Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MEMORIAL DAY - 5/25/2015

"On Memorial Day, remembering sacrifices of the loved ones left at home" PBS NewsHour 5/25/2015


SUMMARY:  While more than 2 million men and women serve in the American military, a new documentary, “The Homefront,” focuses on the additional 3 million husbands, wives and children who remain behind, waiting for their loved ones to return from deployment.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to documentary host Bob Woodruff, an ABC correspondent who was severely wounded while covering the war in Iraq.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  While more than two million men and women serve in the country’s all-volunteer military force, a new documentary, “The Homefront (full episode 1:55),” focuses on the additional three million husbands, wives, sons and daughters who remain behind.  They carry on their lives while a loved one is overseas for months, even more than a year, and sometimes on multiple deployments.

“Homefront” is part of PBS’ Military Voices initiative.

WOMAN:  My name is Samantha Marie Van Fossen.  I’m a specialist.  I’m in the Army Reserve.

I joined hoping that I could get on a deployment as quick as I could, because I want to do good things for my country.  The only thing that I have trouble with is just in leaving my family.

My mom, I know she’s — she’s not going to want to see me go.  And my dad, he’s going to have a really hard time with that, too.  But they’re all proud of me.  So, that’s all that matters.

WOMAN:  Love you, honey.

WOMAN:  Bye.

MAN:  These wars are very different than the ones we have fought in the past.

When we first started, we had not deployed for an extended period of time.  Then the length of deployment is 12 months and then, in some cases, 15-month deployments.  And then going back for second, the third and the fourth time, the impact that had on our families was significant.

"How one veteran pays tribute to troops killed in Afghanistan" PBS NewsHour 5/25/2015


SUMMARY:   In a personal tribute to those who died in the Afghanistan war, Navy veteran Ron White memorized every name and rank in order to write them in a single undertaking.

Monday, May 25, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Gerson 5/22/2015

"Shields and Gerson on GOP’s Patriot Act rift, Islamic State’s victories" PBS NewsHour 5/22/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, new doubts about the Obama administration’s strategy for fighting the Islamic State, the political divide on key provisions of the Patriot Act, and the State Department’s release of emails by former Secretary Hillary Clinton emails.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  .....we turn now to the analysis of Shields and Gerson.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.  David Brooks is away.

Welcome to you both.

So, with that conversation coming from the Republican contenders, Mark, this is in a week where ISIS, Islamic State, is making some big gains.  They took over a key city in Iraq, Ramadi.  You’re starting to hear criticism of the administration policy toward ISIS, towards what’s going on in Iraq.

The President came out this week and said, I have got a strategy, it’s working.

What do you think?

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  I think, Judy, that, politically, just speaking politically right now, for 10 years, from 2006 basically up to today, nine years, that Iraq has been a positive issue for Democrats.  They won the Congress in 2006.  They nominated the one candidate in the party who had opposed the Iraq war.  And opposition to that Iraq War and to President Bush’s policy became central in the 2008 campaign.

Mitt Romney had to walk away from his support for it in 2012 and say he wouldn’t have supported it.  And now, 2015, five years after President Obama announced the withdrawal of combat units from Iraq, keeping a promise that he had made in that 2008 campaign, we see Ramadi fall.  We see the Iraqi army in full flight, after all the training, after all the billions of dollars.

And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said they were not driven, the Iraqi army was not driven out of Ramadi.  They drove out of Ramadi.  They aren’t a paper tiger.  They’re a paper tabby cat.

And that is the reality.  And ISIS is on the move.  ISIS is on the offensive.  And I think, politically speaking, beyond the ethics and the morals, that Democrats now are starting to feel themselves on the defensive on this issue, and Republicans are starting to feel free of what had been an enormous burden.

PATRIOT ACT - The Divide

  • On the Internet you CANNOT expect privacy, any more than you can if you are talking in the middle of Central Park.  There is always a chance that someone will overhear you.
  • Phone matadata does NOT have any personal data.  It is ONLY phone numbers and date-time stamps that are use by your phone carrier's billing computer to calculate cost.  It is the phone carrier's billing computer that holds personal information and should require a warrant to see.  Note you DO NOT own your phone number, your carrier does.

"The Patriot Act’s strange divide" PBS NewsHour 5/22/2015


SUMMARY:  On June 1, the NSA will lose legal authority to collect bulk phone records, as key provisions of the Patriot Act expire.  The House has passed a new bill replacing bulk collection with more targeted searches.  But some senators, including the majority leader, want to extend the Patriot Act, leaving lawmakers scrambling before the holiday.  Judy Woodruff talks to Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We now turn to the heated debate over government security and individual privacy.

Three key provisions of the Patriot Act that allow for government surveillance are set to expire soon, but the U.S. Senate is planning to be out of Washington next week, leaving lawmakers scrambling to find agreement on this controversial issue.

Senators came to work this morning confronting an impasse on surveillance and a looming deadline.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) Vermont:  Unfortunately, the clock’s been run out.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  On June 1, the National Security Agency loses legal authority to collect bulk phone records, as key provisions of the Patriot Act expire.  But the Senate is leaving for the Memorial Day recess and won’t return until June 1, leaving Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy to point across the Capitol.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY:  The House worked very hard on this.  They completed their work and they left.  They’re not coming back until after the surveillance authorities are set to expire.  And the House leadership has made clear they will not pass an extension, even if they’re in.

MAN:  On this vote, the yeas are 338 and the nays are 88.  The bill is passed.


"Giving homeless transgender youth a safe haven from the streets" PBS NewsHour 5/22/2015


SUMMARY:  Homelessness is a reality for many young transgender Americans.  In Washington [D.C.], a row house has been turned into a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who have nowhere else to go.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to the group home's founder about creating a space that is safe, fun and feels like home for those who may have been kicked out by their families for being different.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Hari Sreenivasan is back with a report on one of a handful of programs in the country that’s helping homeless transgender youth get their footing in society.

It’s another in our Transgender in America series.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  It looks like any other row house in Washington, D.C., but Ruby Corado’s house is different.  It’s a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who have nowhere else to go.

Fifteen, 20 years ago, if you were trans, you were living in a house, you walked out on a stoop like this and some kids were walking by, what’s the likely reaction then vs. now?

RUBY CORADO:  Fifteen years ago?


RUBY CORADO:  It was impossible to be me during the day.  We were segregated to the underground world.  Today, we can be trans in the entire city.  It’s still hard, but we can still be ourselves.  And we take those risks because, deep inside of us, we are happy.

HUMOR - Commencement Speeches 2015

"Stephen Colbert, Tim Cook, George W. Bush crack jokes for Class of 2015" PBS NewsHour 5/22/2015


SUMMARY:  It’s commencement season for the class of 2015, and graduates and their families may be hearing a lot of speeches.  Here are some of the funniest moments from a few of this year’s speeches.

