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- 05/22/15--19:03: _Senate clears White...
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- 05/23/15--09:03: _Inside the legal cr...
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- 05/23/15--09:12: _Sliver of Clinton e...
- 05/23/15--09:16: _Cleveland officer f...
- 05/23/15--09:39: _Democrats’ next hea...
- 05/23/15--12:45: _Ireland says ‘yes’ ...
- 05/23/15--14:27: _California farmers ...
- 05/23/15--14:38: _What’s life like in...
- 05/23/15--15:12: _Protests simmer, bu...
- 05/24/15--08:40: _Perry takes hands-o...
- 05/24/15--08:41: _U.S. officials conc...
- 05/24/15--09:02: _Navy veteran skydiv...
- 05/24/15--10:00: _Oil-leaking pipelin...
- 05/24/15--10:04: _Gloria Steinem, pea...
- 05/24/15--11:38: _‘A Beautiful Mind’ ...
- 05/24/15--12:42: _Watch one of the U....
- 05/26/15--15:30: _Human trafficking c...
- 05/26/15--15:35: _Why is a billionair...
- 05/22/15--19:03: Senate clears White House-backed trade bill
- 05/23/15--08:54: Senate to reconsider Patriot Act extension after break
- 05/23/15--09:03: Inside the legal crusade against Colorado’s marijuana laws
- 05/23/15--09:12: Sliver of Clinton emails hint at lingering political trouble
- 05/23/15--09:39: Democrats’ next health care issue to tackle? ‘Underinsurance’
- 05/23/15--12:45: Ireland says ‘yes’ to legalizing gay marriage in historic referendum
- 05/23/15--15:12: Protests simmer, but Cleveland ‘very calm’ after cop’s acquittal
- 05/24/15--08:40: Perry takes hands-on approach in Iowa for 2016 presidential campaign
- 05/24/15--08:41: U.S. officials concerned about Iraq’s ‘will to fight’ after Ramadi
- 05/26/15--15:30: Human trafficking camps and mass graves discovered in Malaysia
- 05/26/15--15:35: Why is a billionaire climate activist bothering with GOP primaries?
WASHINGTON — In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation Friday night to strengthen the administration’s hand in global trade talks, clearing the way for a highly unpredictable summer showdown in the House.
The vote was 62-37 on the bill, which would let Obama complete trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. A total of 48 Republicans supported the bill, but only 14 the Senate’s 44 Democrats backed a president of their own party on legislation near the top of his second-term agenda.
A separate measure to prevent parts of the anti-terror Patriot Act from lapsing, and a bill to prevent a cutoff in federal highway funding also awaited action by lawmakers who covetously eyed a weeklong vacation — set to begin whenever the work was done.
Senate passage of the trade bill capped two weeks of tense votes and near-death experiences for legislation the administration hopes will help complete an agreement with Japan and 10 other countries in the Pacific region.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Obama’s indispensable ally in passing the bill, said it would create “new opportunities for bigger paychecks, better jobs, and a stronger economy.
“The tools it contains will allow us to knock down unfair foreign trade barriers that discriminate against American workers and products stamped “Made in the USA,” he said.
The House is expected to debate the issue as early as next month.
There, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, supports the bill. But dozens of majority Republicans currently oppose it, either out of ideological reasons or because they are loath to enhance Obama’s authority, especially at their own expense.
And Obama’s fellow Democrats show little inclination to support legislation that much of organized labor opposes.
In the run-up to a final Senate vote, Democratic supporters of the legislation were at pains to lay to rest concerns that the legislation, like previous trade bills, could be blamed for a steady loss of jobs.
“The Senate now has the opportunity to throw the 1990s NAFTA playbook into the dust bin of history,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. He referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed two decades ago, and a symbol to this day, fairly or not, of the loss of unemployment to a country with lax worker safety laws and low wages.
Wyden and others said this law had far stronger protections built into it.
One final attempt to add another one failed narrowly, 51-48 a few hours before the bill cleared.
It came on a proposal, by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who supported the trade bill, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who opposed it. They sought to made allegations of currency manipulation subject to the same “dispute settlement procedures” as other obligations under any trade deal.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned earlier that its approval could cause Obama to veto the legislation. The president has said it could cause the demise of the current round of talks with 11 other Pacific-area nations, and also could pose a threat to the monetary policy that is designed to help the U.S. economy run better.
Portman, who was U.S. trade representative under former President George W. Bush, scoffed at threats of a veto. “I don’t think so,” he said in remarks on the Senate floor. “I think he (Obama) understands the importance” of his ability to conclude trade deals without congressional changes.
An alternative proposal backed by the White House merely stressed the importance of U.S. negotiators seeking ways to end the practice of currency manipulation, which can lower the price of foreign-made goods and place American-made products at a competitive disadvantage. It cleared on a vote of 70-29.
To mollify Democrats, the bill also included $1.8 billion in retraining funds for American workers who lose their jobs as a result of exports. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said the program duplicated other federal efforts, but his attempt to strip out the funds was defeated, 53-35.
The political alignment on the Patriot Act legislation was different, with the administration and McConnell on different sides.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest prodded the Senate to accept a House-passed bill renewing anti-terrorism programs due to expire June 1. He said that to do otherwise would put at risk “the ability of our national security professionals to keep us safe.”
But the House bill included a provision to eliminate the National Security Agency’s ability to collect mass telephone records of Americans. Instead, the material would remain with phone companies, with government searches of the information allowed by court order on a case-by-case basis.
“The untried — and as of yet, nonexistent — bulk-collection system envisioned under that bill would be slower and more cumbersome than the one that currently helps keep us safe,” McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor. At worst, he added, “it might not work at all.”
The highway bill was the least controversial of the three on the Senate’s pre-vacation agenda, but only because lawmakers agreed in advance on a two-month extension of the current law. The House and Senate will need to return to the issue this summer.
Lawmakers whose time generally is scheduled far in advance adjusted as best they could as the Senate struggled with work put off until the last minute.
“It’s not the weather, it’s the Senate that’s the problem,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., hoping to make it home by Saturday night for a turn as pianist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
Associated Press reporter Ken Dilanian contributed to this story.
WASHINGTON — Unable to end a struggle over how to deal with government surveillance programs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a last-minute session to consider retaining the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of domestic phone records.
McConnell, R-Ky., warned against allowing the controversial NSA program and other key surveillance activities under the USA Patriot Act to expire at midnight May 31. He said he would call the Senate into session that day, a Sunday, and seek action before the deadline.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky’s other senator and a Republican presidential candidate, called the Senate’s failure to allow an extension of the surveillance programs during a late-night session Friday into Saturday a victory for privacy rights.
“We should never give up our rights for a false sense of security,” Paul said in a statement. “This is only the beginning – the first step of many. I will continue to do all I can until this illegal government spying program is put to an end, once and for all.”
By the time senators broke for the holiday, they had blocked a House-passed bill and several short-term extensions of the key provisions in the Patriot Act.
The main stumbling block was a House-passed provision to end the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone records. Instead, the records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review.
The White House has pressured the Senate to back the House bill, which drew an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote last week and had the backing of GOP leaders, Democrats and the libertarian-leaning members.
But the Senate blocked the bill on a vote of 57-42, short of the 60-vote threshold to move ahead. That was immediately followed by rejection of a two-month extension to the existing programs. The vote was 54-45, again short of the 60-vote threshold.
McConnell repeatedly asked for an even shorter renewal of current law, ticking down days from June 8 to June 2. But Paul and other opponents of the post-Sept. 11 law objected each time.
Officials say they will lose valuable surveillance tools if the Senate fails to go along with the House. But key Republican senators, including McConnell, oppose the House approach.
In the near term, the Justice Department has said the NSA would begin winding down its collection of domestic calling records this week if the Senate fails to act because the collection takes time to halt.
At issue is a section of the Patriot Act, Section 215, used by the government to justify secretly collecting the “to and from” information about nearly every American landline telephone call. For technical and bureaucratic reasons, the program was not collecting a large chunk of mobile calling records, which made it less effective as fewer people continued to use landlines.
When former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the program in 2013, many Americans were outraged that NSA had their calling records. President Barack Obama ultimately announced a plan similar to the USA Freedom Act and asked Congress to pass it. He said the plan would preserve the NSA’s ability to hunt for domestic connections to international plots without having an intelligence agency hold millions of Americans’ private records.
Since it gave the government extraordinary powers, Section 215 of the Patriot Act was designed to expire at midnight on May 31 unless Congress renews it.
Under the USA Freedom Act, the government would transition over six months to a system under which it queries the phone companies with known terrorists’ numbers to get back a list of numbers that had been in touch with a terrorist number.
But if Section 215 expires without replacement, the government would lack the blanket authority to conduct those searches. There would be legal methods to hunt for connections in U.S. phone records to terrorists, said current and former U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But those methods would not be applicable in every case.
