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Last updated: Tuesday, April 28 2015 12:46 AM
Monday, April 27 2015 10:52 PM
[Watch Video]Kareem James Abu-Zeid reads his translation of Najwan Darwish’s poem “Sleeping in Gaza” from his collection “Nothing More To Lose” at the 2015 AWP Conference and Bookfair in Minneapolis. The text of the poem is below.
Sleeping in Gaza
Fado, I’ll sleep like people do
when shells are falling
and the sky is torn like living flesh
I’ll dream, then, like people do
when shells are falling:
I’ll dream of betrayals
I’ll wake at noon and ask the radio
the questions people ask of it:
Is the shelling over?
How many were killed?
But my tragedy, Fado,
is that there are two types of people:
those who cast their suffering and sins
into the streets so they can sleep
and those who collect the people’s suffering and sins
mold them into crosses, and parade them
through the streets of Babylon and Gaza and Beirut
all the while crying
Are there any more to come?
Are there any more to come?
Two years ago I walked through the streets
of Dahieh, in southern Beirut
and dragged a cross
as large as the wrecked buildings
But who today will lift a cross
from the back of a weary man in Jerusalem?
The earth is three nails
and mercy a hammer:
Strike with the planes
Are there any more to come?
Najwan Darwish, one of the foremost Arabic-language poets of his generation, was born in Jerusalem in 1978. He has worked as the editor of two cultural magazines in Palestine and was a cultural critic for the prominent Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar from 2006 to 2012. Darwish has been an organizer and advisor for many public arts projects, among them the Palestine Festival of Literature. In 2009, he founded a literary press in Jerusalem, and he is currently involved in establishing a new pan-Arab newspaper, where he will be the chief editor of the arts and culture section. In 2009, he was on the Hay Festival Beirut’s list of the “Best 39 Arab authors under the age of 39.” He lives in Jerusalem.
Kareem James Abu-Zeid is an award-winning translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world. His most recent book-length translations include Najwan Darwish’s “Nothing More to Lose,” Dunya Mikhail’s “The Iraqi Nights” and Rabee Jaber’s “The Mehlis Report.” He has received a Lannan Foundation residency and a Fulbright research fellowship, among other honors, and received Poetry magazine’s 2014 translation prize. He is currently writing a book called “Lighting the Mind: A History of Psychedelic Literature from the Rig Veda to the Present Day,” which is doubling as his PhD dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley.
This video was filmed at the AWP Conference & Bookfair. Special thanks to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
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Monday, April 27 2015 10:50 PM
JUDY WOODRUFF: The death toll in Nepal’s earthquake zone topped 4,000 today, with at least another 6,500 injured, and the situation for survivors grew increasingly dire.
Thousands of people fled the ravaged capital, Kathmandu, as food and water ran out and aftershocks continued. Others kept looking for those still alive.
We begin with this report from Mark Austin of Independent Television News.
MARK AUSTIN, ITN: It is, or, rather, was, a place of ancient beauty, a place of tourists, tea shops and wondrous temples. But, today, it is a place where they dig for family and neighbors with their bare hands.
Shia Laxmi dug out her daughter alive soon after the earthquake. But says there are dozens more bodies buried here. Nearby, 24-year-old Sanjiv shows me what’s left of his house. Two of his family are missing.
MAN: It’s my brothers. It’s my younger brother and my brother’s wife, my elder brother’s wife.
MARK AUSTIN: And they’re missing under there?
MAN: They’re missing, yes. We’re helpless. So, if you can help us, sir, please. It was just a nightmare, sir. It’s a nightmare. I just need to find their bodies.
MARK AUSTIN: While we’re there, the local police turn up, but they are overwhelmed and without the wherewithal to help.
All around us in Bhaktapur, there is despair and hopelessness. The local police and the army are here, but, quite frankly, pickaxes, shovels and bare hands are not going to find too many people under this mountain of rubble. They need help. They need international help. They need rubble-moving equipment urgently. And at the moment, they’re not seeing it here.
