Monday, March 28, 2016

PIC OF THE DAY - All Nature Photography

So cute, couldn't resist.

TENNESSEE - Fetal Assault Law (Update)

"Tennessee discontinues controversial fetal assault law" PBS NewsHour 3/27/2016

MEGAN THOMPSON (NewsHour):  And now an update to a story we first reported in January about the increasing number of pregnant women who are struggling with opioid addiction.

As a result, the number of babies born withdrawing from those drugs taken by their mothers, has also skyrocketed.

Tennessee is among the states hardest hit by this epidemic.  It has the second-highest rate of opioid prescribing in the U.S.  And the rate of babies born withdrawing from opioids is three times the national average.

In response, two years ago, Tennessee became the only state that explicitly allowed prosecutors to charge a mother with “fetal assault” for using drugs while pregnant.

Sponsors of the law say it was not intended to penalize women but to get them into treatment and protect the welfare of their babies.

But in a hearing this past week, Tennessee representatives voted to discontinue the controversial law which is set to expire in July 2016.

The measure was found not to help those women and to have unintended consequences.

Doctors testified that the threat of arrest kept many addicted pregnant women from seeking treatment and medical care.  Other critics say addicts were choosing abortion over being found out and prosecuted.

At the hearing, lawmakers also discussed increasing funding for drug treatment programs.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/25/2016

"Shields and Brooks on Trump-Cruz wife feud, ISIS terror in Brussels" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2016


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including the terror attack in Brussels and the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, why President Obama was criticized for attending a baseball game, Ted Cruz's call to patrol Muslim neighborhoods, and a war of words about the wives of Cruz and Donald Trump.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, for another look at the war against ISIS and the battles on the presidential campaign trail, the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

So, let’s pick up from where we were in that conversation we just heard.

Mark, they did — you did have this successful capture, killing of this top ISIS leader and another one recently on the battlefield, but in the wake of these Brussels attacks, growing chorus of criticism that the Obama administration is not doing enough to go after ISIS, that you’re still seeing horrible attacks like the ones in Belgium.

Where do you — how do you assess the administration?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:  Well, the administration has taken on ISIS, its caliphate, that is, in Syria and Iraq, and I think it’s fair to say that they’re in retreat.

The problem is Europe.  I mean, that’s a problem.  It’s a soft target.  It’s free and easy access.  And these are homegrown terrorists here.  And what the United States can do is to encourage and urge and push for the sharing of information.

But there is a whole inequality of quality of intelligence in those countries.  There is an unwillingness, understandably.  There’s language difficulties, and also there is a tradition.  I mean, this is a continent that has lived under both Nazism and communism, and the willingness to let authorities have access to the metadata that we have done in this country with only limited resistance is a lot stronger there.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Only so much the U.S. can do, David?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times Columnist:  Well, I think there are two issues here.

First, in Syria, I think we bear a large responsibility.  I think we withdrew from Iraq too quickly and it created this tremendous vacancy there that ISIS filled.  I think we were too slow to recognize what was going on in Syria in the civil war, refused to arm people, refused to take down Assad, ignored the red line and then created a vacuum which ISIS then filled there.

And so that’s partly on us.  The European thing — I think that has nothing to do with what happened in Brussels.  The European thing, as Mark said, it’s a matter of ideas and alienated cultures.  I lived in Brussels for five years.  This was back in the ’90s.

If you went to those neighborhoods which are a lot of Muslim people live there, they were isolated, they were different.  It was like leaving Brussels and entering a different country, and there was just little integration, social, cultural, economic, between those areas, and the rest of the country, and the rest of the city.

And that sort of thing just gestated, gestated, gestated.  And then when the radical ideology found — they found a lot of alienated people, and they only have to tap a few young men to create something like this.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Some of the criticism, Mark, is that the administration has just not put enough emphasis on this.  Yes, the president talks about it and, yes, there have been a number of limited troops, special operations troops, and there may be more going over, but it doesn’t seem to be a priority, enough of a priority for this president.

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I think the President can be accused legitimately of not having recognized the threat at the outset.  And I think history will not be kind to the drawing of the red line in Syria, and for the United States.

But, (A) the willingness of the United States for further action and deployment of military, even an all-volunteer military, is severely limited, Judy.  And let’s be very frank.  The organizing principle of this was the United States’ invasion of Iraq and the United States’ occupation of Iraq.  That remains to this moment the — whether we left early, should still be there, the fact that we went in, invaded and occupied this country, and it was a tragedy and a disaster, and we have reaped that whirlwind and it remains with us.
DAVID BROOKS:  As I said and as everyone says, the reason we have terrorism is not because the Prophet Mohammed came down and not because there is a religion called Islam.

MARK SHIELDS:   That’s right.

DAVID BROOKS:  The reason we have terror is that young men are alienated and feel they can wage war and a just war against societies that are racist and xenophobic and crushing toward them.

And if you want to spread the message, a good way would be to have extra police operations directed at Muslim neighborhoods.
On Trump/Cruz war-of-words about women:

DAVID BROOKS:  Yes, that’s the first thing I was going to say.  Are we really here?  Is this really happening?  Is this America?  Are we a great country talking about trying to straddle the world and create opportunity in this country?

It’s just mind-boggling.  And we have sort of become acculturated, because this campaign has been so ugly.  We have become acculturated to sleaze and unhappiness that you just want to shower from every 15 minutes.

The Trump comparison of the looks of the wives, he does have, over the course of his life, a consistent misogynistic view of women as arm candy, as pieces of meat.  It’s a consistent attitude toward women which is the stuff of a diseased adolescent.

And so we have seen a bit of that show up again.  But if you go back over his past, calling into radio shows bragging about his affairs, talking about his sex life in public, he is childish in his immaturity.  And his — even his misogyny is a childish misogyny.

And that’s why I do not think Republicans, standard Republicans, can say, yes, I’m going to vote for this guy because he’s our nominee.  He’s of a different order than your normal candidate.  And this whole week is just another reminder of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Could this finally be something, Mark, that really does hurt Donald Trump?

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, we have predicted nine of his last eight stumbles, and they have yet to all materialize.

Judy, whoever did that political action committee ad has to be thrilled, because it elicited from Donald Trump the worst of his personality, the bullying, the misogyny, as David has said, brought it out.

But I think it’s more than childish and juvenile and adolescent.  There is something creepy about this, his attitude toward women.  Take Megyn Kelly of FOX News, who he just has an absolute obsession about, and he’s constantly writing about, you know, how awful she is and no talent and this and that.  It’s an obsession.

And I don’t know if he’s just never had women — strong, independent women in his life who have spoken to him.  It doesn’t seem that way.  His daughter…

JUDY WOODRUFF:  She has asked him tough questions in that debate.

MARK SHIELDS:  She just asked him tough questions and was totally fair, by everybody else's standards.

