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- 05/31/15--12:48: _Report: Ex-Nazis re...
- 05/31/15--13:28: _GOP lawmakers pledg...
- 05/31/15--16:01: _Senate debates Patr...
- 05/31/15--21:19: _NSA powers expire a...
- 06/01/15--05:19: _Starting his 2016 c...
- 06/01/15--07:37: _What does Lindsey G...
- 06/01/15--07:50: _Justices rule for M...
- 06/01/15--09:15: _These female sawfis...
- 06/01/15--09:39: _High court throws o...
- 06/01/15--09:44: _Is trickle-down eco...
- 06/01/15--10:49: _Paris removes 100,0...
- 06/01/15--10:50: _Why do books about ...
- 06/01/15--12:52: _GOP, Democrats diff...
- 06/01/15--13:57: _25 examples of why ...
- 06/01/15--14:36: _Poet recalls the ‘t...
- 06/01/15--14:42: _Twitter reacts to C...
- 06/03/15--15:45: _Number of labs mist...
- 06/03/15--15:50: _News Wrap: Divers r...
- 06/03/15--20:43: _What does Rick Perr...
- 06/04/15--06:35: _In Germany, a tale ...
- 05/31/15--12:48: Report: Ex-Nazis received $20 million in Social Security benefits
- 05/31/15--13:28: GOP lawmakers pledge to ‘rein in’ Obama environmental measures
- 05/31/15--16:01: Senate debates Patriot Act surveillance as expiration nears
- 05/31/15--21:19: NSA powers expire as Patriot Act extension stalls in Senate
- 06/01/15--05:19: Starting his 2016 campaign, Graham is blunt on Middle East
- 06/01/15--07:50: Justices rule for Muslim woman denied job over headscarf
- 06/01/15--09:15: These female sawfish prove they don’t need a male to procreate
- 06/01/15--09:44: Is trickle-down economics science or scam?
- 06/01/15--10:49: Paris removes 100,000 pounds of eternal love from bridge
- 06/01/15--10:50: Why do books about women rarely win top literary prizes?
- 06/01/15--12:52: GOP, Democrats differ on priorites as 2016 campaign takes off
- 06/01/15--13:57: 25 examples of why you can’t trust what Social Security says
- 06/01/15--14:36: Poet recalls the ‘terror’ of the first day of adoption
- 06/01/15--14:42: Twitter reacts to Caitlyn Jenner’s debut
- 06/03/15--15:45: Number of labs mistakenly shipped live anthrax by the military grows
- 06/04/15--06:35: In Germany, a tale of two summits
WASHINGTON — In a forthcoming report triggered by an Associated Press investigation, the top watchdog at the Social Security Administration found the agency paid $20.2 million in benefits to more than 130 suspected Nazi war criminals, SS guards, and others who may have participated in the Third Reich’s atrocities during World War II.
The report, scheduled for public release this week and obtained by the AP, used computer-processed data and other internal agency records to develop a comprehensive picture of the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts paid out. The Social Security Administration last year refused AP’s request for those figures.
The payments are far greater than previously estimated and occurred between February 1962 and January 2015, when a new law called the No Social Security for Nazis Act kicked in and ended retirement payments for four beneficiaries. The report does not include the names of any Nazi suspects who received benefits.
The large amount of the benefits and their duration illustrate how unaware the American public was of the influx of Nazi persecutors into the U.S., with estimates ranging as high as 10,000. Many lied about their Nazi pasts to get into the U.S. and even became American citizens. They got jobs and said little about what they did during the war.
Yet the U.S. was slow to react. It wasn’t until 1979 that a special Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations, was created within the Justice Department.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., requested that the Social Security Administration’s inspector general look into the scope of the payments following AP’s investigation, which was published in October 2014. On Saturday, she said the IG’s report showed that 133 alleged and confirmed Nazis actively worked to conceal their true identities from the U.S. government and still received Social Security payments.
“We must continue working to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust and hold those responsible accountable,” Maloney said in a statement. “One way to do that is by providing as much information to the public as possible. This report hopefully provides some clarity.”
AP found that the Justice Department used a legal loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. in exchange for Social Security benefits. If they agreed to go voluntarily, or simply fled the country before being deported, they could keep their benefits. The Justice Department denied using Social Security payments as a way to expel former Nazis.
By March 1999, 28 suspected Nazi criminals had collected $1.5 million in Social Security payments after their removal from the U.S. Since then, AP estimated the amount paid out had grown substantially. That estimate is based on the number of suspects who qualified and the three decades that have passed since the first former Nazis, Arthur Rudolph and John Avdzej, signed agreements that required them to leave the country but ensured their benefits would continue.
The IG’s report said $5.6 million was paid to 38 former Nazis before they were deported. Ninety-five Nazi suspects who were not deported but were alleged or found to have participated in the Nazi persecution received $14.5 million in benefits, according to the report.
The IG criticized the Social Security Administration for improperly paying four beneficiaries $15,658 because it did not suspend the benefits in time.
The report also said the Social Security Administration “properly stopped payment” to the four beneficiaries when the new law banning benefits to Nazi suspects went into effect. The agency did, however, continue payments to one suspect because he was not subject to the law.
The Social Security Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But in informal comments to the IG, the agency and the Justice Department said the pool of 133 suspects included individuals who were not deported and may not have had any role with the Nazis. The Justice Department requested the report only include the names of 81 people it had provided to the IG and who had conclusively determined to be involved in the Nazi persecution.
Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said the Justice Department did what was necessary to get Nazi suspects out of the U.S. But “it’s a travesty,” he added, that so many of them ended up keeping their benefits.
“The issue is the principle here – do you sign deals with Nazis to get them out of the country?” he said Sunday. “The Department of Justice said yes, but who wants to think that taxpayer dollars went to people who served as guards in camps? On the other hand, the government was trying to maximize what it could do with the tools that they had.”
The post Report: Ex-Nazis received $20 million in Social Security benefits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says a new federal rule regulating small streams and wetlands will protect the drinking water of more than 117 million people in the country.
Not so, insist Republicans. They say the rule is a massive government overreach that could even subject puddles and ditches to regulation.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is promising to “rein in” the government through legislation or other means.
It’s a threat with a familiar ring.
What else are Capito and other Republicans pledging to try to block?
-the administration’s plan to curb carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.
-its proposal for stricter limits on smog-forming pollution linked to asthma and respiratory illness
-a separate rule setting the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity.
The rules are among a host of regulations that majority Republicans have targeted for repeal or delay as they confront President Barack Obama on a second-term priority: his environmental legacy, especially his efforts to reduce the pollution linked to global warming.
WHAT HAS OBAMA PROPOSED?
Last June, Obama rolled out a plan to cut earth-warming pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030, setting in motion one of the most significant U.S. actions ever to address global warming. Once completed this summer, the rule will set the first national limits on carbon dioxide from existing power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S.
The administration says the rule is expected to raise electricity prices by about 4.9 percent by 2020 and spur a wave of retirements of coal-fired power plants.
The administration also has moved forward on other rules, including the water plan announced last Wednesday. Officials say it will provide much-needed clarity for landowners about which small waterways and tributaries must be protected against pollution and development.
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, said the rule only would affect waters with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that already are protected.
The administration has proposed stricter emissions limits on smog-forming pollution linked to asthma and respiratory illness. Rather than settling on a firm new ozone limit, the EPA is proposing a range of allowable ozone levels that cut the existing level but do not go as far as environmental and public health groups want. The rule is expected to be completed later this year.
In December, the administration set the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity, treating it more like household garbage than a hazardous material. Environmentalists had pushed for the hazardous classification, citing hundreds of cases nationwide in which coal ash waste has tainted waterways or underground aquifers, in many cases legally.
The coal industry wanted the less stringent classification, arguing that coal ash is not dangerous, and that a hazardous label would hinder recycling. About 40 percent of coal ash is reused.
WHAT DO REPUBLICANS SAY ABOUT THE RULES?
GOP lawmakers criticize the rules as anti-business job killers that go further than needed to protect the nation’s air and water supplies and other natural resources.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the new water rule will send “landowners, small businesses, farmers and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.”
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Obama and the EPA are “aggressively pushing an extreme and costly regulatory agenda” that will harm the U.S. economy and everyday life of Americans. His committee “continues to pursue legislation to take aim at EPA’s costly and harmful regulations,” Inhofe said.
WHAT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE TO CONGRESSIONAL OPPONENTS?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has led the charge against the power plant rule, which he says amounts to a declaration of war against his home state, a longtime leader in coal production.
McConnell wrote the 50 governors in March urging them not to comply with the rule, which requires implementation by the states. McConnell has encouraged legal challenges to the rule and recently announced a new wrinkle, telling the EPA’s McCarthy that Congress could block the plan by using an obscure section of the Clean Air Act requiring congressional consent for agreements among states.
“The law reads: `No such agreement or compact shall be binding or obligatory upon any state … unless and until it has been approved by Congress,'” McConnell told McCarthy at an April hearing. “Doesn’t seem ambivalent to me. I can assure you that as long as I am majority leader of the Senate, this body will not sign off on any backdoor national energy tax.”
