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

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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama performed his brand of sharp-tongued comedy at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for the last time – wrapping up with “Obama out” and dropping the mic while the crowd cheered.

    Obama’s performance Saturday night proved he hasn’t lost a step.

    “If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year,” Obama quipped. “Earn me some serious Tubmans.”

    Obama drew plenty of laughs with his barbed remarks to a ballroom filled with journalists, politicians, and movie and television stars. It was his eighth appearance at the event and his last as president and he kidded about the pains of being a lame duck.

    “Last week Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe,” Obama cracked. “That was a slap in the face.”

    The president waxed nostalgic at times. “Eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific.”

    And he acknowledged that the years had taken their toll. “I’m gray, grizzled … counting down the days to my death panel.”

    On the other hand, he pointed out that his approval ratings are up. “The last time I was this high,” he said, “I was trying to decide on my major.” When he said he couldn’t explain the rise in his popularity, two photographs of scowling presidential candidates appeared on ballroom screens: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

    Obama took a few more swipes at the presidential race, noting that “next year at this time someone else will be standing here in this very spot, and it’s anyone’s guess who she will be.”

    After calling presidential candidate Bernie Sanders the bright new face of the Democratic Party, Obama contrasted the slogan “Feel the Bern” with one he said was rival Hillary Clinton’s: “Trudge Up the Hill.”

    Republicans took most of Obama’s humorous broadsides. “Guests were asked to check whether they wanted steak or fish,” he told the diners, “and instead a whole bunch of you wrote in Paul Ryan.”

    Obama said of the billionaire businessman and real estate mogul leading the GOP race: “He has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world – Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”

    He added: “And there’s one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable, and that’s closing Guantanamo – because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.”

    Turning serious, the president thanked the White House press corps and praised a free press.

    Obama took a few hits, too. Preceding his remarks was a tongue-in-cheek video tribute to his seven-plus years in office that contained highlights of his verbal gaffes – his reference to “57 states” and misspelling ‘rspect” among them – as well as light-hearted moments.

    Comedian Larry Wilmore, the evening’s professional entertainment, began by saying, “It’s not easy to follow the president.” Then he proved his point, offering a series of jokes about the president, different media organizations and various presidential candidates that often were racially tinged and drew a mixture of laughter and groans.

    “Welcome to Negro night,” Wilmore said, and added that Fox News had reported that “two thugs” disrupted an elegant dinner, also mixing in critiques of CNN’s viewership and MSNBC’s firing of black anchors.

    Wilmore said the president is showing signs that his time in office has been hard on him. “You came in here looking like Denzel, now you’re going out looking like Grady from ‘Sanford and Son.'”

    As usual the Washington Hilton ballroom was a celebrity-spotters dream. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and other government officials taking a seat. Also on hand were Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    Trump, a regular in recent years, was absent this time, but a son and daughter-in-law, Donald Jr. and Vanessa Trump, were spotted on the red carpet.

    Among the film and television performers at the event were Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Jared Leto, “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston, “Independence Day” stars Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, actress Rachel McAdams, and “Night Manager” miniseries star Tom Hiddleston.

    Proceeds from the dinner go toward journalism scholarships and reporting awards. This year’s winners:

    – Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal, winner of the Aldo Beckman Memorial Award for excellence in White House coverage.

    – Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, winner of the Merriman Smith Award for outstanding White House coverage under deadline pressure.

    – Norah O’Donnell of CBS News, winner of the Merriman Smith Award for broadcast journalism.

    – Terrence McCoy of The Washington Post and Neela Banerjee, John Cushman Jr., David Hasemyer and Lisa Song of InsideClimate, winners of the Edgar A. Poe award, which recognizes excellence in coverage of events or investigative topics of regional or national interest.

    The post WATCH: Obama drops the mic at final White House Correspondents’ Dinner appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia walk in the rain from Marine One to board Air Force One upon their departure from Los Angeles, California April 8, 2016.    REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTSE85V

    President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia walk from Marine One to board Air Force One upon their departure from Los Angeles, California April 8, 2016. Malia has decided to attend Harvard University in 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia will take a year off after graduating high school in June before attending Harvard University in 2017, the president and his wife said Sunday in a long-awaited announcement.

    Harvard encourages admitted students to defer for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way. The student must not enroll in a program at another college that would grant that student a degree.

    Malia, the eldest of the Obamas’ two daughters, is a 17-year-old senior at Sidwell Friends, an exclusive private school in the District of Columbia that helped educate another first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, in the 1990s. Malia’s younger sister, Sasha, 14, is a freshman at Sidwell. Malia is set to graduate high school in June. She turns 18 on the Fourth of July.

    Obama has spoken publicly about dreading the day when Malia leaves for college, and the decision for Malia to take a gap year could keep her closer to home as her family prepares for another major transition next year, leaving the White House and returning to normal life. Obama plans to live in Washington for a few more years so Sasha can finish high school. The president and his wife, Michelle, still own a home in Chicago.

    The first lady has said Malia wants to be a filmmaker. Malia spent last summer in New York City interning on the set of HBO’s “Girls,” starring Lena Dunham. She spent the summer of 2014 in California working as a production assistant on “Extant,” a now-canceled CBS sci-fi drama that starred Halle Berry. Malia has also had internships at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington.

    The president turned down an invitation to speak at Malia’s Sidwell graduation because he will be too emotional.

    “I’m going to be sitting there with dark glass, sobbing,” he told Ellen DeGeneres during an appearance on her talk show.

    Obama grew up without his father, who was born in Kenya and is now deceased, and has spoken of his desire to be there for his kids. The bond between Obama and his children was readily apparent, as he often was seen holding hands with either daughter getting on or off the presidential aircraft or on the family’s walks through Lafayette Park to attend services at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

    Malia joined her father earlier this month on a three-day trip that started at the University of Chicago Law School, where he once taught constitutional law, to discuss his stalled nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. From Chicago, they flew to Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the president attended fundraisers and played golf.

    “Both of my daughters are wonderful people. Malia’s more than ready to leave but I’m not ready for her to leave,” Obama told DeGeneres. “She’s one of my best friends. It’s going to be hard for me not to have her around all the time, but she’s ready to go. She’s just a really smart, capable person and she’s ready to make her own way.”

    Malia visited at least a dozen public and private colleges during her search, mostly on the East Coast. Six of the eight Ivies were among them, including her parents’ alma maters.

    The president is a 1983 graduate of Columbia University, and Mrs. Obama graduated from Princeton in 1985. The president and first lady earned law degrees at Harvard.

    Malia also checked out the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; New York University; the University of Pennsylvania; Barnard; Tufts; Brown; Yale and Wesleyan.

    She appears to have disregarded her parents’ advice. The president and first lady have said college-bound students shouldn’t limit themselves to just a handful of elite schools.

    “The one thing I’ve been telling my daughters is that I don’t want them to choose a name,” Mrs. Obama said in a recent interview with Seventeen magazine. “I don’t want them to think, ‘Oh I should go to these top schools.’ We live in a country where there are thousands of amazing universities. So, the question is: What’s going to work for you?”

    The post Malia Obama will attend Harvard University after gap year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2BMW5

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 25, 2016. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed reports of a riot outside his rally in California, pressing ahead with his claim that Democrat Hillary Clinton is only in the presidential race because she’s a woman. And he said Clinton rival Bernie Sanders, who had questioned her qualifications, is going to help him.

    “Bernie Sanders, what he said was a lot worse than what I said and I’m going to use that. We’ll have that teed up,” Trump said on “Fox News Sunday.” Sanders questioned Clinton’s qualifications for being president and later retreated from those remarks. Nonetheless, Trump said, “It’s a sound bite.”

    The change of subject reflects Trump’s conviction that the race for the Republican presidential nomination is essentially “over,” with GOP rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich unable to catch up to Trump’s delegate haul – but Trump himself is short of the 1,237 delegates required to clinch the nomination. Win or lose the Indiana primary Tuesday, Trump is relentlessly focused on a general election matchup against Clinton. He previewed it as a six-month clash that could be focused substantially on gender politics and personal details. Clinton has said she “couldn’t care less” what Trump says about her.

    Even as he focused on the general election, Trump was among the candidates courting Indiana voters Sunday ahead of the state’s vote with 57 GOP delegates at stake. Clinton, too, was speaking there. The other candidates were facing questions about why they’re still running.

    “It’s difficult, it’s not impossible,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” of his increasingly bleak challenge to Clinton.

    Cruz wasn’t surrendering to the delegate math, even after a tough week in which former House Speaker John Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh” and “a miserable son of a bitch.” Cruz pointed out on several shows that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former California Gov. Pete Wilson have endorsed him and that Trump can’t get a majority of Republicans to back him.

    “We’re going the distance,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” ”We’re going into Cleveland, and it will be a contested convention.”

    But Trump continued to dominate the conversation Sunday. On ABC, the first question posed to former CIA director and defense secretary Robert Gates was about what a Trump candidacy would mean for the nation’s national security.

    “I think based on the speech you’d have somebody who doesn’t understand the difference between a business negotiation and a negotiation with sovereign powers,” Gates, who has worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents, replied. “He doesn’t understand that there’s a give-and-take in international relations that is different than in the business community.”