MEDIA - Yosemite Moonlight Rainbows

"Photographers chase Yosemite’s rare moonlight rainbows" PBS NewsHour 5/21/2015


SUMMARY:  On a clear night in Yosemite, only a few times each year, the full moon hits a misty spray of the highest waterfall in the park, creating a nighttime rainbow that is visible only through a camera lens.  But this year, Yosemite Falls, which normally flows until August, will be dry by June, making more moonbow sightings uncertain.  Special correspondent Sandra Hughes reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now a look at some of the wonders of the country’s first wilderness preserve.

Special correspondent Sandra Hughes reports from the Western Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

SANDRA HUGHES (NewsHour):  In its 125th year as a national park, Yosemite remains as beautiful as it is popular.  On most weekends, just getting inside the park takes patience.

But the 1,100-square-mile natural wonder in Northern California is worth the wait for the 4 million visitors who travel here every year from all over the world.

CHILD:  Yosemite.

GARY HART, Photographer:  I think it’s the most beautiful place in the world.  This time of year in particular is kind of — I call it — spring kind of the postcard Yosemite.

SANDRA HUGHES:  Gary Hart understands Yosemite’s draw.  A nature photographer who has shot every corner of this park…

GARY HART:  I got it.

SANDRA HUGHES:  … Hart leads photography expeditions for students out to capture Yosemite’s famous and lesser known wonders.

WAR ON ISIS - What Can the U.S. Do?

IMHO:  As of today?  Nothing, because the American people fail to really understand the risk.

"Islamic State expands territory in Syria, Iraq and Libya" PBS NewsHour 5/21/2015

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  After a week in which the Islamic State group made dramatic gains in three countries, Iraq, Syria, and Libya, there were new doubts in Washington over whether they can be stopped.

ISIS fighters trumpeted their conquest of ancient Palmyra in Central Syria after days of fighting.  And Syrian state TV confirmed it.

WOMAN (through interpreter):  Syrian national defense forces have withdrawn from Palmyra.  Islamic State fighters have entered the city in big numbers and are trying to enter archaeological sites.

GWEN IFILL:  Syrian activists reported the militants had, in fact, already seized the world-renowned Roman ruins just outside Palmyra.  The site is famous for its 2,000-year-old colonnades and other antiquities.

And there are fears that ISIS extremists will destroy them, as they have done in Iraq.  The head of the global cultural agency UNESCO pleaded today for a cease-fire.

IRINA BOKOVA, Director-General, UNESCO:  Destroying heritage will not achieve anything.  Destroying such heritage doesn’t mean that you achieve some kind of a victory over your enemy.

GWEN IFILL:  But the seizure of Palmyra does mean that ISIS now controls even more Syrian territory.  And hundreds of miles to the east, in Iraq, the militants today followed up their capture of Ramadi by overrunning Iraqi military positions east of the city.

The group also scored gains in faraway Libya, taking the city of Sirte, hometown of former leader Moammar Gadhafi.  The cascade of ISIS victories raised new questions about U.S. reliance on airstrikes to defeat the militants.  That issue dominated a Senate hearing, where lawmakers and witnesses took turns blasting the administration.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.:  While it’s still unclear what President Obama is willing to do in Syria, it is clear our partners do not draw confidence from statements of what we will not do.

GEN. JACK KEANE (RET.), U.S. Army:  We are not only failing.  We are, in fact, losing this war.  Moreover, I can say with certainty that this strategy will not defeat ISIS.

GWEN IFILL:  The President didn’t respond directly, as he met with his Cabinet.  But in an interview conducted earlier this week with The Atlantic, he offered an appraisal of the situation in Iraq, saying:  “I don’t think we’re losing.  Baghdad is consolidated.  And ISIL has been significantly degraded across the country.”

At today’s White House briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest spoke directly to what will, and won’t, happen next.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  But the President is not going to be in a position where he’s going to consider a large-scale U.S. military deployment.  And for those who are calling on a change in strategy, I would encourage them to be specific.

GWEN IFILL:  There was word that the U.S. is sending 2,000 anti-tank rockets to Iraq’s military to target suicide car bombers before they strike.

"What can the U.S. do to stop the Islamic State?" PBS NewsHour 5/21/2015


SUMMARY:  New victories by the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and Libya are fueling debate and criticism in Washington over the U.S. strategy and reliance on airstrikes against the militant group.  Gwen Ifill talks to David Ignatius of The Washington Post and Feisal Istrabadi, Iraq’s former deputy UN ambassador, about the complicated challenges facing the U.S.

CUBA - Ready, Set, Go?

"Is Cuba ready for the big business, tourism that U.S. will bring?" PBS NewsHour 5/21/2015


SUMMARY:  U.S. and Cuban diplomats resumed talks to iron out details of normalizing relations after decades of hostility.  Judy Woodruff learns more from senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown, reporting from Cuba, and chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner, who has been following the talks in Washington.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Officials from the U.S. and Cuba resumed talks today in Washington.  They’re trying to iron out the details of reestablishing diplomatic relations, which were broken off more than 50 years ago.

At issue today, what it will take to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals?  In December, Presidents Obama and Castro announced that they reestablish ties.  And meeting in Panama, they reaffirmed that commitment.

Our own Jeffrey Brown is in Cuba all this week, reporting on what the opening up of that country means for them.  And chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has been following the progress of the talks here.

And we welcome both of you.

So, Margaret, you have been following these talks.  What’s the latest?

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  The latest is, Judy, that they have wrapped up for the day and there is still no deal.  Now, this is the fourth time they have met over the fairly confined issue of opening up embassies in each other’s capitals.  And it’s proved tougher than they thought.

That said, apparently, things went encouragingly enough today that the two negotiators, Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary, and her counterpart from Cuba, are having back-to-back news conferences tomorrow morning here in Washington.  But then Ms. Vidal is returning to Havana.

There is some concern among U.S. officials that Cuba may be dragging its feet here a bit.  Cuba has gotten what it wanted here, which was to have the President take it off the state sponsors of terrorism list and also help in finding a U.S. bank that was willing to handle Cuban money for the interests section.

GREED FILES - Big Bank Rigging

"DOJ gets unprecedented guilty plea by five banks for rigging currency markets" PBS NewsHour 5/20/2015


SUMMARY:  Five major banking institutions pleaded guilty to rigging currencies and manipulating the foreign exchange market in a case brought by the Department of Justice and other authorities.  The banks were accused of manipulating the world's largest and least-regulated trading market, and have agreed to pay more than $5 billion in total.  Judy Woodruff learns more from Keri Geiger of Bloomberg News.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Big banks and their behavior are again at the heart of a new criminal case brought by the Department of Justice and other authorities today.  Five major institutions pled guilty to rigging currencies and manipulating the foreign exchange market.

