Articles on this Page
- 01/12/16--19:49: _Obama: ‘We’ve got t...
- 01/12/16--20:09: _Obama: We should se...
- 01/12/16--20:36: _What issues did Oba...
- 01/12/16--21:18: _Nikki Haley upstage...
- 01/12/16--22:26: _What did Obama just...
- 01/12/16--22:43: _‘Serial’ podcast sh...
- 01/13/16--13:32: _Life after water on...
- 01/13/16--14:00: _How cops used virtu...
- 01/13/16--14:17: _Al Jazeera America ...
- 01/13/16--14:29: _EPA and Volkswagen ...
- 01/13/16--14:48: _Obama, Putin agree ...
- 01/13/16--15:20: _Architecture become...
- 01/13/16--15:25: _What the Rams are g...
- 01/13/16--15:30: _Merkel’s open-door ...
- 01/13/16--15:35: _Former NRA presiden...
- 01/13/16--15:40: _President Obama’s l...
- 01/13/16--15:45: _What’s at stake for...
- 01/13/16--15:47: _Obama’s final State...
- 01/13/16--15:50: _News Wrap: Obama vi...
- 01/13/16--20:57: _Republican Party ma...
- 01/12/16--20:09: Obama: We should serve working families, not big business
- 01/12/16--21:18: Nikki Haley upstages Trump in search traffic during GOP response
- 01/12/16--22:26: What did Obama just say? Experts read between the lines
- 01/12/16--22:43: ‘Serial’ podcast shifts to biweekly schedule
- 01/13/16--13:32: Life after water on the Iran-Afghanistan border
- 01/13/16--14:17: Al Jazeera America announces it will shut down by end of April
- 01/13/16--14:29: EPA and Volkswagen mum on meeting of leaders amid emissions scandal
- 01/13/16--14:48: Obama, Putin agree on a tougher response to North Korea
- 01/13/16--15:25: What the Rams are getting and giving up to move to L.A.
- 01/13/16--15:35: Former NRA president weighs in on Obama’s background check plan
- 01/13/16--15:40: President Obama’s legacy message mixes with 2016 politics
- 01/13/16--15:45: What’s at stake for Iran in releasing detained U.S. sailors
- 01/13/16--15:47: Obama’s final State of the Union address drew his smallest audience
- 01/13/16--15:50: News Wrap: Obama visits Omaha after State of the Union
- 01/13/16--20:57: Republican Party makes preliminary plans for contested convention
To address climate change and the increased demand for better energy technology, President Barack Obama, in his final State of the Union address, promised to invest in clean energy sources and rethink the nation’s approach to coal and oil.
“Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels,” Mr. Obama said.
The post Obama: ‘We’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
In his final State of the Union, President Barack Obama addressed the role that the government should play in business and the economy.
“It has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years. And a lot of them fall under the category of making sure the system is not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. And it’s an honest disagreement. And the American people have a choice to make.”
The private sector is undoubtedly important, and “there’s red tape that needs to be cut,” the president said. But in other areas, he noted, outdated regulations need to be updated to fit the new economy and to better serve working families.
“But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense. Middle class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed a tax on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.”
The post Obama: We should serve working families, not big business appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
In his final and briefest State of the Union address, President Barack Obama highlighted his legacy and signaled where the nation needs to go for continued progress.
For less than one hour, Obama stood before Congress and the country and delivered a prepared speech that was less than 5,500 words, much shorter than his average of nearly 7,000 words over the years. The NewsHour analyzed his final speech and the conversation his address has generated over the years.
He focused on how the U.S. recovered after the Great Recession but pointed out how the work isn’t done yet. He also called on America to innovate and to improve political dialogue.
By comparison, in 2010 President Obama devoted nearly half of his first State of the Union address to mending the economy. He laid out the need for healthcare reform and called on Americans to unite around common values.
Leading up to his final address, the applause breaks aren’t as bountiful as they used to be for President Obama. In his first official address, Obama received 115 rounds of applause. Last year, it was down to 85. And this year, he received the least — 67 rounds of applause.
And according to Gallup polls, Obama’s job approval rating nationwide has hovered around 50 percent at the time of the State of the Union every year. Hours before the speech, polls showed the 45 percent of the country approved of Obama’s work as president.
While President Obama addressed these issues before Congress, social media users lit up their networks with conversation about what he had to say. And during the week leading up to the speech, 15 million Facebook users liked, posted, commented and shared messages about the State of the Union 54 million times, Facebook says. And those interactions most often focused on guns, Islam and Muslims, the Islamic State, crime and criminal justice and terrorism.
On Twitter, Obama’s annual speech has inspired millions of tweets over the last seven years. Conversation has grown from 313,000 tweets in 2010 to 2.4 million tweets last year. This year, more than 1.5 million tweets mentioned #SOTU in Obama’s final address by the time he wrapped up.
Google developed an index that shows where people searched the State of the Union the most. The most intense interest in Obama’s last address was concentrated within the Beltway. Washington, D.C., dominates the list, followed by Maryland, Vermont, Virginia and Massachusetts. When people wanted to find out more about policy issues on the search engine, the most popular terms included taxes, education, health care, immigration and gun control.
But did the public listen?
Nielsen ratings show that audience viewership of the State of the Union address has decreased every year since Obama entered office. Last year, nearly 32 million people tuned in. That’s a 34-percent drop from 48 million people who watched in 2010.
Megan Crigger, Alexandra Sarabia and Jacob Kerr contributed to this report.
The post What issues did Obama talk about the longest in his State of the Union? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
If they didn’t already know her, Americans were introduced to a rising star in the Republican party Tuesday night.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address by softening the tough stance embraced by some of her party’s leading presidential candidates.
The U.S.-born daughter of Indian parents, Haley took a firm stance on how the nation treats its immigrants, saying Americans should resist “the siren call of the angriest voices.”
One of the most vocal voices, of course, is leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. But during her speech Tuesday night, Haley outshined Trump in at least one area — as a trending topic on Google.
Could her popularity even propel her onto the 2016 ticket as a running mate? PBS NewsHour’s Political Director Lisa Desjardins spoke with South Dakota Sen. John Thune who said, “she’d sure be a good one.”
The post Nikki Haley upstages Trump in search traffic during GOP response appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
President Barack Obama spent his final State of the Union speech last night defending his record in office on everything from climate change and healthcare to national security and education.
But his legacy is complicated, and understanding it requires some real insight into the history and politics of his tenure. So we’ve gathered a group of experts to provide analysis on the speech, and to offer their take on nine key policy areas.
Cutting the red tape
“I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut.”
It would be good for Democrats if they realized the extent to which this line resonated, and not only in the hall of Congress. It may well be true, as the President said, that Americans have lost trust in government because special interests dominate in Washington and have, they think, rigged the game against them. But it is also true that regulations can be stifling, regulators imperious and arbitrary, and that to the extent the Democratic Party is identified with Big Government, it is vulnerable.
I wouldn’t bet on it, any more than I’d bet on winning Powerball tomorrow, but it would certainly be intriguing if President Obama were to make the cutting of red tape an economic theme of his last year in office.
Paul Solman, PBS NewsHour Business and Economics Correspondent
Middle Eastern allies
“Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Moscow or Beijing, they call us.”
Middle Eastern allies, especially in the Gulf, have either concluded that the U.S. is not serious about leading any more in their region or has abandoned their interests. The Saudi-Iranian flare up is just one of many examples of how key societies are no longer looking to American leadership — not because they don’t want it, but because they don’t believe it is presently available. One question is whether this is an “Obama issue” that will change with the next administration or an “America issue” that is a permanent alteration in approach. Only time will tell.
Hussein Ibish, Senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
Fundamental science investment
“Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and 12 years later, we were walking on the moon.”
Money spent by the federal government on basic research and development has dropped precipitously as a percentage of gross domestic product during the Obama years. In 2008, the expenditure equated to 1 percent of the gross domestic product. Today it is less than .8 percent. Hardest hit: so-called basic research, the kind of science that does not promise an immediate payoff in some technological advance. But there is a direct line between research at the basic level and everyday items we take for granted; like the smartphone you are using to read this. There was a time when the private sector was willing to make long-term investments in fundamental science, but those days are long gone. It’s important that the political world understand that if our government doesn’t invest in fundamental science, others most certainly will.
Miles O’Brien, PBS NewsHour Science Correspondent
Our carbon footprint
“Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future, especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them no favor when we don’t show them where the trends are going. And that’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”
In a speech with few policy proposals, this one mattered. For months, administration officials have been looking at whether to raise the royalty rate for coal mining on federal land. Right now, firms pay a 12.5 percent royalty rate on such leases, compared to 18.75 percent for offshore oil and gas leases. Many environmentalists are now waging a campaign to keep all remaining fossil fuels “in the ground,” and while Obama did not go that far, this proposal will make digging for coal on public land and drilling for oil and gas in federal waters more expensive. Accused of waging “a war on coal,” Obama sought to mollify Americans in mining country by pledging to direct any additional revenue to fund transportation projects there. But this proposal, along with the comments Obama made, mocking those who question the science of climate change, made it clear he will spend his last year in office pursuing a suite of policies aimed at cutting the nation’s carbon footprint even further.
Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post White House Bureau Chief
Being the world’s policeman
“We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis… Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.”
The president doesn’t want America to be the world’s policeman. On issues of “global concern,” like the civil war in Syria, he wants to mobilize others to “pull their own weight.” But the Syrian civil war is a good example of why his approach doesn’t always work. Most of our regional partners are sitting back and letting the United States fight ISIS. And none of them like our Assad policy. It’s tough to mobilize others when they don’t like our policy or prefer to hitch a free ride rather than pull their own weight.
William McCants, Senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World
Ongoing health care debate
“That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them. And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage. Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far. Health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.”
President Obama called on Republicans to “strengthen” rather than “weaken” federal entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare, a direct challenge to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other GOP members who have said they want to make major changes to both programs. Expect the parties to continue this entitlement debate throughout the ongoing presidential and congressional campaigns.
