
GWEN IFILL: Crews are still searching for a missing U.S. Marine helicopter that disappeared Tuesday while delivering aid. So far, there’s been no sign of the six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers on board.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation that would let Congress review and even reject any nuclear deal with Iran. The vote was 400-25 and the bill now goes to President Obama.
Administration officials have said he will sign it, after threats to veto an earlier version. Lawmakers in the Senate reached a compromise last week that dropped some of the bill’s toughest provisions.
GWEN IFILL: An inspector general’s report unveils embarrassing new details about the two Secret Service agents who crashed their car in front of the White House earlier this year. The report said the agents spent more than $100 on drinks prior to the accident and were — quote — “more likely than not” — unquote — impaired by alcohol.
They also went home without taking a sobriety test. One of the agents is retiring. The other is on administrative leave.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, stocks rebounded and broke a three-day slump on encouraging data on the U.S. job market. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 192 points to close at 18252. The Nasdaq rose nearly 70 points. And the S&P 500 added 22 points.
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GWEN IFILL: The search for answers of what caused the deadly derailment of an Amtrak train continued, as the focus shifted to the engineer.
Emergency crews labored steadily for a second day on the wreckage of Amtrak Train 188 in North Philadelphia, as officials confirmed grim news of another death.
DERRICK SAWYER, Fire Commissioner, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner: We utilized our hydraulic tools to open up the train a little bit more so that we can reach the person, and were able to extricate that person and have them transported to the medical examiner’s office.
GWEN IFILL: All 243 passengers and crew aboard the derailed train have now been accounted for. According to investigators, the train was moving at 102 miles an hour Tuesday night, more than twice the speed limit, when it careened off the tracks.
Elsewhere in Philadelphia this morning, a freight train also derailed in an unrelated incident. No deaths or injuries were reported. The Amtrak train’s engineer was identified as 32-year-old New Yorker Brandon Bostian. He suffered a concussion and other injuries during the crash.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, Bostian’s lawyer, Robert Goggin, said his client remembers nothing of the wreck.
ROBERT GOGGIN, Lawyer for Brandon Bostian: He has absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events. I’m told that his memory is likely to return as the concussion symptoms subside. He remembers coming into the curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed. Thereafter, he was knocked out, thrown around, just like all the other passengers in that train.
GWEN IFILL: Goggin added Bostian had not been drinking and that his cell phone was turned off and stowed away at the time of the accident.
Yesterday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called the engineer reckless. This afternoon, Nutter had softened his tone, but not his message.
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, Philadelphia: I was expressive in my language. But I don’t think that any commonsense, rational person would think that it was OK to travel at that level of speed knowing that there was a pretty significant restriction on how fast you could go through that turn.
GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, in Washington, the speaker of the House, John Boehner, dismissed suggestions the derailment was a direct result of federal cuts to Amtrak’s budget.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: They started this yesterday saying, it’s all about funding, it’s all about funding. Well, obviously, it’s not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there. No money has been cut from rail safety.
GWEN IFILL: He spoke the day after a House committee voted to cut Amtrak funding by more than $250 million. Amtrak officials today said they hope to restore full service throughout the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest rail sector, by early next week.
Late this evening, the NTSB said in a press conference that, shortly before the crash, the train was going the speed limit and suddenly accelerated. President Obama also said tonight the country needs to invest in infrastructure. We will talk to lawmakers about the funding debate over Amtrak later in the program.
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What is happening in Burundi?
Burundi, a central African country roughly the size of Massachusetts, may be undergoing a coup that could destabilize its neighbors. The former Belgian colony’s fragile democracy was threatened this month, when its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced he was running for a third term in office, despite objections that it would violate the country’s constitution. In response, mass protests broke out in the country’s capital calling for his removal. While Nkurunziza was away at a conference in Tanzania on Wednesday, Army General Godefroid Niyombare announced on a private radio station that the president had been ousted and the government had dissolved.
In the capital, crowds cheered and hugged soldiers on the streets, but the police, who remained loyal to the president, clashed with those calling for him to step down, resulting in 20 deaths.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard in the country’s capital, Bujumbura, according to Reuters. A grenade attack devastated much of the private broadcasting building where Niyombare gave his radio speech, the Associated Press reported. Heavy fighting also flared close to the state broadcasting headquarters, as the two factions vied for control of public TV and radio.
The head of Burundi’s army, however, said the coup had failed and forces loyal to the president were still in control. Presidential loyalists on Thursday said they still controlled the most important strategic assets: the airport, the radio and the presidential offices, according to Reuters.
The president was also quick to dismiss the coup, calling it a joke on Twitter and said the situation was under control. On Thursday, he answered Burundians questions via the Twitter hashtag #whereisNkurunziza.
“I am in #Burundi. I salute the army and the police for their patriotism and moreover, congratulate the Burundians for their patience,” he tweeted.
What is driving this conflict?
The fighting comes down to the basic question of whether the president has the right to return for a third term. Under peace accords brokered by Nelson Mandela that ended Burundi’s civil war fifteen years ago, a president elected by the public is only allowed to serve two terms. But in 2005 when Nkurunziza was appointed to power, the country was still recovering from war and agreed to hold off on popular elections for five years. Nkurunziza has served two terms since 2005, but argues that because he was appointed by the parliament, and not elected by the people, his first term did not count toward the constitution’s limit.
“What’s behind this chaos is a classic struggle for power,” said Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador and professor of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University. “In a lot of these African countries, if you are out of power, you are out of luck. When a country is that poor, there is no Heritage Foundation to sit in, until a president of your liking goes into power. There are not think tanks or academia. That tends to make these struggles very bitter.”
What impact could this have on the region?
Most Burundians are of Hutu ethnicity, but until recently, the Tutsi minority long controlled the government, military and economy. When the country’s first Hutu president was assassinated in 1993, the Burundi descended into a bloody civil war that killed an estimated 300,000 people and sparked sectarian violence in the region, including the Rwandan genocide. The recent political violence could reignite regional instability.
Anticipating a return to violence, 70,000 Burundians fled to neighboring countries this month, according to the United Nations. Burundi’s neighbors are still recovering from decades of war and violence themselves and may not have the capacity to absorb a wave of refugees.
“This is a hugely destabilizing factor for the entire Great Lakes region,” said Chris Fomunyoh, the Regional Director for Central Africa at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, an organization working to strengthen democratic institutions in the region. “We are seeing tens of thousands of new refugees fleeing into a situation that is so volatile. Ultimately the Great Lakes could convulse again into a humanitarian catastrophe and then it becomes a global responsibility for the world to be called upon to send resources.”
What’s at risk?
The ethnic divisions which have contributed to so much war and brutality in Burundi are never too far from the surface. While the violence has been political so far, with Hutus and Tutsis both for and against the president’s quest for another term, it could quickly descend into sectarian conflict.
“You never know when these things are going to spiral out of control, or be put down in a day or two,” said Jett. Even though it looks like Nkurunziza has managed to avoid a coup thus far, “it could mean that people plotting the coup could go across the border and continue to cause trouble. These things have a life of their own,” he said.
Even if Nkurunziza regains full control, the consequences for those who opposed him could be dire.
“If Nkurunziza and troops loyal to him, including police, were to re-establish total control, we might be in for a very stiff repression” said Filip Reyntjens, a law professor in Antwerp, Belgium, and an expert on the region. “It certainly doesn’t look very good for the insurgents and if the coup fails, it doesn’t look good for those who have implicitly supported the coup: Civil society, opposition parties and all of those who have advocated against him running for a third term,” he said.
