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- 06/23/15--15:40: _How Kalief Browder ...
- 06/23/15--15:45: _How should the Sout...
- 06/23/15--15:50: _News Wrap: Senate v...
- 06/24/15--11:08: _What happens to you...
- 06/24/15--12:29: _With policy shift, ...
- 06/24/15--13:38: _Twitter chat: Why d...
- 06/24/15--13:46: _Republican-led Cong...
- 06/24/15--14:21: _Dawn over Ceres, a ...
- 06/24/15--15:15: _Shirin Neshat trans...
- 06/24/15--15:20: _China, U.S. wrap up...
- 06/24/15--15:23: _Report: Right-wing ...
- 06/24/15--15:25: _Why North Dakota’s ...
- 06/24/15--15:30: _Charleston’s mayor ...
- 06/24/15--15:35: _How Obama’s fast-tr...
- 06/24/15--15:37: _Refusing to pay ran...
- 06/24/15--15:40: _Shifting policy, Ob...
- 06/24/15--15:45: _At Boston bombing s...
- 06/24/15--15:50: _News Wrap: Body of ...
- 06/25/15--11:10: _How Marvin Gaye and...
- 06/25/15--11:18: _WATCH: Funeral of C...
- 06/23/15--15:40: How Kalief Browder became the face of Rikers Island abuse
- 06/23/15--15:45: How should the South see its Confederate past?
- 06/23/15--15:50: News Wrap: Senate votes to advance fast-track trade authority
- 06/24/15--11:08: What happens to your Medicare when you marry?
- 06/24/15--13:38: Twitter chat: Why does so much of the food we produce get wasted?
- 06/24/15--13:46: Republican-led Congress grants Obama fast track trade authority win
- 06/24/15--14:21: Dawn over Ceres, a mission of humankind
- “We’re exploring a distant alien world … for us. We all want to know what it would look like if you were really there.”
- 06/24/15--15:20: China, U.S. wrap up talks amid growing distrust
- 06/24/15--15:25: Why North Dakota’s oil fields are so deadly for workers
- 06/24/15--15:30: Charleston’s mayor on confronting racism with honesty
- 06/24/15--15:35: How Obama’s fast-track authority came to pass
- 06/24/15--15:37: Refusing to pay ransom won’t stop kidnapping, says former hostage
- 06/24/15--15:50: News Wrap: Body of slain SC lawmaker lies in state
GWEN IFILL: Now to Broken Justice, our series on the changing attitudes about the criminal justice system and how we detain and punish people in America.
The city of New York has announced it will enact sweeping reforms at Rikers Island, the country’s second largest jail. This follows a class action lawsuit over inmate abuses. The changes include a new federal monitor to oversee the jail, new guidelines for the treatment of teenaged inmates, revised policies on when guards can use force against inmates, and the installation of 7,800 new surveillance cameras.
The face of many of these reforms has become Kalief Browder, a former Rikers inmate who, at the age of 16, was accused in 2010 of stealing a backpack, held at Rikers for more than 1,000 days without a trial before he was released. He never recovered from what turned into a brutal detention, and he committed suicide earlier this month.
Jennifer Gonnerman is a staff writer for “The New Yorker” magazine. She profiled Browder during his three years in jail and has been reporting on Rikers for more than a decade.
Jennifer Gonnerman, explain how Kalief Browder, in particular, after years of complaints brought against this jail for its detention policies, how did he become the face of this story?
JENNIFER GONNERMAN, “The New Yorker”: You know, I met Kalief early last year, and ended up spending a lot of time with him, and ended up writing a profile about him for “The New Yorker” which ran last October.
And one of things that drew me to Kalief’s story was the fact that almost everything that could go wrong in the criminal justice system had happened to him. You mentioned some of the things, but he was in jail, in Rikers Island, for three years waiting for a trial that never happened.
Ultimately, the charges against him were dropped. He endured abuse by inmates, by guards. He spent about two years in solitary confinement. I mean, his story is extraordinary in the details of how horrific it was. And, as you mentioned in the introduction earlier this month, he committed suicide at home here in the Bronx in New York City.
GWEN IFILL: You were able to get hold of some surveillance footage from inside the prison which shows Kalief Browder as the target of some of these attacks.
We want to play a little bit about that. But I want you to talk about the culture of violence we’re talking about here. In this particular video, we see him walking with a guard who, for no apparent reason, begins to assault him.
JENNIFER GONNERMAN: Right.
You know, abuse at Rikers Island has been a problem for a very long time, but it’s gotten much, much worse in the past decade. I mean, that’s what you’re seeing at play in the video, where you have an officer supposedly just escorting Kalief to the shower, but instead throws him to the ground, and for that transgression was never actually punished, despite the fact that we had this video up on “The New Yorker”‘s Web site in April at that time.
When other reporters were calling the Department of Correction to ask what was happening to this officer, they were merely saying that he was being — quote — “retrained.”
GWEN IFILL: How does the settlement reached today between the city of New York and the U.S. attorney, how does it begin to address these problems, especially for teenagers and for the mentally ill?
JENNIFER GONNERMAN: You know, one of the things about this agreement which is really quite historic is how incredibly sweeping it is.
The Department of Justice combined — joined up with the lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society here in New York and a couple of private law firms. And while Legal Aid has been suing the city over conditions in its jails for two or three decades, this is the first time that they have come to an agreement that affects every jail in the system, every inmate in the system, that’s sweeping in scope and so detailed.
And so, for that reason, it’s quite historic and giving hope to some people that maybe real reforms and lasting reforms might actually happen this time around.
GWEN IFILL: But, in reality, how does one track the use of force? Obviously, a lot of cameras, a lot of videos like the one we saw, perhaps more, but then doesn’t someone have to follow up?
JENNIFER GONNERMAN: Exactly.
I mean, that’s one of the most disturbing things, is this video where it shows the officer throwing Kalief to the ground. You know, that video is obviously shot by a city camera, surveillance camera inside. And I was actually inside the solitary confinement unit on Rikers Island.
And yet nothing happened, even though, of course — as you say, even though the video exists, somebody actually has to watch it. Somebody actually has to take action and make sure that justice is brought in each and every one of these cases. And that’s often where things fall down.
GWEN IFILL: Isn’t that what the point of having a federal monitor to oversee Rikers is about?
JENNIFER GONNERMAN: Yes, exactly.
I mean, it’s long overdue that we have more outside eyes, you know, the federal government getting involved and really paying very close attention to what’s going on in Rikers Island. Part of the reason why things got as bad as they did is that people just weren’t paying attention, whether policy-makers, government officials, even the media going back several years. Just, Rikers wasn’t on people’s radar. And things were permitted to get very, very bad.
GWEN IFILL: Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District in New York, who was the one who worked out the settlement with the city, he likened the conditions inside Rikers to kind of a “Lord of the Flies” environment.
Was his involvement what turned — turned this into what it is now?
JENNIFER GONNERMAN: I think that’s definitely true.
Last August, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney, released a report about the conditions in the adolescent jail on Rikers Island which — it was a 79-page report, and it was absolutely blistering. I had never actually read a government report that was as damning as this one, and went into great detail about the abuses that 16- 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds were enduring on Rikers Island.
And that’s — was sort of the first step in this process. And at that time, it didn’t sound like the U.S. attorney was going to bring a lawsuit against New York City. But things got worse and worse. And that’s what they ultimately did, joining this other class action lawsuit that Legal Aid had. And that’s where we are today, months later, with this new legal agreement.
And that’s exactly why — I think his involvement is why this has got the best chance of reform yet.
GWEN IFILL: Well, your reporting certainly made a difference as well.
Jennifer Gonnerman of “The New Yorker,” thank you.
JENNIFER GONNERMAN: Thank you so much.
The post How Kalief Browder became the face of Rikers Island abuse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The wave of reactions to the Confederate Flag today reached into state capitols across the south. The governors of Virginia and North Carolina both called for taking the flag off special-order license plates.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, should be taken out of that state’s capitol rotunda. And, in Mississippi, the speaker of the statehouse called for the removal of the Confederate emblem from the state flag.
We use this moment to take a look at the South of today with Russell Moore, who is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Liberty Commission. Jack Hunter is a radio host and blogger in South Carolina who has used the identity the Southern Avenger. And from Atlanta is Isabel Wilkerson. She’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Warmth of Other Suns,” about Southern black migration.
And we welcome all three of you to the program.
Russell Moore, let me start with you.
What role does the Confederate Flag play in the identity of the South today, do you believe?
RUSSELL MOORE, Southern Baptist Convention: Well, I think Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol that causes a great deal of division and reminds us of a really hurtful legacy and past.
So, I think people see it in different ways. And I think what some people see in the Confederate Flag is a sense of Southern assertion that the South matters. So, for instance I was at a conference one time where the speaker, every time that he would reference saying something ignorant, would do it in a Southern accent.
I think there are some Southerners, black and white, who feel as though the rest of the country looks down on the South as uneducated and backward. And for some people, that was a symbol of defiance against that.
But it’s really clear that the way the Confederate Battle Flag has been used, not only initially in terms of the Confederate States of America, but in our more recent history in terms of terrorist acts against African-Americans, that this is a symbol that causes unnecessary division.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jack Hunter, you wrote yesterday that you used to believe that it was possible to think of the Confederate Flag having — not having to do with racism, but you no longer think that’s possible. Why is that? Why have you changed?
JACK HUNTER, Politics Editor, Rare.us: Well, because it’s not possible, first of all.
But that’s the mistake a lot of Confederate Flag defenders make, part of what Russell was saying. They say it’s about states’ right. They say it’s about heritage. They say it’s about everything you can possibly imagine that’s honorable and good and decent, while ignoring this vast history of racial terrorism, from slavery, to the Ku Klux Klan, to Jim Crow, to a deranged man walking into a church in my hometown in South Carolina and murdering nine people in cold blood for the color of their skin.
All that is associated with the Confederate Flag. I think this is sort of a wakeup call for the nation and the South and maybe Charleston, where this all started, that that symbol does not mean to most Americans what it means to the people who admire it most. And the people who do admire it are probably smaller than ever, and the people who feel negatively toward the Confederate Flag are probably larger than ever.
It’s time to move on. It’s time for the flag to come down, because it just doesn’t represent who we are as a people, as Americans anymore.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Isabel Wilkerson, I wouldn’t of course ask you to speak for all African-Americans in the South, but how have you, your family members, people close to you, how have you looked upon the Confederate symbol?
ISABEL WILKERSON, Author, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration”: Well, as your other guest has indicated, it’s a symbol of subjugation, it’s a symbol of pain and terror for generations.
I think many people in our country, we don’t think about how long this institution was in place. It was in place for 12 generations. I mean, imagine how many greats you would have to aid to grandparent in order to cover that many families, generation after generation.
And so this is something that African-Americans are still dealing with to this day. When you think about just the very basic effort to try to trace one’s genealogy, you come to a stop as an African-American in this country for most African-Americans when it comes to enslavement. And that’s how African-Americans still deal with this to this day.
