Thursday, February 26, 2015

CLIMATE CHANGE - More Proof Man Made

"SCIENTISTS WATCH HUMAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE" from AP, San Diego Union-Tribune (Digital) 2/26/2015

Scientists have witnessed carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere above the United States, chronicling human-made climate change in action, live in the wild.

A new study in the journal Nature demonstrates in real-time field measurements what scientists already knew from basic physics, lab tests, numerous simulations, temperature records and dozens of other climatic indicators.  They say it confirms the science of climate change and the amount of heat-trapping previously blamed on carbon dioxide.

Researchers saw “the fingerprint of carbon dioxide” trapping heat, said study author Daniel Feldman of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.  He said no one before had quite looked in the atmosphere for this type of specific proof of climate change.

Feldman and colleagues used a decade of measurements from instruments in Alaska and Oklahoma that looked straight up into the sky and matched what they saw with the precise chemical composition and heat fingerprints of carbon dioxide trapping heat.  Scientists say carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas is the chief cause of global warming.

In doing so, the data show clouds, water vapor or changes in the sun’s radiation are not responsible for warming the air, as some who doubt mainstream climate science claim, Feldman said.  Nor could it be temperature data being tampered with, as some contrarians insist, Feldman said.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

INTERNET - Net Neutrality Rules Update

THE PEOPLE ARE WINNING!  To understand, see short video at bottom.

"F.C.C. Net Neutrality Rules Clear Hurdle as Republicans Concede to Obama" by JONATHAN WEISMAN, New York Times 2/24/2015


Senior Republicans conceded on Tuesday that the grueling fight with President Obama over the regulation of Internet service appears over, with the president and an army of Internet activists victorious.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet.  While the two Democratic commissioners are negotiating over technical details, they are widely expected to side with the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, against the two Republican commissioners.

And Republicans on Capitol Hill, who once criticized the plan as “Obamacare for the Internet,” now say they are unlikely to pass a legislative response that would undo perhaps the biggest policy shift since the Internet became a reality.

“We’re not going to get a signed bill that doesn’t have Democrats’ support,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.  “This is an issue that needs to have bipartisan support.”

The new F.C.C. rules are still likely to be tied up in a protracted court fight with the cable companies and Internet service providers that oppose it, and they could be overturned in the future by a Republican-leaning commission.  But for now, Congress’s hands appear to be tied.

The F.C.C. plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good.  It would follow the concept known as net neutrality or an open Internet, banning so-called paid prioritization — or fast lanes — for willing Internet content providers.

In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the Internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers.   The plan would also give the F.C.C. the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies that run many of the country’s broadband and wireless networks.

Republicans hoped to pre-empt the F.C.C. vote with legislation, but Senate Democrats insisted on waiting until after Thursday’s F.C.C. vote before even beginning to talk about legislation for an open Internet.  Even Mr. Thune, the architect of draft legislation to override the F.C.C., said Democrats had stalled what momentum he could muster.

And an avalanche of support for Mr. Wheeler’s plan — driven by Internet companies as varied as Netflix, Twitter, Mozilla and Etsy — has swamped Washington.

“We’ve been outspent, outlobbied.  We were going up against the second-biggest corporate lobby in D.C., and it looks like we’ve won,” said Dave Steer, director of advocacy for the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit technology foundation that runs Firefox, a popular Web browser, referring to the cable companies.  “A year ago today, we did not think we would be in this spot.”

The net neutrality movement pitted new media against old and may well have revolutionized notions of corporate social responsibility and activism.  Top-down decisions by executives investing in or divesting themselves of resources, paying lobbyists and buying advertisements were upended by the mobilization of Internet customers and users.

“We don’t have an army of lobbyists to deploy.  We don’t have financial resources to throw around,” said Liba Rubenstein, director of social impact and public policy at the social media company Tumblr, which is owned by Yahoo, the large Internet company, but operated independently on the issue.  “What we do have is access to an incredibly engaged, incredibly passionate user base, and we can give folks the tools to respond.”

Internet service providers say heavy-handed regulation of the Internet will diminish their profitability and crush investment to expand and speed up Internet access.  It could even open the web to taxation to pay for new regulators.

Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said the pro-net-neutrality advocates turned a complex and technical debate over how best to keep the Internet operating most efficiently into a matter of religion.  The forces for stronger regulation, he said, became viewed as for the Internet.  Those opposed to the regulation were viewed as against the Internet.

The Internet companies, he said, sometimes mislead their customers, and in some cases, are misled on the intricacies of the policy.

“Many of the things they have said just belie reality and common sense,” he said.

In April, a dozen New York-based Internet companies gathered at Tumblr’s headquarters in the Flatiron district to hear dire warnings that broadband providers were about to obtain the right to charge for the fastest speeds on the web.

The implication:  If they did not pony up, they would be stuck in the slow lane.

What followed was the longest, most sustained campaign of Internet activism in history.  A swarm of small players, like Tumblr, Etsy, BoingBoing and Reddit, overwhelmed the giants of the broadband world, Comcast, Verizon Communications and Time Warner Cable.  Two of the biggest players on the Internet, Amazon and Google, largely stayed in the background, while smaller participants — some household names like Twitter and Netflix, others far more obscure, like and Urban Dictionary — mobilized a grass-roots crusade.

“Our community is the source of our power,” said Althea Erickson, director of public policy at Etsy, an online craft market, where users embroidered pillows and engraved spoons promoting net neutrality.

Monday, February 23, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/20/2015

"Shields and Brooks on fighting Islamic extremism, Giuliani on Obama" PBS NewsHour 2/20/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the White House summit on fighting extremism, Jeb Bush’s foreign policy platform, Rudy Giuliani’s comments about President Obama’s upbringing and patriotism, as well as the Clintons’ foreign financial ties.
MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  I think, Judy, that I think the President was right.

It is wrong to say that this is a religious movement as such.  David makes the point, I think validly so, that this is a splinter group from this religion.  Most of the victims of the Islamic State have been Muslims.  Most of the opponents are Muslims.

But it does have a theological component to it.  That’s its farm system.  That’s from whom it’s drawing.  It’s a battle of nomenclature.  I think there was a reluctance on the part of the administration to ever say it.  They have said it.  The President was very clear.

But at the same time, you want to make a distinction.  This is 26 percent of the world’s population.  And you just don’t want to give the impression, the misimpression, that this is a war against Islam.  It isn’t.  It’s a war against these people who come and call themselves the Islamic State and who do come from Islamic groups.  But I think you have to grant it is a perversion.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Mark has a point, doesn’t he?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Well, no, I think it’s a perversion because they’re so inhumane.

What’s the Pascal phrase, they try to be higher than the angels, they end up lower than the beast.  And so that’s clearly what is happening to them.  They have turned themselves into monsters.  But there was lot of monstrosity in the wars of religion in the 15th century in Europe.  They were certainly religious wars.

And so I do think you have to take the religion seriously, that these people are — it’s not like they can’t get what we want.  They want something they think is higher than what we want.  Their souls are involved.  And I’m saying you have to conceive of them as moving, as acting in a religious way.

And you have to have religious alternatives.  And they are driven by an end times ideology.  They think there’s going to be some cataclysm battle and Mohammed will come down.  And if you ignore that part of it, write it off as sort of marginal, that they are being produced by economic dysfunction, I just think you’re missing the main deal.