    On CBS, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has endorsed Cruz even though he has said he loathes the Texas senator, said Trump’s foreign policy amounts to “isolationism. It will lead to another 9/11.”

    Graham added on CBS: “Hillary Clinton is an incredibly flawed candidate, but she will mop the floor with Donald Trump.”

    The post Calling GOP nomination race ‘over’, Trump sharpens attacks on Clinton appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Followers of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr leave the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, May 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani  - RTX2CCI9

    Followers of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr leave the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, May 1, 2016. Photo by Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

    After an overnight sit-in, thousands of protesters who broke through the blast walls of Baghdad’s fortified international government center ended their demonstration on Sunday because of the anniversary of an Islamic leader’s martyrdom.   

    Followers of resistance leader Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said they were disbanding so Iraqi security forces could protect those commemorating the revered Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, according the Associated Press.

    As part of a mourning ritual, thousands of foreign pilgrims walk across Iraq to a shrine of the seventh of 12 Shiite Imams in Baghdad.

    “We decided to end it,” Sadiq al-Hashemi, a representative of al-Sadr’s office in Baghdad who was present at the protests, told the AP.

    Shi'ite pilgrims carry a mock coffin during a symbolic funeral marking the death anniversary of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim at the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in Baghdad's Kadhimiya district, May 14, 2015.  Every year, thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims gather at the shrine to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, one of the 12 imams of Shi'ite, who was imprisoned for four years and poisoned by then-ruler Harun al-Rashid in 795 AD. REUTERS/Stringer - RTX1CXQY

    Shi’ite pilgrims carry a mock coffin during a symbolic funeral marking the death anniversary of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim at the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, May 14, 2015. Photo by Reuters

    Demonstrators broke into Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday because they want to reform the political system that was put in place following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. And political unrest has been exacerbated by plummeting oil prices that add to economic instability and the country’s struggle to fight an insurgent Islamic State.

    Months of protests had escalated after news that members of parliament were postponing a vote for a cabinet reshuffle.

    Followers of Iraq's Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr storm Baghdad's Green Zone after lawmakers failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government, in Iraq April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily - RTX2C8HW

    Followers of Iraq’s Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr storm Baghdad’s Green Zone after lawmakers failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government, in Iraq April 30, 2016. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    Protesters broke down the cement walls meant to protect the homes to ministerial buildings and foreign embassies, poured into parliament, danced, chanted, bashed government vehicles and harried government workers. Security forces sprayed tear gas and shot rubber bullets.

    People had left parliament by nightfall on Saturday, but demonstrators continued a sit-in within the Green Zone overnight.

    “We are fed up, we are living a humiliated life,” Rasool Hassan, a 37-year old father of three told the AP from inside the Green Zone on Sunday.

    Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has also called for the arrest and prosecution of people who damaged government property and assaulted security forces.

    Followers of Iraq's Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are seen in the parliament building as they storm Baghdad's Green Zone after lawmakers failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government, in Iraq April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad - RTX2C8Y6

    Followers of Iraq’s Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are seen in the parliament building as they storm Baghdad’s Green Zone after lawmakers failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government, in Iraq on April 30, 2016. Photo by Ahmed Saad/Reuters

    Earlier on Sunday, two car bombs in the city of  Samawah about 230 miles south of the capital killed 31 people.

    Two parked cars filled with explosives detonated near an open-air bus station and government offices less than a half mile from each other, the AP reported.

    While it remained unclear Sunday whether the Islamic State was responsible, the extremists had claimed two other bombings on Saturday that killed at least 21 people east of Baghdad in a Shiite-dominated marketplace.

    A United Nations report released Sunday said at least 741 Iraqis – 410 civilians and 301 members of security forces – were killed in April due to the ongoing violence. 

    “Terrorists have used suicide attacks to target cafés, places of worship, pilgrims and markets in a wicked, unrelenting campaign to cause maximum casualties and inflict untold suffering on the population,” U.N. envoy Jan Kubis said in a statement. “It pains us to see the continuing bloodletting and loss of life, particularly among civilians who are paying a high price as a result of bombings and the armed clashes.”

    The post Protesters in Baghdad disband, leave Green Zone after breach appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Elephants perform during Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus' "Circus Extreme" show at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, The elephants will perform in the circus for the last time on Sunday before the company ends the practice.  Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Elephants perform during Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ “Circus Extreme” show at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on April 30, 2016, The elephants will perform for the circus for the last time on Sunday before the company ends the practice. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will use elephants in its performances for the last time on Sunday.

    The circus company has used elephants in its shows for the last 145 years but changed its policies after animals rights’ groups and others campaigned against the practice. Public opinion on the subject has also shifted over the years.

    A Humane Society report called “The Truth Behind the Big Top” claimed elephants and other wild animals used in circus acts were “beaten, poked and shocked.”

    But Feld Entertainment won more than $25 million in 2014 from the Humane Society and other animals rights groups when claims of mistreated elephants were not substantiated, according to the Associated Press.

    Senior Elephant Handler Alex Petrov prepares an elephant for a performance at Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus' "Circus Extreme" show at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 29, 2016.  Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Senior Elephant Handler Alex Petrov prepares an elephant for a performance at Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ “Circus Extreme” show at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 29, 2016. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Ringling Bros. Executive vice president Alana Feld said 11 animals will be transferred to its own 200-acre facility in Florida, the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, after separate shows Sunday in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

    The elephants performance in Rhode Island will be live streamed on the company’s Facebook page on Sunday night.

    Elephants are led back to their tent following a performance at Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus' "Circus Extreme" show at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 29, 2016.  Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Elephants are led back to their tent following a performance at Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ “Circus Extreme” show at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 29, 2016. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Ronald B. Tobias, who wrote a book called “Behemoth: The History of the Elephant in America” told the Associated Press that much of American society would prefer to see elephants in natural settings rather than zoos and circuses.

    “I think people will get a lot more satisfaction out of elephants living their real lives than to see them performing as clowns,” Tobias said. “It’s kind of a new age in our understanding and sympathy and empathy toward elephants.”

    Elephants have been a part of some circus performances for more than two centuries, according to the AP, dating back to the early 18oos.

    The Humane Society said more than a dozen circuses continue to use elephants in performances.

    Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect the correct verdict in a lawsuit. Feld Entertainment won more than $25 million in 2014 from the Humane Society and other animals rights groups when claims of mistreated elephants were not substantiated, according to the Associated Press.  

    The post Ringling Bros. circus ends controversial elephant act after 145 years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Travellers check in in the departure hall after a ceremony at Brussels Airport as it reopens 40 days after deadly attacks in Zaventem, Belgium, May 1, 2016. Photo By Eric Vidal

    Travellers check in in the departure hall after a ceremony at Brussels Airport as it reopens 40 days after deadly attacks in Zaventem, Belgium, May 1, 2016. Photo By Eric Vidal

    The departure hall at Brussels main airport was partially reopened Sunday for the first time since two suicide bombers killed 16 people on March 22. The militant group that calls itself the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The entire Zaventem Airport was shut down for nearly two weeks following the assaults that also included a separate bombing inside a busy subway station in Brussels. Another 16 people were killed there.

    The airport reopened on a limited basis April 3 amid tight security and as Belgian and other European officials launched an international dragnet that branched out across several European countries. But the departure hall remained closed for renovations.

    Members of staff and travellers walk in the departure hall after a ceremony at Brussels Airport as it reopens 40 days after deadly attacks in Zaventem, Belgium, May 1, 2016. Photo By Eric Vidal/Reuters

    Members of staff and travellers walk in the departure hall after a ceremony at Brussels Airport as it reopens 40 days after deadly attacks in Zaventem, Belgium, May 1, 2016. Photo By Eric Vidal/Reuters

    In an opening ceremony held 40 days after those attacks, Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company, lauded the efforts of those who worked to reopen the departure hall, which will initially house the operations of 25 airlines before later becoming fully functional.

    “We’re again seeing the familiar image of passengers in our departures hall, a big step towards the return to normal activities at the airport which will give a boost to the economy of the entire nation,” Feist said. “That we are returning to an almost normal situation in so little time, is important for the confidence of our business, investors and foreign tourists.”

    The post Brussels departure hall opens for first time since terror attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    court picture

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Mori Rothman

    There are not enough public defenders in New Orleans to represent the 85 percent of cases where a client can’t afford legal counsel — so the public defenders made a wait list.

    The wait list has grown to 142 cases since the public defenders began refusing serious felony cases in January.

    “I came here to represent poor folks who are charged with crimes, to give them adequate, stellar, quality representation,” public defender William Snowden said. “Nobody in my office is able to do that when people get put on a wait list because we simply don’t have the funds.”

    Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton says the Orleans Public Defenders budget has been cut from 9 million dollars to 6 million in the past six years, forcing him to enact hiring freezes.

    Meanwhile, nearly half of Bunton’s investigators and attorneys have left, and the team has no money to hire replacements. Buton blames the attrition on the low pay and long hours required of the job.

    Now, a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of clients refused by the Orleans Public Defenders several months ago and a habeas corpus petition claiming that the constitutional rights of seven men refused by the Orleans public defenders have been violated, might force the state to take action.

    The suit is in federal court, and a judge in New Orleans ordered the release of the seven defendants in the habeas petition pending a state appeal.

