Tuesday, April 29, 2014

UKRAINE - The Russian Attempted Takeover in the East

"Street violence erupts in Eastern Ukraine as U.S. announces sanctions on Putin allies" (Part-1) PBS NewsHour 4/28/2014

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Tensions in Eastern Ukraine spilled over into more violence today, as the Obama administration announced additional sanctions on Russian leaders and companies with close ties to President Putin.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News has this report.

LINDSEY HILSUM, Independent Television News:  Tonight, those who support Ukraine held a march in the eastern town of Donetsk, protected, supposedly, by the police.

But pro-Russian thugs soon disrupted the rally, beating up demonstrators with batons and stones.  Several were injured, and the demonstrators forced to flee.  Those agitating in favor of Russia deny they’re doing Moscow’s bidding, but the U.S. government sees President Putin’s hand, and today imposed further sanctions on some of the Russian leader’s closest friends.

Seventeen organizations or companies are sanctioned, including some controlled by Putin associates Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire, and Arkady Rotenberg, his old judo partner and childhood friend.

Amongst the seven individuals sanctioned are Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, and Igor Sechin, the president of Rosneft, the world’s largest traded oil company.

Sechin, one of President Putin’s closest advisers, is sanctioned as an individual, but it’s hard to separate the man from the company, Rosneft.  Here he is a year ago with the head of BP, Bob Dudley.

ROBERT DUDLEY, BP:  Ladies and gentlemen, it’s great for me to welcome Igor Ivanovich here at BP today.  And I think this is the beginning today of a great partnership between BP and Rosneft.

LINDSEY HILSUM:  BP has a 20 percent stake in Rosneft, to which it said today it remained committed.  Rosneft said the sanctions wouldn’t affect cooperation with its partners, but the company share price dropped, as did its credit rating.

In the city of Kharkiv today, the deputy mayor was shot in the back.  As Ukraine grows more lawless, the E.U. is to announce further sanctions on Russia tomorrow.  Europe is one step behind the U.S. because of its closer economic ties to Russia, but they’re trying to give an impression of unity.

Earlier today, Kostiantynivk became the latest town to join the Balaclava Republic, as pro-Russian demonstrators took over the local administration building.  Western sanctions may be hurting some Russian individuals, but there’s no sign that they are deterring President Putin from continuing to stir it up in Ukraine.

"U.S. sanctions Putin’s friends and advisors to force ‘clear choice’ on Ukraine" (Part-2) PBS NewsHour 4/28/2014


SUMMARY:  The Obama administration has announced additional sanctions on Russian officials and key companies with close ties to President Putin to persuade Moscow to diffuse tensions in Ukraine.  Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken joins Gwen Ifill to discuss the strategy behind these new sanctions, their potential to hurt U.S. companies and the prospect of further sanctions still in reserve.

EDUCATION - Good News, High School Graduation Rates Over 80%

"What’s driving gains in high school graduation rates?" PBS NewsHour 4/28/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Some good news to report today from the world of public education:

For the first time in recent years, American high schools have cracked a milestone on graduation rates, reaching 80 percent.

Jeffrey Brown has the story, as part of our American Graduate project, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  In fact, 81 percent of American high schools graduated on time in 2012.  That is up from 73 percent six years earlier.  The report is based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and was compiled by a coalition called America’s Promise Alliance.

Joining us now is John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises, one member of that group, and he’s an author of today’s report.  He has been adviser to the American Graduate project.

And welcome to you.

JOHN BRIDGELAND, Civic Enterprises:  Thank you.  Nice to be with you.

JEFFREY BROWN:  So, what is driving the good news?  What — how did we get there?

JOHN BRIDGELAND:  Well, the significant gains in graduation rates have actually been among Hispanic students and African-Americans since 2006.

And these students, half of African-Americans and 40 percent of Hispanics, were trapped in these dropout factory schools, where it was literally a 50-50 proposition whether you graduated or not.

ECONOMY - Is GDP the Best Way to Measure Prosperity?

"Finding GDP alternatives to quantify ‘unpriceable’ prosperity" PBS NewsHour 4/28/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  What’s the best way measure a country’s economic growth and the prosperity of its citizens?  Some think the U.S. government is using the wrong yardstick, particularly amid concerns about income inequality and other quality-of-life issues.

Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, takes a look at alternatives to the quarterly report known as GDP.

But, first, he had to penetrate a batch of confusing initials.  It’s part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  In 1968 then presidential candidate Robert Kennedy blasted our country’s main measure of economic progress, called GNP in those days.

ROBERT KENNEDY:  It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warhead, yet the Gross National Product doesn’t allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play.  It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

PAUL SOLMAN:  These days we rely on GDP, Gross Domestic Product, GNP’s near proxy, which measures the total dollar value of goods and services sold in the U.S. in a year, plus exports, minus imports.

The measure still leaves out the things the Kennedy emphasized, but that’s because they’re just too tough to measure.

Monday, April 28, 2014

AMERICA - It's National Park Week!

"Meet America’s newest historic landmarks" PBS NewsHour 4/27/2014

ALISON STEWART:  It’s one of those stories that comes and goes with little attention paid.

We’re talking about “National Park Week.”

It’s around this time every year that the Department of Interior designates new national historic landmarks.  There are roughly 2500 of them on the list:  buildings, properties, even objects that represent important aspects of American history.  This past week, four more were added to the list.

In Detroit, iconic murals by the legendary Mexican artist Diego Rivera, considered some of his finest work.  They’re called Detroit Industry, and cover four walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts.  The murals were commissioned to celebrate Detroit’s history of manufacturing, especially the automobile industry.

Then there’s the 44-acre farm of politician and diplomat Adlai Stevenson II, located about 35 miles north of Chicago.  A former Illinois governor and ambassador to the UN, Stevenson also ran twice for president unsuccessfully against Dwight Eisenhower.  Stevenson lived on the farm for most of his adult life.

Another new landmark, north of Philadelphia:  the home and studio complex of renowned woodworker George Nakashima.  He was a major figure in the American craft movement.  Many of his pieces featured large slabs of wood with raw edges and imperfections like cracks and knots.

And on a more somber note, the site of a 1956 plane crash in Arizona.  Two planes collided mid-air over a remote part of the Grand Canyon, killing all 128 aboard.

At the time it was the deadliest accident in commercial aviation history, and the Federal Aviation Administration was created just a few years later to increase safety.  But in a curious twist, the site’s exact location is secret, officially closed for years.  The Park Service told NewsHour that’s the policy for sensitive sites.

So unlike the other three new national landmarks – it’s unlikely the public will ever get to visit this one.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 4/25/2014

"Shields and Brooks on Georgia gun rights, Southern Senate races" PBS NewsHour 4/25/2014


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the Supreme Court upholding the right of Michigan citizens to say you can't use race as a criteria for college admission, a new expansive gun rights law in Georgia and an update on four Senate races in the South.

ART - All the World's a Stage at Shakespeare's 450th Birthday

My personal favorite is the 1990 film "Hamlet" with Mel Gibson.  I've also seen the play live at San Diego's Old Globe several times.

"To be … performed: Hamlet to haunt stages in every country in the world" PBS NewsHour 4/25/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Some four centuries after the death of William Shakespeare, London’s Globe Theatre is launching a plan to take the playwright’s tale of a tormented prince around the world.

Jeff is back with more on that.

KENNETH BRANAGH, Actor:  To be or not to be.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Famous words, famous play, the most famous playwright in the English language.

William Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet” in the early 17th century, shortly after his acting company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men, moved into the Globe playhouse.  In 1997, a reconstructed theater opened on the Thames River as Shakespeare’s Globe.