Obama, McCarthy and officials are not backing down. At the April hearing, McCarthy told McConnell that the EPA guidelines are reasonable and give states “tremendous flexibility.”
The EPA will produce a rule “that will withstand the test of time in the courts,” McCarthy said.
“You’re going to have to prove it in court,” McConnell said. “As we most often do,” McCarthy replied.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate will continue to hold hearings on the administration’s plans and push bills to block the rules or curb spending on them. The GOP-controlled House passed a bill blocking the EPA water rule on May 12 – two weeks before it was officially announced. Bills to block the power plant rule, ozone limits and coal ash regulation have been filed in both chambers.
“We are going to pursue all avenues,” McConnell told The Associated Press. “The solution is not right here (in Congress), it’s out there – either in the courts or the governors refusing to file plans.”
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The Senate is in a rare Sunday session tonight, wrangling over three key surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire at midnight.
The most controversial provision allows the NSA to collect and store Americans’ phone records.
The House already passed a bipartisan measure, forcing the government to give up the mass data collection and have phone companies keep the records instead. But the Senate is locked in a standoff.
This afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner said: “Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously.”
Even if a group of senators comes up with a viable bill in the next few hours, the Senate has to agree unanimously just to vote on it.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says he’ll refuse to let that happen, saying Saturday he will “force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program.”
Rand Paul’s tactics sparked criticism from Utah Senator Mike Lee this morning. Lee wants the Senate to pass the House version of the bill tonight.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), Utah: I do believe we have the votes.
And so, at this point, I think the question is not really about whether we will get this passed, but when.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining me now with the very latest on the Senate debate is the NewsHour’s political director, Lisa Desjardins.
So, how did we get here? It has been a week. How did we get to this point?
LISA DESJARDINS, NEWSHOUR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. This was a gamble by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a deadline game, if you will, Hari.
Usually, the Senate, when it comes up to a deadline, especially one like last week, when they were on their way to vacation, the Senate usually does meet that deadline, if just by a few minutes.
This time, however, they didn’t. And I think the difference, Hari, this time, is that, when the — these provisions were last authorized by Congress was 2011.
Since that time, we have seen Edward Snowden make his revelations about what exactly these programs have been doing.
And just in the past few months, we have had a federal court rule against them. So, this idea of kind of taking something like a report to your boss on deadline and getting them to sign off, which sometimes Congress has done, didn’t work this time, because, really, the game has changed, our knowledge has changed, and opinions have changed about these programs since they were last authorized.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what are the options on the table heading into tonight?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, there were two options that the Senate actually voted on. One was just a two-month extension, basically, keep the programs running exactly as is and try and discuss what to do next.
That is sort of a classic option for the Senate, but that really didn’t get very many votes.
But what did almost get enough votes was a revision of the phone data collection program. This idea passed the House overwhelmingly, and it got 57 votes in the Senate.
I don’t want to get too much into numbers, but that is — that is really important, because it is just three votes short of what it needed.
So this idea of revising the Patriot Act would make it so that the government had to take its hands off completely all of the phone metadata.
The numbers you and I call, for example, that the government now has clear access to, the government no longer would be able to see.
Instead, the government, under this USA Freedom Act, would have to get a court order. And they would have to ask our telephone company or our telecommunications company to have access to that data.
The companies would be the ones that hold that data, not the government. It is a significant change. It almost had enough votes a week ago.
And I think the thing is to watch as to whether reform-minded senators are able to get three more people to jump on board with them in the next day, maybe few days.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, if those three senators get on board, does that mean that Senator Rand Paul, presidential candidate Rand Paul, will not be able to stop this single-handedly?
LISA DESJARDINS: He cannot ultimately stop this single-handedly, but he can delay it, so that we do expect these powers to expire tonight at midnight.
Senator Paul has said in a statement that his campaign sent me that he will object to it. And, basically, that means that it will take days of process to get to a final vote. Any single senator has that ability.
And, here, Rand Paul is using it. So he can’t stop a compromise, necessarily, but he can delay it, so that these powers would expire for at least a few days.
So, then we get to the issue of, what will the compromise be? What will the Senate do? And the truth is, Hari, right now, we don’t know.
So, while you and I are wondering exactly what our government will be able to do in surveillance, either on the security issue or liberty issue, many employees of the NSA are wondering just in the next few hours what they will be able to do as well for the next few days.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, one of the administration talking points throughout this week, really throughout the past couple of years, is how integral NSA intelligence has been to thwarting terrorism.
If there is a lapse come midnight, who says how dangerous it is or how not so dangerous it is?
LISA DESJARDINS: The truth is that we have not gotten specifics on exactly what would happen.
And it is possible that, honestly, the National Security Agency and the White House don’t know, they don’t know exactly how terrorists would be able to take advantage of this.
They do think that terrorists are aware of this debate, they are aware that some powers may expire tonight.
I think the program to pay the most attention to, Hari, is not the controversial phone metadata one, but instead one that is called roving wiretaps.
And that’s the power that allows our government to track terror suspects when they change phones. You are tracking the suspect, and not the phone.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Sure.
LISA DESJARDINS: And almost everyone in the national security industry says that is a paramount and important power.
But it would expire along with the other two in this because of the more controversial one. And I think that’s the one they are the most nervous about.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, political director Lisa Desjardins of the NewsHour, joining us from Washington, thanks so much.
LISA DESJARDINS: Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
The post Senate debates Patriot Act surveillance as expiration nears appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency lost its authority at midnight to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, after GOP Sen. Rand Paul stood in the way of extending the fiercely contested program in an extraordinary Sunday Senate session.
But that program and several other post-Sept. 11 counter-terror measures look likely to be revived in a matter of days. With no other options, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an about-face, reluctantly embraced a House-passed bill that would extend the anti-terror provisions, while also remaking the bulk phone collections program.
Although the lapse in the programs may be brief, intelligence officials warned that it could jeopardize Americans’ safety and amount to a win for extremists. But civil liberties groups applauded as Paul, who is running for president, forced the expiration of the once-secret program made public by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which critics say is an unconstitutional intrusion into Americans’ privacy.
The Senate voted 77-17 to move ahead on the House-passed bill, the USA Freedom Act, which only last weekend fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the Senate. For McConnell, it was a remarkable retreat after objecting ferociously that the House bill would make the bulk phone collections program dangerously unwieldy by requiring the government to search records maintained by phone companies.
“It’s not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it’s now the only realistic way forward,” McConnell said.
The White House backs the House bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement: “The Senate took an important — if late — step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly.”
But the Senate adjourned without final action on the bill after Paul asserted his prerogative under Senate rules to delay a final vote for a couple of days. And a couple of hours later, the midnight deadline came and went.
“This is what we fought the revolution over, are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? … I’m not going to take it anymore,” Paul declared on the Senate floor hours earlier, as supporters wearing red “Stand With Rand” T-shirts packed the spectator gallery.
Paul’s moves greatly complicated matters for fellow Kentuckian McConnell, who has endorsed him for president, and infuriated fellow Republicans. They exited the Senate chamber en masse when Paul stood up to speak following the procedural vote on the House bill.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained to reporters that Paul places “a higher priority on his fundraising and his ambitions than on the security of the nation.”
Paul, for his part, asserted that, “People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”
In addition to the bulk phone collections provision, two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions also lapsed at midnight: one, so far unused, helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones. McConnell tried Sunday to extend just those provisions for two weeks, but Paul objected.
The House bill extends those two provisions unchanged, while remaking the bulk collection program so that the NSA would stop collecting the phone records after a six month transition period, but would be authorized under court order to search records held by phone companies.
The FBI’s use of the Patriot Act to collect hotel, travel, credit card, banking and other business records in national security investigations would also be extended under the House bill. Law enforcement officials say the collection of those business records is more valuable than the better-known bulk phone collections program. Ongoing investigations would be permitted to continue even though authority for the programs has lapsed.
Rebooting the phone collections program would take about a day.
CIA Director John Brennan was among those warning that letting the authorities lapse, even for a time, will make America less safe.
“Terrorist elements … are looking for the seams to operate within,” Brennan said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”This is something that we can’t afford to do right now.” He bemoaned “too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue” and said the terrorism-fighting tools are important to American lives.
For Paul, the issue represents a potent political opportunity, and his presidential campaign has been sending out numerous fundraising appeals focused on it. A super PAC supporting him even produced an over-the-top video casting the dispute as a professional wrestling-style “Brawl for Liberty” between Paul and President Barack Obama — even though Paul’s main opponent on the issue is McConnell.
The post NSA powers expire as Patriot Act extension stalls in Senate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
CENTRAL, S.C. — Lindsey Graham will formally launch his bid for president in the small South Carolina town where he grew up. His White House ambitions are rooted half a world away in the Middle East.
When kicking off his campaign Monday, South Carolina’s senior senator is sure to blast President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq, insist on the need to strong-arm Iran over its nuclear program and work to subdue the violent Islamic State militants who have gained footholds in Iraq and Syria.