As he has in previous State of the Union addresses, Obama praised his health care law, noting that it has provided coverage to nearly 18 million Americans. By emphasizing that the measure fills “gaps” in the employer-based system rather than replace it, that health care inflation has slowed and that job creation has increased since the law was enacted, Obama took aim at GOP charges the law has made health care more expensive and decreased access. But his last remarks before leaving this section of his speech – “Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon” – understate the ongoing opposition the health law faces from Republicans on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail.
Mary Agnes Carey, Senior correspondent, Kaiser Health News
Hopes of the Dreamers
“I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done. Fixing a broken immigration system.”
Obama may keep pushing for immigration reform, but the chances of achieving it are virtually nil, given the current composition of the House. He may see hope, but the hopes of Dreamers are wearing thin with no secure future in the only country they know. Barring a major electoral upset in 2016, there is little chance for immigration reform until 2022. Whoever wins the presidency, the House will likely remain under Republican control and in thrall to Tea Party activists who are adamantly opposed to any immigration reform. Only after the 2020 census when congressional districts are reapportioned, will there be any realistic possibility of change in the House — and then it all depends on who controls the state legislatures.
Ironically, it was the Republican respondent, Nikki Haley, who spoke directly on immigration, telling Americans that “during anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” but urging them to “resist that temptation,” an obvious but ultimately empty attempt to balance the xenophobic vitriol of the Republican primaries. She went on to say that people who work hard and follow the laws “should never feel unwelcome in this country,” but that would seem to leave out the 11 million U.S. residents who are presently in violation of U.S. immigration law. Not much tonight for immigrants or their children.
Douglas Massey, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University
Making college affordable
“We have to make college affordable for every American. No hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income. And that’s good. But now we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year. It’s the right thing to do.”
The administration’s income-driven repayment plan (often called “pay as you earn”), in which students pay back college loans as a fixed percentage of their future income, has proved popular, and has helped reduce the number of Americans who default on their loans. Less publicized are the many reasons students fail to take advantage of these grants, ranging from confusing application forms to ignorance of the rules or even the availability of grants to the part-time or in-school-then-out-awhile pace at which many low-income students attend community college. Cutting the actual cost of college is a far more ambitious and complicated undertaking — easy to call for, difficult to achieve.
Lawrie Mifflin, Managing editor of The Hechinger Report
Can we cure cancer?
“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.”
That’s true. December’s new spending bill offered the biggest funding boost that the NIH has received during President Obama’s presidency, aside from 2009 when the Recovery Act was in play. But that’s following more than a decade where the budget didn’t keep pace with inflation. The bill supplies the NIH with a $2 billion increase in the new year, yet this gain won’t return the agency’s budget to its peak level in 2004. When adjusting for inflation, the current allotment for the NIH falls $10 billion short of the 2004 budget.
This year’s budget does elevate funding for the National Cancer Institute by 5 percent, thanks in part to $70 million provided by the Precision Medicine Initiative. Joe Biden’s staff met with the nation’s leading cancer researchers last Friday to discuss plans for his “moonshot” cancer initiative.
NIH director Francis Collins described the 2016 omnibus as “the most encouraging budget outcome in 12 years” and said, “This increase comes at just the right time to take advantage of remarkable opportunities to improve human health, powered by dramatic advances in scientific knowledge and technological innovation.”
Nsikan Akpan, PBS NewsHour Science reporter and producer
Harvesting fossil fuels
“That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”
The president here appears to be spoiling for a fight over the right to harvest fossil fuels on public land. There is a growing push to leave those resources in the ground in order to begin weaning ourselves from burning oil gas and coal. By one estimate, fully 20 percent of the carbon emissions are attributable to the United States, from fossil fuels drilled or mined from federally owned land. Slapping a tax on carbon is a complete political nonstarter, but as he did imposing EPA carbon limits on power plant emissions, Mr. Obama appears to be ready to use the federal rulemaking process to reduce the number of greenhouse gas emissions linked to public land.
Miles O’Brien, PBS NewsHour Science Correspondent
The post What did Obama just say? Experts read between the lines appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Once a weekly podcast, new “Serial” episodes will now come out every other week, host Sarah Koenig announced Tuesday.
The fifth episode of the popular podcast series will be available Jan. 21 and will then continue a biweekly schedule for the duration of season two, Koenig said in an online statement on the podcast’s website.
The latest season of the series covers the story of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who faces desertion charges after walking off a base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban for five years. Bergdahl was released in May 2014, in exchange for five Taliban detainees.
“This story goes in so many directions, and as we’re reporting it we’re getting access to more of the key people close to Bergdahl’s case, and to more information than we initially thought we would,” she said in the statement, adding that the series will also produce at least one extra episode, as a result.
“To do that — or at least to do it right — will take some time,” Koenig said.
Season one of “Serial” was a massive hit last year, focusing on a true crime story allowed millions to scrutinize the 1999 conviction of Adnan Syed, a high school senior who was charged in the killing of ex-girlfriend. He’s currently serving a life sentence.
The New York Times asked producers whether the schedule change would further slow the podcast’s momentum, at a time when season two hasn’t generated the attention it captured in its debut season.
“I have definitely noticed it, and I was definitely prepared for it,” executive producer Julie Snyder told the Times. “So much of the story of season one was about us. There was a lot of coverage about, ‘What is this? Have you heard it?’ We’re not a new story anymore.”
Snyder added that the premiere episode of the season garnered 3.4 million downloads in the first week, which trumps even the seven-day total of season finale from the first season.
Mahdi Barchian photographs the unthinkable: life without water.
In Iran, a seven-year drought has left it scrambling for water sources. The New York Times reported in December on other factors contributing to the water crisis, including inefficient irrigation methods and a dam system that has recently directed water away from areas where it used to be plentiful. And as Iran’s groundwater supply dwindles — 70 percent of it has been used in the past 50 years — conditions are growing more dire by the month.
Barchian, who is based in Gorgan, Iran, first traveled to photograph the Hamoun Lake region two years ago for her series “Living With Dry Hope.” Located near the country’s eastern border with Afghanistan, the area once held Iran’s third-largest lake and a thriving ecosystem of interconnected wetlands.
Now, drought has robbed the area’s residents of their livelihoods, and those that have not yet left are scrambling to survive. Barchian said she wanted to document this crisis on an individual level. “Many people lost their home, family and live in very bad situation,” she said in an email. “They had everything and now … they don’t have anything. I try to show their life and hope first people see and think about life without water.”
As a photographer, Barchian felt a responsibility to bring more visibility to environmental problems in Iran, she said. “I think photography is one of the best ways for learning [about] people. As a photographer you just show truth — people see and can feel without words,” she said. “Environmental problems are important for all people in the world. I think photographers must try to show our world is in a bad situation today.”
See more of Barchian’s work on the series below.
The word “parallax” describes the camera error that occurs when an image looks different through a viewfinder than how it is recorded by a sensor; when one camera gives two perspectives. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.
“The original grainy video that has been shown repeatedly on TV is only a small part of the story here.”
That’s Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, referring to a video depicting the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
His remarks came just after he announced that criminal charges would not be pursued against either Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot Rice on Nov. 22, 2014, or Officer Frank Garmback, who was driving the patrol car.
Much of the grand jury’s decision hinged on how the two officers perceived Tamir Rice as they approached the site of the shooting. And thanks to a 3D laser scanner, we know what this looked like.
This gadget is an emerging piece of technology in U.S. law enforcement that has featured in some of America’s biggest shooting incidents last year. Tamir Rice, San Bernardino, cop killings in New York City — all of these crime scenes were documented using 3D laser scanners from the tech company FARO. These scanners preserve crimes scenes — collecting almost every visible detail. In recent years, more and more law enforcement agencies have adopted the scanners as part of their forensic routine.
Since 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have spent nearly $1 million on FARO scanners. Department of Defense: $18 million. Both considerable sums given that the company offers some of the least expensive laser scanners on the market for forensic analysis and surveying.
As they approached on that fateful afternoon, Garmback and Loehmann would have seen Rice sitting under a gazebo, according to the prosecutor’s final report. Earlier that day, Rice had traded his WiFi-enabled phone to friend for a malfunctioning toy BB gun. The friend had tried to disassemble and fix the fake firearm, and then reassembled it without the orange safety tip. Rice took the toy to the park outside Cudell Recreation Center, one of his regular hangouts. He aimed the toy at car tires, the heads of friends and his 14-year-old sister.
A person sitting on a bench saw Rice and called the police: “There’s a guy with a pistol. It’s probably fake, but he’s, like, pointing it at everybody…He’s sitting on a swing right now, but he keeps pulling it in and out of his pants, and pointing it at people. He’s probably a juvenile; you know?”
A Cleveland 911 operator didn’t relay two key details — Rice’s probable juvenile status and the suspicion that the gun was likely fake — to the police dispatcher, according to the case report, so Garmback and Loehmann entered the scene with the impression that a black male had been threatening people with a gun. They drove into the park, where they skidded to a halt at the gazebo.
We have a sense of what this looked like thanks to 3D laser scanners:
This virtual reality reenactment of the Tamir Rice incident shows the perspective of the officers as they drove toward the area where Rice was shot.
The Ohio Bureau for Criminal Investigation (BCI) collected the 3D laser scans for this reconstruction. Typically, this action would be done “as soon as the crime happens,” according to BCI special agents familiar with the case, but the scans for Rice case occurred five months five months after the shooting.
When asked why it took so long, BCI special agent supervisor Dennis Sweet said the scan wasn’t requested until the county prosecutor took over the case in January 2015. But even then, it took another three months.
The reason speaks to the secondary function of 3D reconstruction: storytelling.
Let’s back up. Using 3D scanning technology, lawyers can guide a jury through a realistic crime scene. The virtual walkthroughs might include animations of people, or as with the Tamir Rice investigation, recreate an officer’s perspective as he drives through a park.