This is actually quite real and very personal for many people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Russell Moore, what do you think it means if the flag is no longer going to be a prominent or even a partial symbol of the history of the South, the story of the Confederacy?
RUSSELL MOORE: Well, I don’t think that the story goes away. We have to remember our past sins, as well as our past glories, as a region and as a country.
What I do think it means is that the South recognizes now, starting to recognize now the darkness of some of that past and also the fact that the South doesn’t just include white people. Southerners — to say that one is a Southerner doesn’t simply mean that one is a white Southerner. We have great diversity in the South.
And so we care a lot about family in the South. And I think what’s happening is not that we’re kicking anybody out of the family reunion. We’re saying that Robert E. Lee is part of our story, but so is Fannie Lou Hamer. And Stonewall Jackson is part of our story, but so is Martin Luther King. And I think that’s an important development, and one that we should encourage.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jack Hunter, is it possible to still appreciate the history, or to have any appreciation of the history, the heritage of the role of the Confederacy, and at the same time try to have an idea that is — frankly, that honors today the role that African-Americans play in the South?
JACK HUNTER: Sure.
And those have coexisted for a long time. The question is, what sort of a treatment should they receive that’s more respectful to the majority? Sort of coming from that background where I defended that symbol for so many years, I think it’s such a shame that people are so much more worried about being right than being decent.
And that’s what a lot of this comes down. They want to be right. They want to make their point about what happened on a certain historical date, and you don’t understand this.
I would, you know, tell anybody today, my fellow white Southerners who still defend that symbol, you don’t have the right to tell a black American that they don’t understand what that symbol means. It means something different to them than it means to you. And I think that’s part of the conversation we’re seeing in Charleston right now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you believe that’s changing?
JACK HUNTER: I do. I think it’s for the better. It won’t be overnight, but I think is — this might be a historical moment right now, what we’re seeing.
This tragedy, if there is a silver lining — I mean, I’m from Charleston, South Carolina. I wasn’t — I was very happy, but not shocked, to see people coming together in my hometown, and I think maybe we can do that as a nation. I think we’re changing the national conversation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Isabel Wilkerson, what do you see when you look at the South and you begin to take the Confederacy clearly as part of the history, but when you take honoring the Confederacy, you begin the take that out of the South and the picture of the South today?
ISABEL WILKERSON: Well, I think we’re at a karmic moment for the South, but for our country as a whole.
You think about the last four years, in which, historically speaking, we have been commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in the months leading up to the war. South Carolina was where the first shots were fired.
And then this past week, the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church occurred on the night before Juneteenth, which is a sacred day for African-Americans, the day when the last enslaved people were set free in Texas, which was 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
So, this history is inescapable. And it seems as if we’re coming full circle. And the history and, as it’s playing itself out, even now, seems to be inevitable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Russell Moore, for those who say — but, as you — I think you pointed out a minute ago, what happened during the Civil War, the Confederacy is a part of Southern history. What do you say to those who say, well, I don’t want to forget that; it’s still there?
RUSSELL MOORE: Well, I think we can remember our past without valorizing parts of our past that we ought to see as wrong.
I heard someone say that concern over the flag is sensitivity to micro-aggressions, to which my response is to say that kidnapping and enslaving people, breaking up families, terrorizing families, if that’s not a macro-aggression, I don’t know what is. And the Battle Flag symbolizes that and symbols matter.
Remember the debate that we had several years ago about burning the American flag. Burning an American flag does something. It communicates something. And so I think we can remember our history. We have to, or else we will fall right back into the same patterns, but to do so in a way that understands that where — we come from a fallen people, all of us.
And, as a Christian, the biggest problem with my family tree is not Jefferson Davis. It’s Adam. I believe that we’re all created in the image of God and we’re all fallen sinners. And I think we can recognize that as we look back ward in history.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jack Hunter, how should the rest of the country look upon the South now?
JACK HUNTER: Right now, they should look at us with some optimism.
I mean, I can’t think of a tide change on this issue, anything even remotely close it to in the last few decades. And I think that’s encouraging. I think that more Southerners than ever are understanding that this symbol doesn’t represent the country, doesn’t represent the region in the way it should.
That doesn’t mean you can’t honor your ancestors who fought for a political battle that is important. That doesn’t mean that, but it does mean that you cannot say the symbol represents everyone. And that’s — I think people are seeing happening in the South today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Isabel Wilkerson, the rest of the country, how should they be looking at the South right now?
ISABEL WILKERSON: I think the South is, we should remember, a vital and important part of the rest of the country. And the country looks to the South, one would hope, for hopefully answers to how to deal with this enduring, ancient question, these tensions and conflicts that have cast a cloud over us for so long.
It would just be so wonderful if the answers could actually come from the South itself.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We thank you, all three, for joining us.
JACK HUNTER: Thank you.
ISABEL WILKERSON: Thank you.
GWEN IFILL: A drive to confront the past and take down the Confederate Flag gained momentum today. It was fueled by outrage over the massacre last week at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Amazon, Sears and eBay, announced they will stop selling the rebel emblem. And a leading supplier, Valley Forge Flag, said it will no longer make the banners.
Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Columbia, South Carolina, demanding the flag’s removal from state capitol grounds.
REV. NELSON B. RIVERS III, National Action Network: We are asking right now that every member of the Senate, every member of the House would decide to make this day, this day, the day that the flag comes down.
GWEN IFILL: State legislators took initial steps toward considering bills to move the flag to a museum. We will hear about related steps in other states, and about what happens next, after the news summary.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Senate moved to the brink today of giving President Obama a major win on trade. Supporters won a key procedural vote on a so-called fast track bill, making it easier to push trade agreements through Congress. It would clear the way for an Asian trade pact. By 60 to 37, senators sent the bill toward final congressional approval tomorrow.
But the debate continued even after the vote.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: It will indicate America’s back in the trade business. It will also send a message to our allies that we understand they’re somewhat wary about Chinese commercial and potentially military domination and that we intend to still be deeply involved in the Pacific.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), Ohio: This is a day of celebration in the corporate suites in this country, to be sure, because they have got another corporate-sponsored trade agreement. It will mean more money in some investors’ pockets. It will mean more plant closings in Ohio and Arizona and Delaware and Rhode Island and West Virginia and Maine and all over this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congress is also working on a separate measure to aid those who lose jobs to imports. The president wants both bills, and the White House wouldn’t say today if he will sign one without the other.
GWEN IFILL: The administration is ready to relent on hostage policy, and let families pay a ransom to terror groups. That’s widely reported to be part of a broad revision set for release tomorrow. Families of Americans killed by Islamic State militants say they have been threatened with prosecution for pursuing ransoms.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, Kurdish fighters pushed even closer today to the Islamic State’s de facto capital. Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, captured a military base and a key town just 30 miles outside Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold. The militants responded with an audio message that promised their ultimate victory.
GWEN IFILL: U.N. officials say the battle with ISIS in Iraq has driven more than three million people from their homes. The Sunni militants made a lightning advance across Northern Iraq last summer, forcing many Shiites and other minorities to flee for their lives.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A heat wave scorching Pakistan’s largest city has now killed more than 620 people since the weekend. Hundreds of patients crowded hospitals in Karachi today, suffering from heat exhaustion. As temperatures topped 110 degrees, power outages left people desperate and angry.
MOHAMMAD RAFIQUE, Pakistan (through translator): The government is responsible for this whole crisis. The houses are deprived of power. There is no ice available in the market. The heat is unbearable. People, especially the elderly people, are dying of intense heat. The government is not thinking of a solution.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The anger has sent mobs into the street, protesting the outages and lack of water.
GWEN IFILL: Rescues of migrants in the Mediterranean soared in the last 24 hours, with more than 2,700 people brought ashore. Ships from several European countries took part in operations off the coast of Libya. The Italian Coast Guard says they went to the aid of 18 different boats. We will have a report on the wave of migrants reaching Greece later in the program.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A warning today from the U.N. Children’s Agency: Millions of children still face hunger, disease and death, despite unprecedented economic growth. UNICEF says children in poor nations are nearly twice as likely to die before they turn 5. It warns that without global action, another 68 million children under five will die by 2030, mostly from preventable causes.
GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 24 points to close above 18140. The Nasdaq rose six points. And the S&P added just one.
The post News Wrap: Senate votes to advance fast-track trade authority appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.
Moeller is a research fellow at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-
author of “How to Live to 100.” He wrote his latest book, “How to Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” with Making Sen$e’s Paul Solman and Larry Kotlikoff. He is now working on a companion book about Medicare. Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoeller or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Your Medicare Questions
Medicare rules and private insurance plans can affect people differently depending on where they live. To make sure the answers here are as accurate as possible, Phil is working with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). It is funded by the government but is otherwise independent and trains volunteers to provide consumer Medicare counseling in state and local offices around the country. The nonprofit Medicare Rights Center is also providing ongoing help.
Nancy – Pennsylvania: In February of 2014 my husband had emergency surgery to remove a large blood clot from his brain as a result of a subdural hematoma. He was on short-term disability until May of 2014, worked two weeks, and then went out on severance, which included one year of health benefits. He was speaking with the company’s human resources representative in August 2014 and asked about when to sign up for Medicare. He wrote down that he was told he should sign up for Part B close to the time his severance ends, as that is when his healthcare benefits would be ending. When he went to Social Security in March 2015, he was told that he had missed his opportunity for open enrollment for Part B and that he actually had been enrolled in Part A in 2013. Social Security based his eligibility from the last day he worked (June 2014)—not when severance ended (June 2015). We’ve tried to work through the Social Security representatives to determine if we have an appeal situation based on his medical condition, but with no success. My husband worked for this company for over 33 years and he is 71 years old. The only option we have is private insurance for one year, and once he does sign up for Part B, he will pay a lifetime penalty. Are there any appeals or special circumstances that may help us get him Part B coverage after his severance ends in June?
Phil Moeller: Nancy, I’m so sorry that you and your husband have been through the wringer twice—once when he had the emergency surgery and a second time while trying to navigate the gauntlet of Medicare rules governing sign-ups for the program. It is true that there is an eight-month window to sign up for Medicare after someone who is at least 65 has lost access to his company’s group health insurance. And neither severance coverage nor being on COBRA health insurance qualifies as employer group insurance.
GOT MEDICARE QUESTIONS?
Possibilities come to mind that might provide you some relief, but they seem to me to be long shots. The first is to contact his old employer and see if what’s called his “current employment status” might have extended beyond the last day he actually worked. Was his departure actually a severance from the company or, in legal terms, not such a clear separation? He need not be actively working or even being paid to maintain an employment relationship. If this might be the case, and he was still technically employed as of the end of July of last year, then he would squeeze through the eight-month sign-up window.
The second possibility hinges on whether the company’s human resources representative might be viewed as someone who was authorized by the government to give you advice. If so, the bum information you got might be grounds for an appeal. If not, and if you have any written record of this bad advice other than your husband’s notes, you might file in small claims court to get at least some money to help you defray your medical bills.