    “The defendants’ constitutional rights are not contingent on budget demands, waiting lists and the failure of the Legislature to adequately fund indigent defense,” the court wrote.

    Read the full transcript below:

    JOHN LARSON: A public defender in New Orleans, Will Snowden is on his way to jail to meet a client, a man charged with armed robbery and facing a potentially very long prison term.

    WILL SNOWDEN: We as a public defender office take our responsibility of representing the poor folks of New Orleans very seriously. And when that becomes in jeopardy because of our workload and our caseload, that’s not something we’re willing to sacrifice.

    JOHN LARSON: In his third year on the job, Snowden works six days a week. He’s handling around 75 cases, but he used to juggle 120…until his boss told attorneys in his office to refuse new cases…due to a shortage of funds.

    WILL SNOWDEN: It’s very contradictory to the reason why I came here in the first place. I came here to represent poor folks who are charged with crimes, to give them adequate, stellar, quality representation, and nobody in my office is able to do that when people get put on a waitlist because we simply don’t have the funds.

    JOHN LARSON: 85 percent of the more than 20 thousand cases that move through the New Orleans criminal justice system every year require the help of a public defender. Yet, since January, the public defenders office has refused 125 defendants requesting its help, and put them on an indefinite waiting list.

    Why? Because three streams of revenue the public defenders depends on have declined — traffic fines, court fees and its share of state revenues.

    In the past four years, the city’s public defender’s budget has dropped by a third…from 9 million to just 6 million dollars per year.

    Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton says he been forced to reduce staff. He once had 15 investigators, he now has only 8. He had 78 attorneys, now reduced to just 42.

    DERWYN BUNTON: The bottom line rule is we’re refusing cases we don’t have adequate resources to defend.

    JOHN LARSON: Toughest cases, complex cases?

    DERWYN BUNTON: Right now it’s the tough, complex cases, because our restriction of services includes in it a hiring freeze, I can’t replace people who leave.

    JOHN LARSON: You mean lawyers who have left your office?

    DERWYN BUNTON: That’s correct, and so a lot of the lawyers who’ve left my office have been very experienced lawyers, lawyers who would normally take the rapes, armed robberies, murders.

    LOCAL NEWS ANCHOR: “Hundreds of people caught in a shootout tonight in the ninth ward, the chaotic scene left more than a dozen people wounded at the Bunnyfriend playground…”

    DERWYN BUNTON: The turning point for me, as chief, was when we had a case, we had a playground shooting, it was Bunnyfriend’s playground here in New Orleans.

    JOHN LARSON: One of the accused shooters claimed to have an alibi. And fortunately could afford to hire his own attorney.

    DERWYN BUNTON: The family was able to get a private attorney, that private attorney was able to go to Houston, find the video footage of them actually shopping in Houston at the time of the crime and I looked at that case, and I said I’m not sure we would have made it to Houston in time. It was terrifying to me, and I just, I didn’t want our office complicit in that. I didn’t want to pretend that everything was okay in telling our clients, that we had adequate resources. So we began to refuse cases.

    JOHN LARSON: The United States Constitution guarantees all Americans “the right to a speedy and public trial” and “the assistance of counsel”. And the Supreme Court ruled in 19-63 “any person… who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided.”

    All of which means anyone who can’t afford an attorney has a right to a public defender. But someone has to pay for that.

    WALT LEGER: The problem with our public defender system in the state is that it’s fundamentally based on something that is doomed to fail.

    JOHN LARSON: Walt Leger, a state representative from New Orleans, says because traffic fines and court fees often didn’t cover the full cost of public defenders, the state established a board a decade ago to subsidize them. And that budget has remained flat.

    WALT LEGER: And so a 10 year period with essentially no growth, and obviously additional costs necessary to provide these services, amounts to a fairly significant cut over time.

    JOHN LARSON: Leger believes it is also a mistake for public defenders to rely on fees from their mostly poor clients; a 40 dollar application fee plus another 45 dollars if they are convicted.

    WALT LEGER: The problem there being if you are in fact convicted, then the likelihood of you paying any of these fees is slim to none.

    JOHN LARSON: New Orleans has approved regular annual funding increases for the city’s police and prosecutors.

    JOHN LARSON: So, why is it that the indigent defense, as they call public defenders, always seems to be on the short end of the stick?

    WALT LEGER: ​Well you know, I think the politics of it is very obvious. It’s easy for legislators, it’s easy for city council people, it’s easy for mayors and it’s easy for governors to support the funding of things like law enforcement, police, prosecutors offices, DAs, attorney generals. It becomes less popular with the public to fund things like public defenders, it’s kind of the same old concept of — and you hear people say this sometimes — “Well if the person’s been arrested, they must be guilty of something, right?”

    JOHN LARSON: The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the New Orleans Public Defender’s office in federal court, saying its refusal to take cases has doomed the accused to “languish indefinitely in jail without counsel” and the growing wait list “violates their constitutional rights.” Henry Campbell is among the accused caught in limbo. In March 2013, the 18-year-old high school student was charged with rape. He’s remained in jail without trial…as his case was handed off from one public defender to another.

    GREG CARTER: It’s just astounding that someone can sit there, that they can really just fall through the cracks.

    JOHN LARSON: Greg Carter is a private lawyer who accepted the court’s request to represent Campbell…for free.

    GREG CARTER: This is amazing, but the public defender’s office has — I don’t want to say lost, but they can’t find his file currently. And so I went over there, I requested it from them. First they couldn’t find his name in the computer systems they have over there. Then they just don’t know where to go to pick up his file.

    JOHN LARSON: Carter says justice delayed, due to the public defenders budget crisis, is not only justice denied, but adds to the challenge of mounting an effective defense.

    JOHN LARSON: You really haven’t had the time to sit down and talk to him about the case.

    GREG CARTER: Right.

    JOHN LARSON: You don’t even have the case.

    GREG CARTER: Exactly.

    JOHN LARSON: And there he sits.

    GREG CARTER:​ There he sits. Day by day, sitting in, I keep calling it a cage but I mean that’s really what it is. He’s locked in a cage with no recourse, no way out, no way of preparing for trial. Every day that goes by, there’s a potential piece of evidence that’s being lost or being forgotten that could be that one key that frees him. That evidence never comes back. If someone forgets something that could be the one key to freeing him. That doesn’t come back.

    JOHN LARSON: Three full years after Henry Campbell was arraigned in this courtroom a court-appointed attorney filed a motion involving Henry and six other defendants. It said that Louisiana’s justice system was so broken, allowing prisoners languish in jail for years, allowing others to go months without any kind of legal representation, that it violated the U-S Constitution. Last month, a judge agreed — ordering Campbell and six other defendants — all charged with serious crimes, including murder and assault with a deadly weapon — to be released. The state is now appealing the release order, so Campbell and the other men remain behind bars. The head of the state’s district attorneys association is Baton Rouge DA Hillar Moore.

    JOHN LARSON: From a prosecutor’s point of view, this is a worst case scenario.

    HILLAR MOORE: It’s very scary.

    JOHN LARSON​: These are people that you and your other DAs have specifically put in prison. Arrested, done the work.

    HILLAR MOORE:​ We believe they are very dangerous individuals. I think that if you asked the lawyers that represent them, they will tell you that they believe that they’re dangerous individuals that are now being required to be bonded out of jail, because they don’t have a lawyer. And look, it’s basic to our system that these people are, regardless of what I think, regardless of what the allegations are, they’re required to have adequate, a good defense. And so I think the judge is in a position where he had no other choice but to do what he did.

    JOHN LARSON: Besides the politics, a public defender bailout from the state is unlikely, due to a massive budget crunch in Louisiana. A 2008 tax cut followed by a steep drop in revenues from the state’s oil and gas industry has left legislators like Walt Leger scrambling to cut spending on everything — from schools to hospitals.

    JOHN LARSON: How often do you allow yourself to just sit back and think, ‘What a mess.’

    WALT LEGER: The thought crosses my mind every day. At this point in the state of Louisiana, in my mind, providing high quality access to healthcare for all of our citizens is a priority, beyond that, there are things like funding our colleges and universities at an appropriate level to make sure that we have the opportunity to expand and grow our economy here.

    JOHN LARSON: But I notice even in that list, the public defender’s office doesn’t really come up to the top.

    WALT LEGER: It doesn’t with me, and for me, I’m someone who really understands the importance of it because I’ve been involved in dealing with it. But certainly I think you can ask every legislator in the body, I don’t think it would make the top ten list.

    JOHN LARSON: Public defender Will Snowden believes his smaller caseload now allows him to do a better a job…but at a steep cost to society.

    WILL SNOWDEN: It’s at the price of people sitting in jail for three months, two months, four months, whatever it may be, without a lawyer. And I hate for that to be the cost of doing better work for the clients that I have, but then there are clients who nobody is doing any work for. And that’s where the injustice lies, that these people, case, their defense is literally just passing away with the passing of time.

    The post Wait list grows as public defenders refuse cases in New Orleans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Smoke and flames rise over a hill near the Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 23, 2014.  U.S. military forces again focused air strikes on the area near the Syrian city of Kobani in their campaign to turn back Islamic State forces and also hit oil facilities held by the militant group, the U.S. Central Command said on Thursday.     Photo By Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Read the full transcript below:

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has drawn recruits from all over the world, so-called foreign fighters.