But there is something really creepy about this that’s beyond locker room.  It’s almost like a stalker, and I just — I thought this was — it actually did the impossible.  It made Ted Cruz look like an honorable, tough guy on the right side of an issue.

And, you know, I just — I just marvel at it.  And I don’t know at what point it becomes, you know — politically, he’s still leading.  And I would have to say he’s the overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And what was striking is that this ad, David, which presumably had very limited circulation, might have gone almost unnoticed if it hadn’t have been for what he — how he reacted to it.

DAVID BROOKS:  The odd thing about his whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it.

You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love, so his relationship with women, it has no love in it.  It’s trophy.  And his relationship toward the world is one of competition and beating, and as if he’s going to win by competition what other people get by love.

And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat.  And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude towards women.

FIGHTING ISIS - Battlefield and OnLine

"Fighting ISIS, on the battlefield and online" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2016


SUMMARY:  Is the U.S. making headway in the fight against the Islamic State group?  Judy Woodruff talks to retired Col. Derek Harvey, a former Army intelligence officer, and Brendan Koerner of Wired Magazine, about the military offensive against ISIS, including the killing of a senior leader, and the resiliency of the group on social media.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, spoke this morning at the Pentagon about the fight against the Islamic State.  While hailing operations to kill top ISIS leaders like the one we reported earlier, they sought to put the longer war in context.

ASHTON CARTER, Secretary of Defense:  There's no question that this individual and other individuals we have eliminated have been part of the apparatus of ISIL to recruit and to motivate foreign fighters, both to return from Iraq and Syria to countries in Europe and elsewhere, and also simply by using the Internet and other communications to do so.

Even if it's just inspiration, it still takes you back to Iraq and Syria and the need to eliminate the sources of that inspiration.

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:  While ISIL has not been able to seize ground in the past several months, that hasn't precluded them from conducting terrorist attacks, and it hasn't precluded them from conducting operations that are more akin to guerrilla operations than the conventional operations that we saw when they were seizing territory.

So, I think the momentum is in our favor.  I think there's a lot of reasons for us to be optimistic about the next several months.  But by no means would I say that we're about to break the back of ISIL or that the fight is over.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Dunford and Carter also spoke of expanding the role of U.S. Marines in Northern Iraq and the possibility of sending more forces in the coming weeks, adding to the nearly 4,000 already there.

We examine the state of the fight against ISIS now with retired Army Colonel Derek Harvey.  He was an intelligence officer and special adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus.  He's now a professor at the University of South Florida.  And Brendan Koerner is a contributing editor at “Wired” magazine.  He's the author of an upcoming article about ISIS and its use of social media.

RACE MATTERS - Rise of Racial Hate Groups

"As racial hate groups rise, strategies to shut them down" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2016


SUMMARY:  What motivates hate groups and domestic terrorists?  With the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist movements making a resurgence, special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault talks to Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center about solutions to stop the hate and encourage tolerance.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): The Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups have gained more attention in the news recently, but as special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault explains, the national undercurrent of racism may be even more pervasive.

It's part of our yearlong exploration of solutions to the problems of race in America.

These are boots that are intended so that, when you stomp on someone, the swastika will be left.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT (NewsHour):  Heidi Beirich is leader of The Intelligence Project here at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit anti-terror organization.

She shows us memorabilia revealing some Ku Klux Klan history, boots with swastikas and boots with red laces, indicating Klan members who've physically harmed someone, and other racist paraphernalia.  In 2014, there were some 784 active hate groups.  Beirich brings us up to date.

The Ku Klux Klan has declined over the years, in part due to lawsuits that you people here at the Southern Poverty Law Center have filed.  Briefly tell us about how that came about.

HEIDI BEIRICH, Southern Poverty Law Center:  We started filing lawsuits against the Klan in 1981 over a lynching of a young black man in Mobile.  That was our first anti-Klan law suit.

And we came up with this idea that we should sue these folks in civil court to bankrupt them.  That was the plan.  We have now had a series of Klan groups that we have sued, put them basically out of business, leading all the way up to very recently with the Imperial Klans of America.  Our hope is that by taking their money away, they can't function anymore.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:  And that was successful?

HEIDI BEIRICH:  Yes.  Every single one of them has been successful.  Obviously, when these groups don't have money, that means there's less violence that they could perpetrate.  The whole idea is to not allow them to function.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:  But at the moment, there seems to be a resurgence and what appears to be a rise in hate groups.  What explains that?

HEIDI BEIRICH:  We have seen a sustained rise in hate groups since basically 2000.  And the main thing driving this has been changing demographics in the United States.

EASTERN KENTUCKY - Cancer Epidemic

"Why cancer is so hard to fight in rural Kentucky" PBS NewsHour 3/25/2016

NOTE:  I made a correction in the first paragraph of transcript, shown below, where the transcript mistakenly stated "Judy Woodruff" for the paragraph.


SUMMARY:  Cancer is epidemic in eastern Kentucky, a result of medical illiteracy, limited access to care, unhealthy lifestyles and poverty.  In fact, life expectancy in the region is five years shorter than the rest of the nation.  But state health officials are aiming to change that with comprehensive prevention and education initiatives.  Special correspondent Jackie Judd reports.

JACKIE JUDD (NewsHour):  There are a few certainties in Sam Wilson's hardscrabble life, bluegrass that sustains him, and cancer that he expects will kill him.

SAM WILSON, Cancer Sufferer:  I was laid up with cancer and didn't know it, in my bladder, kidney, prostate, some in my bowels and colon.

JACKIE JUDD:  In Eastern Kentucky, Appalachia, cancer is epidemic, and has been for decades.  The highest-in-the-nation rates are fueled by a toxic combination of poverty, medical illiteracy, limited access to care, lifestyle choices like smoking, and a fatalism that says knowing you have cancer won't save you.

SAM WILSON:  My whole family, they just won't go to the doctor anymore.  My mother died of cancer and she wouldn't go.  Two of my sisters died with cancer.  But they went to the doctor, but they still passed away.

JACKIE JUDD:  Irene, did you try to convince him to go to the doctor when he wasn't feeling well?

WOMAN:  He finally told me after a few years, and he said, it's so painful, something has to be done.

JACKIE JUDD:  After a few years?  Years?

WOMAN:  Yes, he's very lucky, yes.

JACKIE JUDD:  Not months or weeks, years?

WOMAN:  No.  No.  What, about four years maybe?

JACKIE JUDD:  Kentucky public health officials are trying to change that storyline, to get people screened, so disease is discovered before it is too late to treat.

RIGHTS AT STAKE - Most Anti-LGBT Law in U.S.