In any event, you’d need to go back to Social Security and ask for your case to be reconsidered. By the way, in addition to being denied the insurance you rightly think you deserve, you could get socked by Medicare with late enrollment penalties when you finally do get to sign up for Medicare coverage. These penalties might amount to a premium surcharge of 10 percent a year for the rest of your husband’s life. And, while not wanting to pile on, Part B may not be your only problem. People are not legally required to get Part D coverage for prescription drugs, and your note did not mention drug coverage. But if your husband does need drug coverage—and who can afford drugs these days without insurance—he faces an even shorter turnaround of only 63 days to sign up after his active employment ends. And, yes, Part D has its own 10-percent late enrollment premium penalty.
Your husband deserves better, and so do you.
Tom – California: I am 65, and my husband is 35. I am employed part-time as a pastor and plan to work until I am between 70 and 72. I signed up for Medicare but recently married and am now covered by my husband’s health insurance. Do I even need to keep Medicare if I’m covered under my husband’s plan? If so, must I use Medicare as my primary health insurance?
Phil Moeller: Congratulations on your nuptials! Same-sex spouses in California and most other states now get to wade through Medicare’s regulatory swamp, too! Seriously, you may not even need Medicare right now, and contrary to folklore, it is perfectly legal to leave the program if you become newly entitled to employer group health insurance, either through new employer coverage from your own or your spouse’s health plan. Ask your husband to make sure his coverage is the first in line, or primary payer of your covered medical needs, and that Medicare would be the secondary payer. Only in employers with fewer than 20 employees is Medicare considered the primary payer and thus required even with the employer group plan. Still, it can’t hurt to check. Also, if you’re eligible for Social Security, as a recent Ask Phil explained, it means you’re also eligible at age 65 for “free” Part A hospital coverage. This is usually a good idea. Finally, for the truly detail-oriented among us, you also might compare the cost of your Medicare coverage with what your husband is paying to carry you on his plan. It probably isn’t cheaper but might be better, and this is the time to find out, not after you leave Medicare.
Ronnie – Florida: I recently applied for Social Security and Medicare benefits. I am 65 years old. Social Security recently contacted me to say that after reviewing my online application, it appears I can collect on my former deceased spouse’s earnings which would be higher than mine. I could then wait until I’m 70 to collect on my own earnings at a higher rate. To go this route I must submit a withdrawal application quickly, and I will then be instructed to return the monies received so far. They also said that I must reapply for Medicare, and this is where I am confused. I currently pay Medicare quarterly and mail the check directly to CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Why would I have to reapply for Medicare and face a period of no coverage? I assume once they withdraw my Social security they will do the same with Medicare, and who knows how long this process will take? I am concerned I will fall outside of the open enrollment period if I have to reapply after they process my application to withdraw.
Phil Moeller: Ronnie is right on the money here. Increasingly, we have to be our own watchdogs. As it turns out, there is no reason for her to lose Medicare coverage and it’s a shame she has had to endure this worrisome episode. According to the experts at the Medicare Rights Center, “You will not face a period of no coverage… Your Medicare record under your Social Security number should be linked to your Medicare record under your former deceased spouse’s Social Security number. Because your enrollment will be (eventually) linked, you should have continuous coverage and will not need to enroll during the open enrollment period, because you have always been enrolled.” This process, MRC said, is known as “cross-walking.” Make an appointment at your local Social Security office and make sure there is someone there who will be a point of contact for you throughout the entire process. If you run into any further problems, please let me know.
Betty – Texas: I am 44 and on Social Security Disability. I recently moved from Minnesota to Texas to live with my mother and stepfather. I had recently changed my insurance from Humana to Coventry because their package looked reasonable. However, my new coverage is asking me to pay out of pocket 20 percent for my MRI’s, EKG, EMG, etc. I was scheduled for three MRIs just this month, and my 20 percent cost is more than $350. I only get $762 a month in disability income. I am very disappointed in this new insurer and wondered what plan would be more beneficial for me during open enrollment this fall? I have had to cancel all my diagnostic tests because I can’t afford them. Any advice?
Phil Moeller: Betty, I only wish I had one of those frozen yogurt machines that could dispense Medicare benefits! Pull the lever and out would come the benefits that you need. Sigh! In the real world, you will have to wait for a better Medicare policy for next year. I’m assuming here you have been receiving disability payments for more than two years and thus already are on Medicare. Also, might you qualify for Medicaid? I’d suggest you contact the SHIP office in Texas and get help in selecting a new policy this fall for next year, and also see about Medicaid eligibility. In the meantime, if your disability payments are your only source of income, you should work now with SHIP to see if you are eligible for a Medicare Savings Program (MSP) to help defray your insurance costs, including help with premiums, deductibles and co-pays. You also may be entitled to receive help in paying for prescription drugs under Medicare’s Extra Help program.
President Barack Obama announced a retooled hostage policy aimed at correcting the sense many families have that the government has let them down, he said Wednesday.
The president said the families with loved ones held by terrorist networks told him they felt like a distraction to government agency officials and that they received information “begrudgingly.”
“This ends today,” he said. “These families are to be treated like what they are – our trusted partners, active partners in the recovery of their loved ones.”
Warren Weinstein, who was working for a Virginia-based consulting firm in Pakistan, was abducted in 2011 and held by members of al-Qaida until his death earlier this year.
In January, Weinstein and an Italian hostage were accidentally killed in a drone strike on what U.S. intelligence determined was an al-Qaida compound in Pakistan.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Weinstein’s wife Elaine reiterated her appeal to the government that it offer a coordinated and consistent approach to all hostages and their families.
“We hope to be the last family that fails to receive the level of coordinated government support that those who serve abroad deserve when trouble finds them. As Warren’s case makes painfully clear, the people who take American citizens working abroad as hostages do not discriminate based on their job or employer, and neither should our government.”
While calling the newly created Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell a “good idea” she said the person with sole responsibility for safe hostage recovery policies would be better positioned at the National Security Council “since that would not only give the position more inter-agency coordinating authority but also ensure that those debating counterterrorism activities and hostage recovery efforts were sitting in the same room.”
“This review will not bring Warren back,” she concluded. “It is our most sincere hope that it was conducted fully and frankly so the U.S. government can have an honest conversation about the areas where it falls short. Our benchmark for this review’s success will be the actions arising from it more than its specific findings.”
Weinstein would have turned 74 on July 3.
Read the administration’s full report on U.S. hostage policy.
The post With policy shift, hostage family hopes to be last ‘that fails to receive’ government support appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Each year, roughly 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten. This waste takes a huge toll on the environment: not only does a huge amount of our water, energy and land go into growing food, but much of the produce that is trashed never makes it into a compost heap; instead, it rots in a landfill, emitting methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
One place food waste occurs is actually on the farm. One report estimated that up to 30 percent of farmers’ crops never make it to the market. This waste happens for a variety of reasons. Fluctuating prices may make that it is cheaper just to discard a particular crop, rather than paying for transport costs. Additionally, a lot of produce gets tossed for not looking “pretty” enough to sell.
Although the situation is bleak, a few ideas have been proposed to try to mitigate the problem. In other countries, grocery stores selling “ugly” food have done well, and recently, entrepreneurs have been thinking of trying them out in the United States. Other organizations work to connect farmers to food banks, so that food that would otherwise be wasted goes to the hungry, not the landfills.
How does all this food waste occur? What are some of the challenges facing those who would like to reduce food waste? What can ordinary Americans do to help with this problem? What policy changes would help to address the issue? We address these questions and more on twitter. Ben Simon (@Imperfectfruit) Founder and Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, will be joining us to share his thoughts and insight. Also joining us from the EPA (@EPAland) will be Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response; and Cheryl Coleman, Acting Director, Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division
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WASHINGTON — In a triumph of divided government, the Republican-controlled Congress passed major trade legislation Wednesday that was long-sought by President Barack Obama but vehemently opposed by most lawmakers in his party.
The measure to strengthen Obama’s hand in global trade talks cleared the Senate on a vote of 60-38, and will go to the White House for his signature — less than two weeks after it was temporarily derailed in the House in an uprising of Democratic lawmakers.
A second bill, to renew an expiring program of federal aid for workers disadvantaged by imports, was on track to pass the Senate in short order. It would then go to the House, where a final vote was expected on Thursday.
The rapid sequence of events capped the end of a back-and-forth struggle that played out slowly over months, with Obama, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on one side, and the union-backed Democratic leadership of the House and Senate on the other.
The pace accelerated dramatically less than two weeks ago, when House Democrats prevailed in an early showdown that sent the White House and congressional GOP leaders into a rescue operation.
On Wednesday, McConnell, a frequent Obama antagonist, praised the president and Democrats who joined the GOP on the bipartisan measure vigorously sought by the nation’s chief executive.
“We were really pleased to see President Obama pursue an idea we’ve long believed in,” McConnell said. “We thank him for his efforts to help us pass a bill to advance it.”
The measure would allow Obama to negotiate global trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. The administration was seeking the “fast track” as it works to complete a round of trade negotiations involving 12 nations along both sides of the Pacific Ocean, including Japan.
Obama’s victory comes at a pivotal juncture in his second term. He is bracing for a Supreme Court ruling on his landmark health care law, and next week’s deadline is approaching for reaching a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, hailed the measure as “the most important bill that will pass the Senate this year,” and one that will prove to be an aid to the economy.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, countered shortly before the vote that it would be nothing of the sort. He said it would lead to “corporate handouts, worker sellouts,” as he said had been the case with the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals across the past two decades.
The issue of global trade had opened the most striking breach between a Democratic president and the lawmakers who overwhelmingly backed him on health care and other hard-fought issues. But the White House tried to cast a soft light on the division.
“We have Republican majorities in Congress working closely with Democratic minorities in Congress to build bipartisan support for legislation that then arrives on the desk of a Democratic president,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. That’s how policy should be made “in an era of divided government,” he told reporters.
Boehner, the Republican House speaker, called the trade votes “a big win for the American people. Trade is good for American farmers, for manufacturers and small businesses.”
The 12 participating nations in the current Pacific-based talks account for 40 percent of the world’s economy, and include Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Canada and Mexico. China is not a member, and Obama says a ratified Pacific-rim pact will reassert the United States’ muscular role in international standards for commerce, treatment of workers and the environment.
House Democrats dealt Obama a humiliating rebuke on June 12, when they derailed his trade package only hours after he traveled to the Capitol to personally ask for their help. Republican leaders, with White House support, restructured the legislative package and passed its key elements with big GOP margins, plus modest Democratic support.
A final potential hurdle in the House crumbled Wednesday when Democratic leaders said most colleagues would support a job retraining program that Obama wants.
Some anti-free-trade Democrats had urged defeat of the program, known as trade adjustment assistance, or TAA. Typically a Democratic priority, it’s meant to help workers displaced by trade agreements.