    The U.S. director of national intelligence has put the number at 38,000, including an estimated 250 recruits from the United States.  But, this week, the Pentagon said the pace of ISIS recruiting has dropped 75 percent, from 2,000 fighters a month to 500.

    One reason, according to the military, consistent U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS positions.

    Joining me now from Washington to discuss this is Doug Ollivant, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and now a partner at the global management consulting firm Mantid International.

    Nice to see you.  Thanks for talking with me.

    How accurate do you think these numbers are?

    LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT (RET.):  They’re probably a good guesstimate.  It wouldn’t surprise if there’s a 10 percent tolerance either way, but I think we have a pretty good feel for how large the flow is.

    And, certainly, we can see it’s down.  So, it may not be 25 percent, but it is significantly fewer than a year or two ago.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  And does this give you any insight into exactly what is happening inside of ISIS?

    LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:  Several things are happening.

    First, as the military points out, they are killing a whole bunch of them.  But ISIS has lost significant amounts territory inside Iraq and Syria.  And, perhaps just as importantly, they have lost a lot of their money.

    We have actually physically blown up large stocks that they had in banks and houses in Mosul. And, as we know, we have also cut off their ability to smuggle out the oil.  So, they no longer have the appearance of winning in Iraq and Syria.  They have lost major cities.  And they can’t pay large salaries.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  Do you think this indicates, then, that there is going to be a movement from this idea of creating a caliphate in Syria and Iraq to having lone wolves, if you will, stay where they are?

    LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:  We are hearing some reports, that actually now is what ISIL is telling people that they’re talking to on social media:  Don’t come here.  Stay home.

    I think that’s making lemonade out of lemons.  They can’t pay them, so, instead, they tell them to stay home.  But that’s obviously something we’re just as concerned about, if not more so, are these radical jihadists in their home countries doing these lone wolf or very small group attacks.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  So, ultimately, does this drop lead to people outside of ISIS obviously feeling safer?

    I mean, if you have a number of lone wolves who are operating — and I would think some of these attacks are relatively low-cost and maybe not even organized by a network — does the end goal feel like we’re safer?


    If — this is good news for the fight in Iraq and Syria.  This is bad news particularly for Europe, where a much larger percentage of these foreign fighters come from, and, for that matter, the other countries in the region, the Saudis, the Tunisians being the two largest countries providing foreign fighters.

    If their radicals stay home, you have to wonder what they’re going to do there.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  Doug Ollivant, thanks for talking with us.  Appreciate it.

    LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:  My pleasure, Soledad.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  You bet.


    The post Are airstrikes successfully weakening ISIS? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Voting booths are seen during the New York primary elections at a polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., April 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2AO7S

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    Read the full transcript below:

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  A pivotal presidential primary in the Republican race for White House is two days away in Indiana.

    Of 10 states left to vote, Indiana is the largest delegate prize left until the last primary in California in June.  In Indiana, the Republican winner will take most of the state’s 57 Republican delegates.  New York businessman Donald Trump is aiming to stretch his 430-delegate lead in the race for 1,237 delegates needed to be nominated.  He’s closing in on 1,000.

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz is trying to stop Trump’s momentum.  And to help him win Indiana, the third Republican in the race, Ohio Governor John Kasich, has ceded the state.  Cruz picked up 10 national delegates this weekend at a Republican state convention in Virginia, where Trump got three.

    On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned to Indiana today to rally supporters who gave her a primary victory there in 2008 over Barack Obama.  She leads Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by around 300 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses and 800 overall.  Sanders said today catching Clinton is difficult, but not impossible.

    For more on the Indiana primary, I am joined from Indianapolis by Zach Osowski.  He’s a political reporter with the Evansville Courier & Press.

    Nice to see you, Zach.  Thanks for talking with me.

    ZACH OSOWSKI:  Thanks for having me.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  We see in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll out that shows Donald Trump has quite a lead, 15 percent of likely Republican voters.

    Give me a little sense of confidence in a Trump victory.  And what would the implications of that be?

    ZACH OSOWSKI:  Obviously, a victory here would pretty much pave the road for him to get to the number of delegates he needs to lock up the nomination.

    Ted Cruz has been fighting hard in Indiana, because he knows, if he wins here, that getting to 1,237 for Trump a little more difficult.  But, right now, with the numbers we’re seeing with that poll, it doesn’t look like that hard work’s paying off quite yet.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  What happened to the stop Trump movement and the Kasich-Cruz alliance?  Has it fallen apart?

    ZACH OSOWSKI:  It seems like it has.

    You know, it was just last week that John Kasich said he was suspending his Indiana campaign.  But then just a couple of days later, Kasich said that, if voters want to vote for him, they’re more than welcome to vote for him.  And just a few days after that, Ted Cruz said that there was no alliance between him and Kasich.

    So, it seems like there was a little bit of a backlash from the alliance that was announced last week.  People said it made Cruz look pretty desperate.  So, I think he tried to back away from that and say that there wasn’t an alliance, and he was trying to win Indiana on his own.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  What do you think the power of endorsements has been?

    ZACH OSOWSKI:  It’s hard to say.

    Obviously, the endorsement of Governor Mike Pence — he told Hoosiers on Friday that he was going to be voting for Ted Cruz — it’s hard to say exactly what kind of weight the Pence endorsement for Cruz is going to have, if any.

    I don’t think that it’s going to change the minds of voters who were planning on voting for Trump or planning on voting for Cruz already.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  On the Democratic side, how do you see that race shaping up?

    ZACH OSOWSKI:  Yes, it’s looking more and more unlikely that Sanders is going to get the Democrat nomination.

    Most of the polls we have seen here in Indiana show this race is pretty much a tossup.  I think, if voter turnout is pretty big here in Indiana on Tuesday, Sanders has a shot to win in Indiana.  But, as far as the long-term picture, it’s looking more and more likely that Hillary Clinton is going to lock up the Democrat nomination pretty soon.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  It’s not very often that Indiana is sort of the focus of everyone’s attention when you’re talking about an election year.

    ZACH OSOWSKI:  Right.  Yes.

    We haven’t seen this kind of excitement since 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still battling out for the Democrat nomination.  And on the Republican side, it hasn’t happened, I think, in probably 40 years.

    And you can see the excitement level, regardless of which rally you go to, whether it’s a Trump really, a Cruz rally, a Bernie Sanders rally.  Hillary Clinton is here today, and, from what I have heard, the lines have been very long to get in to see her.

    Hoosiers are excited that they’re playing a big role in the political process this year, because it doesn’t usually happen.

    SOLEDAD O’BRIEN:  Zach Osowski is a political reporter with the Evansville Courier & Press.

    Zach, thanks for being with me.

    ZACH OSOWSKI:  Thank you.

    The post What to expect from Tuesday’s Indiana primary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    SEATTLE -- The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to Seattle's $15-an-hour minimum wage from franchise owners who say the law discriminates against them by treating them as large businesses. People rally in support of a $15 minimum wage at Seattle Central Community College in Seattle, Washington March 15, 2014. Voters in SeaTac, Washington recently passed a ballot initiative for $15 minimum wage. Photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

    People rally in support of a $15 minimum wage at Seattle Central Community College in Seattle, Washington March 15, 2014. Photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

    SEATTLE — The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage from franchise owners who say the law discriminates against them by treating them as large businesses.

    Seattle was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt a law aiming for a $15 minimum wage, giving small businesses employing fewer than 500 people seven years to phase it in. Large employers must do so over three or four years, depending on whether they offer health insurance to their employees.

    Five franchises and the International Franchise Association sued the city, saying the law treats Seattle’s 623 franchises like large businesses because they are part of multistate networks. But the franchises say they are small businesses and should have more time to phase in the higher wage.

    The justices did not comment on their order Monday that leaves in place a federal court ruling in favor of Seattle.

    The decision comes as several other cities and a group of states, including California and New York, have started to phase in a $15 minimum wage in recent months. But each municipality and state takes a slightly different approach. San Francisco changed its minimum wage around the same time Seattle did.

    The president of the International Franchise Association expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision and said the group was still deciding what its next steps will be.

    “Seattle’s ordinance is blatantly discriminatory and affirmatively harms Seattle hard-working franchise small business owners every day since it has gone into effect,” Robert Cresanti said in a statement. “We are simply attempting to level the playing field for the 600 local franchise business owners employing 19,000 people in Seattle.”

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in September that it did not believe the franchise association would succeed in its lawsuit and refused to block the law. It said the association was not persuasive in its arguments that its members would be harmed.

    The post Justices reject franchise appeal over Seattle’s $15 minimum wage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Poet Shira Erlichman. Photo by Bao Ngo

    Poet Shira Erlichman. Photo by Bao Ngo

    At the bottom of the sea, just off the coast of Maryland, New York City subway cars have become a new habitat for coral and fish.

    Poet Shira Erlichman was spellbound when she read about the project: to dispose of old, broken-down subway cars by sinking them to the bottom of the ocean, providing a new surface for coral reef to grow.

    Photos documenting the process seem to show pollution on a large scale, the result of industrial excess. But eventually they will help the ecosystem survive. For Erlichman, the project was a way to discuss taking Lithium for mental illness.