What does this mean for the United States?
The United States condemned the violence and called on all sides to “lay down arms, end the violence and show restraint.” The U.S. has helped train and equip the Burundian army, according to Reuters, and critics say that aid has beefed up the military at the expense of civil society. “We are building up the military of these countries where all other institutions are weak, and so we end up in a process where, when things go wrong, the military takes over,” said Jett, who presided over civil wars and peacekeeping in Liberia and Mozambique as a U.S. diplomat. “We have tons of money for military aid but never enough for democracy and building institutions,” he said.
Still, some argue that the cohesiveness of Burundi’s ethnically diverse army in the face of the current political crisis is the only thing preventing the country from collapsing into civil war.
“My broader view is that I see the military and the security sector as a vital component of the democratic governance process. In countries where you support civil society, political parties and the media, you need to invest in reforms in the security sector, because as we see all too often, they are a determining force in whether the country moves forward or not,” said Fomunyoh.
“In the past two weeks in Burundi, we have seen the military play a positive role by interposing itself between the demonstrators and the police. Where the police were considered more biased and partisan in favor of the president, the military is seen by most Burundians as more neutral and more professional, making sure the demonstrations are more peaceful.”
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The King of the Blues, B.B. King, died Thursday, May 14, at his home in Las Vegas after suffering from high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. He was 89 years old. King was one of the most influential blues musicians of all time. The 13-time Grammy Award winner played hundreds of live performances a year, spreading the blues across the nation, and the world.
King came from humble beginnings. He was born in September 1925 to sharecroppers in Mississippi. At a young age both his parents left him to be raised by his grandmother. King worked the crops himself for years before purchasing his first guitar.Raised on gospel music, he began his music career by signing old church songs on the street. In 2005 B.B. King told PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown why he switched from gospel to the blues:
“I’d sit on the street corner and just start singing gospel songs because that’s what I wanted to do. And generally people would come by me and they would — you know, they would praise me, pat me on the shoulders and the head, and say, ‘Keep it up, son. If you continue, you’re going to be good one day.’ But they didn’t put nothing in the hat. But people that would come by and ask me to play the blues would always put something in the hat. Now you know why I’m a blues singer.”
After some time singing on the street corner King moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he became a disc jockey and performer at the at the local radio station. He became known as the “Blues Boy” around town — hence “B.B.” His first hit was in 1951, “3 o’clock blues.”
His local popularity began to spread and he toured the country playing to primarily black audiences. That all changed in 1969 when he was asked to tour with The Rolling Stones.
In 1971 he won his first Grammy Award for “The Thrill is Gone” which continued to be a crowd favorite late into his career. B.B. King played the hit song for President Obama a the White House in 2012.
He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. From the 80s up almost until his death, King enjoyed wide popularity and often performed up to 300 nights a year. He appeared most nights with his famous guitar named “Lucille.”He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and won 12 more Grammy Awards spanning across 38 years. He won his last award in 2009 for his traditional blues album “One Kind of Favor.”
King was adamant that the blues are for anyone, not just people down on life.
“People think that because you sing the blues, you’re boo-hoo-hoo. But all our wives don’t leave. We are just like everybody else. We’re people, and to me, blues is life (it) has to do with people, places and things. And as long as we live and there are people, we will have blues,” said King to Jeffrey Brown.
And King lived out spreading the blues to everyone. He played free concerts at festivals including an annual homecoming festival in Mississippi. In 1972 he performed alongside Joan Baez in the Sing Sing Prison concert. When he took the stage he told the audience of inmates that this was a group of people who could truly get the blues. Even late in his career he said that performance remained one of his best.
B.B. King collaborated with artists of all different genres — from his fellow blues artists such as Eric Clapton to rock and roll legends U2. He also influenced many young artists and most recently he could be seen performing alongside pop singer John Mayer.
Though King never wanted to be seen as an idol.
“And it’s the same thing with any instrument. We all have idols. I don’t frown on idols, because all of us need idols. But you want to become yourself. Be yourself,” he told the NewsHour in 2005. “But if I tried to mimic you, then I’d have to do something, you know, differently. Well, it’s the same thing with playing instruments. You play it the way you feel it. You don’t try to mimic him or her or anyone else. You play it as you feel it.”
Though if King had his own idol it may have been Frank Sinatra. He often said that he would play Sinatra’s record “In the Wee Small Hours” every night before going to bed.
He was touched though by the influence he had on artists, especially those who came to music through his songs.
“I’ve had my feelings of doubt in music, to think that there are people that learn to play it by listening to my music, those dark days wasn’t dark after all,” King told former music executive Joe Smith in an interview produced by PBS in the “blank on blank” series:
B.B. King was married twice during his lifetime. Once to Martha Lee Denton (1946-1952) and then to Sue Carol Hall (1958-1966). Both marriages reportedly failed due to the demands of King’s touring career. According to King he has fathered 15 children and had 50 grandchildren.
As King grew older he suffered from type II diabetes. It didn’t stop him from playing, but he began perform seated later in his career. He became an awareness advocate for diabetes. He even appeared in a series of commercials for Ultra One Touch alongside American Idol winner Crystal Bowersox.
King was hospitalized twice in 2015 because of complications from high blood pressure and his diabetes. He never officially retired, but stopped playing once his health was too poor to continue.
“I can play music every day and never get tired of it. But if my health should get bad and I can’t handle myself very well, or people don’t come to my concerts, I probably would retire,” he told the NewsHour. “But God, let me, let me enjoy while I’m living. And I do enjoy doing what I do.”
This seems like a good week for one of my periodic diversions — discerning what people mean as opposed to what they say.
I was reminded of the need for that distinction on Monday, when I interviewed AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
The topic at hand was the trade deal pending in Congress. The nation’s labor unions hate it for many reasons — including the uncertain impact it would have on jobs and wages. They hate it so much, in fact, that they are doing what lobbyists do — they are threatening to withhold support from elected officials who disagree with them.
This should come as no surprise. This is how powerful groups get themselves heard in Washington, but also in state capitals and city halls too.
So I asked Trumka about that — whether the AFL-CIO was, in fact, withholding donations from lawmakers who did not back them. “That is simply not the case,” he replied. The union, he said, was simply going to spend its money other ways.
“We’re going to use it to fight this fight, so that we can actually put on a real campaign to protect the American public and the American people and, quite frankly, some of the Democrats from themselves,” he said.
Withholding support to save the Democrats from themselves?
Absolutely not, he said. The AFL-CIO is closing down its political action committees (which support candidates) to devote the money to the fight against the trade deal.
“Whenever we’re done, we will open up things again and our friends will be our friends and things will go back to normal,” he said. “But, right now, we need every resource that we have to fight this.”
Clever huh? It didn’t even sound like a threat.
I’m not picking on Trumka per se. This sort of artful dodging is the coin of the realm.
When Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told Judy Woodruff: “I like Elizabeth Warren. She’s a nice person and we’re friends,” it is commonly understood that he is using a flexible, political definition of the word “friend” that has nothing to do with trade policy.
And when Warren repeatedly used the phrase “greasing the skids” to describe a Senate vote as a hurried and reckless decision, we get that she is trying to not just slow, but stop, forward movement.
Then, when White House spokesman Josh Earnest repeatedly described a serious setback on the same legislation as a “procedural snafu,” he was doing his best to put the best face on a dangerous political moment. (Although he appeared to be caught off balance when ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked him if he knew what the military acronym SNAFU actually means. Look it up, I can’t print it here.)