Now the ambitious plan is to take “Hamlet” to every country on Earth over the next two years, a project that began in London on Wednesday, Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

I talked earlier today to the Globe’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole.

AMERICA - Are We Living in George Orwell's '1984' Society

NOTE:  Chula Vista, CA, San Diego County, is the city just north of where I live (South San Diego).

George Orwell, novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four"

IMHO:  You do NOT have expectation of privacy in public areas, which includes streets and highways, nor should you.

"With power of facial recognition and high-tech surveillance, where to draw the line between safety and spying?" (Part-1) PBS NewsHour 4/25/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  During the past year, we have learned a lot about the U.S. government’s surveillance program.

But those efforts are not limited to the National Security Agency.  Local law enforcement agencies are also gathering and mining unprecedented amounts of data.  Privacy advocates worry police can use this information to track anyone at any time without a warrant.

The Center for Investigative Reporting, in partnership with KQED San Francisco, has been looking into these new tools for fighting crime.

The center’s Amanda Pike has this report.

AMANDA PIKE, Center for Investigative Reporting:  Officer Rob Halverson of the Chula Vista Police Department is testing the technology that could change how police fight crime.

He’s on a call to verify the identity of a woman just arrested for possession of narcotics.  He doesn’t need to ask her name or check her I.D.  He just takes her picture.

OFFICER ROB HALVERSON, Chula Vista Police Department:  Just look here, please.

AMANDA PIKE:  His tablet uses facial recognition software to find the suspect’s mug shot and criminal history.

OFFICER ROB HALVERSON:  You can lie about your name.  You can lie about your date of birth.  You can lie about your address, but tattoos, birthmarks, scars don’t lie.

AMANDA PIKE:  Police have access to more data than ever before, raising questions about how that information is used and stored.  The tablet is part of a pilot program in San Diego County.

OFFICER ROB HALVERSON:  It’s been very helpful.  And some people just have to have the threat of, OK, you don’t want to tell us who you are?  We are just going to take a photo and we’re going to be able to compare.  And then when people kind of realize the technology we now have, they’re more likely to tell us their real name in that.

AMANDA PIKE:  More and more, police are using biometrics, biological markers from face scans and palm prints, in addition to fingerprints, to identify suspects.

"New surveillance techniques raise privacy concerns" (Part-2) PBS NewsHour 4/26/2014


SUMMARY:  A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED delves into a wide-scale surveillance system being developed for police forces.  How can the trade off between safety and privacy be negotiated as technology gets more and more sophisticated?

POLITICS - Dark Money 'Flips the Bird' to IRS Rules

"What Happens When a Dark Money Group Blows Off IRS Rules?  Nothing." by Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica 4/25/2014

The Government Integrity Fund spent most of its money on election ads, despite IRS rules prohibiting a social welfare nonprofit from doing so.

To see how easy it is for a dark money group to ignore the Internal Revenue Service, look no further than the loftily named Government Integrity Fund.

The Fund, an Ohio nonprofit, spent more than $1 million in 2012 on TV ads attacking Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and praising his Republican opponent, Josh Mandel.  Now the Fund's tax return, which ProPublica obtained from the IRS this week, indicates that the group spent most of its money on politics — even though IRS rules say nonprofits like the Fund aren't allowed to do that.

The Government Integrity Fund was founded in May 2011 and applied later that year for IRS recognition of its tax-exempt status, swearing under penalty of perjury that it would not engage in politics but would instead "promote the social welfare of the citizens of Ohio."  Within two months, the IRS had recognized the group.

It then devoted much of its resources to backing Mandel's unsuccessful bid to unseat Brown.  As previously detailed by ProPublica, the Fund was linked to a former top Mandel staffer.

The Fund's return highlights the ways such nonprofits, known as dark money groups because they are not required to disclose their donors, can skirt IRS rules designed to limit their political activities.  Such groups are playing an increasingly prominent role in elections, spending more than $256 million on election activity in 2012.

Dark money groups can spend money on politics as long as they can persuade the IRS that their primary purpose is social welfare.  This can lead to quite creative accounting on tax forms, with groups describing ads that should qualify as political under IRS rules as "education" or "issue advocacy."

On the Government Integrity Fund's latest tax return — for 2012 — the group told the IRS it spent $5.2 million overall.  Of that, $2 million went to two super PACs — mostly the Fund's sister super PAC, the Government Integrity Fund Action Network — which then used the money to pay for different ads than the ones the Fund bought.  According to the filing, this $2 million made up all of the Fund's political spending in 2012.

But that didn't include an additional $1.08 million the Government Integrity Fund spent on TV ads praising Mandel and attacking Brown in the spring and summer of 2012, which ProPublica reported on in September 2012.  (The spending was tallied by Brown consultants.  The lawyer listed on the Fund's incorporation papers confirmed that the group spent more than $1 million on the ads.)

If the Fund had categorized the additional money it spent on the ads as political, almost 60 percent of its expenditures would have gone toward elections — which would seem to violate IRS rules that say a social welfare nonprofit's primary purpose can't be politics.

"Josh Mandel served our country with two tours in Iraq," one ad said.  "Now he's fighting for taxpayers, fighting for our future."  Another slammed Brown, contrasting his performance in 2012 with that of his younger self.  "Young Sherrod Brown voted more for Ohio," it said.  "Today's Sherrod Brown — he just votes the party line.  Where did the young Sherrod go?"

The ads stopped short of telling people how to vote, but three nonprofit experts who reviewed them for ProPublica said they all qualified as election ads under IRS rules.

"There's no question," said Brian Galle, a Boston College associate professor of law who has written about political activity by nonprofits.  "It's not even close.  They're blatantly political advertisements."

The Fund now appears to be inactive.  Its website is no longer operating.  The Fund's president, Thomas Norris, who signed its tax return, did not respond to requests for comment.

"I think they existed solely to help Josh Mandel," said Justin Barasky, the Brown campaign's communications director, this week.

Unraveling what the Government Integrity Fund spent in 2012 wasn't possible until recently because the group didn't file its tax return until January of this year, when it was two months overdue.  The long wait highlights one of the major problems with regulating dark money groups and their spending:  The IRS typically doesn't look at these groups until a tax return is filed, often more than a year after an election has been decided.

Even with the return in hand, several aspects of its operations remain confusing.

In one spot, the group says $4.6 million of its $5.2 million in expenditures were made as grants "and similar amounts paid."  But it doesn't identify which groups received the grants, as the IRS requires, or what the "similar amounts paid" might have gone toward.  At the end of the form, the group says only $1.1 million went toward grants — again, without saying who received the grants — with the rest of the $4.6 million going to its sister super PAC and what it classifies as "public education."

The group offers no details on what the $1.5 million attributed to education included — mathematically, though, it would have to include the ads it bought related to the Brown-Mandel race.

Experts scoffed at the idea that the ads qualified as education.

"There's no way you can claim these are education.  If this is public education, then everything is public education," said Donald Tobin, a law professor at Ohio State University who specializes in the intersection of tax and campaign finance law.  "These are clearly designed to be political ads to benefit or oppose a candidate.  And that's not social welfare activity."

The Fund attributes its remaining expenses mainly to fundraising fees paid to three companies.  No records could be found for two of the three companies.  And, according to the return, none of them raised any money for the group.

The nonprofit is not alone in how it categorizes its ad spending, as detailed in past ProPublica stories.  For example, one group, the Coalition for American Values Action, told the IRS it spent $508,491 in 2012, almost all of it for the " creation of videos to educate Americans on various issues that affect their lives," and said it spent nothing on politics.  Yet it actually donated more than three-quarters of its money to a political action committee that bought election ads.