    “I’ve been told a million reasons why I should not take medication. All of that stigma is very real,” she said.

    People who have mental illness challenge society’s typical narrative about what is “natural” or healthy, she said.

    “[People] have this idea that there’s something that’s natural and unnatural,” she said. “There’s a world concept of purity. And I find that when people who have mental illness speak for themselves, we really muddy that up. People don’t want to think that their identities have something to do with their brains misfiring.”

    Erlichman has addressed mental illness before in music and in visual art, she said. When she first got sick, “writing came last of the three avenues that I love because it is so intimate, and it’s so difficult,” she said. “When I paint, it’s not painful, it’s soothing. When I make music, it’s so deeply immersive, it’s not painful. But writing is a mirror and it asks a lot of us.”

    Erlichman is currently working on a book of odes to Lithium. The poems complicate preconceptions around medication by discussing the full spectrum of her relationship with it, she said.

    “Poetry is the closest we can get to being insides someone’s head, and so with mental illness, that’s a perfect avenue,” she said. “I think intimacy is what is missing with most things that are stigmatized. We only have the caricatures. If you can create intimacy … then you have this ticket to understanding and empathy.”​

    You can read one of Erlichman’s poems, or hear her read it, below.

    Ode to Lithium #140: Natural

    Each subway car will be left on the ocean floor, to be assimilated into the ecosystem.
    Over time, every surface will be covered in life, creating an artificial coral reef.

    — “Stunning Photos Showing NYC Subway Cars Being Dumped Into the Ocean” ­– Viralforest

    Today I don’t want to take you
    so I imagine you a subway car
    push youllllllllllover my edge
    to rust at my sea floor.
    Ferment & flower, metallic

    traveler. I’ve been thrown
    off my axis lllllllllllllso-
    rrow’s my monogamous
    love. Once I shunned you
    wanting to be “natural” ­-

    tea tree milk, sprouted
    cashews, bark deodorant
    “natural.” Stopped taking you
    & soon was lost in snow
    stroking branches for hours for

    hours walked jagged llllcircles
    muttering sudden secrets revealed
    by ice wept.
    Against my will I swallow two
    busted down caterpillars

    let you sink to the bottom.
    “It’s not personal,” I tell myself.
    Even the sea needslllllllllleven
    the seallllllllllneeds, the sea
    needs, even the sea.

    Shira Erlichman​ is a writer, musician, & visual artist. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has been featured in BuzzFeed Reader, The Offing, BUST Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, & Winter Tangerine Review, among others. She was awarded the Millay Colony Residency & a James Merrill Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. As a musician she’s shared stages with TuNe-YaRdS, Mirah, & CocoRosie. Her album “Subtle Creature” will be released in August 2016. She resides in Brooklyn.

    The post How poetry helps us understand mental illness appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Today marks the deadline to enroll for many colleges and universities nationwide. Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

    High school seniors across the country make their final decisions to enroll in the college of their choice today. The Obama family has already announced that Malia Obama will follow the President’s footsteps and attend Harvard University, where Mr. Obama went to law school. But many colleges and universities nationwide extended their deadline since May 1 fell on a Sunday. Proximity to home, the school’s reputation or financial aid are all factors that can influence a senior’s choice.

    For those still on the brink, Eric Greenberg of the Greenberg Educational Group, offers these tips every senior should know before choosing a college. Greenberg will join a host of other guests for a Twitter chat on college choices at 1 p.m. EDT, Thursday, May 5.

    The discussion is part of NewsHour’s special Twitter chat series on higher education this month.

    By Eric Greenberg

    In recent years, a record number of students have been applying to colleges across the country. It is more critical than ever for students to find the right college that best suits their interests, abilities, and financial constraints. When deciding which colleges to attend, here are five things to consider:

    Can you imagine yourself there?

    Can you envision yourself living on that campus? Is the full array of academic options available given your intellectual and career interests? Are you comfortable with the spirit of the campus setting, from its size to its location? Hopefully by now seniors have sat in on classes, particularly those in which they may want to major. Talk to current students about the school and campus life. Ask the students if they would attend the same college again. Spend time in the student center or other high-traffic areas to help envision yourself as part of the community. Take the time to visit key areas of personal interest such as arts programs, musical programs, sports activities, school newspapers, clubs, etc. Does the college feel like a good “fit”?

    What is the college’s program like in your field of interest? 

    With college tuition and student loan debt spiraling out of control, it’s not surprising that many families are examining the return on investment, or ROI, of college education. What career services does the college provide? What are the job prospects graduating from a certain college with a certain degree? This can help determine which college to choose.

    Is it affordable?

    Make a great college “fit” as affordable as possible. Applying for financial aid is a very important part of the process for many people. Also, colleges often have applications for merit scholarships. Close attention to deadlines is very important. It is crucial to be aware that there can be a huge tuition difference among colleges that are private, in state and out of state.

    It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

    For many students, starting at a less expensive college then transferring to a more expensive one can ease the overall financial burden for the student and family. It is more important where you graduate from than from where you start.

    Fit matters more than ranking.

    Of course a college’s ranking is important but don’t let that number become more important than the question of your comfort level of the college. Remember, four years is a long time so think carefully about priorities and assess them carefully.

    The post Decision day: 5 things to know before committing to a college appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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

    Former CIA Director Leon Panetta describes current terrorist threats against the U.S. in this interview excerpt.

    Five years after the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, former CIA Director Leon Panetta — the man responsible for the operation — said part of its purpose was to send a message to the world that “nobody attacks the United States and gets away with it.”

    On May 2, 2011, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs shot and killed bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

    Pakistani media and local residents gather outside the hideout of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden following his death by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad on May 1-2, 2011. Photo by Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

    Pakistani media and local residents gather outside the hideout of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden following his death by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad on May 1-2, 2011. Photo by Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

    Panetta described to PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan on Monday how the picture of terrorism has become more diverse — and more challenging — since then.

    The Islamic State militant group is a quasi-state, has affiliates in 20 countries, and is recruiting thousands of individuals, he said. In addition, “we’re concerned about the refugees and what may be involved with refugee populations coming into a number of countries.”

    President Barack Obama (second from left), Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other members of the national security team watch the Osama bin Laden raid in the Situation Room at the White House on May 1, 2011. Photo via Getty Images

    President Barack Obama (second from left), Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other members of the national security team watch the Osama bin Laden raid in the Situation Room at the White House on May 1, 2011. Photo via Getty Images

    “The result is that we are dealing with a threat that is coming at us from a number of directions as opposed to the singular focus that we had in going after bin Laden and al-Qaida,” he said.

    We’ll have more of the interview with Panetta on Monday’s broadcast.

    From the archive:

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

    Watch President Barack Obama’s full televised announcement from 2011 that the long-hunted al-Qaida leader was dead. “Justice has been done,” he said.

    The post Panetta: ‘Nobody attacks the U.S. and gets away with it’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Wired’s Andy Greenberg speaks with NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan on why the mystery of the Bitcoin creator remains unresolved. Video by PBS NewsHour

    After years of speculation and independent investigations that sought to identify the elusive inventor behind the digital currency Bitcoin, the apparent creator decided Monday to come forward himself.

    Australian entrepreneur Craig Steven Wright granted interviews to the BBC and other outlets, claiming he was the man behind the long-unknown “Satoshi Nakamoto” pseudonym, the currency’s creator. Nakamoto reportedly has nearly 1 million Bitcoins, worth nearly half a billion dollars, Wired’s Andy Greenberg told the NewsHour.

    But thanks to eyebrow-raising developments in the seven-year mystery, the case of the Bitcoin inventor’s identity isn’t 100 percent solved. Greenberg said a huge amount of skepticism in the Bitcoin community and the larger cryptographic community remains.

    “There’s this bizarre disconnect between essentially two different kinds of proof that Wright has offered,” Greenberg said, as detailed in his latest Wired story.

    Some of Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell's coins are pictured at his office in this photo illustration in Sandy, Utah. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    Some of Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell’s coins are pictured at his office in this photo illustration in Sandy, Utah. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    We know that the earliest Bitcoins belonged to Nakamoto, Greenberg said, and there’s a private key that’s used to spend those Bitcoins. The key can also be used to “sign” a message in a way that could be offered as proof that someone possesses the key that only Nakamoto would have access to, he added.

    Wright gave demonstrations of providing that unforageable, digital John Hancock for journalists and prominent members of the Bitcoin community.

    When approached by Wright, The Economist said it reviewed his documented proof and corroborated that same info with bitcoin insiders. The conclusion? The Economist, joined by the BBC and GQ magazine, concluded that Wright could be Nakamoto, “but that important questions remain.”

    “Indeed, it may never be possible to establish beyond reasonable doubt who really created Bitcoin,” The Economist wrote.

    Previously, Wired and Gizmodo released twin stories that pointed to Wright as the creator of the cryptocurrency. Soon after Wright went public Monday, Gavin Andresen, chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation, came to a similar result.

    “I believe Craig Steven Wright is the person who invented Bitcoin,” he said in a blog post Monday.

    Wright said in a statement that his public identification was prompted by a decision to “dispel any negative myths and fears about Bitcoin.”

    Wright offered more proof in a blog post that appeared to back his claim.

    “Satoshi is dead,” the 45-year-old said in the post. “But this is only the beginning.”