Yet in the early days of the 2016 campaign for president, Graham has already gone further than most of his rivals for the GOP nomination in saying how he would tackle such problems, while acknowledging the potential costs of his strategy.
Graham wants to put an additional 10,000-plus U.S. troops into Iraq, adding to the several thousand there now working as trainers and advisers only. He says it could take even more troops to stabilize the Middle East over time, adding “more American soldiers will die in Iraq and eventually in Syria to protect our homeland.”
The Islamic State militants, Graham argued at a recent campaign stop, “want to purify their religion and they want to destroy ours and blow up Israel. Every day they get stronger over there, the more likely we are to get hit over here.”
He added, “I don’t know how to defend this nation, ladies and gentlemen, with all of us sitting here at home.”
It’s a calculated risk for the 59-year-old three-term senator and retired Air Force lawyer who surprised many when he began to hint earlier this year he would run for president.
A February poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found 63 percent of adults backed some kind of military campaign against the Islamic State group, compared to 30 percent who disapprove. When asked about using ground troops, support dropped to 47 percent — with 49 percent opposed.
Further, the same survey found Americans almost evenly divided on whether military force is “the best way to defeat terrorism” or whether it “creates hatred that leads to more terrorism.”
Graham’s hawkish approach stands in stark contrast to his fellow U.S. senator and presidential candidate, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, who favors less military intervention abroad. It’s also notable for its specifics, especially his warning that U.S. troops are likely to perish in the Middle East as part of his approach.
While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a recent speech in Georgia that “we should work with our allies that want to stand against ISIS,” he’s described that role as helping with the “weapons, equipment and training” needed for a “long fight.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he’d “take the fight to them before they take the fight to us,” but he has yet to detail what that entails. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, writing over the weekend in The Washington Post, said the U.S. should increase the number of American troops in Iraq, but unlike Graham, didn’t say how many ought to deploy.
While Graham barely registers now in national polls that will be used to determine which candidates are invited to the GOP’s presidential primary debates beginning this summer, he argues Republican voters will reward him for his blunt talk about future American casualties.
“Look, I know from polling that (national security) is the No. 1 issue in Iowa and New Hampshire” among likely GOP voters, he said. “And I’ve been more right than wrong,” he adds, noting that he was an early supporter of the troop “surge” in Iraq under President George W. Bush and was always critical of Obama’s effort to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Graham hammers Obama for not playing a more active role in establishing a functioning, democratic government in Libya after revolutionaries toppled Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. And he insists that Obama’s work to reach a nuclear accord with Iran is in vain, because the Iranians are “liars” who won’t stick to whatever inspections and restrictions make up an eventual deal.
“To the Iranians: You want a piece of a nuclear power program, you can have it,” Graham says as part of his standard campaign speech. “If you want a bomb, you’re not going to get it. If you want a war, you’re going to lose it.”
After a pause, he adds, “There’s no other way to talk in the Mideast.”
The post Starting his 2016 campaign, Graham is blunt on Middle East appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
He’s an Air Force veteran and current reservist, a former lawyer who raised his sister and the first of his family to attend college. The South Carolina Republican has three terms in the U.S. House under his belt and is now in his third term in the U.S. Senate. Lindsey Graham has never sent an e-mail and has never lost an election for public office. Here’s where he stands on 10 key issues.
Campaign finance: Reform campaign finance laws. Allow Congress to limit spending.
A supporter of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in 2002, Graham told New Hampshire TV station WMUR that as president he would push for a Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to limit spending by super PACs and others.
Climate change and energy: Climate change is real, man-made, and an economic and environmental problem.
Graham sees climate change as a real event and believes it is at least partially man-made. In 2010, he worked with then-Senator John Kerry and energy companies to try and craft a market system that set some limits on carbon emissions. Following the BP oil spill, those talks fell apart, but Graham still supports the general idea. Graham has called for a debate among Republicans on how to combat climate change without harming the economy.
Education: End Common Core. Take the federal government out of education policy.
The senior senator from South Carolina opposes the Common Core set of education standards and co-sponsored a Senate resolution suggesting that the Obama administration used federal funds to coerce and force states into using the standards. According to his Senate campaign site, Graham believes state and local governments alone should set education policy.
Guns: Allow access to assault weapons and larger magazine clips. Limit access for the mentally ill.
Graham is an advocate for gun access and has opposed several gun control proposals in the Senate, including a ban on assault weapons, a limit on how many rounds can go in a magazine and an expansion of background checks. In 2013 — in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings — he sponsored a bill that would have limited the ability of people with a history of mental illness to purchase guns.
Immigration: Secure the border, then allow a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. Block the president’s executive actions.
Graham advocates a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements, including learning English and paying taxes. His support of comprehensive reform dates back to his work on a 2007 effort that did not make it through the Senate and the 2013 bill which did. The South Carolina senator insists that border security be improved and verified before any new legal status be conferred. Until the border is secure, he opposes the DREAM Act, which would give legal status to those brought to the U.S. as children. He has stridently spoken against President Obama’s executive actions waiving deportation from some undocumented immigrants.
Obamacare: Repeal it or defund it.
Graham has authored and co-sponsored numerous bills to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act, arguing the healthcare law hurts the economy. He personally enrolled in South Carolina’s insurance exchange under Obamacare. That decision allowed the senator to forgo a federal subsidy he would have received if he had signed on to a healthcare plan for members of Congress that is available in the Washington D.C. market.
Social issues: Ban most abortions at 20 weeks. The nation should accept the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.
Graham defines himself as “pro-life” on abortion and sponsored a Senate bill to ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization. He would make exceptions for cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Speaking to the Boston Herald Radio in May, Graham said he personally believes in traditional marriage,” but that America must be ready to move on following the decision of the Supreme Court on the issue.
Taxes: Move toward a flat tax. Increase revenue, potentially including taxes, to help balance the budget.
A deficit hawk, Graham believes the national debt has ballooned to the degree that spending cuts alone cannot address it and Republicans must put revenue increases on the table.
On tax reform, he has advocated for a flat income tax rate which would be the same across incomes, allowing deductions for home ownership, charitable giving or taxpayers living on on fixed incomes.
Iran and Israel: Block the current nuclear framework with Iran. Defend Israel’s actions in the West Bank.
A member of the Senate Armed Services, Graham has strongly opposed the framework nuclear deal currently under negotiation between the Obama administration and the government in Tehran. The senator wants full, anytime access for international inspectors to Iranian facilities and insists that Iran pledge that it will not attempt to destroy Israel. Graham has defended Israel’s actions in the West Bank and accused the Obama administration of adding to tension with the Jewish state.
Islamic State and Iraq: Send 10,000 U.S. troops to fight Islamic State. Increase air strikes. Work with Iran to stabilize Iraq.
Known as a strong proponent of the use of American military force, Graham proposes sending 10,000 U.S. troops to fight Islamic State. He believes the U.S. ultimately will have no choice but to send more combat troops to the region. He has long advocated the use of airstrikes, applauding the White House for attacks it approved in September. Graham said in 2014 that the U.S. should work with Iran to coordinate the fight against Islamic State and to keep Iraq stable.
The post What does Lindsey Graham believe? Where the candidate stands on 10 issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has sided with a Muslim woman who did not get hired after she showed up to a job interview with clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch wearing a head scarf.
The justices said Monday that employers generally have to accommodate job applicants and employees with religious needs if the employer at least has an idea that such accommodation is necessary.
Job applicant Samantha Elauf did not tell her interviewer she was Muslim.
But Justice Antonin Scalia said for the court that Abercrombie “at least suspected” that Elauf wore a head scarf for religious reasons. Scalia said: “That is enough.”
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Who needs Tinder when you can reproduce on your own? Not female smalltooth sawfish. These shark-like creatures can make babies asexually, according to a new study in Current Biology. The find marks the first observation of a free-living vertebrate animal that successfully switched from sexual to asexual breeding — a phenomenon known as facultative parthenogenesis — and yielded viable offspring in the wild.
Smalltooth sawfish, a species of ray, join a surprising collection of vertebrates that have made the switch. The earliest accounts of the facultative parthenogenesis involved birds: farmed chickens in 1872, pet pigeons in 1924 and domesticated turkeys in the 1954. “Self-loving” female sharks produced viable offspring at zoos in Omaha, Nebraska and Detroit in the last decade. Female Komodo dragons prefer coitus in the wild, but put them in a pen, and they’ll get down asexually.
“I think that facultative parthenogenesis is a more common occurrence than people would ever expect, said evolutionary biologist Warren Booth of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma who wasn’t involved in the study. “In the last 5 years, a whole suite of studies have come out documenting the phenomenon with animals in captivity.”
Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) are named for their sawlike beaks. The beaks act as hunting tools that track weak electric fields emitted by fish prey and then serve as the perfect weapon for slashing their meal into oblivion (see video).
This movie shows four different feeding behaviors of sawfish. Video by Wueringer BE et al 2012.
This movie shows four different feeding behaviors of sawfish. Video by Wueringer BE et al 2012.
