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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Police at the scene of a security operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek in Brussels, Belgium, March 18, 2016.    REUTERS/Francois Lenoir  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSB3TV

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A raid, a shoot-out, and five people in custody, including the main suspect in the Paris attacks, that chain of events played out late today in Brussels, Belgium. And when it was over, police proclaimed success after a four-month manhunt.

    The crack of gunfire in the city’s Molenbeek neighborhood ended in the arrest that police had long sought; 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam was captured alive, but wounded in the leg during the shoot-out with police.

    Belgium’s prime minister made the formal announcement.

    CHARLES MICHEL, Prime Minister, Belgium (through interpreter): I can tell you that we have arrested Abdeslam as part of an operation linked to an investigation on the attacks in Paris. And I want to warmly thank our security forces.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, helmeted police with riot shields cordoned off the area. And, as darkness fell, at least one explosion lit up the site.

    French investigators say Abdeslam was one of several attackers who carried out the Paris rampage last November, targeting a rock concert, cafes, and a stadium; 130 people died that night, and hundreds more were wounded. It is believed that Abdeslam fled Paris, slipped through a dragnet and escaped back to Brussels, where the attacks had been planned.

    The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the massacre. Most of the other suspects, including one of Abdeslam’s brothers, died that night or were killed later by police. Today’s raid gained momentum after Belgian authorities raided this apartment in another Brussels neighborhood on Tuesday and found Abdeslam’s fingerprints.

    A man believed to be one of his accomplices was killed there. Two others fled the scene, one of whom now appears to have been Abdeslam himself.

    French President Francois Hollande said this evening that the investigation of the Paris attacks is not over. He said there will be more arrests. We will get the White House perspective on all of this right after the news summary.

    The post Four months after Paris attacks, Belgian police detain primary suspect appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Leslie Kirchhoff/Getty Images.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a “NewsHour” Essay.

    This month, many high school seniors have either just learned, or are anxiously waiting to hear, what colleges they might have gotten into.

    Education advocate Keith Frome has worked with students across the country, and believes the key to getting more kids to apply to college is peer pressure.

    KEITH FROME, Author, “How’s My Kid Doing?”: One summer weekend, I taught a small group of students from a low-income community how to write their personal statements for their college applications.

    Each student would be the first in their family to apply to college, and their ability to tell their stories was going to be critical to their success.

    During the three-day retreat, we used a variety of writing techniques to produce memorable, compelling and utterly authentic essays that I knew would stick in the minds of college admission officers.

    Returning home, I felt quite satisfied, perhaps a little smugly so, with a job well done, and I proudly shared the compositions with my friends and family.

    One of the students, though, who wrote about his attempts to extricate himself from a neighborhood gang, didn’t share my sense of completion. Though he had completed his college applications, his work was just beginning. He was on a mission.

    When he returned to school, he asked his principal to gather the entire senior class in the auditorium. He proceeded to read his personal statement to them and said that, if he could write this well, everyone else could do the same.

    He then led every senior, step by step, through the composition of their personal statements using the techniques he had learned in our weekend together.

    They started with a free-write. They read these aloud. They listened to each other, noting moments of beauty and probing for more details and explanations.

    The principal called me later that week, astonished at what he had witnessed. My colleagues and I began to hear similar stories from other schools around the country. We began to understand that the most influential person to a 17-year-old is another 17-year-old.

    And it struck us that this might be a key to solving a big problem. Every year, there are 1.1 million low-income eighth graders in America’s schools; 95 percent say they want to go to college, but only 9 percent of them will graduate by the time they are 24. In 1970, that figure was 6 percent. We have clearly not made much progress.

    Many think that the solution is to bring complex and expensive interventions into schools. I say the students themselves, with some training and coaching, can be organized into teams to work on behalf of the rest of their classmates.

    STUDENT: The only thing about your personal essay is, like, it’s really good. So, I would say type it up just as it is, right?

    KEITH FROME: There are hundreds of urban or rural high schools around the country where I am privileged to watch students leading their classmates to college.

    I have seen students lock their fellow seniors in a gym until they have completed their college applications. When college representatives refused to come to a high school, I saw a group of students themselves represent the colleges for the rest of the school in the cafeteria.

    In rural Florida, I watched a team of juniors and seniors lead an assembly for 1,500 students like it was a revival meeting, exhorting the entire school to commit to going to college. Peer leadership is a powerful force to behold, and it gets measurable results.

    In high schools, where peer leader teams are deployed, we have seen students get more than 70 percent of their classmates to apply to college, resulting in increases of 20 percent or more in actual college enrollment rates.

    We are entering an era in education reform that is calling for more collaboration among schools, unions and businesses, so that all students succeed. That sounds good, but we will only witness more lackluster results unless we understand that students are partners, too, who can help their peers achieve.

    I’m reminded of a high school senior named Cornelius Williams, who had no intention of going to college. He had no adult role models who ever attended college and he didn’t see the value in it. One day, he met Ashley Daniels who had just been trained to be a peer leader. She nurtured and nagged Cornelius through the entire application process.

    Not only did he get into college. After he graduated, he volunteered with College Summit, paying Ashley’s coaching forward to a new generation of students.

    The post What can motivate low-income high school kids to apply to college? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Refguees react during a protest asking for the opening of borders at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 18, 2016.  REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis   - RTSB44F

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to the major European-Turkish agreement on how to cope with the refugee crisis.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Under the deal agreed to today, Turkey will take back Syrian refugees now in Greece, Europe will accept some refugees now in Turkey, and Turkey will get financial and closer travel and political ties to Europe.

    Joining us from Brussels, Matthew Karnitschnig, chief Europe correspondent for Politico, and in Copenhagen, the “NewsHour”‘s Malcolm Brabant.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Matthew, let me start with you.

    So, for Europe, the idea is fewer refugees and a more orderly process. How is this supposed to work? Fill in the details a bit.

    MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG, Politico: Well, at the core of this deal is this mechanism that you mentioned whereby the Turks will take back all Syrian refugees who arrive in Greece, and, in return, the Europeans would take a certain number, one to one, essentially, of the Syrian refugees now in Turkey.

    The idea is this would undermine the smugglers’ trade, which is responsible for bringing all of these refugees in rubber rafts and so forth to Greece at the moment, and Angela Merkel and the other European leaders hope that this will convince Syrians and other migrants not to come to Europe in the first place, that they will see that it’s pointless to try to come with the smugglers because they will automatically be sent back.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, Malcolm, of course, sending these back, all those people stranded in Greece, raises enormous logistical and legal challenges, right?

    We have already had a lot of criticism on the legal side from Amnesty International, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. How hard will this be to do?

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This is going to be extremely difficult to implement. It’s going to be a logistical nightmare.

    Trying to deport thousands of people is going to be a huge task that is going to create some really ugly scenes, because you have got these people who have spent thousands of dollars getting to Greece suddenly facing the prospect of being sent back.

    They’re not going to meekly and mildly. There are going to be fights and struggles going on in these various places. Now, what’s supposed to also happen is that these people are supposed to also have their appeals for asylum being fast-tracked.

    And Greece has got a dreadful reputation for trying to fast-track anything. Trying to determine whether or not somebody is a serious asylum-seeker, a justified asylum-seeker, is something that’s supposed to happen almost instantly, especially as the UNHCR, for example, is saying that everybody needs to have the right to appeal.

    So, I foresee chaos in the Greek islands.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Matthew, are there any plans in the details what more Europe is planning to do to make the process work better? And also explain to what is — from the Turkish side, what’s in it for them?

    MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG: Well, the Europeans are saying now they recognize, of course, that Greece, which is in the midst of this economic crisis, really an economic depression, is not going to be able to handle this problem alone. They don’t have the administration to deal with this many refugees.

    So, the Brussels bureaucrats, if you will, are saying they will send down to up to 4,000 officials, judges, interpreters, and so forth to deal with these processes that they need to introduce here in terms of dealing with the asylum applicants and ensuring that they get a fair review of their case.

    But to think that this is going to happen within 48 hours, because they’re also saying that they want to introduce this program starting on Sunday, is somewhat ambitious, to put it mildly. So, there is a lot of skepticism here in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe about whether this plan is going to be dead on arrival, essentially.

    What’s in it for the Turks is that the Turks get visa liberalization, as they’re calling it, which means that Turkish citizens, if they meet a number of — if Turkey meets a number of requirements in the coming months, will be able to travel into the E.U. without visas, which would be a huge political win for Turkish President Erdogan, who has really been trying to show to his people that, despite all of the criticism of Turkey and his rule in Turkey, his increasingly authoritarian rule, many people say, that they are still part of the West, that the West still accepts them and takes them seriously.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Malcolm, you have reported from Turkey. You have been talking to people there. Well, is it likely that this would discourage people from making the trip at this point, and what are you hearing from Turkey now?

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Well, I was talking to a refugee organization boss in Izmir, which is — used to be the main smuggling zone.

    And this is a town that was normally thriving with smugglers and with Syrians and other refugees coming to try to get a deal to try to get across the Aegean. But in the past couple of weeks, the Turks have cracked town, the smugglers have all gone, and all of the would-be asylum seekers are hiding in forests along the coast or in safe houses.