POLICE - Force Not Always Black and White

"Police use of force not always black and white" PBS NewsHour 2/20/2015


SUMMARY:  In recent days, two incidents have added to national concern about excessive police force against minorities.  Police shot and killed a Hispanic man in Washington state, and in Alabama, an Indian man was partially paralyzed after an officer knocked him down.  Judy Woodruff talks to Suman Raghunathan of South Asian Americans Leading Together and David Klinger of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The issue of how police use force is again making headlines, this time outside the lens of black and white.  The Hispanic and Indian-American communities are in the spotlight after separate encounters with police left one man dead and another partially paralyzed.

A warning:  This report contains graphic images.

The two confrontations making headlines happened in opposite corners of the country, Alabama and Washington State, first, Pasco, Washington, early last week.  This cell phone video captured 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes seeming to throw something at police and then run away, before turning around with open arms.  That’s when three officers shot and killed him.

The police involved say the man was throwing rocks.  The community in the majority Hispanic town quickly reacted with protests and a call for a federal investigation.  The officers involved are on paid leave.  In a news conference yesterday, local police said they want their officers to defuse community tension.

SGT. KEN LATTIN, Kennewick Police Department:  And regardless of what anybody might say to you, do the right thing and now, more than ever, show everybody who we are, and that we are — we can be fair, we can be just.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  From the Pacific Northwest to the Southeastern U.S. and Madison, Alabama, on February 6.  Police car video shows officers confronting 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel.  A neighbor had called 911 concerned about a — quote — “skinny black man” walking down the street.

Patel is from India, visiting his son and grandchild and doesn’t speak English.  Officers ask him not to move.  Video from a second police car shows a slight movement and then one officer forcefully knocks him to the ground.  That action injured Patel’s spine, leaving him partially paralyzed and in the hospital.  The family is suing the police department.

COMMENT:  Since when is it a crime to just walk down a street?  It's a crime in Alabama if you are NOT white.

WAR ON ISIS - Terror of Taking Hostages

"Freed but not free:  Yazidi girls who escaped Islamic State are trapped by trauma" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2015


SUMMARY:  Last summer, militants from the Islamic State group attacked a small ethnic group called the Yazidis, executing men and taking thousands of women and girls as slaves.  Special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports from Northern Iraq on the rape, violence, threats and harrowing escapes that some young women endured and their continuing struggles with psychological trauma and stigma.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We return now to the Islamic State group and their brutal tactics.

Correspondent Marcia Biggs traveled to Northern Iraq for the NewsHour to report on a group of girls who managed to escape from the terrorist group.  But because of their psychological trauma and shame, they are still far from free.

A warning:  Her report contains graphic images and subject matter.

MARCIA BIGGS (NewsHour):  Refugee camps dot the countryside in the Kurdish region of Iraq, where almost two million people have been forced from their homes; 29,000 people are living in this camp alone.  Most of them are Yazidi, and almost all of them are missing family members.

The Yazidis are a small community of less than a million people, found primarily in Northern Iraq.  A private and conservative community, they practice an ancient religion.  Last August, members of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, attacked the Yazidis, whom they consider heretics.

These pictures of Yazidis trapped on Sinjar Mountain stunned the world.  Hundreds of thousands fled for their lives after I.S. fighters executed many of the men and took thousands of women and girls as slaves.  This 13-year-old girl was taken and later escaped.

"What’s the price of paying for hostages?  The economics behind funding and fighting terrorism" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2015


SUMMARY:  Hostage-taking has become an important moneymaker for terror groups including the Islamic State.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at the larger price of paying ransom and cost-effective ways of fighting terror.

UKRAINE - The New Cold War, Update

"Ukraine loses key town to separatists despite cease-fire" PBS NewsHour 2/18/2015


SUMMARY:  The cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia seemed in danger of unraveling after Russian-backed separatists forced thousands of Ukrainian troops to withdraw from the strategic town of Debaltseve.  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appealed to international community to respond.  Alex Thomson of Independent Television News reports from Ukraine.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  As we reported earlier, thousands of Ukrainian troops withdrew today from Debaltseve in Eastern Ukraine after a relentless assault by Russian-backed separatists.

Alex Thomson of Independent Television News reports from near the key transit hub, as the three-day-old cease-fire appeared to be unraveling.

ALEX THOMSON, Independent TV News:  The rebel flag hoisted over Debaltseve today, and across the day, hundreds of Ukrainian troops have been leaving town, telling stories that speak of just one word, defeat.

MAN (through interpreter):  It was very heavy.  We couldn’t even go to take food or water.  Yes, we were urinating in a can, all the time we were sitting in the bunker very, very heavy shelling.  We were praying all the time and said goodbye to our lives a hundred times.  They had really good and heavy artillery.

ALEX THOMSON:  Kiev says it is a tactical withdrawal with heavy weapons.  But its president is begging the world to act.

"What the defeat at Debaltseve means for Ukraine" PBS NewsHour 2/18/2015


SUMMARY:  The loss of the key hub town Debaltseve to Russian-backed separatists is a significant strategic and morale setback for Ukraine.  Chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner joins Gwen Ifill to discuss potential response to the latest military action.

WOMEN - Hot Flashes For 10 Years+

"Women can suffer menopause hot flashes for more than a decade, study finds" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2015


SUMMARY:  Four out of five middle-aged women cope with hot flashes, night sweats and other uncomfortable consequences of menopause.  Now, the largest study of its kind has shown that those symptoms can last much longer than previously thought, and are worse for some women of color.  Judy Woodruff learns more from Dr. Nancy Avis of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  It’s well known that four out of every five middle-aged women deal with hot flashes, night sweats and other difficult symptoms of menopause.  New research finds those symptoms often last a great deal longer than conventional wisdom had it.

It comes from the largest study of its kind done so far of more than 3,300 women.  It concluded that the median duration for hot flashes lasted 7 years, and that in some cases symptoms can last as long as 14 years.  Moreover, the problems were worse for some women of color.

The median duration was 10 years for African-American women and almost nine years for Latinas.

Nancy Avis is the lead researcher of the study.  She’s a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Professor Avis, thank you for joining us.

What is different that was learned in this study that wasn’t previously understood?

DR. NANCY AVIS, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center:  I think one of the things that was different is that we were able to follow women for a longer period of time.  So we did learn that there are women who experience hot flashes for at least seven — 14 years, that up to 40 percent of our sample was still experiencing hot flashes, night sweats after 14 years.

GREECE - Financial Bailout Falters

"Greek bailout talks falter amid threat of default" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2015

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The escalating standoff between Greece and other members of the European Union showed little sign of abating today, prompting more questions about whether the country might soon run out of money, whether it would agree to continuing austerity cuts, or possibly leave the Eurozone altogether.

The demand from the E.U. to Greece:  Agree to an extension of a quarter-trillion-dollar bailout program by Friday, or risk losing assistance altogether.

That is not something many Greek citizens want to hear.

COSTAS SKLIROPOULOUS, Greece (through interpreter):  I am angry with the logic of the European Union.  Perhaps we should consider from now on how this country will acquire a different policy, one that could possibly be outside the frame of the European Union.

GWEN IFILL:  Still, some have called on the popular new left-wing government to rein in its resistance to what they have termed an ultimatum.