He dismissed one trope after another. No, he said, it would not matter if the president socialized with Congress more. “It wouldn’t make any difference,” he said. “Look, it’s a business.”
He offered that he holds no personal animus toward the president he once vowed to limit to one term. “The reason we haven’t done more things together is because we don’t agree on much.”
And he dismissed as “absurd” the notion promoted by some Democrats that the president’s race presents a problem for members of his caucus. “They conveniently overlook that they never get accused of racism when they vote against Condoleezza Rice or Janice Rogers Brown,” he said.
You don’t have to agree with everything McConnell says to appreciate his straightforwardness.
Is Washington transparent? Certainly not. Are all lawmakers friends, even within their own parties? No way.
So it helps to have a glossary when you listen to them speak.
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NEW YORK — George Stephanopoulos apologized to viewers Friday for donating $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation and failing to disclose it earlier, as ABC News now finds its chief anchor in a credibility crisis on the eve of a presidential campaign.
Stephanopoulos said on “Good Morning America” that the donations, made in three increments to the foundation started by his one-time boss, former President Bill Clinton, were a mistake.
“I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict,” the “GMA” and “This Week” host said. “I apologize to all of you for failing to do that.”
Stephanopoulos rose to the top ranks at ABC over 18 years and worked to establish himself as an independent journalist despite skepticism by some in politics because of his background as a top aide to Clinton’s 1992 campaign and later in the White House. The donations brought that issue back to the fore just as Hillary Rodham Clinton is launching her presidential campaign.
ABC News President James Goldston has not addressed whether Stephanopoulos will be disciplined. The network said in a statement Thursday that it stands behind Stephanopoulos and that the anchor made an honest mistake. ABC said Stephanopoulos voluntarily removed himself as a moderator for ABC’s planned coverage of a GOP presidential debate next February.
Network leaders must weigh how the issue will affect public perception of its top on-air political journalist, just as NBC News executives are wondering whether suspended anchor Brian Williams will be believable to viewers following revelations that he embellished details of stories he was involved in.
Peter Schweizer, author of “Clinton Cash,” a book that traces the public involvement of organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation, said Friday that Stephanopoulos’ donations “highlight precisely the lack of transparency and cronyism that I report on.” Stephanopoulos interviewed Schweizer recently on the Sunday public affairs program “This Week” without revealing the donations.
“It is incomprehensible to me that after George Stephanopoulos went out of his way to state on-air that I wrote speeches for President George W. Bush, Stephanopoulos hid from viewers the fact that he is himself a major Clinton Foundation donor,” Schweizer said.
Stephanopoulos has pointed out that this donation, among dozens he has made to charitable organizations, were a matter of public record. He said they were made to support the foundation’s work on global AIDS prevention and deforestation.
The Clinton foundation is not obligated by law to publish the name of donors and the amounts of their gifts, but the charity has often provided annually-updated lists since 2008. Public announcements have not always accompanied the updates, and each update is cumulative and reported in wide monetary ranges, making it difficult to spot precise amounts of donations.
The story is a threat to Stephanopoulos’ ability to cover politics for ABC, said Mark Feldstein, a veteran broadcast journalist now a professor at the University of Maryland.
“He seemed mostly to have put to rest fears that he would be too partisan to be a serious television journalist and news anchorman, but he couldn’t have given the Republican Party a greater sword to decapitate him,” said Feldstein, who is writing a book on media scandals.
Aly Colon, a professor of journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University, said he believed it would be best if ABC removed Stephanopoulos from coverage of anything related to the Clintons.
“In today’s environment, many people are truly suspicious of how the news is covered, and this just feeds into that suspicion more,” Colon said.
Associated Press correspondent Stephen Braun in Washington contributed to this report.
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WASHINGTON — Thirty-eight Cuban migrants caught trying to sail to the U.S. are stranded aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel, waiting for permission from the Cuban government to return home, The Associated Press has learned.
The would-be immigrants had tourist visas to the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia when they were intercepted at sea by the Coast Guard, U.S. officials said. The Cuban government has refused re-entry to island because their return does not comport with a repatriation agreement with the U.S., one official said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the situation.
The migrants were among about 96 Cubans who were intercepted at sea and taken aboard the Coast Guard cutter Vigilant, a 210-foot ship operating out of Port Canaveral, Florida. The ship typically carries 75 officers and crew. The Cuban government allowed the return of the other 58 people.
Under U.S. law, Cuban nationals who make it onto U.S. soil are granted permission to come into the country and can quickly become legal permanent residents and eventually U.S. citizens. Migrants caught at sea generally are sent back to Cuba. The Cuban government has historically allowed U.S. authorities to quickly repatriate those migrants caught at sea.
The migrants were found near the Virgin Islands in late April and have been aboard the Vigilant in international waters since, one of the officials said.
The so-called wet-foot-dry-foot policy has long angered Cuba’s communist leaders who have argued that the policy encourages Cuban citizens to make the treacherous trip across the Florida Straits, often on homemade rafts or rickety boats in hopes of landing on U.S. soil.
In recent years, the Cuban government under President Raul Castro has made it easier for Cubans to travel overseas by eliminating a decades-old and unpopular exit visa requirement.
The decision to keep the migrants from returning is likely to cause a diplomatic rift as both governments have been negotiating conditions for re-establishing diplomatic relations. Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the effort in December.
The United States and Cuba are trying to wrap up an agreement in the coming days that would allow them to re-establish embassies and post ambassadors to each other’s capitals after a half-century interruption. Officials from both governments were planning to meet in Havana Friday to discuss the situation.
Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, will meet Josefina Vidal, her Cuban counterpart, next week in Washington.
The biggest obstacle to restoring full diplomatic relations is almost gone: the U.S. designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. Obama announced his intention last month to delist Cuba, and the change will become effective May 29, when a 45-day waiting period expires. The designation has ramifications for Cuban access to international financial institutions.
Lingering matters include the ability of U.S. diplomats to travel freely in Cuba and speak with dissidents. Ironically, migration has been one of the issues that American and Cuban officials say they’ve had the greatest cooperation on.
Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.
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Boston University economics professor Robert Margo, the incoming president of the Economic History Association, is a well-known scholar on race in America, He’s also known as “the musical economist” for his proficiency playing classical lute and mandolin. His most recent paper is “Obama, Katrina, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality,” but we sought him out for his work on the race riots of the 1960s, and their long-term economic effect. — Paul Solman
Paul Solman: You studied the effects of the ’60s riots on inner cities. What did you find?
Robert Margo: Well, with my colleague at the time, Bill Collins of Vanderbilt, we looked at the effects of the 1960s riots on income and employment, focusing on African Americans, comparing outcomes in 1960, 1970 and 1980. So, before, after, and then a little bit later. And then, we also looked at the impact on housing values. And, what we found was that the riots were unambiguously negative. They reduced incomes of African Americans’ employment, and they reduced housing values. In the case of housing values, it was broader; it actually affects overall housing values in cities, but the impact is primarily felt by African Americans.
Paul Solman: Why would wages fall, or at least fall relative to other people, after a riot?
Paul Solman: Well, that would seem pretty obvious, I mean, if you burn down houses or retail establishments in a neighborhood, presumably it negatively affects the value of the housing in the neighborhood.