“We’re able to show the officer’s point of view or sometimes the victim’s point of view, which just wasn’t able to happen before,” BCI special agent supervisor Dennis Sweet said. “We were able to take pictures before, but the scans allows us to take a look at angles and aspects that we never had access to before.”
The BCI agents and forensic experts that we interviewed couldn’t specifically comment on the Tamir Rice grand jury, but they said that such visualizations can be a powerful tool for making arguments in court. A juror might spot something that wasn’t mentioned in arguments.
“Instead of taking a jury back out [to a scene] several months, several years later, you can take them into a scene as it was the day that it was scanned. You have a more realistic, cleansed view of the scene,” Sweet said.
But what about the Tamir Rice case? What role did these scans play, and how useful could they have been so long after the fact?
The Pennies of San Bernardino
You undoubtedly saw this image from last month’s mass shooting in San Bernardino.
It’s the bullet-riddled car carrying Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, the married couple suspected in the mass shooting deaths at the Inland Regional Center that killed 14 and seriously injured 22.
Mike Russ saw thousands if not millions of pieces of evidence, and thanks to FARO’s laser scanners, he captured and documented all that evidence in under 15 minutes.
“It is the most complete documentation tool, aside from digging up the house and bringing the entire house with me,” said Russ, who is a crime scene specialist with San Bernardino County sheriff’s department.
The final standoff in San Bernardino was one of the multiple crime scenes that Russ analyzed that day with a 3D laser scanner. His sheriff’s department adopted the procedure more than five years ago for car collisions and crime scenes. His unit focuses on homicides and officer-involved shootings. It’s a race against the clock to document a scene in its original state.
Recording a crime starts by placing a FARO laser scanner, which resembles a box camera, onto a tripod, in the center or near a crime. Russ hits the start button and the device sweeps up and down and spins 360 degrees, while emitting three laser beams. The beams reflect off objects and travel back to the scanner, where they’re recorded by a light detector. All the while, the FARO scanner captures pictures of the scene.
“They’ll capture up to 1,000 feet of data in each direction, plus full color photographs, with an accuracy of 2 millimeters [seven hundredths of an inch],” said Kelly Watt, a regional manager of FARO’s forensic division. In other words, these lasers could tell the difference between whether you stacked one or two pennies on the ground.
The degree of resolution gives texture to a crime. Russ and his colleagues also take traditional photos at crime scene, but laser scanning has become an essential part of the routine.
FARO’s most expensive, long-range model costs $59,000, said 3D forensic reconstructionist and FARO distributor David Dustin, and the company also sells a handheld model for tight spaces — like the interior of a vehicle — for $11,000 or $12,000. By contrast, crime scene scanners from competitors, such as Leica, cost $150,0000 to $200,000, “depending on the bells and whistles”, Dustin said.
Russ will capture a scene from multiple vantage points. The scanner can also be flipped upside-down and placed under a car or down a manhole. An average scan collects 44 million data points, Russ said. Some scenes require 50 to 60 scans — that’s billions of data points. When Russ heads back to his crime lab, a computer program stitches the images together, creating a 3D memory of the crime scene.
The final product is similar to Google Street View: You can “walk” through the street. You can zoom in on things. Russ, a prosecutor, or a member of a jury can then venture through this virtual crime scene on a laptop, spotting items of interest like glass shards, bullet shell casing or a weapon. For example, rather than the traditional method of using strings to measure blood spatter, like in the TV show Dexter, the software can automatically calculate these patterns, which removes human error.
“It can figure out where person was hit and even determine if it was a defensive wound or an aggressive attack,” Watt said. “For a collision, you can do a crush analysis. If a vehicle has been struck, we can estimate the speed of the vehicle based on crush damage and manufacture specs on the vehicle.”
Watt says the Secret Service uses FARO laser scans to case an area before a presidential visit, catching places where bad guys might conceal weapons, place explosives or hide for an attack. And the technology extends outside the realm of crime scenes
Summer Decker scans skulls with the laser scanners to reconstruct a person’s appearance.
“It’s called virtopsy or virtual autopsy. The first thing that we do is a laser scan of the body to capture bite marks, bruises and other things that we might lose when we open the body,” said Decker, director of Imaging Research at USF Health’s department of radiology. “Little ridges, bumps and holes on a surface are such important information to scientists. If we had to take a photograph then we wouldn’t be able to capture this texture.”
Decker has been working with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to perfect these techniques. Her recent work has involves solving cold cases in South Carolina.
“We can laser scan the skulls in question, 3D print the faces and then have families identify the faces in the 3D model,” Decker said. “Or we can look at the surface of pubic symphysis — the area where the two parts of the pelvis intersect in the front — to determine someone’s age, their lifestyle or whether or not they had children if they’re a female.”
Decker says that the virtopsy with human remains has existed for approximately a decade, and she is working on a version with Microsoft for virtual headsets like the HoloLens.
“That’s what I see coming. We’re going to be putting these goggles on juries and say look around and tell me what you see,” Decker said.
How the jury reacts to these vivid depictions along with a lawyer’s arguments can be crucial to winning a case.
But why didn’t we see Rice’s point of view?
Law professor Carrie Leonetti has collaborated with some pioneers of virtual reality — like Stanford’s Jeremy Bailenson — to discuss how immersive technology will influence courtrooms.
“When cases like Tamir Rice or Eric Garner happen — where police officers aren’t indicted for a fatal shooting — the public allegation or outcry is the prosecution didn’t try hard enough in the grand jury,” said Carrie Leonetti, associate professor of constitutional law, criminal procedure and evidence at the University of Oregon in Portland.
That is it’s own problem, she said, but the emerging question is whether virtual reality can be used as a tool to sway a grand jury. The answer is yes and no.
Take Rice’s case for example. Video analysis, the 3D reconstruction, officer testimony and witness reports painted the following picture for the Tamir Rice grand jury, according to the case report. Garmback and Loehmann drove into the park and onto the grass with their cruiser at 15 to 22 miles per hour and approached the gazebo where Rice was sitting. Rice stuck something, presumably the toy gun in his pants, turned to walk away, but then turned back and approached the car. Garmback slammed on the brakes and the car slid 40 to 70 feet.
“Due to the wet conditions with snow, mud, wet grass and fallen leaves, Officer Garmback’s cruiser went into a skid and did not stop anywhere near where he intended,” said assistant prosecutor Matthew Meyer.
Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor Matthew Meyer walks through the 3D reenactment of the Tamir Rice encounter.
This skid placed Officer Loehmann’s door right next to Rice. The investigation’s video analyst and Officer Loehmann say Rice reached into his pants as the car arrived, and both officers claim that they yelled “show me your hands” as the car slid to a stop.
“The security video shows Officer Loehmann opening the door approximately one second before shooting Tamir,” the case report reads. Rice was five to nine feet away when the first of two shots hit him. Those were the conditions upon which he died.
Once the Cleveland police turned the case to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office in January, the prosecutor’s office subsequently requested the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to reenact the crime scene using the 3D laser scanners.
“We used it in two ways: To make accurate measurements of objects at the scene,” said Joseph Frolik, director of communications and public policy for Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office. “And then they recreated vantage points, so there would be a rough approximation of what you would have seen at the scene.”
BCI special agent Daniel Boerner said his unit mimicked the officers’ perspective by scanning at the approximate height of the officers as they sat in the police car. The team then used placards to represent the evidence — two cartridge cases, a cell phone, a magazine, and an air soft gun — and documented the scene. The resulting 3D reconstruction video shows the perspective of the officers as they approached Rice.
But what about Tamir Rice’s perspective? During the case debriefing, Meyer highlighted a video of the officer’s view, but it isn’t stated if a reconstruction of Rice’s viewpoint was ever requested.
If true, this scenario may seem one-sided, but Leonetti says that isn’t unusual for grand jury proceedings.
“A lot of the procedural fairness rules of a regular trial — where a jury decides guilt or innocence — just don’t apply to a grand jury setting,” Leonetti said. “The US Department of Justice requires their prosecutors give balanced grand jury presentations as a matter of internal policy, but there’s very little regulation to what a [city or county] prosecutors can show a grand jury.”
In these cases, it’s ultimately up to the prosecutor to present what is relevant and to advise the grand jury on laws that he or she thinks are relevant, Leonetti said. Typically, a judge and defense attorney aren’t present. (For an explainer, check out this piece from KQED). That’s because the grand jury isn’t trying to determine guilt. Their job is to determine whether a criminal act occurred, based on how the law is written.
3D laser scans are inherently unbiased, according to Russ, Boerner, Decker and the other forensic experts we interviewed. The device measures everything that it sees –and you can’t bias light. Russ said law enforcement will study these scans for hours or days to spot every possible piece of trace evidence.
But the 3D reconstructions can also support arguments in trial, said Eugene Liscio, a 3D forensic specialist who wasn’t involved in the Tamir Rice case. He cites the case of David Camm, a former Indiana State Trooper convicted twice of killing his wife and children before being exonerated in a third trial. Liscio used 3D laser scans to recreate whether or not Camm shot his son in the back seat of an SUV:
“The reconstruction wasn’t the central issue, but it made a point. People look at it, and they get it right away. It explained certain reasons why certain things may have happened or not.” Liscio said. During the Camm trial, jurors asked to switch between viewpoints, which Liscio could easily do on his laptop.
Leonetti agrees: “3D reconstructions are certainly more powerful. It’s much less likely that a jury will dispute a version of events with a 3D reconstruction versus a version of events backed by 2D photographs.”
However, she continues that any piece of evidence — 3D scans, photographs and witness testimony — can be spun in a grand jury because “the normal rules of evidence don’t apply.”
“Even heresay doesn’t apply. You can call one person to tell them everything that someone else told them in a grand jury, which you could never do in a criminal trial,” she said.