    One problem: The cartographic signature offered in Wright’s blog post was quickly deemed fraudulent by experts.

    The plot, as it were, thickened.

    “This has only gotten hairier as a story,” Greenberg said. “It was unclear, at first, whether this was a hoax or whether we’ve found the creator of Bitcoin. I think we’ve only gone further down that rabbit hole,” he said.

    The post Alleged Bitcoin creator comes forward, but questions remain appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Mattel unveiled the Misty Copeland Barbie Doll Monday.

    Mattel unveiled the Misty Copeland Barbie Doll Monday.

    Following the reveal of of the new multiple-size Barbie line, Mattel on Monday released a Misty Copeland doll to honor the first-African American woman to be named principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.

    Garbed in a red leotard with a fiery tutu, the barbie is a replica of Copeland’s costume from her performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” The role, which Copeland will reprise this month, was pivotal for her career.

    “I was hands on with making sure that she really looked like a dancer and looked like me,” Copeland told Robin Roberts Monday morning on Good Morning America.

    Barbie’s new line, released in January, incorporated Barbies of various body types, skin color and hair. In continuing with Barbie’s new looks, the ballerina Barbie is complete with athletic-looking physique with muscular legs.

    The Copeland Barbie is also part of the “Sheroes” campaign which has included Barbie replicas of Emmy Rossum, Ava DuVernay, Kristin Chenoweth, and Zendaya, according to Time Magazine.

    The American Ballet Theatre’s spring season opens this month with “Firebird,” the first big role for Copeland that launched her career.

    The post Ballerina Misty Copeland immortalized with her own Barbie appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a campaign event at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a campaign event at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Trailing significantly in the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders wants superdelegates to flip his way and is aiming for a contested national convention in July against front-runner Hillary Clinton. For his plan to work, he’ll need plenty of big-time breaks.

    Sanders says he will campaign until the final primary in the District of Columbia in mid-June and aim to amass as many delegates as possible to influence the platform at the party’s convention in Philadelphia.

    The Vermont senator faces a daunting deficit against Clinton among pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses as well as among superdelegates, the Democratic elected and party leaders who can support the candidate of their choice and account for 30 percent of the 2,383 delegates needed to win.

    Some questions and answers about Sanders’ longshot odds for the Democratic nomination:


    Clinton leads Sanders among pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses, 1,645 to 1,318, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Among superdelegates, Clinton leads 520 to 39.

    That means overall, Clinton holds a lead of 2,165 to 1,357, putting the former secretary of state 91 percent of the way to clinching the nomination.

    MORE: PBS NewsHour’s delegate tracker

    Clinton also has an edge of roughly 3 million raw votes. Clinton has received more than 12.2 million votes in primaries and caucuses to date, compared with 9.1 million for Sanders. Those numbers do not include Iowa, Nevada, Maine, Alaska, Washington and Wyoming — caucus states where AP tabulated delegate equivalents, not raw votes. Sanders won four of those six states.


    Clinton is still a few weeks away.

    She remains 218 delegates short. The election contests in May offer a total of 235 delegates, including states such as Oregon, where Sanders believes he can do well. Democrats award delegates in proportion to the share of the vote, so even the loser gets some. That means Clinton won’t be able to win all 235 from May.

    More likely, she’ll split the delegates more evenly with Sanders, putting her on track to reach 2,383 in early June.

    That date could move up sooner if Clinton does better than expected in the May contests and picks up many more superdelegate endorsements.


    When including superdelegates, Sanders would need to win more than 82 percent of the remaining delegates and uncommitted superdelegates. That’s all but impossible — Clinton would basically have to lose every remaining state with 20 percent or less of the vote. So far, Sanders has been able to achieve that only in three small, less diverse caucus states: Alaska, Utah and his home state of Vermont.

    Sanders would need a solid victory in Indiana on Tuesday, then put together a winning streak in West Virginia on May 10, Kentucky and Oregon on May 17 and Puerto Rico on June 5. On June 7, Sanders needs a big delegate haul in California, the nation’s largest state, and in contests held that day in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. The final primary is in the District of Columbia on June 14.


    He’s mostly focusing on the pledged delegates won just from primaries and caucuses. He trails significantly with those delegates, but not by as much as when including superdelegates.

    To overtake her in those delegates, Sanders would need to win 65 percent of those remaining. That would require sweeping victories by Sanders in coming states large and small including delegate-rich California, where Clinton holds a small lead in polling.

    If Sanders overtakes Clinton in the pledged count, he would still need to win support from at least half of the 714 superdelegates who get a vote at the national convention to reach 2,383. Currently, he has endorsements from 39, or about 5 percent.


    Barring a major Clinton loss in Indiana, it’s mathematically impossible for Sanders to clinch the nomination outright without earning the support of these party officials. So Sanders is banking on hundreds of superdelegates to change their public support from Clinton to him.

    In 2008, when Clinton waged a lengthy primary battle against then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the future president was able to persuade dozens of superdelegates to come to his side. But there was a big difference: Obama had the lead among delegates from primaries and caucuses for much of the 2008 race.

    Sanders says superdelegates should honor the will of the voters in their states. He’s going after superdelegates who are supporting Clinton in states he’s won — for instance in Minnesota, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton; and in Washington state, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell — to switch their support.

    But by that logic, some of Sanders’ faithful, including Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Alan Grayson of Florida, might need to back Clinton because she won their congressional districts.


    No. It’s not clear if Sanders means that he should get proportional support — for instance, 60 percent of the superdelegates in a state if he wins 60 percent of the vote — or if he is entitled to all the state’s superdelegates even if he wins a small majority of the state’s popular vote.

    By either calculation, Sanders would still trail Clinton in the total delegate count.

    It would, however, garner Sanders additional delegates, which could help him influence Clinton’s platform at the convention in July.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

    The post A close look at Sanders’ long-shot bid to clinch the Democratic nomination appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight, as part of our Broken Justice series, we have a “NewsHour” essay.

    Paton Blough opens up about his bipolar disorder and frequent encounters with law enforcement.

    PATON BLOUGH, Founder, Rehinge: I have two labels I will carry the rest of my life, bipolar and convicted felon. They’re not mutually exclusive.

    I have been arrested six different times, all the while in a delusional, paranoid state of mind caused by my illness. What you know about society and how people typically behave doesn’t apply to me. I enter a department store, and it feels right to immediately take off my shoes.

    I’m convinced the government is plotting to control me, playing carefully selected songs on the radio to persuade me into making a certain decision, so I change the station just to spite them. I throw three fingers up at a public security camera and tell President Obama to read between the lines.

    No, the rules of society don’t apply to me, not when I’m having one of my episodes.

    I just raise my hand like this.

    My episodes, which are rare, can happen at any time and take many forms, from creating a piece of art, to aggressively accusing UPS employees of being government workers smuggling weapons through their delivery routes.

    I’m able to show you these pictures because my wife has documented these episodes, so that we can learn more about myself and ultimately help others learn.

    WOMAN: My gosh, this is a mess. You created a studio up here, baby. You look like a true artist.

    PATON BLOUGH: You see, I’m not alone.

    More than half of all prison and jail inmates have a mental health issue. You can imagine the kind of reaction someone like me might have when delusions trigger an incident in which a police officer wants to engage with me or, worse, arrest me.

    Three of my six arrests went relatively well, with police getting me into custody safely. The other three were extremely violent, because, in my head, I was fighting for my life.

    I was Tased in the back of the police car in our hospital parking lot with leg irons and handcuffs on. And one of my charges that night were destruction of county property, because I broke the leg irons.

    Thankfully, around six years ago, my recovery killed into high gear. I was asked to share my experiences with officers as part of something called crisis intervention training. In my experience, most officers want to help, but often simply lack the training to know what to do in these tough situations.

    One time, I was arrested by an officer who I believed naturally possess many of the things we train. He slowed down and didn’t force the issue when I accused him of being an undercover agent. He waited for my brother to come from across town to bring my meds.

    When I accused him of giving me a poisoned bottle of water so I could take my pills, he immediately offered to take a sip to prove it was fine. There is no doubt we need more officers like this today.

    I came up with a training sheet which quickly describes for the police how to deal with someone like myself. Let the person think they’re in control. Slow down and stay calm. One thing I always tell them is to imagine the person they’re dealing they’re dealing with is their brother, mother or good friend.

    The biggest shame of my life has been my criminal record, but now I get to take those experiences and help my community.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia walk from Marine One to board Air Force One upon their departure from O'Hare Airport in Chicago April 7, 2016.    REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTSE37T

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: As you have likely heard by now, Malia Obama has decided to take a so-called gap year before she attends Harvard University in 2017.

    It’s an idea that’s taking hold among more students, often at elite schools, but not only those.

    William Brangham looks at the broader trend.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s estimated that, last year in the U.S., 30,000 to 40,000 students tried out a gap year. And that’s a 20 percent jump from the previous year.

    So, what are they, why the growing interest?

    To help fill in the picture, I’m joined from Boston by Joe O’Shea. He’s the author of “Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs.” He also directs the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement at Florida State University.

    So, Joe, welcome.

    JOSEPH O’SHEA, Florida State University: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I think a lot of our viewers have this stereotype that a gap year is for rich kids to put on a backpack and travel around Europe and find themselves. I know that’s not totally true, so, tell us, what is a gap year?