    Now, this is a multibillion-dollar business. The smugglers aren’t going to take this lying down. They want to make that sort of money. And so they’re going to be looking for other routes, possibly land routes, through to Europe.

    But I have been talking to other people, for example, refugees who are stuck in Greece. And one man in particular, Edriss Bayat, that we have looked at, we have met before on the “NewsHour,” he’s a former NATO employee from Afghanistan, now, he’s at the former Athens airport, where — along with lots of other refugees.

    The one thing that he’s been worried about more than anything else is deportation. But, under this deal, he’s not going to be deported, but he, along with about 50,000 other people who are currently stranded in Greece, nobody’s really certain what is going to happen to them.

    And Greece could become a detention camp for these people, although Europe is saying, for example, that some of these people will be shared around other European countries. But so far, that is something that has not happened.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Malcolm Brabant in Copenhagen and Matthew Karnitschnig in Brussels, thank you both very much.

    The post Experts weigh in on the outlook for the EU’s migrant deal with Turkey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama was briefed on today’s arrests in Brussels and spoke with the French and Belgian leaders by phone.

    We get the latest on that and look ahead to the president’s historic trip to Cuba with National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    Welcome back to the program.

    Susan Rice, first of all, tell us about the U.S. role in helping the French and Belgian authorities locate these people in Brussels.

    SUSAN RICE, National Security Advisor: Well, Judy, it needs to be said, as the president did to the prime minister of Belgium and the president of France, it’s really the services of Belgium and France that deserve the lion’s share of the credit here. And congratulations on a well-executed operation. This is their day.

    And, indeed, since the Paris attacks, actually, well before the Paris attacks, but especially after the Paris attacks, the United States has stepped up its intelligence and law enforcement cooperation with our European partners, the French in particular, but many other Europeans as well.

    And we are sharing information and supporting each other in ways that are unprecedented. But I can’t get into think any specifics about this operation, and it’s an ongoing investigation, as you understand.

    But I do think it’s important to give the Belgian authorities and the French authorities their due today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of a threat from the Islamic State does this take off the table? What does the U.S. now have less to worry about as a result of this, would you say?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, Judy, obviously, this is a good development, but it is far from a turning point in the fight against ISIL.

    We are engaged in a multifaceted, comprehensive campaign to degrade and defeat ISIL, and we have seen important progress, but by no means can we look at today and say we have turned a corner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to ask you about that, because the president told Jeffrey Goldberg in a series of interviews with “The Atlantic” that he doesn’t see ISIS, or ISIL, as an existential threat to the United States.

    And Jeffrey Goldberg reported that the president has said to the White House staff that more people have to worry about falls in bathtubs and car accidents and gun shootings than they do terrorists. So, how much should Americans fear ISIS?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, what is an existential threat, Judy? That’s something that can literally destroy our nation as we know it, physically and otherwise. So, I think that’s a very valid statement.

    But that doesn’t mean ISIL can’t conduct attacks and do Americans harm, whether abroad or at home. And, obviously, we have every interest and the president is fully committed to doing all that we possibly can to defeat ISIL, because, like al-Qaida, it is a threat that we must guard against and that it can do real harm to Americans and our allies, not to mention the countries in which it is rampaging.

    So, we have every interest in putting all of our efforts and that of our coalition partners behind the fight against ISIL. And Americans should take that threat seriously, but we also shouldn’t overblow it and turn ISIL into the equivalent of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. That is not a fair comparison.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me turn the corner to Cuba.

    The president is going to make this historic visit this weekend, the first visit by an American president there since Calvin Coolidge. How close does President Obama want relations to be between the U.S. and Cuba?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, Judy, it’s not about how close.

    I mean, obviously, this is a very new diplomatic relationship. It’s just begun in the last several months. Normalization is at the early stages, and it’s going to take time. There are real differences that remain between our governments and our systems.

    And so we’re not going to be best friends. That’s not what we’re talking about here. But it is about moving out of a 50-year failed policy that yielded no change towards an era of engagement, which we’re confident, over time, will open up society in Cuba.

    But at the people-to-people level, we think that there is a natural affinity between the people of Cuba and the people of the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of what you just mentioned, what do you say who oppose this kind of normalization with Cuba who say what’s happened here is that the U.S. has given in, has made concessions on things like travel and trade, while the Cubans have done almost nothing when it comes to human rights and democracy, in other words, that the U.S. has done more giving than the Cubans?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, Judy, what we would say is, first of all, it is not a concession to allow U.S. businesses to operate and compete in Cuba, when our partners have been doing so for many years.

    It’s not a concession for Americans to travel. That is in our interest. Our view is, rather than continue to do the same failed thing over and over again and hope for a different result, instead, we should do what has worked in so many other contexts around the world, which is to give the Cuban people the opportunity to engage with American ingenuity, American entrepreneurs, American civil society leaders, and to see through that engagement a future that they only — only themselves can bring to Cuba over the long term.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, we thank you.

    SUSAN RICE: It’s good to be with you, Judy.

    The post Susan Rice shares administration’s response to Paris terror arrest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges supporters at a town hall campaign event in Hickory, North Carolina. March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane  - RTX294KR

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to politics.

    The rift in the Republican Party over Donald Trump shows no signs of mending. Just today, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced on social media that he will vote for Senator Ted Cruz in the Utah caucuses next Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, as Trump marches closer to the 1,200-plus delegates he needs to secure the party’s nomination, some party operatives are scrambling for an alternative. On Thursday, a group of conservative GOP activists held a closed-door meeting here in Washington to discuss how to block Trump from the nomination.

    Here’s Erick Erickson, who was one of the meeting’s organizers, on FOX Business News Thursday:

    ERICK ERICKSON, The Resurgent: The Republicans, if they nominate Donald Trump, are going to nominate the only politician in America more unpopular and less trustworthy than Hillary Clinton. That’s not where you start when you want to beat Hillary Clinton.

    But that’s the reality of that with him, and I’m not going to play a part of it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For his part, a Trump policy adviser pushed back today with a warning for the Republican Party.

    Here is what Sam Clovis had to say on CNN’s “NEW DAY”:

    SAM CLOVIS, National Co-Chairman, Trump Campaign: I will tell you this. If the Republican Party comes into that convention, and jimmies with the rules and takes away the will of the people, the will of the Republicans and the Democrats and independents who voted for Mr. Trump, I will take off my credentials, I will leave the floor of that convention, and I will leave the Republican Party forever.

    The post Behind closed doors, GOP strategizes on how to block Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon says a U.S. drone strike on Saturday struck a training camp for al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia who were preparing to launch a large-scale attack, likely against African or U.S. personnel. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A movie thriller being released nationally today delves into the practical, legal and moral issues surrounding drone warfare.

    Jeffrey Brown is back with that.

    ACTOR: What’s the plan, Captain?

    HELEN MIRREN, Actress: We need to put a Hellfire through that roof right now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a new kind of warfare, advanced technology that tracks, identifies, and has the power to destroy enemies by remote control from thousands of miles away.

    HELEN MIRREN: We have two suicide vests with explosives inside that house.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But as the film “Eye in the Sky” asks, should it be used? If so, when, especially if innocent lives may also be taken?

    HELEN MIRREN: Harold, this is a very time-sensitive target. Do I have authority to strike?

    ACTOR: The rules of engagement you’re operating under only allow for a low collateral damage estimate.

    ACTRESS: Yes. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The film follows British military commanders, including Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell, as they debate with Cabinet officers and politicians over a strike against Al-Shabaab terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya, who appear to be on the verge of a suicide bombing.

    ACTOR: I told you, they came to witness a capture, not a kill. Give me a capture option.

    HELEN MIRREN: We no longer have a capture option. Any action on the ground will lead to an armed confrontation, which we will not be able to contain.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Director Gavin Hood, who joined us recently at the E Street Cinema in Washington, has the action play out in real time.

    GAVIN HOOD, Director, “Eye in the Sky”: We wanted to immerse the audience in a real operation. And we wanted the audience to feel as if they were participating in that operation.

    It’s a very strange world that we’re moving into, this world of drone warfare, automated warfare, where our soldiers, we’re trying to take them off the battlefield in order to minimize our casualties. And yet the battlefield is still a very real place for those we target. And so the questions of when to target, who to target, what might the fallout, blowback are not theoretical or touchy-feely. They matter.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The film presents a dramatic complication. A young girl who lives nearby sets up her bread stand just outside the targeted house. American drone pilot Steve Watts played by Aaron Paul sits far away in a trailer in Nevada and hesitates before launching his missile.

    AARON PAUL, Actor: Ma’am, I need you to run the collateral damage estimate again with this girl out front.

    HELEN MIRREN: The situation has not changed, Lieutenant. You are cleared to engage.

    GAVIN HOOD: If we’re going to confront this question, let’s take it to the wire. I’m not going to let you off the hook. If the question is, will you take an innocent life in order to save potentially more lives, let’s really go to that place.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Obama administration has embraced the use of drones as an effective anti-terror weapon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Somalia, the Islamist group Al-Shabaab confirms the U.S. bombed one of its camps on Saturday.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just this month, the Pentagon, citing self-defense and the defense of African allies, said it used drones and other aircraft to hit an Al-Shabaab training camp in Somalia, killing about 150 fighters.