Some saw the program’s possible demise as a last-ditch way to pressure Obama not to sign fast track into law. Obama had said he wanted to enact the fast track measure and the retraining bill simultaneously. But with fast track headed to his desk, House Democrats acknowledged they no longer had leverage to force his hand.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told colleagues that she would vote for trade adjustment assistance. She said it was time to start scrutinizing the Pacific-rim deal.
“My standard for any trade agreement is that it must create good-paying 21st century jobs, increase the paychecks of American workers, and it must do so recognizing the relationship between commerce and climate,” Pelosi told colleagues in a letter.
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“As Dawn got closer to Ceres, one of the first things we saw were these bright spots. It’s impossible not to be mesmerized by these glowing beacons shining out from these unfamiliar lands ahead.”
In December 2003, the Hubble Telescope spotted something peculiar on the surface of Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Hazy images revealed something bright and mysterious shining on the dark planet’s surface, like animal eyes in the night.
Marc Rayman, a physicist and engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, studied the images.
It was hard to know what to make of them. With no other reference, a point of light in the dark could be a firefly at the end of the driveway or a brilliant star hundreds of light years away. Likewise, Rayman wondered, did this bright spot represent a large region on the planet’s surface? (Think variations on the moon.) Or was it a small, highly reflective area? The latter, he knew, would be more interesting.
Four years later, the Dawn spacecraft lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base atop a Delta II rocket and soared into the sky. From wingtip to wingtip, the probe was nearly 65 feet, roughly the distance from pitcher’s mound to home plate — marking the greatest wingspan of any interplanetary spacecraft NASA had ever launched. It was headed for the asteroid belt, home to billions of rocky and metallic fragments.
That was 2007: the iPhone had just come out. For seven years and 3.1 billion miles it traveled, pausing on the way for a yearlong residency at the giant asteroid Vesta, where it captured breathtaking images of Grand Canyon-sized canyons and a mountain more than twice the height of Mount Everest. Finally, in January, it was close enough to point its camera at Ceres.
Dawn snapped its first deep space shot of Ceres on Jan. 13, 2015 and then turned its main antenna to Earth to beam back the data. That data was processed overnight, and Rayman spent the next morning refreshing his email, waiting for the images to appear.
THE PEOPLE THAT POWER THE SPACECRAFT
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where Marc Rayman leads the Dawn mission team, sits at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Many office windows have a view of the mountains, when they’re not obscured by fog. The sprawling facility is larger in square footage than Disneyland and designed like a college campus, with boxy buildings and courtyard coffee carts. Deer from the nearby hills wander in to share the grounds with humans, munching on spiky plants and the occasional stray potato chip. (“We like to joke that they’re robots,” said Preston Dyches, a communications specialist. “Robotic deer rovers.”)
The facility’s main mission control room is the nerve center for JPL’s Deep Space Network. In the dark room, computers flash data and lights. A big screen projects signals from deep-space probes like New Horizon, Dawn and the two Voyager spacecrafts, along with information on the multiple antennas in Spain, Australia and California that catch those signals.
The Dawn mission team works a few buildings over. And for a group that deals in ion propulsion and xenon propellant, the headquarters are surprisingly understated. The team’s own mission control center reminds one less of an operations center for deep space travel than a high school computer lab. Blue Christmas lights strung across the wall are meant to simulate the glow of the spacecraft’s thrusting ion engines. In the hallway, a plastic trash can catches a steady drip of water that’s been leaking from the ceiling for months.
Rayman, who leads the team, is an animated, playful scientist with a deep love of deep space and cartoons on string theory and dark energy scotch-taped to his office door. At age 4, Rayman saw a meteor fly across the sky and announced, terrified, that it was a witch. But when his parents explained that the bright streak was actually something burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere, his terror was replaced with a fierce curiosity. By age 9, he was sending handwritten letters to the Russian Space Agency, requesting topographical maps of Jupiter’s moons.
Leading the Dawn mission is in many ways an extension of that childhood fascination. “I’ve had a lifelong love affair with the universe,” he said. “People throw around the word passion. It’s becoming a bit trite these days. But in my case, it’s an accurate description.”
A DAY ON DWARF PLANET CERES
At 6:45 a.m. on Jan 13, Rayman saw it: the first picture from the asteroid belt to reveal any detail of Ceres. He had hoped to see the bright features again, and the image contained just that, confirmation that they existed. It was a strong sign that the bright spots observed with Hubble were “real and persistent,” he said. The spacecraft would get closer and the images better over the coming months, he knew, but it was clear the team had some big questions to answer.
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, and contains one-third of all the mass there. It is 1.1 million square miles — the size of Texas, California and Alaska combined. Its gravity has made it round. And something, possibly carbon-rich compounds on its surface, makes it dark. Ceres has a reflectivity, or albedo, of 9 percent. For comparison, the moon, on average, reflects about 12 percent. Most asteroids reflect about 20 percent. And Vesta is a whopping 42 percent.
“It’s not like you’d be standing on black tar on Ceres,” Rayman said. “It’s dark, but not unimaginably dark.”
Throughout history, Ceres has waxed and waned in importance. After its discovery in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, who named it after the Roman goddess of the harvest, it enjoyed a half century as a solar system VIP: a full-fledged planet. But not long after, it was downgraded to an asteroid. In 2006, it was again reclassified, this time as a dwarf planet. At the same time Pluto got demoted, Ceres got an upgrade.
Scientists know a good deal about Ceres already, considering its distance. They know that a Cerean day is nine hours. They believe it has a substantial amount of ice. And they think it’s a protoplanet, meaning it began to develop as a normal planet, until its formation was halted, likely blocked by the tremendous gravity of Jupiter. They also know its mass now, thanks to Dawn: 1.03 billion billion tons.
But so much about the dwarf planet is still unknown. The specifics of its composition. And of course, the source and nature of the bright spots. The mission of this mission is to change that.
When Dawn slipped into orbit around Ceres in March, it became the first spacecraft ever to orbit two extraterrestrial destinations. The plan calls for Dawn to circle Ceres at four different orbital positions — each at a different altitude. It is currently in its second orbit, flying at an altitude of 2,700 miles. And as Dawn drops closer to the surface, a richly-detailed view of the dwarf planet will emerge. Between now and the end of the year, Ceres will come increasingly into focus.
That’s already starting to happen. Take the bright spot. What in January looked like one spot expanded to two dots as Dawn got closer. The most recent images show many different spots — at least eight. And by the time it gets to its closest position, the picture will be 850 times sharper than the original 2003 Hubble photo, 12 times sharper than the pictures we’re seeing now.
“To me, the great surprise from Dawn’s observations was that the closer we got, the smaller that bright region became, and so the more reflective it had to be in order to have shown up earlier,” Rayman said.
Keri Bean, an engineer on the Dawn team, points out an image mounted on the wall in their mission control center. The shot is of Vesta, and it was captured by Hubble before Dawn arrived. Vesta looks like nothing in the image, a blob. “All we knew then was a tiny, fuzzy smudge in the sky,” she said. Then she points to another shot of Vesta, also hanging on the wall. This one is a composite, made from many smaller images taken by Dawn when the probe was at its lowest-altitude orbit. This image is almost 2,000 times sharper than the first, and the detail is extraordinary: it shows smooth and densely cratered regions, dark and lighter regions, giant mountains, and minerals on the surface.
ABOUT THOSE BRIGHT SPOTS
On Ceres, there are many possible explanations for the bright spots. JPL scientists say they could be ice or salty remnants of evaporated ice. What they’re most definitely not, they say, are signs of an alien space station, as some UFO hunters claim. But members of the Dawn team expect they’ll have the question answered soon, possibly later this summer. But even then, many questions will remain. Where did the ice come from, for example? Was it excavated from an impact? Or is it coming from the interior of the planet?
Bonnie Buratti, a planetary astronomer with JPL who is not on the Dawn team, believes the images are showing water from the planet’s interior.
“I’m speculating, but there are two reasons,” she said. “It’s inside a crater. And it doesn’t look like an impact event. It looks like dots, vents, in an area of weakness.”
If she’s right, that means Ceres could have a liquid water mantle underneath its crust.
The bright spots are not the only evidence that Ceres harbors water. In 2014, scientists at the European Space Agency announced that the Herschel space telescope had discovered a thin veil of water vapor near Ceres. Unfortunately, Rayman said, this was more than six years after Dawn had launched, too late to install instruments to detect water vapor in space. (If there is water vapor, he said, there’s not a lot of it. “This spacecraft isn’t going to need windshield wipers.”)
But it could suggest that ice on the surface is changing from solid to gas.
And scientists suspect something else might be happening on the Ceres surface: cryovolcanoes, or ice volcanoes — those are the vents Buratti referred to. In other words, volcanoes that erupt ice instead of lava, not so unlike the geysers found on Tritan, a moon of Neptune.
“If there are cryovolcanoes, their energy has to come from somewhere,” Rayman said. “Something has to propel that water, has to heat it up and shoot it up from beneath, and so this would tell us something about the subsurface: the deep underground geology of Ceres. It would mean it’s not a static, dead, cold interior, but rather that there’s heat there driving some geological processes.”
Which leads to another natural question. Could there be life on Ceres?
It’s possible, Buratti said. “You look at Antarctica. There are lakes underneath the ice cap there. There have been probes sent down there, and it’s teeming with life. There’s bacterial life down there in these subsurface oceans that are like pockets of water a mile or two underneath the earth.”
Life, scientists believe, requires three things: water, food and a source of energy. On Ceres, there’s evidence of water, just as there is on Jupiter’s moon, Europa and Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. Organic compounds on the Ceres surface could provide food; radioactive nuclear decay from the planet’s interior is a possible source energy.
If there was life, it would be primitive bacterial life, not walking, talking, thinking life. But still … life?
“If I had to bet money, I’d probably bet no,” Buratti continued. “But if I were to choose a place where there is life in the solar system, Ceres would be one of the places. Europa, Enceladus and Ceres.”
There are other interesting features. Ceres is spotted with craters, indentations caused by flying objects excavating surface material. The southern hemisphere is less densely cratered than the northern. There are mountains and ridges and smooth areas that look as if something flowed across them. Curved lines, or cracks across the surface may be signs of the dwarf planet distorting as it cools off, like stretch marks in the crust.
On June 10, Rayman pulled up a crop of just-released images on his computer. It was the first time he’d seen these new photos.
“Okay, now this is cool,” he said. “Just look at how many different features there are.” He traced a curved line on the Ceres surface with his cursor. “There’s an indentation there, there’s an extension there.”
He moved his cursor to one of the bright spots inside one of the craters.
“Here’s a crater that’s 55 miles or so across, and both in the center and on the side, there’s something that’s bright,” Rayman said. “Is it active? Is it something coming up from the surface that’s reflecting light or is it something resting on the surface itself? And how did it get there? And for that matter, why is it there and not there … or there or there? There’s a lot here to wonder about.”
He looks up, and his tone becomes, for a moment, more contemplative.
“This is a mission of humankind,” Rayman said. “We’re exploring a distant alien world … for us. It’s not for Ceres sake, it’s not for Dawn’s sake. It’s something everyone participates in. And we all want to be transported far from home. We all want to know what it would look like if you were really there.”