The fact that the BCI acquired the scans five months after the shooting isn’t an issue or an unusual procedure as long as the reenactment accurately represented the witness testimony and video footage, Leonetti said. The main concern is that “there’s never any judicial review or inquiry into whether a prosecutor presented balanced evidence in a grand jury.”
Going forward with virtual reality and the law, Leonetti says society should be most concerned about the “equality of arms.” Anyone can get an investigator to take photographs, but not everyone, such as a public defender, has the budget to create a 3D reconstruction.
It remains unknown to the public if multiple viewpoints in the 3D reconstruction were displayed in the Tamir Rice grand jury. No one interviewed for this story could discuss the specifics of the grand jury.
If it did exist, such a reconstruction might show a police car cutting over a grassy park, slamming on its brakes and skidding somewhat out of control to a stop. A door would open, and a gun emerge in less than a second.
Liscio said it’s never one piece of evidence that makes a verdict. It’s a collection of things.
“What the scanning does is add subjectivity, and it adds clarity. It can make things much clearer for a juror so they can make a better decision,” he said.
The post How cops used virtual reality to recreate Tamir Rice, San Bernardino shootings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The American arm of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network will shut down on April 30, less than three years after it debuted as an alternative in the world of cable broadcast news.
In a memo to Al Jazeera America staff Wednesday, CEO Al Anstey said the channel’s business model is “simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace.”
Although more details weren’t given, Anstey added that the network’s parent company planned to expand its global digital coverage later this year.
“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey added. “The decision that has been made is in no way because AJAM has done anything but a great job. Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled.”
Al Jazeera bought Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million and launched an American offshoot in August 2013, promising to deliver in-depth journalism on serious topics.
However, although Al Jazeera America garnered several accolades for its work, it was unable to convince viewers to tune in. The channel was available to about 54 million households, but prime-time ratings hovered around 30,000 viewers, The New York Times reported.
Philip Seib, author of “The Al Jazeera Effect,” told the Associated Press that the news of the network’s closure was “certainly not surprising.”
“In the news environment today, there is so much competition that it is virtually impossible for a new company to get any traction,” he said.
The post Al Jazeera America announces it will shut down by end of April appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Officials at Volkswagen and the nation’s environmental watchdog are keeping mum about whether any progress was made during a closed-door meeting on the German automaker’s emissions cheating scandal.
VW global CEO Matthias Mueller met Wednesday with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy in Washington. Both VW and the agency declined to provide further details, including how long the two spoke.
The meeting came a day after California air quality regulators rejected a recall plan proposed by VW for its most popular diesel models, and EPA backed the action.
Volkswagen was forced to admit last year that about 600,000 vehicles nationwide were sold with illegal software designed to trick government emissions tests. Those controls deactivated during real-world driving, causing the cars to emit up to 40 times more pollution than allowed.
On Sunday in Detroit, Mueller told reporters he planned to present remedies to fix the diesel engines at Wednesday’s meeting with McCarthy.
Mueller said that VW has only given technical data to the government agencies. He said he hopes to reach an agreement at the meeting, which was requested by VW.
The meeting came as the German automaker and U.S. regulators were at an apparent impasse over how to proceed with the expected recall of the “clean diesel” vehicles sold with secret software designed to make their engines pass federal emissions standards while undergoing laboratory testing. The vehicles switch off those measures in real-world driving, spewing harmful nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times what is allowed under federal environmental standards.
The cars include Jetta, Golf and other popular models dating to the 2009 model year. About 11 million cars have similar software worldwide.
McCarthy said last week that the agency hasn’t reached any agreement with VW after three months of discussions, and that she’s anxious to bring VW into compliance with the Clean Air Act.
Yet Mueller continued to describe the discussions as productive.
The post EPA and Volkswagen mum on meeting of leaders amid emissions scandal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin joined Wednesday in calling for a tough global response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test, even as they remained at odds over Ukraine and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In a wide-ranging phone call, Obama and Putin appeared to speak past one another about the situation in eastern Ukraine, according to each country’s description of the call. The White House said Obama had called for Russia to fulfill its obligations under a cease-fire deal; the Kremlin said Putin has emphasized the need for Ukraine to meet its commitments under that same deal.
Both leaders voiced support for U.N. talks to resolve the civil war in Syria, in which Assad’s future remains a key sticking point. The U.S. has been pressing Russia to end its support for Assad and stop bombing the rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime. The Kremlin said both leaders had also called for a reduction in tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have threatened to complicate diplomatic efforts on Syria.
Obama and Putin also broached the topic of increased military contacts between the U.S. and Russia to bolster the fight against the Islamic State group and other extremists, the Kremlin said. Although Russia says it’s targeting IS fighters with airstrikes in Syria, the U.S. has accused Russia’s air campaign there of primarily going after U.S.-backed rebels that are fighting Assad.
On North Korea’s claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb, at least, the leaders seemed in agreement. The Kremlin said they’d agreed that if proven true, the claim would require “a tough international reaction,” while the White House said they’re discussed the need for “a strong and united international response.” The U.S. has cast doubt on the North’s claim that its test involved a hydrogen bomb but has said whatever was tested constituted a provocative act.
Despite steep disagreements on Ukraine, Syria and other issues, Obama and Putin have continued to engage on areas where their views at least partially overlap. Washington has praised Moscow as of late for its role in facilitating diplomatic efforts toward a political transition in Syria. The two leaders last met in person in November on the sidelines of a summit.
The Kremlin described Wednesday’s conversation as “frank and business-like.”
Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
The post Obama, Putin agree on a tougher response to North Korea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, architecture’s highest prize, the Pritzker, was announced today.
Jeffrey Brown introduces us to a man who is little known outside his own field, but who’s working to address big issues that affect us all.
JEFFREY BROWN: He calls it half a good house, which sounds like a bit of a joke, but is meant very seriously.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA, Winner, 2016 Pritzker Prize: The location, it’s so important.
JEFFREY BROWN: For Alejandro Aravena, it’s a practical and aesthetic solution to a real world problem: growing urban populations and too little public money available to build affordable, but livable housing.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: It’s not half of a house. It’s half of a good house. And the good is the entire difference.
JEFFREY BROWN: It’s the kind of seemingly simple, but big thinking that has won Aravena the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest award.
He spoke with us earlier this week from his office in Santiago, Chile.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: Our entry point was just because we thought we were skilled designers and we had at the core of our profession a very powerful tool to tackle complex issues.
JEFFREY BROWN: Forty-eight-year-old Aravena is the first Chilean to win the prize. He heads a firm called Elemental, a self-styled architectural, problem-solving do-tank, rather than think-tank.
He’s designed a number of buildings for Santiago’s Catholic University of Chile, among them, the Siamese Tower, a mathematics center, an innovation center, all built with energy efficiency and Chile’s climate in mind and, as with his buildings elsewhere in the world, in the belief that architecture too often swings between a focus on either icon or utility.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: A good object should be able to do both. With this eye, it should be that place that you don’t even pay attention to, but it’s there to support and qualify everyday life.
As soon as you look at it with the other eye, it should be able to be that cultural object with artistic sculptural qualities. For some reason, good objects have the capacity to do both. It happens very rarely in the history of architecture, i mean, really rarely, once every decade or something. That’s my kind of experience.
But, nevertheless, despite the difficulty to achieve such double condition, at least that’s what I think is the aim of good architecture.
JEFFREY BROWN: Aravena’s work in urban housing draws the most attention. According to the Pritzker jury citation, he epitomizes the revival of a more socially engaged architect, especially in his long-term commitment to tackling the global housing crisis and fighting for a better urban environment for all.
According to the U.N., in 2009, the number of urban residents surpassed those living in rural areas, a trend in the making for decades and expected to grow.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: We’re living in an urban age. The same way that there has been the Stone Age and — or the Bronze Age, we’re living in the urban age.
The problem is that the scale and the speed and scarcity of means with which we have to respond to this process of urbanization has no precedent in human history. So, we need to generate new knowledge in order to accommodate the people migrating towards cities.
If we don’t do so, it’s not that people will stop coming to cities. They will come anyhow, but they will live in slums and favelas and informal settlements.
JEFFREY BROWN: In this new world, Aravena says, architects must engage first and foremost with what we’d often think of as non-architectural issues.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: This should be the starting point for architecture: Identify problems that are simple enough that you get the threat or the challenge in one word, pollution, waste, congestion, insecurity, migration, social tension. Those are the kind of issues that we tend to identify rather quickly in cities.
JEFFREY BROWN: The half a good house idea is one answer, so-called incremental housing built at low cost, half of the structure with the basics provided through public funding, the other half to be filled in and completed by the owners as and when they can.
The result: People can remain close to city centers, jobs and resources while living in their own homes. And instead of standardized high-rise projects, these customized homes can gain value with sweat equity.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: Because, in the end, a housing policy shouldn’t be a mere shelter against the environment. It should work as a tool to overcome poverty.
JEFFREY BROWN: Aravena’s firm has built more than 2,500 of these units to date in Chile and Mexico. On a larger scale, he’s overseeing a plan to reconstruct the Chilean city of Constitucion after it was devastated by a 2010 earthquake and tsunami.
Here, as elsewhere, he’s taken a participatory approach, asking local residents to get involved, weigh in, even vote on development approaches.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: We wanted to introduce people as part of the discussions. And, by doing that, that new kind was a consortium that wasn’t there before. So, we were channeling public money, private money and people’s opinion and synthesizing all those forces in the design for the future of the city.
JEFFREY BROWN: Aravena hopes the Pritzker Prize will help spread his ideas about socially engaged architecture.
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: The feeling that is here in the office is that of freedom, of now we are more comfortable in taking even more risks into going in unexplored fields. The path ahead, I think, is unwritten.
JEFFREY BROWN: Aravena will get to promote his vision further on an international stage later this year, when he serves as director of the prestigious Venice Architecture Biennale.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jeffrey Brown.