"How North Carolina signed a bill dubbed the most anti-LGBT law in the U.S." PBS NewsHour 3/24/2016


SUMMARY:  A new North Carolina law restricts protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people by repealing a city ordinance that would allow inclusive bathrooms.  In addition, the law bars any city from passing anti-discrimination legislation.  John Yang explores the implications with Dominic Holden of Buzzfeed News and Loretta Boniti of Time Warner Cable News.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  Senate Democrats walked out in protest, leaving their empty chairs.

MAN:  Thirty-two having voted in the affirmative and zero in the negative, House Bill 2 passes.

JOHN YANG:  The vote repealed a new ordinance in Charlotte, North Carolina, that expanded protections for LGBTQ people, including letting transgender people choose which bathroom to use.  The new state law goes even further, barring any city from passing anti-discrimination laws in the future.

Lawmakers heard testimony on both sides.

SARAH PRESTON, ACLU of North Carolina:  Half of the transgender individuals surveyed in North Carolina recently reported being harassed in public accommodations.

CHLOE JEFFERSON, Student:  What about my rights to privacy and wishes not to be exposed to young males changing and showering beside me?

JOHN YANG:  Late Wednesday night, Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed it into law, saying in a statement that Charlotte violated “the basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room.”

He accused the leaders of the state’s largest city of government overreach and intrusion.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, fired back.

MAYOR JENNIFER ROBERTS (D), Charlotte, NC:  This legislation is literally the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country.  And it does this not just in Charlotte, but all across our state.

TOO BIG TO FAIL - Barney Frank vs Bernie Sanders

"Barney Frank takes on Bernie Sanders and the ‘too big to fail’ argument" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2016


SUMMARY:  It’s been a common theme this campaign season: Are our banks still too big to fail?  Former treasury official Neel Kashkari and presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders have both shared their concerns with the NewsHour.  For another perspective on the argument, Jeffrey Brown talks to Barney Frank, former Democratic congressman and co-author of the regulatory Dodd-Frank bill.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  In our first conversation, we talked with Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis.  As a Treasury official during the financial crisis, he helped oversee the bailout of the banks.  He now argues that the system remains in danger and that giant financial firms should be broken up.

That’s a view being heard on the campaign trail from Senator Bernie Sanders.

In his interview with Judy yesterday, here’s how he described the problem and his plan for it.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate:  It will be important to point out that three out of the four largest banks in this country today are bigger than they were when we bailed them out because they were too big to fail, that you have the six largest banks in this country that have assets of 58 percent of our GDP.

I happen the believe that when you have a few financial institutions with unbelievable economic power, with unbelievable financial power, that what we should do is reestablish a modern Glass-Steagall legislation, and what we should do, in fact, is break them up, not only from a risk perspective of not seeing their greed and illegal behavior destroy our economy, as happened eight years ago, but also from creating a competitive financial system, where we don’t have so few financial institutions with so much power.

JEFFREY BROWN:  And we get a response now from one of the leading players in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Barney Frank served as a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts from 1981 until his retirement in 2013.  As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he played a lead role in crafting the Dodd-Frank law, which enacted the most sweeping changes to U.S. financial regulation since the Great Depression.

ONLINE TARGETS - Online Sex Trafficking

"In the Philippines, sex trafficking of young girls moves online" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2016


SUMMARY:  Sex tourism has long been a scourge in the Philippines.  But now there's a disturbing new trend in the trafficking of mostly young women and children: vulnerable victims are being lured online and tricked into the trade.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO (NewsHour):  Sex tourism has long been a scourge in the Philippines, an industry that thrives on trafficked human beings and deep poverty in this nation of 100 million.

Recent studies have shown that anywhere from 100 to more than 300 thousand Filipinos are trafficked each year; 80 percent, four out of five, are under the age of 18.

The government, under international pressure, has stepped up enforcement.  Stings like this one to rescue young women are more common, as are arrests and convictions.  But the sex trafficking industry, as always, seems a step ahead in the game.

It has expanded online.

IVY CASTILLO, Officer, Manila Police Cybercrime Center:  That’s only one but there are a lot.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  At the police cyber-crime center, officer Ivy Castillo explained one of the many ways that vulnerable young women are tricked into the trade.

IVY CASTILLO:  This is a fake account.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  Modeling is a common lure.

So, they’re pretending that this is a real modeling agency to entrap the young girls?

It has all the trappings of a glamorous fashion model agency, especially to a young rural Filipina girl.

IVY CASTILLO:  At first, they are requested to send this image.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  They’re asked to submit pictures that seem innocuous, facial shots, ostensibly part of the selection process.

IVY CASTILLO:  The next requirement is with a two-piece.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  The next steps call for more revealing images, just the torso, not the face, they’re assured, giving the false impression that it’s unidentifiable.  The young woman won’t make the connection that computer software will, until it’s too late.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  But it’s an industry fueled by First World demand, from pedophiles mostly in Europe, North America, and Australia, says officer Castillo.

IVY CASTILLO:  These foreign perpetrators, they have contacts here in the Philippines, wherein these contacts are looking for children.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  And perhaps the most frustrating challenge with this cyber-sex industry is a social one.  Cecilia Oebanda, who founded the Philippines’ largest anti-trafficking group, says many people don’t believe or don’t want to believe it’s that harmful.

CECILIA FLORES-OEBANDA, Director, Visayan Forum Foundation:  Because they think that they’re — the girls are just actually performing in the computer, and there’s no contact, there is no touch.  For them, it’s OK.  There’s no harm actually put to the child.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  At a shelter her agency runs is living proof that it’s not just emotionally abusive, but also frequently escalates.  The children are invariably inducted into traditional prostitution and its daily physical abuse.

These two 15-year-olds were rescued in a police sting from a cyber-porn racket.  Their alleged pimp, a man named Jerrie Arraz began as a good samaritan neighbor.

BRUSSELS ATTACKS - Europe's Problem

"Why Europe has a problem of Islamic State terrorism" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2016


SUMMARY:  European nations are boosting their national security efforts in the wake of the recent terrorist bombings in Brussels.  How great a threat is the Islamic State group to Europe?  Gwen Ifill sits down with former State Department official Daniel Benjamin and Joby Warrick of The Washington Post to learn more.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  We return to the attacks in Brussels, and what they said about the growing Islamic State threat in Europe and elsewhere.

Daniel Benjamin was coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department during the first term of the Obama administration.  He’s now a professor at Dartmouth College.  And Joby Warrick is a national security correspondent at The Washington Post.  He’s also the author of the book “Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS.”

Daniel Benjamin, was this a nightmare scenario that could have been foreseen? Yesterday, we heard people saying, this is what we feared.

DANIEL BENJAMIN, Former State Department Official:  I think that people who have been watching terrorism have been fearing this for many years, actually.

The recognition that Europe had a problem with extremism in its midst and the recognition that Europe hadn’t taken security arrangements as seriously as it should have, I think, has been common.  That observation has been common in the security community for many years now.