So regular are the aftershocks here, and so frightened the people, that at Bhaktapur’s hospital, they are being treated outside under tents. These people feel betrayed by nature and must wonder what on earth has happened to them and their city. This place has stood for centuries as the pride of this great city. Now Bhaktapur stands only as a shattered testimony to nature’s indiscriminate power.
JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. officials said today at least four Americans are among the dead in Nepal. We will have a report from near the quake epicenter and much more after the news summary.
GWEN IFILL: The issue of drone strikes on militants in Pakistan took a new turn today. It was widely reported that President Obama has secretly allowed the CIA greater leeway in launching strikes in Pakistan. Rules governing drone attacks elsewhere were tightened in 2013 to cut down on civilian casualties. The president announced last week that a strike in January killed two hostages, one American and one Italian.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Loretta Lynch was sworn in today as U.S. attorney general. She’s the first black woman to hold the office. Vice President Biden administered the oath of office at the Justice Department. In her remarks, Lynch didn’t mention police killings of minorities directly, but she made clear it’s a main challenge.
LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General: We can imbue our criminal justice system with both strength and fairness for the protection of both the needs of victims and the rights of all. We can restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lynch succeeds Eric Holder, who served as attorney general for six years.
GWEN IFILL: Lawyers for the convicted Boston Marathon bomber urged a jury today to spare his life. In its opening statement, the defense said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was led astray by his older brother. Attorney David Bruck argued against imposing the death penalty, saying there is no evening the scales. Instead, he called for a sentence of life without parole.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Another labor dispute has hit the nation’s busiest port complex. Hundreds of truck drivers walked off the job at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California. Their trucks sat idle as they walked a picket line demanding better pay.
GWEN IFILL: President Obama warned today against moves in Congress to rein in free trade. He told The Wall Street Journal that China will step into the vacuum if Congress fails to approve a trade deal with Asia.
Later, the President welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Abe and took him on a tour of the Lincoln Memorial.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Wall Street started the week on a down note. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 40 points to close below 18040. The Nasdaq fell 30, and the S&P 500 slid eight.
The post News Wrap: Kathmandu overwhelmed by rubble after earthquake appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 10:35 PM
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to Baltimore, where a day that began with the somber quiet of a funeral turned into melees in the streets.
It all revolved around the death in police custody of Freddie Gray. Trouble erupted at mid-afternoon, as helmeted police with riot clubs confronted hundreds of youth near a mall. It grew into running street battles, with protesters throwing stones and attacking police cars. Officials said at least seven officers were hurt.
CAPT. ERIC KOWALCZYK, Baltimore Police Department: It is a group of lawless individuals with no regard for the safety of the people that live in that community or the safety of our police officers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The violence was a far cry from the scene earlier.
Mourners streamed into the New Shiloh Baptist Church this morning, many overcome with grief for Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old died April 19 in police custody, fueling a nationwide debate that loomed over today’s service.
REV. HAROLD CARTER, New Shiloh Baptist Church: As the city, as the nation, in fact, as the world looks in, we are ever mindful of the reason that we are here, that a family has had and is yet standing on the banks of the Jordan, metaphorically speaking, to wave farewell to a son, to their loved one, whose life we now celebrate in memory.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Some 2,500 people listened as church leaders and relatives of Gray spoke of their anguish and determination.
RICHARD SHIPLEY, Stepfather of Freddie Gray: For you brother, I promise you this. I will go on with my life and make you proud. I will always hold you in my heart. I promise you I will be missing you every day until the end of time.
REV. JAMAL BRYANT: The reason I want you not to cry, is because Freddie’s death is not in vain. After this day, we’re going to keep on marching. After this day, we’re going to keep demanding justice. After this day, we’re going to keep exposing our culture of corruption.
After this day, we’re going to keep monitoring our own neighborhoods. Whatever you do, don’t cry.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gray’s death has galvanized daily protests in Baltimore, with thousands giving voice to their outrage. They have overwhelmed city streets.
And they’d remained mostly peaceful, until the end of Saturday’s march. Violence erupted when some in the crowd broke away to vandalize cars and storefronts downtown; 35 people were arrested and six police officers were hurt.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake condemned the violence.
MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: This is something that is unacceptable to me and it’s something that is unacceptable to everyone who lives in and loves our city.