GEORGE AVGERINOS, Greece (through interpreter):  I would have liked them to be more serious from the very beginning.  When you’re asking with your hand stretched out, you can’t have this attitude.

GWEN IFILL:  European nations have propped up Greek’s unsteady finances since 2010, in exchange for deep spending cuts.  But with unemployment topping 25 percent and shrinking bank deposits, many who voted for the new government blame the austerity itself for the country’s economic ills.

In Brussels today, the Greek finance minister, who campaigned on a promise to scrap the bailout, denounced a plan to extend it as absurd.  But he didn’t rule out a deal.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS, Finance Minister, Greece (through interpreter):  Well, the next step is the responsible step.  Europe will continue to deliberate in order to enhance the chances of, and actually achieve, a very good outcome for the average European

GWEN IFILL:  His German counterpart, speaking on behalf of the Eurozone, said Athens’ goal remains unclear.

WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE, Finance Minister, Germany (through interpreter):  Greece needs to decide whether they want the program or not.  Nobody understands what Greece wants and if Greece knows what it wants.

"After an election built on promises, what can Greece’s new leadership deliver?" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2015


SUMMARY:  As bailout talks continue between Greece and other EU members without clear progress, the new Greek government’s election promises seem at odds with economic reality.  Gwen Ifill talks to Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and journalist John Psaropoulos about the potential for a rude awakening for Greece and its new leaders.

LOCKED UP - More Behind Bars Because of Poverty and Mental Illness

"How poverty and mental illness are putting more people behind bars" PBS NewsHour 2/16/2015


SUMMARY:  More Americans than ever before are spending time in jail despite a drop in the crime rate in the past two decades.  That's according to a new report that also found that a disproportionate number of people in jail suffer from mental illness.  Judy Woodruff discusses the findings with Nicholas Turner of the Vera Institute of Justice and Margo Schlanger of the University of Michigan.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  A new report finds that more Americans than ever are spending time in jail.  The Vera Institute of Justice showed that, in the past two decades, despite a drop in the crime rate, the number of people going to jail has increased dramatically.

In addition, those behind bars are staying longer.  Some 62 percent of them have not yet been convicted of a crime, and three-quarters of those jailed now are brought in for nonviolent offenses.  The report also finds that a disproportionate number of those in jail suffer from mental illness.

Joining us are Nicholas Turner.  He’s president and director of the Vera Institute.  And Margo Schlanger of the University of Michigan.

Nick Turner, to you first.

Why are the jails and prisons of the United States so full today?

NICHOLAS TURNER, President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice:  Well, you have to go back, really, almost four decades.  We have, since the early 1970s, been on what some people describe as a binge in this country, a reliance on incarceration and on confinement as the primary strategy to keep people safe.  That’s been the argument.

And so, for the past 40 years, the number of people in jail and in prison in this country has gone up almost 400 percent.  When you look at jails now, there are additional other reasons as to why we have so many people in jail.  In the past few decades, we have increasingly arrested more and more people, not only for felonies or serious charges, but also for misdemeanors.

And we are also seeing more people who are being arrested being put in jail, so there is a general reflex within the criminal justice system still to rely on confinement.

SECRET SINS - Jehovah’s Witnesses' Cover Up

"Did leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse?" PBS NewsHour 2/16/2015


SUMMARY:  In San Francisco, a woman is suing the Jehovah's Witnesses for failing to protect her from a known child abuser when she was a child.  The Center for Investigative Reporting has shed light on accusations that religious leaders led a cover-up of child sex abuse.  Special correspondent Trey Bundy of the CIR’s Reveal reports on how the organization is using the first amendment to fight these charges.

Editor’s Note: The graphic appearing in the introduction of this report mistakenly contains an image of a cross.  Jehovah’s Witnesses do not use the image of a cross as a symbol for Christianity.  We regret the error.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Next, an investigation into child sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witness and accusations that religious leaders led a cover-up within inside some of the group’s 14,000 U.S. congregations.

Our colleagues from the Center for Investigative Reporting obtained confidential memos shedding new light on the revelations.

Special correspondent Trey Bundy has the story from Reveal, a new Web site, radio show, and podcast run by the center.

TREY BUNDY (NewsHour):  At a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in California, new members are taking the plunge.

MAN:  At your baptism, you said yes.

TREY BUNDY:  They’re joining more than eight million members worldwide.

Believers are taught to renounce secular society because it’s controlled by Satan, and not to socialize too much with outsiders.  But charges of sexual abuse have brought this insular community under greater scrutiny.  And now, in this San Francisco courtroom, the first child abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses to go to trial is under way.

Candace Conti is suing the organization for failing to protect her from a known child abuser when she was 9 years old.

CANDACE CONTI, Plaintiff:  If I were to sum up our goals in this case, it was to attack the policies and procedures that where in place that let a serial molester continue to molest children.

TREY BUNDY:  Conti’s lawyer says instructions from Jehovah’s Witness leaders have enabled child molesters.

HISTORY - George Washington and Robert E. Lee

"Exploring Robert E. Lee’s connections to George Washington" PBS NewsHour 2/16/2015


SUMMARY:  Robert E. Lee was the son of a Revolutionary War hero who was a trusted aide to George Washington.  In 1861, after 25 years in the U.S. Army, Lee turned down an offer to command Union forces in the Civil War.  That decision is the subject of a new book, “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington.”  Judy Woodruff talks to author Jonathan Horn about choices that change history.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, a new take on Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general, with President George Washington as the touchstone.

I recently talked with the author of this look at two men who helped shape American history.

The civil war split families, states and the nation; 74 years after the signing of the Constitution, the United States was torn in two.  One of the more conflicted participants in the war was none other than Robert E. Lee, a son of a Revolutionary War hero who was a trusted aide to General George Washington.  He married the daughter of Washington’s adopted son.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Lee had served 25 years with the U.S. Army, but in April 1861, he turned down an offer to command the Union Army, resigned his commission, and accepted the command of the military and naval forces of Virginia.

All this and more can be found in the new book, “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington:  Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History” by Jonathan Horn, who served as a speechwriter and special assistant to former President George W. Bush.

Jonathan Horn, welcome to the NewsHour.

JONATHAN HORN, Author, “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington”:  Thanks for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, you grew up in the area around Washington. Is that where this interest in Robert E. Lee came from?

JONATHAN HORN:  That’s exactly where this interest came up.

If you glow up on the Potomac River, you have so much of Robert E. Lee’s and George Washington’s history all around you.  Robert E. Lee was born in Westmoreland County downriver from Washington, and so was Washington.  Robert E. Lee grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, right near George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation, and Robert E. Lee married his wife at Arlington House, which is that great pillared mansion that’s now a cemetery, but back then it was actually a memorial to George Washington.

It was filled with relics of George Washington, because, as you mentioned, Robert E. Lee had married the daughter of George Washington’s adopted son.

POLITICS - NYT Ad Skewers Boehner

"Hilarious Full-Page Ad in NYT Skewers Boehner" by Flyswatterbanjo, Daily KOS 2/19/2015


It was paid for by the NIAC, the outfit run by prominent Iranian-American author and pundit Trita Parsi.  From their press release:

“The U.S. and its closest allies are on the brink of a historic deal that will both prevent an Iranian bomb and war with Iran, and Congressional hawks are orchestrating political stunts with foreign leaders to try to kill it,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi.  “The American people do not want another senseless military adventure and certainly don’t consider Benjamin Netanyahu to be their commander in chief.”