    Pentagon officials said they didn’t believe there were any civilian casualties, but the claim could not be independently verified. We asked two drone warfare experts from opposing sides to watch the film and discuss it with us.

    Naureen Shah heads the security and human rights program of Amnesty International USA. Matt Olsen has been in situations like those in the film as former director of the National Counterterrorism Center in the Obama administration.

    There were two thumbs-up for the film as a tense, mostly realistic thriller, but continuing disagreement on the use of drones.

    NAUREEN SHAH, Amnesty International USA: What the film shows is the best-case scenario, potentially, for the government, where we know who is inside a house that’s being targeted.

    But in the cases that Amnesty International has documented, we would have real questions about whether the U.S. government had the advantage of the kind of facial-recognition technology that appears to be in the film, the eyes on the ground, the ability to try to get an individual who might be killed, to get her away from the target strike area.

    And that’s part of the problem, actually, is that there are — there’s a novel technology out there, and we as a public are swayed by that technology to think, well, this is going to be a precise killing, this is going to be a clean kind of warfare, a kind of warfare that can be taken into cities, like we’re seeing here in Nairobi, and as though that excuses it from the kinds of laws and kind of rules that we would ordinarily apply to any kind of use of lethal force.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Shrouded in secrecy by necessity or — I mean, what’s the response to that?

    MATTHEW OLSEN, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center: The principal response is that the president and the administration has been quite open about the standards that apply to this type of lethal force.

    Again, no strike can take place, as the president has said, unless several specific criteria are met, first, that it’s lawful, consistent with the laws of war, consistent with U.S. domestic law, that there is a basis to believe that the targets present an imminent threat to the lives of Americans, and that capture is not possible, and then, last, that no strike can take place unless there’s near certainty that no innocent person will be harmed.

    As the president has acknowledged, innocent people have been killed in this war, as in any war. But those standards are above and beyond what would be legally required under the laws of war.

    NAUREEN SHAH: We have never seen the U.S. government acknowledge the killing of a Yemeni or a Pakistani or Somali civilian, innocent life.

    There is zero acknowledgement of specific individuals. And so if we’re to say that it’s OK to kill people outside who are selling bread in Nairobi, Kenya, we’re also saying it’s OK to kill us right here in Washington, D.C., if there’s people in a neighboring building who potentially pose some kind of threat.

    MATTHEW OLSEN: I think that’s quite exaggerated, the idea that we would be at risk here in Washington, D.C.

    The president has been very clear where the types of strikes that have been approved, outside of areas of hostile battlefields, outside of areas of active hostility, those have been approved under very circumscribed circumstances, where, again, we’re at war with al-Qaida and associated forces.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In “Eye in the Sky,” we see tiny camera drones, some already on the market, says director Gavin Hood, others close behind. And soon, he adds, they will do more than just capture high-definition images.

    GAVIN HOOD: Instead of putting a Hellfire missile through the roof of a house in which the terrorists are holed up, the tiny drone flies through the window or a door, and detonates right by your temple, or it blows a little dose of anthrax in your nose as it flies by. It’s very creepy, but there’s no stopping it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Such technological advances will no doubt only raise new challenges and debates.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jeffrey Brown.

    The post ‘Eye in the Sky’ film puts the use of drones in the spotlight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama (L) accompanies Judge Merrick Garland after he announced Garland as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., March 16, 2016.    REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTSAQO9

    U.S. President Barack Obama (L) accompanies Judge Merrick Garland after he announced Garland as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., March 16, 2016. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Merrick Garland’s judicial record over nearly two decades indicates he would side more often than not with the Supreme Court’s liberal justices on a range of cases splitting the court along ideological lines.

    The real question, to be answered definitively only if Garland wins Senate confirmation, is how far to the left would the court shift if a new liberal majority were in place.

    Garland’s ascension could well be a game-changing moment that would make the court significantly more liberal on social issues, government regulation and access to the courts. That’s driving Republicans to demand that any choice to fill the seat held by Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month, must wait until after the next president takes office in January 2017.

    Yet liberals who wanted President Barack Obama to make a bold choice are voicing mostly tepid support for Garland, even as they called on Republicans to allow hearings and a vote on the nomination.

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Thursday that should he win in November, he would want the White House to withdraw Garland’s nomination if the Senate hadn’t acted by then. “Between you and me, I think there are some more progressive judges out there,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

    Supporters of Garland’s nomination say the left-right assessment misses the mark.

    “Some justices want to move the law in a particular direction if the cases come along. I think Judge Garland is the opposite of that. I think he is a judge who believes that the appropriate role is to look at the case in front of him and decide it the best way he can and as narrowly as he can,” said Andrew Pincus, a Washington lawyer who argues regularly at the Supreme Court.

    In Garland’s votes and opinions on the federal appeals court in Washington, he often deferred to the policy choices of lawmakers, to regulations developed by federal agencies and to the actions of police and prosecutors. Like all lower court judges, he also was constrained by Supreme Court decisions.

    “The bottom line is there’s little doubt that Merrick Garland will be with the new liberal majority in all the 5-4 cases that have gone the other way, ranging from campaign finance to voting rights and affirmative action,” said Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the nonpartisan National Constitution Center.

    That would put Garland somewhere to the left of Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote was decisive in so many controversial cases, and well to the left of Scalia in most areas. Garland might resemble Justice Stephen Breyer, another longtime appeals court judge who is a reliable liberal vote, though he and Scalia would sometimes effectively trade places in criminal cases.

    Harder to predict, based on his record, is what Garland would do in cases that ask the high court to jettison one of its decisions.

    As it happens, that’s precisely what Sanders and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton want the court to do with the 2010 Citizens United ruling on campaign finance that’s hated by their party. Citizens United was a 5-4 outcome with Scalia in the majority.

    Garland’s record in campaign finance cases in recent years is mixed.

    He joined his colleagues in a unanimous vote to strike down limits on contributions to independent advocacy groups, a decision that led to the rise of super political action committees.

    The court concluded that its ruling in March 2010 was compelled by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case two months earlier that freed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums of money in elections for Congress and president, though independent of any campaign for office.

    In a second case, Garland wrote for a unanimous court last July to uphold a 70-year-old ban on campaign contributions from people who hold contracts with the federal government. Garland wrote that the ban was in line with the government’s interest in preventing corruption.

    Election law expert Richard Hasen of the University of California at Irvine law school wrote that he is persuaded that Garland would vote to uphold challenged campaign finance restrictions like the one he confronted last year.

    And if he had been on the court when Citizens United was decided, he would have been with the dissenters, Hasen said. But the issue now is whether Garland would be willing to overturn the ruling.

    “My guess is that this would be a struggle for him, less about the merits of the case and more about the proper role of the justice (particularly if he becomes the new swing justice) on a court that is ideologically and politically divided,” Hasen said in an email.

    Guns rights advocates point to two votes that they say make them worry that Garland also could vote to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, written by Scalia, that proclaimed an individual’s right to own a gun, at least for self-defense at home. That, too, was a 5-4 ruling.

    In 2000, Garland was part of a 2-1 majority that said the FBI could retain gun purchase records for six months to make sure the computerized instant background check system was working. The FBI’s position was challenged by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups.

    Seven years later, Garland wanted the full court to reconsider a decision by a three-judge panel that struck down Washington’s ban on handgun ownership. The appeals court voted 6-4 against a new hearing in the case, for which Scalia later wrote the majority opinion.

    The court where he’s served since 1997, and as chief judge since 2013, also handles the lion’s share of challenges to federal regulations, including actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency. Scalia had been a leading critic on the court of EPA climate-change policy, and his death is a potentially devastating loss to opponents of efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

    Garland, on the other hand, has been friendlier to EPA action.

    He drew the ire of industry groups in 2001 when he upheld use of the Endangered Species Act to protect the arroyo toad in California, rejecting arguments that federal officials lacked authority because the toad lived only in California. He also dissented in a case that overturned the EPA’s anti-haze regulations, which business groups considered overly burdensome.

    The post Garland would move Supreme Court to the left, but how far? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tourists pass by images of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in a banner that reads "Welcome to Cuba" at the entrance of a restaurant in downtown Havana, March 17, 2016. Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters.

    Tourists pass by images of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in a banner that reads “Welcome to Cuba” at the entrance of a restaurant in downtown Havana, March 17, 2016. Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will open a new era in the United States’ thorny relationship with Cuba during a history-making trip that has two seemingly dissonant goals: locking in his softer approach while also pushing the island’s communist leaders to change their ways. 

    Obama’s 2½ day visit starting Sunday will be a crowning moment for the ambitious diplomatic experiment that he and President Raul Castro’s government announced barely a year ago. After a half-century of acrimony, the two former Cold War foes are now in regular contact. American travelers and businesses are eagerly eyeing opportunities on the tiny nation 90 miles south of Florida.

    Joined by his family, Obama will stroll the streets of Old Havana and meet with Castro in his presidential offices – images unimaginable just a few years ago. He will sit in the stands with baseball-crazed Cubans for a historic game between their beloved national team and Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays.