The banks also agreed to pay more than $5 billion combined in new penalties.  The fines were some of the biggest brought to date by the federal government.  The banks were accused of manipulating the world’s largest and least regulated trading market, where trillions of dollars change hands.  Among those pleading guilty, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS.

At a press conference in Washington, Attorney General Loretta Lynch spelled out how the rigging worked.

LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General:  Starting as early as 2007, currency traders at several multinational banks formed a group that they dubbed the Cartel.

It’s perhaps fitting that they chose that name, as it aptly describes the brazenly illegal behavior that they were engaged in on a near five-year basis.  Almost every day, for more than five years, traders in this cartel used a private electronic chat room to manipulate the spot market’s exchange rate between euros and dollars, using coded language to conceal their collusion.

GULF OIL SPILL - Still Killing Dolphins

"New science shows Gulf spill is still killing dolphins" PBS NewsHour 5/19/2015


SUMMARY:  More than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins have died off the Gulf Coast since 2010, the year a massive Deepwater Horizon spill spewed millions of gallons of oil and chemicals.  A new study by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration examines why.  The NewsHour's William Brangham joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the findings.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, the lasting impact of America’s biggest offshore oil spill.

It comes as officials are grappling with a new spill along the coast of Southern California near Santa Barbara.  It began yesterday when an onshore pipeline ruptured.  Slicks are now spanning a total of nine miles and the line was operating at full capacity when it broke.

Today, a new study by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looked at why dolphins died in such large numbers after the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010.  It was the strongest link yet to the spill and to the deaths of bottlenose dolphins.  More than 1,000 dolphins have died in the Gulf since 2010.

The spill lasted nearly three months, spewing millions of gallons of oil and chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico.

We get the latest from William Brangham, who weekend viewers will recognize, and he is now here with us as our newest NewsHour correspondent.

And we welcome you to the team, William.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Thanks, Judy.  Great to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, let’s talk about this, what researchers are saying.  What do they say these new studies show?

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  What they’re saying is that this has been the first definitive link where they can directly connect the death, this massive die-off of dolphins — as you mentioned, over 1,300 — I think it’s 1,200, 1,300 dolphins — linking those deaths directly with the oil spill.

I mean, scientists have been studying these dolphins for several years, ever since the spill occurred.  This is the first time they have said, we now know why they died and in such large numbers, and it’s because of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

JOBS - Replaced by Robots?

"Will your job get outsourced to a robot?" PBS NewsHour 5/19/2015


SUMMARY:  It's not just basic tasks anymore:  Computers can now do work once deemed possible only by humans.  And in some cases, the computers are doing it better.  In an economy driven increasingly by intelligent automation, which jobs will survive?  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Have you ever worried you might lose your job to a robot?  I have.

Hari Sreenivasan finds it could well happen with advances in artificial intelligence, or A.I., transforming the work force.

That’s the latest report in our series on invention and innovation, Breakthroughs.

MAN:  Oh, all in?

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  In a closely watched brains vs. artificial intelligence poker match held in Pittsburgh earlier this month, humans pulled off a slim win over a computer program called Claudico.

MAN:  All right.  Good job.

MAN:  Good game, guys.  Good game.

MAN:  Good game.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Tuomas Sandholm, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, created the algorithms that run Claudico’s A.I.

TUOMAS SANDHOLM, Carnegie Mellon University:  Those algorithms figure out how you should act strategically, how do you avoid or deal with humans trying to deceive you, and how do you deceive humans?

SYRIA - Robbing History, Culture at Risk

"How war has robbed Syria of its history" PBS NewsHour 5/19/2015


SUMMARY:  There’s a battle being waged for Syria’s history, where four years of war have devastated cultural heritage sites and looting occurs by all sides of the conflict.  Special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports on the flagrant destruction of relics, the big business of smuggling antiquities and what’s being done to stop it.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The United Nations Cultural Agency recently expressed alarm over one of the Middle East’s most treasured historical sites.  They reported that the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, home of 2,000-year-old ruins and a U.N. World Heritage Site, is currently under threat, as Islamic State forces move in, fighting against government troops in the area.

At this point, the militants have been held at bay, but the destruction and looting of antiquities is one of the turmoil’s many casualties.

NewsHour special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports tonight on the fight to save them.  It’s part of our series on Culture at Risk.

MARCIA BIGGS, Special Correspondent:  It’s as stark as night and day, this satellite photo before the war began and after.

Both are from the ancient city of Apamea, founded in 300 B.C.  It was a hub of commerce and culture in the Roman era.  And it boasted one of the largest theaters of the ancient world.  Today, it is pockmarked with craters, evidence of massive looting on an industrial scale.

Syria’s cultural heritage sites have been devastated by four years of war.  Some in the region are battling to save the country’s history, but it’s oftentimes a life-threatening race against the clock.  We traveled to Turkey to meet a Syrian archaeologist who is at the forefront of that fight.  He asked that we not show you his face or use his real name.  So, we will call him Saeed.

Early in the war, Saeed was part of a team called the Syrian Heritage Task Force, which sandbagged historic sites like this museum in Ma’ara, to protect them from Bashar al-Assad’s airstrikes.

SAEED (through interpreter):  It’s not a war on our present.  That’s what I believe.  The war is targeting the human being that is alive now, who is also part of a history of roots.  So we are fighting on more than one front.  I choose to fight on the front that is that of history.

CHANGES - Goodby to David Letterman

"Saying goodnight to stupid pet tricks, top 10 lists and David Letterman" PBS NewsHour 5/19/2015


SUMMARY:  In the fall, Stephen Colbert will take over the TV time slot that has belonged to David Letterman for 22 years.  The host of CBS' Late Night with David Letterman influenced generations of comedians and brought a new voice to late night.  He was silly with an edge, known for his engaged, and occasionally confrontational interviewing style.  Jeffrey Brown looks back at Letterman’s career and legacy.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  David Letterman will sign off for the last time tomorrow, capping a late-night career that lasted more than three decades, even longer than the late-night titan Johnny Carson.

Letterman, and now a generation of younger comedians, drastically changed the landscape Carson left behind.  And now it’s set to change again.

Jeffrey Brown looks at Letterman’s enduring influence.

TINA FEY, Actress:  My gift to you is, I want to give you the dress.  You can keep it.



JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  In the final days of his program, David Letterman has heard raves and roasts.

DAVID LETTERMAN:  How long have we been friends?  I guess you alluded to 30 — oh, you can go back to the morning show.

STEVE MARTIN, Comedian:  The morning show, yes, I was on the show then, but that doesn’t make us friends.


JEFFREY BROWN:  From a parade of stars, many of whom have joined him often in his 33-year network career.

Monday, May 18, 2015

WAR ON ISIS - U.S. Raid in Syria

"Inside the U.S. raid that took out a key ISIS leader in Syria" PBS NewsHour 5/16/2015


SUMMARY:  U.S. special forces killed a senior Islamic State commander during a raid overnight Friday in eastern Syria, the Pentagon said Saturday.  Doug Ollivant, the former director for Iraq in the National Security Council, joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington, D.C., to discuss.

HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  For some perspective on the raid, I’m joined by Doug Ollivant in Washington, D.C.  He was the director for Iraq in the National Security Council in the Bush and Obama administrations.  He is a senior national security fellow at the New America Foundation and a partner at Mantid International.

So, what do we know about this individual?  Why was he such a high-value target?

DOUG OLLIVANT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION:  Well, there are many things we don’t know about this individual.

Now, presumably, the U.S. intelligence knows the function that he is performing in the organization.  He’s evidently very tied into financing, oil sales, and the like.  But exactly who he is, we’re not sure.

Abu Sayyaf, his nickname meaning “father of Sayyaf.”  We don’t know who Sayyaf is.  Presumably his son, but we don’t know how old or what he does.

And we seem confused where he comes from.  The United States seems to think he’s Tunisian, but we have had reports out of the region saying he’s an Iraqi from Mosul, and before that, from Saudi Arabia.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  OK.  One of the interesting things that I found was that this was one of the first times that I’ve heard about U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, and they were launched from Iraq.

DOUG OLLIVANT:  That’s right.  So, this is the first time that we know of that U.S. Special Forces have gone into Syria with the intent of killing or capturing enemy combatants.  We know that there was the attempted raid to rescue hostages, such as James Foley before.  This is the first time they’ve gone forward to conduct combat and try to kill and capture people.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 5/15/2015

"Shields and Brooks on the Senate’s trade battle, train safety funding" PBS NewsHour 5/15/2015


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including a death sentence for Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an Amtrak funding and safety debate after the deadly derailment, the Senate fight over the possible Asia trade deal and questions for Jeb Bush on shifting support for the Iraq war.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  So, I want to ask you first, though, both about the Boston verdict, sentencing verdict.

Mark, you’re from Boston.  This is the death sentence, unanimous death sentence.

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  It is, Judy.

And the one just outstanding image I have is that of Bill and Denise Richard, the parents of little Martin, the little angel 8-year-old who was blown up in front of their eyes while their daughter, Jane, lost her leg, and their request to give life without parole.  Otherwise, they said, the death sentence, we will relive this.  Every appeal that is made, we will relive the worst day of our life.

It is an aspect that — and a perspective, I think, that appealed to me, given my feelings on the death penalty.  But as pointed out by the prosecution, he put — he put the bomb four feet away from a row of children.  It was a horrific, horrific, inhuman act.  So, you know, my heart goes out to the Richard family and to everybody else who was touched and remains pained.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But the jury went in the other direction.

DAVID BROOKS, York Times columnist:  Yes.  And some of the other families wanted this outcome.  I think there was division among them.

I’m — personally, I am skeptical of the death penalty in cases where we don’t know, we’re not certain.  There have been so many wrongful convictions, and so I’m not a fan of the death penalty.  Nonetheless, I thought what Loretta Lynch, the new attorney general, said today was that this was truly the most horrendous crime imaginable, and for the most horrendous crime, the ultimate penalty is fitting.

I have some sympathy.  And this is not a case where we really have too much doubt about who did it.  We know this guy did it.  It killed those children, and then killed the cop a couple of days later.  And so if there’s ever going to be a death penalty, I guess I think this is the case.  Whether he will actually ever get executed, I’m a little dubious.  I don’t [think] he ever will.  A lot of the federal cases, they rarely actually execute the people, because the appeals take so long.  But I guess it’s fitting in this case.

BOSTON BOMBING - Reaction to Death Sentence

"Boston bombing victims react to Tsarnaev death sentence" PBS NewsHour 5/15/2015


SUMMARY:  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three.  The federal jury chose to sentence the 21-year-old to death by lethal injection over life in prison without possibility of release.  Judy Woodruff talks to Emily Rooney of WGBH to learn more about the reactions from victims and their families.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The Boston Marathon bomber was sentenced to death today; 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted by a federal jury last month of the April 2013 bombings that killed three bystanders near the finish line of the annual race.

Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, later killed a policemen during a manhunt.  The elder Tsarnaev died in a gun battle with police.  The jury chose death over the only other option, life in prison without possibility of release.

After the penalty was announced, the U.S. attorney who led the prosecution and a bombing victim spoke.

CARMEN ORTIZ, U.S. Attorney, District of Massachusetts:  Today, the jury has spoken, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will pay with his life for his crimes.  Make no mistake.  The defendant claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims.  This wasn’t a religious crime and it certainly doesn’t reflect true Muslim beliefs.  It was a political crime designed to intimidate and to coerce the United States.

KAREN BRASSARD, Boston Bombing Survivor:  Today feels different only because it’s — it is more complete, I guess, is how I’m going to say it.  I know that there is still a long road ahead.  There’s going to be many, many, many more dates ahead, but right now it feels like we can take a breath.

EDUCATION - Baltimore High School Trains Artists

"This high school trains Baltimore’s students to be artists" PBS NewsHour 5/15/2015


SUMMARY:  At the Baltimore School for the Arts, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential; notable alumni of the pre-professional high school includes Jada Pinkett Smith and designer Christian Siriano. We meet some of the educators and current students who bring passion and dedication to every school day.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to a school training the next generation of great artists.

At the Baltimore School for the Arts, a pre-professional high school, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential without a review of any academic grades.  Still, the school’s students have some of the highest tests scores in the state of Maryland.  Notable alumni include actor Jada Pinkett Smith and fashion designer Christian Siriano.

We followed the students before the recent protests and unrest in the city and found their combination of dedication and focus, inspiring.  Take a look.

MATEEN MILAN, Student:  My family isn’t in the arts.  I’m the only person who really does, like, classical music.  I’m the only person who like takes lessons and goes to a school like this.  My name is Mateen Milan.  I’m in the 12th grade and I go to Baltimore School for the Arts.

MAURICE MOUZON, Student:  It all started out when I was just on my own doing street dance.  My friends went and told my teacher that I was dancing.  I showed her and she told me that I should try out for Baltimore School for the Arts.  My name is Maurice Mouzon.  I’m a 12th grader at Baltimore School for the Arts.

CHRIS FORD, Director, Baltimore School for the Arts:  Kids enter by audition.  We don’t look at their academics at all, which is an interesting piece.  And they follow a pre-professional arts program, as well as a college prep academic program.

My name is Chris Ford, and I’m the director of the Baltimore School for the Arts.

WORKERS - Better Pay = Better Business?

"Do better-paid workers equal better business?" PBS NewsHour 5/14/2015


SUMMARY:  Recently, insurance company Aetna voluntarily upped its minimum wage to $16 per hour, giving roughly 6,000 of its lowest-paid employees an average raise of 11 percent.  Next year, the company also plans to offer lower-cost benefits to some workers.  What’s behind the wage hike?  Economics correspondent Paul Solman talks to Aetna's CEO about the investment.