It's an open question how vigorously the IRS, which doesn't comment on individual taxpayers like the Fund, will pursue groups for irregularities.  The agency has revoked the nonprofit status of only one social welfare nonprofit, a liberal group, and its affiliates since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 paved the way for dark money groups to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into outside election ads.

Experts on nonprofits say the IRS has taken an even more hands-off approach since top officials admitted the agency had targeted applications from conservative groups for extra scrutiny, sparking a scandal and investigations.

The IRS has proposed new regulations to curtail political spending by social welfare nonprofits, but the agency has acknowledged that there's virtually no chance the regulations will be in place by this year's midterm election.

"This kind of nonsense just shows that the IRS should remain committed to a meaningful set of reforms, even if they can't get them done in time for this election cycle," said Galle, the law professor.

HUMOR - Colbert's Tribute to Cliven Bundy Nutcase

The Ballad of Cliven Bundy
Colbert Report

Friday, April 25, 2014

FDA - Proposal to Regulate E-Cigarettes

Nicotine IS a addicting drug, period.  No matter how it's delivered.  What the FDA should be doing is regulating all nicotine delivery products the same why any addictive drug.

"Appeal growing among kids, FDA cracks down on ‘wild west’ of e-cigarettes" PBS NewsHour 4/24/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that it intends for the first time to regulate the ever-growing business of electronic cigarettes.  Sales have grown to $3 billion a year.  And some public health experts are worried about its rise.

The number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012.  Under the new rules, sales would be banned to anyone under the age of 18.  Companies would have to register their products and ingredients with the FDA, but they can continue marketing to adults.

New regulations would also apply to cigars, pipe tobacco, and hookahs or water pipes, for the first time.

There are many questions about the agency’s approach.

Mitch Zeller is the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.  And he joins me now.

EDUCATION - Charter Schools Push-Back

Alternate Post Title:  How Big-Money Buys Your Child's Education

"Are charter schools monopolizing public resources?" PBS NewsHour 4/24/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A little more than a decade ago, only about 300,000 students were enrolled in charter schools nationwide.

As their growth has soared, especially in cities, nearly 2 million students are now enrolled.  In New York City alone, attendance has jumped from 2,300 children a year to nearly 70,000.  But that expansion has created serious competition for limited public resources.

Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports.

PROTESTER:  Save our schools!  Save our schools!

JOHN TULENKO, Learning Matters:  In early March, thousands of charter school supporters rode buses for hours to come to Albany, New York’s state capital, to stop a school of theirs from being closed.

NARRATOR:  Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking away a public school.

JOHN TULENKO:  A $4 million dollar ad campaign drove the message home.

NARRATOR:  Don’t take away our children’s future.

JOHN TULENKO:  And it quickly became national news.

MAN:  The mayor of New York wants to shut down the highest-performing school?

WOMAN:  Correct.

MAN:  It’s disgusting.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

SOUTH SUDAN - The Ongoing Conflict, Massacre

"Rebel leader denies blame for South Sudan massacre" (Part-1) PBS NewsHour 4/23/2014

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  A massacre in the world’s newest nation has prompted condemnation from the White House.  This comes as efforts to resolve the political strife in South Sudan and ease a looming humanitarian crisis suffered another setback this week, after reconciliation talks were postponed.

And a warning to viewers:  Some images in this report may be disturbing.

The U.N. convoy made its way through the streets of Bentiu over the weekend, and bodies quickly came into view.  They were strewn in the streets and piled in front of the mosque, where people had sought safety.

Toby Lanzer, a U.N. representative in South Sudan, witnessed the aftermath of the killings firsthand.

TOBY LANZER, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General:  What I have so far seen in the mosque and in other parts of town has really been very, very heart-wrenching.  Certainly, atrocities have been committed here on very significant scale.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  South Sudan’s foreign minister charged that rebels of the Nuer ethnic group, led by the country’s former vice president, were behind last week’s violence.

BARNABA BENJAMIN, Minister of Foreign Affairs, South Sudan:  The rebels of Dr. Riek Machar have violated the cessation of hostilities and have actually — have carried out a massacre in Bentiu town, where civilians were targeted at the churches, at the mosques, and at the hospital.  It is one of the most disgusting events one has ever seen.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Machar rejected the accusations, and said his troops could not have been involved.

South Sudan’s 11 million people are made up of about 60 indigenous ethnic groups, the largest being the Nuer and the Dinka.  The country has struggled with ethnic fighting since gaining independence from Sudan in 2011.  But U.N. officials say that, in Bentiu, the targets included not only Dinka, but traders from Darfur and Nuer people who refused to cheer the rebels’ arrival.

President Obama condemned the killing.  In a statement, he said:  “These acts of violence are an abomination.  They are a betrayal of the trust the South Sudanese people have put in their leaders.”

Meanwhile, thousands of people headed for protection at the U.N.’s base in Bentiu.  It now holds 22,000 civilians, but they’re limited to just one liter of water per person per day.

"Will violent rivalry tip South Sudan toward famine?" (Part-2) PBS NewsHour 4/23/2014


SUMMARY:  The slaughter of hundreds of civilians is just the latest act of reprisal violence in South Sudan that began as a rivalry between two politicians of different ethnic groups.  Judy Woodruff takes a closer look at the root of the crisis, tensions over natural resources and the urgency of humanitarian aid and regional diplomacy with Nancy Lindborg of USAID and Khalid Medani of McGill University.

HEALTH - Big-Pharma Ransoms New Hepatitis-C Drug

More Big-Pharma holding your heath hostage for a huge ransom.  Pay big or die!  Legalized crime.

"New Hepatitis-C drug raises hope at a hefty price" PBS NewsHour 4/23/2014


SUMMARY:  A new drug has a 90 to 100 percent chance of curing the Hepatitis-C virus, but costs tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment.  The announcement by the manufacturer that it earned more than $2 billion in the year’s first quarter raises the question, who should pay when drugs are highly effective, but extremely expensive?  Hari Sreenivasan reports on the profits, coverage and costs.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  ....Who should pay when drugs are very effective, but extremely expensive?

That’s an important question for the U.S. health care system as new treatments come along, and it’s a matter of real concern over a new drug that has a 90 percent to 100 percent chance of curing the Hepatitis-C virus.  Its manufacturer announced record sales yesterday of more than $2 billion in just the first quarter of the year.

Profits, coverage and costs are all at issue, as Hari Sreenivasan reports.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):   Kim Bossley knows how fragile life can be.   In 2005, Bossley was diagnosed with Hepatitis-C, a blood-borne virus that can destroy the body’s liver.

KIM BOSSLEY:  I went from stage one to stage four, decomposed liver, very quickly.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  News of her rapidly declining health was devastating for the 46-year-old mother of two.

KIM BOSSLEY:  You fall into a depression when you’re diagnosed with Hep-C.  Your own mortality rate hits you.

DR. GREGORY T. EVERSON, University of Colorado Hospital:  That’s a pretty good response.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  This fall, after nine years of battling the virus, Kim Bossley was accepted into a treatment trial with a new drug called Sovaldi.

DR. GREGORY T. EVERSON:  So, Kim, we will check your labs here.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Almost immediately after taking Sovaldi, the Hepatitis-C virus disappeared.

ART - New Exhibit of 120 American Artists 1850 to 1970

"‘Made in the USA’ examines the evolution of American art" by Frank Carlson, PBS NewsHour 4/23/2014


Phillips Collection curator Susan Frank discusses “Made in the USA,” a new exhibit showcasing works by more than 120 American artists from 1850 to 1970.  American masters like Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper are represented in the exhibit, as well as under recognized works from African-American artist Jacob Lawrence and many more.