    Obama also will meet with political dissidents. Their experiences in the one-party state help explain why some Cuban-Americans see Obama’s outreach as a disgraceful embrace of a government whose practices and values betray much of what America stands for. Increasingly, though, that’s becoming a minority view among Cuban-Americans, as well as the broader U.S. population.

    White House officials are mindful that Obama cannot appear to gloss over deep and persistent differences. Even as the president works toward better ties, his statements alongside Castro and dissidents will be scrutinized for signs of how aggressively he is pushing the Havana government to fulfill promises of reform.

    Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez rebuked Obama ahead of the trip for suggesting that he would use the visit to promote change. Rodriguez said that many of Obama’s policy changes have essentially been meaningless, and he dismissed the notion that Obama was in any position to empower Cubans.

    “The Cuban people empowered themselves decades ago,” Rodriguez said, referring to the 1959 revolution that put the current government in power. He said if Obama was preoccupied with empowering Cubans, “something must be going wrong in U.S. democracy.”

    Obama’s aides and supporters in Congress brushed off such tough talk from Cuban officials. They argue that decades of a U.S. policy of isolation that failed to bring about change in Cuba illustrated why engaging with the island is worthwhile.

    Yet Obama’s opponents insist he is rewarding a government that has yet to show it is serious about improving human rights and opening up its economy and political system. Though Obama has been rolling back restrictions on Cuba through regulatory moves, he has been unable to persuade Congress to lift the U.S. trade embargo, a chief Cuban demand.

    “To this day, this is a regime that provides safe harbor to terrorists and to fugitives,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Unfortunately, it is doubtful that the president will bring up the need for reform during his visit.”

    Two years after taking power in 2008, Raul Castro launched economic and social reforms that appear slow-moving to many Cubans and foreigners, but are lasting and widespread within Cuban society. The changes have allowed hundreds of thousands of people to work in the private sector and have relaxed limits on cellphones, Internet and Cubans’ comfort with discussing their country’s problems in public, for example.

    The Cuban government has been unyielding, however, on making changes to its single-party political system and to the strict limits on media, public speech, assembly and dissent.

    While in Havana, Obama will attend a state dinner in his honor and lay a wreath at a memorial to Jose Marti, a Cuban independence hero. He will give a speech at the Grand Theater of Havana – carried on Cuban television. White House aides said Obama will lay out a vision of greater freedoms and economic opportunity.

    Ahead of his trip, Obama announced moves to further lift U.S. restrictions on Cuba, including easing travel restrictions for Americans and restoring Cuba’s access to the global financial system. Cuba has been slower to approve U.S. businesses operating in Cuba and to take other steps sought by the U.S. But Cuba did announce plans to lift a 10 percent conversion fee on U.S. dollars.

    The jubilation that surged through Cuba in the early days of detente has been tempered by the absence of tangible improvement in most people’s lives. Obama is well-regarded in Cuba, and though his trip has spurred excitement in the country, few Cubans expect to see Obama in person. The Castro government has announced a virtual shutdown of Havana during Obama’s stay.

    “I don’t think things are going to improve here,” said Rosa Lopez, 52-year-old food stand worker. Gesturing at her worn-out sandals and soft drinks for sale, she added, “All this is here, in this country, and the United States is way over there.”

    Obama’s trip comes in the midst of a heated U.S. presidential election in which his willingness to talk to America’s foes – not only Cuba, but also Iran – has been a focus.

    Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has embraced much of his foreign policy agenda, including the Cuba opening. But Republican candidates describe Obama’s outreach to Castro as part of a pattern of naïve overtures to enemies that has yielded little in return.

    Against that backdrop, Obama aims to avoid glaring missteps that could make a rollback of his Cuba policy more palatable to Americans. He hopes a successful trip will make that impossible, even if a Republican is elected in November.

    “We very much want to make the process of normalization irreversible,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

    Associated Press writer Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed.

    The post Obama’s historic trip to Cuba rife with risk, opportunity appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges supporters at a town hall campaign event in Hickory, North Carolina. March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane  - RTX294KR

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges supporters at a town hall campaign event in Hickory, North Carolina. March 14, 2016. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    PHOENIX — Long before Donald Trump shook up presidential politics, there was Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Now the two are politically joined, and the Republican presidential front-runner can look to Arpaio’s home state for a model on how he could win in November.

    The tough-talking lawman won six straight elections as sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and nearly two-thirds of Arizona’s population. He forced jail inmates to wear pink underwear and live outside in tents during triple-digit heat. He launched dragnets to round up people in the country illegally, and a judge ruled that his operations illegally targeted Latinos. Arpaio then launched an investigation that critics contend ended up targeting the judge.

    Through it all, Arpaio won re-election even as the number of Latinos in Arizona continued to rise, and his endorsement was hotly sought by Republicans who have thrived in the state despite its increasing diversity. GOP presidential candidates have also wooed Arpaio, who’s become a national icon for opponents of illegal immigration. He endorsed Trump last year and introduced him at two Arizona rallies, and is scheduled to introduce Trump at a rally Saturday in the Phoenix suburb where the sheriff lives.

    Now, as Trump looks toward the general election, Arpaio and Arizona – the next major state to vote in the presidential nominating contest – show how conservative populists can thrive even in states with growing minority populations. Arizona votes Tuesday in a winner-take-all Republican primary as well as a Democratic race.

    “My secret weapon is just like Donald Trump: Go to the people,” Arpaio said in an interview. He said he’s done more than 4,000 TV interviews in his two decades as sheriff.

    If Trump wins the Republican nomination, he will face a daunting challenge for the November election: Given that minority voters strongly lean Democratic, he would probably have to win more white voters than any other presidential candidate in the modern age has done – about two-thirds of them, should turnout and minority voting patterns track 2012 levels.

    In Arizona, though, Republicans like Arpaio have prospered by winning an increasing share of the white vote even as the number of Latinos in the state has risen from one-quarter of the state’s population to 31 percent in 2014. A Democrat has not won a statewide election since 2004, and voters continue to register as Republicans faster than as Democrats or even independents.

    Francisco Heredia of Mi Familia Vota, which tries to increase Latino voting, said the principal political struggle is between the growing population of young Latinos and people in Arizona’s retirement communities. Retirees are “squashing any kind of growth” for Latino political clout.

    Whites as a share of the electorate have slipped from about 80 percent in 2000 to the high 60s, Heredia said. That’s not enough to swing statewide races, but it has made a difference on the margins. The city of Phoenix, for example, went from one Latino city council member in 2010 to three today.

    The disparity between the performance of Arizona Republicans and Democrats stems from increased illegal crossings of the Arizona-Mexico border more than a decade ago. Republicans had a long tradition of moderation on immigration in Arizona. Both U.S. senators once supported an immigration bill that would have legalized the status of many of the 11 million people here illegally, but they took an increasingly hardline approach in the 2000s. Arpaio and Jan Brewer, then the governor and now another Trump endorser, represented this hard line as people grew more concerned about the drug smugglers and human traffickers flowing into the state.

    “We had drop houses, we had running gun battles – it was the Wild West,” recalled Chuck Coughlin, a veteran Republican operative who was a Brewer adviser. “We all saw the handwriting on the wall on the immigration issue.”

    The chaos on the southern border has dwindled significantly, and business groups have pushed for the state’s Republicans to tone down their immigration rhetoric. But Republicans still have a lock on statewide offices. Part of the reason is that Democratic-leaning voters, including the state’s many young Latinos, have sat out elections while Republicans have turned out reliably, said Bruce Merrill, a nonpartisan Arizona pollster.

    “The Democratic Party in Arizona continues to be very disorganized,” Merrill said.

    Arpaio won his last election, in 2012, by 6 percentage points, his second-smallest smallest margin to date. He faces civil contempt charges over his department’s defiance of orders to stop racial profiling. But Republicans still court his support and he remains very popular in conservative Maricopa County.

    “We have a real populist tradition here,” said Coughlin, adding that he expects it will help Trump as it has Arpaio.

    Hillary Clinton’s campaign has seized on the Trump-Arpaio parallel in a Spanish-language radio ad pitching Clinton as the best candidate to beat Trump. “Donald Trump is another Joe Arpaio. Period,” says Rep. Ruben Gallego in the spot.

    Even Arpaio, 83, acknowledges the state is changing.

    “It’s not as dominated by Republicans,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of people moving in, a lot of independents.”

    Still, Arizona has favored Republicans in presidential elections since the early 1950s with one exception – a squeaker for Democrat Bill Clinton in 1996. And Merrill says, “I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”

    The post Arizona offers model for how Trump might win the White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    2cefbc51-b2a2-4122-87cf-cfad97d65ecc

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    BY CONNIE KARGBO

    For the estimated 250,000 practitioners of traditional medicine in South Africa, healing, they say, is a calling.

    Sangomas, as they’re are known in the Zulu language, carry forward a long history of healing in the Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa and Ndebele traditions of the country, acting as herbalists, midwives, and traditional faith healers who claim to communicate with ancestors.

    Historically, healers have practiced openly and freely with little oversight over how they administer medicine, but proposals by the South African Department of Health, introduced last year, aim to regulate the practitioners.