    JOSEPH O’SHEA: Sure.

    There are so many misconceptions about what a gap year is, and some people think it’s just waiting around in your home community, maybe sitting on your parents’ couch, taking a year off from school.

    But we think of gap year as something very different, a very powerful educational experience. It’s a structured, deliberate and purposeful experience, in which students challenge themselves outside their comfort zones. Often it involves traveling or working or interning, sometimes overseas, sometimes domestically, but it’s designed as an experience that accelerates their personal growth and prepares them for college.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, could you give me some examples of actual gap year activities that kids are doing now?

    JOSEPH O’SHEA: Sure.

    So, City Year, for instance, one in the U.S. in which students — or young people work in inner-city schools, is a powerful one and popular one. Many students go overseas. An organization Global Citizen Year, for instance, or Omprakash work with local community-based organizations in developing communities around the world.

    And students will intern there. Maybe they’re doing something with young people or a community role or public health kind of work. But it really runs the spectrum.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is there any research indicating what impact a gap year has on a student?

    JOSEPH O’SHEA: Sure.

    We have done some research both in the American Gap Association and in the academic world. And what’s very clear to us is that, when students take these kind of structured, deliberate gap years, that their growth is really accelerated across a number of ways.

    They become better thinkers, better people and better citizens. And what is really interesting is that they perform better when they get to college. They are more likely to go to college, retain, and graduate and get higher GPAs.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, I realize that this can vary, but there has got to be a cost associated with this. Do we know how much — what does it cost to take a gap year?

    JOSEPH O’SHEA: Sure.

    It really ranges and depends on what you do. Gap years can cost as much as $30,000 a year, but they can also cost very little. There are some programs like Omprakash, for instance, which works directly with nonprofit organizations around the world. And some of them are free room and board for up to a year.

    And what is interesting is now we’re seeing gap year organizations provide increasing levels of scholarship to students to support low-income schools — low-income students — sorry — and many universities, like my university, Florida State, subsidizing gap year experiences.

    We are, for the first year, dedicating $50,000 in scholarships to support low-income students in their gap year experiences.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, help me understand that. Why would a university, which I understand that they are increasingly interested in this — why would colleges and universities want their students to do this?

    JOSEPH O’SHEA: Well, we now know very clearly that this is a transformational educational experience.

    So, from our side, we know we’re going to get really good and motivated and purposeful students when they come back to Florida State. And many universities are beginning to recognize this and see it as a powerful educational intervention.

    The students are going to retain better, graduate from the university. And we want to spearhead this and help signal to students and their families and other stakeholders in the education system that gap years are an important part of the educational ecosystem.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, I understand that there are scholarships available for low-income students, but isn’t this still mostly the province of wealthier students?

    JOSEPH O’SHEA: Unfortunately, gap years still are mostly done by students in the middle class and above.

    And that’s a real big problem for America, especially since we know how beneficial gap year education can be for students to. And to get that to scale, we’re going to need institutions and the government at the federal and state level to begin to recognize gap years and to federally and — subsidize those experiences for students.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Joe O’Shea, Florida State University, thank you very much.

    JOSEPH O’SHEA: Thank you.

    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Why more teens like Malia Obama are taking a gap year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp in the Greek island of Lesbos, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/ Filippo Monteforte/Pool - RTX2A8KJ

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Two weeks ago, Pope Francis visited refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, a way station on the migrant trail to Europe.

    Though he was there but a few hours, the pontiff made headlines the world over when he left the island with three Syrian families, 12 people in all, bound for Rome.

    Late last week, Yahoo News global anchor Katie Couric sat down with four of the refugees at the Vatican.

    Here is a brief portion of that interview.

    KATIE COURIC, Yahoo! News Global Anchor: It must be wonderful to be safe, but it also must be hard to leave your country.

    HASAN, Syrian Refugee: Yes.

    NOUR, Syrian Refugee: Yes.

    SUHILA, Syrian Refugee (through interpreter): No doubt, God willing, we will adapt to this country, and, most importantly, we will learn Italian.


    KATIE COURIC: Is it hard to leave your home, though?

    SUHILA (through interpreter): We try and forget that moment.

    KATIE COURIC: It must be nice not to be frightened every day.

    NOUR: Yes, because, for a moment, when were in Turkey, I was afraid from the sounds of things. Every time the planes passed, I was very afraid for my son.

    KATIE COURIC: If you had a chance to see the pope — have you been able to see him at all, Pope Francis?

    HASAN: We don’t know, but — we hope — we hope that we could meet him again.

    KATIE COURIC: You met him when you traveled with him?

    NOUR: Yes.

    HASAN: Yes.

    KATIE COURIC: And you met him in Lesbos?

    HASAN: Yes.

    NOUR: Yes, just before…

    KATIE COURIC: Just before you got on the airplane?

    NOUR: Yes.

    KATIE COURIC: What did you think of him?

    NOUR: He’s very kind man. He’s a real human being.

    For me, I appreciate him more than any Islamic leader or Islamic religious man or more than any Arabic leader, because nothing has been done by these men like him, by the Arabic leaders or by Muslim leaders.

    KATIE COURIC: No one has done.

    NOUR: No one has done the same thing. Not one has visited the camps. No one has shown the suffering people like him. No one has thought about us, although they participate with us the same religion, on the same language.

    KATIE COURIC: And, Ramy, what did you think about the pope?

    RAMY, Syrian Refugee (through interpreter): His actions didn’t have to do with our skin color and religion. And it has proven that human beings are brothers with other human beings.

    KATIE COURIC: If you had a chance to say something to Pope Francis today, what would you say?

    RAMY (through interpreter): I will thank him from the bottom of my heart. And I wish that hope all Western and Arabic countries do the same.

    KATIE COURIC: What about you, Suhila? What would you say to the pope?

    SUHILA (through interpreter): I will say to him thank you. Because of him, hope came back. We have come back to life and we’re living our lives for those that we lost in Syria.

    KATIE COURIC: And what about you, Nour?


    NOUR: I would like to say to him also thank you for giving me this opportunity and for giving us security, for giving a better life for my son, the new life for my son, stable life for my son. And I thank him for all — all his prayers for the refugees. And I thank him for all the steps that he has done for the refugees.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining me now is Katie Couric.

    Katie, this is almost a lottery ticket that the pope gave to these families. How did it come about? How were they chosen?

    KATIE COURIC: Well, you know, the pope obviously took this trip to Lesbos, Hari.

    And then I think he claims — gives credit to a top adviser and also sort of the divine being for inspiring him to go ahead and take these three families with six children in total with him back to Rome.

    And, obviously, for secular reasons, they had to make sure that their papers were in order, so they had to deal with the Italian and the Greek authorities to ensure that everybody had their documents in order and that they qualified for asylum. So, it was really just the luck of the draw that these three families did, in fact, qualify and the pope said, please come with us.

    But they didn’t realize until they were getting ready to board the plane, the papal plane, that in fact they were going with the pope back to Rome. So, they described it as an “Alice in Wonderland” experience. And you can only imagine how thrilled they were to leave Lesbos, where I think the conditions are quite difficult, and finally get to Rome.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what was the backstory of these families? Were they supporters of either the rebels or Assad?

    KATIE COURIC: You know, they were caught in the crossfire, the proverbial crossfire.

    The younger couple, Hasan and Nour, were civil engineers working outside. They lived in a suburb of Damascus and they were working for the government, but they were not sympathetic to the Assad regime. So they were caught between all these different groups that are against the Assad regime, anti-Assad groups and ISIS and all kinds of different individuals.

    And they have a 2-year-old son, so, clearly, they very felt very unsafe on a daily basis. And they were worried that people, because they worked for the government, would think they were sympathetic to Assad, which they were not at all.

    Meanwhile, the other couple, Suhila and Ramy, he’s a teacher and she’s a tailor. And they lived in a city close to the Iraqi border that was surrounded by ISIS. There was a lot of hunger, people dying from starvation, people stranded there.

    And, again, they were caught between these two different worlds, the pro Assad forces and the anti-Assad forces, specifically ISIS. So, they felt — they feared for their lives and decided they should leave with their children, who are 18, 16 and 7.

    Plus — plus, I should mention, Hari, that both Hasan and the son, the 18-year-old son of Suhila and Ramy, were being drafted to fight in the war. And that’s another reason they wanted to leave the country, because I guess they thought that that would lead to certain death.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Katie, how did these families get to Lesbos to be picked by the pope?

    KATIE COURIC: Well, Hari, first, they had to make it to Turkey.

    And Hasan and Nour stayed in Turkey for three months just waiting to make the treacherous journey across the Aegean Sea to Lesbos. And they had to try on four different occasions. They were caught by the Turkish authorities twice. Once, they didn’t want to get in because they thought it was too dangerous.

    You can only imagine making this journey with a 2-year-old child. But they finally made it on the fourth try. And then the other couple, Ramy and Suhila, they were able to get into a rubber boat, but the motor stopped working in the middle of the Aegean Sea. They had to wait for very a nerve-racking hour-and-a-half, until, finally, it started working again.