The statement also reminds us of this episode: one of the most critical national security debates of our time – the decision of whether to invade Iraq – Netanyahu was brought to testify before Congress.  In his remarks he advocated strongly for the war, telling lawmakers ‘if you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.’

According to Jewish Voice for Peace, as of today, 29 members of Congress will skip Netanyahu's speech.  You can sign their petition here.

Or, you can contact your members of Congress directly and tell them to #SkipTheSpeech:

UPDATE:  Here's the Hill's 10-day-old list of those who have stated publicly they will skip the speech.

POLITICS - Scott Walker Loses Attempted Education Dictatorship

"Scott Walker Loses Education Control Fight in Court" by Puddytat, Daily KOS 2/19/2015

A unanimous state appeals court on Thursday deemed unconstitutional a portion of a 2011 law that gave Gov. Scott Walker the ability to halt administrative rules by Schools Superintendent Tony Evers, who is independently elected.

The ruling by the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals upholds a 2012 decision by Dane County Circuit Judge Amy Smith.

Walker signed the law in May 2011, which gave his administration a greater say in writing administrative rules, which are used to implement state laws.  Administrative rules include more specifics than state statutes and carry the force of law.

Looks like Scott Walker got caught ignoring the State Constitution:

The state constitution says that "the supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent and such other officers as the Legislature shall direct."  In a 1996 case that the appeals court repeatedly cited, the state Supreme Court held that lawmakers and the governor cannot give "equal or superior authority" over public education to any other official.

The Supreme Court's ruling found that the state constitution prevented then-Gov. Tommy Thompson from transferring powers from the Department of Public Instruction to a new Department of Education overseen by the governor's administration.

"In sum, the Legislature has the authority to give, to not give, or to take away (the school superintendent's) supervisory powers, including rule-making power.  What the Legislature may not do is give the (superintendent) a supervisory power relating to education and then fail to maintain the (superintendent's) supremacy with respect to that power," Appeals Judge Gary Sherman wrote for the court in Thursday's decision.

No, Scott Walker, you can't control state education.  You've defunded K-12 education by $2 billion and you're stripping $300 million from our previously wonderful State University system.  You've made taxpayers fund the private education of rich kids, too.

You have already done more than enough damage.

Since his 2011 inauguration, he's taken complete control of virtually ALL state agencies and has been hard at work on legislation giving him complete control over everything.
 The last 3 remaining agencies or departments he doesn't completely control (the DNR with it's soon to be legislatively abolished Citizen Advisory Board oversight, the Secretary of States' Office - run by a Democrat - soon to be stripped of staff and moved to an inaccessible basement by Walker's new budget, and the Government Accountability Board which oversees elections) have now been joined by a 4th, the Department of Public Instruction.

Walker's 2011 law gave him the final say in administrative rules for public schools despite the fact that the Superintendent is independently elected.  Not any more.

Aside from national fundraising and speechifying for his long anticipated Presidential run, Walker has spent every hour of every day since his election giving himself control of nearly all aspects of State Government in order to reward donors and punish real or imagined enemies or opponents.

Apparently the GOP isn't concerned that a Democrat could ever be elected as Governor in the future and wield all of that power to set things on the right path again.  Maybe they're right since Republicans have friendly media in Wisconsin and mega bucks to propagandize (or suppress) the voters.

It's nice to see Walker lose a big one like this and lose a bit of the power he's grabbed.  Well, that and seeing him trip on all the rakes he's been running into as a now top-tier Presidential candidate.


"Boehner and Benghazi" by Eugene Kiely, 2/17/2015

House Speaker John Boehner says there are “unanswered questions” about the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.  He specifically asks “why didn’t we attempt to rescue” Americans under siege and why were some U.S. personnel “told not to get involved” in rescue attempts?

But those questions have been answered at length in several investigative reports, including two by Republican-controlled House committees.  Congressional committees and an independent board detail the rescue attempts that night, carried out despite U.S. military assets not being in position to defend the Benghazi facility.  Those reports say there were no undue delays in responding to the attacks, and they pointedly rejected unfounded allegations that the U.S. response was deliberately thwarted by a “stand down” order.

“Quite the contrary:  The safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response,” the independent Accountability Review Board concluded in its Dec. 18, 2012, report.

The “U.S. military performed well in responding to the attacks,” the House Armed Services Committee said in a February 2014 report.  Separately, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said in its November 2014 report that the CIA — which was first on the scene of the attack — responded in a “timely and appropriate manner.”

Boehner appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and discussed the Select Committee on Benghazi, a special panel created by the Republican-controlled House last year.  The U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi (referred to in official reports as a temporary mission facility, or TMF) was attacked by heavily armed extremists on Sept. 11, 2012.  The terrorist attack left four U.S. citizens dead — including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Host Chris Wallace asked Boehner why he set up the committee “even though there have been about a half dozen investigations” and the GOP-controlled House intelligence committee “basically said there was no there there.”  Wallace asked if the committee was created to hurt former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

Boehner, Feb. 15:  No, Chris, it’s — the idea here is to get the American people the facts about what happened.  Why wasn’t the security for our embassy in Libya, the extra security, given to the ambassador after repeated requests?  The night of the event, why didn’t we attempt to rescue the people that were there?  Why were the people there told not to get involved?

And then, as importantly, when did the president know this?  And why, for some two weeks, did he describe it differently than what it really was?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, and as Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Benghazi committee, has been told by me, I don’t need a big show here but we need our facts.  The American people deserve the truth about what happened and that’s all we’re interested in.

All the questions posed by Boehner have been addressed by various House and Senate committees and by the Accountability Review Board convened by the State Department, but we focus in particular on the U.S. rescue attempts because the premise of those questions is misleading.

Let’s review what the reports say about the rescue attempt and how U.S. security, intelligence and military personnel were deployed that night.

Extremists armed with small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars attacked the diplomatic facility at about 9:42 p.m. Benghazi time on Sept. 11, 2012, according to a Defense timeline.  In about 17 minutes after the attack, the Defense Department diverted an unmanned surveillance drone to Benghazi, the timeline says.  At about the same time, the chief of a CIA annex near the Benghazi diplomatic facility was making preparations to send a team of seven to assist in a rescue operation.

At 10:04 p.m., the CIA team departed in two armored vehicles, arriving at the facility at 10:25 p.m. and immediately engaging in a 15-minute firefight with the extremists, according to a bipartisan report issued December 30, 2012, by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The House intelligence committee report said that “some Annex team members wanted urgently to depart the Annex for the TMF to save their State Department colleagues,” but the Annex chief “ordered the team to wait so that the seniors on the ground could ascertain the situation at the TMF and whether they could secure heavy weaponry support from local militias.”

This order to wait has been described by some as a “stand down” order, but it was not.  The Republican-controlled House intelligence committee said that based on all the evidence, “the Annex leadership deliberated thoughtfully, reasonably, and quickly.”

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Nov. 21, 2014:  The evidence from eyewitness testimony, ISR video footage, closed-circuit television recordings, and other sources provides no support for the allegation that there was any stand-down order.  Rather, there were mere tactical disagreements about the speed with which the team should depart prior to securing additional security assets.

A bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report released on Jan. 15, 2014, reached the same conclusion.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Jan. 15:  The Committee explored claims that there was a “stand down” order given to the security team at the Annex.  Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.

At about midnight Benghazi time, a little more than two hours after the attack began, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gathered top military leaders at the Pentagon to discuss military options, according to the Defense timeline.  (We will get back to Panetta’s decisions later.)

While military leaders convened at the Pentagon, a six-man security team from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, including two military personnel, departed for Benghazi at about 12:30 a.m.  Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander at the time of Special Operations Command Africa, did not send all the security forces stationed in Tripoli.  He ordered Army Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson’s team to remain in Tripoli to protect the U.S. embassy in the event of an attack there, according to the House Armed Services Committee report.

Gibson was initially “visibly upset” that his team was not dispatched to Benghazi along with the other team from Tripoli, the House report said.  A colleague described Gibson as being “furious” at the time at having been ordered to “stand down.”  But “Gibson made it clear to the committee that ‘in hindsight’ he believes remaining in Tripoli was appropriate,” the House report said.

“I was not ordered to stand down.  I was ordered to remain in place,” Gibson told the House Armed Services Committee.”  ‘Stand down’ implies that we cease all operations, cease all activities.  We continued to support the team that was in Tripoli.”

The Tripoli team arrived in Benghazi in about an hour, but it was delayed at the airport “for at least three hours,” according to the Senate homeland security committee report.  The committee said the delay “merits further inquiry” to determine if it was merely part of the “chaotic environment” at the time or “was it part of a plot to keep American help from reaching the Americans under siege in Benghazi.”  It turned out to be the result of the “chaotic environment,” not “part of a plot.”

The Senate intelligence committee later said in its report that the Tripoli team was trying to locate Stevens before leaving the airport.  There had been reports that Stevens may have been at the Benghazi Medical Center, but Libyans were concerned about security at the hospital and feared the Americans could be lured into an ambush, the committee report said.

“After more than three hours of negotiations and communications with Libyan officials … the Libyan government arranged for the Libyan Shield Militia to provide transportation and an armed escort from the airport” to the CIA Annex, the Senate intelligence committee report said.

The Tripoli team arrived at the CIA Annex at 5:04 a.m., “about ten minutes before a new assault by the terrorists began, involving mortar rounds fired at the Annex,” according to the Senate homeland security report.  That attack resulted in the deaths of Annex security team members Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the report said.  Libyan forces arrived at the Annex at 6 a.m. with 50 vehicles and transported the remaining Americans to the airport, where they would be evacuated by plane to Tripoli in two trips at 7:40 a.m. and 10 a.m. enroute ultimately to Germany.

Where was the U.S. military?

Panetta’s midnight meeting (Benghazi time) at the Pentagon lasted until about 2 a.m.  After the meeting, Panetta took several actions.  He agreed to send one Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoon stationed in Rota, Spain, to Benghazi and another to Tripoli.  He also directed two special operations forces — one from Central Europe and another based in the United States — to depart for a staging base in Italy, according to the Defense timeline and the Senate homeland security report.  None of those troops reached Benghazi in time.

“[T]here simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference,” as the independent Accountability Review Board said in its report.  But other rescue efforts did make a difference.

The ARB report, which was released Dec. 18, 2012, said “every possible effort was made to protect, rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith.”  Smith, a State Department information management officer, also died in the attack at the diplomatic mission.

Accountability Review Board:  The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.  Senior-level interagency discussions were underway soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks and continued through the night.  The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.  Quite the contrary:  The safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response and helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans.

The ARB was led by Thomas R. Pickering, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George H.W. Bush, and retired Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.  Although there has been some criticism of the board in conservative circles, the State Department inspector general’s office issued a report in September 2013 that reviewed the board’s operations in general and its work specifically on Benghazi, and concluded that the ARB “operates as intended — independently and without bias.”

In a press conference on the board’s report, Mullen addressed the military’s inability to mobilize its assets quickly enough to defend the Benghazi facility.  He said that “it is not reasonable, nor feasible, to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world.”

There was, however, an increase in military protection of U.S. diplomatic facilities after the Benghazi attacks.  A Congressional Research Service report dated July 30, 2014, said that “the U.S. Marine Security Guard posted detachments to 152 U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world as of September 2012; 35 new Marine Guard detachments were requested by the department after the Benghazi attacks.”

There is no question that mistakes were made prior to Sept. 11, 2012, that left the U.S. facilities in Benghazi vulnerable to attack.  Multiple investigative reports document those mistakes.

The Senate homeland security report said the State Department made a “grievous mistake” in keeping the Benghazi facility open given the “dangerous threat environment” in Benghazi in the months leading up to the attack.  The ARB report said “systemic failures” and leadership “deficiencies” caused the State Department to ignore “repeated requests” for additional security staffing in Libya, leaving the Benghazi facility “grossly inadequate to deal with the attack.”  (Which goes to another of Boehner’s questions: “Why wasn’t the security for our embassy in Libya, the extra security, given to the ambassador after repeated requests?”)

But as far as the night of the attack?  The consensus is that the rescue attempts were carried out in a timely manner under difficult circumstances.  For Boehner to ask “why didn’t we attempt to rescue” Americans under attack and why were some U.S. personnel “told not to get involved” ignores the evidence.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Humera Khan, the founder of Muflehun, a think tank that focuses on countering violent extremism, during a youth leadership and safety conference in Avon, Conn., in November.
Credit Katherine Taylor for The New York Times

"U.S. Muslims Take On ISIS’ Recruiting Machine" by LAURIE GOODSTEIN, New York Times 2/19/2015

Imam Mohamed Magid tries to stay in regular contact with the teenager who came to him a few months ago, at his family’s urging, to discuss how he was being wooed by online recruiters working for the Islamic State, the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

But the imam, a scholar bursting with charm and authority, has struggled to compete.  Though he has successfully intervened in the cases of five other young men, persuading them to abandon plans to fight overseas, the Islamic State’s recruiting efforts have become even more disturbing, he said, and nonstop.

“The recruiters wouldn’t leave him alone,” Imam Magid said of the young man he met with recently.  “They were on social media with him at all hours, they tweet him at night, first thing in the morning.  If I talk to him for an hour, they undo him in two hours.”

President Obama on Wednesday described the fight against violent extremism as a “generational challenge” that would require the cooperation of governments, religious leaders, educators and law enforcement.  But even before he called on more than 60 nations to join the effort, the rise of the Islamic State and the attacks by homegrown terrorists in Paris, Ottawa, Copenhagen and Sydney, Australia, had jolted American Muslims into action.

Muslim leaders here and elsewhere have already started organizing or expanding prevention programs and discussions on countering violent extremism, often with assistance from law enforcement officials and trained counter-recruiters who emphasize that the Internet’s dangers for young Muslims now go far beyond pornography.

With the Islamic State in particular deploying savvy online appeals to adolescents alongside videos of horrific executions, the sense of urgency has grown.  Though some Muslim leaders still resist cooperating with the government, fearing that they would be contributing to religious profiling and anti-Muslim bigotry, many have been spurred to respond as they have come into contact with religiously ardent youths who feel alienated by life in the West and admit that they have been vulnerable to the Islamic State’s invitation to help build a puritanical utopia.