The post Architecture becomes a tool to fight poverty through this Pritzker winner appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In a move green-lighted by NFL teams owners, the Saint Louis Rams will return to their original West Coast home, Los Angeles, after 20 years in the Midwest. Owners also gave the San Diego Chargers the option of moving and joining the Rams in what would be the NFL’s largest stadium. The Chargers have a year to make the move.
Hari Sreenivasan has our look at what the moves mean for the teams, cities and fans.
HARI SREENIVASAN: For the Rams, moving to Los Angeles means leaving behind fans and a $400 million taxpayer contribution for a new stadium in Saint Louis. If the Chargers move, they’d also be leaving public money on the table.
Joining me to look at what’s being won and lost is Mike Pesca, host of Slate’s “The Gist” podcast.
So, Mike, what do Saint Louis and San Diego get out of moving to L.A.?
MIKE PESCA, Slate’s “The Gist” Podcast: Well, Saint Louis is moving to L.A.
And the owner of that team, Stan Kroenke, looks at the market, looks at this giant market without a team, where his team used to play, and just sees riches. It’s a little bit different, the calculation with NFL teams, than the other sports.
Every other sport, big-time sports, football — I mean — I’m sorry — basketball, hockey, and baseball, they depend on the local market to enrich them. So, for instance,, the L.A. Dodgers have a TV contract worth in excess of $8 billion over 25 years. And, indeed, this is why Los Angeles has two baseball teams, two basketballs teams, even the Ducks and the Kings in hockey.
But with football, since it’s all national TV contracts, L.A. is just one other market. The fact that there are so many people there is not necessarily as big an inducement as it would be with other sports, but Kroenke knows that he could make so much money.
The Chargers, if they do move there, they look at the stadium that is being built in Inglewood, they see dollars signs also. They envision — in fact, they had an original plan to team up with the Oakland Raiders, the now and still Oakland Raiders, where they have football all the way from Mexico all the way up for hundreds of miles. So, we will see if that Los Angeles Chargers part of the deal that goes through, but the Rams is going to go through.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, this is a stadium being built in Los Angeles that wouldn’t be funded by taxpayers, right?
MIKE PESCA: That is correct.
And that’s important, because the plan in Los — I’m sorry — the plan in Saint Louis would be for taxpayer funding. Now, they claim that it wouldn’t be new taxpayer funding, because taxpayers already fund to some extent the place where the — the dome where the Rams now play.
But, still, in every other case, it would be taxpayers putting the money for a stadium. And it’s a sad thing, I think. Economists will tell you that stadiums are not good economic generators. But when a populace has a team, they really don’t want to lose the team, whereas the new stadium is not taxpayer-funded.
And it should be noted that Oakland has basically said, we’re not going to use taxpayer funding for your stadium, so the Raiders will have to deal with that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: This has been almost the standard refrain from any NFL team, at least a half-dozen that I can think of, that have said, I will get up and move to Los Angeles if you, town X, don’t help me build a new stadium.
MIKE PESCA: Yes.
And it’s useful to the NFL owners to have one or two of these stalking horse-type cities to act as a bargaining chip. And now I guess Saint Louis will be that city. It is the, last time I looked, 19th biggest metropolitan statistical area. They do — they are building this new riverfront stadium, or say they are. There are plenty of places for an NFL team to play there.
So that is how business — the business of the NFL goes. It’s also sort of society in a microcosm. So many states try to poach other businesses with tax breaks and tax deals. We also see it internationally, right, that people accuse countries of having such low taxes to try to draw businesses away. It is the way of the world, literally.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But what about the fans?
One of the reasons that the Rams left last time was that L.A. didn’t seem like that big of a football town. Even though it had two teams, they both left. Is there enough interest in Los Angeles to fill a 70,000-person stadium?
MIKE PESCA: A hundred thousand with standing room, they say. I don’t know.
I mean, I saw shots on the news of these Rams fans celebrating. They all seemed to be wearing old jerseys. I didn’t see too many 12-year-olds in the crowd. The NFL, though, is so incredibly popular. And I think this stadium will be new and beautiful and big and exciting.
So, yes, I would expect that an NFL team, especially if it’s a decent team, to do well enough. I feel very sorry for the old Saint Louis Rams fan base, who were once the Saint Louis Cardinals fan base, two teams untimely ripped from that city.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, you know, so what happens? Are the fans part of this equation, when 30 billionaire owners of NFL teams get in the room?
MIKE PESCA: Yes.
Sure. The fans are part of the equation, because they’re the ones who pay for tickets and they’re the ones who give them TV ratings. It’s, of course, about money, but the fans that they currently enjoy — I mean, the lure of the fan from Southern California, when you’re taking advantage or you’re taking for granted the fan from Missouri, I guess the siren song is just too powerful.
And the Rams put together a document that thoroughly insulted Saint Louis and Saint Louis County, saying it’s poor, saying that it’s not growing fast enough, just really denigrating it.
It was — I have to say, the owner of the Rams did a great job of bargaining. He positioned himself to have the NFL accept him. He gave them what they wanted, a big, huge facility for NFL Films that will be put out, and the NFL Network, that will be put out in Los Angeles.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.
MIKE PESCA: He did a great job. He’s a great businessman. I don’t know if he’s a great humanitarian. I don’t think people in Saint Louis will think that he is.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Mike Pesca, host of The Slate’s “Gist” podcast, thanks so much for joining us.
MIKE PESCA: You’re welcome.
The post What the Rams are getting and giving up to move to L.A. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A series of New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Germany by asylum seekers and migrants is leading to protests and to new legislation that would expel immigrants who commit serious crimes.
And, as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Cologne, the attacks may now be threatening the political future of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Where once there was apparent harmony, now there is discord.
Germany’s open-door policy, which has attracted more refugees and migrants than any other European country, has reached a crossroads after more than 500 women alleged that they were attacked, mainly by men of North African or Arabic appearance, close to Cologne’s cathedral.
Divisions in society are now deeply exposed. These hecklers are taunting “PEGIDA,” which, in German, stands for Patriotic Europeans Opposed to the Islamization of the West. The crowd was whipped up by Tommy Robinson, the leader of the British chapter.
TOMMY ROBINSON, Leader, PEGIDA UK: The city of Cologne and the German people will never forgive Ms. Merkel for exposing their women to the barbarity and the violence from Muslims who follow the Prophet Mohammed.
MALCOLM BRABANT: “Kick them out,” chanted the crowd.
TOMMY ROBINSON: They’re at war with your country, they’re at war with my country, they’re at war with the whole of Europe.
MALCOLM BRABANT: One of the main speakers was Michael Diendorf.
MICHAEL DIENDORF, PEGIDA Duisburg (through interpreter): We are blindly sacrificing our security, our freedom and the future of our children for a childless wannabe mother who goes by the name of Merkel.
MALCOLM BRABANT: It isn’t just ethnic Germans who are angry about the attacks. Speaking on behalf of outraged immigrants is a Syrian rapper from the city of Aleppo called Murder Eyez.
ABDUL RAHMAN, Rapper, “Murder Eyez”: How dare you? I live in Germany since two years and in Cologne since two months. It’s the most amazing place over here and the most amazing and friendly people, who works day and night to pay taxes to give you food, shelter, education and medical care.
It’s simple. Like, if you want to be like this, go back to your country, because, if you are here, you are a guest. You must — not you should — you must respect the law, the street, the people, everything, because those people are helping you and supporting you.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Political scientist Tilman Mayer is one of Germany’s leading migration experts, and he believes Chancellor Merkel’s unwavering commitment to mass immigration could lead to her downfall.
TILMAN MAYER, University of Bonn: We have one million new migrants here, and that is probably enough for Germany. But the chancellor has the problem that she wouldn’t say it’s enough. I think it’s possible that the chancellor would fall after the next elections, which we will have in a few states.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Leading public condemnation of the attacks, Chancellor Merkel has recognized the need to make it easier to deport criminals, and at this gathering she acknowledged public disquiet.
CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): We are vulnerable, as we see, because we do not yet have the order, the control that we would like to have. We have to intensify the fight against the causes that make people flee, and then we will be able to noticeably reduce the number of refugees.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity is plummeting. And one of the reasons for that is that she’s refusing to put a cap on the number of migrants that can enter Germany. According to the latest opinion polls, her approval ratings have gone down from 75 percent in April last year to 58 percent now.
And what happened here, in this scruffy asylum center in the town of Recklinghausen, is perhaps going to put more pressure on her. One of the former residents of this shelter was shot dead in Paris after he tried to attack a police station with a meat cleaver and wearing a fake suicide vest.
The man, who had six different aliases, was granted residential status by Germany and was reportedly known to the intelligence service after painting the Islamic State flag on his wall. The case has underpinned worries in towns like Recklinghausen about the identities of those entering Germany.
But at the town hall, the mayor, Christoph Tesche, a member of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, reiterated the party line.
MAYOR CHRISTOPH TESCHE, Recklinghausen, Germany (through interpreter): We are counting on European solidarity. It cannot and must not be the case that the majority of refugees end up in Germany. They have to be distributed evenly across Europe. That’s what the European Union is there for, to help shoulder the burden in such times of crisis.
MALCOLM BRABANT: These are challenging times for Syrian Mohammed Ghunaim, who is making the most of his new start by learning the language and volunteering for the German Red Cross.
At the twice weekly international cafe in a small northwestern town, Natascha Pieper personifies what Germany calls its welcoming culture.
We met Mohammed in Greece four months ago.
MOHAMMED GHUNAIM, Syrian Refugee (through interpreter): They have the right to close their borders or open, because it’s their country.
Personally, I’m not worried about myself, because I know myself. I’m a good man, and I try to make it in the legal way and just walking on the German rules. But I’m worried for the other refugees. Maybe there is a lot of tough things happen for them.
NATASCHA PIEPER, Refugee Advocate: We can sustain even two million refugees in Germany, because we have the possibility. We’re a strong country. We have good people here with good ideas. We have a strong economy, and actually that economy needs those people.
MALCOLM BRABANT: These are the loudest voices on the street. The right is gaining support.