GWEN IFILL:  Joby Warrick, the Associated Press, among others, have been reporting today that there were as many as 400 people being trained by ISIS to carry out these attacks in Europe.  So did they not leave any footprints or any signs?


"Supreme Court hears birth control battle brought by religious nonprofits" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2016


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court heard its fourth challenge to the Affordable Care Act, this one from religious nonprofits demanding exemption from the requirement to provide insurance coverage for birth control, claiming the mandate violates federal laws protecting religious freedoms.  Gwen Ifill talks to Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal for more details on the case.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  But, first, we turn to the Supreme Court, where the clash between religious freedom and women’s access to birth control played out once again today.

PROTESTERS:  Hands off my birth control!

GWEN IFILL:  Today marked the fourth time the high court has heard a challenge to the president’s signature health care law.

At the center of today’s case, the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.  Just two years ago, arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby challenged that mandate, and won.  Justices ruled that family-owned companies run on religious principles could refuse to pay for their employees’ birth control.

Today’s case shifted the focus from private companies to the potential burden for religious nonprofits.  The challenge comes in part from an order of nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Along with six other plaintiffs, they argue the law forces them to either violate their beliefs or pay a substantial fine.

MOTHER LORAINE MAGUIRE, Little Sisters of the Poor:  We find ourselves in a situation where the government is requiring us to make changes in our health care, our religious health care plan to include services that really violate our deepest-held religious beliefs as Little Sisters.

GWEN IFILL:  The National Women’s Law Center sided with the Obama administration, saying coverage alternatives for these groups already exist.

GRETCHEN BORCHELT, National Women’s Law Center:  Women deserve insurance coverage for birth control no matter where they work.  These employers want to take that benefit away from their employees.  The alternatives that they proposed in court today are unworkable and, frankly, insulting.

GWEN IFILL:  A ruling is expected by June.

NEWSHOUR ESSAY - Friendship in Syria

"Finding friendship in the wreckage of war and revolution" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2016


SUMMARY:  After his last deployment to Afghanistan, decorated Marine veteran and writer Elliot Ackerman went to report on the civil war in Syria.  What he found was friendship and a shared disillusion over the hopes of revolution.  In this essay, Ackerman explores the deep wounds and strong bonds forged by war.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now to a NewsHour essay.

Earlier in the week, we heard what it was like to live through the wave of terrorism in Turkey from Elliot Ackerman, a decorated Marine veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan, and author of the new novel “Green on Blue.”

Tonight, Ackerman examines the legacy of a revolution and the deep wounds, but often strong bonds forged by war.

FOSTER CARE - Repairing Broken Lives

"Can an innovative Pittsburgh program help repair the broken lives of foster kids?" by April Brown and Mike Fritz, PBS NewsHour 3/22/2016


PITTSBURGH — At 13, Lafayette Goode had to face a situation that, for most children, is unimaginable.  He had no place to call home.

“I got kicked out of my house,” Goode said.  “That was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with because I couldn't believe my mom was really trying to kick me out at this age.  I'm so young, where am I going to go?”

Goode was among the roughly 400,000 young people in foster care in the U.S. at any given time, according to David Sanders of the Casey Family Programs, an organization working to improve foster care across the nation.

“I think, often times, we forget that, to get into foster care, they were abused or neglected probably to a level that is quite significant,” Sanders said.

Those personal traumas, coupled with the fact that many often move from home-to-home and school-to-school, has led to grim educational outcomes for foster youth nationally.  Only about half finish high school and of that group, only 20 percent go on to college.  Fewer than one in 10 of those students actually earns a bachelor's degree.

Goode, now 19, is proud to have graduated high school on time and plans to enroll at a trade school this spring.  He credits the help of Allegheny County's Youth Support Partners, including Justin Quast for helping him reach those milestones navigate the difficult and often confusing world of foster care.

Youth Support Partners like Quast are young adults who were, themselves, involved in the child welfare system, but have since been trained to become peer-to-peer mentors and advocates for young people currently in foster care.

“He's close to my age [and] we understand each other,” said Goode.  “As soon as we met we just clicked.”

“We feel strongly [that], if you've been there, if you've walked in their shoes, you are much more effective and can relate,” said Marc Cherna, Allegheny County's Director of Human Services.

Creating Youth Support Partners for foster youth is just one of the many changes Cherna has made in his 20 years with the county in an effort to improve lives and outcomes for children in the system.  He also created Educational Liaisons, which makes sure that foster youth are not only staying in school, but succeeding by getting them tutoring or other supports when needed.  They also help with credit recovery, scholarships, university applications and take high school seniors to visit college campuses.

In addition to creating those positions, Cherna's reforms have included reducing caseloads, increasing family support to keep youth in their own homes and schools when appropriate, and collecting data to determine which programs are effective and where investments should be made.  Allegheny County's efforts to improve the lives of foster youth are considered a national model and Cherna often visits cities around the country to share what has worked in his community.

But he remains realistic, acknowledging there is much more work to be done.

“I've been doing this work for over 40 years and if there was a magic bullet we wouldn't be talking about it today,” Cherna said.  “This is very complex work.  There is no easy solution.”

FEARING THE WAVE - Pacific Northwest

"How the Pacific Northwest is preparing for a catastrophic tsunami" by Lorna Baldwin, PBS NewsHour 3/22/2016


In the small fishing and logging community of Ocosta, Washington, residents are doing something about an invisible danger lurking just miles off their coastline — one of the most dangerous seismic faults in the world.  The community agreed to raise local taxes to build North America’s first vertical tsunami evacuation shelter atop the local school’s new gymnasium.  It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can hold up to 2,000 people in the event of an earthquake and tsunami that follows.  After the quake hits, residents will only have between 15 and 25 minutes to get there before the tsunami arrives on their shores.

But how real is the threat?  The Cascadia fault sits just offshore, stretching 700 miles from Vancouver Island in Canada to northern California.  Scientists have calculated it’s overdue for a rupture and the likelihood of a large quake happening in the next 50 years is 37 percent.  FEMA estimates the number of people killed in a major quake and tsunami could reach 13,000 with a further 20,000 injured; 140,000 square miles would be affected.

The superintendent of schools in Ocosta, Paula Akerlund, said the 2011 tsunami in Japan guided their construction project.  “One of the things that we knew from Japan is that some buildings were overtopped.  So we tried to make the wall here high enough and then also I think it will serve another purpose because there will be children up here with us and they won’t really see what’s happening for awhile.”

The tsunami shelter is ready for use now with a ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled in June.

Farther up the Washington coast, the Quinault Indian Nation village of Taholah sits at the edge of the Pacific, only 6 feet above sea level.  To combat the tsunami threat and rising sea levels the tribe has a five-year plan to move to higher ground.  It’s a place the Quinault have lived for centuries and tribe president Fawn Sharp says, “Our membership sees the exciting opportunity of creating a new village and what that might look like.  But so many of our memories are here in this village and the thought of it being under water, you know, there’s a lot of trauma to that prospect that a very sacred site could no longer exist.”