    Under proposed regulations, sangomas would be required to obtain certification, submit details of their sessions for review, pay annual fees to the government, and only be allowed to practice after age 18 — a marked shift from the current arrangement.

    The proposal has been widely criticized by the community of healers, many of whom feel the regulations would stifle their ability to practice traditional medicine.

    “Who’s to say who’s a qualified traditional healer or not?” said Khauki Maada, who has been practicing traditional medicine for 15 years. “By virtue of me being a traditional healer nobody can give me a certificate.”

    Supporters of the regulations contend there is a need to standardize the industry.

    “I have to accept that they are a part of the fabric of South African health care at some level, for a certain percentage of the population,” said Dr. Daniel Nciyana, a former editor of the South African Medical Journal. “But there are good ones and there are harmful ones.”

    South African lawmakers plan on reviewing public opinion on the proposals until April, before finalizing regulations by the end of the year.  


    Read the full transcript of this segment below:

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  A voice from an ancestor is speaking through a sangoma —  a traditional faith healer, in South Africa.

    It is a widely held belief, especially in the rural areas of this country, that sangomas communicate with the dead to help the living.

    Zandile Nkosi is a 41-year-old sangoma who says she’s had the gift since she was 10-years-old but started practicing only 7 years ago.  She says her ancestors’ voices guide her sessions with patients who see her for physical ailments and counseling.

    A sangoma’s main tool is “throwing the bones” – animal bones, shells and sometimes other articles. The healers and their patients believe how the bones land is influenced by ancestors who “speak” through the bones.

    ZANDILE NKOSI: If you would have gone to a Western doctor, the doctor would take an x-ray. This is my tool to ascertain what’s wrong with her.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Patient Thembi Maluleke says these beliefs are an important part of her African culture.

    THEMBI MALULEKE: When people believe in archangels and angel Gabriel, as Africans before Christianity there was us and our ancestors. For them those are our archangels and it’s our direct link to God.

    ZANDILE NKOSI: This is the bone that identifies Thembi and Thembi has a serious relationship with somebody. The bone is saying she is in a happy relationship, she is content, they are both content. If they were not happy, Thembi’s bone would have sat like this, it means “I am not happy,” now Thembi’s bone is like this. She is happy.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Western medicine is readily available in South Africa, and health care here is among the best on the continent. Still, an enormous number of people seek out traditional healers.

    Sangoma Khauki Maada has been throwing the bones for 15 years in a village near South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe.

    KHAUKI MAADA: A lot of times it’s bad news, like you get a premonition of something bad will happen. But you have to be very tactful as to not blur the lines of truth and really trying to hurt people but do it in a manner that sort of takes care of their spirit as well.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: To treat patients, a sangoma will often prescribe traditional medicine known as muti, like these herbs and animal bones ground into powder.

    ZANDILE NKOSI: This has been coming from our forefathers. You know, they didn’t have hospitals, then and they didn’t have doctors, but they used traditional healers to administer health problems, so, yes, this comes a long way and is still effective today.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Malusi is a new sangoma. This ceremony marks the end of his six week initiation process.

    It’s estimated that there may be as many as 250,000 traditional healers in South Africa, and every week more and more initiates join their ranks. It’s gone on like this for generations and generations. And now the South African government wants to bring traditional medicine into the modern era.

    South Africa is now pushing new regulations for traditional healers recommended by the World Health Organization including a certification process for all new healers.  They will have to submit details related to their sessions with patients, a minimum age of 18 years old and paying an annual licensing fee to the government.

    Bruce Mbedzi is the acting director responsible for traditional medicine in South Africa’s health department.

    BRUCE MBEDZI: It’s a matter of moving it from an informal sector to a formal sector. If we are formalizing the sector we need to regulate the sector.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: After the government proposed the regulations last year, sangomas took to the streets in protest.

    KHAUKI MAADA: They tell you about having a log book, for instance, where you disclose certain aspects of your healing, and I find that very funny, because I don’t think any doctor in any practice across the world would disclose his log book. It’s a breach of confidentiality between the client and the patient.

    ZANDILE NKOSI: One of the things we are not happy about as traditional healers is they are putting an age for being an initiate. It says you cannot initiate prior to 18 years. Now, I know a lot of people that are good traditional healers between the ages of 12 and 16.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Dr. Daniel Nciyana, the former editor of the South African Journal for Medicine, supports the regulations for healers.

    DANIEL NCIYANA: I don’t sympathize with them, and I know that they are really motivated by commercial — by greed, basically, by commercial interests. They just don’t want to be subjected to the scrutiny that comes with regulation.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Nciyana believes in the idea of certification but worries his country currently has little means to enforce it.

    DANIEL NCIYANA: That sounds very reasonable, but there are no training places, there are no colleges for traditional healing, so where do you start?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Complicating matters is the trend of traditional healers, many from other countries, who South Africans consider to be impostors overcharging for their services.

    DANIEL NCIYANA: They take advantage of the trust that people invest in the healers, in the community, and they exploit that. You know, in the old days when I was growing up, payment was not a major issue.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Traditional healers say the bogus traditional healers hurt their credibility and are the ones the South African government should crack down on.

    KHAUKI MAADA: Because it’s so widespread, and it’s so damning for us, and it gives us a bad name. Because all sorts of things are happening. People are dying.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Marlin McKay is a family doctor with 20 years of experience working in South Africa’s black townships that were established during the apartheid era. He says the sangomas’ practices go against everything he has ever been taught. Proper diagnosis he says involves a physical examination and detailed blood tests.

    MARLIN MCKAY: I am very very skeptical, and I don’t see any way that someone can make a true scientific diagnosis based on throwing a few bones around.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Dr. Mckay also says the recent rise of bogus traditional healers has made things even worse.

    MARLIN MCKAY: It’s difficult for the communities out there to ascertain or to know who is better who is good, who can be trusted, and who isn’t worthy to be trusted, and I think there’s the financial incentive, it’s an easy way of making money.  People are desperate people are gullible and a lot of people at the end of the day will believe anything that they feel will help them to get better.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Bruce Mbedzi at the department of health says that is a key factor driving these initiatives.

    BRUCE MBEDZI: So there’s a need for the sector to be regulated, and then we know who are the real traditional health practitioners and take out all the charlatans and fly-by-nighters.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The protests by mainstream sangomas pressured South Africa’s government to to allow more time for comments on the proposed regulations,  regulations that younger sangomas like Zandile Nkosi accept are inevitable.

    ZANDILE NKOSI: But we are saying, “talk to us, and we will help you write the regulations,” not the other way around.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Still, there may be a generation gap. Older sangomas like Mberegene Maada, a traditional healer for 25 years, believe his practices should not be regulated.  

    MBEREGENE MAADA: Because I know what it is in me. Government does not know what I do and how I do it. So how do you regulate that? How do you regulate a thing that you don’t know?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: But the government intends to push forward. It will continue to hear recommendations until April; after that; it will begin to work to finalize the regulations before the end of the year.

    The post South Africa mulls regulating traditional healers for the modern age appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PHOENIX — Protesters blocked a main highway leading into the Phoenix suburb Saturday where Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump was preparing to hold a campaign rally alongside Arizona’s revered Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

    The protesters parked their cars in the middle of the road Saturday, unfurling banners reading “Dump Trump” and “Must Stop Trump,” and chanting “Trump is hate.” Traffic was backed up for miles, with drivers honking in fury.

    The disruption occurred well after large crowds lined up to get into the Fountain Hills rally. Maricopa County Sheriff Deputy Joaquin Enriquez said officers will ask the protesters to move and if they don’t comply, they will forcibly remove them.

    Trump and Arpaio have formed a political alliance in recent months, and the brash billionaire hopes Arizona can serve as a model on how he could win in November.

    The tough-talking lawman won six straight elections as sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and nearly two-thirds of Arizona’s population. He forced jail inmates to wear pink underwear and live outside in tents during triple-digit heat. He launched dragnets to round up people in the country illegally, and a judge ruled that his operations illegally targeted Latinos. Arpaio then launched an investigation that critics contend ended up targeting the judge.

    Now, as Trump looks toward the general election, Arpaio and Arizona – the next major state to vote in the presidential nominating contest – show how conservative populists can thrive even in states with growing minority populations. Arizona votes Tuesday in a winner-take-all Republican primary as well as a Democratic race.

    In Arizona, though, Republicans like Arpaio have prospered by winning an increasing share of the white vote even as the number of Latinos in the state has risen from one-quarter of the state’s population to 31 percent in 2014.

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    A view of the crash site is seen after FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 crashed down on the runway at the Rostov on Don airport in Russia on March 19, 2016. A Dubai passenger plane crashed in the Russian southern city of Rostov-on-Don, killing 62 people on board, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said. Fedor Larin /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    A view of the crash site is seen after FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 crashed down on the runway at the Rostov on Don airport in Russia on March 19, 2016. A Dubai passenger plane crashed in the Russian southern city of Rostov-on-Don, killing 62 people on board, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said. Fedor Larin /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    A passenger plane operated by the low-cost carrier FlyDubai crashed outside the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don in the early morning hours on Saturday killing all 62 people on board, officials said.

    The Beoing 737-800 was carrying 55 passengers and 7 crew members before it slammed into the ground outside the southern Russian city near the Ukrainian border.