Far less attention has been paid to two other surveillance authorities that expire as well. One makes it easier for the FBI to track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects who have no connection to a foreign power, and another allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continuously discard their cellphones in an effort to avoid surveillance.
The post Senate to reconsider Patriot Act extension after break appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
ALISON STEWART: Adam Hayward is the sheriff of Deuel County, Nebraska, which is right by the state line with Colorado. Sheriff Hayward says his work hasn’t been the same since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Keep it over there. It’s still illegal here. We don’t have a choice. We have to enforce the law.
ALISON STEWART: The sheriff says he’s arrested all sorts of people carrying marijuana back from Colorado along Interstate 76: teenagers making weekend runs to Denver and once a 67 year old grandmother. With each arrest the sheriff collects more and more marijuana. It is cataloged and then stored in the Deuel County jail cell.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Now we keep our evidence here.
ALISON STEWART: Which you can smell.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: All these trash bags, these totes, this, these were all out of one stop we had.
ALISON STEWART: That’s one stop?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: There were 75 pounds that this gentleman had.
ALISON STEWART: What?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: And they had, like I said, all these bags, all these totes were filled. These are essentially like a one pound package and there’s 75 of these packages, and this was out of one traffic stop.
ALISON STEWART: Wow, what did he get pulled over for?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Speeding.
ALISON STEWART: The sheriff says that batch of pot came from a marijuana growing facility in Colorado. He’s also recovered lots of edible products in cars he pulls over on I-76.
The number of marijuana cases is soaring. In 2011 when Colorado only sold medical cannabis, the sheriff stopped someone coming back from Colorado with pot less than once a week. Last year when recreational cannabis became legal, the sheriff’s county had more than one marijuana case a week.
Earlier this year, there were at least five cases a week.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: We just go out and stop cars for normal traffic violations. And it seems to be that there are so many people that are going over to get this you just can’t help but run into it just by stopping a few cars.
ALISON STEWART: What hasn’t changed is the number of officers working in Deuel County: three full time and two part time officers. The sheriff says his county is being stretched thin.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Well, we’re a small department. We usually have one person on at a time. So if they run across something then they’re having to call somebody out.
Well, then you’re paying overtime, and where we’ve had more arrests and more people in jail, you know, it takes more time in the court. You know, we’re having to transport prisoners back and forth, have more people in the courtroom for security.
So it ties up our time dealing with these versus, you know, we could be doing other things, patrolling in town.
ALISON STEWART: It takes up time and money. After an arrest, regardless of whether the person is from Nebraska, Colorado or elsewhere, the county picks up the bill for housing and medical treatment for those in custody, as well as the cost of hiring a public defender.
ALISON STEWART: Sheriff Hayward says his annual jail budget has almost tripled – up nearly 100,000 dollars since 2011.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: When you have something jump up $100,000, that’s a pretty big increase for 2,000 people to cover.
ALISON STEWART: How are you closing that gap financially?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Basically out here, I mean, all the tax revenue is generated from property taxes. So if the county needs more money they have to raise the property taxes, and, you know, it goes back to the taxpayers.
ALISON STEWART: Nebraska law ends here at the Colorado border. So while Sheriff Hayward is doing his job just over there in the Cornhusker state, over here the owner of the first dispensary by Colorado’s north border is doing his.
MIKE KOLLARITS: I’m currently employing nine people full time.
ALISON STEWART: Mike Kollartis owns a marijuana dispensary in Sedgwick, Colorado, a town about seven miles from the border. His store, Sedgwick Alternative Relief, which sells both medical and recreational marijuana, is newly renovated.
It stands out along this main street that has seen better days. It has become the main draw to this quiet town of 150 people.
MIKE KOLLARTIS: They’re pretty happy about the renovations I’ve done, the employment I’ve brought, the dollars, the tax revenue dollars are outstanding.
LUPE PENA CASIAS: Oh my goodness. It’s been good.
ALISON STEWART: Lupe Pena Casias owns a restaurant and inn across the street. She says the town has seen a huge financial boost because each time there’s a marijuana sale at the store, the town of Sedgwick gets a five dollar transaction fee. And as long as the dispensary is open, the customers keep coming.
LUPE PENA CASIAS: It’s busy, busy, busy over there and busy, busy, busy here.
ALISON STEWART: Employees at the store are trained to look out for customers who might break the law. The dispensary also displays signs detailing the marijuana laws of Colorado and neighboring states.
Yet there is still an influx of pot coming into Nebraska and Oklahoma. So the Attorneys General of both states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court in December, alleging that they, “have suffered direct and significant harm arising from the increased presence of Colorado-sourced marijuana.”
Nebraska and Oklahoma also contend that Colorado’s marijuana law “directly conflicts with federal law and undermines…the area of drug control and enforcement.”
And so both states are asking the Supreme Court to declare Colorado’s marijuana law unconstitutional and in doing so, undo Colorado’s marijuana regulatory system.
But this past March, Colorado asked the Supreme Court to drop the lawsuit. Washington and Oregon – states that also legalized the possession and sale of marijuana – immediately came out in support of Colorado’s request. The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to take up the case.
Bill Kelly is a reporter with Nebraska’s public radio station NET who’s been covering the issue. We video chatted with him because he’s based in the state’s capitol Lincoln, over 300 miles away from where we were reporting at the Nebraska/Colorado border.
ALISON STEWART: Medical marijuana, obviously, has been around for a long time in Colorado, and everyone saw that recreational was coming down the pipeline. Why didn’t Nebraska legislators get more involved in dealing with this porous border issue earlier?
BILL KELLY: I’m not certain Nebraska policy makers were really prepared for what was going to happen. You were starting to see more possession cases, you were starting to see more driving under the influence cases. But there was, I think, a little bit of the deer-in-the-headlights feeling that we don’t know what the appropriate response is.
ALISON STEWART: Some Nebraskan lawmakers believe that the appropriate response is to change the state’s marijuana laws. But there are many different ideas about what to do: one would be to legalize medical cannabis while another would increase the fines for edible marijuana products.
The penalties in Nebraska depend on how much pot is in your possession. A first time offense, under an ounce, is a $300 fine. More than an ounce but less than a pound is a misdemeanor with possible jail time and a fine. But more than a pound is a felony with a maximum five years in prison and or a $10,000 fine.
While Nebraska deliberates whether to allow marijuana or keep it out of the state, some residents like Jeremy Crary find themselves caught between the laws of Nebraska and Colorado.
Nine years ago Crary accidently shot himself in the head while playing with a gun. After painful surgeries and physical therapy, he spent years on more than a dozen medications and received regular shots of Botox for severe muscle spasms, but recently he started taking medical cannabis instead.
He says it’s the most effective in relieving his pain and spasms.
JEREMY CRARY: I just quit taking all my pain pills they prescribed me and stuff.
ALISON STEWART: Crary has made several trips across the border to marijuana dispensaries. He says the strains of marijuana he can legally purchase in Colorado are better for his pain than what he can get illegally in his area.
ALISON STEWART: What’s it like for you to knowingly break the law when you’re driving back from Colorado with some weed in your car heading home?
JEREMY CRARY: I mean, it makes you feel like a criminal. I hate it. I never know whether the next cop’s gonna be so I’m always looking around.
ALISON STEWART: We spoke to a sheriff of Deuel County which is one of those counties you have to drive through to get back this way. Are you concerned at all about being part of that group that’s breaking the law or that’s causing him and taxpayers in that town a problem?
JEREMY CRARY: No, not really.
ALISON STEWART: Why not?
JEREMY CRARY: I’m not looking to just get high. I’m not trying to bring it back and sell it. I’m just trying to relieve myself of having to use pharmaceuticals to have a decent life.
ALISON STEWART: If people are making the effort to actually go buy this legally in Colorado as opposed to breaking two laws in Nebraska, “I’m gonna buy it illegally and then I’m gonna use it illegally.” Shouldn’t there be some sort of elasticity to the punishment?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: No, I mean, it’s legal over there. That’s fine. If you wanna buy it over there, use it over there. Don’t come back here with it because it’s illegal.
ALISON STEWART: The sheriff says he’s seeing more DUIDs – driving under the influence of drugs. He’s also been visiting local schools with confiscated marijuana edibles to show teachers students might possess. And he expects he’ll spend more time on Interstate 76 until this unintended consequence is resolved.
The post Inside the legal crusade against Colorado’s marijuana laws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
STEPHEN FEE: It was just after 2pm on December 30, 2013 when the calls began streaming in. Two trains had collided just half a mile outside Casselton, North Dakota, one loaded with grain, the other with crude oil.
Volunteer fire chief Tim McLean headed straight to the scene.
TIM MCLEAN, CASSELTON FIRE CHIEF: Then I kind of knew, this was going to be a big one, the way it was described on the pagers.
STEPHEN FEE: Community banker Bernie Sinner was meeting with a client in his office. His window is just 50 feet from the rail track.