Outside his window, the fog was lifting, the sage and live oak dotting the San Gabriel Mountains becoming more visible, changing the view entirely.
Video by Justin Scuiletti and graphics by Megan Hickey.
GWEN IFILL: And finally tonight, an artist examining pieces of history, her own and from her native land of Iran.
Jeffrey Brown has our report.
JEFFREY BROWN: Faces from Iran, still images, and films, the work of an artist looking from afar at the dramas and traumas of her native land.
SHIRIN NESHAT, Artist: I would say that I make fictions. And I think…
JEFFREY BROWN: You make fiction.
SHIRIN NESHAT: Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: But out of reality.
SHIRIN NESHAT: Exactly. I think the creative imagination, art is in essence something that takes reality, and yet transforms it into something that is fictional.
JEFFREY BROWN: Shirin Neshat grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran. She came to the U.S. in the 1970s as a student and became an internationally recognized artist with exhibitions around the world.
Her latest at Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum is titled “Facing History.”
Do you see yourself that way as an artist, facing, looking at history?
SHIRIN NESHAT: On a subconscious level, yes.
When I first went back to Iran, after the Islamic Revolution, when I had been absent for 11 years, when I arrived in Iran in 1990, I was quite blown away by the transformation of the country. And I had also an incredible urge to reconnect to Iran. So, art in a way became an excuse to reconnect to my home, my family and the country.
JEFFREY BROWN: The exhibition begins in the period of the U.S.-backed overthrow of the government of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. But this is history through poetic imagery, as in Neshat’s film “Munis.”
Here, a young Iranian woman falls to her death and then has a magical conversation with a slain protester, in which she ponders her own role in society. Neshat’s series “Women of Allah” explores the impact of the Iranian Revolution and perceptions of Muslim women as being victimized and submissive.
These are staged photographers created in her New York studio.
SHIRIN NESHAT: Of course, the situation Iran in has been very oppressive, but opposite of what the image is, the women are extremely rebellious, they’re very vocal, very confrontational, and by no means submissive.
JEFFREY BROWN: Neshat herself appears in much of her work, embodying the character she seeks to portray. Layered onto many of her images, she adds intricate calligraphy.
SHIRIN NESHAT: I handwrite the calligraphy on the surface of the photograph. It’s the labor of the artist. I’m very interested in literature, Iranian contemporary modern literature. They’re not decorative. They’re not Qur’anic text. They are my favorite poems by favorite poets.
JEFFREY BROWN: Give me an example. Here’s one of an eye…
SHIRIN NESHAT: Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: … that has the writing right in the eye. Right?
SHIRIN NESHAT: Yes.
This image was actually created, one of the first images that I produced. It was in 1993. It’s called “Offered Eyes.” And was the poetry that inspired me to shoot this photograph. The poem is called “I Feel Sorry for the Garden,” obviously, the garden being a metaphor for a woman.
JEFFREY BROWN: A more recent body of work is a response to the 2009 green movement that was violently put down by the Iranian regime. It’s called “The Book of Kings,” a reference to an ancient epic poem about the Persian empire the Shahnameh.
The series, again using models, is divided into three parts, the masses, the patriots and the villains.
SHIRIN NESHAT: This body of work is more about the question of people vs. tyranny, people who fight power and people who hold power. People who desire and believed in whatever it is, is always intersected with violence and atrocities.
JEFFREY BROWN: They’re beautiful images. Do you feel that tension of beauty and violence?
SHIRIN NESHAT: Absolutely. I think that notion of contradiction, paradox, opposite is at the core of my work.
I feel, as a woman, as an Iranian, completely conflicted by who I am in nature, someone, again, very healthy and strong, but also extremely fragile, but also my identity as a Muslim, as a person, as a Westerner, as an Easterner. So, my work is exactly that expression of that sense of duality that I feel that is the core of who I am.
JEFFREY BROWN: “Shirin Neshat: Facing History” is on exhibition through September 20.
From the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the often tense relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
This week in Washington, high-level delegations from China and the U.S. met for their annual talks, known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, aimed at maintaining working relations between the two countries.
Those efforts were strained, however, by tensions over security matters, including Chinese government-sponsored cyber-attacks and theft and that country’s ambitions in the South China Sea. President Obama raised concerns on those fronts with Chinese officials at the White House this afternoon.
Joining me now to discuss what happened is Evan Osnos, author of the book “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China.” He’s also a writer for “The New Yorker” magazine.
Evan Osnos, welcome back to the program.
EVAN OSNOS, The New Yorker: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Remind us, how would you describe U.S.-China relations going into this conversation, and what were expectations?
EVAN OSNOS: This has been a rocky period lately.
The reality is that we’re living through a historic change in the world. China is now rising. It’s playing a greater role in global institutions, whether it’s the IMF or the World Bank. And it is also making its presence known in the Pacific, in East Asia. They’re saying, look, we want to play a larger role in controlling security in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
And, of course, there are issues around cyber-espionage and cyber-theft. The United States recently suspected, but has not formally blamed China for an enormous breach at the Office of Personnel Management. And all of these issues are right on the table as we try to figure out how are these two countries going to talk to each other.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, did the U.S. go in with expectations? What were they?
EVAN OSNOS: The expectations are that we need to continue to build this relationship in a basic way.
Some of this — oftentimes, you go into these meetings and you say, well, this is going to be a talk show. But it’s important because that’s the architecture of the relationship for the moments you have a crisis. Those are the people who you say, OK, who is going to be on the other end of the line when I call?
They didn’t go into this saying, we’re going to come out of these meetings with important deliverables. We’re not trying to say, we’re going to hold the Chinese feet to the fire on this meeting and get them to say, we will pull back on our cyber-espionage.
What they want them to do — and I think this was a baby step in the right direction — was to get the Chinese to acknowledge, look, we have an issue here. Two huge countries with large growing militaries are trying to figure out what they can do using cyber-technology to expand the — their understanding of each other.
But if we don’t talk about it, then we don’t know what each other’s intentions are and ultimately what they are willing to do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, even that, you’re saying the U.S. considers some progress?
EVAN OSNOS: I think they do.
Going into this, part of the goal was to set the table for an important visit this fall. Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is coming for a state visit in September. And in order for that to be productive, they have to know, what are the issues we want to try to get accomplished?
One of the things that the U.S. is going to try to do this fall is to try to get China to come together with us on one of the big issues in the world, whether it’s cyber-espionage or tensions over territory in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. You remember, last fall, we had an agreement on climate change. That was positive. So now the question is, what’s next?
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so where do they go from here? After a meeting like this, does this mean they’re now able to talk, to have regular conversations about what’s going on in the South China Sea, which has China’s neighbors very rattled?
EVAN OSNOS: It — I think this sets the rules of engagement for what are the negotiations in advance of this important summit in the fall.
But if you take, for example, cyber-espionage, this is a case where neither country believes that the other is going to pull back fundamentally from trying to use technology to understand what the other is doing. What the United States wants China to do is to say, look, we recognize there’s a difference between legitimate espionage and the cyber-theft of intellectual property.
And this has been a persistent concern for the United States, that major American companies say, we’re being — we’re constantly being attacked from China. China, so far, has not acknowledged that this is a significant concern. And the United States says, look, you have to realize, this is beginning to affect the overall health of a relationship that neither one of us can afford to deteriorate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, just quickly, Evan Osnos, some area of agreement on economic cooperation and on the environment.
EVAN OSNOS: They did. They came out of this meeting today saying, look, we’re going to work together to help protect the environment, same way we have done it on climate change. We are going to try to promote investment in each other’s countries, but now we also have to begin the hard work of dealing with cyber and dealing with maritime issues in the Pacific.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Evan Osnos, thank you for talking with us.
EVAN OSNOS: My pleasure. Thank you.
When most people think of terrorism, they often conjure images of Islamic extremists huddled in far-away caves plotting intricate plots to harm non-believers of their faith.
But since Sept. 11, a new face of terrorism has emerged: the right-wing extremist. White supremacists, anti-government crusaders and other extremist groups have killed nearly twice as many people during that time than radical Muslims in the U.S., according to a report by New America, a Washington research center. Non-Muslim extremists killed 48 people in the U.S. while Jihadists claimed 26 lives.
Last week’s massacre of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church was a particularly heinous crime reflective of the wave of hate-motivated violence echoing across the country.
“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” one of the researchers, Charles Kurzman, told the New York Times.
The study found that these right-wing extremists were largely white males who used personal firearms a majority of the time to carry out their attacks.
“On a federal level there is no agency that is working specifically on domestic terrorist threats, almost all of them are looking at foreign-oriented threat,” Ryan Lenz, a writer at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Vice News.
The post Report: Right-wing radicals now a larger threat than Jihadists in U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Reporter Jennifer Gollan from Reveal, a podcast and public radio program, looks into why life in the oil fields has become so risky.
JENNIFER GOLLAN, Reveal: When Brendan Wegner left Wisconsin for the Bakken oil fields, his parents had no idea North Dakota was the deadliest place to work in America.
KEVIN WEGNER, Father of Brendan Wegner: I was happy for him. I didn’t know oil rigs were dangerous.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Brendan was hired to work for a small oil service company.
KEVIN WEGNER: And the guy told him, you put your time in here, in a year, year-and-a-half, you will be up over $100,000 a year. For a 21-year-old kid, that’s pretty exciting.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Brendan got the job because he worked as an electrical lineman and was good with heights.
KEVIN WEGNER: If you have ever seen a workover rig, there’s — there’s stacks of pipes in there. His job would be to stand up there and uncouple them or couple them together. And the day of the accident was actually his first day working on the rig.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: A blowout. Oil shot 50 feet in the air. Brendan was trapped. The well’s operator had injected saltwater to make the well safe to work on. Even so, the well exploded.
JEBADIAH STANFILL, Former Oil Field Worker: Yes, that looks like the rig site to me.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Jebadiah Stanfill was working on a nearby rig and rushed over.
JEBADIAH STANFILL: And I go out there and asked him where everybody’s at and how many are there? And he just says, derrick man’s dead, the derrick man’s dead. That’s when I looked up and I saw what I later find out is Brendan burning in the derrick.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Within hours, the rig was a twisted hulk of smoking steel, pinning Brendan’s body under the collapsed wreck. One other worker died. Another lost his legs and later committed suicide. It was the deadliest accident in the Bakken in the last decade.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, launched an investigation that mainly focused on the missing safety equipment.
Eric Brooks is the director of OSHA’s Bismarck area office.
ERIC BROOKS, Occupational Safety and Health Administration: And in this particular instance, you had an employee that was up on the mast. And so now you have a fire and an explosion. And he doesn’t have anywhere to go, because your emergency egress line wasn’t installed. So, his only avenue would have either been to jump or try to climb down into the flames.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Who’s to blame for this accident?