    Four children were reportedly among the dead and 44 people on board were said to be Russian, according to FlyDubai.

    An official cause has yet to be released by authorities.

    There were reported high winds in the area, and the city’s governor said bad weather was to blame. Investigators were also looking into the possibility of pilot error.

    Russian news reports said the plane had been circling the airport for up to 2 hours and was engaged in a second attempt at landing when the crash occurred. The incident took place within the airport’s boundaries, about 800 feet from the runway, according to the Guardian.

    An Emergency psychologist comforts a relative of passengers after FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 crashed down on the runway at the Rostov on Don airport in Russia on March 19, 2016. A Dubai passenger plane crashed in the Russian southern city of Rostov-on-Don, killing 62 people on board, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said. Fedor Larin /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    An emergency psychologist comforts a relative of passengers after FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 crashed down on the runway at the Rostov on Don airport in Russia on March 19, 2016. Photo by Fedor Larin /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Local authorities said more than 500 rescue workers were sent to to the site of the wreckage.

    FlyDubai Chief Executive Ghaith al-Ghaith said in a statement that the company is working closely with Russian authorities to determine the cause of the accident.

    “Our primary concern is for the families of the passengers and crew who were on board,” he said. “Everyone at FlyDubai is in deep shock and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those involved.”

    The post 62 dead as passenger plane crashes in southern Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings at the first session of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 185th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah April 4, 2015.  REUTERS/George Frey - RTR4W3YK

    The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings at the first session of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 185th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah April 4, 2015. Trump lost to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Mormon-heavy Idaho this month, and indications are he may be headed for trouble in Utah where the religion predominates and where Trump-basher Mitt Romney is revered. Picture by George Frey/Reuters

    SALT LAKE CITY — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is set to find out whether his brash demeanor will plague him in another Western state with a culture rooted in the Mormon faith that places a high value on manners and amiability.

    The billionaire businessman lost to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Mormon-heavy Idaho this month, and indications are he may be headed for trouble in Utah where the religion predominates and where Trump-basher Mitt Romney is revered.

    “Donald Trump’s brand of rhetoric doesn’t play well here in Utah,” said Chris Karpowitz, co-director at BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. “Utahns are conservative, certainly, but they are also pragmatic and very polite so the discourse here tends to be a little less rough and tumble.”

    Trump’s hardline stance on immigration also doesn’t play well in the state – punctuated by his calls for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and past comments he made calling Mexican immigrants rapists, Utah State University political scientist Damon Cann said.

    Thousands of Utah Mormons have served proselytizing missions around the world, making them more sensitive to Trump’s hardline stances than other Republicans, Cann said.

    In Utah, Mormons account for as many as two-thirds of the state’s 3 million residents, a larger proportion than any other state.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, doesn’t endorse political candidates. But, after Trump suggested a total ban on Muslims entering the United States, the church issued a statement in support of religious freedom.

    Limited polling shows Trump running second to Cruz, but ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. The delegates will be distributed according to percentage of votes – unless a candidate gets more than 50 percent, which would give that person all 40 delegates.

    None of the candidates had made public campaign appearances in the state prior to this weekend.

    Election observers believe Cruz is best-positioned to inherit voters who were leaning toward Florida Sen. Marco Rubio before he dropped out of the race, Perry said.

    Cruz also has the key endorsement of Sen. Mike Lee, who is scheduled to appear alongside Cruz at a pair of rallies Saturday. The Cruz campaign is running a TV ad with Lee urging people to unite behind Cruz, who would stand up to an overbearing federal government and protect religious liberty.

    Kasich is hoping to appeal to moderate Republicans in the state but he’s largely unknown and would have to “catch fire” to leap frog Trump and Cruz, Perry said.

    Trump is still expected to rake in enough votes to clear the 15-percent threshold to get a share of the delegates, Cann said.

    In his first campaign stop in Utah, Trump hosted a rally Friday night in Salt Lake City, where he called the Mormons “amazing people.” Trump had critical words for Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee: “Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?” he jokingly asked the crowd.

    Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to discuss the campaign’s strategy but pointed out that they have devoted very few resources to Utah. “I wouldn’t say this a place where we are expected to perform exceptionally well,” Hicks said.

    Don Peay, leader of a volunteer group called Utahns for Trump, said Trump’s stance on making national defense a priority and his experience creating jobs will win over Utah voters who aren’t nearly as bothered his boldness as pundits think.

    Utah state Sen. Ralph Okerlund came around to Trump by looking past his antics and realizing he agreed with Trump’s policies that include granting states more power and scaling back federal government overreach.

    “I’d like to see him be a little more gentle and I think he will,” said Okerlund, from central Utah. “But I like that he’s coming at it from an outside viewpoint.”

    Romney doesn’t share Okerlund’s opinion, and did his best during a nationally-broadcast speech this month to scare voters away from Trump. Romney, who campaigned in Ohio for Kasich to blunt Trump’s big for delegates, called Trump unfit for office and a danger for the nation and the GOP.

    Romney’s comments may hold sway in Utah, where he’s widely revered for being the most high profile member of the Mormon faith in America and for his work in turning around Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal.

    He was the Republican nominee for president in 2012 and carried Utah with 73 percent of the vote in the general election.

    Trump didn’t endear himself to the Beehive state by refusing to participate in a debate scheduled for Monday in Salt Lake City that was scrapped after Kasich said he wouldn’t go on stage unless Trump was there.

    It would have been the state’s first presidential debate, and residents were excited for the opportunity to take a rare spot on center stage of a presidential election trail.

    Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who had endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio, bashed Trump for making a selfish decision to skip the debate and urged Utah residents not to forget when they vote.

    “We care a lot about decorum. We care about our neighbors. We are a good, kind people,” Cox said. “He does not represent neither goodness nor kindness.”

    This report was written by Brady McCombs of the Associated Press.

    The post Can Donald Trump win over Utah’s Mormon voters? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman reacts following a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan  - RTSB6PN

    A woman reacts following a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul March 19, 2016. Photo by Kemal Aslan/Reuters

    A suicide bomber hit a section of Istanbul popular with tourists on Saturday, killing at least four others and wounding at least 36.

    The blast left behind a bloody scene of carnage in a busy shopping area of the Turkish city filled with shops and frequented by pedestrian traffic.

    Two American citizens were among those killed, according to a White House press release.

    “The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Istanbul,” National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said in the statement. “We are in close touch with Turkish authorities and reaffirm our commitment to work together with Turkey to confront the evil of terrorism.”

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    At least two Israelis were also killed in the bombing, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    “There is information that it is an attack carried out by an ISIS member, but this is preliminary information, we are still checking it.” Netanyahu told reporters.

    Officials said no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The suicide bombing took place near government offices and in an area where police operations are known to be stationed, according to Reuters.

    Police forensic experts inspect the area after a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul, Turkey March 19, 2016. Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters

    Police forensic experts inspect the area after a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul, Turkey March 19, 2016. Photo by Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters

    One official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Reuters the bomber had been moving toward a more crowded section of the area, but may have been deterred by the heavy police presence.

    “The attacker detonated the bomb before reaching the target point because they were scared of the police,” the official said.

    Saturday’s bombing marked the second such attack to strike Turkey in less than a week. On March 13 a suicide bomber set off an explosion in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing 37 people.

    A Kurdish militant group had claimed responsibility for the attack last week at a bus stop in Anakara. The Islamic State was blamed for another January suicide bombing in Istanbul that took the life of 12 German tourists.

    The post Two Americans among at least four killed as bomber strikes Istanbul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A wanted poster for Salah Abdeslam. Screen grab by PBS NewsHour

    A wanted poster for Salah Abdeslam. Screen grab by PBS NewsHour

    A suspect in the Paris attacks who was captured Friday by Belgian authorities after a months-long manhunt had planned to blow himself up at a stadium on Nov. 13 of last year but changed his mind, according to one French prosecutor.

    Prosecutor Francois Molins said Saturday that Salah Abdeslam told police he “wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France and that he had backed down.”

    Sven Mary, Abdeslam’s attorney, said her client remains immobilized and is recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg, which occurred as Belgian authorities closed in on him Friday.

    The prosecutor’s claim came as Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French citizen, was questioned Saturday by Belgian police.

    Abdeslam lawyer’s said her client would fight extradition to France.

    Abdeslam and another individual were charged Friday with “participation in terrorist murder” for their alleged roles in the assaults that killed 130 people in Paris in November last year.

    Abdeslam was considered a prime suspect in the terror attacks that hit Paris last fall, but managed to evade the authorities for more than four months, before investigators stumbled onto a lead that helped facilitate his apprehension in Brussels.

    He is now being detained at a high-security prison in the Belgian city of Bruges, Reuters reports.

    “He is cooperating with Belgian justice,” Mary said.

    Belgian policemen stand guard while an ambulance leaves during a police action in the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district in Brussels, on March 18, 2016. A police operation was underway on March 18, in the Brussels area home to key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam whose fingerprints were found in an apartment raided this week, the federal prosecutor's office said. John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

    Belgian policemen stand guard while an ambulance leaves during a police action in the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district in Brussels, on March 18, 2016. A police operation was underway on March 18, in the Brussels area home to key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam whose fingerprints were found in an apartment raided this week, the federal prosecutor’s office said. John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

    Molins said Abdeslam was a key figure in the planning the Paris attacks, which involved multiple logistical ventures across Europe, including transporting others who were involved in the assault.