BERNIE SINNER, FIRST STATE BANK OF NORTH DAKOTA: You could see plumes of black smoke rising pretty high above the tree line, above the buildings that are across the street from us.
STEPHEN FEE: From the town’s main intersection, witnesses could hear explosions as the railcars blew apart, sending fireballs into the sky. Ed McConnell was mayor at the time.
CASSELTON, N.D. MAYOR ED MCCONNELL: They evacuated the southwest corner of town, the part of the town that was most affected by it.
STEPHEN FEE: But once the wind turned, officials put the entire town of 2,500 under a voluntary evacuation order. Some 400 thousand gallons of crude leaked from 18 ruptured cars. The fire burned for a full day.
TIM MCLEAN, CASSELTON FIRE CHIEF: There’d be no battling this fire. Even if you had an endless supply of water.
STEPHEN FEE: Both trains were operated by BNSF Railway — and for the record, BNSF is a NewsHour funder.
No one was killed or injured. But the accident hit close to home for the state’s governor, Jack Dalrymple — he grew up in Casselton.
NORTH DAKOTA GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE: I couldn’t believe it. I was having dinner. And all of a sudden somebody sent me a video on my phone. And I said, ‘Casselton?’ I said, ‘I can’t believe that.’
STEPHEN FEE: What did it tell you about what’s going on on the rails here in North Dakota?
NORTH DAKOTA GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE: Well, it tells me and I think everybody the same thing. You know, what if that happened you know in — in a city or even in the middle of a town? You know, it could be really catastrophic.
STEPHEN FEE: As Mayor McConnell says, his town dodged a bullet. But months earlier, a community in Canada wasn’t nearly so lucky. On July 6, 2013, a similar train, also loaded with crude from the Bakken shale formation, derailed and exploded in the center of Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying much of the town center.
Seven years ago, US railways carried just 9,500 carloads of crude each year. But today, as huge amounts of oil are produced in states like North Dakota far from traditional pipeline infrastructure, that figure has jumped to half a million.
And after a handful of oil train derailments already in 2015, regulators are taking notice, enacting a raft of new regulations they hope will prevent future accidents.
DON MORRISON, DAKOTA RESOURCE COUNCIL: It’s just not safe.
STEPHEN FEE: Don Morrison runs the Dakota Resource Council, a consortium of 700 landowners, ranchers, and business people in the state.
DON MORRISON, DAKOTA RESOURCE COUNCIL: They didn’t look down the road to figure out how are we going to get this to market in a safe way.
STEPHEN FEE: Most of the roughly nine million barrels of oil produced each day in the US travels by pipeline – but 70 percent of the million barrels coming out of North Dakota each day goes by rail.
That’s because most of the country’s refining capacity is far from North Dakota. That means North Dakota crude has to travel hundreds of miles to be processed into gasoline for cars or fuel for jet engines.
And while pipelines require new construction and regulatory approval — the long-stalled Keystone XL a case in point — freight rail already crisscrosses North Dakota and the country.
RON NESS, NORTH DAKOTA PETROLEUM COUNCIL: Historically, you would have never thought oil would travel by rail in this day and age.
STEPHEN FEE: Ron Ness heads the North Dakota Petroleum Council. It’s a group that represents the state’s oil industry and supports hauling oil by rail.
How safe is it?
RON NESS, NORTH DAKOTA PETROLEUM COUNCIL: Well safety is certainly the number one aspect that I think all aspects of the transportation industry are focused on. And at 99.7 percent of the time, you know, rail movements get to their destinations safely.
STEPHEN FEE: Actually, the rail industry says its safety record is even better — but just the tiny chance of a catastrophe makes policymakers like the governor uneasy, especially with North Dakota’s major cities and towns situated directly on the rails.
NORTH DAKOTA GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE: Where we you know never remembered any kind of an accident like this before, now if we’re sending ten or 20 or 30 times as much oil down the track, that obviously increases the chances of an accident occurring. And that becomes sort of a new reality that everybody has to get used to.
STEPHEN FEE: Part of the concern has centered on the type of railcars predominantly used to haul oil across the nation.
Since 1991 the National Transportation Safety Board has warned that railcars like these, DOT 111s, are more prone to rupture in the case of an accident. But it wasn’t until a 2009 derailment in Illinois that the railway industry began instituting its own, more robust safety standards to strengthen cars like these.
STEPHEN FEE: After months of consideration, federal regulators this May made the decision to phase out or retrofit all oil-carrying DOT 111s by 2018, and new cars must be built to strict new standards to prevent rupture.
ANTHONY FOXX, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Our department’s rule is a package of new, interdependent regulations that all come together to improve safety. They apply to what are our rule defines as high-hazard flammable trains. And they also build on the more than two dozen actions we have already taken to enhance the safe transport of crude.
STEPHEN FEE: All told, the new regulations are likely to cost the rail industry some $2.5 billion dollars.
But even with new, stronger cars on the rails, critics argue North Dakota crude itself may be more flammable than other types of oil, potentially leading to more dangerous accidents.
Again, Dakota Resource Council’s Don Morrison.
DON MORRISON, DAKOTA RESOURCE COUNCIL: Going through people, right next to people’s houses and businesses. It’s, it’s dangerous. And they’ve got to be careful.
STEPHEN FEE: With just over 60 inspectors nationwide, the DOT’s hazardous materials regulator has launched routine and surprise inspections to ensure oil is being properly tested for flammability.
The DOT has put oil companies on notice. Last year they levied fines against Marathon and Hess for allegedly assigning their oil to the wrong safety category.
What is it that — that is distinct about this kind of oil that’s coming out of the ground?
RON NESS: Well, we don’t think the Bakken crude oil is that distinct from any other high-quality, light sweet crude oil across America like WTI or Louisiana Sweet.
STEPHEN FEE: To prove that point, the North Dakota Petroleum Council last May issued its own study, which it says shows oil from the region “does not pose a greater risk to transport by rail than other transportation fuels.”
Early last year, North Dakota’s Republican Party chairman suggested oil development may be moving too quickly. Even with the fastest growing economy in the country, critics say it’s time for a slowdown in the state’s energy development. But the governor thinks that’s unwise.
NORTH DAKOTA GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE: Ultimately we do have to look at the statistics of everything. You know, we would not– shut down the airline industry because there was one airplane crash. And we don’t close our interstate highways because there’s a car accident.
STEPHEN FEE: Meanwhile mile-long oil trains rumble through towns like Casselton. And despite reassurances, former Mayor Ed McConnell is worried.
CASSELTON, N.D. MAYOR ED MCCONNELL: It’s a mechanical system, and any time it’s used more, there’s going to be more failures. It’s just inevitable.
STEPHEN FEE: Oil production in North Dakota is expected to climb 70 percent by 2020, and most of that oil will travel by rail.
The post Highlighted by hazards, new rules aim to tackle the safety of oil trains appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received information on her private email account about the deadly attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that was later classified “secret” at the request of the FBI, underscoring lingering questions about how responsibly she handled sensitive information on a home server.
The nearly 900 pages of her correspondence released Friday are only a sliver of the more than 55,000 pages of emails Clinton has turned over to the State Department, which had its plan to release them next January rejected this week by a federal judge.
Instead, the judge ordered the agency to conduct a “rolling production” of the records. Along with a Republican-led House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, the slow drip of emails will likely keep the issue of how Clinton, the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, used a personal email account while serving as the nation’s top diplomat alive indefinitely.
Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said that the released emails were incomplete, adding that it “strains credibility” to view them as a thorough record of Clinton’s tenure.
The prospect for political complication in Clinton’s choice to use a personal email account, rather than one issued by the government, was evident in the messages released Friday. They included several that were deemed sensitive but unclassified, contained details about her daily schedule and held information – censored in the documents as released – about the CIA that the government is barred from publicly disclosing.
Taken together, the correspondence provides examples of material considered to be sensitive that Clinton received on the account run out of her home. She has said the private server had “numerous safeguards.”
Campaigning in New Hampshire, Clinton said Friday she was aware that the FBI now wanted some of the email to be classified, “but that doesn’t change the fact all of the information in the emails was handled appropriately.”
Asked if she was concerned it was on a private server, she replied, “No.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “It was not classified at the time. The occurrence of subsequent upgrade does not mean anyone did anything wrong.”
It’s not clear if Clinton’s home computer system used encryption software to communicate securely with government email services. That would have protected her communications from the prying eyes of foreign spies, hackers, or anyone interested on the Internet.
Last year, Clinton gave the State Department 55,000 pages of emails that she said pertained to her work as secretary sent from her personal address. Only messages related to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were released by the department on Friday. The 296 emails had already been turned over to the House Benghazi committee.
A Nov. 18, 2012, message about arrests in Libya was not classified at the time, meaning no laws were violated, but was upgraded from “unclassified” to “secret” on Friday at the request of the FBI to redact information that could contain information damaging to national security or foreign relations.