What does an 1886 oil painting share with an abstract mobile made of sheet metal and wire in 1950?

They both belong to “Made in the USA,” an exhibit at Washington, D.C.’s Phillips Collection that chronicles how American artists evolved — from romantic depictions in the 19th century, to dealing with urbanization and its discontents in the 20th, to abstract expressionism following World War II.

Spanning a vast period — 1850 to 1970 — the show relies on the tastes of the museum’s founder, Duncan Phillips, who sought out works that he believed worth protecting, as its filter.

“Our founder spent his entire career, 50 years of collecting, really trying to identify American artists who were at the beginning of their careers, and assembling what he believed to be the very best American art,” says exhibit curator Susan Frank.

Through more than 200 works, the collection showcases artists from very different backgrounds and periods as they wrestled with and interpreted their sense of place in a vast and changing America, in settings both rural and urban.

The exhibit runs through August 31, 2014.

HEALTH - Cancer, Where Are the Low-Cost Treatments?

Big-Pharma, sacrificing your health in the name of bigger $profits$.  Money before people.

"MIA In The War On Cancer:  Where Are The Low-Cost Treatments?" by Jake Bernstein, ProPublica 4/23/2014


Big Pharma’s focus on blockbuster cancer drugs squeezes out research into potential treatments that are more affordable.  Says one researcher:  “What is scientific and sexy is driven by what can be monetized.”

Michael Retsky awoke from surgery to bad news.  The tumor in his colon had spread to four of his lymph nodes and penetrated the bowel wall.  When Retsky showed the pathology report to William Hrushesky, his treating oncologist, the doctor exclaimed, "Mamma mia."

"Michael had a mean looking cancer," Hrushesky remembers.

Retsky didn't need anyone to tell him his prognosis.  Although trained as a physicist, he had switched careers to cancer research in the early 1980s and spent more than a decade modeling the growth of breast cancer tumors.  During his treatment, he joined the staff of one of the most prestigious cancer research labs in the country.

In the absence of chemotherapy, there was an 80 percent chance of relapse.  Even with therapy, there was a 50 percent chance the cancer would return.  The standard treatment was brutal.  Six months of the highest dose of chemotherapy his body could withstand and, after that, nothing but hope.

Like many cancer patients, Retsky didn't much like the odds.  Unlike most cancer patients, however, he had the knowledge to question them.  His own research had sown doubts that standard chemotherapy, as used the world over to treat colon and some breast cancers, was always the best approach.  In collaboration with Hrushesky, the two devised an inexpensive, low-impact chemo treatment following surgery that dripped smaller doses of the drug into his body over a longer period of time.

Seventeen years later and cancer free, Retsky cannot be entirely sure the treatment cured him, but he believes it likely did.  Numerous laboratory, animal and small human studies suggest that low-dose, continuous chemotherapy holds promise in shrinking tumors and preventing cancer's recurrence.  But the next step — testing what Retsky did in a large-scale clinical trial — is a long-shot given the way cancer treatments are developed today.

Take Michelle Holmes, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  She's been trying for years to raise money for trials on the effects of aspirin on breast cancer.  Animal studies, in vitro experiments and analysis of patient outcomes suggest that aspirin might help inhibit breast cancer from spreading.  Yet even her peers on scientific advisory boards appear uninterested, she says.

"For some reason a drug that could be patented would get a randomized trial, but aspirin, which has amazing properties, goes unexplored because it's 99 cents at CVS," says Holmes.

Increasingly, Big Pharma is betting on new blockbuster cancer drugs that cost billions to develop and can be sold for thousands of dollars a dose.  In 2010, each of the top 10 cancer drugs topped more than $1 billion in sales, according to Campbell Alliance, a health-care consulting firm.  A decade earlier, only two of them did.  Left behind are low-cost alternatives — therapies like Retsky's or existing off-label medications, including generics — that have shown some merit but don't have enough profit potential for drug companies to invest in researching them.

The newer drugs have in some cases shown dramatic life-extending results for patients.  Yet cancer remains the second-most-common cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease, killing about 580,000 people a year.  Worldwide, 60 percent of all cancer deaths occur in developing countries, where experts say the incidence of the disease is growing rapidly, as is a desperate need for affordable care.  That has added urgency to an active debate about whether efforts to combat cancer — and where to put scarce research dollars — need to be rethought.

"If we are winning the war on cancer, we are not winning that fast," says Vikas Sukhatme, Harvard faculty dean for academic programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the Victor J. Aresty Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Sukhatme and his wife Vidula, an epidemiologist, are among those trying to do something about it.  They have spearheaded a new nonprofit, Global Cures, to promote alternative treatments that are unlikely to attract commercial interest from drug companies.

Global Cures calls these forsaken therapies, " financial orphans."  To help patients and their doctors, the nonprofit is producing reports that explain the science behind promising orphan therapies — those that have shown merit in animal studies and limited human data.  And Global Cures also has set itself a more challenging goal — to find the money for clinical trials.

In one example, Retsky and a team of collaborators are exploring whether an inexpensive dose of a generic painkiller before breast cancer surgery might reduce lethal recurrences of the disease.  If results in a small retrospective study of 327 mastectomy patients in Europe were to bear out, the anti-inflammatory drug Ketorolac could save thousands of lives a year in the United States alone, Sukhatme has estimated.

The data behind the treatment are only suggestive, however, and more testing is required.  Retsky and his colleagues have been unable to raise the millions of dollars a large-scale trial would need to make a real determination, in part because no drug company has the incentive to fund such a study, they say.

Without the confirmation of large-scale human trials, doctors are reluctant to approve patient use of orphan therapies, even in cases where there is little else to offer.  It's a challenging conversation when a patient suggests an alternative medication to a doctor, who despite having the ability to prescribe off-label, doesn't want to risk making the situation worse.  "It borders on crossing the line between good evidence-based medicine and simply trying to deal with the desperate hopes of desperate patients," says Allen Lichter, chief executive officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  Nonetheless, Lichter acknowledges that there are financial orphans that do not get the review they deserve.

The financial orphan problem points to a deeper issue with the way cancer drugs are developed.  Pharmaceutical companies exist to make a profit and cannot be expected to cover many important areas of research that go unexplored, according to Larry Norton,deputy physician-in-chief for Breast Cancer Programs at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  It's a gap in the system.

"The biggest challenge we have today is not necessarily the science," Norton says, "it's creating a business model that makes sense."

AMERICA - Better Idea on Collage Campus Integration and Affirmative Action

"Class Action:  A Challenge to the Idea that Income Can Integrate America’s Campuses" by Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica 4/24/2014


Update April 23, 2014:  The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action for women and racial minorities at public universities.  While the Court did not prohibit affirmative action altogether, it’s likely that other states may follow Michigan’s lead in eliminating the consideration of race in higher education and other areas.

Affirmative action occupies a telling place in a nation painfully aware of its racial inequities yet painfully divided over how to solve them.

Great numbers of Americans support the overarching goals of assuring equal access to educational opportunity and maintaining racial diversity in the country's institutions of higher learning.  At the same time, polls show Americans are deeply conflicted – often along racial lines – about policies that achieve those goals by allowing colleges to use race as a factor in their admissions decisions.

The latest chapter in this national struggle was supposed to come with the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of an affirmative action case involving a white student and the University of Texas.  But the ruling – announced Monday amid much anticipation – merely sent the case back to the lower courts for reconsideration.

Affirmative action, in its threadbare form, lives for now.  But there was enough in Monday's opinion to suspect it will be diminished further in time.