KENDRICK BROWN, Aetna Customer Service Representative:  There are necessities and then there are wants.  You know what I mean?

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Forget his wants.  Health insurance claims servicer Kendrick Brown has barely been able to afford life’s necessities, like a car, after his was totaled.

KENDRICK BROWN:  I actually got in an accident.  My insurance paid off what the car was worth, but, as far as what I had borrowed to actually purchase the car, I still owed.  Once you get in such a hole, you’re like, OK, would it make more sense for me to actually, you know, file bankruptcy?

PAUL SOLMAN:  So, when his employer, Aetna insurance, recently, voluntarily and suddenly raised its minimum wage to $16 an hour.

KENDRICK BROWN:  It was a happy day.  After taxes, it was like somewhere between $100 and $150 dollars every check.  And that goes a long way.  That goes a long way.

AMTRAK - Philadelphia Crash

"Derailed train investigation turns to engineer who suffered concussion" PBS NewsHour 5/14/2015


SUMMARY:  Emergency crews found another victim in the wreckage of Amtrak train 188, which crashed Tuesday night in Philadelphia; all passengers and crew members believed on board have now been accounted for.  Officials identified the train's engineer as Brandon Bostian, who suffered a concussion and other injuries during the crash.  Gwen Ifill reports.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The search for answers of what caused the deadly derailment of an Amtrak train continued, as the focus shifted to the engineer.

Emergency crews labored steadily for a second day on the wreckage of Amtrak Train 188 in North Philadelphia, as officials confirmed grim news of another death.

DERRICK SAWYER, Fire Commissioner, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner:  We utilized our hydraulic tools to open up the train a little bit more so that we can reach the person, and were able to extricate that person and have them transported to the medical examiner’s office.

GWEN IFILL:  All 243 passengers and crew aboard the derailed train have now been accounted for.  According to investigators, the train was moving at 102 miles an hour Tuesday night, more than twice the speed limit, when it careened off the tracks.

Elsewhere in Philadelphia this morning, a freight train also derailed in an unrelated incident.  No deaths or injuries were reported.  The Amtrak train’s engineer was identified as 32-year-old New Yorker Brandon Bostian.  He suffered a concussion and other injuries during the crash.

On ABC’s Good Morning America, Bostian’s lawyer, Robert Goggin, said his client remembers nothing of the wreck.

HEALTH - Computers and Cancer

"Why we’re teaching computers to help treat cancer" PBS NewsHour 5/12/2015


SUMMARY:  Every day, we depend on artificial intelligence to help us make sense of a steady deluge of information.  AI helps the post office to sort its mail, Wall Street to make financial decisions and physicians to diagnose patients.  Hari Sreenivasan reports on how tech firms are investing in the next generation of intelligent computer programs and in what ways the technology still lags behind humans.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now we continue our series about artificial intelligence, A.I., where computers are able to make intelligent decisions without human input.

As computing power gets stronger and people continue to generate massive amounts of data, A.I. is making its way into the marketplace and into your doctor’s examination room.

Hari Sreenivasan has the latest in series on breakthroughs in invention and innovation.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Advances in artificial intelligence continue to push the boundaries between science fiction and reality, like this brain-controlled device at the University of Minnesota.  It enables users to fly a model helicopter with only their thoughts.  The hope is it will soon help disabled people to operate robotic arms.

But you don’t need to be in a university lab to find A.I. It’s all around us.

MAN (voice on iPhone):  What’s the fifth planet from the sun?

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Helping us search for information.

WOMAN (voice on iPhone):  Jupiter is the fifth planet orbiting the sun.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Our smartphones use A.I. to navigate us, choosing the least congested traffic routes.  Even the U.S. Postal Service uses it to sort mail.  And on Wall Street, autonomous machines help make major financial decisions.

RAY KURZWEIL, Inventor/Futurist:  At least 90 percent of the financial transactions are guided in one way or another by artificial intelligence.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Ray Kurzweil directs Google’s engineering lab, but spoke to us in his capacity as an independent inventor.  He’s convinced that A.I. programs are already on track to solve many of the problems vexing mankind today.

RAY KURZWEIL:  They’re helping us find a cure for disease, helping us diagnose disease, analyzing environmental data to help us clean up the environment.  Virtually every industrial process is a combination already of human and machine intelligence.

AMERICA - Less Religious

"America is less religious today, and it’s not just about the Millennials" PBS NewsHour 5/12/2015


SUMMARY:  While the U.S. is still an overwhelmingly Christian country, since 2007 there has been a notable drop in the number of Americans who call themselves such, and the number of people who don’t identify as any religion has risen dramatically.  Jeffrey Brown talks to Alan Cooperman of the Pew Research Center, which conducted the latest survey, and Rev. Serene Jones of the Union Theological Seminary.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  The U.S. remains an overwhelmingly Christian country.  That hasn’t changed, but a new survey shows a significant drop in the number of Americans who identify as Christian.

The survey was done by the Pew Research Center.  It showed that, in 2007, 78 percent of Americans identified as Christian.  By last year, the percentage had dropped to under 71 percent.  Those years have seen a dramatic rise in the number of Americans who say they are religiously unaffiliated, from 16 to nearly 23 percent.

The largest drop was in mainline Protestant denominations, but the number of Catholics also fell.  Several non-Christian religions, Islam and Hinduism, saw modest gains.

Alan Cooperman is here.  She’s the director of religious research at Pew.  Also with us is Reverend Serene Jones, president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

And welcome to both of you.

And, Alan Cooperman, let me start with you.

One aspect of this that might surprise people is just how widespread this drop is.  Did that strike you?

ALAN COOPERMAN, Pew Research Center:  Absolutely, Jeff.

I mean, I think the important thing for people the realize is, this is really widespread, broad-based social change.  It’s taking place not just in the big cities or in the Northeast. It’s taking place in every region of the country, including in the Bible Belt, among men and women, among blacks, Latinos and whites, among older people and younger people, and among people with college degrees and those with only high school degrees.

JEFFREY BROWN:  And, Dr. Jones, what — does it jibe with what you see happening around you?  Are you surprised at all?

REV. SERENE JONES, President, Union Theological Seminary:  Yes, it’s surprising to see the statistics lay it out so clearly, but, on another level, it’s not surprising at all.  It’s exactly what we all look around when what we see in New York City or — I’m from Oklahoma — when I walk through the fields of the small town I grew up in.  It’s the reality of the U.S. we live in today.

TRADE WARS - Asia Trade Deal

IMHO:  I agree with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, if a trade deal is good for America, the details should be public BEFORE it is made fast-track.  The secrecy is bad, what are 'they' trying to hide?