Twenty-three words were redacted from the message, which detailed reports of arrests in Libya of people who might have connections to the attack, Harf said.
The redacted portion appears to relate to people who provided information about the alleged suspects to the Libyans. That part of the email had been categorized by the State Department as “NOFORN,” meaning that foreign nationals weren’t allowed to read it, including close U.S. allies.
The message, originally from Bill Roebuck, then director of the Office of Maghreb Affairs, was forwarded to Clinton by her deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, with the comment: “fyi.”
No other redactions were made to the collection of Benghazi-related emails for classification reasons, officials said. They added that the Justice Department had not raised classification concerns about the now-redacted 1 1/2 lines in the Nov. 18 email when the documents were turned over to the Benghazi committee. The committee retains an unredacted copy of the email, the officials said.
Clinton also appeared to send and receive protected information about the CIA, which was withheld on Friday because the State Department said federal law prevented its disclosure. The department did not offer a detailed description of what it was withholding, such as a name or other sensitive information.
A number of the messages were marked with codes indicating that the information had been censored for reasons related to the U.S. intelligence community, law enforcement or personal privacy – a process that happened after they’d already been circulated through Clinton’s home server.
Much of the correspondence concerned the mundane matters of high-level government service, press clippings, speech drafts, and coordination of calls with other top officials as well as chit-chat about shopping between Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin.
“What a wonderful, strong and moving statement by your boss,” Christian Brose, a top adviser to Sen. John McCain, writes in an email to Sullivan, forwarded to Clinton just after Stevens’ death. “Please tell her how much Sen. McCain appreciated it. Me too.”
There are repeated warnings of the unrest in Libya, though Clinton has said she was never personally involved in questions of security in Benghazi before the attack. One message describes a one-day trip by Stevens in March 2011 to “get a sense of the situation on the ground” and prepare for a 30-day stay in the future. A request for Defense Department support was made, the email adds, but no approval had yet been received. Stevens was killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
As early as April 2011, Clinton was forwarded a message sent to her staff that the situation in the country had worsened to the point “where Stevens is considering departure from Benghazi,” The email was marked “Importance: High.”
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Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter on Saturday in the 2012 shooting deaths of an unarmed man and woman.
The verdict read by Judge John P. O’Donnell came after a four-week bench trial on two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, the Associated Press reported.
Judge O’Donnell said Officer Brelo acted reasonably in shooting the two suspects while standing on the hood of their car and firing through the windshield after it was surrounded, Reuters reported.
In 2012, after receiving reports of gunfire coming from the couple’s car, a high-speed, multi-city chase that originated in downtown Cleveland ensued. Thirteen police officers surrounded the vehicle in the end, firing 137 rounds.
Russell was struck 24 times and Williams 23.
No weapon was found along the route or in the car. During the trial a forensic mechanic testified that the couple’s 1979 Chevrolet Malibu was prone to backfiring.
In July, five police supervisors indicted on misdemeanor dereliction of duty charges will go on trial. A total of 64 officers have been disciplined in the incident, according to Reuters.
Protests in Cleveland began shortly after the acquittal announcement.
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WASHINGTON — A different health care issue has emerged for Democrats, in sync with the party’s pitch to workers and middle-class voters ahead of next year’s elections.
It’s not the uninsured, but rather the problem of high out-of-pocket costs for people already covered.
Democrats call it “underinsurance.”
After paying premiums, many low- and middle-income patients still face high costs when trying to use their coverage. There’s growing concern that the value of a health insurance card is being eaten away by rising deductibles, the amount of actual medical costs that patients pay each year before coverage kicks in.
“I think it’s going to be the next big problem,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., a congressional leader on health care.
“We’ve got some 17 million more people covered … but they can’t access the care they seem to be entitled to,” McDermott said. “It costs too much to use the care. That’s the deceptive part about it.”
Since virtually all U.S. residents are now required to have health insurance by President Barack Obama’s health care law, McDermott said Democrats have a responsibility to make sure coverage translates to meaningful benefits.
Several liberal-leaning organizations have recently focused on the issue.
-A Commonwealth Fund study found that 31 million adults were underinsured last year. Half of them had problems with medical bills or medical debt. Seven million were underinsured due to high deductibles alone. “The steady growth in the proliferation and size of deductibles threatens to increase underinsurance in the years ahead,” the study concluded.
-A study by the advocacy group Families USA found that one-quarter of the people with individual health insurance policies went without care in 2014 because they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs. The study singled out high deductibles.
-The Center for American Progress, a think tank often aligned with the White House, found that employers have been shifting a disproportionate burden of health care costs onto workers. As a result, the report said, employees and their families have not shared in the benefits of a prolonged lull in medical inflation. The group recommended several policy changes, including rebates for workers under certain conditions.
“Cost shifting is part of what makes people underinsured,” said Topher Spiro, vice president for health policy at the center. “There’s an effort to raise the issue generally, and there’s general recognition that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.”
The insurance industry says the focus on deductibles and cost sharing is misplaced. It says the real problem is that the United States pays too much for medical care. Deductibles can be a legitimate tool for employers and insurers to steer patients to doctors and hospitals providing high-quality care at a reasonable cost. Some plans set lower amounts for services provided within a network.
“It can’t be looked at in isolation,” said Karen Ignagni, outgoing head of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group.
Some consumers may prefer a high-deductible plan in exchange for lower monthly premiums, she added. “They are making a conscious decision to make that trade-off.”
A wide body of research shows that out-of-pocket costs discourage people from getting medical care, but there is no agreed-upon standard of what constitutes “underinsurance.”
The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that aims to improve the health care system, defines underinsurance as out-of-pocket costs that add up to 10 percent or more of household income, in most cases, or a deductible that amounts to 5 percent of income or higher.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act set annual limits on out-of-pocket costs for most insurance plans, currently $6,600 for an individual policy and $13,200 for a family plan. It’s better than no limit, but a stretch for many families.
Annual deductibles for employer plans averaged about $1,200 for employee-only coverage last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Deductibles can be much higher for plans sold through the health law’s insurance exchanges, averaging about $2,500 for single coverage under a midrange silver plan. But more than half of exchange customers receive additional government subsidies to reduce their cost sharing.
Democrats need an election-year health care narrative about how to improve Obama’s law, said Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“The issue that has come up repeatedly is the impact that high deductibles are having on moderate income people,” he said.
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Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage by popular vote on Saturday in a landmark victory for the gay-rights movement.
After nearly 2 million Irish voters cast their ballots, 62.1 percent said “yes” to Friday’s referendum to amend the country’s constitution, the Associated Press reported.
“With today’s vote we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said before a crowd Saturday evening.
Bursts of jubilation from thousands of Irish citizens rang out at the official results center in Dublin Castle, as advocates and revelers celebrated the nation’s watershed moment, according to news reports.
“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate,” Leo Varadkar, an Irish Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic constitution, told the Associated Press.
“That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality, so it’s a very proud day to be Irish,” he said.
While 19 other countries have legalized same-sex marriage, Ireland is the first to approve it in a national popular vote. Analysts credited the nation’s strong approval to campaigners’ use of social media that mobilized young voters to back equal marriage rights, the AP reported.
“The amount of people who came out to vote is just such an emotional thing for us,” Fred Schelbaum, 48, told Reuters. “Up to now a lot of gay people felt they were tolerated in Ireland,” he said standing with his civil partner Feargal Scott, 43, who he said he plans to marry.
“Now we know that it’s much more than that,” he said.
While homosexuality in Ireland was only decriminalized in 1993 and many still oppose same-sex marriage, the passing referendum added the language, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex,” to the country’s constitution.
That a referendum would take place at all was announced by government officials in November 2013. This February, it was announced the vote would happen on May 22.
“A lot of my family have voted no in this campaign so at a personal level it has been very traumatic,” Jean Webster, 54, told Reuters. “I needed to wake up this morning to have thousands of people affirm my rights when certain people in my family weren’t.”
“We woke up today to a new Ireland. The real Irish Republic that I have dreamed of my whole life,” she said.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: A group of farmers in California are making an unprecedented offer to help the state fight a record-breaking drought.They’ve agreed to give up a quarter of their water this season.
Joining me now is Sacramento Bee reporter Dale Kasler with more on the crisis.
So, why strike such a deal and who are the players involved?
DALE KASLER, THE SACRAMENTO BEE: Well, Hari, it’s a group of farmers in the Delta Region, which is an agricultural region southwest of Sacramento. They were faced with severe water cuts.
As you know, in the fourth year of drought, the state has been cutting water use in the cities and suburbs and among many of the farmers.
And now, they are going after the farmers with — with the so-called senior water rights, water rights that were thought to be untouchable, and they came to these farmers and they struck a deal.
The growers believe that the state didn’t necessarily have the legal right to take any of their water, but rather than fight it out, they agreed to a compromise.