“We don’t want Muslim Salafist pigs,” they chant.
These demonstrators believe they are not being heard by the government. Their cry? “We are the people.” After police broke up this demonstration, right-wingers beat up a number of foreigners. In Leipzig, there was also violence after a PEGIDA demonstration. And in the latest development, federal authorities have charged three men and one woman with forming a right-wing terror group, accusing them of planning to bomb a refugee center.
Newspaper editor Peter Pauls:
PETER PAULS, Editor, Kolner Stadt Anzeiger: I think the major issue is not the political surface that we are looking on. It is what is going on in the population. We have to be afraid that a split goes through the Germany society.
MALCOLM BRABANT: As the powerhouse of Europe, Germany will continue to be the Holy Grail for refugees and migrants. But just as an increasing number of Germans are losing faith with Angela Merkel, whom they call the mother of the nation, resistance within the European Union towards Germany’s immigration stand is intensifying.
If Germany fails to stem this historic migrant flow, Europe’s divisions could become deeper. What happened in this city is a significant milestone.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in Cologne.
The post Merkel’s open-door migrant policy and popularity tested by recent attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, President Obama did mention gun control in his speech last night, if only obliquely.
But he addressed the subject at some length last week, when he announced three executive actions from the East Room of the White House. Those would require all gun sellers to be licensed and to conduct background checks on buyers, add 200 ATF agents to enforce gun laws, and increase spending on mental illness issues by $500 million.
He said fears that background checks would limit Americans’ rights were misplaced.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation. Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently, before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns. You pass a background check, you purchase a firearm.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to David Keene. He is a former president of the National Rifle Association, currently the opinion editor at The Washington Times newspaper.
This is the latest installment in our ongoing coverage of this important issue, and it follows a recent conversation we had with Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and co-founder with her of Americans for Responsible Solutions. It’s a gun control advocacy group.
David Keene, welcome back to the program.
DAVID KEENE, Former NRA President: Pleasure to be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I’m sure you know that the United States has something like 15 to 20 times the death rate from gun violence of any industrialized country.
We hear President Obama saying he wants to do something to reduce gun violence. He turned to those families on the stage, said, “I don’t want any more families to have to go through this.”
Is that not at least a worthy goal?
DAVID KEENE: Well, no one wants anybody to either die by accident or on purpose from a murderer.
But I do think that the president makes a mistake when he talks about gun violence, because we’re talking about very different things. We’re talking about gun crime, which we know how to deal with. And, in fact, as you will recall, before he made his speech, the early reports were that he was going to ask U.S. attorneys around the country to enforce federal laws against criminals using firearms. That didn’t make it into the list of proposals.
We at the NRA would have welcomed that, but he didn’t to that. What he has done is, he’s lumped these things together. The one encouraging part of what he did — and we don’t know yet whether it will be effective or not — is that at least for the first time there is a focus on the mental health problem, which is the real reason for most mass shooters.
They’re not traditional criminals. They’re people who have real mental problems. And they ought to be recognized and they ought to be put into the background check system.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. And so you can agree with him spending more money on mental illness?
DAVID KEENE: Well, not just — if it’s just spending money, that doesn’t answer the question. We want to know how it’s being spent and whether or not there is a due process involved in putting people into the system.
But the theoretical answer is that, if it’s the kind of program we hope it is, would be yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why can’t the NRA and other guns rights organizations work with those on the other side of the issue to try to come up with a solution?
DAVID KEENE: Back in the ’90s, when the Brady people wanted a three-day waiting period, it was the NRA that suggested the FBI has the ability with modern technology to provide an instant check. We supported it.
You need to deal with specific problems, criminals, those who are potentially dangerous, but not put in large numbers of people who are a threat to no one and who simply are being harassed as a result of…
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the bottom line is, can these two sides get together?
DAVID KEENE: Well, the president said — as he tried to push us down the slippery slope during those remarks, he said…
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean slippery slope?
DAVID KEENE: Well, he said there’s no slippery slope, that this doesn’t lead to something else. But in other speeches, he’s said…
JUDY WOODRUFF: The confiscation of guns.
DAVID KEENE: He has said that the countries that he admires for the way they have handled firearms are Great Britain and Australia, both of which have confiscated firearms.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why can’t the two sides sit down at a table and come together some agreement? Every poll shows a huge majority of the American people think it should be harder for people who shouldn’t have a gun to get one.
DAVID KEENE: And they also think that honest, legitimate people who have a right under the Constitution to have a gun shouldn’t be burdened or overburdened in trying to get one and use one legally.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Absolutely, so why can’t a coming together…
DAVID KEENE: There are things that can be done. And we’re happy to work with people to do that.
The problem is, we’re coming at it from such different perspectives that it’s very difficult. One of the problems is that you get the impression, Judy, that we’re awash in murder, and that it’s the result of the availability of guns.
In the ’90s, the murder rate was double what it is now, and half as many people had firearms. So, while I can’t say and won’t say that the existence of firearms has cut the murder rate, I can also say the existence of firearms hasn’t increased it, because it’s been decreasing. So, let’s deal with — let’s deal with the reality and not with these myths that we’re all taken with.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so you’re saying the number of guns, something like 270 million guns in this country, doesn’t have anything to do with the number of gun deaths?
DAVID KEENE: Look at it this way. In the 1990s, there were 180 million guns in this country. The murder rate was seven per 100,000. Today, there are 300 million guns, and the murder rate is 3.5 per 100,000.
So, if guns were the cause, you would expect the murder rate to increase. It hasn’t. What I’m saying is that talking about violence by talking about the gun as the problem is not an answer, because honest people don’t misuse firearms. Dishonest people do and should be punished for doing so.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, quickly, what is one practical step that could be taken to get the two sides together?
DAVID KEENE: Well, first of all, we engage in a lot of conversation with prosecutors, law enforcement and the like.
I will tell you what we are opposed to, and that’s just throwing groups of people into the instant check system. We think we have to look at dangerousness. In other words, most mentally ill people are not a problem. They’re not a threat to themselves or a threat to you or me or anybody else.
In fact, they’re victims. There’s a small subset that we need to identify and who can be identified by rebuilding that system. If you can identify them, those are the people you want to keep the firearms out of the hands of. And we’re all for that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the NRA and other guns rights groups have opposed more research, more fact-collecting, collection of information on gun crimes.
DAVID KEENE: No, no. That’s the president claim, that we have opposed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studying and looking at this. That’s not what the amendment says. It says it can’t be used for propaganda and lobbying purposes.
And that’s what’s prohibited, not research. There is a lot of research going on all over the place on firearms, on crime, on suicides and the like. But it isn’t — it isn’t to be used for lobbying purposes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is a conversation, that there is much to be said about it. And it will continue.
DAVID KEENE: It will go on for a long time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Keene, we thank you very much for coming to talk to us.
DAVID KEENE: My pleasure.
The post Former NRA president weighs in on Obama’s background check plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported, President Obama today took the first of several trips across the country to amplify his State of the Union message.
It was an address last night that departed from the tradition of listing policy proposals, to focus instead on large themes of America’s future.
Political director Lisa Desjardins reports on how what he said intersects with the 2016 campaign to elect his successor.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Members of Congress, my fellow Americans.
LISA DESJARDINS: President Obama, aiming for legacy, quickly acknowledged the reality of 2016.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.
LISA DESJARDINS: The outgoing chief executive used his final State of the Union to take a longer view, and deliver a countermessage to what’s being heard on the Republican campaign trail, where Donald Trump and Ted Cruz especially stress a dark critique of the country today.
The president punched back at the notion that America is in trouble, swinging hard on the economy, military and diversity.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.
The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth, period.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad, or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong.
LISA DESJARDINS: Republicans not running for president added to the theme. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, handpicked by the party to deliver the official GOP response, warned of overreacting to today’s security concerns.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), South Carolina: During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.
LISA DESJARDINS: While, back at the Capitol, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House GOP leadership, told the “NewsHour” that some of the campaign rhetoric doesn’t represent all Republicans.
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), Washington: I don’t believe it represents what the Republicans are about. What Republicans are about is offering greater opportunity for every person, no matter who they are, no matter where they come from.
LISA DESJARDINS: Few said his name, but the Republican on many people’s minds, Trump, didn’t hold back. The front-runner tweeted that the president’s speech was — quote — “boring and nonsubstantive.”
Two of his Republican rivals, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, were out on the trail today slamming the president’s call to move past politics.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: He has divided this country deliberately for political gain for seven years, and then, in his last State of the Union, he says, hey, why is everybody so mad at each other? Because of you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JEB BUSH (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: Every time he’s had a chance, he pushes down people that disagree with him to make his view look more sophisticated and important.
LISA DESJARDINS: Democrat Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, spoke up for her former boss as making progress.
Fellow candidate Bernie Sanders, who was in the audience last night, said the speech showed Americans shouldn’t fear change. As for President Obama, he next heads South, to Louisiana, to spread his State of the Union message farther across the union.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the race for the White House, we turn to three political reporters covering the presidential campaign in the early voting states.
O. Kay Henderson, news director for Radio Iowa, she joins us from outside Des Moines. James Pindell of The Boston Globe is in Manchester, New Hampshire. And Andy Shain who writes for The State newspaper, joins us from Columbia, South Carolina.
And we thank you, all three.
O. Kay Henderson, let me start with you, since Iowa is first. It’s less than three weeks away, on February 1, as you know very well. We were just talking about Donald Trump. He was an unnamed, if significant theme last night. How is he doing in Iowa? What does that race look like?
O. KAY HENDERSON, Radio Iowa: Well, the Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll out just this morning shows that it’s a tight race for the lead here between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is actually leading.
The same poll showed Cruz with a wider lead in December, so that race has narrowed between the two of them. So, the angriest voices on the Republican field are leading among Iowa Republicans. There are two other Republicans who have sort of separated themselves from the rest of the pack. That would be Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson is still holding steady in the fourth position here in Iowa.