All of which makes it an opportune moment to think again about what some people think could be a fairer and more palatable way of ensuring diversity on America's campuses – affirmative action based on class.  The idea seems simple enough:  This approach would give poor students of any race a helping hand into college, and any policy that gives an admissions boost to lower-income students would naturally benefit significant numbers of black and Latino students.

Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the progressive think-tank The Century Foundation, is one of the principal proponents of what has come to be called "the economic integration movement."

"My primary interest is in ensuring that we have a fair process that looks at the biggest disadvantages that people face today, which I see as class-based," Kahlenberg said in a recent interview.  "That will end up helping low-income and working-class students of all races."

Kahlenberg knows that many dispute this belief.  But he says skepticism directed at the class-based solution has to be weighed against its dim alternative:  If race-based affirmative action disappears with no program to replace it, African Americans and Latinos on college campuses will disappear too.  Studies show that African-American and Latino enrollment at the nation's top 200 colleges would plummet by two-thirds if colleges stopped considering race when deciding whom to accept.

Yet ignoring race does not wipe its effects away.  A formula that uses class while disregarding race may be politically popular, but many scholars say race remains so powerful a factor that a class-based system would seriously reduce black and Latino representation at American colleges from their current levels.

At the heart of their argument:  Poor white Americans are still privileged when compared to poor African Americans and Latinos.  Use class as the basis for admissions preference, studies show, and the nation's colleges will be flush with poor white students.  "There are disadvantages that accrue to African Americans and Latinos that are not explained by class," said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.  "You simply cannot get race by using class."

The idea of abandoning race for an admissions system targeting those clinging to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder holds powerful sway for many who believe that in modern America race is no longer much of an obstacle to success.

There is no doubt that the greatest imbalance in American colleges is not white versus black or male versus female.  It is the wealthy versus everybody else.

Kahlenberg asserts that affluent students – those whose families earn at least $123,000 a year – outnumber poor students by 25-1 on the campuses of the nation's most select schools.  He said that while white Americans are twice as likely to earn a college degree as black Americans, the affluent are seven times as likely to earn one as the poor.

According to the most recent data available, about three-quarters of students at the nation's top 146 universities come from families in the upper quarter of the nation's economic scale.  Just 3 percent come from the bottom quarter.  A study released this year by The Brookings Institution documented how selective colleges enroll nearly all of the high-achieving high school seniors from families in the highest income quartile, but just one-third of the top low-income students.

"How should colleges ensure diversity?" PBS NewsHour 4/23/2014


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court upheld a ban on affirmative action in Michigan; at least seven other states have enacted similar laws.  A New York Times study looking at five states found that African-American and Latino enrollment fell immediately at flagship schools.  Gwen Ifill gets views from Dennis Parker of the American Civil Liberties Union and Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

INTERNET - Non-Neutrality, FCC's Shift on WEB Traffic (UPDATED)

Consumers, bend over and spread cheeks.

"F.C.C., in a Shift, Backs Fast Lanes for Web Traffic" by EDWARD WYATT, New York Times 4/23/2014


The principle that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers looks all but dead.

The Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that it would propose new rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.

The proposed changes would affect what is known as net neutrality — the idea that no providers of legal Internet content should face discrimination in providing offerings to consumers, and that users should have equal access to see any legal content they choose.

The proposal comes three months after a federal appeals court struck down, for the second time, agency rules intended to guarantee a free and open Internet.

Tom Wheeler, the F.C.C. chairman, defended the agency’s plans late Wednesday, saying speculation that the F.C.C. was “gutting the open Internet rule” is “flat out wrong.”  Rather, he said, the new rules will provide for net neutrality along the lines of the appeals court’s decision.

Still, the regulations could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to consumers.  For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail.

The rules are also likely to eventually raise prices as the likes of Disney and Netflix pass on to customers whatever they pay for the speedier lanes, which are the digital equivalent of an uncongested car pool lane on a busy freeway.

Consumer groups immediately attacked the proposal, saying that not only would costs rise, but also that big, rich companies with the money to pay large fees to Internet service providers would be favored over small start-ups with innovative business models — stifling the birth of the next Facebook or Twitter.

“If it goes forward, this capitulation will represent Washington at its worst,” said Todd O’Boyle, program director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.  “Americans were promised, and deserve, an Internet that is free of toll roads, fast lanes and censorship — corporate or governmental.”

If the new rules deliver anything less, he added, “that would be a betrayal.”

Mr. Wheeler rebuffed such criticism.  “There is no ‘turnaround in policy,’ ” he said in a statement.  “The same rules will apply to all Internet content.  As with the original open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted.”

Broadband companies have pushed for the right to build special lanes.  Verizon said during appeals court arguments that if it could make those kinds of deals, it would.

Under the proposal, broadband providers would have to disclose how they treat all Internet traffic and on what terms they offer more rapid lanes, and would be required to act “in a commercially reasonable manner,” agency officials said.  That standard would be fleshed out as the agency seeks public comment.

"Consumer groups warn dismantling net neutrality could stymie startup innovation" PBS NewsHour 4/24/2014


SUMMARY:  The Federal Communications Commission is on the brink of changing the longstanding net neutrality principle, which allows consumers unfettered access to web content, and limits the ability of Internet service providers to block or filter material.  New guidelines would allow some companies to charge more (to the content provider, like YouTube) for faster service.  Gwen Ifill talks to Cecilia Kang of The Washington Post about what’s at stake.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SUPREME COURT - Bans on Affirmative Action

"Why the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s right to ban affirmative action" PBS NewsHour 4/22/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Affirmative action made its reappearance at the Supreme Court today, as the justices weighed in on a Michigan ballot initiative that banned public colleges from using race as a factor in admissions.

By an unusually lopsided 6-2 decision, the justices dealt a blow to proponents of affirmative action, allowing Michigan to join several other states that have already banned or limited the practice.

For more on the court’s reasoning, we turn to Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal,” who was at the court today.

So, that 6-2 decision, that kind of tells the tale, doesn’t it?

MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal:  It does, Gwen.

The justices who were in among the six had different reasons for why they concluded that there was nothing wrong with Michigan’s ban here.  Justice Kennedy really wrote the lead opinion, and he was joined by the chief justice and Justice Samuel Alito.

Justice Kennedy seemed to take pains to make clear when he read a summary of his opinion from the bench that this case was really not about the constitutionality or the merits of race-conscious admissions, but it was really about who should make the determination about those merits.

And he said that there was nothing in the Constitution or the court’s earlier decisions that allowed the judiciary, gave it the authority to take from the voters under their own state laws the right to debate, learn and then act through their political process to resolve that debate.

SUPREME COURT - Commercial Broadcasters vs Aereo Streaming

MY TAKE:  IF Aereo is just like putting a TV antenna on your roof, then what's the problem?  One I could see is Aereo (and other such services) not being regulated to make sure they do ABSOLUTELY no editing to the content from commercial TV.  No deleting commercials or station ID, just like Cable TV.

"Justices consider future of TV and copyright in Aereo case" PBS NewsHour 4/22/2014


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court heard a request by television broadcasters to shut down Aereo, a TV streaming tech startup that has potential to alter the business model of traditional broadcasting.  For more on the case, Jeffrey Brown talks to former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Gary Shapiro, CEO of Consumer Electronics Association.

SCIENCE - Jurassic Park? Should We Revive the Woolly Mammoth?

"Potential to revive extinct animals raises ethical questions" PBS NewsHour 4/22/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And now, a story on this Earth Day that seems lifted from science fiction.