Robert Margo: Well, we’re not talking about the houses that were destroyed. In most cases, we’re talking about nearby neighborhoods where local amenities — shopping, things like this — basically went away. There was also a perception that crime was going up in these cities. And so, the things that would negatively affect housing values because of local amenities really suffered a lot. And I would also add that these were not transient effects. They persisted. We found no evidence that they got better, so to speak, between 1970 and 1980. We didn’t go beyond that, but I’m quite sure if we went to 1990, they would have still been present. So, they were long-lasting.
Robert Margo: I would answer in two ways. It’s not completely obvious these effects would be negative, or they would even be large. Because it’s certainly the case in many cities that experienced riots that there were attempts afterwards to fix the damage and respond to the underlying causes. What we’re finding is that the net effects of that were negative. That, whatever was done afterwards was not enough to compensate for the damage and whatever economic consequences came after that. As for why they happen, I think it’s important to note that the causes of these events are not necessarily the kinds of causes that many people think of in general when they think about the 1960s riots.
We sometimes refer to them as being caused by poverty, discrimination. And those are underlying causes. But, these events were very idiosyncratic, and they very often, just like the events we see today, involved confrontations with the police that got out of hand. And they got out of hand very quickly, I think, in the ’60s, because many of the police departments didn’t have experience with anything like this.
There was recognition by the 1970s that this was very counterproductive, and that’s a good reason why we don’t see them after that. And when they do happen, they’re really shocking events in our country. They happen every so often now, and they’re the subject of huge amounts of media attention, right?
In the 1960s, by our calculation, there were 750-odd of these events in 1968 alone, very commonplace. Much different than we have today.
Paul Solman: Yeah, I remember ’68 Chicago, Boston after the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination.
Robert Margo: The Martin Luther King Jr. riots figure very prominently on our work. We have this horrible event hat happened in early April of 1968. And it’s important for our analysis, because when King was assassinated it was a spark that ignited riots seemingly everywhere. But we realized that the riots didn’t happen literally everywhere, and we were able to leverage that variation between places to tease out the actual effects of these riots on their cities. And those were very destructive, those particular riots. So they play a pretty critical role in our analysis of the ’60s events.
Paul Solman: And they were destructive to the communities both in terms of the incomes of the people in the communities, and the value of the housing?
Robert Margo: Even broader. We were able to observe an effect on the median value of owner-occupied housing in the cities that experienced these events. It’s not as large as it is on African American-owned homes. That’s where the primary effects were felt, in the local communities.
Paul Solman: One reason that people have given me, when I’ve interviewed them over the last few years, as to why there haven’t been any riots, is that so many young people are at home, playing video games, as opposed to out on the street. Does that seem at all plausible to you?
Robert Margo: I never thought of that one before! (laughter) It’s certainly the case that there were more people out on the streets in the ’60s, and it turns out that the likelihood of these events in the 1960s was very strongly related to the absolute number of African Americans in a community. When the absolute number was large, two things occurred. The probability that one person would be the spark, say, was stopped by the police, that goes up. And the probability that you would have people joining a riot would go up.
These were events that mushroomed. And we do know that in the ’60s there were cases where people would phone their neighbors and they would join in, and we also can see some of that in the recent events, right? Where the use of social media is potentially proliferating in terms of participation.
Paul Solman: The other thing I remember from the ’60s, I read the Kerner Commission Report in ’68, and the people in the Kerner Commission were surprised by the fact that the people who were arrested, for the most part, had jobs.
Robert Margo: That’s right.
Paul Solman: So, the phrase I remember from that era was “the crisis of rising expectations,” the notion that people were expecting change to happen even more rapidly than it was.
Robert Margo: That’s true. And it also speaks to the fact that the occurrence of riots in the 1960s across the cities that we see is not correlated with the extent of black poverty, or unemployment or anything like that.
These things could happen anywhere there was the possibility of a spark happening, such as confrontation with police, where there were sufficient numbers of people where that could happen, and people to participate. So that’s why you see people with jobs participating. That’s why you see people with jobs being in some cases the actual spark.
The Detroit riots happened when two African-American servicemen came home from Vietnam. These were people who had served our country, right? And, they happened to be caught up in this particular police raid.
Paul Solman: One thing that I’ve heard from people I’ve interviewed, experts, is a measure of surprise at how little urban unrest there’s been now compared to the 1960s, given growing inequality.
Robert Margo: It is surprising, because if we look over the course of the full 20th century, the dominant trend between African Americans and whites is one of narrowing inequality. Differences between blacks and whites in income, wealth, education were vastly larger 100 years ago than they are today, and they’ve narrowed over time pretty persistently.
Paul Solman: Am I wrong to think that the narrowing of the gap between African Americans and the rest of American society has stopped? Stalled?
Robert Margo: It stalled relative to what it was, between 1940 and 1980. Between 1940 and 1980, it was relatively rapid. But it’s a process that’s been going on since the end of the Civil War, and the pace that we see now is not very different than the pace that we saw between, say, 1870 and 1940, which was persistent but still quite slow.
Paul Solman: But that’s the era of Jim Crow, the era of absolute suppression of voting in the South –
Robert Margo: That’s true. It’s also, it’s the period in which African-American children begin to go to school for the first time, after the Civil War, and it’s a period in which there’s a lot of investment on the part of their parents in their schooling. It’s the period where African Americans leave the South to move to the North, and get higher incomes as a result.
There were a whole range of things going on in the African American community that slowly narrowed the gap, before World War II. After World War II, we see the effects first of the war, which were significant, and then ultimately the Civil Rights Movement. What we have more recently is a return to what we might call in economics the long run trend. It’s disturbing, right? Because we would like to believe that the progress that was made during the civil rights movement would continue to the present but it hasn’t. Instead, we’ve moved back to this much longer run, persistent narrowing, but quite slow.
How does Baltimore’s economy recover after the riots? Watch Paul’s report.
Paul Solman: Do you expect that Baltimore will feel really long-term, negative effects from this?
Robert Margo: I think that in Baltimore there will be some effects, but it’s hard to say how much. The amount of damage that was done, compared with a typical riot in the ’60s, is not great. It was severe by the standards of what we imagine today, because we so rarely see these events. But, in comparison with a severe riot of the 1960’s, it was not that severe. I think what’s very different about the riots today, and this is true as well of Ferguson, is the amount of attention that’s been paid to these events, and what is discovered as a result of the attention that’s paid to these events, probably will have effects that are much more long-lasting.
For example, I asked my friends, would you have known where Ferguson, Missouri, was two years ago? Did you ever hear of it? Nobody had ever heard of it. But now everybody knows where Ferguson, Missouri, is. And not in a positive way. The Justice Department uncovered a lot of stuff under the rock there. It’s true there are lots of other communities with similar stuff under the rock, but Ferguson is the one that’s in the limelight. These are not good things in terms of making that community attractive in the long run. And I think the damage there will be more extensive than one would ever have predicted from what actually happened during those events. Baltimore may be very similar.
The physical damage isn’t huge, but the media attention is enormous. And we don’t have ways of extrapolating from the experience of the 1960s to the world today with that level of media attention, both in the professional media, as well as social media. We simply don’t know how important that will be. But I’m pretty concerned that will be more long lasting than one might expect. Remember, in the ’60s there were hundreds of riots. And most of them were never reported in the national news. Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore are on the world stage, right? And that affects people’s perceptions of these places well beyond the immediate environment of those cities.
Robert Margo: It was a country-wide phenomenon. It is true that the most severe riots happened in a relatively small number of places, but the occurrence of a riot was much more common. Today, these events are extremely uncommon, and they receive intense media scrutiny when they occur.
Paul Solman: So this really might stigmatize Baltimore.