JUDY WOODRUFF: An internal investigation into Gray’s arrest and death is expected to be finished by the end of the week. In the meantime, six police officers have been suspended with pay.
The post Freddie Gray mourners share anguish and determination at Baltimore funeral appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 10:30 PM
JUDY WOODRUFF: A short time ago, I spoke to NewsHour special correspondent Jackie Judd in Baltimore.
Jackie, tell us where you are. And what is the situation right now?
JACKIE JUDD: Good evening, Judy.
I am standing in front of the Shiloh Baptist Church, where earlier today there was a funeral for Freddie Gray. There were appeals for peace. Within two hours of that funeral ending, just north of here, violence broke out. There were groups of mostly young people. They appeared to be very disorganized.
They walked around for a bit and then they became violent. They were hurling rocks and stones at the police officers who were riot-equipped. The police, from my eye, they appeared to act in a very restrained manner. We are told about half-a-dozen officers are injured. One is unresponsive, in the words of the police department.
There has been some looting of stores. We saw from aerial coverage by a local station one police car seemingly unoccupied was pounced upon by probably 30 or 40 protesters. A tactical unit suddenly appeared. The officers raced out, the crowd dispersed. They had one young man on the ground, who most likely has been arrested.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Jackie, I want to ask you how organized this seemed. You said it just appeared to be groups of young people.
JACKIE JUDD: It didn’t seem to be organized.
And, to be honest, Judy, hearing the coverage from the local stations around here, who know the ground much better — sorry about that. It’s a crazy environment. You can probably hear the helicopters overhead. There have been some young people walking by in front of the camera.
But it appears that it wasn’t organized and that suddenly the violence broke out. Something similar happened Saturday night, when there was another demonstration, which was highly organized, but quite peaceful for a long period of time. And then towards the end of the evening, there were again what the police call these pockets of chaos, where there was looting, destruction of several police cars, some minor injuries to some police officers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, earlier in the day, you were there for the funeral of Freddie Gray. It was a different situation, a different story then.
JACKIE JUDD: It was very different. And it turned out to be just a brief respite for the community from the tension here on the streets.
There were about 2,200 people. The White House sent several representatives. There were state and local officials, but most of the 2,200 people who were here, Judy, were just people from the neighborhood who wanted to pay their respects.
Billy Murphy, who is the Gray family’s lawyer, was one of many who spoke. And he said, “I know most of you didn’t know Freddie Gray, but that most of you or all of you know many Freddie Grays.”
And what he meant by that, of course, was, they know other young African-American men and in some cases women who have also had violent, unpleasant, whatever you want to call it, confrontations with the local police here. If there was a theme, it was that this is a moment that Baltimore leaders need to seize to introduce some real reform.
What he spoke about was outfitting police officers with body cams, appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of police brutality, and for the police department to make better efforts at hiring more local people, to train them as officers and let them walk the beats in the communities where they came from.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And is there a sense, Jackie, that those kinds of things are being taken seriously? And, meantime, we know that Gray’s family is saying to the community, don’t commit this violence.
JACKIE JUDD: Gray’s family has spoken out. They very much want this to be a peaceful protest. They said it over the weekend.
Some relatives said it again today. One of the ministers who spoke at the funeral just a few hours ago said what’s happened just north of here is absolutely disgraceful.
Will there be serious efforts, Judy? There have been moments like this in Baltimore’s history in the past 30, 40, 50 years. Not much has changed. There is some skepticism. But also people are hoping that, because since Baltimore suddenly finds itself on this national, international stage even, that maybe this is a moment when there will be real change.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jackie Judd reporting for us from Baltimore, very close to where there has been unrest on the afternoon of this funeral — Jackie, thank you very much.
JACKIE JUDD: Sure thing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we now know that the brief disruption in Jackie’s interview was caused by a rock being thrown near her location.
This evening, President Obama spoke to the Baltimore mayor. And Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has put the National Guard on alert to respond as rapidly as needed.
Also, the Baltimore Orioles have canceled their game tonight.