"Democrats freeze fast-track authority for Asia trade deal" PBS NewsHour 5/12/2015


SUMMARY:  Senate Democrats blocked debate on renewing fast-track negotiating authority for President Obama, deemed vital for winning passing a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  Opponents of the bill, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, say details of the negotiated plan have been kept secret by the White House. Gwen Ifill reports.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  One of the president’s remaining top legislative goals is to get a major new trade accord with Asia.  But he suffered a stinging defeat today in the opening battle to gain the authority to speed a deal through Congress.  The magic number to start a full Senate debate was 60 votes.  But, in falling short, it showed just how polarizing the disagreement over international trade really is.

MAN:  On this vote, the yeas are 52; the nays are 45.

GWEN IFILL:  In the end, trade politics put the President at odds with many in his own party and in line with most Republicans.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) Utah:  We’re talking about President Obama’s top priority, his top legislative priority, and one of the most important bills in this President’s service as President of the United States of America.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) New York:   We know the global economy is a rough sea.  And Republicans are asking us to pass a trade package that forces the American worker to navigate those waters in a leaky boat.  We want to plug up those leaks.

GWEN IFILL:  The result, at least for now, is that the Senate has blocked renewal of the fast track negotiating authority that Mr. Obama wanted.  That would allow Congress to approve, but not amend, future trade deals.

It’s deemed vital to winning passage of a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. TPP, as it’s known, would include 11 mostly Asian nations that, together with the U.S., account for some 40 percent of the global economy.  Supporters say it would bring greater prosperity by removing tariffs and other barriers and opening trade.

The President visited the sportswear manufacturer Nike last week, which announced the deal would create allow them to create 10,000 American jobs.

"Why labor unions oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership" PBS NewsHour 5/12/2015


SUMMARY:  Supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership say the deal would bring greater prosperity by opening trade, but opponents say it fails to include labor protections and could cost jobs.  In the first in a series of conversations about what’s at stake, Gwen Ifill talks to Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO about why he opposes the trade deal.

"Trade bill is one of the most important in U.S. history, says Sen. Hatch" PBS NewsHour 5/13/2015


SUMMARY:  Supporters of a proposed trade pact with Asia ran into a roadblock Tuesday when a test vote on giving President Obama fast-track authority failed in the Senate.  Judy Woodruff talks to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a co-sponsor of the fast-track legislation, about a new compromise reached by lawmakers and why he supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"Sen. Warren: If Obama is confident about trade deal, he should make details public" PBS NewsHour 5/13/2015


SUMMARY:  Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is one of the more vocal opponents in the debate over granting President Obama fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  Judy Woodruff talks to Warren about her concerns about transparency and how American workers may be hurt.

"Will the proposed Asia trade pact give U.S. companies more customers?" PBS NewsHour 5/14/2015


SUMMARY:  Days after Senate Democrats blocked debate over the president’s fast-track authority, the Senate put the trade deal with Asia back on track.  To get a business perspective on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hari Sreenivasan talks to John Murphy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents 3 million businesses and employers and has been pushing hard for the deal.

WAR ON ISIS - Denmark

"Can Denmark solve its Islamic extremist problem?" PBS NewsHour 5/11/2015


SUMMARY:  Denmark, like other European nations, is struggling to stop its citizens from joining the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations in Syria.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Copenhagen on the story of a young man who left his home country to fight for the militant group, and how his mother is urging the government to do more to stem the tide of extremism.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Finally tonight: combating extremism in Europe.

Denmark is often referred to as the happiest place on earth, but its sense of peace and serenity was shell-shocked earlier this year when an Islamic extremist shot and killed two people in Copenhagen.  The country, like other European nations, is struggling to stop its citizens from joining the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations in Syria.

NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant caught up with one devastated mother who is urging the government to do more to stop the tide of extremism.

(from video) Right now, I’m just looking for more videos to see if I can get any knowledge about my boy.

MALCOLM BRABANT, Special Correspondent:  Karolina Dam’s worst fear came true in the cruelest way.  An Islamic State death notice on Facebook alerted her to news that her eighteen-year-old son, Lukas, had been killed in an American airstrike on the Syria-Turkey border.

KAROLINA DAM, Mother of Lukas Dam:  I need peace and quiet now.  I need to get on.  I need — I don’t want him dead.  But I need — I need to know things.  And I don’t know if he’s alive.  I don’t know if he’s in jail or if ISIS has killed him.  I don’t know anything.  It’s hard.  You can’t sleep.  I wake up with nightmares everywhere.

HEALTH - Life After Ebola

"How Ebola can hide in the bodies of survivors" PBS NewsHour 5/11/2015


SUMMARY:  Liberia was declared Ebola-free this weekend, marking a major milestone in the fight against the epidemic in West Africa, where it killed more than 10,000.  But for survivors, the disease can still wreak serious after-effects.  Judy Woodruff learns more about those health complications from Ebola patient Dr. Ian Crozier, who nearly went blind from the virus after making a narrow escape from death.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  This weekend marked a major milestone in the fight to end the Ebola outbreak.  Liberia was declared Ebola-free after 42 days without a new case.  Many took to the streets to celebrate.

And efforts are under way to rebuild schools, hospitals and other clinics.  The disease has killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa, including 500-plus health care workers.  While the outbreak has slowed considerably, there are new health complications for survivors.

Dr. Ian Crozier is one American health care worker who nearly lost his life while volunteering in Sierra Leone with the World Health Organization.  After contracting the virus, he was evacuated to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital and he eventually recovered.  Months later, the virus was found in his eye and it nearly blinded him before a series of procedures and treatments.  He is still experiencing a number of other symptoms.

And he joins me now.

And, Dr. Crozier, welcome.  And we’re so glad to see you doing much better.

DR. IAN CROZIER, Ebola Patient/Survivor:  Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s a pleasure to be anywhere.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  Tell us, first of all, how are you doing?  It’s, what, been eight months since you were first diagnosed.

DR. IAN CROZIER:  So, I’m doing remarkably well, given what I have been through.

First of all, I’m fortunate to be here and to be alive, and, secondly, to be looking at you through two fairly clear eyes is quite remarkable.  So still struggling with a few symptoms that have been part of my sort of post-Ebola syndrome, but I’m doing much better than I was a few months ago.  Thank you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

ILLINOIS - Pension Law, State Supreme Court Decision

"How will the Illinois pension law rejection affect other states?" PBS NewsHour 5/10/2015


SUMMARY:  On Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court voted unanimously to strike down a law passed in December 2013 that was meant to rescue the state's pension system.  For more on the implications of that decision Karen Pierog of Reuters joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington.

HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS ANCHOR:  There was an important court ruling on Friday.

The Illinois Supreme Court voted unanimously to strike down a law passed in December of 2013 that was meant to rescue the state’s pension system.

For more about the implications of that decision and what it could signal for other states, we are joined now from Chicago by Karen Pierog.  She has been covering the story for Reuters.