But due to overfishing and habitat loss, smalltooth sawfish are critically endangered, with estimates suggesting that the global species lost between 95 to 99 percent of its members over the last century. One of their final homesteads exists along Florida’s southern tip, where scientists keep constant watch on a population that has shown indications of stability in recent years.
“We do regular monitoring of their genetics to see how the sawfish in Florida are coping with things like global warming and ocean acidification,” said study co-author and ecologist Andrew Fields of Stony Brook University in New York. Their broad census consisted of tissue samples from 190 sawfish that were caught and released between 2004 and 2011. But when romantic partners become scarce, fish sometimes resort to mating with siblings, so part of the team’s objective also involved scanning the DNA samples for signs of inbreeding.
That’s when the team happened across seven peculiar females. They were using a computer program named STORM to decode the gene sequences and calculate their “internal relatedness” (IR) — a numeric value that determines whether an individual’s parents were each other’s siblings. An IR reading near zero means both parents came from different families, while a readout between 25 to 50 percent indicates that an organism was conceived by half or full siblings, respectively.
The “sensational seven,” as these sawfish came to be known, had IR values ranging from 84 to 100 percent, suggesting that they were birthed via facultative parthenogenesis — where a formerly sexual creature becomes asexual.
Such observations among free-living organisms have evaded scientists because spotting an act of asexuality in the wild is tricky. Booth’s team came closest in 2012 when they collected two pit vipers from the wild, which subsequently birthed asexually in his lab. As demonstrated in that case, you typically need the DNA of both the parents and the kids to prove parthenogenesis, but this new study on sawfish shows that scientists can accomplish the task with a genetic survey of a large population.
“We now have the genetic tools to easily and inexpensively address these questions on a wide scale,” Booth said. “It’s a really valuable study — not just for the field of parthenogenesis but for shark biology and ray biology.”
For instance, the genetic analysis argues that the sawfish performed a brand of parthenogenesis called automixis: wherein an unfertilized egg fuses with a sister cell called a polar body. The result is a highly inbred offspring with half the genetic diversity of the mother. This process differs from “obligate” asexuality seen with some frogs, salamanders, fish and lizards, which creates an exact clone of the mother. Humans and other mammals can’t reproduce asexually thanks to a failsafe system — called genomic imprinting — that won’t let an egg develop into an embryo without both male and female input.
It remains unknown if parthenogenesis is ultimately good or bad for the smalltooth sawfish. Sure, asexual breeding allows females to continue the species during a time when males might be scarce, but it isn’t the most ideal solution in the long term.
“It will skew the sex ratio because their offspring will always be female, so you’d never have sexual reproduction again, once all the males died off,” Fields said. “Plus their offspring live with reduced genetic diversity, meaning they may not be able to adapt to changing environmental conditions around them, such as global warming or mutating bacteria.”
Editor’s note: The headline of this post was updated to change the word “man” to “male.”
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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday threw out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man prosecuted for making threats on Facebook, but dodged the free-speech issues that had made the case intriguing to First Amendment advocates.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said it was not enough for prosecutors to show that the comments of Anthony Elonis would make a reasonable person feel threatened. But the high court sent the case back to the lower court without clarifying exactly what the standard of proof should be.
The ruling was a narrow victory for civil liberties groups that had urged the court to make it tougher to prosecute people who make crude comments on social media that might be viewed as threatening.
Yet the high court declined to lay out broad constitutional protections for such comments. “It is not necessary to consider any First Amendment issues,” Roberts wrote.
Elonis, of Freemansburg, Pennsylvania, was prosecuted under a law that makes it a crime to threaten another person after he posted Facebook rants in the form of rap lyrics about killing his estranged wife, harming law enforcement officials and shooting up a school.
One post about his wife said, “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”
Elonis claimed the government had no right to prosecute him if he didn’t actually intend his comments to be threatening to others. He argued that his musings were protected by the First Amendment.
But the government said it didn’t matter what Elonis intended. It argued that if the comments provoked enough fear and anxiety to make a reasonable person feel threatened, that was enough to prosecute it as a crime.
Seven justices on the high court said it was not necessary to reach First Amendment issues in reversing Elonis’ conviction. Roberts said the reasonable-person standard is “inconsistent with the conventional requirement for criminal conduct — awareness of some wrongdoing.”
Justice Samuel Alito agreed with the outcome, but said he would have made clear that a person can violate the law if he disregards the risk that comments will be interpreted as a threat.
Elonis said he didn’t intend to threaten anyone. He claimed his posts under the pseudonym “Tone Dougie” were a form of therapy that allowed him to cope with the breakup of his marriage and being fired from his job at an amusement park.
After his wife obtained a protective order, Elonis wrote: “Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?”
His lawyers said the comments were heavily influenced by rap star Eminem, who has also fantasized in songs about killing his ex-wife. Elonis’ wife testified that the comments made her fear for her life and she persuaded a judge to issue a protective order.
Those and other comments led to his arrest. A jury found Elonis guilty under a law barring interstate communications that contain “any threat to injure the person of another.” He was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison and was released last year.
Elonis was arrested again in April for allegedly throwing a pot that hit his girlfriend’s mother in the head. Police charged him with simple assault and harassment.
Elonis’ attorney, John Elwood, said he is confident Elonis will be vindicated when lower courts reconsider his case, possibly at a new trial.
“We’re pleased that the Supreme Court saw case for what it was: A criminal conviction for a ‘crime’ of speech based on only a showing of negligence,” Elwood said.
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Editor’s Note: Billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer made his fortune as the seventh investor in Amazon and as the owner of a web ad firm, which he sold to Microsoft in 2004 for a whopping $6.4 billion. He is also a critic of trickle-down economics. Below, Hanauer critizes the theory that a higher minimum wage will cause increased unemployment. Going further, he suggests that economic theories in general are not science, but merely social and moral constructs. This post originally appeared on Hanauer’s blog, Civic Skunks Works and is reprinted here with the permission of Nick Hanauer.
Noah Smith, a smart financial writer with a very good blog, recently wrote an article on the $15 minimum wage for Bloomberg. The piece celebrated the fact that, finally, we’ll have some data on how the $15 minimum wage would affect jobs. Smith said he considered it a test because in theory, “a higher minimum wage should cause increased unemployment.”
The more I thought about it, the less sense this premise made. Smith’s article underscored two big things for me: first, the degree to which people see the evidence they want to see; second, how silly the idea of “economic theory” can be. Smith claims that we don’t know what the result of a $15 minimum wage will be. Will it kill jobs or not? But the truth is there’s abundant and overwhelming evidence that this theory is wrong and that higher minimum wages don’t hurt employment. The evidence is there; you just have to choose to see it.
Let’s just look in my own back yard for an example of that evidence. Washington state has had the highest minimum wage in the nation for several years—at $9.47, it’s a full 30 percent more than the federal minimum of $7.25. Washington’s unemployment rate of 5.5 percent isn’t the best in the country, but it’s not the worst, either. In fact, it perfectly matches the national rate. Seattle was until recently the fastest growing big city in the country. The first part of the $15 minimum wage rollout was successfully implemented in April, and unemployment in our county promptly plummeted to 3.3 percent.
An even more dramatic example of the goofiness of this so-called “economic theory” is the impact of the wages of tipped workers on the restaurant industry. In Washington, these workers earn at least $9.47 plus tips, a whopping 440 percent more than the federal tipped minimum of $2.13 plus tips. Despite the predictions of “economic theory,” and despite the warnings from the National Restaurant Association that eliminating the tip credit would cause food Armageddon, Seattle has one of the most robust restaurant scenes in the United States. Why? Because when restaurants pay restaurant workers enough so that even they can afford to eat in restaurants, it’s really good for the restaurant business. If economic “theory” were correct and if paying workers more resulted in higher unemployment, we would have no restaurants in Seattle.
Everywhere you care to look, you can find examples of high-wage places with low unemployment, and low-wage places with high unemployment. Seattle and San Francisco, cities with the highest minimum wage in the country, have low unemployment and among the fastest rate of small business job growth in the nation. Mississippi, where the minimum wage remains at the federally mandated $7.25 an hour, has a high unemployment rate of 7 percent, far above the national rate. In the overwhelming majority of circumstances, the high-wage states and cities enjoy low unemployment while the unemployment rate in low-wage states continues to climb.
Other examples abound. CEO pay, for instance, has skyrocketed from 30 times median to 300 times median over the last three decades, but we have more CEOs than ever before. How can this be, if “theory” predicts that higher wages kill employment? So, too, for tech workers and financial service workers—wages in those sectors have been climbing like crazy and so has employment. So clearly, wages can rise a lot, and so can levels of employment.
In order for something to legitimately be called a theory, it must result in accurate and consistent predictions. For instance the theory F=MA, (force equals mass times acceleration), is never wrong. Ever. In every case ever tested, force actually does equal mass times acceleration. There are no examples in the known universe in which force didn’t equal mass times acceleration. But the same cannot be said for the “theory” that if wages go up, employment will go down. It’s not always true. It’s not even that it’s almost always true—it isn’t even usually true. Thus, the claim that when wages go up for low-wage workers, employment will go down isn’t really a legitimate “theory.” Rather, it’s best understood as a claim designed to influence how people explain the world around them, and by doing so, control people’s behavior. I think of this so-called theory as more of a scam or a confidence game.