Robert Margo: It might.
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Blue Bell Creameries, the famed Texas ice cream company, will layoff 1,450 employees after listeria problems have halted their production. The full-time and part-time employees losing their jobs account for 37 percent of Blue Bell’s work force. Another 1,400 workers will be furloughed and those staying on because they are essential to the clean-up process will have their pay reduced.
Until now the company had not laid off an employee for 100 years.
“The agonizing decision to lay off hundreds of our great workers and reduce hours and pay for others was the most difficult one I have had to make in my time as Blue Bell’s CEO and President,” said Chief Executive Paul Kruse in a video posted on the company’s website.
The listeria outbreak was linked to Blue Bell ice cream in early April prompting the company to voluntarily recall all of their products on April 20.
On May 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded an inspection of production facilities in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama. Listeria was found at the company’s main production facility in Brenham, Texas, and they found that the company had failed to tell health officials about repeated listeria findings in their Oklahoma plant dating back to 2013.
Kruse explained in his video statement that it was taking longer than expected to get their production facilities up to standard so that they could begin production again. He also said when they start production again it will be in a limited capacity. Blue Bell Creameries could not afford to keep everyone on staff in the meantime.
On Thursday Blue Bell Creameries signed agreements requiring that they will inform each state within 24 hours of a positive test result for listeria in their products or ingredients at one of their production facilities. This requirement will be in place for two years after Blue Bell products are back on shelves.
Brenham is a small town of around 16,000 people and home to both the Blue Bell Creameries headquarters and main production facility. It is the second biggest company in the town, employing about 900 people. Without its famous ice cream or tours of the plant, the town is not seeing the normal tourist traffic.
“Some people came in from France, and I had to try to explain why we didn’t have any ice cream,” said Charlie Pyle, owner of Must Be Heaven Sandwich Shoppe in downtown Brenham, to The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t know how to say listeria in French.”
Blue Bell Creameries has said it will be several more months before their products are back in stores.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a school training the next generation of great artists.
At the Baltimore School for the Arts, a pre-professional high school, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential without a review of any academic grades. Still, the school’s students have some of the highest tests scores in the state of Maryland. Notable alumni include actor Jada Pinkett Smith and fashion designer Christian Siriano.
We followed the students before the recent protests and unrest in the city and found their combination of dedication and focus, inspiring. Take a look.
MATEEN MILAN, Student: My family isn’t in the arts. I’m the only person who really does, like, classical music. I’m the only person who like takes lessons and goes to a school like this. My name is Mateen Milan. I’m in the 12th grade and I go to Baltimore School for the Arts.
MAURICE MOUZON, Student: It all started out when I was just on my own doing street dance. My friends went and told my teacher that I was dancing. I showed her and she told me that I should try out for Baltimore School for the Arts. My name is Maurice Mouzon. I’m a 12th grader at Baltimore School for the Arts.
CHRIS FORD, Director, Baltimore School for the Arts: Kids enter by audition. We don’t look at their academics at all, which is an interesting piece. And they follow a pre-professional arts program, as well as a college prep academic program.
My name is Chris Ford, and I’m the director of the Baltimore School for the Arts.
MATEEN MILAN: I play the bassoon. And I love every second of it.
MAURICE MOUZON: I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. But, right now, my main focus is dance.
CHRIS FORD: Students, when they’re passionate about something, and they become passionate about theater, or visual arts or something like that, it’s easy to spread that passion out into other activities, like geometry or English literature.
MAURICE MOUZON: My friends were very actually happy for me. Most of them play sports like football and basketball. And that’s actually where I came from. And it was kind of difficult changing.
KATHERINE FISHER, Director: Some of the kids I’m working with in this project, I know that they’re coming from extremely difficult home lives.
My name is Katherine Helen Fisher. I am a director, choreographer, and producer.
MAURICE MOUZON: Kate Fisher, she’s an alumni from the school and she’s here teaching us how to use our bodies more and to just, like, feel the music.
CHRIS FORD: There’s a tremendous amount of diversity. There’s people on the very bottom of the economic scale and people right at the top.
KATHERINE FISHER: People that come from families that are well-to-do and people that come from families that have nothing here in this city.
MARCOS BALTER, Baltimore School for the Arts: This school is sort of like a hidden gem. But professional artists have known about this institution for a long time.
KATHERINE HELEN FISHER: It’s really inspiring to know that they’re getting the tools that can take them to great places.
MARCOS BALTER: I’m Marcos Balter. I’m a composer. I love things that you can almost understand, but you don’t quite get at first, which is what I try to do with my music.
KATHERINE HELEN FISHER: I myself, in terms of being a Baltimorean coming from a single mother, family struggling, have gotten to see the world many times over, and had experiences that I think I would never have been afforded had I not had a career in the arts.
MARCOS BALTER: My favorite age group to work with are teens and preteens, and kids because they don’t have a preconceived notion of what is possible and what may not be.
KATHERINE HELEN FISHER: I feel that the majority of the students here at the school know that they for sure are going to dedicate their lives to their craft in one way or another.
MATEEN MILAN: I find myself maybe once or twice a week questioning myself, do I really want to do this? Am I actually good at what I do?
MARCOS BALTER: It seems like music education is not in its best period right now.
CHRIS FORD: It’s a diminishing resource environment, and we’re trying to figure out how to deal with that.
MARCOS BALTER: A lot of budget cuts, a lot of canceled programs, a lot of focus on just sort of like the more scholastic side of education, which I think is a shame.
MATEEN MILAN: I think of art as a tunnel, a tunnel that gets you from one place of understanding to another. I wouldn’t know about many cultures if it wasn’t for the art that comes from those cultures.
MAURICE MOUZON: I am worried about making a professional career out of dance, because, in the dance world, it’s very difficult, because you have so many people who want to be a dancer, and not everybody can make it.
MARCOS BALTER: The only way that you can actually persevere is if it’s not really a choice, but a calling, that you know that you cannot do anything else.
CHRIS FORD: If you have never seen a play before, how would you know you’re an actor? If you have never heard a violin, how would you know that you were really made to be a violinist?
MARCOS BALTER: Art is not a luxury. Art is not an accessory for the well-to-do.
CHRIS FORD: Unfortunately, in our city, there’s a lot of kids that don’t have that opportunity to just have that initial experience.
MATEEN MILAN: At this point, I have understood that music is something that I love, it’s my passion, it’s what I do. And no one can take that from me. And I can’t wait to see where that takes me in life.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mateen the bassoonist will attend the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University. And Maurice the dancer will join the State University of New York at Purchase.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next tonight: remembering blues legend B.B. King.
He died overnight in Las Vegas, following several weeks in hospice care. He’d continued to perform until last October, when he canceled a tour, citing complications from diabetes.
Jeffrey Brown has our tribute.
JEFFREY BROWN: The song, “The Thrill Is Gone,” the voice and the guitar playing unmistakably belonging to the man who brought the blues to a mass audience, B.B. King.
For more than six decades, often averaging more than 300 performances a year, King was one of the most beloved and respected musicians in the world. Playing his trademark Gibson guitar, which he named Lucille, he created a style and sound all his own.
I got a chance to join King on the road, literally on his bus, in 2005.
B.B. KING: People think that because you sing the blues, you’re, my God — but all our wives don’t leave. We are just like everybody else. We’re people. And to me, blues is life, has to do with people, places and things. And as long as we live and there are people, we will have blues.
JEFFREY BROWN: Today, praise came in from all over for the man and his music.