So, bring us up to speed here.  If somebody wasn’t paying attention to what the law was in 2013, what did it try to do?

KAREN PIEROG, REUTERS:  Well, the law was aimed at trying to ease Illinois’ $105 billion unfunded pension liability, and also to lower the annual amount of money that Illinois has to pay towards pensions every year.

And Illinois has had a structural budget deficit for decades.  And it’s — it’s — it was having a very hard time trying to come up with money, you know, to pay for essential state services.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  At the time, the legislature said, this is an emergency, a fiscal emergency, they need to act, it is almost like putting out a fire.

They took certain steps, like increasing the retirement age, suspending cost of living adjustments.

ISLAM - South Africa's Gay-Friendly Mosque

"Is Cape Town’s women and gay-friendly mosque a sign of new Muslim attitudes?" PBS NewsHour 5/9/2015

COMMENT:  I am not Muslim, in fact I'm Agnostic.  But looking at Islam from the outside has me wondering how much of orthodox Islam is cultural based.  After all the roots of Islam (and Christianity for that matter) is from an era of male dominance and cultures who treated women like possessions belonging to men.  Are extremests today refusing to let Islam evolve.


SUMMARY:  A Muslim academic recently opened a gay- and women-friendly mosque in Cape Town, South Africa, which was largely regarded as a response to the culture of exclusion and conservatism in the Muslim faith.  And despite receiving death threats and fierce criticism, experts say the house of worship's policies represent an adaptation of centuries-old traditions.  Martin Seemungal reports.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL (NewsHour):  The call to prayer at Cape Towns newest mosque, which advertises itself as one of a kind in South Africa.

TAJ HARGEY:  We are the only mosque by the way in the whole country that has the words all welcome.  We chose the name open mosque to really identify what the mosque was about—it was open to all.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  Sixty-year-old Taj Hargey is the man behind this new mosque– a mosque he sees worthy of being replicated in other parts of the world.

Hargey says his mosque is open to non-muslims, homosexuals—women are allowed to preach from the pulpit—they pray side by side with the men.

Tanweer is one of the few who prays here regularly ever since the Mosque opened last September.

TANWEER:  I come to this mosque every week because this is the only mosque that I know of where there’s equality in the genders, where females sit and can actually view the sermon from the front and we’re considered equals to men.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  A counter, he says, to the daily stream of news and images that portray Islam as extremist and violent.

In fact, Hargey has been challenging Muslim orthodoxy for years.

Born and raised in Cape Town Hargey went abroad and studied at Oxford-he has a PHD in Religious studies.

He made headlines in Britain last year because of his ‘ban the burqa’ campaign.
TAJ HARGEY:  This idea of face masking (burqa), if its an Islamic practice.  Why is it banned in mecca?  No woman which goes to mecca the holiest mosque in Islam is allowed to cover her face—so this notion that is an Islamic practice with due respect is nonsense..it may be a cultural expression..fine..it may be a personal wish..fine—If I want to put a bone through my nose—I have a right..but then do I have a right to say a bone through my nose is an Islamic thing?

OPINION - Brooks and Marcus 5/8/2015

"Brooks and Marcus on Cameron’s victory, Senate vote to review Iran deal" PBS NewsHour 5/8/2015


SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the British election and its implications for the United States, the latest Republican candidates to launch 2016 campaigns, Hillary Clinton’s stance on immigration and the Senate’s passage of a bill requiring congressional review of an Iranian nuclear deal.

TECHNOLOGY - Artificial Intelligence, Do We Have 'HAL' Yet?

"How smart is today’s artificial intelligence?" PBS NewsHour 5/8/2015


SUMMARY:  Artificial intelligence is creeping into our everyday lives through technology like check-scanning machines and GPS navigation.  How far away are we from making intelligent machines that actually have minds of their own?  Hari Sreenivasan reports on the ethical considerations of artificial intelligence as part of our Breakthroughs series.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  You may not realize it, but artificial intelligence is all around us.  We rely on smart machines to scan our checks at ATMs, to navigate us on road trips and much more.

Still, humans have quite an edge.  Just today, four of the world’s best Texas Hold ‘Em poker players won an epic two-week tournament against, yes, an advanced computer program.  The field of artificial intelligence is pushing new boundaries.

Hari Sreenivasan has the first in a series of stories about it and the concerns over where it may lead.  It’s the latest report in our ongoing Breakthroughs series on invention and innovation.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Artificial intelligence has long captured our imaginations.

ACTOR:  Open the pod bay doors, Hal. (2001: A Space Odyssey)

ACTOR:  I’m sorry, Dave.  I’m afraid I cannot do that.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  With robots like Hal in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and now Ava from the recently released “Ex Machina.”

ACTRESS:  Hello.  I have never met anyone new before.


ACTRESS:  A thinking robot could be the end of mankind.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The plots thicken when the intelligent machines question the authority of their makers, and begin acting on their own accord.


NSA - End of Bulk Data Collection? Not Yet

"The end of NSA’s bulk data collection?" PBS NewsHour 5/7/2015


SUMMARY:  The government program that collects the phone data of millions of Americans is illegal and not sanctioned by the Patriot Act, according to a ruling by a U.S. appeals court.  Gwen Ifill discusses the case with former Homeland Security Department official Stewart Baker and Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The debate between privacy and security returned to center stage today, after a federal appeals court ruled a National Security Agency program that allowed bulk collection of millions of U.S. phone records went too far.  But where is the line?

And, as a deadline approaches for renewing the underlying Patriot Act, what happens now?

Joining me to discuss the value of such government surveillance are Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties advocacy group, and Stewart Baker, a former general counsel at the National Security Agency and former assistant secretary of homeland security.

Welcome to you both.

Kate Martin, was this the dropped shoe that privacy advocates were waiting on?

KATE MARTIN, Center for National Security Studies:  Yes.  This is the first time that a federal appeals court has looked at what was a secret interpretation by the government that allowed it to collect massive amounts of records on Americans under a secret interpretation of the law.

And the court said that secret interpretation of the law wasn’t, in fact, authorized by the Congress and so held the program to be a violation of the law.

GWEN IFILL:  So what does this do?  Does this stop the program in its tracks, Stewart Baker?

STEWART BAKER, Former Homeland Security Department official:  No, actually.  It’s remarkably without consequence.

It, at the end of the day, says Congress, in the view of this court, didn’t authorize exactly what the program is, and unless Congress says that it’s authorized, it’s not going to continue.  And then they send it back to the judge, letting the judge in the district court determine whether to enjoin it.

But really that just underlines what we already knew, which is that Congress has to act in the next three weeks, because, if it doesn’t, the program goes away automatically.  If it does, it’s going to have to say, yes, we’re approving this program.