From transcript:

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The highly reinforced structure they have built isn’t just to protect the 620 students at the school.  The roof can hold nearly 2,000 people, and officials say no one would be turned away in a disaster, and the shelter will be accessible 24/7 from this point forward.

The total cost?  Just over $2 million.  And get this:  No state or federal money was used  to build it.  Locals had to vote on a bond specifically to raise their own taxes to build this, and this isn’t a wealthy community.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

FILM - At the Movies, "Sneakers"

Got the DVD "Sneakers."

It's really, really good, and note the cast..... WOW!


  • Robert Redford as Martin Bishop/Martin Brice
  • Ben Kingsley as Cosmo
  • Sidney Poitier as Donald Crease
  • David Strathairn as Irwin "Whistler" Emery
  • Dan Aykroyd as Darren "Mother" Roskow
  • River Phoenix as Carl Arbogast
  • Mary McDonnell as Liz
  • Stephen Tobolowsky as Werner Brandes
  • Timothy Busfield as Dick Gordon
  • Eddie Jones as Buddy Wallace
  • George Hearn as Gregor
  • Donal Logue as Dr. Gunter Janek
  • Lee Garlington as Dr. Elena Rhyzkov
  • James Earl Jones as NSA Agent Bernard Abbott

Friday, March 25, 2016

VOTER SUPPRESSION - Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law

The denial of voter's rights by the Republican extreme right.

This article also shows that Wisconsin Republicans want to silence any criticism of their actions by dismantling the current Government Accountability Board.  You can bet that IF they have a replacement it will be hindered from free non-partizan evaluation and reporting of government actions.

"Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law Requires an Education Campaign, Which the State Hasn’t Funded" by Sarah Smith, ProPublica 3/24/2016

The controversial law is about to get its inaugural use in a major statewide vote, Wisconsin’s April 5th primary.

On April 5, when voters cast ballots in Wisconsin’s Republican and Democratic primaries, the state’s controversial voter ID bill will face its biggest test since Governor Scott Walker signed it into law in 2011.  For the first time in a major election, citizens will be required to show approved forms of identification in order to vote.  The law mandates that the state run a public-service campaign “in conjunction with the first regularly scheduled primary and election” to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable.

But Wisconsin has failed to appropriate funds for the public education campaign.  The result is that thousands of citizens may be turned away from the polls simply because they did not understand what form of identification they needed to vote.

Wisconsin’s failure to fund these public-service ads comes after a clash between the Government Accountability Board, the nonpartisan agency responsible for producing voter education materials, and the Republican-controlled legislature.  In October, the agency met with Republican State Senator Mary Lazich, who was a primary sponsor of the voter ID bill in 2011, to inquire after funding and received a tepid response.

The board told Lazich that it would need $300,000 to $500,000 from the state legislature to broadcast advertisements.  The legislature had twice appropriated money for public information campaigns during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, but the ads barely hit the airwaves before court injunctions delayed the law from going into effect.

According to Kevin Kennedy, the board’s director and general counsel, Lazich thanked the board for the information, but didn’t make any promises.  Lazich did not respond to requests for comment from ProPublica.

After the meeting, the Government Accountability Board decided against making a formal funding request to the legislature, which had already introduced a bill to dismantle the agency.

“We weren’t sure we would have a receptive audience,” Kennedy told ProPublica.

Two days after the meeting, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to replace the nonpartisan board with two partisan agencies by the end of June 2016.  Since 2012, Republicans have attacked the board after it investigated, among other things, whether Governor Walker coordinated with outside political groups during the recount battle that gripped the state.  Judicial orders stalled the investigation, and the board eventually took itself out of the probe.  Walker, cleared of wrongdoing, survived the scandal.

“I think the board had become very sensitive to the fact that the legislature had become—at least the ruling party had become—very anti-board,” Kennedy said.  “And they were like, ‘If you want us to do something tell us what to do, but we’re not going to go hat-in-hand to you.’”

Myranda Tanck, spokeswoman for State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, disputed Kennedy’s account.  She said the legislature might have appropriated money for voter education this cycle, but did not find out there was a funding gap until the board held a press conference about it in February.  “It’s something we would’ve been willing to consider,” she said.

Some researchers say confusion about what IDs are acceptable can keep voters from the polls, which is why education efforts like Wisconsin’s public service campaign are so important.  A study conducted by the University of Houston and Rice University found that half of the voters who cited not having a valid ID as the primary reason they didn’t vote in a 2014 Texas congressional district election actually had acceptable voter identification.

It’s unclear exactly how many potential voters are disenfranchised by the Wisconsin law.  In 2012, a political scientist who testified on behalf of the state in its defense of the statute estimated that between nearly 200,000 and 300,000 voters in Wisconsin did not possess a valid voter ID.  His counterpart on the plaintiffs’ side put the estimate at more than 350,000 registered voters in the state.

Volunteer groups have spent the past few months fielding calls from voters, handing out informational fliers, holding press conferences on the law and taking voters without drivers’ licenses to the DMV to get state-issued ID cards.  But they say it’s an uphill battle.  “We’ve heard from a number of people who have said they didn’t have enough information about the law,” Andrea Kaminski, the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, said.  “They’re surprised they didn’t see anything on TV, on the Internet.”

Monday, March 21, 2016

BOOK - "Finding Winnie"

Yes, Victoria, Winnie the Pooh was real.  So was Christopher Robbin.

CUBA - President Obama's Visit (including full news conference)

"Why the significance of Obama’s trip to Cuba differs for both countries" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2016


SUMMARY:  Christopher Sabatini, a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, joins Alison Stewart to discuss President Obama's historic visit to Cuba and the new era of U.S.-Cuba relations.

ALISON STEWART (NewsHour):  Wheels down in Havana for Air Force One, as Barack Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge almost 90 years ago.  It was raining as the first family got off the plane, to be greeted by Cuba’s foreign minister.

While still on the plane, President Obama tweeted:  “Que bola, Cuba?”, or “What’s up, Cuba” in Spanish.

The President will spend a busy two days on the communist-ruled island nation, which has been preparing for his visit.

Only eight months after the flag was raised at the reopened U.S. Embassy in Cuba, for the first time in more than half-a-century, the streets of Havana are decorated with American flags and images of President Obama.

The President and the first family are beginning their Cuban visit with a walking tour of historic Old Havana tonight.  Mr. Obama will meet tomorrow with Cuban President Raul Castro and attend a state dinner.  The President has no plans to meet with former President and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, older brother of the current president.

But he does intend to spend time on Tuesday with critics of Castro’s government, many of whom have faced arrests for their outspoken opposition.

The White House would not disclose which dissidents Mr. Obama will see, but insists the list is not negotiable.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  But I can tell you that the President is going to move forward and host meetings and have a conversation about human rights with the people that he chooses to meet with.