If I can convince you to believe that giving you a raise would result in economic devastation for everyone, and likely unemployment for you, I’ll have economic power over you. The ploy claiming that, “I would love to pay you more, except then it would be bad for you,” has become an article of faith for workers all around the country. This broad untruth is more commonly known as “trickle-down economics.” It is a time-tested way for the powerful to assert control over the less powerful—perhaps the oldest dynamic in human affairs. The real magic of trickle-down economics, by the way, isn’t to convince people that if the rich get richer, that’s good for the economy and therefore good for you. The real power comes from convincing people that if the poor get richer, that will be bad for the economy and bad for you.
This is why economics is often less science and more scam. People want to think of economics as a natural science, like physics, with the comforting reliability of simple-to-understand theories like F=MA. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Economics is a social science, and the so-called theories are really social and moral constructs. The theory that if wages go up, employment goes down isn’t a physical law like F=MA. It’s a moral law like “bedtime is 9:00 pm.”
Economics is mostly how humans rationalize who gets what and why. It’s how we instantiate our preferences about status, privileges, and power. So if I can persuade you that if wages rise then employment falls, I can almost certainly reduce the pressure you and society at large put on me to increase your wages. Because in the reality I’ve created to do so would be bad. For you. If people believe that higher wages means financial ruin for those who get them, they will flee from higher wages and the politics that deliver higher wages.
I’m not asserting that everyone who subscribes to this “theory” secretly knows it isn’t true but says it anyway. On the contrary, the people who say it usually believe it. However, people believe all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons, but rarely because of facts or evidence. Rather, we often believe what suits us, what makes us feel good, or what advantages us. And if you are a person who pays wages or are sympathetic to those who do so, the theory that if wages go up, employment comes down is a very attractive thing to believe and to promulgate. After all, if I run a business, your wages are my profits.
The most powerful forces in economics are not numbers or facts. They are prejudices and preferences. No amount of evidence will ever change the degree to which many of the rich and powerful prefer themselves to be richer and more powerful and others poorer and weaker. The $15 minimum wage will work, just like all the other big historical increases in the minimum wage worked. Workers will be better off, and unemployment rates will be largely unaffected. But the people who prefer the rich to be richer and the poor poorer and the economists who are sympathetic to them will ignore this evidence in the same way they ignore all of the present and past evidence. It’s really just about deciding which side you’re on.
A romance-laden tradition in Paris is coming to an end today, breaking hearts worldwide.
Since 2008, soulmates have flocked to the City of Light to literally lock down their love for each other on the Pont des Arts footbridge. There, lovebirds would attach a padlock (“love lock”) — a symbol of their devotion — to the railing and throw away the key in the River Seine below.
But that display of love has a limit. Due to safety concerns, city officials are in the process of removing roughly 1 million locks, that’s 45 metric tons, about 100,000 pounds.
— Paris (@Paris) June 1, 2015
Last June, a section of the bridge collapsed under the weight of the love locks. At the time, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo discreetly suggested that additional locks could prove a dangerous problem, and appointed deputy mayor Bruno Julliard to find a solution.
Artistes, découvrez la nouvelle vue rendue possible sur le Pont des Arts. pic.twitter.com/0GtD0roKTs
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) June 1, 2015
Translation: “Artists, discover the new view made possible on the Pont des Arts.
Opinions on the love lock removal are mixed. Many are mourning the end of the tradition and have found alternative places — like the Eiffel Tower — to lock in their love. Others consider it an act of necessary cleanup.
— Nicolas Alpach (@NicolasAlpach) May 29, 2015
— Kelly Holden (@kellym_holden) June 1, 2015
— Marie Giffard (@mariegiffard) June 1, 2015
Love locks aren’t specific to Paris alone, and neither is their removal. Last year in Moscow, locks were removed from bridges overlooking the Vodootvodny Canal. In New York, thousands of locks have been snipped away from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Though Paris is the latest city to bid the tradition “adieu,” love will likely find another way to survive.
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Acclaimed author Nicola Griffith sifted through 15 years of prize-winning books for fiction and found that several of the top literary prizes have rarely awarded anything written from a woman’s point of view.
In her analysis (complete with pie charts), Griffith found that the most prestigious literary awards in the English language, including the Pulitzer Prize, lacked a woman’s perspective, no matter if the books were written by men or women.
From 2000 to 2015, women wrote zero out of the 15 Pulitzer Prize-winning books completely from the point of view of a woman or girl, Griffin said. However, over the same period, eight of the 15 Pulitzers were awarded to male novelists that wrote books about men or boys.
Griffith also scrutinized other literary awards including the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and the Hugo Award, all of which tended to recognize fiction written by men from the male perspective of their protagonists.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, when it comes to literary prizes, the more prestigious, influential and financially remunerative the aware, the less likely the winner is to write about grown women,” Griffith wrote on her blog.
Among the reasons as to why women are underrepresented in these judging circles, Griffith thinks that women may have “literary cooties.”
“Either this means that women writers are self-censoring, or those who judge literary worthiness find women frightening, distasteful or boring,” Griffith said. “Certainly the results argue for women’s perspectives being considered uninteresting or unworthy.”
Out of the six, big literary prizes researched, there was a lone holdout: The Newbery Medal. Tasked with recognizing the best American literature for children, the award from 2001 to 2015 was given out five times to women who wrote about women or girls and three times to men who wrote from the female perspective.
Griffith told The Guardian that “this shocking disparity” seen with literary prizes has less to do with who’s judging.
“It’s about the culture we’re embedded in and that’s embedded in us all of us, women and men,” she said. “This is the culture that still calls male writers Writers, and female writers Women Writers. The male perspective is still the real one, the standard. Women’s voices are just details.”
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NEW YORK (AP) — Listen to the Republican candidates for president and they’ll tell you the country faces a dire threat from terrorism, on the brink of falling victim to Islamic State militants.
“I’m afraid some Americans have grown tired of fighting them,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday when kicking off his campaign. “I have bad news to share with you: the radical Islamists are not tired of fighting you.”
Meanwhile, in a Democratic field topped by the nation’s former top diplomat, foreign policy rarely comes up. Instead, Hillary Rodham Clinton and her peers see a nation crippled by economic anxiety, where financial titans grow ever richer and everyday families struggle to keep pace.
“Nobody expects everything to come easy,” Clinton said during a recent campaign event in South Carolina. “But it shouldn’t be quite so hard to get ahead and stay ahead in America.”
As the presidential campaign starts to move past the question of who is and isn’t running for the White House, the two parties find themselves setting out on sharply divergent paths to Election Day. While Clinton visits the early voting states, rarely mentioning her experience as a former secretary of state, her would-be Republican challengers fly to Israel and Poland, eager to gain a foreign policy edge in a crowded primary contest.
“Hillary Clinton is in a complete box on foreign policy,” said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. “Eventually she’s going to have to talk about what she did and didn’t do abroad to further the position of our country and improve the safety of our people.”
Yet Clinton’s Democratic challengers don’t see it that way. Rather than talk about foreign affairs as a way to criticize Clinton, they’ve joined with her to focus on pocketbook issues. Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders described a “rigged economy” and argued the country’s “grotesque level of inequality is immoral.” Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley got into the race last weekend with a message to the “bullies of Wall Street” and promises to “to rebuild the truth of the American dream.”
The only Democrat driven by foreign policy is former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and even then, his primary concern is Clinton’s vote in favor of the Iraq war in 2002.
So far, Clinton’s campaign has felt little need to stress her international record, though aides are confident that she would beat out a less experienced Republican challenger on the issue. Her advisers argue the failing unemployment rate masks a lingering economic anxiety that’s remains voters core concern. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity, in order to brief reporters on campaign strategy.
Republicans don’t ignore economic issues, but foreign policy has dominated their debate. That’s especially true in recent days, as the Senate considers extending surveillance powers granted to the National Security Agency, prompting the party’s candidates lash out at each other (and Clinton).
Republican Sen. Rand Paul has aggressively opposed the 9/11-era anti-terrorism tools and has used his push to end them as a way to raise money for his presidential campaign. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Paul and his supporters suffer from 9/11 amnesia, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that Paul’s efforts won’t help him in the Republican primaries.
Beyond their internal divisions over America’s place in the world, the GOP’s candidates are united in linking Clinton to President Barack Obama’s record overseas. They frequently describe the “Obama-Clinton record” on issues such as Syria’s civil war and the rise of the Islamic State group.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who plans to tour eastern Europe next month, said Clinton has been “riding shotgun for four years” as part of the Obama administration. “It’s her policies as well. And we will hold her to account,” he said while campaigning recently in Michigan.
In a speech Monday in which he raised the prospect of Iran committing genocide with nuclear weapons, Graham was even more direct: “I’ve got one simple message: I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary.”
Both sides are playing to the interests of their party’s most passionate voters — and donors.