Researchers and entrepreneurs, many in California, are trying to bring back extinct species.  Some scientists believe it’s a way to correct past mistakes and even help endangered animals.

But just because scientists might be able to do this, are they crossing a line they shouldn’t?

Our colleagues at public TV station KQED in San Francisco explored that question in this story produced by Gabriela Quiros and narrated by Thuy Vu.

JULIANNE MOORE, Actress (Jurassic Park):  I will be right back.

JEFF GOLDBLUM, Actor (Jurassic Park):  Sarah, no, no.

THUY VU, KQED:  The cloned dinosaurs of the “Jurassic Park” movies captured viewers’ imaginations.  But 65 million years after their extinction, there’s no chance scientists can bring dinosaurs back, says University of California, Santa Cruz, biologist Beth Shapiro.

SEE:  "Reawakening Extinct Species" KQED Quest

SEATTLE - Battle Over the Minimum Wage

"How much does it really cost to live in a city like Seattle?" PBS NewsHour 4/22/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The battle over raising the minimum wage may be at a stalemate in Washington, D.C., right now, but, in Washington State, the fight is still under way.

Our economics reporter, Paul Solman, has the next in his series of stories on that subject, this one on just how much it really costs to live in a city like Seattle.

It’s part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  In Seattle this spring, rallies to raise the minimum wage, but not to the $10.10 being debated nationally.  Here, they’re talking about $15 an hour citywide, 62 percent higher than this year’s inflation index state minimum wage of $9.32, already highest in the nation.

PHILIP LOCKER, Socialist Alternative Party:  Wall Street and big business crashed the economy.  They got bailed out.  They’re making record profits.  But working people are faced with what?  Poverty wages, low wages, McJobs, student debt.  What’s our future?
PAUL SOLMAN:  Seattle multimillionaire investor and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer is a leader of the $15 wage movement, but he still helps run his family’s pillow company.

NICK HANAUER:  And, indeed, we have factories where we do not pay workers $15.  If my competitors pay $10 and we pay $15, we will surely go out of business.  A great challenge we face in the city of raising the minimum wage to $15 is precisely that dynamic.

PAUL SOLMAN:  But, look, says Hanauer, every economic decision involves tradeoffs.  It boils down to weighing the costs against the benefits.

And in this case:

NICK HANAUER:  The benefits overwhelm the costs.  When worker compensation goes up, everyone benefits, right, because those workers both go buy more stuff and need less services from taxpayers.

POLITICS - Anti-Voting State Laws vs Voting Rights

The agenda of the supporters of these new restrictions to voting is clear, to curtail the vote of liberal (aka Democratic) voters.  They have never presented documented evidence of wide-spread voter fraud.  It is not a coincidence that these laws are passed in Republican controlled states.

"Was the Supreme Court ruling a setback for voting rights?" PBS NewsHour 4/21/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  As you just heard, the Supreme Court’s rulings continue to resonate on any number of critical issues.  And as the midterm elections approach, we turn our attention tonight to one decision that could have immediate impact.

In the nearly-a-year since the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, five states have tightened access to voting.  From Texas to Virginia, state and local governments have taken steps to require voter identification, eliminate same-day registration, and to limit voting hours and locations.

The Obama administration is now pushing back, launching its own investigations into polling place complaints.  The president himself has led the charge, speaking earlier this month in New York.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  But the stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago.

GWEN IFILL:  Former President Bill Clinton suggested the Supreme Court decision was a setback for civil rights during a speech at the LBJ Library two days earlier.

FMR. PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:  And all of a sudden, there are all new barriers to voting to make it harder to vote.  Is this what Martin Luther King gave his life for?  Is this what Lyndon Johnson employed his legendary skills for?

U.S. CONSTITUTION - Six Suggested Amendments by Retired Supreme Court Justice

"How retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens would amend the constitution" PBS NewsHour 4/21/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  .....A former Supreme Court justice takes on the U.S. Constitution and the court he stepped away from.

John Paul Stevens was known in his 35 years in office for views that evolved from the time he was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford to one of the court’s most outspoken liberal voices.

Today, four years after retiring, the 94-year-old continues to make waves with an ambitious new book.  It’s titled “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

I talked to him last week in his chambers at the Supreme Court.

Justice John Paul Stevens, thank you for talking with us.

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS, U.S. Supreme Court:  Well, I’m happy to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You’re asking to amend the Constitution six different ways.  How practical is that?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS:  Well, it certainly would take time to do that job completely, but there’s no reason why — one or two amount amendments might be adopted before the others.

And I think the issues in each of the ones I discussed are sufficiently important that it’s worth spending time debating them and thinking about it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

INTERNET - Web Comments as Venue for Rudeness or Insults

"Taming the ‘Wild West’ of online comments" PBS NewsHour 4/20/2014


SUMMARY:  More and more websites are including online commenting as a feature for their visitors.  But sometimes the comment boards become venues for rudeness and insults.  These comments can influence how a reader perceives the story.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with web experts who help manage online communities and comments in different ways.

HEALTH - How Big-Pharma Manipulate Doctors

"Do free samples influence the way doctors prescribe drugs?" PBS NewsHour 4/20/2014


SUMMARY:  A new study from Stanford University's School of Medicine found that doctors who are allowed to hand out free samples of expensive drugs prescribe those drugs more often than doctors who don’t have access to free samples.  Dr. Alfred Lane, senior author of the report, talks with Hari Sreenivasan about the implications of the findings.

CANCER - Gene Discoveries Path to New Drugs

"New clinical trials underway for advanced lung cancer patients" PBS NewsHour 4/19/2014


HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Another medical story that caught our attention this week.  Word of what’s described as a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer.  What’s novel is not necessarily the drugs being used, but how many and how they’re being targeted.  Dr. Mark Kris, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, joins us.  So what are they doing in the U.K. with this clinical trial?  What’s so interesting about it?

DR. MARK KRIS, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:  They are taking a discovery that was made here almost ten years ago now where specific genes are damaged in lung tumors.  And the damage brought on by those genes makes those cancer cells very susceptible to medications.  So if you find one of these genetic changes and give a patient a drug targeting that, almost surely their cancer will shrink and normal tissues are not affected.  I mean it’s exactly what oncologists hope to do.  What they’re doing now in the U.K. is developing a nationwide program partnering with pharmaceutical companies that are developers of these drugs to do the testing in a much more generalized way and to test for many of these different gene mutations at the same time.  So in essence a patient might have ten chances to find something in the tumor that’s in their body.  Ten chances to get a medication.  And also the pharmaceutical companies supplying drugs to go along with the discovery of those genetic markers and help individual patients.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 4/18/2014

"Shields and Brooks on Keystone politics, Nevada land dispute" PBS NewsHour 4/18/2014


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the Keystone pipeline decision delay, a conflict in Nevada over private use of public land, Putin’s motives in the ongoing Ukraine crisis and the ramifications of awarding the Pulitzer Prize to reporting based on the Edward Snowden leaks.

VENEZUELA - Political Divisions Deepen

"Socialism after Chavez:  Political divisions deepen amid unrest in Venezuela" PBS NewsHour 4/18/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  In March of last year, the 14-year rule over Venezuela by the controversial and charismatic Hugo Chavez came to a dramatic end when the leader died of cancer.

His handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, was elected president soon after.  As Maduro marks the end of his first year in office tomorrow, divisions have deepened in a country that has become violent in recent months.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  Late last week, after more than three months of sometimes deadly street protests throughout Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro met with his political opposition.

The six-hour televised session brokered by the Vatican and three South American foreign ministers attracted record ratings on Venezuelan TV, reflecting the nation’s anxiety at the street violence that has killed more than 40 and posed the biggest challenge to the government in more than a decade.