    The prosecutor also said it could be several months before Abdeslam was transferred to French custody, where he is likely to face additional charges.

    “His first statements, that we must take with precaution, leave unanswered a series of questions on which Abdeslam will have to explain, in particular, his presence in the 18th district of Paris on Nov. 13,” Molins said.

    The post Prosecutor: Paris terror suspect planned to blow himself up at stadium appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police at the scene of a security operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek in Brussels, Belgium, March 18, 2016.    REUTERS/Francois Lenoir  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSB3XX

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: One hundred thirty people were killed in the Paris attacks and dozens were injured.

    Joining me now for more on the ongoing investigation via Skype from Paris is “Associated Press” correspondent Lori Hinnant.

    Lori, let’s talk about where they found the suspect.  What evidence brought investigators to Molenbeek?

    LORI HINNANT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, the first clue really that came on Tuesday, when police carry out what they thought was going to be a routine search of an apartment and instead opened the door to gunfire.  And as one man fired on them, two others fled, possibly three, and it is believed one of them may have been Saleh Abdeslam.  They’re not entirely sure.  What they did know is that they have come upon something entirely unexpected.  That ultimately led them to the hideout in Molenbeek, the same neighborhood of Brussels where Salah Abdeslam was raised.

    ALISON STEWART: During the four-month investigation, can you tell us a little bit about the coordination between the Belgian and French authorities?

    LORI HINNANT: Well, the two states have been coordinating very closely, and there were actually French police on the team that raided the apartment on Tuesday.

    ALISON STEWART:  Do we know any details about Abdeslam’s role in the original attacks?

    LORI HINNANT: His role has been something of a mystery.  What he do know is just announced today by the Paris prosecutor who said that Abdeslam has told investigators that he was supposed to blow himself up at France’s national stadium along with three other suicide attackers but he had second thoughts.

    We know that he was key in all of the logistics and he drove thousands of miles across Europe over the summer and early fall to put the team into place that carried out the attack.

    ALISON STEWART:  What can you tell us of the second person that was taken into custody?

    LORI HINNANT: We know almost nothing about the second person taken into custody, other than he like Salah Abdeslam was charged with terrorism-related offenses today.

    ALISON STEWART: Are there any indications where the investigation will go from here?

    HINNANT: Well, right now, the French and the Belgian authorities are sorting out an extradition request, France would very much like to have him in Paris to answer questions about the attack that killed 130 people and still have left the city very, very tense.

    Belgian authorities and French alike both want to know who Salah’s network was.  And the question is, is more the logistics of how he was kept hidden in Molenbeek for so long and how else may have been involved in the attacks, either the planning or possibly even carrying them out, who else might remain at large?  Because they say that they are quite certain that others involved in the attack or with knowledge of its planning are still at large.

    ALISON STEWART: Lori Hinnant from “The Associated Press” — thanks so much.

    LORI HINNANT: Thank you.

    END

    The post What we know so far about Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Pakistani migrant looks at his phone next to railway tracks at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece March 16, 2016. Picture taken March 16. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RTSB8W1

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  Under an agreement between the European Union and Turkey that goes into effect tomorrow, most refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey are expected to be sent back.  In exchange, Europe will accept some Syrian refugees from Turkey and provide billions of dollars to help pay for it all.  Greek officials say the logistics of the new agreement will take time to implement, involving thousands of translators and other experts.

    Earlier this month, Macedonia closed its border, leaving roughly 46,000 migrants and refugees stranded in Greece.

    Joining me now from Greece to discuss the migrant conditions is “Associated Press” reporter Derek Gatopoulos.

    Derek, starting tomorrow, migrants arriving illegally in Greece will be sent back to Turkey.  How is this going to be implemented and what are some of the complications?

    DEREK GATOPOULOS, ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTER: Well, the main cause of the complication is that they haven’t decided on a mechanism to send them back yet and they just finished some between the prime ministers and the ministers involved in the crisis and they still haven’t come up with a way to send the migrants back.  What Greece has proposed is that they use privately charted boats that would be escorted.  But apparently, all sides still have to agree on the method.

    ALISON STEWART: As for migrants and refugees that are tale in Greece right now, are conditions tense on the ground with this news?  Are they aware of what’s happening?

    DEREK GATOPOULOS: Most people are aware.  Emotions, to be fair, are mixed.

    Some people are very disappointed that they won’t be able to travel to Europe immediately.  And that they will be stuck here for more than a year perhaps.  On the other hand, there is also relief that they won’t be sent back.

    So the people already in Greece will not be deported.  Having said that, there was the demonstration just finished in Athens and several thousand people, including migrants, were protesting the E.U.-Turkey deal.

    ALISON STEWART: That’s interesting, I was asking about Greece citizens.  Is this seen as a positive or negative given Greece own financial issues?

    DEREK GATOPOULOS: Well, it’s not something that’s happened overnight.  So, people have gotten used to the fact there is a refugee crisis and seeing people from Syria in the streets in most cities in Greece.  And — so it is hot a new phenomenon.

    On the other hand, for sure, it’s a strain on the economy.  So, again, it is a mixed picture.  There is a lot of goodwill towards refugees, but also fear that the country’s recovery will be even slower than expected.

    ALISON STEWART: As the E.U. is clamping down on migrants and refugees coming into Europe, you have people who are somewhat stuck in the middle, can’t get to family members who may have made it to Germany, where is this happening and how are conditions for those people?

    DEREK GATOPOULOS: Well, people are straggling all around the route, to be fair.  The route closed about one month ago and closed completely a couple of weeks ago.  But most of those people are stranded in Greece, about 50,000, nearly 50,000 of them, and even if they do get a relocation place, they may not get sent to where their families are because they don’t get to choose.  So, they could be — someone could have a brother in Germany, most people went to Germany, and then be relocated in France let’s say.

    ALISON STEWART: We should talk about the fact there are geopolitics involved in this in terms of Turkey’s desire to be part of the E.U.

    DEREK GATOPOULOS: Turkey — from Turkey’s point of view, they are one of the biggest countries to accept refugees in the world, so they have more than the 2 million, and, of course, from their point of view they have already a very unfair burden of the refugee crisis.  So, they want something in return for taking the refugees back under this agreement.

    And what they wanted was for most of all free travel for their citizens into the E.U. without visas and which likely they will get in the next three or four months and also want accelerated process to join the E.U., which they didn’t get what they hoped for, but they got something.

    ALISON STEWART: Derek Gatopoulos reporting from Greece — thanks so much.

    DEREK GATOPOULOS: Thank you.

    END

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    Protesters gather in New York's Columbus Circle to march against presidential candidate Donald Trump on March 19, 2016. Photo by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour Weekend

    Protesters gather in New York’s Columbus Circle to march against presidential candidate Donald Trump on March 19, 2016. Photo by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour Weekend

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Manhattan on Saturday to rally against the potential candidacy of businessman Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.

    Protesters congregated steps away from the Trump International Tower in Columbus Circle, marching several blocks east to the real estate tycoon’s iconic Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

    Participants held up signs that read “NYC is a no Trump Zone” and “Build a wall around Trump.”

    Protesters gathered in New York City's Columbus Circle to rally against presidential candidate Donald Trump on March 19, 2016. Photo by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour

    Protesters gathered in New York City’s Columbus Circle to rally against presidential candidate Donald Trump on March 19, 2016. Photo by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour

    Several liberal groups were present at the rally, including the Cosmopolitan Antifascists, which promoted the event, Millions March NYC and the immigrant rights campaign ICE-Free NYC.

    Bronx middle school teacher Maribeth Whitehouse, 52, said she attended the rally to set a positive example for her students about civic engagement. “I’m a model for these kids of what good citizens do — and this is what good citizens do,” she said.

    Maribeth Whitehouse, 52, holds up signs protesting Donald Trump in New York City on March 19, 2016. Photo by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour

    Maribeth Whitehouse holds up signs protesting Donald Trump in New York City on March 19, 2016. Photo by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour

    Pointing at the Trump Tower behind her, she said she believed Trump separated himself from the rest of the city. “You can isolate yourself from the rest of the community when you have enough money,” she said. “You can build so high that you can’t breath the same air as the other people.”

    While the protest went on mostly without incident, a group attempted to cross through a police barricade, leading to at least two arrests, the Associated Press reported.

    Earlier Saturday, protesters in Phoenix, Arizona, blocked a highway leading to a Trump rally, stopping traffic for miles.

    Trump has come under criticism in recent weeks for how he has addressed incidents of violence that have occurred as his rallies.

    The post Hundreds rally against Donald Trump in New York City appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said nominating the Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia should fall to the next president. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said nominating the Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia should fall to the next president. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    No Supreme Court hearings, no votes, not during regular business or a postelection lame-duck session, the Senate’s majority leader made clear Sunday.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell signaled no retreat or surrender from his firm stand to keep the court short-handed through at least January, scuttling the suggestion from at least one GOP colleague worried that a new Democrat in the White House – Hillary Clinton is the party’s front-runner – might nominate someone more liberal than President Barack Obama’s pick, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland.