“The number is small, but one person who gets radicalized is one too many,” said Rizwan Jaka, a father of six and the board chairman of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, where Imam Magid is the spiritual leader.  “It’s a balancing act:  We have to make sure our youth are not stereotyped in any way, but we’re still dealing with the real issue of insulating them from any potential threat of radicalization.”

In practice, it often means one-on-one conversations with Muslims like Amir, a 22-year-old computer programmer in Virginia who said he was drawn to extremist videos from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, because he was a new convert struggling with how to live out his faith in the United States.  He said he chafed at having to work in an office with Muslim women who covered their heads but wore clothing he considered too tight.  He also did not like seeing photographs of people on the walls, or advertisements for credit cards, which he said Islam strictly forbids.  “Every time I mentioned it, no one heard me out,” he said.  “I definitely felt like a stranger.”

He said his disenchantment with the Islamic State began when the group beheaded Peter Kassig, who reports said was a Muslim convert, and later executed a Jordanian pilot.  Amir then had some long talks with Imam Magid, who pointed him to passages in the Quran that forbid killing other Muslims, innocent women and children.  Amir concluded that the Islamic State was only sowing chaos and hatred, which the Prophet Muhammad abhorred.

“The Islamic State once looked like eye candy to me,” said Amir, who was willing to be identified only by his first name because he did not want to attract the attention of extremists.  “But now I think they are deviants.”

Imam Magid described Amir as “the kind of person who is vulnerable to ISIS” — an alienated young Muslim with a black-and-white worldview, looking for purpose and adventure.  But, he added, it is often hard to identify which people are most at risk.

Here in suburban Virginia — where Muslim parents tend to be professionals whose children are enmeshed in American culture and are more likely to spend time at the mall than watching extremist videos — the threat still feels remote, especially for those who are active in mosques.  Many homegrown extremists in the West were converts who had little exposure to the faith, or education in it.

Many parents and religious leaders are struggling with where to focus their efforts.  Imam Magid, who is in regular communication with the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies, said the young men he had counseled came from a variety of family backgrounds.

Humera Khan, the founder of Muflehun, a think tank based in Washington that focuses on countering violent extremism, said that increasingly, there is no consistent profile of those who are targeted for recruitment or drawn to Islamic extremists.

“There are no patterns, and that’s making it harder for everyone,” she said in an interview in Virginia late last month.  “They can come from every ethnic, socioeconomic group, any geographic area.  But they are more often men than women, and they’re getting younger.”

Officials estimate that about 150 Americans have traveled, or tried to travel, to fight in Syria.  That is fewer than in France, where 1,000 people are estimated to have gone to Syria, or England, which has counted about 600, not including those who were in touch with extremists online and decided not to join.

Imam Magid said that in addition to those he had talked out of going, he knew of one young Muslim from Virginia who recently left to join the Islamic State in Syria.  (He said he had never met this man or had a chance to dissuade him.)

In Chicago in October, two brothers, ages 19 and 16, and their 17-year-old sister were detained at the airport on their way to Turkey to join the Islamic State.  Three girls from Denver, one as young as 15, were stopped at an airport in Germany the same month on their way to join militants in Syria.  All were reportedly recruited over the Internet.  And that has provoked new levels of introspection, both private and public, among American Muslims of all ages.

At a forum for Muslim millennials in Washington sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council last year, college students and Muslim leaders speculated about why a group as barbaric as the Islamic State had successfully attracted any Muslims at all from the West.

“ISIS says:  ‘Come here.  We’ve got ripped warriors,’ ” said Imam Suhaib Webb, a popular Muslim leader who moved from Boston to the Washington area last month.  “It’s a very simplistic response, but it’s somewhat effective.”

He said that in more than 15 years as an imam, he had encountered only five Muslims considering whether they should join violent militant groups, and that none of them had actually left the United States to fight.  “They were all males,” said Imam Webb, and “they all had daddy issues.”  He added, “They were not really drawn to this on theological grounds.”

Ms. Khan, who has four degrees from M.I.T., left lucrative consulting work to develop a prevention program that addresses extremism and the way that technology can be used for manipulation.  At one of her events last year, about 30 young Muslims, both high school and middle school students, gathered at the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center in Avon, Conn., for what was billed as a “cybersafety workshop,” with Ms. Khan moving swiftly from how to detect online pedophiles to how to detect Islamist extremists.

“They are telling you, ‘Let’s go fight.’  They are asking you to share gruesome images,” said Ms. Khan, who wore a blue floral-print head scarf.  “Be very careful.  These people are not your friends.”  She told the students, who were quick to raise their hands and ask questions, to avoid contact with strangers online, or with anyone who demanded secrecy.  The sexual predators are usually male, she told them, but the extremist recruiters can be male or female, and some of them can be, or can pretend to be, teenagers, too.  Her presentation included a picture of a wolf zipped into a sheep’s skin.

“Have you guys heard of grooming?” she asked them, using a term more often used in relation to sexual predators.  “They will try to be your friend.  They will be nice to you, spend lots of time with you.  Some of them will be sending you gifts.”

Programs like this have not been embraced as a widespread priority by American Muslims, at least until recently, in part because the problem seemed to be overseas, not here, Muslim leaders say.  And since many American Muslims are immigrants or African-Americans, there is substantial fear and suspicion of law enforcement officials, along with simple defensiveness and denial.

“The family says, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’ ” said M. Saud Anwar, a pulmonologist and the first Muslim to be elected as a mayor in Connecticut, where he serves South Windsor.

Imam Magid, speaking upstairs at his Muslim center while a team of Muslim girls pounded out a basketball game below, said that real prevention meant programs that give young people as much purpose and inspiration as extremists promise.  Once young Muslims buy into the ideology, he said, it is very hard to pry them loose.  “You have to reach them before it happens,” he said.

Monday, February 16, 2015

WEST COAST PORTS - Impact of Labor Disputes Hype?

"Is the economic impact of the labor disputes at West Coast ports just hype?" PBS NewsHour 2/15/2015


SUMMARY:  A labor dispute between shipowners and longshoreman on the West Coast has been going on for months now.  This weekend, the President dispatched labor secretary Thomas Perez to California to try to resolve it.  For more, economist Christopher Thornberg joins Alison Stewart from Los Angeles.

ALISON STEWART (NewsHour):  In Canada today, 3,000 members of the Teamsters went on strike.

They are in a dispute with the Canadian Pacific Railway over wages and benefits.  Analysts say a prolonged strike would affect the flow of oil, lumber, auto parts and other products into the United States.

Another labor dispute between ship owners and longshoremen has been going on for months now on the West Coast of this country.  And, this weekend, the President dispatched Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to California to try to resolve it.

For more about this, we are joined now from Los Angeles by Christopher Thornberg.  He is an economist and a founding partner of Beacon Economics.

So, Christopher, tell me, what is at the center of this dispute, and why has it gone on for something like nine months?

CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG, Founding Partner, Beacon Economics, LLC:  Well, we have to remember that, you know, there is a long history of tension between the longshoremen and the various owners of the shipping companies that move products in and out of those ports.

This time around, the contract was up for renewal.  Those negotiations had been carrying on.

I know the workers at the port have been working under the old expired contract for a number of months.

Contract negotiations haven’t been going very fast.

And, as a result of that, there’s been kind of this, if you will, guerrilla action going on between both parties.