ALISON STEWART:  This afternoon in Havana, police arrested dozens of anti-government dissidents from the so-called Ladies in White group.  The President will also deliver a speech at the National Theatre of Cuba, where he plans to lay out his vision for how the two countries can work together.

He will also catch a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Major League Tampa Bay Rays.  And in a video released online by the White House yesterday, the President joked with Cuba’s most famous comedian, Luis Silva, who often satirizes the failings of the Cuban government and economic system.

Earlier, I spoke with Christopher Sabatini, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, about this new era in U.S.-Cuba relations.

"Latest from Cuba:  Castro, Obama had ‘frank’ conversation on human rights" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2016

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/28/2016

"Shields and Brooks on blocking Trump, Sanders’ chances and Merrick Garland" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2016


SUMMARY:  Judy Woodruff sits down with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks to discuss the week in politics, including how the mainstream GOP can block a Donald Trump nomination, Bernie Sanders’ chances in the western states and Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland’s contested confirmation.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, with that gentle note to end this week, David, where does the Republican contest stand?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  I’m trembling at the loss of Sam Clovis from the ranks.


DAVID BROOKS:   Trump is looking like the nominee.  I mean, he had this great night.  He — if he continues as he has been going right now — and my paper reported — our Upshot department reported he will get the — what he needs.  So he’s looking like he can get it.

There are two ways he cannot get it.  One, maybe if Kasich drops out, there are some polls that show if Cruz is one on one, he could make some inroads into Trump.  And then something behind the scenes or something — fiddling with the rules.  I, of course, think they should do it.

But one of the features of this year is that Donald Trump has a monopoly on audacity and he’s the only one who takes action.  So, what’s interesting to me about the Republicans right now is, with the exception of Florida Governor Rick Scott and Chris Christie, they’re not flocking to Trump.  They do not like the guy.  They’re terrorized of the guy.  They’re repulsed by the guy.

But they’re not flocking to him, but they’re not doing anything against him either.  They’re just sitting there like a psychologically depleted party.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, where does that leave — so that, Mark, he just marches on to Cleveland and the nomination.

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  He does.

What conservative philosopher and columnist George Will called the most gifted and diversified field of Republican candidates since 1865 is now down essentially to two, to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the quintessential conservative who cannot be nominated and cannot win.  And that’s where the Republicans are.

Donald Trump, let it be said in his behalf, has won this nomination.  I mean, the people who are trying to take it away from him have won nothing.  I mean, John Kasich has won one primary, half as many as Marco Rubio won, I think, contests.

So, I mean, you know, but he’s won, and he’s won everywhere.  I mean, it’s been across the board.  I mean, this is a — it’s been an open assault upon the establishment, and he has captured it.

So, I just think that, you know, Lindsey Graham, a man occasionally known for spreading the ugly truth, said it’s — a choice between Cruz and Trump is the choice between being poisoned and being shot.  And I think that’s where sort of the paralysis that David…


DAVID BROOKS:  And he chose poison.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And then he went on to choose Cruz.

MARK SHIELDS:  He did.  He chose arsenic over — yes.

ESSAY- Low-Income Student Incentives for College?

"What can motivate low-income high school kids to apply to college?" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2016

COMMENT:   Considering the debt for college a high school student need NOT go directly to a college or can go to a 2yr community college first.  It is OK to wait until one gains more real-life experience and gets a job (especially if it is related to a carrier).


SUMMARY:  This month, many prospective college students are anticipating an admissions decision from their dream school.  Keith Frome, author of “How’s My Kid Doing?” has worked with high school students across the country and believes he has found the key to encouraging them to consider college, peer pressure.  Frome offers his unique take on the college application process.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now a “NewsHour” Essay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

DRONES - Film "Eye in the Sky"

"‘Eye in the Sky’ film puts the use of drones in the spotlight" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2016


SUMMARY:  One of the most controversial elements of President Obama’s national security policy is the use of drones to kill terrorists.  The newly released movie "Eye in the Sky" provides a front-row seat to the debate taking place among national security officials.  Jeffrey Brown reports on the movie and the implications of the use of drones.

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

Jeffrey Brown is back with that.

ACTOR:  What’s the plan, Captain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACTRESS:  Yes.  Yes.

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

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

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

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

Official Trailer:

SEAWORLD - Caves-in to Fanatics

IMHO:  It's a sad day when fanatics rule.  They can go to hell as far as I'm concerned.  What's next, banning of fish tanks in your home because your fish are harmed by not being in oceans or rivers?

"No more Shamu — SeaWorld to end breeding of killer whales" PBS NewsHour 3/17/2016


SUMMARY:  SeaWorld has made headlines several times in the past decade; trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by a captive orca during a live show in 2010, and a 2013 documentary focused intense scrutiny on the family-oriented theme park over the use of killer whales as show animals.  On Thursday, SeaWorld announced that it would no longer breed or keep orcas. Jeffrey Brown reports.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Orca whales have been entertaining audiences at SeaWorld parks since 1964.  Once feared — they’re commonly known as killer whales — they have become hugely popular and even beloved.

Today’s announcement, made with the Humane Society, means the era of public exhibition is, gradually at least, coming to an end.

JOEL MANBY, CEO, SeaWorld:  Current orcas under our care will be the last generation at SeaWorld.  We’re going to phase out our theatrical shows.

JEFFREY BROWN:  SeaWorld is ending its breeding program for the animals, though it’s keeping the whales it already has.

And the Orlando-based company says the shows will give way to what it calls inspiring natural orca encounters.  Animal rights activists have long criticized keeping the animals in captivity.

WOMAN:  Any of us would be miserable if we had to spend out life living in a bathtub.  And orcas at SeaWorld are just as miserable.  They spend their lives confined to tiny tanks, where they go mad from confinement and boredom.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The parks came under new scrutiny in 2010 after one of the whales drowned a trainer.  That attack later became the peg for 2013’s “Blackfish,” a documentary examining the effects of captivity on killer whales.

The company also faced regulatory and legislative efforts to ban orca captivity.  And ticket sales to the parks have dropped significantly.

And we’re joined now by the man who made today’s announcement, SeaWorld CEO and president Joel Manby; and by Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, a longtime critic of SeaWorld that worked with it on the new reform measures.

MICHIGAN - Flint Water Crisis

"Congress grills Michigan governor, EPA head over Flint water crisis" PBS NewsHour 3/17/2016

COMMENT:  Rep. Cummings comment below is absolutely correct, a CEO of a business WOULD be held criminally responsible.  He should have done a comparison between treatment under to old system to the new system.


SUMMARY:  Flint, Michigan, earned a place in the spotlight again Thursday, as Congressional hearings on the city’s water crisis continued.  Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and EPA administrator Gina McCarthy both faced strict scrutiny for their apparent failure to respond to the dire situation quickly enough. John Yang reports.