SREENIVASAN: So, what’s their incentive in going this?
Giving up either a quarter of their land or letting some of their fields go fallow or a decrease in their consumption by a quarter?
KASLER: Well, their incentive is if they don’t cut a deal, they could get dinged even worse.
It is not exactly sure but the state is serious about cutting back water deliveries, and who knows how much water he could end up losing if they don’t make a deal.
This is a voluntary program, the individual farmers can either opt in or opt out. And those who opt out, who knows how much of a cut they could be facing?
SREENIVASAN: So, if it’s voluntary, how does the state enforce these cuts?
KASLER: Spot checks. They’re going to get satellite imagery to see if people are fallowing fields like they say they will.
And the state also believes there will be a certain amount of peer pressure that if your neighbor said he was going to fallow his field and not divert water out of the — out of the rivers, that they think that people will go along.
They believe they’ll get a lot of cooperation on this.
SREENIVASAN: So, what’s the possible impact of this deal?
You mentioned that this was a group of farmers. How much water does their consumption represent of all the farmers in California?
KASLER: Well, in the grand scheme of things, not a lot.
These farmers in the Delta Region represent, oh, something less than 10 percent of all the irrigated farmland in California, and they are talking about giving up 25 percent of their water.
So, as you can see, it’s not as if California solves this water problem with a stroke of a pen.
Nevertheless, this is very important because it is a compromise, and water and compromise don’t often go together in California.
You have to understand, even if in a normal year, a wet year, there is litigation over water in California.
It’s such a precious commodity. There is always a tug-of-war going on over water supplies.
There are entire law firms in Sacramento and elsewhere that are solely devoted to litigating water law cases.
So, the fact that a significant group of farmers have stepped up and offered a compromise solution is a pretty big deal in and of itself and the state officials are hoping that this leads to further compromise around the state as the water regulators start to go after these senior water rights holders around the state.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee — thanks so much.
KASLER: Thank you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Returning to Iraq and Syria and ISIS gains in the region, I’m joined now from Baghdad via Skype, Washington Post reporter Loveday Morris.
So, let’s start in Palmyra. It gets a lot of press because it’s a U.N. World Heritage site, but there are also people and human beings there. What’s life like now that ISIS is in control?
LOVEDAY MORRIS, WASHINGTON POST: The Syrian regime actually said that when they withdrew, they allowed the civilians out, but talking to people there, that’s not the case. There are still a lot of civilians trapped there.
As soon as ISIS came in, they made announcement from the loud speakers of the mosque for people to hand over collaborators and there were bodies found in the street, of people who were suspected to be opposition.
SREENIVASAN: And any word that the relics in the U.N. World Heritage sites are in imminent danger?
Have there been any videos of them destroying artifacts?
MORRIS: No, not as of yet. And speaking to people in Palmyra, they said that ISIS aren’t really in that heritage site yet.
They are much more focused on the weapons depots and generally securing the town and getting a military grip.
If you look at other areas that they have taken in Iraq where they destroyed antiquities, it’s not been for a few weeks at least and sometimes even months after they have taken areas that they have actually destroyed this cultural heritage.
You sometimes notice that maybe when — they’re very media-savvy, when the story dies down, they’ll release a video of them doing something like destroying a heritage site.
So, it’s possible we won’t see any of that for a while, but obviously, there’s great concern for the heritage.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Loveday Morris of The Washington Post — joining us via Skype from Baghdad — thanks so much.
MORRIS: Thank you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more on the verdict, I’m joined from Cleveland by Plain Dealer reporter, Mark Naymik.
So, of the people you have talked to and the places you visited today that knew about the verdict, what was their reaction?
MARK NAYMIK, THE PLAIN DEALER: You know, some is — well, we expected it.
Now, they may expect it because some — you know, identified their distrust of the justice system. Others, you know, thought, well, OK, that’s what the evidence showed.
But no one was surprised. No one voiced that to me.
They are disappointed, they are frustrated, they use it as a point to talk about larger issues in the city, obviously economic issues, crime, and people want more attention paid to them and their issues. But nobody said to me, wow, I’m shocked.
SREENIVASAN: The mayor, Frank Jackson, called this a defining moment for the city.
This is a city that’s still on edge from Tamir Rice. There were scheduled protests for that today, right?
NAYMIK: Yes. And, in fact, that is just one of several more major decisions that I think will test both the police response, the organized demonstration response, and kind of the residents patience.
Tamir Rice, over the last few weeks, that issue and today is the six-month anniversary since he was shot, that’s why there were scheduled protests.
That really seems to connect a little bit more than this Brelo verdict, which now dates back to 2012.
Again, two people died, many people angry about it but Tamir Rice — the idea of 12-year-old boy, many people knew him, he was from a neighborhood on the west side — that one really has the emotional bunch that I think with this since the police chase and the shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams is the one that could spark a stronger reaction. But right now, it’s very calm.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. So, the chief of police said they are already planning to change their policy on high speed pursuits.
NAYMIK: And they have shown that in the last two weeks. We had a high speed chase that was called off and there were some criticism from the police union about that, saying that, you know, we let these people go away, we were get away.
This was managed well. Nobody was at risk. They did get license plate information and the next day, they arrested that suspect.
The city has been making that message a lot, but they have already changed policy, in reaction to that 2012 police chase that ended in the shooting.
They are already talking about the changes they are making with so-called community policing and trying to connect with the residents — very important message to be sent right now at a time when people again are on edge and potentially ready to react.
One of several — we have a department of justice consent decree that is being negotiated right now that should be done, in the next month or so.
That will have a reaction. The Tamir Rice investigation is still not completed. That will have a reaction and whether they charge another potential flash point.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Mark Naymik, reporter from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, joining us via Skype — thanks so much.
NAYMIK: Thank you for having me.
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Catherine Lucey from the Associated Press also contributed to this report.
LE MARS, Iowa — Rick Perry is working his way through small-town Iowa one handshake, bear hug and backslap at a time.
The early, hands-on approach from the 2016 presidential prospect contrasts with his failed bid four years ago, when he entered the race relatively late and stumbled in the debates. The former Texas governor says he has more policy knowledge under his belt buckle now and more time for the early states.
“Nobody came to Iowa more in 2014 than I did,” Perry said after speaking to about 20 people at a Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center this past week. “And I will suggest to you that will probably be the case in 2015. If somebody is going to spend more time in Iowa than I am, they better bring their lunch.”
Although politicking in diners and pizza places is hardly new in the leadoff caucus state, Perry has been notably active in some of Iowa’s more out-of-the-way places, which get less frequent traffic from presidential hopefuls. Since 2014, he has made more than a dozen visits to Iowa.
“I think it’s a good strategy,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, noting that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum employed a similar tactic in 2012 and narrowly won the caucuses. “It’s not a bad strategy to be kind of under the radar and just kind of build.”
Perry, 65, has also been spending time in other early voting states, such as New Hampshire and South Carolina. He says he will announce on June 4 whether he’s running for president again.
Perry launched his 2012 presidential bid with fanfare and high expectations, but quickly went from being a front-runner to an also-ran because of gaffes and poor debate performances. This time, Perry is hoping his energetic pursuit of each vote will help people forget his “oops” moment, when he was unable to recall the third of three federal agencies he said he would close if elected president.
Perry’s aides have said he wasn’t prepared when he entered the last presidential race and have blamed his debate problems on a busy schedule and pain medication he was taking after back surgery. After finishing fifth in the Iowa caucuses and sixth in New Hampshire’s primary, Perry quit the race.
“I hadn’t spent the time and the preparations that I should have,” he says now.
During stops in conservative northwestern Iowa, Perry boasted about his record as the longest-serving governor in Texas history, citing his state’s low taxes, limited regulation and caps on civil lawsuit damages. An animated speaker, Perry gestures dramatically as he talks about his farm upbringing, military record and experience in office.
“I don’t just talk about `here’s what I would do,’ but I say `here’s what I’ve done,'” he said. “This is going to be a show-me, don’t-tell-me election. Executive experience has been what’s been missing out of the White House.”
Texas has a booming population and posted solid job growth during much of Perry’s three terms as governor, from December 2000 to January of this year. But it has the nation’s highest rate of residents without health insurance and the economy has been hurt in recent months by falling oil prices.
One shadow hanging over him this time: Perry is facing a criminal abuse-of-power indictment in Austin for threatening in 2013 to veto state funding for public corruption prosecutors, then doing so.
If he runs, Perry will enter a race packed with contenders, some of them also former or current governors.
Still, former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn saw opportunity for Perry in the state.
“The good news is, Iowans are going to give Gov. Perry a second chance, and he’s doing all the right things,” Strawn said. “The bad news is, it’s a stronger field of options than four years ago.”
As Perry packs in appearances in early voting states, he’s also quietly expanding his national network, with an advisory board of donors and Republican officials. Many are prominent GOP names from Texas, but the board also has people from financial centers around the country.