    And so you can only imagine just how stressful this is. One of the couples who wasn’t able to join us, Hari, they have two small children. One of their children stopped talking for a period of time because that child was so traumatized. And another wakes up in the middle of the night.

    So, this is really the human cost of this refugee crisis. And I think hearing from these families personally, I think that brought that home in a way that, you know, is in a way that we don’t often hear.

    So, I really was grateful that we were able to hear about their experiences firsthand.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What are that are plans now? Are they going to stay in Italy?

    KATIE COURIC: They are going to stay in Italy. They’re learning to speak Italian. Their children are in school or in day care. They’re hoping they’re going to find some kind of employment.

    But unemployment is 12 in Italy, 37 percent, if you can believe it, for younger people. That’s why they were hoping to go to France or Germany. But I think, because they have been so embraced, Catholic Charities is caring for them, they have given them a place to stay, they’re so grateful for their security, I think they’re going to try to build a new life in Italy and hopefully, they say, return to Syria one day, if they can.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yahoo News global anchor Katie Couric, thanks so much for joining us.

    KATIE COURIC: Thanks, Hari.

    The post How these refugees’ journey ended with a ride on the pope’s plane appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: Africa has vast agricultural potential, yet, over the past half-century, its per capita food production has declined drastically. In fact, it’s gone from being a net food exporter to now importing much of its food.

    The reasons are complex, but they include rapid population growth, political strife and weak institutions.

    As part of our ongoing collaboration with The Atlantic, we profile an American farmer and philanthropist who has made it his mission to reverse the trend in Africa.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Howard Buffett is a serious farmer. He is a conservationist, intent on finding better, more sustainable ways to grow food.

    And he is a teacher, sharing what he knows with farmers in Africa, giving them tools to better feed their people.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT, Philanthropist: This is all going to take nutrients out of the soil.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He is also a man with a lot of money to spend on making those things happen.

    It’s been described that one of your goals or your main goal is ending world hunger.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Well, you got to have a goal.


    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: But we’re not going to end world hunger, but, you know, I think every step we can take in that direction is something positive.

    Just slam it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You just slam it?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Hard. There. You got it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, now, what do you call this machine again?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: 82-25-R John Deere. It’s a tractor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Howard Buffett loves his toys.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: My mom always told me I didn’t have enough Tonka toys when I grew up, so I think I have them now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mom would be the late Susan Buffett, who died in 2004. And dad, you guessed it, is Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men.

    You grew up in Nebraska. What was it like? I mean, what do you remember about being in this family?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: I think people think it was different because of my dad.

    And the truth is, when I was growing up, my dad wasn’t well-known at all. We grew up in a very normal environment, went to public schools, walked down to the bus stop and went to school.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, your dad — because of your dad’s success, you were leading a pretty comfortable upbringing.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Oh, we didn’t have to worry about anything. And we were always told that, if we wanted to go to college, it would be paid for, if we wanted to go to medical school, it would be paid for, which is kind of funny, because none of the three of us actually finished college. We all started, but we never quite made it all the way through.

    I just had a hard time adjusting in college. So I went out and I bought a bulldozer, and I started building terraces on farm ground and taking out trees and building basements. And it was something I always wanted to do, so I went out and did it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what did that lead to next?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Well, ultimately, it led to the fact that I’m sitting here, because I had some experiences with neighbors who are farmers and who let me get involved in some of the fieldwork and some of the things that they did.

    And I really fell in love with farming.

    We have a total of 4,500 acres.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Buffet’s Illinois farms can produce more than 8,000 tons of corn and soybeans in a year. But they’re also living laboratories, part of research funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, to improve agriculture both here and overseas.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: So, what we have in this field, the first thing I want to point out is all the cornstalks from last year.


    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: We do no tillage in this field, zero.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why not?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Because it helps build soil health. You save fuel, because you only make one pass over this field, instead of maybe three or four.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, but you just let the stalks rot; is that basically it?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Yes, exactly.

    So, if you pull this out, you see the earthworm right here, and the earthworm right there?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Oh, my gosh, yes, right there.


    So, any gardener will tell you this. Worms are the best thing you can have. But if I take that shovel and I go to dig up a shovel worth of soil across the road, where they have tilled it year after year, finding these earthworms, it’s pretty unlikely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Howard G. Buffett foundation plans to give away an estimated $4 billion over the next 30 years, most of the money coming from shares of Berkshire Hathaway, the company founded by the senior Mr. Buffett.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: My dad gave us this great opportunity with the foundation, and it was natural for me to look at smallholder farmers and see, well, how do we improve agriculture, and how do we make it so the farmers feed their families better?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Howard Buffett has immersed himself on the African continent as few other philanthropists have.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: My dad has said, go out and don’t try to hit the ball out of the park every time, but don’t be scared to swing. And swing means you’re going to miss, and it means that you’re going to fail some of the times.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The foundation has invested heavily in the strife-ridden Democratic Republic of Congo.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: We’re building three hydro plants in Eastern Congo. And we started the first one in 2012-2013, in the middle of very intense conflict, with the M23 and the Congolese government.

    And we had the site. When we started, it was shelled by RPGs and everything else.

    CALESTOUS JUMA, Harvard University: The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an area where not many donors are interested in operating. And so he’s taking very high risks in going to those areas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Harvard Professor Calestous Juma says Buffett’s willingness to take those risks has brought him respect across the continent.

    CALESTOUS JUMA: He’s visited all the African countries. He’s looked at what happens, what’s happening on the ground. He is a farmer himself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Most other foundations wouldn’t dare go into a country where there’s that level of conflict, where that — where you could see fighting break out.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: To me, those are the people who need the most help.

    I mean, you’re looking at the most devastated populations. You’re looking at devastated infrastructure, no governance, no rule of law. If you want to talk about helping the most impoverished populations, you’re talking about going to where conflict is. There’s no doubt about that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yet one of Buffett’s most ambitious projects is in one of Africa’s currently most peaceful nations, Rwanda, where the foundation will spend half-a-billion dollars, principally to train young Rwandan farmers.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: You would have young adults graduating with four-year degrees in agricultural processing and plant science, and things that today they don’t really have access to.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And why is that important? Why does it matter?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Well, if you want to advance agriculture, I mean, look at what we did in this country. The university system is what built our agriculture into a powerhouse originally.

    CALESTOUS JUMA: Historically, African agriculture was considered to be something that peasants did, therefore, didn’t require training.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in Illinois, we see yet another aspect of the farmer-philanthropist, Auxiliary Deputy Sheriff Howard Buffett. For the past four years, he’s volunteered for a job it’s safe to say few other foundation heads have held.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: The one thing that I have gotten out of being an auxiliary sheriff, deputy sheriff, is seeing a whole underside of this country that I had no idea existed.

    I mean, the poverty, the domestic abuse, the substance abuse, the attitude of people about a lot of things, I mean, I have been — it’s hard to surprise me, but I have been surprised at some of the things I have experienced and seen as a deputy sheriff.

    SHERIFF TOM SCHNEIDER, Macon County, Illinois: Howard Buffett is probably more prepared than a lot of other younger deputies coming on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Macon County Sheriff Tom Schneider sings his praises.

    SHERIFF TOM SCHNEIDER: The amount of hours that he has put in with deputies, it is — basically surpasses everybody else. He goes through training on a daily basis, and he’s always educating himself to see how he can perform at a higher level.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, here you are, somebody who’s seen the world, who’s seen a lot, and yet this is something that only in the last few years you have been able to witness up close.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: I have witnessed in a way that a civilian, a normal citizen wouldn’t be able to witness it.

    You see it every single day. And you’re making decisions about how to deal with it, which makes it very real.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, my question is, then how do you decide, where’s your greater passion? Because you clearly have that great passion to make changes in a place like Rwanda, but you also — you also clearly have a passion here.

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Your first obligation is always at home. I mean, you can’t ever walk away from the responsibilities that you have at home. But I also think we have a huge responsibility internationally, because we are a leader. And we need to maintain that leadership.

    And so, for me, I don’t see that — you can’t separate them. They’re both critical. But you cannot — you can never walk away from your responsibilities at home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it bother you that you’re known to so many people as Warren Buffett’s son?

    HOWARD G. BUFFETT: Never bothered me ever, never, no. I don’t think about it that way. I feel like I’m doing what I can do.

    And the truth is, I’m able to do so many things because of my dad that I couldn’t do otherwise. He’s been an amazing father.

    CALESTOUS JUMA: Howard Buffett is someone who has brought his own personal experience and integrity to probably one of the world’s largest and critical challenges, which is being able to generate food security for a billion people.

    And I think that takes incredible courage and commitment to be able to do something of that kind.

    TOM SCHNEIDER: Here, within the last week, he was out with an officer that had did an arrest, and the individual was cold. He offered up his coat to that individual, so that they would be warm. The individual said, “Boo-fay.”

    And he goes, “Yes, some people say that — well, or Buffett, like Warren Buffett.”

    And he goes, “Yes, Yes, I have heard of him.”

    And the individual sits back and goes, “Well, you kind of look like him.”

    “Yes, I have heard that.”

    Never once did they even realize that it was Howard Buffett, his son.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: We want to note that BNSF Railway, an underwriter of this broadcast, is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. That connection had no impact on the reporting of this story.

    The post How farmer-philanthropist Howard Buffett is planting hope in Africa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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