MAN:  Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will come to order.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took the oath, settled into their seats, and the grilling began.

Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings started with Republican Snyder.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), Maryland:  Governor Snyder has been described as running the state of Michigan like a business.  There’s no doubt in my mind that, if a corporate CEO did what Governor Snyder’s administration has done, he would be hauled up on criminal charges.

JOHN YANG:  An emergency manager appointed by Snyder’s administration switched Flint’s water supply to the Flint River in April 2014, in a bid to save money.  But no corrosion control was added.  That allowed lead from aging pipes to leach into drinking water for more than a year.

Snyder said today that Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality repeatedly assured him the water was safe, until last fall.

GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), Michigan:  It was on October 1, 2015, that I learned that our state experts were wrong.  Flint’s water had dangerous levels of lead.  On that date, I took immediate action.  Not a day or night goes by that this tragedy doesn’t weigh on my mind, the questions I should have asked, the answers I should have demanded, how I could have prevented this.

JOHN YANG:  That wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy some on the committee.

REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D), Pennsylvania:  Plausible deniability only works when it’s plausible, and I’m not buying that you didn’t know about any of this until October 2015.  You weren’t in a medically induced coma for a year.  And I have had about enough of your false contrition and your phony apologies.

JOHN YANG:  Republican Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz laid blame mostly with the Environmental Protection Agency and its boss, Gina McCarthy.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

U.S. SUPREME COURT - President Obama's Nomination

"Defying Congressional GOP, Obama chooses D.C. judge for Supreme Court" PBS NewsHour 3/16/2016

President Obama has lived up to his Constitutional obligation, now it is time for the U.S. Senate to live up to theirs.  This does not mean they need to approve, but they must consider.


SUMMARY:  The battle for the late Antonin Scalia’s spot on the Supreme Court began Wednesday, as President Obama officially announced his nomination; Merrick B. Garland, chief judge of the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Obama was undeterred by Congressional Republican vows to ignore any Supreme Court nomination hearings until a new President has been elected.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The battle was officially joined today over the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.  The President formally opened the fray, nominating the head of the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Today, I am nominating chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court.

GWEN IFILL:  The announcement was greeted with applause in the Rose Garden as the President hailed his nominee.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Judge Garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law.  He’s shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples, assemble unlikely coalitions, persuade colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies to sign onto his opinions.

GWEN IFILL:  That was calculated to make the case that Senate Republicans should at least give Garland a chance.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn’t even deserve a hearing, let alone an up-or-down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise, that would be unprecedented.

JUDGE MERRICK GARLAND, Supreme Court Nominee:  This is the greatest honor of my life.

GWEN IFILL:  The judge choked back tears as he thanked the President, and he seemed to make his own appeal.

JUDGE MERRICK GARLAND:  Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life, and it’s the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years.  If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today, I promise to continue on that course.

GWEN IFILL:  Garland is 63.  He left private practice for the Justice Department in 1993, and oversaw its response to the Oklahoma City bombing.  President Clinton then nominated him to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  He was confirmed in 1997.

At the time, he drew praise from the likes of Republican Orrin Hatch, then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), Utah:  He belongs on the court.  And I believe he is not only a fine nominee, but is as good as Republicans can expect from this administration.  In fact, I would place him at the top of the list.

GWEN IFILL:  That was then.  This is now.

Now Garland is being nominated to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month.  Republicans fear that confirming him to the high court would create a liberal majority.

So, within minutes of the president’s announcement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went to the Senate floor to double down on his (unconstitutional IMHO) pledge to deny the President as much as a hearing on his nominee.

Full 25:51 announcement:

"Who is Merrick Garland?  Legal analysts review his record — and his chance" PBS NewsHour 3/16/2016


SUMMARY:  Following President Obama’s nomination of chief D.C. Circuit appeals judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Judy Woodruff turns to Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal and former Solicitor General Seth Waxman for more on the unique situation.  Also, Gwen Ifill talks to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) for some insight into how Congress will respond.


(click for larger view)

Monday, March 14, 2016

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/11/2016

"Shields and Brooks on the surprisingly tranquil GOP debate" PBS NewsHour 3/11/2016


SUMMARY:  Hari Sreenivasan joins syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks to discuss the week in politics, including takeaways from a surprisingly tranquil GOP debate, what’s at stake for trailing candidates in Ohio and Florida, the chances that a brokered RNC convention could stymie Trump and how Bernie Sanders is still hanging tough against Hillary Clinton.

JAPAN - Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 2016

"An exclusive look at the world’s largest-ever nuclear cleanup" PBS NewsHour 3/11/2016


SUMMARY:  Five years ago, an epic tsunami off the coast of Japan triggered a triple-reactor nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.  Ever since then, 7,000 workers have been laboring round-the-clock on a massive, and unprecedented, cleanup effort.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien takes an exclusive look at ground zero of the greatest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  Fukushima Daiichi was one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world.  Today, it is a busy, crowded, dangerous deconstruction site.

My invitation to see it up close was unique.

What next?  Does three have a lot to…

But even with special permission, getting inside is not easy by design.  Radioactive contamination levels have gone down, but not nearly enough to dispense with the Tyvek suits, three layers of socks and gloves and full face respirators.

It’s like being an astronaut on a space walk.  Here, 7,000 workers are doing a job for which there is no playbook.

NAOHIRO MASUDA, TEPCO (through interpreter):  What makes this so difficult is the lack of experience.  Nobody in the world has done this before.

MILES O’BRIEN:  Naohiro Masuda is the chief decommissioning officer for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO.

NAOHIRO MASUDA (through interpreter):  We still need to decide what we’re even going to do.  For that, we need to rely on the knowledge of people all around the world.

MILES O’BRIEN:  He relies heavily on this man.

LAKE BARRETT, TEPCO Advisor:  For them to come out and to publicly say “We need help” is different for them.

MILES O’BRIEN:  Lake Barrett is one of a very select group who has some experience with a job like this.  He was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission manager in charge of the decommissioning of Three Mile Island Unit 2 near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It melted down in 1979.

LAKE BARRETT (adviser):  Fukushima is much more complex.  The damage is much greater.  There’s three melted cores.  But the fundamentals of how you address this and how you recover are similar.

MILES O’BRIEN:  The daily details of this 40-year job are managed here in a radiation-shielded, earthquake-proof emergency operations center.

The superintendent is another TEPCO veteran, Akira Ono, on duty here since June of 2013.

AKIRA ONO, TEPCO (through interpreter):  Ever since the disaster, we have been working here 24 hours a day 365 days a year.  We’re ready to respond to anything that happens.