    “I can’t imagine that a Republican majority Senate, even if it were soon to be a minority, would want to confirm a judge that would move the court dramatically to the left,” McConnell said in one of his Sunday news show appearances. “That’s not going to happen.”

    Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, won Republican votes for his current seat and is seen as a centrist whose nomination to the nine-member Supreme Court could box in Obama’s opponents, shaken by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative bulwark.

    McConnell, R-Ky., hasn’t budged from his insistence, beginning just hours after Scalia’s death last month, that the Senate would not confirm an Obama nominee in an election year, let alone hold hearings. He even ruled out meeting the president’s pick, a standard courtesy.

    Democrats are using the issue against vulnerable Republicans facing re-election, hoping for leverage to retake the Senate after the November vote.

    So far, though, just one GOP senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois, has broken with his party leaders and called for a vote on Garland. A growing number of Republicans are willing to meet with Garland, including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. He floated the idea of considering the Garland’s nomination in the postelection session because “between him and somebody that a President Clinton might nominate, I think the choice is clear.”

    To that argument, McConnell gave no ground: “Whether it’s before the election or after the election, the principle is the American people are choosing their next president and their next president should pick this Supreme Court nominee.”

    And while expressing confidence in Kirk’s re-election prospects, McConnell said that he, as majority leader, sets the Senate’s schedule “and most of my members are very comfortable” with his position.

    In the eyes of the Senate’s Democratic leader, McConnell is inflicting political pain on his GOP colleagues. “He’s marching these men, women over a cliff. I don’t think they’re going to go,” said Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who is not running for re-election.

    With Kirk’s stand, “that facade is breaking as we speak,” Reid contended.

    The president’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said the Obama White House would stand by Garland “from now until he is confirmed and he is sitting on the Supreme Court.”

    “What we’d like to see,” McDonough said, is Garland confirmed through “regular order” in the Senate.

    “Getting the Senate working again would mean giving this person meetings, a hearing, a vote in committee and a vote on the floor,” he said. “There’s enough politicization in Washington. Let’s get on with our business.”

    McConnell appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week,” ”Fox News Sunday” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” McDonough was on ABC and Fox, while Reid was interviewed on NBC.

    The post McConnell: Senate will not consider Obama’s SCOTUS nominee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    5de50e07-cdab-4119-a250-4f6eccd54c24

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    BY ZACHARY GREEN

    The musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” which originally opened on Broadway in 1964, tells the story of a Jewish family in turn-0f-the-century Russia, struggling with changes to their traditional way of life, while at the same time facing oppression from the outside world.

    More than 50 years later, the show’s fifth Broadway revival opened in late 2015 to rave reviews — a telling sign that, at its core, it’s the story that continues to captivate diverse audiences the world over.

    “There was something universal about these stories,” the show’s 91-year-old lyricist Sheldon Harnick told PBS NewsHour. “We tried to realize the universality of what was in those stories, and to make this a show that would appeal to people of all faiths and all beliefs.”

    Adapted from writings by Jewish humorist Sholem Aleichem, Harnick, along with composer, Jerry Bock, and writer, Joseph Stein, turned stories of Tevye the milkman and his five daughters into the beloved stage version.

    “Some of [the stories] were actually tragic, and yet there was a great deal of humor in them,” Harnick said. “And by the time you got to the end of the story, you might be crying, but you were laughing along the way.”

    And then there was the music. Harnick said the now iconic songs, including “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Do You Love Me?” and “Matchmaker” seemed to write themselves.

    “I practically just took them right out of the story and set them to music,” he said. “That’s not entirely true; I have some craft. But a lot of those images were in the stories.”

    Harnick said even as each new production gets mounted, the musical’s enduring legacy is still remarkable.

    “When we set out to do Fiddler, our aim was to realize the beauty and the humor of the Sholem Aleichem stories,” he said. “Maybe we’ll run a year, we’ll run 2 years, and we’ll be very happy with it. That the show would become what it was, was a surprise to us. It’s kind of still a surprise. I must say it’s a very pleasant surprise.”


    Read the full transcript of this segment below:

    FIDDLER ON THE ROOF CAST: (Singing) Traditiooooon! Tradition! Trah-dish-un!

    ZACHARY GREEN: A half century after its premiere, the songs of “Fiddler On The Roof” are known around the world. It tells the story of Tevye, a poor Jewish dairyman, and his family facing oppression in rural Russia at the turn of the 20th century. This production at the Broadway Theater marks the fifth time “Fiddler” has been revived on Broadway.

    SHELDON HARNICK: This is one of the finest casts we’ve ever had. So revisiting the show has been a thrill.

    ZACHARY GREEN: Even at 91-years-old, lyricist Sheldon Harnick has been directly involved in this revival…helping choose the director and attending rehearsals. We spoke with him at Sardi’s restaurant, famous for its caricatures of Broadway stars; amongst them, Harnick’s own likeness. Harnick says the inspiration for “Fiddler” came when he received a book by humorist Sholem Aleichem.

    SHELDON HARNICK: The stories were riveting. And what was astonishing about them was that some of them were actually tragic, and yet there was a great deal of humor in them. And by the time you got to the end of the story, you might be crying, but you were laughing along the way. So I sent it to Jerry Bock, and I said, “This is our next musical.”

    ZACHARY GREEN: Composer Jerry Bock and Harnick had already written hit musicals like “She Loves Me” — also a current Broadway revival — and “Fiorello”, about New York City Mayor LaGuardia.  

    ZACHARY GREEN: But “Fiddler” would become their most successful collaboration and produced their best known song…based on Aleichem’s prose.

    DANNY BURSTEIN: (Singing) If I were a rich man….all day long I’d bitty bitty bum, if I were a wealthy man!

    SHELDON HARNICK: I find it a little embarrassing if somebody reads one of the stories closely, he will find the lyrics to if I were a rich man. I practically just took them right out of the story and set them to music. That’s not entirely true; I have some craft. But a lot of those images were in the stories.

    ZACHARY GREEN: “Fiddler’s” main story follows the struggles of Tevye and his wife, Golde, as they try to marry off their five daughters.

    ALEXANDRA SILBER, SAMANTHA MASSELL, AND MELANIE MOORE: (Singing) “Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me no match. I’m in no rush. Maybe I’ve learned…”

    ZACHARY GREEN: The three eldest insist on marrying someone they love–despite the wishes of their well-meaning parents to find them wealthy suitors. That disassociation between love and marriage is illustrated in the song “Do You Love Me”, where Tevye and Golde admit their feelings for each other after 25 years of marriage.

    Harnick wrote it as a late addition to the musical during its initial pre-Broadway run in Detroit.

    SHELDON HARNICK: I was standing in the back of the house. And I suddenly started to sob. And I thought, ‘Why am I weeping like this?’ And then I thought, ‘It’s because I wished that my own parents had had the relationship that Golde and Tevye had had.’

    I grew up during the depression, and there were a lot of vicious, violent arguments between my parents about money. Not that the relationship between Tevye and Golde is a simple, loving relationship, it’s a complex relationship, but basically it’s a loving relationship.

    And it just affected me, and I started to cry. So there was much more in the song than I knew when I wrote it.

    ZACHARY GREEN: “Fiddler” opened on Broadway to rave reviews and went on to sweep the 1965 tony awards. The original production ran for eight years — at the time, the longest run in Broadway history.  The 1971 movie version brought the show to a wider audience. Although the story focuses on the plight of Russian Jews, Harnick says the prejudice in the film and stage productions is familiar to many different people.

    SHELDON HARNICK: We saw a remarkable production of it in a black and Puerto Rican neighborhood, where the cast was all black and Puerto Rican. And the young black man, he was 15-years-old, who played Tevye, was superb. They understood the show. They understood what it was about, and that kind of race hatred.

    ZACHARY GREEN: And Harnick says the musical’s end — when Tevye’s family and fellow villagers leave with only the belongings they can carry — can still be seen in real life even today.

    SHELDON HARNICK: The Syrian problem and people leaving Syria and having nowhere to go, it resonates even more. It says something terrible about the human race that in 50 years, that image has always been current. There’s always been some place in the world where something horrible is going on.

    FIDDLER ON THE ROOF CAST: (Singing) To us and our good fortune! Be happy! Be healthy! Long life!

    ZACHARY GREEN: But despite the timeless quality of “Fiddler On The Roof”, Harnick says the musical’s enduring legacy is still remarkable to him.

    SHELDON HARNICK: That we would run 8 years, and that the show would become what it was, was a surprise to us. It’s kind of still a surprise. I must say it’s a very pleasant surprise. We recognized when we read the stories that they were not just about a Jewish family, that there was something universal about these stories.

    And we tried to realize the universality of what was in those stories, and to make this a show that would appeal to people of all faiths and all beliefs.

    FIDDLER ON THE ROOF CAST: (Singing) Drink l’chaim… TO LIFE!

    The post Fit as a ‘Fiddler': Broadway’s Sheldon Harnick looks back on 50 years of tradition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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