The alternative to finding an accommodation, said Maduro, is a dark one.

PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuela (through interpreter):  Imagine, it would be the beginning of an armed, violent civil confrontation, bloody, bloody, and no one would win anything.

MARGARET WARNER:  What began in January as demonstrations against rising crime mushroomed in February into massive marches, with hundreds of thousands protesting the scarcity of goods, insecurity and the arrest of demonstrators.

Today, there remain smaller, but fervent localized protests in neighborhoods fortified with barricades.  The target of all this?  President Maduro.  Maduro has struggled to maintain Chavez’s aura, but he is being swamped by an economic slide that has brought this oil-rich country 57 percent inflation and near empty store shelves, and a further explosion in Venezuela’s rampant crime, creating what the U.N. says is now the second highest murder rate in the world.

AMERICA - The 'We Don't Have to Follow the Law' Quacks

As you can see, by my choice of Post Title, what I think of this type of people.  The type that thinks they don't have to follow any law they disagree with.  As a taxpayer, Bundy had better pay for the use of my (public) land.

"Land dispute between rancher and government inspires ideological standoff with armed protesters" PBS NewsHour 4/18/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to a story that takes us out to the Western U.S., to Nevada, where a standoff between the federal government and a local cattle rancher involving an armed militia almost turned violent.

Hari Sreenivasan is in our New York studio with this report.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Armed militiamen pointing guns at federal officials over cattle.  For more than 20 years, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has refused to pay fees for grazing cattle on public lands, some 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says Bundy now owes close to $1 million.  He says his family has used the land since the 1870s and doesn’t recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction.  Last year, a federal judge ordered Bundy to remove his livestock.  He ignored the order, and two weeks ago, BLM agents rounded up more than 400 of his cattle.

Last weekend, armed militia members and states’ right protesters showed up to challenge the move.

FMR. SHERIFF RICHARD MACK, Graham County, AZ:  I came here because I don’t believe the BLM has any authority whatsoever.  They have no law enforcement authority in Clark County, and they have no business whatsoever destroying the pursuit of happiness of one of our friends and brothers.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Rather than risk violence, the BLM did an about-face and released the cattle.  But the dust-up has put longstanding disputes over Western range rights squarely in the spotlight.

Last night, Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid blasted the protesters.

SEN. HARRY REID, D, Nev.:  So, these people, who hold themselves out to be patriots, are not.  They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists.  And I think that we are a country that people should follow the law.

Friday, April 18, 2014

MINIMUM WAGE - Look at Seattle-Tacoma Airport Deal

"SeaTac airport workers fight exclusion from $15 minimum wage" PBS NewsHour 4/17/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  We move now to the Pacific Northwest and part one of a Paul Solman series on the debate over raising the minimum wage.

Tonight, he has the latest on a story he first brought to our attention last fall.

It part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  A lot was at stake last November in SeaTac, Washington, home of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, as local citizens decided the fate of a proposition to jack up the minimum wage there to $15 an hour, for thousands of workers, the promise of a huge pay hike, 63 percent if they were making the state minimum of $9.19 an hour, plus paid sick leave, which promised to be a benefit for the flying public as well.

WOMAN: Every employee that I work with comes to work sick because they have to put food on the table.

ABDIRAHMAN ABDULLAHI, Employee, Sea-Tac’s Hertz Car Rentals:  Imagine you’re flying on an airplane.  The worker who clean up the airplane before you fly, he was sick and he’s cleaning the airplane, imagine you eating on that table, you know?

TERRORIZM - Homegrown Extremism

"Counterterrorism adviser on understanding and responding to homegrown extremism" PBS NewsHour 4/17/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Boston, Fort Hood, Kansas City, Oklahoma City.  What happens when random mass violence strikes home?  What do we call it, and how do we prosecute it?

This week, Lisa Monaco, the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser, spoke out on that topic in a speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School.  And she joins me now.

Welcome to the NewsHour again.

LISA MONACO, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism:  Hi, Gwen.

GWEN IFILL:  Today, the attorney general, Eric Holder, gave a speech at the observances in Kansas City, in which he talked about this kind of domestic terror as an affront to the nation.

Is it terrorism?

LISA MONACO:  Well, Gwen, I think what I talked about in Cambridge on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings just a few days ago was that violent extremism has been with us in many forms, unfortunately even 19 years ago this week in Oklahoma City.

So, it comes in many forms.  And what we need to do is bring community efforts together to counter it.

GWEN IFILL:  I do want to talk about what the solutions are.  But also I think what we call it matters too, right?  You used the term attack on the homeland to describe the Boston Marathon bombings.  You’re a Boston native.  Obviously, it hit close.

That is particularly vivid language, but still not the T-word.


Well, I think we can get caught up in labels.  I think, as the attorney general spoke out quite movingly, as you indicated, today in Kansas — and our hearts go out to the people of Overland Park.  They are investigating that matter and looking at it as a hate crime.

DETROIT - Revisiting a Bankrupt City

"After threats of painful cuts, Detroit moves closer to deal to protect pensions" PBS NewsHour 4/17/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Nine months after it became the largest city in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy, Detroit is drawing closer to a deal on how to protect current and former city workers from deep pension cuts.

Until recently, officials had been warning of painfully large pension reductions.  The shift was announced yesterday, and, today, leaders of the retired police and firefighters group voted in favor of it.  Pensions for those retirees had faced a pension cut of up to 14 percent.  Under the new deal, they wouldn’t take a cut.  Other civilian workers faced a reduction that could have been as high as 34 percent.  That’s been scaled back to 4.5 percent.  Any action on pensions is being watched by other cities that confront huge debt.

And Christy McDonald of Detroit Public Television is here to fill in the picture.

Welcome back to the program.

Christy McDonald, am I right that there were these dire warnings up until just a day or so ago that pension cuts could be enormous?

CHRISTY MCDONALD, Detroit Public Television:  Absolutely, Judy.

And that’s probably part of the negotiation process.  You don’t come to the table first with your best deal.  You have to start the negotiation.  And those negotiations have been coming fast and furious ever since the city put its first plan of adjustment on the table about a month or so ago, which really is the road map of how Detroit is going to get itself out of bankruptcy.

And so there’s been a lot of back and forth, but there’s also been a lot of moving parts in different aspects to deal to try to offset those pension cuts.  And it’s something called the grand bargain is what we’re calling it here in the city of Detroit.

What it is, is about $815 million that would help protect art at the DIA from being liquidated and sold to offset those pension cuts.  Some of that money would come from foundations and also the Detroit Institute of Arts itself, but $350 million of that would also come from the state.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now, what turned this around, because there was a serious concern that the retirees were going to take a big hit?  What broke the dam?

CHRISTY MCDONALD:  Well, when you take a look at this entire process, no one is going to be happy at the end of a bankruptcy process.  No one is really going to win.

You know that the banks are going to take a severe haircut, but really the most vulnerable people of all in this entire process are those retirees, the people who worked for the city of Detroit and were promised a pension at the end of it, and it was actually protected by the state constitution.

Well, the bankruptcy judge said in the beginning — this is federal bankruptcy court — those pensions are going to be allowed to be touched.  So, everyone knew and was looking at this pension issues and the retirees, knowing that some sort of special protection would have to come towards them.  And so I think that you have people working at the state level.

My answer, big money wants to buy the elections by shouting out the individual voter.  Big money corrupts our election process.

"Why outside groups are pouring record amounts of money into this year’s midterm elections" PBS NewsHour 4/16/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Last night was the deadline for political candidates, parties and some outside groups to report how much money they have raised and spent in the first three months of this election year.  One thing is clear:  Organizations not officially linked to the candidates are spending at record levels.