It’s somewhat of a work slowdown by one side of the equation, and, of course, these kind of weekend-long lockouts on the other side of it.  And, overall, the tensions are just getting hotter and hotter.

TELEVISION - ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat' TV Series

"Will ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ turn the tide for Asian Americans on TV?" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2015


SUMMARY:  The new ABC sitcom "Fresh Off the Boat" debuted to winning ratings and marked the first time in 20 years you could watch a network series centered on an Asian-American family.  But will the popular sitcom clear the path for more exposure of Asian Americans in pop culture?  NewsHour's Mori Rothman reports.

MORI ROTHMAN (NewsHour):  Like millions of Americans, Jeff Yang watched the recent premiere of “Fresh Off the Boat.”  Yang is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal online and has written about Asian-American issues and America’s changing demographics for decades.

JEFF YANG, Wall Street Journal:  Asian-Americans are disproportionately educated, which means that there’s a growing middle-class and upper-middle class, white-collar population of Asian-Americans, affluent with disposable income.  The kind of demographic that marketers historically have been seeking to reach.

MORI ROTHMAN:  According to the 2010 Census, which defines Asians as people originating from dozens of countries, including China, India and the Philippines, Asian Americans account for a small segment of the U.S. — just over 17 million people.  But a Nielsen report on the Asian-American consumer says Asians are the fastest growing group in the U.S., having grown 58 percent from 2000 to 2013.

That’s why Yang believes TV lineups are diversifying.  Networks made a splash last year by announcing 10 new shows this season with non-white characters or non-white show creators.  But Yang is paying special attention to one show, and not just because he studies demographics.  He’s watching for his son.

JEFF YANG:  I can’t even claim to be a dispassionate observer here, and nor would I want to.  You know, my son, of course, is the lead kid.  He plays 11-year-old Eddie Huang in “Fresh Off the Boat.”

EDDIE HUANG, FRESH OFF THE BOAT:  That’s me, your boy Eddie Huang, check it, 11-years-old…

JEFF YANG:  I could never have imagined that it would be my offspring, the next generation who would be at the very center of a moment that I’ve kind of looked forward to for all of my adult life.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/13/2015

"Shields and Brooks on Obama’s war authority request, Islamic State’s threat" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including President Obama’s request to Congress to engage in military action against the Islamic State group, Congress’ tangling over the President’s immigration order, and the uproar over Brian Williams’ error and subsequent suspension from NBC.

DOCUMENTARY - 'Citizenfour'

About the traitor Snowden.  Whose revelations have lobotomized our national security.

"Watching Snowden’s pivotal moments in ‘Citizenfour’" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2015


SUMMARY:  Filmmaker Laura Poitras captured the moment former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source behind a massive document leak of classified surveillance in 2013.  Two years later, Snowden’s story is the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Citizenfour.”  Jeffrey Brown speaks with Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald about how those pivotal moments came to life on screen.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  President Obama went to Silicon Valley today to call for more cooperation between private companies and the government when it comes to defending against cyber-attacks.

In the wake of major hacks against health insurer Anthem and Sony Pictures, the president told executives they need to share more information.

But today’s summit also comes amid growing tensions between tech companies and the administration over privacy and civil liberties, a point the president acknowledged.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States:  In all our work, we have to make sure we are protecting the privacy and civil liberty of the American people.  Now, we grapple with these issues in government.

We have pursued important reforms to make sure we are respecting people’s privacy, as well as ensuring our national security.  And the private sector wrestles with this as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Several CEOs of top tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Yahoo!, didn’t attend, reportedly over anger and disappointment about a lack of reform in the government’s broad surveillance programs.

The revelations about the government’s reach are the subject of a documentary nominated for an Academy Award.

IRAN - Holding a U.S. Journalist

"Why is Iran holding a U.S. journalist?" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2015


SUMMARY:  With a court ruling that two Al Jazeera journalists who were imprisoned in Egypt for more than a year will be released on bail, Judy Woodruff looks at a new survey of press freedom and abuses around the world.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner speaks with Ali Rezaian, brother of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been jailed in Iran on secret charges since July.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  An Egyptian court ruled today that two Al-Jazeera journalists who had been jailed for more than 400 days will be released on bail.

Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy still face a retrial.  Their colleague, Australian Peter Greste, was freed a few weeks ago.

Today’s ruling is a small victory for press freedom advocates.  But a new report released in Washington warns that journalists are increasingly coming under threat.

DELPHINE HALGAND, U.S. Director, Reporters Without Borders:  The indicators compiled by Reporters Without Borders are incontestable.  There was a drastic decline in freedom of information in 2014.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The world’s largest press freedom group surveyed 180 countries, and fully two-thirds in its estimation saw greater restrictions last year.  The list placed Finland first as most free, with much of Europe near the top.  The United States was 49th, with the report citing lack of a federal shield law and arrests of reporters in Ferguson, Missouri, among other factors.

But, worldwide, the principal cause of deterioration was widespread conflict, especially in Syria, in Iraq and Ukraine.  Prime culprits were nonstate actors like the Islamic State group that have menaced and killed journalists.  Another major cause, restrictions in the name of national security, from the Middle East, through Asia, and even, the group contends, in the United States.

And while bail was announced for two Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt today, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian remains behind bars in Iran.  The dual U.S./Iranian citizen has been held since July on secret charges.

TECHNOLOGY - A Fully Functional Robotic Arm?

"Will a robotic arm ever have the full functionality of a human limb?" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2015


SUMMARY:  Improvements in body armor have kept more soldiers alive, but many veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have come back with debilitating injuries.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien, whose left arm was amputated last year, tests out some of the future limbs now in development.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A report on the possibilities and limits of robotic arms and prosthetic technology.

It’s also a story with a real and personal connection for us through the experiences of our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien.  One year ago, he was involved in an unlikely accident that led to the amputation of much of his left arm.  Since then, he’s been reporting and exploring what might be available to help him and others.

Here’s the first of two reports.

Lots of people wonder why I don’t wear a high-tech bionic arm.  It’s a fair question for an arm amputee who happens to be a reporter with more than 20 years on the science and technology beat.  People expect a professional nerd like me would have an arm that approaches what Luke Skywalker or Colonel Steve Austin wore.

ACTOR:  We can rebuild him.  We have the technology.  We can make him better than he was.

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  Not yet, but maybe soon, as I discovered not far from my home in Washington at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Here, they’re using knowledge gained, building compact, complex systems like spacecraft and missile warheads to push the envelope in upper limb prosthetics.

MICHAEL MCLOUGHLIN, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory:  This is the modular prosthetic limb.  This has been designed to have most of the functionality of the human limb.

MILES O’BRIEN:  Chief engineer Mike McLoughlin introduced me to the Modular Prosthetic Limb, the MPL.  It’s the most sophisticated artificial limb in the world.

SCIENCE - Effect of Pro-Survey-Takers

"How professional survey-takers are shaping scientific research" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2015


SUMMARY:  An online job forum called Mechanical Turk has created a pool of professional survey-takers who complete hundreds of inquiries a week.  For academic researchers, it’s cheap, easy to use and the response flood in fast.  But how good is the data being collected?  Judy Woodruff learns more from the NewsHour’s Jenny Marder.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  A look at enterprise reporting we have done online that we thought would be of interest to you.