ERIC CLAPTON: I just wanted to express my sadness and to say thank you to my dear friend B.B. King. He was a beacon for all of us who love this kind of music, and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
JEFFREY BROWN: He was born Riley King near Indianola, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of blues music. His mother died when he was 9, and King worked in the cotton fields before turning to music.
Gospel was his first love, but on the streets of Indianola, he told me he learned a valuable lesson about life as a musician.
B.B. KING: I would sit on the street corner and just start singing gospel songs, because that’s what I wanted to do. And, generally, people would come by me, and they would — you know, they would praise me, pat me on the shoulders and the head, and say, keep it up, son. If you continue, you’re going to be good one day. But they didn’t put nothing in the hat.
B.B. KING: But people that would come by and ask me to play a blues would always put something in the hat. Now you know why I’m a blues singer.
JEFFREY BROWN: In the late 1940s, at the age of 23, King made his way to Memphis. There, he worked as a disk jockey on a local black radio station, and became known as Blues Boy, later shortened to B.B.
He continued to perform and had his first hit in 1951 with the single “3 O’Clock Blues.” Others hits followed, and King went on the road, playing primarily for black audiences until the 1960s.
King biographer Charles Sawyer.
CHARLES SAWYER, B.B. King Biographer: There was a change in our popular culture which brought blues to the foreground, through a combination of British rock musicians who loved the blues and brought it back to America, and a handful of American blues musicians, white musicians, principally from Chicago, who brought the blues to Middle America.
And they were all saying the same thing. The master of this form is B.B. King. And people scratched their head. Who’s this B.B. King? We have to hear this B.B. King.
JEFFREY BROWN: The Rolling Stones included King on their 1969 American tour, bringing the blues musician to new audiences. He went on to collaborate and perform with a host of other stars, including the band U2 and fellow electric guitar master Eric Clapton.
In an interview several years ago, singer/songwriter Bonnie Raitt spoke of King.
BONNIE RAITT, Musician: His expressiveness, I think, both as a vocalist, but especially on his guitar, the way that he plays, the way that he bends notes and makes it cry and ache, and the frustration that he’s expressing or the longing or the sexual yearning, all that comes across in this one block of beautiful wood through this incredible man.
JEFFREY BROWN: King earned 15 Grammys over the course of his career, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
And during that trip to Indianola in 2005, he helped break ground for the B.B. King Museum, which opened three years later. In 2006, George W. Bush awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: He’s influenced generations of musicians from blues to rock, and he’s performed in venues from roadside nightclubs to Carnegie Hall. He’s still touring, and he’s still recording, and he’s still singing, and he’s still playing the blues better than anybody else. In other words, the thrill is not gone.
JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, King also never stopped advocating for his music. I watched him give a master class to group of young would-be players.
B.B. KING: If he’s a guitar player and he plays like B.B. King, I don’t need B.B. King. I am B.B. King.
B.B. KING: If he’s an Eric Clapton, I don’t need Eric. Eric and I are friends. If I want Eric, I will go get him. And it’s the same thing with either instrument. We all have idols. I don’t frown on idols, because all of us need idols. But you want to become yourself. Be yourself.
JEFFREY BROWN: In his later years, diabetes slowed King and forced him to perform seated.
But he continued to tour and perform regularly, including late into the night at the club Ebony in his hometown.
B.B. KING: I can play music every day and never get tired of it. But if my health should get bad and I can’t handle myself very well, or people don’t come to my concerts, I probably would retire.
But other than that, we don’t use that word around here. The R-word, we forget it.
B.B. KING: I just want to keep on. And I know in time that I will have to go. But, God, let me let — let me enjoy while I’m living. And I do enjoy doing what I do.
JEFFREY BROWN: B.B. King died last night. He was 89 years old.
The post The blues was life for legendary musician B.B. King appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, we saw battles between brethren. Democrats in Congress fought against President Obama’s touted trade deal, while, elsewhere, Jeb Bush struggled against his own brother’s presidential legacy on the question of the Iraq War, all this as a deadly train crash has renewed a national debate on America’s infrastructure.
We turn now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
So, I want to ask you first, though, both about the Boston verdict, sentencing verdict.
Mark, you’re from Boston. This is the death sentence, unanimous death sentence.
MARK SHIELDS: It is, Judy.
And the one just outstanding image I have is that of Bill and Denise Richard, the parents of little Martin, the little angel 8-year-old who was blown up in front of their eyes while their daughter, Jane, lost her leg, and their request to give life without parole. Otherwise, they said, the death sentence, we will relive this. Every appeal that is made, we will relive the worst day of our life.
It is an aspect that — and a perspective, I think, that appealed to me, given my feelings on the death penalty. But as pointed out by the prosecution, he put — he put the bomb four feet away from a row of children. It was a horrific, horrific, inhuman act. So, you know, my heart goes out to the Richard family and to everybody else who was touched and remains pained.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the jury went in the other direction.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And some of the other families wanted this outcome. I think there was division among them.
I’m — personally, I am skeptical of the death penalty in cases where we don’t know, we’re not certain. There have been so many wrongful convictions, and so I’m not a fan of the death penalty. Nonetheless, I thought what Loretta Lynch, the new attorney general, said today was that this was truly the most horrendous crime imaginable, and for the most horrendous crime, the ultimate penalty is fitting.
I have some sympathy. And this is not a case where we really have too much doubt about who did it. We know this guy did it. It killed those children, and then killed the cop a couple of days later. And so if there’s ever going to be a death penalty, I guess I think this is the case. Whether he will actually ever get executed, I’m a little dubious. I don’t he ever will. A lot of the federal cases, they rarely actually execute the people, because the appeals take so long. But I guess it’s fitting in this case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, another — certainly another tragedy this week, Mark, is the train crash, train going off the rails, Philadelphia, eight people killed, 200 people injured.
As we said, a lot of conversation now about the role of safety in the railroads. We interviewed Sarah Feinberg a minute ago, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration, including some conversation about whether the federal government should be doing more. Speaker John Boehner was asked that at a news conference this week. He said the question is stupid because of the train speed.
But how should we think about this? I mean, should we be thinking more about government role at some level, or is that just the wrong way to go?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, it’s a little late to argue about government role. Railroads would not have been built in this country but for the government.
They were built — of course, the Transcontinental Railroad, by the federal government, whether right away with funding, to connect California to the rest of the country and to fight the Civil War. And it’s been a policy of long standing.
This is an important — 750,000 Americans every day use this Northeast Corridor of Amtrak. Without it, you’re talking about congestion and economic dislocation. Just traffic would be impossible. So, I think it’s in the national interest.
Speaker Boehner knows what he is speaking about politically. I thought it was a terrible use of a word, stupid. But if you look at the states through which it runs, begins in Washington, D.C., goes through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine.
What do they have in common? They’re blue, quite frankly and bluntly. They vote Democratic. So, I mean, in a sense, the Republicans in the House have precious little interest in the Northeast Corridor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying there is a connection?
MARK SHIELDS: I think there is a direct connection, sure.
DAVID BROOKS: I wonder if Acela usage makes people liberal. I’m in trouble. I take that thing four times a week to New Haven.
I think there are two things to be separated, first, whether this crash could have been prevented with more spending. That, I’m less concerned — less convinced of. As we just heard, the implementation that would have been safety — that would have maybe prevented this crash — we really don’t know what caused it yet — were paid for and were being implemented. And maybe it was implemented too slowly, maybe not.