ERIC BROOKS: First and foremost, we talk about what we call the exposing employer. You know, I work for you, that relationship. And that’s where the major accountability holds, is with that exposing employer.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: The problem is, the exposing employer and the operator of the well are separate companies, which shields energy producers from accountability.
There are many layers of contractors in the oil fields. In this case, Brendan was hired by Carlson Well Service, who in turn was working for Oasis Petroleum North America. They’re part of Oasis Petroleum, based in Houston.
A key way energy companies like Oasis further insulate themselves is to hire what are known as company men. They’re site supervisors, but they’re mostly independent contractors outside of OSHA’s purview.
ERIC BROOKS: Company men are essentially the representatives of the oil companies themselves. But, ultimately, they are the ones that are in charge on the sites.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: A sheriff’s deputy interviewed Oasis’ company man, Loren Baltrusch, hours after the accident.
MAN: And what’s your role on the workover rig, then?
MAN: Kind of supervising.
MAN: Supervising, but the men do the majority of the work?
MAN: Yes. Yes.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: By using independent contractors to oversee their wells, energy companies like Oasis can avoid penalties when things go awry. Oasis misjudged the pressure in the well, the root cause of the accident, says the lawyer for Brendan’s parents, Justin Williams.
JUSTIN WILLIAMS, Attorney for Wegners: All the decisions and all the information with regard to that well were made by Oasis. There was no decisions made that reflected a mentality towards safety.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Williams says Oasis had ultimate control over the site that day. Like most companies, Oasis Petroleum typically receives real-time data on well conditions, pressure, and progress. In fact, this e-mail shows that the very well Brendan was working on had been recognized for setting a drilling speed record just months before.
But OSHA gave Oasis cursory attention in its accident investigation. The attorney for Brendan’s parents says the agency lacks a sophisticated understanding of the oil and gas industry. One of its safety reports on the explosion included a quote straight from Wikipedia.
How come Oasis wasn’t held accountable for this accident?
ERIC BROOKS: Oasis doesn’t have exposed employees on the job site. Rather, they hired a subcontractor. Now, that might sound like a bunch of legalese, but it is very important.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: In fact, that means regulators could not cite the company. A handwritten note from an OSHA investigator shows that, while Baltrusch shut down the well the day before the explosion, the investigator still concluded no Oasis employee was on site.
As a result, while Carlson was fined $63,000, Oasis paid no penalty. Carlson, Baltrusch, and Oasis all declined to be interviewed, but Oasis said the well was safe to work on and sent us this statement: “Oasis puts worker and environmental safety first. Any suggestion that Mr. Baltrusch or Oasis Petroleum might have knowingly put workers in danger is patently false. The release of gas and the subsequent fire was caused by a kick, or sudden and unexpected flow of gas into the wellbore.”
There’s another reason top energy companies are not held accountable. Attorney Paul Sanderson says oil field contracts can shield the companies even when they are responsible for accidents.
PAUL SANDERSON, Attorney: If you’re the person responsible for the accident that caused injury, you know, at the end of the day, you should be the person paying those costs.
This bill could save lives.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Sanderson crafted an anti-indemnification bill similar to ones that passed in other oil states like Texas. But Sanderson says he was outgunned by the oil lobby.
PAUL SANDERSON: And by killing this bill, they certainly created a system where they are continued to allow them to shift the responsibility for their own negligence onto other parties.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Safety experts like Dennis Schmitz say that energy companies are drawn to North Dakota because they can sidestep accountability.
DENNIS SCHMITZ, Safety Expert: Literally, you got the fox in the henhouse. It’s easy to see why they — everybody wants to come to North Dakota and do business, because there’s no restrictions.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: And that is one reason the Bakken is so dangerous. Schmitz says it’s often hard for contractors to insist on safety if that gets in the way of production.
DENNIS SCHMITZ: If they are incentivized in the wrong way, it is very difficult to tell the person who literally carries the balance of work for your entire company, no, we can’t do this, or, no, we can’t do it that way because it’s unsafe.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: Heading to the site of Brendan’s accident, I could see another rig drilling on the very same spot. The new oil well is less than 100 feet from the one that blew up. A simple wood cross commemorates the spot where Brendan was killed four years ago.
His parents reached a settlement with Oasis for an undisclosed amount. But the indemnification helped the oil giant pass on part of these costs to their contractor’s insurance company. Brendan’s father says there’s no real incentive for oil companies to keep workers safe.
KEVIN WEGNER: To them, there’s just dollar signs coming out of the ground. I don’t think they have any regards to how they’re getting it, and I think they should be responsible for the well-being of the people working on their site.
JENNIFER GOLLAN: And now that the price of crude has collapsed, many in the Bakken fear that the pressure to put speed before safety will only increase.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jennifer Gollan with Reveal in Williston, North Dakota.
GWEN IFILL: Our story was produced by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. You can subscribe to their podcast on iTunes and hear their monthly show on public radio stations across the country. Find a link to their full investigation on our Web site.
The post Why North Dakota’s oil fields are so deadly for workers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tonight, we continue our series we’re calling Race Today.
Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault, formerly a full-time member of the NewsHour family, returns with a conversation with Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley.
Elected in 1975, he’s one of the nation’s longest-serving mayors, holding office for 10 years — 10 terms as a Democrat.
He sat down with Charlayne today at his office at Charleston City Hall.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining me.
MAYOR JOSEPH RILEY, Charleston, South Carolina: It’s a pleasure.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The horrific crime that took place in your city has the country once again focused intensely on race and racism.
Now, in the 40 years that you have been mayor, I hear praise from all around for you. Can you tell me, what is the most important thing you have learned during that time about racism and how to deal with it?
JOSEPH RILEY: Well, you deal with it honestly, not politically, just honestly.
We have worked hard to produce positive race relations. Most white people back then had had no professional relationship with an African-American. Only a small percentage had gone to school or in public accommodation with an African-American.
So it was a process of getting to know each other and getting people comfortable with knowing each other, African-Americans knowing whites, whites knowing African-Americans. And so it was just continuing to push.
The more people are engaged and the more opportunities they have to communicate and to become friends, and then in — in the African-American neighborhoods, it was very important that they knew that this government was their government.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So you went there to convince them of that?
JOSEPH RILEY: I went — I not only went to convince them. We acted.
We — people call me behind my back LBJ, Little Black Joe, because they said all I was interested in was the black people and their votes. Well, that wasn’t the case. What I knew was, for this to be a great city, it had to be a just city and that we had to begin with citizens who had not been a part of the governance before and had not felt like the government is for them.
So, whether it was affordable housing, restoring neighborhoods, your public places, getting the police in the neighborhoods as friends. Our police operate summer camp with kids. The kids hug them at the end of summer camps. They become their role models. And we have 180 neighborhood councils. It’s a small city, so that every neighborhood is connected with government.
So they began to realize this was their government, as we are affirmatively acted to do that.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The police, by all accounts, performed admirably. And even last night, when there were demonstrators out there in a different mode and mood from the people in the church Sunday who said they forgave, they have shouted, no justice, no peace.
And I’m told that the police escorted them in a most efficient way. Now, how do you explain that, and what do you share with other police chiefs and mayors and others around the country to get that to happen?
JOSEPH RILEY: I think we have the best — best police department in America.
But we know that their goal is to serve the citizens of our community, to make them safe, but do it with — not just with justice, but with kindness and — you know, and good communication. We treat everybody nicely.
And they — I mean, the bad people, we arrest them and all of that. But the police are there as friends of the community. And they know and they’re well-trained to be respectful and courteous. And we have to enforce laws.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But how different is what happens here from what happened just a few miles away when a policeman shot an unarmed black man who was running away in the back? Walter Scott, that’s who I’m talking about.
What’s the difference?
JOSEPH RILEY: Well, our police chief and our police officers are highly trained. And they…
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is that the key?
JOSEPH RILEY: I think it is.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But you set a tone. You have to also set a tone. Right?
JOSEPH RILEY: You set a tone. And they work very hard.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How different is what is going on in here than in the rest of the country, in as far as racism?
JOSEPH RILEY: Well, you know, the young — the killer was not from Charleston, 110 miles away. So, but he was from America.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Right.
JOSEPH RILEY: That’s — he wasn’t — he wasn’t from another planet. He was from America. And…
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And he was a Southerner.
JOSEPH RILEY: And he was a Southerner.
And it shows that there are these pockets of evil and racial hatred that we have to put under a spotlight. They have to be in sunlight. We have to find ways to know. You got the First Commandment. You can say bad things and believe bad things if you want to. But we have got to work as a country to find out where these cells of hate are, and at least bring them into public consciousness, because it’s — if somebody is hateful and believes all of this kind of stuff, and working via the Internet and spreading all this, it’s good if we find out who it is.
We can at least expose that, so that their neighbor knows. And, all of a sudden, you’re not operating in darkness. But we have — we are still a work in progress in America.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But how do you reach people who don’t think that racism is their problem? And there are a lot of them.
JOSEPH RILEY: Yes.
Well, this tragic event should reach most everybody, but hard racists, that racism was a problem. I think it is — to many Americans, is shocking. And I think it shows that there is work to do in our country, not in the South, but in our country.
We need to — we have more work to do to understand each other, respect each other’s differences, embrace each other. We have made — we have made huge progress, when we consider where we were, in my lifetime, in the 72 years — 72 years I have been alive.
But it shows that this is a work in progress. And we need to put our shoulders to the wheel and keep moving it forward.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Mayor, thank you so much.
JOSEPH RILEY: Thank you.
The post Charleston’s mayor on confronting racism with honesty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: After weeks of negotiation, the Senate voted today to approve one of the president’s top priorities: permission to pave a speedy path toward an international trade deal.
The fast track trade promotion authority would require the full text of any trade deal to be made public. It would give Congress up to 90 days to vote it up or down, and it would ban Congress from amending the trade deal. It was a big turnaround on Capitol Hill, and a big victory for the president.
Political director Lisa Desjardins joins me now to explain how it happened.
GWEN IFILL: This is literally the Phoenix from the ashes.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s exactly right. What a turnaround from last week, when all of this blew up in the House.
Now the Senate took it on. And here is what happened, Gwen, change in strategy. Last week, those who supported this idea put together something Republicans liked, which is this fast track trade authority, with something Democrats like, which is assistance to workers who lose their job, coupled those together.
Well, Democrats realized there was a flaw there. They voted against the one part that they were expected to vote for, and the whole thing crumbled. Now do-over, and instead they — people who support this, including the president, have taken these two issues separately, and today’s vote was on fast track authority only. It had the votes last week. It had just a couple votes less this week, but it has made final passage.
GWEN IFILL: And this time, they linked it to something else that members wanted.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.
What they have done here is, they have added to that second piece, which they have separated, the worker assistance. They have placed that inside a bill for an African trade deal that is very popular with, guess who, the Black Caucus, Democrats in the House. They’re not going to vote against that.
And they also added to it one other thing, some provisions that the steel industry likes, something that helps them in international competition. That’s another group of Democrats that cannot vote against that. And so Democrats’ strategy last week no longer in play, because there’s two more sweeteners in the pot that they support.