Several Iowa Republicans said they were impressed by Perry, though not ready to commit.
“He’s got a great personality,” said Leann Bohlken, 56, of Le Mars, who chatted with Perry in an ice cream parlor. “He didn’t have to share a personal story with me, but he did.”
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WASHINGTON — The Islamic State group’s takeover of Ramadi is stark evidence that Iraqi forces lack the “will to fight,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, in the harshest assessment yet from a high-ranking Obama administration official of the U.S. effort to bolster Iraqi forces to retake their territory from extremist militants.
Iraqi soldiers “vastly outnumbered” their opposition in the capital of Anbar province but quickly withdrew from the city in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, Carter said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The interview aired on Sunday.
The Iraqis left behind large numbers of U.S.-supplied vehicles, including several tanks.
“What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” Carter said. “They were not outnumbered; in fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”
Iraqi lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the parliamentary defense and security committee, called Carter’s comments “unrealistic and baseless,” in an interview with The Associated Press.
“The Iraqi army and police did have the will to fight IS group in Ramadi, but these forces lack good equipment, weapons and aerial support,” he said. “The U.S. officials should provide Iraq with advanced weapons as soon as possible instead of making such statements.”
The fall of Ramadi last Sunday has sparked questions about the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s approach in Iraq, a blend of retraining and rebuilding the Iraqi army, prodding Baghdad to reconcile with the nation’s Sunnis and bombing Islamic State group targets from the air without committing American ground combat troops.
Carter defended the use of U.S. airstrikes as an effective part of the fight against the Islamic State group, but he said they are not a replacement for Iraqi ground forces willing to defend their country.
“We can participate in the defeat of ISIL,” he said. “But we can’t make Iraq … a decent place for people to live – we can’t sustain the victory, only the Iraqis can do that and, in particular in this case, the Sunni tribes to the West.”
Over the past year defeated Iraq security forces have repeatedly left U.S.-supplied military equipment on the battlefield, which the U.S. has targeted in subsequent airstrikes against Islamic State forces. The Pentagon this past week estimated that when Iraqi troops abandoned Ramadi, they left behind a half-dozen tanks, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carriers and about 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees.
Carter did not discuss any new U.S. tactics in the fight against Islamic State group.
U.S. lawmakers from both parties criticized the administration’s strategy Sunday, urging a more aggressive posture.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, an Iraq war veteran, cast doubt on the U.S. preference to deal only with the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, calling instead for directly arming both the Kurds in the north and Sunni tribes that have asked for help in beating back the Islamic State group.
“These Iraqi security forces have cut and run,” Gabbard said. “They cut and ran and dropped their weapons when they were faced with their first real battle with ISIS.”
She criticized Baghdad’s close links with Iran-backed Shiite militias that have declared themselves enemies of the United States.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., called for the president to send in U.S. ground troops, a recommendation increasingly made by Republicans.
“We’re not really engaged in this fight,” he said. “This is a cancer that’s growing in the Middle East. This is now a house on fire in a densely packed neighborhood, where it’s going to extend to other places.”
Rep. Mack Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would prefer not to send U.S. ground forces, but said the U.S. has been “tying its hands” with an overly timid policy.
Even Obama administration allies were urging the president to do more.
“I think there is a major hesitation to get too deeply involved in Iraq again,” said Michele Flournoy, a former senior Obama administration defense official. But, she said, “Particularly given the flow of foreign fighters…this is a terrorist problem that effects, us and we have to take a more forward leaning posture.”
Gabbard, Kinzinger and Flournoy spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union;” Thornberry appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”
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On November 17, 2012, 88-year-old Peter Bielskis, a World War II veteran, was getting ready to do something he’d never had to do in battle: jump out of a plane.
“I always seen these people that jump out of airplanes and I thought they were nuts, because they’d leave a perfectly good airplane just to get outside it,” Bielskis told PBS NewsHour. “I guess I’m one of the nuts now.”
He was nervous, even though by age 19 he had flown in 27 combat missions as a member of the Eighth Air Force, 384th Bomb Group. But when the time came, he found that the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team gave him the confidence to jump.
“The fella said, ‘I’ll count to three and then you’ll jump.’ I never heard the three,” Bielskis said. “It was fantastic. I never realized, it’s so quiet, going down there nice and easy. And the best part about it when I got down there were the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders waiting for me to come down.”
Bielskis wasn’t the only veteran tandem skydiving that day. He was joined by veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a 9/11 first responder.
The event was organized by Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, a 32-year-old Navy veteran of the Iraq War, who released “Sons of the Flag”, a book compiling the stories of all the veterans he’s jumped with, earlier this month.
The jumps, as well as the book were meant to publicize a non-profit of the same name that Parrott started to raise awareness for veterans who suffered burns from combat.
Like some of the vets he’s jumped with, Parrott is a burn survivor.
While serving in Iraq in 2005, Parrott was riding atop a Humvee when an improvised explosive device (IED) was launched and exploded into his vehicle, throwing him into the air, earning him the nickname, “Birdman”.
He awoke burning; his face and arms on fire, which left first and second-degree burns. Three other soldiers in his unit also suffered burns that caused lifelong injuries.
In the United States, about 450,000 people suffer burns each year, but there are only 123 burn care facilities inside the nearly 6,000 hospitals throughout the country, according to the American College of Surgeons Health Policy Research Institute.
The Sons of the Flag organization helps families of burn victims from the military and elsewhere by supporting them through their loved ones initial hospitalization and arranging hotel stays, parking passes and toiletry bags. It even set up a burn surgeon fellowship program.
On Monday, Parrott will serve as the grand marshal for the 91st Memorial Day parade in Dearborn, Michigan, his home state. PBS NewsHour caught up with him to talk about his experiences.
— JGLee (@Jennifer_G_Lee) August 1, 2013
NewsHour: Why did you decide to go skydiving with these veterans?
Ryan “Birdman” Parrot: To me, it’s taking it back to World War II, when the paratroopers first invaded, when the airborne team jumped in. Every time I see the picture, it’s very iconic. It’s just a bunch of soldiers that are ready to go, and each one of them is standing behind the other. It kind of signifies that the soldiers have each other’s backs.
NH: How did you find veterans willing to jump out of a plane?
RP: The first initial deal was going to be a bunch of veterans jumping out of the plane. Then when I had the idea to go back to the beginning, we needed to recruit a soldier from every war. I didn’t know if it could be done.
At first, I started off with the younger guys I knew would jump from a plane. I started recruiting Afghanistan and Iraq soldiers who served in these conflicts. And then I started dating it back. I knew a Green Beret from Vietnam, Tony Bandiera. I called him and he said “I’m in.” These are men who still to this day uphold the traditions of the U.S. military.
World War II, Korea and Desert Storm were very difficult. I didn’t know anybody from Desert Storm, so I called all my buddies in the military. We found everybody minus World War II.
NH: How did you finally get a World War II veteran?
RP: I had about five different veterans from World War II that I called and I wasn’t making any headway. I went online and Googled a bunch of World War II veterans’ names within the Texas area, and we started cold calling them via the White Pages. I went through about 30 to 35 soldiers; every one of them told me no. But hearing their stories was the most inspiring part of this thing and it kept me going.
I called a good friend of mine, Gary Tanner, out of the American Legion in Michigan and he said “give me an hour.” Sure enough, Tanner came through and he found me a gentleman by the name of Peter Bielskis, who served as a B17 gunner in World War II, and he did 27 combat missions successfully and never jumped out of a plane in his life.
NH: In doing work for your foundation, what have you learned about burn treatment in the U.S.?
RP: Out of the initial patients and the families that we’ve met, they always ask the same question: Where do we go? There is not a national pipeline for burns. People don’t know how to navigate that terrain.
The injury is a lifelong injury. So that’s why we call ourselves the Sons of the Flag, the resource for burn survivors, so we can be that advocate, that resource, to help them navigate that terrain, get them to the appropriate place and have their back while they are going through this.
NH: In the book you share the stories of other veterans, mainly why they served. What made you serve?
RP: I saw the Twin Towers attack on 9/11 and I was sitting there in school feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. People were born to defend this country and I felt like I was one of those.
NH: On Monday, you will return to your home state to be the Grand Marshal of the Dearborn, Michigan, Memorial Day parade. How do you feel?
RP: It’s an absolute honor. I never would have thought that I’d be a guy who would be asked. It’s overwhelming — there’s many other soldiers who deserve this more than I do. It’s humbling for sure.
NH: What does the Memorial Day parade signify for you?
RP: It signifies to me that we need to remember why we are blessed to live in this country. It’s because of the men and the women who have sacrificed and paved the way for us.
It is not a celebration for me personally, but it is more of a humbling memorial to recognize where we come from and why we are who we are.
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The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil into the waters off California earlier this week did not have an automatic shut-off valve, a Santa Barbara county official said Sunday.