But in this particular case, for some reason, the train was going a ridiculous — over 100 miles an hour. I can’t even imagine what that would have felt like. And so whether we could have prevented this, I’m not convinced.
Whether we should be spending more, it’s clear. For people like me who ride it constantly, the track bed, you feel it in different — you know if you ride it this much that you’re going fast in a certain stretch, and you’re going to terribly slow in another. Some of the things between the tracks are still made out of wood.
And we’re just not spending enough on this, let alone the infrastructure, the bridges and all that other stuff. It’s not a controversial statement to say we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars more on infrastructure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we said earlier, it seems like so much less attention is paid on this than on airline safety. Clearly, we need to pay attention to airline safety.
MARK SHIELDS: Absolutely. No, no question. I agree.
And the fact is that we’re still — the Highway Trust Fund is about to run out of money, and that the infrastructure of the country is in disrepair. The failure to invest in our public transportation and public life, I think, is a scandal and a shame, and it should be a national embarrassment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Trade authority, big vote in the Congress this week. It didn’t go in the president’s direction, at least the so-called procedural vote, David.
We are seeing a split among Democrats. The president may be working on it. What is going on here. And what does it say about the ongoing problems the president may have in his own party?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, there’s just the tactical issue.
The president didn’t reach out enough. We have come to expect that from this White House, that they often don’t anticipate the most. They’re not in close social communication, so they don’t foresee problems that they probably should foresee. And that’s just been a running weakness of the administration, I would say.
Second, it’s just true that the Democratic Party is becoming more split, especially on the Senate level. There was always a House minority on the Democratic side who were very suspicious of trade, but now at the Senate level. And that’s reflective of a party moving left. That’s reflective of a fact that the argument about whether trade benefits Americans has become a more divided argument among economists, to be fair.
I did see Fareed Zakaria make an excellent point this week on — just on the merits of these kind of agreements. We can have arguments about whether NAFTA helped or hurt the United States. And I think the effect was probably minimal either way. It had a huge positive effect on Mexico.
Our neighbor to the south is a transformed country. It’s a better country. It’s sending fewer illegal immigrants to us. It has got more opportunity. It is much a better trade partner in policy terms. And the argument was that it’s — these kind of trade agreements are a net benefit for the world, and a net benefit for our foreign policy, and in the long run, given the dislocations, are a net benefit for us, too.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?
MARK SHIELDS: To use that — Mansfield, Ohio. The reality is, the political reality is, Judy, that the president is lucky right now in the House of Representatives if he’s in the teens on Democratic support. It’s that low.
And David’s right. There is a lack of personal touch. The coin of the realm politically in this town is coffee, a call from the president. This coin goes un-refunded in this administration. Barack Obama, even his greatest admirers say, is just terrible at this. He doesn’t reach out. There’s no personal connection.
So, he’s right now trying to appeal to Congressional Black Caucus members. Keith Ellison from Minnesota said he — if Barack — President Obama needs a kidney, I would consider giving him one. I will not give him my vote on this. G.K. Butterworth, the president, head of the — Butterfield — of the Black Caucus, North Carolina, they have lost jobs. He had textile mills closed.
So, it’s a real, real problem. The economy of the United States gross domestic product doubled from 1996 to 2015, doubled, more than, $8.8 trillion to $17.1 trillion. And the median household income went down, went down.
So, yes, it’s, big picture, terrific. For individual people who have had their factories close in their district, I mean, you can’t point to people and say, boy, because of NAFTA, all these jobs came in. You can point to town after town after city after city in America where factories closed after NAFTA as a consequence of NAFTA, and they — it overpromised and underdelivered.
And that’s why there is suspension and skepticism. It’s going to be tough to get Republicans. They have got to get over 200 House Republicans. And given their suspicion about the president on immigration and executive power, on environment, you know, it’s going to be a tough haul for them, given their animosity toward him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I hate to let that one go. I know there is much more to say.
But just quickly to both of you on Jeb Bush, tough week, David, he had, when he answered a question about whether he would do what his brother did in going into Iraq, taking the United States into Iraq, knowing what we know today. He at first said, yes, I would. And then he was — backed off and gave different answers.
What’s the impact of all this?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I sort admire him personally, a little fraternal loyalty there. And I’m sure he was torn on that.
He can be judged more harshly as a political manager. His whole idea is that he’s an experienced, calm hand. But he certainly didn’t handle this over the — over — well over the week. The final, most surprising thing to me is that the rest of the party seems to have switched to the idea the Iraq War was a mistake.
I was really struck by all — a lot of the other candidates came out and said obviously it was a mistake given what we know now about the weapons of mass destruction. And that is how parties shift sort of accidentally. Suddenly, they have decided the war was a mistake, after not admitting that for a long period of time.
And so I’m mostly struck by how the whole party seems to have pinioned on this issue in about three days.
MARK SHIELDS: Confidence eroding, I mean, a terrible performance by Jeb Bush.
In his autobiography, George W. Bush, his brother, to whom he was supposedly loyal, wrote, “The reality was that I had sent American troops into combat based in large part on intelligence that proved false.” OK?
He admitted. Jeb Bush called it faulty. George Bush said it was false. I mean, since 2005, a majority of Americans, according to the Gallup poll, have said it was wrong and a mistake to go into Iraq.
And I don’t know what Jeb Bush — he was the smart brother. That’s what Republicans always refer to him as, the smart brother. And this was a terrible performance. And for building up confidence in him as a leader, I think it was less than helpful.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he spent the rest of the week answering the question differently.
All right, we are going into the weekend. We thank you both.
Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, the U.S. House of Representatives saw another fiery health care debate, this time focused on abortion.
Our political director, Lisa Desjardins, reports from Capitol Hill on how Republicans hope to the familiar debate into a new gear, and how Democrats hope to stop them.
LISA DESJARDINS, Political Director: The abortion debate is raging anew in Washington over an old question, the question of viability.
Wednesday, on a nearly party-line vote, House Republicans passed a bill to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. In a majority of states right now, it’s legal at 24 weeks or later.
Republican leaders like House Speaker Boehner crowed about the bill.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: HR-36 is the most pro-life legislation to ever come before this body.
LISA DESJARDINS: The bill focuses on the question of when does a fetus feel pain, something that is under debate. That’s not new. What is new is another medical question. When can a fetus survive outside the womb?
This recent study in “The New England Journal of Medicine” concludes that, with medical intervention, at 22 weeks, a small fraction can survive with no impairments or disabilities.
Republican Representative Diane Black of Tennessee helped shepherd the 20-week bill through the House.
REP. DIANE BLACK, (R) Tennessee: As a nurse and someone who’s been in nursing for over 40 years, when I first came into nursing back in 1969, if a baby was born at 37 weeks, we were concerned, because we didn’t have the medical capabilities to help that baby to survive. And now we see babies that are being born at 20 weeks.
LISA DESJARDINS: But as Black and other Republicans push for additional abortion bans, Democrats like Diana DeGette of Colorado push back. DeGette, who has introduced bills to defend abortion access, argues that the 20-week ban is unconstitutional and the question of viability at 20 weeks misconstrued.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) Colorado: Very few women have abortions after 20 weeks. And, generally, when that happens, it’s because there is some very serious fetal abnormality that’s going to affect the health of the woman. So what this bill really does is, it says politicians are going to substitute their judgment in those very few cases for the judgment of the woman, in consultation with her family and her physician.
LISA DESJARDINS: To DeGette and abortion supporters, this bill is another assault on the rights of women to decide for themselves.