A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in April and May found that 53 percent of Democrats would vote for a candidate who doesn’t share their views on handling the Islamic State group, while just 34 percent of Republicans said the same.
The top Democratic donor in the 2014 elections was Tom Steyer, a hedge fund manager-turned climate change activist who has already hosted a fundraiser for Clinton at his San Francisco home. Wyoming investor Foster Friess, who almost single-handedly propped up Rick Santorum’s presidential ambitions four years ago, mentions in almost every conversation the need to arm the Kurds to stop the spread of Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.
The GOP’s largest single donor in the last presidential contest was Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate whose passion for Israel comes before all else. Last week, he presided over a Jewish organization gala in New York, and several GOP candidates used the dinner as a way to jockey — once again — for his attention.
“Our friends in Israel deserve better than what they’ve gotten in the last seven years from this White House,” Christie said.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took a more alarmist tone. “The nation of Israel has never been more in jeopardy,” he said as Adelson looked on.
Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz and Emily Swanson in Washington and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.
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Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for over two years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.
Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours — the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February by Simon & Schuster.
I receive emails virtually every day from people who have been misled or misinformed, sometimes terribly, by Social Security. This generally involves particular staffers at Social Security telling people to do things they shouldn’t do, telling them they can’t collect benefits they absolutely can collect, refusing to help them suspend benefits when they are eligible to do so, or pushing them into one or more of Social Security’s benefit collection traps.
Admittedly, I’ve been hearing only from people worried they were misdirected by Social Security. But some of the cases coming through my inbox make me crazy. I’m also appalled by many of Social Security’s online statements, which, on their face and taken in isolation, are simply not true or are highly misleading.
Rather than simply fulminate, let me list 25 examples of such false or potentially false statements:
1. If you take your retirement benefit early, you can’t suspend your retirement benefit after reaching full retirement age and start it again at age 70 at a higher level.
NOT TRUE: You can suspend your benefit at any time between full retirement age and age 70 and you can restart it any time before age 70. Your retirement benefit will restart automatically at age 70 if you don’t restart it earlier unless Social Security screws up the automatic restart (which people tell me has happened to them).
2. If you marry a foreigner with children and you are their primary means of support, they can’t collect child benefits and your spouse can’t collect child-in-care spousal benefits.
NOT TRUE: The fact that your spouse is foreign doesn’t affect the children’s rights to benefits or your spouse’s right to child-in-care spousal benefits, provided that they are legally residing in the U.S.
3. If you get remarried before age 60 and then divorced, you cannot, after age 60, collect divorcee widow(er) benefits on your first ex to whom you were married for 10 or more years.
NOT TRUE: You can get divorced after age 60, file for your divorcee widow(er) benefit, and remarry your current spouse. This sounds quasi illegal, but as far as I know it’s perfectly legal. If you do this, make it clear to Social Security in writing that this is what you intend to do.
4) If you are disabled, you can’t suspend your retirement benefit (to which you disability benefit converts at full retirement age) upon reaching full retirement age and start it again at 70 at a higher level.
NOT TRUE: Disabled workers, upon reaching full retirement age, have their disability benefit automatically converted into their retirement benefit. And like any other worker who has filed for his/her retirement benefit, they can suspend it and restart it again at 70 at what is now a 32 percent higher value reflecting the addition to the benefit of delayed retirement credits.
5) Your ex-spouse to whom you were married for 10 or more years has to be over full retirement age for you to collect a divorcee spousal benefit.
NOT TRUE: No, your ex-spouse needs to be over 62 and you need a) to have been divorced for two or more years or b) your ex-spouse needs to have filed for his/her retirement benefit.
6) Older disabled children (who were disabled before age 22) of retired or deceased workers cannot collect on their retired or deceased parent’s work record.
NOT TRUE: Provided you can establish the child was disabled before reaching age 22 and remained disabled (as in didn’t earn too much money) after age 22, an unmarried child is eligible to collect child or child survivor benefits when a parent files for his or her retirement benefit or passes away.
7) A widow(er) or a divorced widow(er), who was married for 10 or more years, is over the age of 60, and is under full retirement age, cannot file for a widow(er) benefit if they are working regardless of how much they earn.
ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE: You can file for your widow(er) or divorcee widow(er) benefit starting at age 60 and starting at age 50 if you are disabled. These benefits may be reduced if you take them before full retirement age. Also, some or all of the benefits may be withheld if you earn more than $15,720. And if you file for your retirement benefit or if you are deemed to have filed for your retirement benefit because you are receiving a disability benefit, your widow(er) or divorcee widow(er) benefit will be your excess widow(er) or excess widow(er) benefit.
8) You should consider your life expectancy in deciding when to take your benefits.
NOT TRUE: You can’t count on dying on time. The chances you will die exactly at your life expectancy are zero. The only relevant longevity measure to consider is your maximum age of life—the oldest age to which you can possibly live. For most of us, that’s probably 100.
9) You can use Social Security’s online benefit calculators to accurately forecast your retirement benefit.
NOT TRUE: Social Security’s online calculators assume economy-wide average wage growth and that inflation will be zero in our country from now until the end of time. It would be hard to conjure a more unrealistic assumption about the economy’s future path for wages or inflation. In addition, Social Security’s online calculators assume that you will continue earning at your current level through full retirement age, which may be far off the mark.
10) Social Security can’t and won’t tell you your ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit.
NOT TRUE: If you push them, Social Security will tell you what divorcee spousal benefit you will collect if you file just for your divorcee spousal benefit at full retirement age. This amount is half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit.
11) The more you contribute to Social Security, the higher your benefits.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: If extra covered earnings don’t raise your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings or if you end up solely collecting spousal and widow(er) or divorcee spousal and divorcee widow(er) benefits on your spouse or ex-spouse, extra money contributed to Social Security will produce absolutely no extra benefits to you.
12) You can take spousal or divorcee spousal benefits early.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: You can’t file for either a spousal benefit or an excess spousal benefit until your spouse files for her/his retirement benefit. And you can’t take your divorcee spousal benefit or divorcee excess spousal benefit until your ex reaches 62 and either a) files for his/her retirement benefit or b) you have been divorced for two or more years.
13) Benefits lost due to the earnings test will be recouped via higher benefits starting at full retirement age.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: If you flip from benefit, X, which has been reduced by the earnings test, onto a different and higher benefit, Y, at or after full retirement age, the fact that X is reset to a higher benefit due to the adjustment of the reduction factor won’t help you because you’ll be collecting Y, not X.
14) If you wait until age 70 to collect your retirement benefit you will get all your delayed retirement credits.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: The good folks at Social Security will, without your agreement, give you six-months retroactive benefits, which will reduce your benefit by 4 percent for the rest of your life. See my column about Social Security’s treatment of my dentist. To ensure you get your full delayed retirement credits, you need to have your retirement benefit begin or restart at age 70 and expressively tell Social Security, in writing, that you want no retroactive payment.
15) Disabled workers can collect auxiliary (spousal, divorced spousal, widow(er), or divorced widow(er)) benefits.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: Disabled workers are treated as having filed for their retirement benefits. This is true before and after they reach full retirement age, at which point their disability benefit is called their full retirement benefit. Filing for your retirement benefit means that you can never collect an auxiliary benefit by itself while letting your retirement benefit grow. Instead, your auxiliary benefit is transformed into your excess auxiliary benefit. Your excess auxiliary benefit is either exactly or close to the difference between your auxiliary benefit and your full or actual retirement benefit (even if you have suspended your retirement benefit). If this difference is negative, your excess auxiliary benefit is set to zero.
16) Your spousal or divorcee spousal benefit equals half of your spouse’s full retirement.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: If you have filed for your retirement benefit (even if you’ve suspended it), you’re spousal or divorcee spousal benefit becomes your excess spousal or excess divorcee spousal benefit, which can easily be zero.
17) Widow(er)s can collect widow(er)’s benefits on their deceased spouse’s work record or on their ex’s work record.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: If you have filed for your retirement benefit (even if you’ve suspended it), your widow(er) or divorcee widow(er) benefit becomes your excess widow(er) or excess divorcee widow(er) benefit, which can be zero.
18) Social Security doesn’t discriminate against the disabled.
NOT TRUE: Due to Social Security’s incredibly nasty 2014 Christmas present, the disabled cannot collect full spousal benefits between full retirement age and 70. This is something that one of two married spouses can do and that both ex-spouses from a marriage of 10 or more years can do. Disabled workers also can never collect full widow(er) benefits from their deceased former spouse or their deceased ex-spouse to whom they were married for 10 or more years.
19) Social Security is neutral to inflation.
NOT TRUE: After age 60, your annual nominal covered wages—with no adjustment for inflation or economy-wide real wage growth—are compared with your pre-age 60 covered wages that are indexed to inflation and economy-wide real wage growth in determining your AIME (average indexed monthly earnings). That in turn, determines your full retirement benefit and auxiliary benefits that current and former family members can collect on your work record.
20) If you take your widow(er)’s benefit early, they will be reduced.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: If your spouse or ex-spouse took their retirement benefit early, your widow(er)’s benefit is subject to a special and highly complex RIB-LIM formula.