In fact, the pipeline was the only one of its kind in the area without an automatic shut-off valve, the Associated Press reported. Its original owner fought – and won – a late 1980s court battle to skirt the requirement.
Since the pipeline formed part of an interstate network, the former owners argued it should be subject to federal, not county regulations. Federal regulations do not require auto shut-off valves.
“It’s the only major pipeline that doesn’t have auto shut-off,” Kevin Drude, deputy director of the county’s Energy and Minerals Division told the AP. “For us, it’s routine.”
On Saturday, rough weather and high winds complicated efforts to clean up the spill.
The oil slick thinner than a coat of paint that covers 10 square miles off the coast of Santa Barbara was becoming harder to skim from rough waters, officials said, as more dead animals were discovered in the muck.
On Friday, five petroleum-soaked dead pelicans were recovered from the coastline along with a dolphin carcass with no oil on it that had washed ashore in Santa Barbara Harbor, Reuters reported. An animal autopsy will be performed to determine if they are victims of the spill.
Since Tuesday, more than 105,000 gallons of crude oil has spilled into Refugio State Beach from an underwater pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline. The pipeline runs parallel to the coastal highway.
The spill, which is the worst in the area since 1969, is being investigated by federal, state and local prosecutors for possible violations of federal and state law, the Associated press reported.
On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the Santa Barbara County coast, closing fisheries in an area that stretches 23 miles long and 7 miles wide and banning the use of Refugio State Beach.
The ban has put a strain on people who look to the fisheries as a source of livelihood.
Stephanie Mutz, who makes a living plucking sea urchins from the Santa Barbara coast and selling them to upscale restaurants in Southern California, said she would have to look for alternative hunting grounds.
“That was one of my predominant fishing spots, so I just have to think of a Plan B,” Mutz told Reuters.
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Feminist icon Gloria Steinem along with a group of 30 women peace activists crossed the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea on Sunday, in what organizers called a “symbolic act of peace” meant to encourage dialogue and reunification between the two countries.
The rare crossing followed uncertainty over whether the activists would be allowed to cross the DMZ, one of the world’s most heavily secured borders, and criticism that the North Korean government was exploiting the event for propaganda purposes.
“We have accomplished what no one said can be done, which is to be a trip for peace, for reconciliation, for human rights and a trip to which both governments agreed,” Steinem, 81, told South Korean media after crossing. “We were able to be citizen diplomats.”
The international group of 30 women, which also includes Nobel laureates Leymah Gbowee and Mairead Maguire, traveled to North Korea to try to end the conflict between two Koreas, which are still technically at war with each other 70 years after partition. Sunday, May 24, is International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament.
“It’s hard to imagine any more physical symbol of the insanity of dividing human beings,” Steinem told the Guardian earlier in the week. “To me, to walk across it has huge, huge, huge importance.”
The group crossed at Kaeson, instead of at the symbolic village of Panmunjom, where the armistice that ended active hostilities in the Korean War was signed in 1953.
They had initially planned to cross at Panmunjom, but changed plans because officials from South Korea and the United Nations Command responsible for security said they could not guarantee the activists’ safety.
Officials again refused to allow the women, carrying banners for peace, to walk across the border, so they crossed by bus instead.
North Korean state media reported Thursday on a symposium that the activists held in Pyongyang along with members of North Korean women’s groups, claiming that they called the United States “a kingdom of terrorism and a kingpin of human rights abuses,” according to a report by The Associated Press.
Christine Ahn, a peace activist who helped organize the event said, “Those words were never uttered” in response to the North Korean news reports. “We spoke about the impact of militarism around the world, including in Liberia, Colombia, Japan, northern Ireland as well as the United States.”
“We are operating in an environment where multiple sides will take our words out of context to advance their political agendas,” Ahn said, according to the AP.
The group plans to hold a peace walk and a symposium in South Korea.
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John Nash, the Nobel laureate and Princeton mathematician, whose life story was the inspiration for the book and movie “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed in an car accident along with his wife in New Jersey Saturday afternoon, New Jersey state police said.
Nash, 86, and his wife Alicia, 82, were traveling in a taxi cab on the New Jersey Turnpike when the driver lost control of the cab and crashed into a guard rail.
A police spokesperson said the couple, who were not wearing seatbelts, were pronounced dead at the scene after being ejected from the vehicle.
The two, married for nearly 60 years, lived in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, according to police.
“We are stunned and saddened by news of the untimely passing of John Nash and his wife and great champion, Alicia,” Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a statement Sunday. “Both of them were very special members of the Princeton University community.”
Nash had just returned from Oslo, Norway, where he received the Abel Prize prize from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters for his work in geometry and partial differential equations, which are used to describe the basic laws of scientific phenomena.
The award was also presented to New York University mathematician Louis Nirenberg, who called Nash “a kind of genius” and a truly great mathematician. Nirenberg said he had spoken with the couple at Newark airport before they got into the cab.
Among his other achievements, Nash won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994 for his work in game theory.
Shortly after, he became a senior research mathematician at Princeton where he was a regular on campus, university officials said.
A native of Bluefield, West Virginia, Nash received his doctorate in mathematics from Princeton in 1950 and his graduate and bachelor’s degrees from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1948.
“John’s remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory, and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges,” Eisgruber said.
He met Alicia, a physics major originally from El Salvador, while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“A Beautiful Mind,” the 1998 book by the couple’s biographer, Sylvia Nasar, and its 2002 Oscar award-winning film adaptation, which starred Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, was loosely based on their story and their longtime struggle with Nash’s paranoid schizophrenia.
Crowe reacted to the news on Twitter Sunday morning:
Stunned…my heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts. https://t.co/XF4V9MBwU4
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) May 24, 2015
In his biography, Nash said he began experiencing “mental disturbances” in 1959 when Alicia was pregnant. He eventually resigned from his post on the MIT faculty and spent 50 days at the McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.
He spent the next few years in and out of hospitals, “always on an involuntary basis and always attempting a legal argument for release,” he said. He returned to research during periods of mental clarity, which would earn him the reputation as one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century.
Of his own mental illness, he said, “I wouldn’t have had good scientific ideas if I had thought more normally.”
In recent years, the couple served as advocates for the mentally ill, especially in New Jersey and when their son was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
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Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God
Twenty-one steps south. Face east 21 seconds. Face north 21 seconds. Twenty-one steps north. Face east 21 seconds. Face south 21 seconds. Repeat until relieved.
Thus is the meticulous routine performed by the select few chosen for the honor of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in Arlington National Cemetery, just outside of Washington, D.C. These Tomb Guard Sentinels, elite volunteer members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, watch the Tomb 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, rain or shine — and have done so for almost 80 years.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was constructed in 1921, after Congress approved the burial of an unidentified U.S. soldier from World War I, with other Unknowns interred since. The Tomb has been guarded year-round continuously since 1937, when the first 24-hour guards were posted. Since April 1948, sentinels from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Old Guard,” have been watching over the hallowed memorial.
Sentinels pace back and forth in front of the Tomb, taking 21 steps north and south, and standing for periods of 21 seconds at either side — 21 symbolizing the military’s “highest honor” of the 21-gun salute. While on duty, the soldiers do not wear rank insignia, as to not outrank the Unknowns. The guards are relieved at the top of every hour, except during visitor hours in the summer months, when the guard is changed on the half hour. When relieved, an elaborate ritual known as the “Changing of the Guard” occurs, which Arlington National Cemetery’s website details:
An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.
The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown who have been symbolically given the Medal of Honor. Then the relief commander orders the relieved sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the black mat. When the relief commander passes by, the new sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.
The above video shows a complete changing of the guard ceremony edited together from three different ceremonies all recorded on May 20, 2015. To watch the video at full resolution, be sure to choose the 4K option in the YouTube player.
The video was shot and produced by Justin Scuiletti. Special thanks to Arlington National Cemetery and Sgt. 1st Class Nicolas Morales for helping in the production of this video.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We travel now to Malaysia, where thousands of migrants, fleeing persecution and impoverishment, are spending weeks trapped at sea, find a different nightmare when they finally land ashore.
Jonathan Sparks of Independent Television News reports.
And a warning: The story contains some graphic elements.
JOHN SPARKS: We were taken in army trucks to the bottom of the mountain, where the Malaysian authorities said they’d found a human traffickers’ camp. This was a significant development. Last week, they vehemently denied there were any.
We’re still going, are we? We’re still going to the camp?
MAN: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
JOHN SPARKS: The order was given and we began to climb. Yesterday, the Malaysians came clean, admitting there were at least 28 of these camps where traffickers held thousands of migrants, persecuted Burmese Muslims called Rohingya and impoverished Bangladeshis.
And we followed in their footsteps, men, women and children forced up and down this trail. The track is rough, and it’s also very steep, but you can see that it’s well used. There’s litter all over the place. And it’s difficult to believe that local people and members of the authorities didn’t know that there were hundreds of people living out here.