The 20-week abortion ban has little chance of becoming federal law anytime soon, with tough hurdles in the Senate and a guaranteed White House veto. But this week’s House vote is more than just symbolic. Conservatives have a very particular focus for their targets.
That target sits on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Drew Halfmann studies abortion politics at the University of California at Davis.
DREW HALFMANN, University of California, Davis: Well, it’s very difficult to move public opinion. But public opinion isn’t really what makes abortion policy. Abortion policy is made by the Supreme Court in the United States. And in some ways, this discussion about late abortions has an audience of one, Justice Kennedy.
LISA DESJARDINS: Over the last two decades, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has cast deciding votes on both sides of the abortion debate, tilting the 5-4 balance to uphold abortion access in some cases and to allow restrictions on things like partial-birth abortion.
If a case does get to the Supreme Court, anti-abortion groups are hoping that the passage of a 20-week abortion ban by the House might influence Justice Kennedy’s vote.
DREW HALFMANN: In cases about partial-birth abortion, so-called partial-birth abortion, he was the key voter in that decision. So, in many ways, this discussion about fetal pain and so forth is really directed at Justice Kennedy, in an attempt to get the abortion issue in front of the court again.
WOMAN: The yeas are 242. The nays are 184, with one voting present. The bill is passed.
LISA DESJARDINS: The bill has one more audience, 2016 Republican voters, as the party hopes to regain the White House, and with it more direct say on the composition of the Supreme Court.
Lisa Desjardins, PBS NewsHour, Capitol Hill.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a story of desperation and migration, as refugees take to the sea in Asia, but struggle to find safe harbor.
Hari Sreenivasan reports on this burgeoning humanitarian crisis in the region, one no country is in a rush to solve.
MAN: How long have you been on the boat?
HARI SREENIVASAN: The people on this rickety fishing boat say they have been at sea for three months, fleeing poverty in Bangladesh and persecution in Myanmar, once called Burma. The captain and crew abandoned them six days ago, they told journalists from The New York Times, who filmed this video.
In recent days, they were turned away from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. They’re part of an estimated 6,000 people on boats in the waters around the three nations; 1,600 other migrants were rescued by the Malaysian and Indonesian navies earlier this week.
Since November, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people have left Myanmar and Bangladesh. Many are from the Rohingya, a Muslim minority which has been persecuted by the Myanmar government.
For more on the exodus from Myanmar and Bangladesh, we turn now to Sarnata Reynolds, senior adviser on human rights at Refugees International, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of refugees.
So, just to bring our audience up to speed, who are these people? Why are they getting into boats and running from where they live today?
SARNATA REYNOLDS, Refugees International: So, the Rohingya are an ethnic minority in Myanmar. There are about 1.3 million of them in the country, although, over the last 2.5 years, 10 percent of them have fled on boats.
They have lived in the country for generations, some for hundreds of years. But the government has decided to persecute them and has, over the last three years, beaten them with impunity, put them into camps, told them that they have to call themselves Bengali or they will be detained, and otherwise basically left all humanitarian access out, so they can’t even get food or medical care or even go to school.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is ironic, because Myanmar has been kind of slowly taking steps towards opening economically, opening politically. But these — this particular sect of the population, it doesn’t seem like this is a priority at all.
SARNATA REYNOLDS: And, in fact, it’s gotten worse. Ironically, as the country has become more open to the international community, the state of the Rohingya has declined.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, tell us a bit about the journey. What is it like when they get on these boats?
SARNATA REYNOLDS: Well, I have actually talked to Rohingya about this passage. I met people both had been on the boats and been sent back, and people who were going to take the journey when I was there last fall.
And what they told me was that, oftentimes, they think they’re going to — they have gotten on a boat and they know they’re probably going to have to work when they land wherever they’re going to land. They hope for Malaysia at this point. They know that they will owe money for the passage, but they don’t — they hope that they won’t become the prey of traffickers. They know that’s a risk.
They also know that being detained upon arrival is a risk. But they’re so desperate to leave that they take the risk anyway. The journey itself is brutal. They don’t know how long they will be on the water. Even when they’re being fed, it’s not very much. And water, of course, is always an issue.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, just a couple of days ago, we had, I think, a Navy vessel from one of these countries actually restock them with supplies and then leave them at sea.
Why aren’t the countries taking them in? What’s their justification or rationale for the way that their immigration policy is?
SARNATA REYNOLDS: So, there’s no real good rationale for leaving people to die at sea.
The reason that countries are reacting in this way is because the Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar for decades. Bangladesh is the closest country. You can basically walk there from Rakhine State, where they’re from. But Bangladesh already has between 250,000 and 500,000 Rohingya there. And so it’s closed its border. It’s said no more.
Thailand was the place people went next. It’s the closest country after that. There’s already 100,000 Rohingya there. And Thailand again has closed its doors. It’s putting people in detention. And, as we saw over the last week or two, people end up in these terrible trafficking camps in the jungle and they’re left to die even there.
There’s been mass graves found there as well in the last few weeks. Malaysia and Indonesia basically say, this isn’t our problem. This is Myanmar’s problem. And they’re right. But, unfortunately, in the meantime, while this persecution continues, they have to protect these people.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what happens to the people who do make it somehow on land, who, whether illegally or not, get through? What’s their life like in these countries?
SARNATA REYNOLDS: It’s still, unfortunately, generally miserable, so most of them will probably be detained when they arrive if they’re picked up. Obviously, if they get through, they won’t be.
But they’re at the bottom of society. They have no documentation whatsoever. They are desperate to make any income. And so of course they’re going to take the hardest jobs. They’re going to be exploited. I talked to one man who told me that he — he had left so that he could some make money, so that his family who were in the camps in Myanmar have food and medicine, because they can’t get food and medicine.
And he said that basically he worked everywhere and anywhere he could, and it could have been the dirtiest, most dangerous work. It didn’t matter. It was work.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Sarnata Reynolds from Refugees International, thanks so much.
SARNATA REYNOLDS: Thank you.
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Sexism on Capitol Hill is by no means new. But a new survey from the National Journal published Thursday shows how widespread the problem still is.
The political magazine anonymously interviewed more than 500 women on the Hill from ages 23 to 60 about their experiences. Nearly 40 percent of the women interviewed were communications directors, and 31 percent held a chief of staff position. The responses were forthright.
“I found that I had previously been paid and was currently being offered to be paid almost exactly 76 cents to the dollar of what the male staffer whose role I would be taking on had been paid,” a woman who works in the halls of Congress said.
As for when being a woman helps, one said “Women are in demand. It seems like Republicans want a female spokesperson.” Another said, “In helping my male bosses message ‘women’s issues,’ I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to explain just how poorly their stances will play with women because I am a woman.”
At the same time, many recalled times when a lower-ranked male will be addressed for questions instead of a higher-ranked female. “Many times, if I attend a meeting — particularly on defense or national security issues — with one of our young male legislative aides, our guests will address their remarks to the male legislative aide, even though he is a junior staffer.”
Additionally, it’s not unusual for female staffers, even those in senior positions, to not be allowed to have one-on-one meetings with their male bosses, or even to drive with them, one woman said.
As for advice, female staffers encouraged finding mentors and banding with other women. One told her colleagues to use public salaries to their advantage: “Don’t ever take being paid less than a man is.”
Exactly half of respondents said they had experienced “some” sexism since working on the Hill, while a quarter said “very little,” and 14 percent said a lot. Ten percent of respondents said they experienced none at all. None of the women said there was no sexism on Capitol Hill.
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