It’s about the proliferation of scientific and academic research being done online and whether those methods may be leading to flawed or unreliable data.  Much of the work was done once by students, but, these days, there is an informal work force of people who participate in studies through an online job forum known as Mechanical Turk.

The name was inspired which an 18th century fake chess-playing robot decorated in Turkish robes.  It defeated almost every opponent it faced for years, but it turned out there was a hidden human chess master behind the machine.

Well, the NewsHour’s Jenny Marder reported our story.  And she fills us in now.

Jenny, it’s great to have you here to talk about it.

So, first of all, tell us more about who these people are who are answering these surveys and what exactly do they do.


Well, this is a portion of the 500,000 workers on Mechanical Turk that we were looking at.  And the workers do all sorts of jobs.  The jobs have been — work has been called microlabor because the pay is often very, very low.  You see a lot of jobs for 25 cents, 5 cents, even a penny.

So they’re really working for pennies on Mechanical Turk.  The reason we got interested is it’s been, over the past five years, increasingly used by academic researchers as a way of getting data and finding study subjects for their research.

POLITICS - A Bipartisan 'Sweet Spot'

"Increasing hydropower hits a bipartisan sweet spot" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2015


SUMMARY:  Energy will be a key issue for the new Congress, and hydropower is one of the few areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans.  Legislative changes have made it easier to develop small-scale hydroelectric projects and both parties find it advantageous.  Special correspondent Dan Boyce of Inside Energy reports on what else proponents are seeking from lawmakers.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The topic of energy often fuels political debate.

But, as our next report shows, water might be putting out some of those fires.  The U.S. Department of Energy says hydropower has the potential to generate electricity for more than four million homes.

Our story comes from Dan Boyce of Inside Energy.  That’s a public media collaboration working with the NewsHour.

DAN BOYCE, Inside Energy:  This is what a lot of us think of when we hear the word hydropower, but in a lot of ways, this is the old face of hydro in the U.S., and this is the new face.

So, Bev, this is all it is.

BEVERLY RICH, San Juan County Historical Society:  This is it.

DAN BOYCE:  A generator the size of a wheelbarrow pulling in water from a mountain stream, generating enough power for about 10 homes.  This little generator has helped change the course of hydro-history.

BEVERLY RICH:  Come on, really?  This little, tiny thing in a 5-foot-by-10-foot building is causing all of this?

DAN BOYCE:  Beverly Rich and other members of the volunteer San Juan County Historical Society started taking care of this old mill site about 15 years ago, a mill with a water pipeline the workers used decades ago to help process precious metals like gold and silver.

BEVERLY RICH:  At that time, we kept thinking, gee, there really ought to be a way we can use that water.

INDIA'S SLUMS - Meet an Advocate For the Millions

"Meet an advocate for the needs and dignity of the millions who live in India’s slums" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2015


SUMMARY:  Slum Dwellers International, an advocacy organization started in India, has had success rallying large numbers of marginalized people to push for their rights and get basic amenities like toilets, electricity and permanent shelter.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro talks with founder Jockin Arputham about his lifelong calling to improve living conditions and empower communities.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO (NewsHour):  Few cities display a wider gap between haves and have-nots than Mumbai or Bombay.  Real estate here is costlier than Manhattan, yet two-thirds of this city of 16 million people live in slums, crammed spaces that are technically illegal and by most measures unfit or unsafe for human habitation.

It’s here that Jockin Arputham is a towering figure, even though he’s barely 5 feet tall.  His efforts have helped nearly 40,000 families get out of dangerous and unsanitary improvised shelters to complexes like this one, which is now providing new homes for squatters who are living under electric towers.

So you have 600 families here?

JOCKIN ARPUTHAM, Slum Dwellers International:  Yes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  Six hundred.  And how — OK.  How much of a dent does that make?  Are there are many more families who still need to be rehabilitated?

JOCKIN ARPUTHAM:  There are about 3,000 families to be rehabilitated in this kind of scheme.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  And this is just people who are squatting in electric towers?


FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  The apartments may not look like much, one 225-square-foot room, but of brick and mortar, instead of plywood or tarp.  They have running water and something the majority of Bombay’s residents don’t, a private toilet.

Of all the indignities suffered by slum dwellers, Arputham says none is more humiliating than not having a toilet, private or public.

POLICING - Rebuilding Accountability and Trust

"How do communities increase accountability and rebuild trust after police shootings?" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2015


SUMMARY:  Around the nation, from Ferguson to Staten Island to Albuquerque, communities are grappling with the aftermath of deaths caused by police officers who used lethal force.  Gwen Ifill talks to Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP and Richard Berry of the International Association of Chiefs of Police about how to repair strained relations and curb the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A rookie New York City police officer was indicted today in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a Brooklyn housing project stairwell.  The victim, Akai Gurley, was described as a total innocent in the case.

New York is obviously not the only community grappling with the fallout from cases such as this.  Last night, we brought you a story about efforts to curb the use of similar lethal force in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

So what are communities doing about it?

For more on that, we turn to Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, and Richard Beary, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

Months later, after all the discussions of Ferguson and Staten Island, what progress are we making, Mr. — Reverend Brooks, in this and trying to get to policing reform?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, President, NAACP:  I’m hopeful that there is an emerging consensus as to both our ability to bring about policing reform and a concrete set of policy proposals.

So whether it be at the federal level in terms of passing the End Racial Profiling Act, which would tie federal funding to the training of police officers, so that they don’t engage in racial profiling, to the NAACP-supported and passage of the Death in Custody Act — up until a little while ago, you would ask the commonsense kind of question, how many police-involved homicides are there in the country, there’s no way to answer that question.

I believe we’re on our way to answering that question.  To more flexibility in terms of promoting — or appointing special prosecutors.  So there are a number of concrete proposals, reforms that we can pursue.  And all across the country, you’re seeing a young — a generation of practitioners of democracy, of protesting, are engaging in sit-ins and die-ins and who believe something could be done.

ALZHEIMER'S - Book & Movie 'Still Alice'

"In ‘Still Alice,’ a neuroscientist-novelist explores what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2015


SUMMARY:  Confronted by her own grandmother’s illness, writer and neuroscientist Lisa Genova started her exploration of Alzheimer’s with one question:  What does it actually feel like to have the disease?  Her resulting novel, “Still Alice,” was adapted into a film that has been nominated for an Academy Award.  Jeffrey Brown interviews Genova about why she turned to fiction.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A new film, and the book that inspired it, are getting high praise this awards season for the spotlight they cast on the toll of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Jeffrey Brown looks at the film and its subject, part of our occasional feature, 'NewsHour Goes to the Movies.'

JULIANNE MOORE, Actress:  Man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of young children.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  When we first meet Alice Howland, she’s 50 years old, an accomplished professor of linguistics, but something is beginning to happen.

JULIANNE MOORE:  I hope we convince you that by observing these baby steps into the — into — I — I knew I shouldn’t have had that champagne.

JEFFREY BROWN:  We watch as Alice loses words, gets lost in familiar places, forgets appointments.  Eventually, she’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

JULIANNE MOORE:  Why won’t you take me seriously?

JEFFREY BROWN:  It’s an up-close and sometimes raw portrait shown from the perspective of someone with a disease that today affects more than five million Americans, including 200,000 who experience early onset.