Combined, these outside groups have poured in more than $57 million so far this cycle.  That outpaces any election in American history at this calendar date, except the 2012 presidential election, which came on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling prohibiting restrictions on spending.

Now, a quarter of all this year’s money has been spent in just six states, where some of the key Senate races are playing out.  Overall, more money has been spent already in this election than the entire 2000 presidential election, and the races have barely just begun.

And here to talk about what all this means is Sheila Krumholz.  She’s the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.  It’s a research group that tracks money in U.S. politics.  And David Keating, he’s the president of the Center for Competitive Politics.  It’s a nonprofit organization that promotes deregulation of campaign finance.

BABY BOOMERS - Learn From 'Golden Girls' TV Show

"Taking cues from ‘Golden Girls,’ more single baby boomers are building a future together" PBS NewsHour 4/16/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  It’s not uncommon for young adults to live with roommates in order to offset the high cost of housing.  But with one out of every three baby boomers now single and approaching retirement, some of them are returning to the communal living of their youth to ease the burdens of their golden years.

Special correspondent Spencer Michels reports for our Taking Care series.

WOMAN:  I thought maybe we would use the plastic ones for them.

SPENCER MICHELS (NewsHour):  Karen Bush and Louise Machinist like to plan together, everything from dinner parties to the breakdown of chores at their new condo in Sarasota, Florida, to projects at the shown they share with Jean McQuillin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

WOMAN:  I will be hope April 4. And I will probably be there most of that upcoming week, so if there are things that I need to do…

SPENCER MICHELS:  The longtime friends now in their 60s have been coordinating their lives like this for the past 10 years.  Before that, like a growing number of female baby boomers, all three were divorced, living alone and unsatisfied with the size of their savings accounts as they neared retirement.

WOMAN:  Let’s tell the real story.  She cooks.  I do the dishes.

SPENCER MICHELS:  Combining resources, they decided, would make life cheaper, easier, and more fun.  Their relationship was easy to describe from the start.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CLIMATE CHANGE - Can the U.S. Take Its Head Out of the Sand?

"As another report urges action, how can U.S. overcome obstacles to effective climate policy?" PBS NewsHour 4/15/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  This week’s latest U.N. report on climate change warns of the urgent need for global action in the next five to 15 years, if countries want to ward off the worst impacts of rising emissions.

It also lays out numerous scenarios of what could be done.  But those options come with different costs, and in the U.S., there’s been opposition in Congress and often reluctance among much of the public to some big changes.

We look at the economic and political challenges with Robert Stavins.  He’s a lead co-author of the report.  He’s an environmental economist at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  And Maura Cowley, she’s the executive director of the Energy Action Coalition, which includes 30 youth-led groups.

And we thank you both for being with us.

Robert Stavins, let me start with you.

This report stresses the urgency of doing something now, implementing new policies.  Give us an example of a policy that the United States needs to implement in the near term.

ROBERT STAVINS, Harvard Kennedy School of Government:  Well, Judy, what’s become clear is that, for this country, for the United States, the only approach that conceivably would achieve meaningful emissions reductions, such as those that are talked about in the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would be an economy-wide carbon pricing system.

That might be a cap-and-trade system, as has been denigrated, and obviously passed the House, but not the Senate, or it could perhaps a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but something that would be pervasive throughout the economy and send the right price signals.

OREGON - The Intergenerational Community

This bringing back the old cultural idea of extended family living, grandparents and children living together.  In this case, seniors and young interacting which helps both groups.

"Foster families find and share support with elders at Oregon housing community" PBS NewsHour 4/15/2014


SUMMARY:  At a special housing development in Oregon, families who adopt foster children live side by side with seniors who volunteer their time in exchange for affordable rent.  The NewsHour's Cat Wise reports how members of the intergenerational community find support and connection together.
DERENDA SCHUBERT, Executive Director, Bridge Meadows:  One of the beautiful features of Bridge Meadows is that there’s reciprocity among the generations, so the elders are providing love and support to the families, and the families are doing the same, and even the children are giving back to the elders.

PULITZER - Award for Journalism, The Washing Post and The Guardian

"Pulitzer Prize renews debate over controversial NSA surveillance reporting" PBS NewsHour 4/14/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Today’s Pulitzer award to The Washington Post and The Guardian renewed debate over journalism’s role and responsibility in reporting on domestic surveillance and national security.  The coverage was based on a trove of documents leaked by national security contractor Edward Snowden, who now lives in Russia to escape prosecution.

U.S. officials say Snowden’s revelations did real damage, while his defenders say he performed a public service.

Geneva Overholser joins me now.  She’s an independent journalist in New York and a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication, Leadership and Policy.  She also served on the Pulitzer Prize Board for nine years, part of that as its chairman.

Geneva, is the Pulitzer board basically settling the argument today by saying that they’re going to award this coverage?

GENEVA OVERHOLSER, Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, USC:  Well, I would say, Gwen, that the argument will not be over, at least in terms of many people’s continued discomfort with this reporting.

But I do believe this is an extremely powerful affirmation of this important work.

MYANMAR - The Transition From Isolation Part-2

"Will development overshadow Myanmar’s rich cultural history?" PBS NewsHour 4/15/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now part two of Jeffrey Brown’s look at Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.

After years of turmoil, the military government is moving toward political reform.  But, as the country begins to open up to the outside world, there’s a new concern: how development could overshadow its architectural and archaeological past.

That’s the subject of Jeff’s report tonight, which also marks the beginning of a new series, one we call Culture at Risk.  We will explore the impact of war, climate change, neglect and more on cultural artifacts around the world.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  The afternoon rush hour in Yangon, as workers board water taxis for the commute home.

On the streets, food vendors serve tea and noodles.  Buddhist monks in their maroon robes are everywhere.  And the ancient Shwedagon Pagoda, hundreds of temples, statues and stupas, remains the country’s most important shrine.

Yangon, the city once known as Rangoon, is often said to be frozen in time, the result of a military regime that kept this country largely isolated from the outside world for more than 50 years.  But that’s changing now, and quickly, and a key question here is how to preserve something of the past while moving into a 21st century future.

MYANMAR - The Transition From Isolation Part-1

"Inside Myanmar’s transition from isolation to openness" PBS NewsHour 4/14/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  In 2007, the world got a horrific peek inside the closed world of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, as the military regime brutally crushed the Saffron Revolution, led by monks and students demanding political freedom.

In recent years, however, the government has signaled a new openness, promising democratic reforms, and proposing peace treaties with numerous ethnic groups in the country that have been at war with the government, in some cases since the end of World War II.

Jeffrey Brown recently traveled to Myanmar for a look.

Here’s the first of his reports.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  It is a land long shrouded in mystery, kept isolated from the world for more than 50 years.

Now, as Myanmar begins to open up, its wonders and beauties become clearer, but so do its complexities and huge difficulties.  One place to see it all is here in Karen State in the southeastern part of the country, where signs of the past are a reminder of the tenuous political situation.

Not long ago, this was an area of violence, home to what was called the world’s longest-running civil war, as ethnic Karen people battled the central government for independence.  But there’s a cease-fire in place now, offering the potential for peace and a possible model for this long-closed-off country.

For these young girls, their faces adorned with the traditional tree bark cream that women here use as sunblock, that means the possibility of coming to Pa-An, Karen’s capital city, to attend a government-accredited school.

These are the children of rebels who long battled that same government.  And these girls have spent their entire lives in an internationally sponsored refugee camp on the nearby border with Thailand.