21) Your divorcee Social Security benefits don’t depend on when your ex takes his/her retirement benefit.
NOT TRUE: Your divorcee widow’s benefit will, in general, depend on when your ex took his/her full retirement benefit.
22) If you get remarried before age 60 you can’t collect widow(er) benefits on the work record of your deceased ex-spouse.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: You are, it appears, free to get divorced, file for your divorcee widow(er) benefit, and then get remarried. I can’t absolutely swear this is possible or even legal, so you’ll need to check with Social Security and have them indicate in writing that there is no problem.
23) A child who is over 22 and was disabled before 22 can collect child benefits when his/her parent(s) file for retirement benefits and can collect child survivor benefits when his/her parent(s) die(s).
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: If your child earns too much money for even a very short period of time, your child can be judged by Social Security to have not been continually disabled after age 22 and, therefore, disqualified for any child or child-survivor benefits. So be extremely careful about having your disabled child earn too much money perhaps via the generosity of a friend or a kind employer or because you are, illegally, trying to save taxes by paying your child rather than yourself out of your business’s income.
24) If you receive a pension from non-covered employment, the Windfall Elimination Provision—unless you have 30 years of substantial earnings—and Government Pension Offset Provisions will reduce your retirement benefit and the spousal or excess spousal benefits you receive on your spouse or former spouses’ work records.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: The Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset provision only kick in when you start receiving your non-covered pension. If you can wait to collect a higher non-covered pension, it may behoove you to do so, because you can collect your Social Security benefits free of any losses due to the WEP or GPO until the point you start collecting the non-covered pension.
25) If you are the spouse with a child receiving a child benefit you can receive a child-in-care spousal benefit.
NOT NECESSARILY TRUE: If your child is in an institution and not directly in your care, you may not be eligible to receive a child-in-care spousal benefit.
The post 25 examples of why you can’t trust what Social Security says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Watch Patrick Hicks read his poem “The Strangers” from his collection “Adoptable,” at the 2015 AWP Conference and Bookfair in Minneapolis. Read the text of the poem is below.
on the night my internationally adopted son arrived
After we picked you up at the Omaha airport,
we clamped you into a new car seat
and listened to you yowl
beneath the streetlights of Nebraska.
Our hotel suite was plump with toys,
ready, we hoped, to soothe you into America.
But for a solid hour you watched the door,
shrieking, Umma, the Korean word for mother.
Once or twice you glanced back at us
and, in this netherworld where a door home
had slammed shut forever, your terrified eyes
paced between the past and the future.
Umma, you screamed. Umma!
But your foster mother back in Seoul never appeared.
Your new mother and I lay on the bed,
cooing your birth name,
until, at last, you collapsed into our arms.
In time, even terror must yield to sleep.
Patrick Hicks is the author of over ten books, including “The Collector of Names,” “Adoptable,” “This London” and “The Commandant of Lubizec.” His work has appeared in numerous publications including Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, Tar River Poetry and Prairie Schooner and he has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize. Hicks was recently a finalist for the High Plains Book Award, the Dzanc Short Story Collection Competition and the Gival Press Novel Award. He is the recipient of several grants, including from the Bush Artist Foundation and the South Dakota Arts Council and he is the winner of the Glimmer Train Fiction Award. Hicks teaches at Sierra Nevada College.
This video was filmed at the AWP Conference & Bookfair. Special thanks to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
The post Poet recalls the ‘terror’ of the first day of adoption appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me.
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 1, 2015
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, made her debut online today with a new Twitter account alongside the release of Vanity Fair’s July cover, featuring a portrait by Annie Leibovitz.
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) June 1, 2015
Jenner came out publicly as a transgender woman in an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer last month. Today’s release drew wide support online from the LGBTQ community, celebrities and fans around the Vanity Fair-led hashtag campaign, #CallMeCaitlyn.
Let's celebrate Caitlyn & use her moment to uplift trans folks facing insurmountable economic barriers for affirming healthcare.
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) June 1, 2015
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) June 1, 2015
Can we just talk about how awesome it is that Caitlyn Jenner went against the whole Kardashian/Jenner "K" trend?
— Chris Riddle (@ChrisRiddle) June 1, 2015
— Valerie Jarrett (@vj44) June 1, 2015
Members of the Kardashian family also joined in to voice their support on Twitter.
be free now pretty bird.
— Kendall Jenner (@KendallJenner) June 1, 2015
Caitlyn Jenner for Vanity Fair Annie Leibovitz! How beautiful! Be happy, be proud, live life YOUR way! pic.twitter.com/39fryBwUqE
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) June 1, 2015
We were given this life because you were strong enough to live it! I couldn't be prouder!!! Caitlyn,… https://t.co/Ho5O6swM0V
— Khloé (@khloekardashian) June 1, 2015
Many people observed online that Jenner eschewed the typical Kardashian “K” in favor of the “Caitlyn” spelling.
Bruce Jenner going by Caitlyn instead of Kaitlyn is the biggest “screw you” to the Kardashians I can think of. I love it.
— Alexis Kleinman (@alexiskleinman) June 1, 2015
In order to correct any misuse of pronouns towards Jenner, a Twitter bot account called @she_not_he was created to guide those incorrectly referring to Jenner as “he” instead of “she.” At the time of this posting, the Twitter account has tweeted over 300 times since its inception earlier today. The bot does occasionally make mistakes.
SarahEMoreno: It's she, not he. http://t.co/aYhrppq4nH
— She not he (@she_not_he) June 1, 2015
ESPN also announced today that Jenner would receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY Awards in July. The award is granted to people “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”
Thus far, “Caitlyn Jenner” has been tweeted about over 500,000 times.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Pentagon today gave new information about that scare over live anthrax samples. Officials said 51 labs in 17 states, plus Washington, D.C., and three foreign countries received the suspected live spores. That’s a larger number than what was previously disclosed.
At a news conference today, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work sought to reassure the public.
ROBERT WORK, Deputy Secretary of Defense: We continue to work with the CDC to ensure that all possible safeguards are taken to prevent exposure at the labs in question and that any worker that might have had risk of exposure, even to these low-concentrated samples, they are closely monitored.
We know of no risk to the general public from these samples. To provide context, the concentration of these samples are too low to infect the average healthy individual. Everyone in the Department of Defense takes this issue very seriously, because it is a matter of public health and also the health of all of the members of our department.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Joining me now to tell us more about what happened and the response is Nancy Youssef. She’s the senior national security correspondent for The Daily Beast.
Nancy, welcome back to the program.
So, many more samples of anthrax were sent out to these labs than was known before. Why is this coming out in bits and pieces like this?
NANCY YOUSSEF, The Daily Beast: Well, part of it is that it takes several days to determine which samples were sent out that were positive and which were negative.
This is out of 400 lots, and from each lot comes several scores of samples that are sent to various labs, and so they’re going through lot by lot and doing testing. The number that we’re giving is only out of four lots, 1 percent. And in 100 percent of the cases that have tested so far, it has come back positive for anthrax.
And so it portends of a lot more laboratories and states coming up as recipients of live anthrax.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So there could be more coming out, is what you’re saying?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Yes, that’s right. The briefing that you showed today, they said it repeatedly to anticipate more.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, tell us, what is it — they said today that so far no one has been infected. Are they certain of that and what are they saying about the danger to the public?
NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, they’re saying no one has been infected, but they’re also giving antibiotics to 31 personnel, nine of them here, 22 overseas, as a precautionary measure.
And so there is some concern on that point. But to the public, it doesn’t appear that there was any danger because these are samples that are sent to laboratories, laboratories often that — whose technicians are vaccinated, whose facilities are well protected for such measures.
And so the danger is not so much to the public in terms of getting anthrax through those shipments, but the idea of live anthrax being sent out to an untold number of laboratories, states and workers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So why is it being shipped out to so many places?
NANCY YOUSSEF: So, what happened after the anthrax letter scare of 2001, in which powdered anthrax was sent to Senator Daschle and a number of news agencies, is there was a real uptick in funding for research on anthrax and detection methods, because there was a fear that this was going to be an external threat, a form of bioterrorism.
As it turns out, it was an internal threat. And so the DOD keeps these spores, if you will, provides them to these laboratories for the purpose of doing detection research, other kinds of research to ensure that places can prevent anthrax from being brought in.
For example, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency was one of the ones to receive live anthrax, and they use that to detect — to make sure that those coming to the Pentagon are not bringing in live anthrax with them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, finally, Nancy, are they any closer to understanding why this happened, what was the lapse?
NANCY YOUSSEF: No.
And, in fact, today’s press conference suggested that we’re further away from answers. They said that they had methods in place to make sure that live anthrax didn’t go out. And yet, because there is no standard practice, that everybody sort of has their own way of determining what’s accepted, and the fact that 100 percent of the cases they have tested so far showed up positive, it suggests that at the minimum there was a fundamental flaw in their prevention methods.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nancy Youssef with The Daily Beast, thank you for following this for us.
NANCY YOUSSEF: Thank you.