GWEN IFILL: So, let’s be clear for viewers.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: What passed the Senate today was the trade promotion authority, this fast track deal.
But what still has to now pass the House is this assistance program you’re talking about.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.
GWEN IFILL: Well, we saw Nancy Pelosi today basically change her mind and bring along her leadership to support the president, finally.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.
Just to pull back a little bit, for those who have been watching today, the Senate passed both trade promotion authority and this assistance program separately. The first one had already passed the House, goes to the president, fast track. But the other one, you’re right, that’s the assistance program. That goes back to the House.
And you’re right. The big story is Nancy Pelosi. Last week, she took a stand against it, trying to bring down the whole bundle of things. Now her office tells me, because they’re separated, she wants to help these workers, and she did in fact say she’s supporting this when it gets to the House, a vote we expect tomorrow.
GWEN IFILL: So, this is all — when we talk about fast track, this is all of a sudden moving along very quickly.
LISA DESJARDINS: It is. It’s almost in a blink of the eye, in the last two days. This has completely turned around.
And for those who are very nervous about the ultimate endgame here, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that giant trade deal with much of the Pacific Rim, they’re worried that what this fast track bill will do is it kind of makes that TPP deal, or Trans-Pacific Partnership, much more likely.
But, Gwen, that’s not all that’s at stake. Also coming down the pike, a big trade deal with Europe. I talked to one senator yesterday. He said, put those together, the Pacific deal, the European deal, 60 percent of the world’s GDP. And it was fascinating. He said to me, Gwen, this could be the last big trade deal in a generation.
GWEN IFILL: There’s always presidential politics involved in a lot of these things.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. Yes.
GWEN IFILL: But there was one particular vote that turned — around turned yesterday, today, which I found interesting.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. Yes.
GWEN IFILL: And that’s Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, who as recently as last week was saying this is a great deal for America, this trade deal, but now not so much.
LISA DESJARDINS: Right, voted for it, in fact, wrote an op-ed in favor of this fast track deal, and then this week voted against it.
He said the reason why is, the circumstances have changed. I’m not sure how the circumstances have changed, but certainly his analysis of it has. He says he looked at it again, and believes that this fast track power gives the president too much authority. He also said he wanted to vote against the way that House Republicans were trying to basically beat Republicans into voting yes.
I don’t know. He — it seems like maybe the politics have changed here as well.
GWEN IFILL: The politics changed for the House and for the Democrats in the House and at least one Republican in the Senate as well.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: Lisa Desjardins, as always, thank you.
LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For reaction to the White House announcement, we hear from a former hostage. Michael Scott Moore was held for nearly three years before in Somalia his release last fall. The German-American surfing writer was kidnapped in January of 2012 while researching a book on Somali pirates, with funding from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Pirate gangs finally freed him after his family and organizations from the U.S. and Germany paid more than a million-and-a-half dollars in ransom.
Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, spoke to Moore this afternoon in Washington.
MARGARET WARNER: Michael Scott Moore, thank you for being with us.
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE, Former Hostage: Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: How would the policy changes that the president announced today have changed the ordeal that you and your family and the other families, many of whom you know, went through?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Well, I’m not sure it would have changed my ordeal so much, but it would have changed the ordeal of some of the families who had hostages in Syria.
And my case was a criminal case. They weren’t terrorists, the pirates who were holding me. So I think, for example, information flowed to my family a little more easily than it did to the families in Syria, with people in Syria.
The review that was laid out today and this morning for us seems to release a little bit more classified information to families in those cases, in those instances. And that’s good.
MARGARET WARNER: And how important is it to those families that there will no longer be any threats that they could be prosecuted if they were to pay private ransom?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Well, that’s huge, but it’s a little bit cosmetic.
Somehow, word got around in official circles that people with hostage relatives in Syria, held by ISIS in particular, were going to be subject to material support laws.
MARGARET WARNER: That you can’t provide material support to terrorists.
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: That’s right.
MARGARET WARNER: Right.
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: That’s still illegal.
But I think the idea the government’s trying to get across now is prosecution was never on the table.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, the administration is making clear that nothing is changing about the U.S. government policy, but it won’t negotiate and it won’t pay ransom, because it wants to discourage hostage-taking of Americans. Based on your own experience, does it have that effect?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: No.
Most of the people I was surrounded by in Somalia had no clue about differences in hostage policy between France and Britain, the United States, Germany, whatever.
MARGARET WARNER: So, they were demanding $20 million for you. And, what, they had no idea. They thought, what, the U.S. government was going to pay that?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Yes. They expected money from the U.S. government, from the German government, from my family, and wherever else they could find money, yes.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, tell us a little bit about your ordeal. I mean, what was the worst either aspect of it or moment of it?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: I was held for two-and-a-half years altogether, but, for almost two of it, I was alone, with no one else to talk to besides the guards.
I think the duration of that was the worst part. There were other horrible moments, but I think, overall, that was the worst.
MARGARET WARNER: How did you cope?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: I coped by revising books in my head. I had a couple of books that I knew needed some revisions.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean books you had written.
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Books I had written, almost finished before I went to Somalia.
And I sat there and thought, well, they need to be changed. And I actually rehearsed whole new paragraphs and passages in my head. And that helped. Yoga now and then helped. And the guards too were aware that they weren’t getting exercise, so sometimes they tried to do yoga too. And so I wound up teaching yoga to my pirates.
MARGARET WARNER: So, what about the sense of despair? Did you despair?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Yes.
By 2014, after about two years, I think I gave up hope that I was going to get out. It just seemed like there was a deadlock. And I — no, that’s when I seriously considered either killing myself or killing the guards around me.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you write that you did hope of being rescued. Is that what you wanted, despite the risk? Often, hostages are killed in rescues.
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Sure.
After a certain amount of time, you give up thinking about the risks, and you just want out, you know? That’s a normal part of hostage psychology.
MARGARET WARNER: What was your mother doing in the meantime to try to win your release?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Trying to negotiate with the gang.
MARGARET WARNER: Directly?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Directly.
MARGARET WARNER: On the phone?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Yes.
MARGARET WARNER: And what sort of support did she get from the government?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: She had close-quarters advice from the FBI.
MARGARET WARNER: And no threats to her about, don’t pay ransom?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: No, not from the government, not directly.
There were a couple of moments where it seemed like the State Department was trying to sort of get in the way, but not a phone call to her. That seemed to happen mainly in the cases of the families that had hostages in Syria.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you have written that, if the U.S. isn’t going to pay ransom, then you feel it has a moral obligation to do something else.
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: If we think that American policy is going to stop future kidnappings, then we’re misled by the idea that just saying to a TV camera that we don’t pay ransoms will actually prevent it, because that wasn’t the case in my case.
The one language that kidnappers and terrorists would understand is a consistent policy of rescue.
MARGARET WARNER: What do you mean a consistent policy of rescue?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Well…
MARGARET WARNER: What do you mean that they will understand this?
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: So, Jessica Buchanan was — and her colleague Poul Thisted were both rescued four days after I was captured.
If I had then been rescued a couple of months later, whatever, and other hostages had also been rescued around the world, I think word would get around a lot more quickly that the U.S. has no tolerance for this kind of thing.
But I think, if hostage-takers and the guards in particular were losing their lives on a consistent basis whenever they catch hostages, that would get the word out a lot more quickly.
But that’s different from saying that I think that every hostage case should be resolved by a violent rescue. I think families should have input on that. I think that should be an important element of the new policy.
MARGARET WARNER: Michael Scott Moore, thank you very much.
MICHAEL SCOTT MOORE: Thank you.
The post Refusing to pay ransom won’t stop kidnapping, says former hostage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: After coming under fire over the handling of American hostage cases abroad, President Obama today announced a change in policy.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re not going to abandon you. We will stand by you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s pledge to hostage families follows a surge in deaths in the past 12 months. Six Americans have died in captivity in Syria, Yemen and Pakistan since last summer. Three of them were beheaded by Islamic State militants in Syria.
Some of the families say they were threatened with prosecution if they had tried to pay ransoms, but Mr. Obama promised today that will change.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The last thing that we should ever do is to add to a family’s pain with threats like that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. government will maintain its policy against official concessions to terror groups, although, Washington did negotiate last year’s release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan. He had been held five years by the Taliban. And many European countries routinely pay ransoms for captives.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, Foundation for Defense of Democracies: This is a huge mistake.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But some, like Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, argue the practice only encourages hostage-taking.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies These organizations make hundreds of millions of dollars, when you look at the sum total of them, from hostages. They will nab a person, they will demand a payment, and then it will strengthen their military capacity and allow them to take further hostages. This is an enormous problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Beyond the ransom issue, relatives of beheaded journalist James Foley and others complained of being stonewalled. Last year, Diane Foley told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that her son’s safe return never seemed a priority for the U.S. government.
DIANE FOLEY, Mother of James Foley: As an American, I was embarrassed and appalled. I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president heard that complaint firsthand today in a meeting with the relatives.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Many of the families told us that they, at times, felt like an afterthought or a distraction, that, too often, the law enforcement or military and intelligence officials they were interacting with were begrudging in giving them information. And that ends today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now Mr. Obama has ordered a series of changes, to include creating an intergovernment agency fusion cell for hostage recovery, naming a special State Department envoy to deal with foreign governments on hostage matters, and establishing an issue manager in the intelligence community to declassify information for family members.
The president acknowledges the families are right to be skeptical, but he’s promising there will be accountability.
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GWEN IFILL: During his unexpected statement in court today, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the first time publicly acknowledged his role in the marathon bombings, and said he had since learned the names and faces of his victims. He also asked for forgiveness from Allah.
After Judge George O’Toole formally sentenced him to death by lethal injection, some survivors told reporters they didn’t consider his apology sincere.
Lynn Julian suffered a traumatic brain injury and hearing loss after the bombing, and Henry Borgard still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.
LYNN JULIAN, Bombing Survivor: He threw in an apology to the survivors that seemed insincere and just thrown in because he was supposed to, and then ended again with Allah, talking about leniency, implying that we should now be lenient to him.
HENRY BORGARD, Bombing Survivor: I have forgiven him. I have come to a place of peace and I genuinely hope that he does as well. And for me to hear him say that he’s sorry, that is enough for me.
GWEN IFILL: For more on the drama in the courtroom today, we turn to Emily Rooney of WGBH News, who was there.
Emily, did that statement from Tsarnaev, the apology, did it come as a surprise?
EMILY ROONEY, WGBH: It did, Gwen. It came as a surprise to everybody.
We had heard early this morning that there was a possibility it might happen. But it wasn’t until his defense attorney, Judy Clarke, got up around 1:00 and said there’s going to be an allocution. Well, an allocution could be anybody that is addressing the court. But we’re thinking, well, who is going to do an allocution on the defense side? And sure enough it was him.
GWEN IFILL: In his statement, he didn’t only acknowledge his own guilt, but his brother’s. And that’s not — that was not part of his defense obviously.