JUDY WOODRUFF: OK, staying with you just a moment, what are voters responding to?
O. KAY HENDERSON: They are responding to the idea that they are unhappy with the Republican establishment. Not only is that Donald Trump’s message. It’s Ted Cruz’s message. That resonates with the grassroots of the party.
They helped elect a new U.S. senator in Joni Ernst, helping Republicans earn the majority seats in the United States Senate, and they feel as if they got nothing for it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: James Pindell, what does the Republican race look like there? I know it’s eight days after Iowa on February the 9th?
What is — what are voters hearing? What are they responding to?
JAMES PINDELL, The Boston Globe: Well, right now, it’s been a story of Donald Trump, who’s consistently leading in the polls, about 30 straight polls over 150 days, and then everyone else.
In fact, the real race in New Hampshire isn’t first. People seem to be almost conceding that point to Donald Trump, but second place. And that second place battle is getting quite brutal and quite bloody. And the dynamic here has been well-documented. It’s about the establishment lane candidates.
If you want to look at the 12 Republican candidates and put them into three different lanes, we have the outsider lane. That’s certainly Donald Trump. You have the conservative lane. That is Ted Cruz, not only just of his success in Iowa, but also on the ground here in New Hampshire. He has been able to consolidate conservatives.
The third lane is the much more head-scratcher. It’s that establishment lane. You basically have four different candidates, of Chris Christie, of Jeb Bush, of John Kasich, and Marco Rubio. Now, in the latest poll that came out for Monmouth University, Donald Trump had 32 percent. If you add up those four candidates I just mentioned, those — establishment lane, they had 38 percent.
So you begin to see the dynamic about what’s resonating. It’s not exactly Donald Trump, if you want to look at the math. It’s this moderate vision. The question is, these people have no idea where to go with that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: James Pindell, just quickly, any particular message that voters seem to be — that seems to be resonating with voters for these so-called establishment candidates?
JAMES PINDELL: Yes, it’s the sense of electability, which is part of it.
And the other part of it is, is that this idea — and you hear a number of candidates say it — I have heard Kasich say this and Christie say this and Bush say this, and all almost in identical language, that: I know you’re angry, but I’m the person who can actually do something about the anger.
And I think that is beginning to resonate a little bit with traditional Republicans in the state.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Andy Shain, on to you in South Carolina, the Republican primary not there until February the 20th, so a little more time.
But does any of this sound like what you’re seeing in South Carolina?
ANDY SHAIN, The State: I mean, again, we’re seeing, just like in New Hampshire, a Trump-dominated race. He also has been leading almost all of the polls since August.
At this point, it’s a matter of, can anybody catch Trump in the month that we have before the South Carolina primary? It’s going to be interesting. There’s going to be 11 days between the New Hampshire primary and the South Carolina primary, so there is going to be a lot of time for the candidates to try to woo voters in South Carolina, especially with what happens to them, with their results in Iowa and New Hampshire, who has the momentum and who’s able to capture that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There is another contest going on that you’re all having to cover, too, and that’s among the Democrats.
O. Kay Henderson in Iowa, Hillary Clinton facing a real serious challenge now from Bernie Sanders. What does it look like and what do you hear from Democrats?
O. KAY HENDERSON: The latest Quinnipiac poll out yesterday shows that Sanders has a lead here of five points. That’s of grave concern to the Clinton camp. As you have been hearing, Secretary Clinton has been attacking Senator Sanders on the gun issue. They think that resonates with Democratic voters.
Iowa Democrats tend to be slightly more liberal or progressive than Democratic voters in general, the Democrats who will actually participate in the caucuses, that is. And so that group is energized by the Sanders campaign, by the message that he’s been sending, and they’re also a bit upset with some of the Obama failures. Some of them are upset because he didn’t pursue a single-payer health care insurance system, like Senator Sanders is recommending.
Some of them are upset that Wall Street icons haven’t been sent to the prisons. That is something Senator Sanders speaks often about on the campaign trail. And so I think the Clinton people are now trying to tap into a group of Iowans that you might suspect they would try to energize in these final days and hours. They’re trying to tap into middle-aged women who see Clinton as a glass ceiling breaker.
JUDY WOODRUFF: James Pindell, New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders from the neighboring state of Vermont, what does the Democratic contest look like there?
JAMES PINDELL: You know, it’s absolutely fascinating, because, all fall, Bernie Sanders, the one state he could point to, to say he could win an early state was New Hampshire. He had almost a 10-point lead at one point in the state.
The race is now statistically tied, and it feels that intense. But why it’s so interesting is that New Hampshire is both Bernie Sanders’ sort of firewall — it’s the one place he thought he could rely on — as well as also this amazing legacy for the Clintons.
I mean, this is — more than Arkansas, or probably as much as Arkansas, this has been the political home to the Clintons. It’s a place that made Bill Clinton the comeback kid. It’s the place that gave Hillary Clinton, of course, that surprising win in 2008. They have a number of U.S. ambassadors from the state. They just have a deep personal relationship.
So, how is it that this is the state that Bernie Sanders was able to make some inroads? Right now, the Clinton campaign is not worried. They’re not worried for two reasons. Either, A, they’re not worried because they believe they have the superior staff and know-how. And they do have extremely experienced staff.
Or they’re not worried because they say: I don’t care. I can lose New Hampshire and still be the nominee.
You’re not seeing that sense of worry that I think you are seeing in Iowa.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Andy Shain, South Carolina, farther away for the Democrats, February the 27th, but how does it look at this point?
ANDY SHAIN: Well, if New Hampshire was the firewall for Bernie, it appears that South Carolina is going to be the firewall for Clinton.
As of the last polls we had, which admittedly are a month-old, Clinton has had a 40-point lead on average over Bernie Sanders. She has worked this state very hard with the memories of 2008, where she tried to beat back Barack Obama, who was surging at that point. She’s made a point of really gaining African-American support here in South Carolina.
So, you know, to a certain degree, she’s really got this big lead this would — and a victory here certainly would carry her forward into March.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there are so many balls in the air, so much to keep your eyes on. We thank all three of you for taking time from the trail to come talk to us today, Andy Shain, James Pindell, O. Kay Henderson.
Good luck out there.
The post President Obama’s legacy message mixes with 2016 politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to our top story: the release of 10 U.S. Navy sailors from detention by Iran in the Persian Gulf.
We begin with chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: The first look at what happened came on Iranian state TV. This video shows the moment Tuesday that Revolutionary Guard troops boarded the two U.S. Navy boats and detained their crews, nine men and one woman. They were held overnight on Farsi Island in the Gulf, before an Iranian admiral announced they’d been released.
REAR ADM. ALI FADAVI, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (through interpreter): Our final finding was that it has not been a hostile crossover meant for espionage or the like. They reached the area due to a malfunction of their navigation systems, acknowledging the matter as being inadvertent and unintentional due.
MARGARET WARNER: In a separate statement, the Revolutionary Guard said the sailors had apologized. That claim set off a back and forth, first a denial from Vice President Joe Biden on “CBS This Morning”:
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: No, there was no apology. There’s nothing to apologize for. When you have a problem with the boat, you apologize the boat had a problem? No, and there was no looking for any apology.
MARGARET WARNER: Iran then responded with a video showing one of the sailors saying this:
MAN: It was a mistake that was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake.
MARGARET WARNER: Still later, the White House followed up, saying there was no formal apology.
All this comes at a critical moment. Iran is soon expected to meet the terms of the nuclear deal with the U.S. and other nations, ending years of crippling sanctions. Secretary of State John Kerry said today the relationships built in the nuclear talks laid the groundwork for resolving this quickly.
JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: This kind of issue was able to be peacefully resolved and efficiently resolved, and that is a testament to the critical role that diplomacy plays in keeping our safe, secure and strong.
MARGARET WARNER: Brookings Institution Middle East expert Bruce Riedel says Tehran had a big incentive to make the incident go away.
BRUCE RIEDEL, Brookings Institution: I think the Iranian leadership, the minute they learned what had happened, recognized that this was something they wanted to get behind them as fast as possible. Americans remember well what happens to Americans held in detention in Iran. And at this critical moment, when Iran hopes to get out from under sanctions, anything that could threaten that had to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
MARGARET WARNER: But Republican presidential candidates were highly critical of the administration’s handling of the boats’ seizure.
Senator Marco Rubio on a campaign stop in South Carolina:
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: I don’t know if you saw these images. They are really horrifying and they really made me really angry this morning to see, American sailors on their knees, hands behind their heads, a female sailor forced to wear a head scarf, penned up in a jail cell. You know why these things happen? Because they know they can get away with it when Barack Obama is in office.
MARGARET WARNER: Amid the political and diplomatic fallout, the U.S. Navy says it will investigate exactly how the boats came to be seized.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Margaret Warner.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And for more on this, I’m joined now by Robin Wright. She’s an analyst and fellow at both the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. She also writes for “The New Yorker” magazine.
Robin Wright, good to see you.
ROBIN WRIGHT, The New Yorker: Great to be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So what is the best understanding of what really happened here?
ROBIN WRIGHT: I think it was an accident that the U.S., the two little boats sailed into an island which is smack in the middle of the Persian Gulf, which is already a narrow waterway. It’s only 35 miles wide at one point. And so they strayed into the waters, they got caught, and it was a matter of 24 hours to resolve it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re confident it was just an accident? Because there is now going to be a Navy investigation. We heard that sailor apologize.
If it was a mechanical problem, some are saying, why would he apologize? And you heard that’s what the vice president said.
ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, I suspect a lot of those — the 10 sailors didn’t know exactly what was going to transpire in 24 hours and were making a statement that they didn’t mean to stray into the 12 miles around Iranian territory.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why do you think, Robin Wright, the Iranians dealt with this so quickly and released these sailors?