The camp took shape from a distance. Such was it size, it wasn’t easy to hide a bamboo jail that stretched across a mountain clearing, but further details were hard to come by.
How many people do you think were kept there?
MAN: I’m not sure.
JOHN SPARKS: Not sure?
MAN: Not sure, yes.
JOHN SPARKS: We have been given a few seconds to walk through the camp, but I think that’s the wrong name for this place. It’s more like a village or a prison complex.
There are cells wrung with barbed wire and watchtowers and food and water storage facilities. There’s even a cage where people were kept, I presume, because they tried to escape. Clearly, it was a place of real cruelty, where hundreds were held for the purposes of extortion.
To earn their release, the victims’ family members had to pay a ransom of $2,000 to $3,000. Later, we spoke to young Rohingya who was held for seven months in a jungle camp.
SHARUF KHAN, Rohingya Migrant (through interpreter): Brokers told our relatives to send the money and beat us while we were on the phone. They’re very bad people. There’s little to eat here. Some people starve. Many are sick.
JOHN SPARKS: Sharuf managed to escape two months ago, but many prisoners never leave. Up on the mountain, forensics teams have begun examining 37 graves, or burial pits. And on the earth’s surface, we saw bone fragments.
SHARUF KHAN (through interpreter): One man didn’t have any money to pay the ransom, so the brokers beat him. They had handed him over to the camp guards and said, “You can finish him.” The guards took a rope and hanged him. I saw it.
JOHN SPARKS: It is an odious business, and it’s gone on for years.
But the authorities here in Malaysia and neighboring Thailand seem determined to uncover the truth, the Thais making more than 60 arrests. Still, many think the traffickers will soon return to the mountains.
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GWEN IFILL: The ever-growing cost of political warfare is now reaching into the stratosphere, with the 2016 election on track to possibly double the roughly $2 billion spent in 2012.
Part of the reason for all that spending has been the rise of millionaire and billionaire political activists on both sides of the political aisle. In the past, we have looked at the Koch brothers, who have pledged nearly a billion dollars to Republican and conservative causes this cycle. On the left, there is billionaire Tom Steyer, who has pledged millions on the issue of climate change.
And Tom Steyer joins me now.
Welcome to the NewsHour.
TOM STEYER, Founder, NextGen Climate: Nice to see you, Gwen.
GWEN IFILL: You spent, they say, $70 million in the 2014 midterm elections. Is money the key to this 2016 election?
TOM STEYER: I sure hope not, because, from what I can tell, the Democrats have a very good chance of being outspent.
I think the key to the election is going to be message and candidate, the way it usually is. And if the message is significant and meaningful to voters, and if the candidate connects as an authentic person who really cares about their concerns and wants to address them and can address them, I think that is going to carry the day.
GWEN IFILL: I do want to talk about the issues you support, but I’m also curious.
You have already decided to support Hillary Clinton. You have raised money for her, yet she has been on the campaign trail saying one of the first things she would do as president is repeal Citizens United. Wouldn’t that put you out of business as a super PAC runner?
TOM STEYER: It would be fantastic.
We felt from the beginning that Citizens United was a mistake, that the way that money is used in American campaigns isn’t good for democracy. It’s just been a situation where we felt as if there’s an immense amount of money on the other side, and as long as this is the system which the Supreme Court has put in place, there’s got to be somebody on our side.
And when you look at the relative dollars, it really is a David and Goliath situation, and we’re very definitely the small shepherd boy with five rocks and a sling.
GWEN IFILL: The small shepherd boy, really?
TOM STEYER: Absolutely.
GWEN IFILL: You’re David?
TOM STEYER: I don’t think there’s any question about it.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk about some of your David issues then.
The Keystone pipeline is something which you have — say shouldn’t be built. Hillary Clinton hasn’t exactly said, since she’s been a candidate, what. In fact, she has been kind of, some people think, suspiciously quiet, some people on your side of the argument, about it.
What would you do if she decided that, as she seemed like she was heading in the direction when she was secretary of state, that she was inclined to support its construction?
TOM STEYER: Well, we see Keystone as a significant decision about the future of American energy policy, that it’s a dirty — the tar sands are a dirty source of energy, and that developing them — and they’re absolutely immense — is a choice that’s going to play out over decades, whereas we think the correct thing for the United States to do is to follow a technology- and research-based clean energy policy that will create a lot of jobs.
So, when you think about Mrs. Clinton hypothetically determine what we do if she did something that she hasn’t done, what we have heard her do is talk about the importance of energy and climate, that it’s the most significant set of issues facing the American people. And I expect she will come out with a set of policies that’s really responsive.
So I actually don’t think we’re going to be faced by the question that you’re posing.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s listen — take a look at some of your very tough anti-Keystone video advertising, a little bit of it right here. So, this puts you potentially on the other side of President Obama as well. Are — you consider yourself to be kind of a single-issue supporter?
TOM STEYER: I actually don’t.
You know, I see energy and climate as a human issue. And, by the way, I expect that President Obama will turn down the pipeline, just to be clear.
GWEN IFILL: What do you base that on?
TOM STEYER: On the test that he set up as to whether he would approve it, was to say, will it increase carbon pollution, which it will. And if he follows the test that he himself set up, then he will turn it down.
GWEN IFILL: As an issue candidate, rather than necessarily a party candidate, can you see yourself ever supporting a Republican?
TOM STEYER: I think, if we are trying to monitor all the Republican candidates for president, hope — we’re seeing the Republicans move. And we’d be thrilled to be faced with a Republican who was more progressive on energy and climate than his Democratic…
GWEN IFILL: Do you see any out there?
TOM STEYER: No.
GWEN IFILL: So, what’s the point in getting involved in any way in the Republican primaries if it’s six of one and half-dozen of the other for you on your issues?
TOM STEYER: Well, from our point of view, not in terms of giving money, but in terms of trying to make sure that there is someone getting candidates on the record, keeping an honest record of that, giving them encouragement when they do the — what we think of as the right thing to do, trying to expose them when they — we don’t think they’re facing up to the issue fairly, that’s a job that we think it’s important for somebody in America to do, because we think American citizens have a right to know where the candidates stand on what is one of the key issues facing us.
GWEN IFILL: Aside from the fact that you disagree about some of the basic issues, and maybe the order of magnitude, how are you different from the Koch brothers?
TOM STEYER: I would put — there’s a lot of differences.
First of all, anything — there’s no way you can show, because it’s not true, that anything we’re doing is self-interested. The Koch brothers say that they’re acting out of conviction, but whatever they’re doing also definitely benefits their bottom line. You can’t say that about us.
Second of all, we’re — we — I’m very suspicious and scared about the way money’s used in politics. And to try to ameliorate that, we try to be as transparent as possible. You have said, here are the records of exactly what you spent.
Yes, that’s true. We made those available. We try and do everything in a way so that people can see exactly what we’re doing. I’m actually on your show, obviously, Gwen. Did the Koch brothers come on your show?
GWEN IFILL: We’re waiting on them.
TOM STEYER: OK. I’m sure you are.
But my only point is, A, it’s not in our self-interest to do what we’re doing. We think it’s in the public interest. Second of all, we’re trying to be as transparent as possible.
And, third of all, it’s absolutely true, if you look at the numbers, whatever it is, we’re going to be a fraction of what they are, so we’re going to have to rely on message and the facts being on our side.
GWEN IFILL: So, assuming that you’re putting your money where your mouth is, $70 million in 2014, how much this time, do you think, in 2016?
TOM STEYER: I don’t know.
GWEN IFILL: Of course you’re not going to tell me that, right?
TOM STEYER: Because I honestly don’t know.
What of the things I have found in politics is, anyone who thinks they can plan how a campaign is going to go, I think, is foolish, because it’s one of those interactive things. If I do something, you do something. So you really don’t understand before it starts how it’s going to play out.
GWEN IFILL: There’s another way of putting your money where your mouth is. And that could have been running for the U.S. Senate from California for Barbara Boxer’s seat. Why did you decide against that?
TOM STEYER: Honestly, we felt like the way that we could have the most impact in 2015 and 2016 wasn’t by running, but actually to try and keep going on the voter-to-voter contact that we had been pushing in 2014, which was going out and registering voters, having people go door to door and talk to voters, trying to get people to understand the issues that we think are most significant.
GWEN IFILL: Don’t you have to have a face in order to make that case most effectively?
TOM STEYER: I think, ultimately, someone has got to take the lead.
I think that, obviously, there are people who are running on the Democratic side who want to be that face. But I think, in 2015 and 2016, we really felt like what we could do was support what was going on and basically try and rely on old-fashioned American democracy, which is Americans talking to Americans about the most important issues of the day.
GWEN IFILL: Tom Steyer is running a group called NextGen Climate Action.
Thank you very much.
TOM STEYER: Thank you, Gwen.
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