EMILY ROONEY: The statement was awkward. It looked like he was reading it. It was hard to tell. He was looking down. And it was very awkwardly phrased.
But he said, in case there’s any lingering doubt, it was me and my brother who did this. We are guilty.
And so a lot of it was kind of poorly constructed. But many times, he spoke about the victims, getting to know them, getting their names, their faces, their ages. At one point, he said, I wish more of you had spoken, even though today there were 24 people who gave impact statements.
GWEN IFILL: And we want to hear about that in moment.
But I want to ask you another thing. The interesting about this for a lot of us, we have never heard his voice. We don’t know what he sounds like. What was his bearing? What did he seem like to you?
EMILY ROONEY: Yes. That’s really egregious, that the federal courts don’t have cameras or at least recordings, although there is a recording. Maybe we can get ahold of it.
He speaks with a thick Russian accent, which some of his friends had said in school and high school and college he didn’t have an accent. He did. It was a very discernible Russian accent. He spoke very softly, but he was also a fair distance from the microphone, so it was hard to hear him.
I wouldn’t say it was an impassioned apology in any form or other. He’s very — has a very somber demeanor anyway. That’s the way he held himself in court the entire time. So, while he did apologize, he used the words, there was no passion behind it.
GWEN IFILL: So the emotions fell to the victims who were in court today and gave those impact statements you talked about. Tell me about those.
EMILY ROONEY: Yes.
That was just a wow, Gwen. A number of the victims addressed him personally: You made a poor choice. You are a despicable human being.
But a number of them chose not to address him, like Bill and Denise Richard. They stood together. They spoke of how he could have helped his brother. He could have backed away. He could have gotten out of the plan. Instead, he chose a path of hate, destruction and death and he said: We are choosing a path of kindness, love and forgiveness.
And so — but some of the ones who spoke about how their lives have been so dramatically ruined, really, with post-traumatic stress disorder, deafness. A number of people spoke about the invisible victims, the ones who looked fine on the outside. You can see the ones who are walking into the courtroom with missing limbs, but who have had a lot of internal injuries, especially the loss of hearing. It was very emotional.
GWEN IFILL: Was there any eye contact ever between Tsarnaev and any of these victims?
EMILY ROONEY: He made eye contact with two young men who were in the defense box. We have never seen them before. They were, I think, friends of his from either Cambridge Rindge and Latin or maybe UMass Dartmouth.
But he was looking in the direction of the victims. Many times, he did his usual thing. He just looked down and he was fooling with a pencil, or pulling on his beard. But clearly his attorneys told him he had to turn his chair to the side, so he could look at them. He was sort of facing them. So, yes, occasionally he looked up, he saw who was speaking. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say he made eye contact.
GWEN IFILL: Now, we gather that some of the — for the prosecutor, as well as some of the victims, they didn’t really see remorse in his statement today.
EMILY ROONEY: You know, I don’t know what anybody was expecting.
I think in some ways there were people who thought that there was a sincerity to it. He said it. He didn’t have to say anything. His life is over. He’s been sentenced. Going on saying nothing would have been the — I think it would have been disappointing, though.
I think people wanted to hear something. They wanted to hear him. And if the apology wasn’t impassioned, at least it was there.
GWEN IFILL: Emily Rooney of WGBH News, who has been covering this for us, thank you very much.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The convicted Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, apologized publicly today for the first time. Then he was sentenced to die for the 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
The 21-year-old Tsarnaev spoke in federal court after listening to statements from two dozen survivors and family members. In his own statement, he said — quote — “I’m sorry for the lives that I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage that I have done, irreparable damage.”
We will talk to a reporter who was in the courtroom after the news summary.
GWEN IFILL: Public viewing began in South Carolina today for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the state senator killed in last week’s shootings in Charleston. The open coffin was displayed inside the statehouse where he served for nearly 20 years. Hundreds of people filed past during the afternoon. President Obama will deliver the eulogy at Pinckney’s funeral on Friday in Charleston.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault speaks with the city’s longtime Mayor Joseph Riley later in the program.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the governor of Alabama has joined the push to rid public spaces of Confederate symbols. Republican Robert Bentley ordered several flags removed today from the state capitol grounds. He called them a distraction.
GWEN IFILL: The government of France expressed outrage today after new revelations of U.S. eavesdropping. Documents released by WikiLeaks showed the National Security Agency spied on the last three French presidents and other officials from 2006 to 2012.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, addressing the National Assembly, said France will not tolerate such actions.
MANUEL VALLS, French Prime Minister (through interpretor): These types of practices are a very serious violation of the spirit of trust we must have. The United States must admit not only the danger that such acts have on our freedoms, but also they must do everything to repair the damages it created in the relationship between allied countries and between the United States and France.
GWEN IFILL: French President Francois Hollande called the spying unacceptable, and he said President Obama promised in a phone call to end it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran’s supreme leader is taking a tougher line on nuclear negotiations with a deadline just days away. In Tehran last night, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected a freeze on nuclear research, as well as access to military sites. State TV also showed Khamenei telling senior leaders that economic sanctions must be lifted immediately.
AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader of Iran (through interpretor): The Americans have offered a complicated, multilayered and odd formula for the lifting of sanctions, and it is not clear how it would work. The lifting of sanctions cannot depend on the implementation of Iran’s obligations. America’s goal is to uproot and destroy the country’s nuclear industry.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. wants sanctions lifted gradually, and says inspections must be part of any agreement.
GWEN IFILL: A Dutch court ruled today that the Netherlands must cut greenhouse gas emissions. The climate ruling ordered reductions of at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Environmental activists said the case lays the legal groundwork for similar action in other countries.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Pakistan, the death toll from blistering heat climbed to nearly 840, even as rain and cooler breezes brought relief. Fewer people were admitted to hospitals in Karachi, after a spike in heat strokes since Sunday. Meanwhile, disaster officials conceded the heat caught them off guard.
NAZAR MOHAMMAD BOZDAR, National Disaster Management Authority: The climate of Karachi is tropical. It’s — people have never expected that such sort of heat would come. And so they were not prepared for that. So that’s why there was a jump, there was a surge during these last three, four days.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This week’s sweltering temperatures were made worse by frequent power outages and a lack of clean water.
GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, a 13th candidate has joined the Republican presidential field. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal kicked off his campaign late today with a rally just outside New Orleans.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA), Presidential Candidate: My approach is different from most of the other people running for president. The United States of America was made great by people who get things done, not lots of talk or entertaining speeches. Oh, to be sure, there are a lot of great talkers running for president already. But none of them, not one can match our record of actually shrinking the size of government.
GWEN IFILL: Jindal is in his second term as governor, but his approval rating has dropped sharply in the face of a state budget shortfall.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street had a rough day, amid new worries about a Greek bailout deal. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 180 points to close below 18000. The Nasdaq fell almost 40 points and the S&P 500 slipped 15.
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Editor’s Note: As students around the country process recent incidents of racial violence, educators are working to create a safe space to address it. Teacher Colin Pierce describes how one lesson, inspired by Marvin Gaye and Nikki Giovanni, made an unexpected impact in a community discussion.
“I’m scared,” Will’s sister said. “I’m scared for him because I think, ‘What if he has a run-in with the police? What will that officer see and how will he react?'”
She blinked and two big tears rolled down her cheeks. She looked over at her brother, a tall, sweet-faced, linebacker of a sophomore at my school. He, too, sniffed and began swiping the tears away from his eyes. Soon it was his mother, then the stranger next to her, then nearly everyone in the room.
In a school community composed of nearly 95 percent students of color, in a neighborhood that has a higher rate of gun violence than anyone would like, this lesson was also designed as a forum to discuss the fears and anxieties stirred up by this year’s seemingly endless string of black and brown men and women killed or assaulted by police, vigilantes and, more recently, racially motivated domestic terrorists.
What emerged was a conversation highlighting a truth that is often lost amid the sensational headlines and commentary on what might justify the taking of a life.
This happened at one of the monthly community outreach events that my colleague Cambrie Nelson and I have been organizing for the past few years. We rotate these events through community centers and other neighborhood gathering places to bring sample lessons to parents and the broader community, with the goal of building supports that enable our largely low-income student population to engage and succeed in the challenging International Baccalaureate (IB) Program.
That day featured a Language Arts lesson aimed at developing comparative textual analysis skills and looking at the way the cultural and historical context of authors and audiences can shape the meaning of a text. I had paired Marvin Gaye’s song “What’s Going On” with the Nikki Giovanni poem “We” and asked the participants to reflect on the messages of each, and then how those messages might have different meaning for young people today.
When I planned the lesson out the day before, I didn’t intend it to end with everyone crying in the basement of a church. And yet there we were, all of us gathered around a table on a rainy Seattle Saturday, with tears streaking our cheeks.
What is really at stake when we talk about systemic violence against black and brown bodies is the psychological and physical survival of thoughtful, caring, young people like Will and the collateral damage of trauma inflicted on sisters, mothers, fathers and brothers. Will is loved fiercely by his family and his community, and he deserves, as all young people do, to have that love expressed more frequently as celebration than as constant fear for his life.
I am white, raised in an affluent neighborhood in Oakland, California, and it would be insulting for me to presume I have anything to teach my students and their families about the experience of racial or economic injustice. But as a teacher in their community school, it is my obligation to create space and resources for those conversations to happen. It is my obligation to make sure the central concerns of the community I serve have a respected place in my class and curriculum.
As my school and others like it work to bring high-quality learning like the IB program to students frequently denied access, we must recognize that we cannot do this successfully without incorporating their families, communities and contexts into their education.
The outreach events started with me “talking to a box of cookies in an empty room,” as the Seattle Times recently pointed out, but we now regularly get over 60 participants. The meetings are part of a larger effort by the exceptional staff and parent body of our school that has seen increases in graduation rates, student achievement and participation in challenging courses.
Our students are already in many ways sophisticated readers of the world around them and we stand the best chance of further developing and transferring those strengths into their school lives when we provide them with content that is relevant to the events and ideas that loom large in their lives. When we do, the conversations in our classrooms spill out into our students’ homes and the communities surrounding them. They now have the tools to be powerful leaders and advocates when they find themselves, their families and their communities under threat.
Sitting around the table that Saturday afternoon, no one tried to interrupt the mood with comforting platitudes. They weren’t necessary. It was enough for the time being to simply be together, sharing our fears and aspirations for our young people and the future of our community, and to hope we could help keep Will and his classmates safe long enough to develop into the agents of change we know they are capable of becoming.
Colin Pierce is a language arts teacher and IB diploma program coordinator at Rainier Beach in Seattle, Washington.
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PBS NewsHour will live stream the funeral services for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, scheduled for 11 a.m. EDT Friday, in the player above.
Live coverage of the funeral for South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, will start at 11 a.m. EDT on Friday. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy.
Pinckney was fatally shot, along with eight other church members, in a mass killing during evening Bible study at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday, June 17. He was 41, and the father of two.
His funeral will broadcast live from the TD Arena at the College of Charleston.
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