ROBIN WRIGHT: There is an enormous amount at stake in the next few days. The implementation of the Iran nuclear deal is expected this weekend, or by Tuesday at the latest, and this is the moment that Iran, after four decades of being a pariah in the international community, begins to be embraced again.
It can do business. Some of the sanctions by the European Union and other countries will be lifted. It’s the beginning of a different era. And at the same time, Iran goes to the polls next week. We have an election. This issue of the U.S. sailors in the Iranian waters has been politicized in our election season and it is — it’s going to be in the Iranian season as well. A lot is at stake in Iran’s election next month.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If the Iranian leadership wants this nuclear deal to go forward and they didn’t want any interference, then why were these sailors picked up?
ROBIN WRIGHT: I think they did stray into Iranian waters. There is a 12-mile limit. And if they got — they were in that area.
There is tension, longstanding tension in the Persian Gulf between the Americans and the Iranians. This goes back to 1987, when the U.S. opened fire on an Iranian ship, killed 22 soldiers and sunk the ship. In 2007, there was a confrontation with the British as well, when 15 soldiers were picked up because they strayed into Iranian waters, or that was the allegation, and they were held for two weeks.
So there’s a long — the Persian Gulf is a longstanding area of potential showdown among not just the United States, but also other Western powers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And how do we think this plays into the fact that we know there is a divide in the Iranian leadership between the conservatives, who are reluctant to see this opening to the West, and others, who are trying to make it happen?
ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, we have already seen the Iranian navy commander has come out and said, you know, this proves that Iran is the — you know, has the final say on anything that goes on in the Persian Gulf, and the — a lot of the newspapers are making hay of the fact that the Iranians picked up members of the mightiest military in the world.
So, they’re making — you know, the hard-liners are making hay of it here. Hard-liners are making hay of it in Iran.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Separately, how is this deal going forward? Where does it stand? As you say, we’re at a critical moment, but there is much more to unfold with regard to this nuclear agreement.
ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, they’re technically expected in the next week at the latest to announce that implementation day, the formal moment when the U.N. announces that Iran is in compliance, that it has eliminated 98 percent of its enriched uranium, that it’s down to 1,000 centrifuges, that it’s dismantled its heavy water reactor in a city called Arak, that Iran is in compliance.
And that is the moment that the United States and the international community will begin to formally take those steps it promised in the lifting of sanctions. Now, for the U.S., a lot of sanctions will remain in place.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but, otherwise, is everything on track for that to happen or not?
ROBIN WRIGHT: The United States has been very surprised by how fast this has played out. They didn’t think the Iranians could dismantle their program this quickly.
And so I think that it’s — there is actually some excitement in the halls of power that this very tricky issue that has built to a near war may be resolved peacefully, at least for a while.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And a big payoff for Iran in getting that sanction — getting the sanctions lifted and getting what they see as their money back.
ROBIN WRIGHT: Right, they get roughly $100 billion back. Not all of that will actually get back because they have several financial obligations. It will be probably more somewhere around $50 billion or $60 billion, but they will have that to try to build their economy again.
Their economy is in very deep trouble because of the lowering price of oil, because of sanctions, but most of all because of their own mismanagement.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Robin Wright, thank you very much.
ROBIN WRIGHT: Thank you.
The post What’s at stake for Iran in releasing detained U.S. sailors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
PASADENA, Calif. — The Nielsen company says 31.3 million people watched President Barack Obama deliver his last State of the Union, his smallest audience for the annual speech.
His lowest previous was last year’s State of the Union, which had 33.3 million viewers. Nielsen says Obama’s ratings peak was his first State of the Union in 2009, which was seen by 52.4 million people. This year’s speech was carried live on 12 networks and on tape delay on Univision.
Video by PBS NewsHour
Obama has something in common with his predecessors: the least-watched State of the Union speech by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton was their last.
The post Obama’s final State of the Union address drew his smallest audience appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff. Gwen Ifill is away.
On the “NewsHour” tonight: Ten U.S. sailors are freed after being detained overnight by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, but questions surround the incident.
Then: After President Obama’s final State of the Union, we turn the corner to the 2016 race and talk to three reporters on the trail.
And, in light of recent attacks on German citizens, Chancellor Angela Merkel faces criticism for her open-door refugee policy.
PETER PAULS, Editor, Kolner Stadt Anzeiger: I think the major issue is not the political surface that we are looking on. It is what is going on in the population.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus: The first Chilean to win architecture’s highest award focuses on improving spaces for urban slums around the world.
All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street took a beating today, in the face of growing worries about slumping oil prices, a slowdown in China and global growth.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 365 points to close near 16150. The Nasdaq fell nearly 160 points, and the S&P 500 index dropped 48 into what Wall Street calls a correction, a decline of 10 percent or more from a recent peak.
It lasted less than 24 hours. Iran’s seizure of two U.S. Navy boats, and their 10 crew members, ended today in the Persian Gulf. They’d been held on Farsi Island after one of the boats had what U.S. officials called mechanical trouble en route from Kuwait to Bahrain. We will have a full report on the incident after the news summary.
President Obama hit the road today to sell his State of the Union message of American strength and to appeal for unity. He began with a visit to Omaha, Nebraska, a majority-Republican, red state. He’s asking Republicans in Congress to help pass an Asian trade deal and to address heroin addiction.
In Pakistan, a suicide bombing killed at least 15 people today and wounded dozens more outside a polio vaccination center. The attack in the city of Quetta came as health workers were about to kick off a three-day immunization campaign. Most of those killed were policemen assigned to escort the vaccination teams. But local officials vowed to continue efforts to eradicate the disease.
ANWAR-UL-HAQ KAKAR, Spokesman, Government of Balochistan (through interpreter): I, on behalf of the government, want to assure the whole province and the whole country that we will not retreat a single step in this war, not under any circumstances. The polio campaign will continue in the province nonstop and without any interruption. We will try to even make it faster by increasing our resources.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Two Taliban groups, one with ties to the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Police in Turkey have arrested five people in a deadly suicide bombing in Istanbul. The attack yesterday killed 10 Germans in the city’s main tourist district. Germany’s interior minister, along with Turkey’s prime minister, visited the wounded in Istanbul today. The German official said there’s no reason for tourists to avoid visiting Turkey.
U.N. plans for Syrian peace talks suffered a setback today. The talks are supposed to start January 25. But the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and other factions now say they won’t take part. They said, first, the Syrian government must let relief into besieged towns.
And back in this country, people snapped up last-minute tickets for tonight’s Powerball lottery drawing and the largest jackpot ever. Record-breaking ticket sales have helped push the top prize to $1.5 billion. In some places today, people waited hours on end for a chance to play. The odds of winning are one in more than 292 million.
Still to come on the “NewsHour”: the crisis that didn’t happen, American sailors released by Iran; politics mixes with the president’s legacy; a former NRA chief on the nation’s gun policy; and much more.
The post News Wrap: Obama visits Omaha after State of the Union appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Republican National Committee has started preparing for a contested national convention, which would follow the primary season should no GOP candidate for president win enough delegates to secure the party’s nomination.
While calling the need for such plans ultimately unlikely, several GOP leaders at the party’s winter meeting in South Carolina told The Associated Press on Wednesday that such preliminary planning is nonetheless actively underway.
They stressed it had little to do with concerns about the candidacy of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, describing the early work instead as a necessary contingency given the deeply divided Republican field. With less than three weeks to go before the Feb. 1 leadoff Iowa caucuses, there are still a dozen major Republican candidates in the race.
“Certainly, management of the committee has been working on the eventuality, because we’d be wrong not to,” said Bruce Ash, chairman of the RNC’s rules committee. “We don’t know, or we don’t think there’s going to be a contested convention, but if there is, obviously everybody needs to know what all those logistics are going to look like.”
The RNC will hold a briefing outlining possible scenarios with party officials and the presidential campaigns on Thursday, said Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire.
Discussion is expected to focus on logistics related to planning for the July convention in Cleveland, a task traditionally controlled by the presumptive nominee.
“I never thought we’d deal with this,” Duprey said. “The best way to make sure we don’t have some messy fight is if all the campaigns understand the rules and all the members of the RNC understand how this would play out going forward.”
Added South Carolina GOP chairman Matt Moore: “The story of this election cycle has been ‘expect the unexpected.’ So we’re getting ahead of it and preparing for every single scenario at the national convention. I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s certainly possible. And you always plan for things that are possible.”
To win the nomination outright, a successful candidate needs to secure more than half of all available delegates in the state-by-state primary contests leading up to the convention.
The last time a Republican convention opened without such a clear nominee was 1976, when Gerald Ford led in delegates but lacked a majority coming into the convention. There was plenty of drama as Ford beat back a challenge from Ronald Reagan and eked out the nomination on the first vote.
The last time there was a truly brokered convention, at which delegates turned to someone who didn’t run in the primaries, was in 1952. That year, Democrats drafted Adlai Stevenson, who won the party’s nomination on the third ballot.
In the GOP field this year, Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have the edge in the most recent preference polls, much to the dismay of many party leaders who fear neither man is electable in a general election. The centrist wing of the party has yet to coalesce around an alternative to Trump or Cruz. Those fighting for that role include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
While party leaders caution they don’t believe a clear nominee will fail to emerge from the glut of candidates, they argue it would be malpractice not to prepare for the prospect.
“You have to at least consider it,” said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges. “I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen, but it’s always a possibility — at any convention, any year. But this time it’s maybe even a little more real, seemingly real, because of the number of people we still have out there who could be collecting delegates.”
Convention spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski said it is the job of the convention committee to have contingency plans in place, “the same way we did over the last several conventions with hurricanes.”
Despite the early nature of the work, some party officials said it was unwise. They fear it could embolden conservatives already angry with the Republican establishment.
“Let’s get through Iowa, let’s get through New Hampshire. Let’s give somebody a chance to win this thing before we try to figure out whether we’re going to have a contested convention or not,” said Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour of Mississippi.
The post Republican Party makes preliminary plans for contested convention appeared first on PBS NewsHour.