COLLEGE - Starbucks Steps Up

"Why Starbucks is offering workers a college education, hold the debt" PBS NewsHour 5/6/2015


SUMMARY:  More than ever, the challenge for low-income students is not getting into college, but finishing.  Last year, employees of the coffee chain Starbucks were given the chance to benefit from a unique financial aid:  If they work at least 20 hours a week, they are eligible for a four-year free education.  Judy Woodruff reports as part of a collaboration between The Atlantic and the PBS NewsHour.

Correction:  This video includes narration reporting that U.S. student debt totals $1.3 billion.  The correct figure is 1.3 trillion.  This has been corrected in the transcript.  The PBS NewsHour regrets the error.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now from coffee to college.

In our latest story in partnership with The Atlantic magazine, we look at unusual push by Starbucks to give their employees access to higher education.

It’s 6:00 a.m., and 23 year-old Markelle Collum-Herbison is already at the computer, getting in a little studying before she’s off to her full-time job.

WOMAN:  I’m so proud of her.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:  I knew that the only way out was to have an education.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The plan had always been that mom and dad would help Markelle pay for some of that education.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:  They lived in a five-bedroom home, three bathrooms, two-story.  It was beautiful.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  That all changed overnight in 2008, when the economic crash hit Markelle’s family brutally.

MARCELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:  I remember signing up for food stamps.  It was that bad.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Today, Markelle is still living at home to help make ends meet.  She is one of 21 million people enrolled in U.S. colleges this year.  Now, more than ever, the challenge for low-income students and others is not getting into college, but finishing.

AMANDA RIPLEY, “The Atlantic”:  American colleges are not really historically designed to make sure students finish.  They are designed to enroll students.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Writer and author Amanda Ripley has specialized in higher education.

AMANDA RIPLEY:  We have one of the highest college dropout rates in the developed world.  We have 35 million people now who have started college and not gotten a degree.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  For Markelle, a scholarship to community college got her through two years, but she had no idea how to afford the two more years it would take to earn a degree while working 40-hour weeks at Starbucks.

She is one of the first Starbucks employees to benefit from a unique financial aid program started last year by an unusual duo, the man who introduced Americans to the grande latte, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and the president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow; announced the expansion of a program that will have the company pay for the college education of its employees.
HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, Starbucks:  The role and responsibility of a for-profit public company can’t be just about making money.  It has to be about giving back, and it has to be about achieving the balance between profit and social impact.

UK - General Elections

"Cameron and Miliband in tight race as UK voters flock to smaller parties" PBS NewsHour 5/6/2015


SUMMARY:  Britons will vote on Thursday in the country's first general election in five years.  But opinion polls suggest neither of the two largest parties -- Conservative and Labour -- will win a majority of seats.  And for either side, forming a coalition government may not be so simple.  Hari Sreenivasan reports on the political divide in the United Kingdom.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Across the pond in the United Kingdom, Election Day is just hours away.

Hari Sreenivasan reports on a race that’s too close to call and one that could determine the U.K.’s future as a member of the European Union.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  It’s the coveted front door British political leaders are vying for, 10 Downing Street, home of the prime minister.

Whether conservative David Cameron will go on living there after tomorrow’s election, and which party will control the House of Commons, is anyone’s guess.  But in the final flurry of campaigning on this election eve, it was clear there’s deep discontent and deep division among voters.

MAN:  The Conservatives are making a reasonable job of sorting out the mess that Labor got us in, but they could do a bit more to help the ordinary working people.

MAN:  I’m afraid, like most people, I have decided Westminster needs a complete cleanup.  It’s not working for the people. It’s working for the bankers, the very rich.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The short campaign season kicked off in April, with all 650 seats in the Commons up for grabs, and predictions of a deadlock, or hung Parliament, come Friday.

In order to govern by itself, a party needs an outright majority of 326 seats.  But opinion polls suggest neither of the two largest parties, Conservative and Labor, will get there on their own.  David Cameron’s Tories have blamed Britain’s troubles on the Labor government that preceded them.

"Why the UK elections matter to the United States" PBS NewsHour 5/6/2015


SUMMARY:  Why are Britain’s voters and political parties so divided ahead of Thursday’s election?  And what’s at stake for that country and for the U.S.?  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Dan Balz of The Washington Post, reporting from London.

"Cameron’s party wins majority in UK elections, defying polls" PBS NewsHour 5/8/2015

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The United Kingdom woke up on this day after national elections to find the same political party in charge, but with a message from voters that will take some sorting out.

In the end, it was a trouncing by the Tories, as Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party won an outright majority in Parliament.  He will return to Number 10 Downing Street for another five-year term after a bruising campaign.

DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom:  We must ensure that we bring our country together.  As I said in the small hours of this morning, we will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Pre-election public polls had forecast a tight race with the Labor Party. Instead, Labor, led by Ed Miliband, was blown out.  And Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats took crushing losses, dropping 49 seats.  Both party chiefs resigned their leadership posts this morning.

So, in this new Parliament, of the 650 seats, Conservatives will hold 331, Labor 232 seats, the Scottish National Party will have 56, and the Liberal Democrats just eight.  Besides the Conservatives, the other big winner was the Scottish National Party.  It swept virtually every race in Scotland, all but ending Labor’s longtime dominance there.

"What battles lie ahead for Cameron’s second turn as prime minister?" PBS NewsHour 5/8/2015


SUMMARY:  David Cameron may have held on to power after British elections, but he'll face a number of challenges, including the rising power of the Scottish National Party and a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Union.  Judy Woodruff talks to Robin Niblett of Chatham House about the election results and how the new lineup affects relations with the U.S.

HOLY LAND - Tour Guide Bridge Conflict

"Meet two Holy Land tour guides who bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide" PBS NewsHour 5/5/2015


SUMMARY:  Two women from different sides of the long and bitter Israeli and Palestinian conflict are trying to make a difference in their own way.  Breaking Bread Journeys offers guided tours of the Holy Land and a variety of perspectives on daily life there.  Special correspondent Martin Seemungal reports from the West Bank.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just one more day to form a coalition government following March’s election, or someone else will be asked to try.  His efforts hit a snag Monday when his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit his post and announced that his party would join the opposition.

Netanyahu shocked many when, just days before the election, he reversed position and said there wouldn’t be a Palestinian state if he remained prime minister, a statement he softened after his victory.

Despite that and many other setbacks to the peace process, our special correspondent, Martin Seemungal, recently met two remarkable women who have chosen to blaze their own trail forward through the painful realities of the region.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL, Special correspondent:  Elisa Moed on the left is an Israeli.  Christina Samara is a Palestinian.  And they are doing something rare, some would say revolutionary, in this part of the Middle East.  They’re in business together.

CHRISTINA SAMARA, Co-Founder, Breaking Bread Journeys:  First of all, it feels good to have a friend and a partner in business who is an Israeli and doing this on a very personal level.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  They are seasoned tour operators who met by chance when they were invited to take part in a panel on marketing the Holy Land.