"The heroes of Fukushima Dai-ichi, but don’t call them that" by Miles O'Brien, PBS NewsHour 3/13/2016

FOREIGN POLICY - "The Obama Doctrine"

"The Atlantic examines Obama’s foreign policy legacy" PBS NewsHour 3/10/2016


SUMMARY:  What is President Obama’s real foreign policy legacy?  Through a series of interviews with the commander in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic set out to determine an answer -- one divorced from the partisan rhetoric that tends to dominate such discussions.  As part of a collaboration between The Atlantic and the PBS NewsHour, Judy Woodruff joins Goldberg to find out what he learned.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Now, a broad, yet intimate look at how President Obama views America’s role in the world.  It comes from “The Atlantic's” Jeffrey Goldberg, who sat down for hours of interviews with the President for his cover story, “The Obama Doctrine,” out today.

Judy Woodruff begins our conversation with how the president’s foreign policy is seen.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, The Atlantic:  One of the interesting caricatures of President Obama is that he doesn’t believe that the U.S. is indispensable.  You hear that from his critics all the time, that he’s a retrenchment President, he’s a withdrawal President, a declinist.

I think that’s wrong.  I think he understands that America is indispensable to the smooth functioning of global affairs.  I think he might be the first President who sometimes resents that role, who looks at our allies and thinks that these guys need to pay for something once in a while, these guys need to do more than they’re doing.

He is also a person who is more hesitant than the average president to use force, specifically in the Middle East.  Now, there’s a contradiction here at the core of his presidency, which is that the President who his critics believe is almost a pacifist in some kind of way, a declinist, is also the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Do any of the critics get it right?  Because, on the right, Republicans are saying this is a President who is weak, he’s feckless, he doesn’t believe in America’s strength, and on the left, you have got some liberals saying he’s been too inclined to use force, to use drones, and he doesn’t care enough about humanitarian crises.


What he does that annoys people on the right is that he has set a very high threshold for what constitutes a direct national security threat to the United States.  But the people on the left understand him to be a ruthless hunter of terrorists, right?  They have that — they have that right.

But I think the right gets it wrong.  They have this caricature of this kind of feckless President who doesn’t defend the United States.  For instance, they talk about ISIS as if we’re not currently fighting ISIS.  But the U.S. is deeply engaged in that fight, and that, of course, comes from President Obama.

MIDEAST - Iran vs Israel

"Violence and Iranian missile tests cause havoc in Israel" PBS NewsHour 3/9/2016


SUMMARY:  A wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces has left the Middle Eastern state in turmoil, further exacerbated by the recent ballistic missile tests from Iran’s hardline Republican Guard faction.  Gwen Ifill talks to Daniel Estrin of the Associated Press for more on the situation in Israel.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Vice President Biden met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders today amid a deadly spike in attacks in Israel.

Yesterday, an American war veteran and student, Taylor Force, was killed in Jaffa during a series of stabbings.  Today, after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden condemned the attacks and the apparent celebration of the tactic by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ political party.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:  The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop.  There can’t be — there cannot be unilateral steps to undermine trust that only takes us further away — further and further away from an outcome.

GWEN IFILL:  The vice president also responded to Iran’s test launch of ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel.  The Israeli government has strongly opposed the U.S.-brokered nuclear deal reached with Iran last summer.

Biden today said, if Iran were to break the deal — quote — “We will act.”

I’m joined now by Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem, who’s covering the story for the Associated Press.

Daniel, we have seen months and months of these stabbing attacks, especially horrific.  What’s behind them?

DANIEL ESTRIN, Associated Press:  That’s a good question.

Palestinians say that it’s the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories, a desperation, that there seems to be no solution and no end if sight, and no hope for a future for them.

Israeli officials say that this is a Palestinian campaign of incitement and lies fueled by social media.  And you see a lot, especially today on Twitter.  The Fatah Party, the political party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, posted a photo of a cartoon basically extolling the stabber that stabbed the American student.

THE NEVER-ENDING WAR - Israel vs Palestine

COMMENT:  Good luck Vice President Biden.  But as I have said so many times in the past, this conflict will NOT be solved by outsiders (including U.S.).  It can ONLY be solved by THE PEOPLE of both Israel and Palestine when they tell their respective governments to stop.

"In Israeli visit, Biden aspires to push peace talks forward" PBS NewsHour 3/8/2016


SUMMARY:  On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel to begin two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders currently mired in a deep and violent impasse.  Biden also hopes to mend the relations between the Obama White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Judy Woodruff talks to Tom Friedman of the New York Times for his take on why the peace talks won't work.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We return to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and tonight begin a series of occasional conversations we're calling The Long Divide.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel today, not far from the scene of one stabbing attack, where he began two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders mired in a deep and violent impasse.

Biden is also the latest top American official trying to repair relations between the Obama White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

We launch this series now with New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman.

Tom Friedman, welcome back to the program.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, The New York Times:  Great to be with you, Judy.  Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, you wrote a column saying flatly that the peace process is dead.  Why do you believe that?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:  Because it's dead.

It's actually been dead for a while.  I just called it by its real name.  It's clear to me, Judy, that both sides have conspired.  This was like “Murder on the Orient Express.”  There were so many stab wounds in this body, hard to tell exactly which one was the fatal blow.

But you now have near approaching 500,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, and depending on where you define the border.  Remember, it took 50,000 Israeli soldiers and police to remove peacefully 8,000 settlers from Gaza.

So, imagine if you're talking about, you know, 400,000 to 500,000.  And on the Palestinian side, you have had some really bad developments.  In the last Israeli-Palestinian war, Hamas fired a rocket that landed basically on the outskirts of Israel's only international airport, basically, or major international airport, Lod.

And the U.S. FAA ordered for one day all American flights canceled.  That was a message to all Israelis.  Imagine if the Palestinians had the West Bank and could close their only airport.

And, also, Salam Fayyad or the — sorry — the — Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, he released — he fired, basically, Salam Fayyad, the one Palestinian prime minister who said, we need to build our institutions, and if we do what the Zionists did and we build our state institutionally, getting a state will just be a formality.

He got fired.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, you're saying there are a few people trying to do the right thing, but they're not being listened to?  What's the problem?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:  Yes.  There are a lot of people trying to do the right — wrong thing, and they have been really empowered lately.

My criticism of Netanyahu is not that Israel should get out of the West Bank tomorrow.  I get it.  It's a dangerous neighborhood.  You know, I have always felt, to understand Israel, to write about Israel, you have to keep three thoughts in your head at the same time and their intention.

One is that Israel is an amazing place.  It's really built an amazing society in its short history.  Second, Israel does some bad stuff in the West Bank.  And, third, Israel lives in a really dangerous neighborhood.  And you have got to keep all three of those in your head at the same time.

My critique of Netanyahu is this.  Why would you make a bad situation worse by putting Jews in the middle of Palestinian areas in the West Bank, highly densely populated Palestinian areas, that if there were to be a deal, that would have to be ceded to a Palestinian state?

A very good question.