The post Number of labs mistakenly shipped live anthrax by the military grows appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
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He is the son of tenant farmers who worked the Texas plains, a former Air Force captain, state agriculture commissioner and three-term governor. In Texas history, no one held the state’s top office longer. James Richard Perry has always been conservative but started in politics as a Democrat . He is the only presidential candidate currently under indictment, pleading not guilty to charges of abuse of power and coercion and selling t-shirts with his mugshot via his political action committee. He has two different signatures and one busy road schedule in Iowa. Here is where he stands on 10 key issues.
Budget: Cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP. Pass a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Balance the budget within a decade.
While running for president in 2011, Perry’s long-term budget proposal included capping federal spending at 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product and passing a Constitutional Amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. In that 2011 proposal, Perry pledged to balance the U.S. budget by the year 2020.
Climate change and energy: Temperatures change naturally. Science has not proven that current changes are permanent or man-made.
On the campaign trail in 2011, Perry said that global warming is an unproven scientific theory and that climate change has existed since the earth was formed. The former governor has been an ardent opponent of Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at cutting carbon emissions and sued the agency on the issue in 2010. The Texan advocates for fewer restrictions on oil and gas drilling and has said that there is little proof that hydrofracking pollutes ground water.
Education: Close the Department of Education. Opposes any federal education standards.
Opposed to federal involvement in education policy, Perry would close the Department of Education. He has strongly criticized the Common Core education standards, supporting his state education system’s decision to drop out of the interstate group overseeing the program. As Texas governor, the conservative lawmaker chose not to apply for millions in the federal Race to the Top program because he believed it would impose too many federal mandates on his state. In his 2010 book, “Fed Up!” he criticized the No Child Left Behind program. In an official press release as governor, Perry indicated he was grateful for the funding increase that came from the program.
Entitlements: Social Security may not be Constitutional. Consider raising retirement age and lowering benefits for the wealthy. States should be allowed to opt out.
The three-term governor questions the legality of the Social Security program. In “Fed Up!” Perry argues that the program is a Ponzi scheme and that the 1937 Supreme Court was wrong to rule that it is Constitutional. To reform the program, the White House hopeful has said he is open to making changes for future recipients, including raising the retirement age and reducing benefits for the wealthy. Perry has also proposed partially privatizing the system by creating personal accounts for younger workers. The states-rights advocate would also allow each state the ability to opt out of Social Security and instead implement their own state or regional program.
Immigration: No immigration reform or path to citizenship until the border is secure. Allow undocumented students access to in-state tuition.
The Texas conservative opposes any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants until the American border is verified as secure. He has stressed that any potential path to citizenship must require that those in the country illegally now get “in the back of the line” and receive no “special path” to citizenship. As governor, he signed a bill allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates. He has opposed the federal DREAM Act, which would give legal status to immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children.
Obamacare: Repeal it. Let states replace it.
Perry would like to repeal the Affordable Care Act and not offer any federal replacement. Instead, he proposes that states each determine how to address health care and health insurance. As governor of the Lone Star State, Perry rejected the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act and chose not to implement a state-run insurance exchange for Texas. In both cases, he argued that increased participation in the law would place burdensome mandates on the state.
Social Issues: Ban abortion after 20 weeks, with an exception for life of the mother. Require sonograms before allowing abortion. States should decide whether to allow gay marriage.
As governor, Perry signed a Texas law banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, allowing exceptions to protect the life of the mother or if the fetus suffers from a “severe abnormality.” The conservative politician believes life begins at conception and has said that he would ban all abortions, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. He has supported tougher restrictions on abortion clinics and a Texas law requiring that women see a sonogram, hear the fetus’ heartbeat and wait a day before they can obtain an abortion.
Perry personally opposes gay marriage and argues that states should determine for themselves how to define marriage. Asked in April whether he would attend a hypothetical gay wedding, he answered, “probably.” On homosexuality, Perry has supported anti-sodomy laws. In his book, “Fed Up!” he disagreed with the landmark Supreme Court decision which ruled such laws unconstitutional.
Taxes: Overhaul income taxes by replacing current rates with a single flat tax of 20 percent.
In 2011, Perry released a tax reform plan that would replace the current sets of income tax rates with a single, flat income tax of 20 percent. The plan would allow a basic $12,500 deduction for each household member and keep deductions for mortgages and charitable giving intact.
Iran and Israel: Block or invalidate any nuclear deal with Iran. A two-state solution is not realistic now.
In an April foreign policy address at the Citadel in South Carolina, Perry announced that as president he would invalidate any nuclear deal the Obama administration reaches with Iran. The conservative politician believes the current deal would allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon in the future. Writing on Facebook, he argued that sanctions against Iran should not be lifted until Congress agrees.
Perry told Bloomberg News that in an ideal world he would like to see a two-state solution to tensions between Israel and Palestinians but that he does not think that is realistic now. He has expressed strong support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Iraq and Islamic State: Send U.S. ground troops to fight Islamic State. Increase airstrikes.
Perry wants to send American ground troops to fight Islamic State, telling CNN the U.S. military must be more actively engaged with allies in the battle. He has not indicated the numbers of troops he would send. Last year, Perry called for increased airstrikes against Islamic State and warned that, if left unchecked, the militant group could send soldiers across the U.S. border with Mexico.
Marina Lopes contributed to this story.
Marina Lopes contributed to this story.
The post What does Rick Perry believe? Where the candidate stands on 10 issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
BERLIN, Germany — This weekend President Barack Obama will be meeting in a Bavarian castle with six of his fellow leaders from Europe, Canada and Japan at the Group of Seven (G7) summit, a highly choreographed annual event that produces reams of communiques and press conferences but rarely any memorable results.
On Monday night, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hurriedly and secretly summoned to Berlin the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Union’s executive commission to try to resolve Europe’s most immediate crisis — the rolling deadlines over how and whether to bail Greece out of its massive debts.
The contrast between the two summits offers the starkest example yet of how leadership and authority on European issues is flowing from Washington to Berlin and into the hands of a German chancellor and government who insist with conviction that this role is being thrust upon them.
Far more by accident than design, Germany has become the reluctant leader and key decision maker on critical issues from Ukraine to the fate of the European Union’s embattled common currency, the euro. And in a far cry from the Cold War era when the United States and its presidents dominated much of Europe’s destiny, President Obama and his administration are distant players in many European issues now.
The rapid changes that have hit Europe in the last two decades are prominently on display and under constant discussion in Berlin, which over 144 years has gone from the capital of a newly united Germany to a bombed out flashpoint of Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet Union to a thriving and dynamic capital of a reunified Germany where hipsters, techies and night clubbers share turf amid new and renovated buildings with politicians, diplomats, think tankers and lobbyists.
Observing the first group is to realize how quickly a new generation has grown up with no memories of the Cold War that shaped a divided Germany and Berlin from the fall of the Nazi regime
in 1945 to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. To spend time in meetings and conferences with the second group is to be constantly reminded that the past decade has brought on bundles of issues, any one of which could preoccupy a government.
For years after the end of the Cold War and demise of the Soviet Union, politicians and citizens alike in the now 28-member European Union talked of Europe as an island of peace and stability which much of the rest of the world wanted to emulate. Leadership was shared by a condominium of France and Germany, joined on many issues by Great Britain. But for the last five years, Britain has often turned its back to the EU and is now debating whether to leave it altogether. France has become mired in economic and political stasis.
That leaves Merkel as the last woman left standing facing an agenda that former German Ambassador to Washington Wolfgang Ischinger described as overwhelming. It can be divided into three baskets: the crisis of the Euro currency including a possible Greek exit in bankruptcy and slow to non-existent growth in most EU countries except Germany; a revanchist Russia, whose president Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow the post-Cold War order, starting in Ukraine; and the crisis in the Mediterranean wrapping in refugees, terrorism, Middle East politics and the toxic domestic issue of immigration. Added now is the distraction of dealing with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s demands for new terms for keeping the UK inside the European Union.
As President Obama has realized in his sometimes prickly relationship with Merkel, she has ended up holding a lot of the cards and that her thumbs up or down can decide how issues
are resolved across Europe. And much of that power has come from both her innate caution and ability to hold the 28 EU nations together, whether dealing with the Greek debt issues or keeping sanctions on Russia since it seized Crimea, even as powerful German and other European businesses with stakes in that country kicked and screamed in protest.
And Merkel, a Russian speaker raised in the former East Germany has become the West’s principal interlocutor on Ukraine with Putin, a fluent German speaker from his KGB days in Dresden. Some German and European diplomats privately express concern that Merkel and her entourage have not more actively engaged the U.S. and EU in Ukraine diplomacy, but Merkel’s opposition to providing lethal weapons to the Kiev government helped give political cover to President Obama as he resisted domestic pressures on the arms issue.
But on one issue that has roiled relations between Germany and the U.S., President Obama is catching a break as he heads to the G7 meeting at a Bavarian schloss. Revelations that the German intelligence agency had worked with the NSA in snooping on Europeans had reignited the spying scandals in German media. But in the past week, the FIFA indictments have blown that story off front pages and newscasts in this soccer obsessed country, the winner of four and host of two World Cups.