The post Will Freddie Gray’s death provoke changes in Baltimore? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 10:25 PM
GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow morning, the Supreme Court will return to the debate over whether states should be able to outlaw same-sex marriage. The justices will hear cases from four states that currently have gay marriage bans: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.
Tonight, we hear from Kentucky families whose personal stories are at the center of the legal battle at the high court tomorrow.
PAUL CAMPION: Randy and I met on August 17 of 1991.
RANDY JOHNSON: It was just amazing, the connection that we had immediately. And one of the conversations that we had before the night was even over was how we both longed to be parents. And we feared that by admitting that we were homosexual meant forfeiting the opportunity to have children and to really be a family.
MARTIN COTHRAN: I work with the Family Foundation of Kentucky.
Tim, how are you? What have you been doing today?
MAN: Slaving away.
MARTIN COTHRAN: My involvement in this issue has been not only as a concerned citizen and a father of four and a husband, but as — professionally, as someone who’s involved in public policy questions in Kentucky.
So, I was the one actually who took the little yellow slip of paper into the state senator’s office, who then filed the legislation which was approved by the state legislature.
PAUL CAMPION: In early 1994, we decided to start really trying to create a family. We started at the state to see if we could adopt through the state, and we were told, that’s not going to happen.
RANDY JOHNSON: My name is Randy Johnson. I am partner to Paul Campion for almost 24 years. And we have four children together and have built a wonderful family.
MARTIN COTHRAN: My name is Martin Cothran. My wife and I were high school sweethearts. We graduated from college, both got jobs, got married. We were still in Southern California, and then we ended up moving to Kentucky.
The culture’s different out here. It’s slower, more traditional. We had four children here, all born here in Kentucky, and you couldn’t drag us out of here.
PAUL CAMPION: But we did find one agency, Adoptions of Kentucky, that said, sure, we just care that you’re going to be loving parents, so that’s the only criteria that we need.
RANDY JOHNSON: And that was a beautiful part of what we were looking for. We were looking for being judged as our capabilities of being parents, not on the fact that we were a gay couple.
MARTIN COTHRAN: We had already passed a statutory law in 1998 that was called the Defense of Marriage Act. But there was a feeling that that wasn’t going to be enough, that there would be court challenges later on, and that the best thing to do to make sure the policy lasted was to actually put it into the Constitution.
So, the measure was put on the ballot in 2004, and it passed with 74 percent of Kentuckians voting in favor.
PAUL CAMPION: Tevin and Tyler were born in February of ’95.
Fast-forward eight years to when Mackenzie was born in 2003.
RANDY JOHNSON: And then four years after we adopted Mackenzie, we had a situation where Paul is a school counselor and one of his students was a 7-year-old biracial child who was in foster care. So this little first-grader came and asked Paul to adopt him.
MAN: Traditional marriage laws were because of the biological differences.
MARTIN COTHRAN: Because this case is going now to the Supreme Court, we’re filing an amicus brief in the case to present the justices with our arguments.
We hope that when the Supreme Court looks at this, that they will realize that they’re not there to make new law. They’re there to interpret the law that has been put there through the regular democratic process, and that they will see a lot of these cases for what they are, which is inventing something that is not there.
RANDY JOHNSON: I’m still not a legal parent to Tevin and Tyler, because the laws have not changed in Kentucky. Only one person of the same gender can adopt the children. So, I am the legal parent to Mackenzie, and Paul’s the legal parent to the three boys.
MARTIN COTHRAN: I think the marriage issue is a classic example one of these areas where we have a tradition we want to tear down.
For anyone to say that the founding fathers intended that there be same-sex marriage and this was somehow there in the Constitution for over 200 years and no one noticed it until it happened to become politically fashionable now is a little bit of a stretch.
PAUL CAMPION: That’s one of the reasons why marriage equality is so important to us, so that all four kids can be legally both of ours.
We had a lot of anxiety along the way, especially Randy in the early years, because, if I would have passed away, Randy has no legal rights to them at all.
MARTIN COTHRAN: The argument that we need to change the definition of marriage because of health insurance reasons or certain complications with adoption, the thing about that is, we don’t need to change the definition of marriage to do that. You can pass legislation to take care of those problems. You don’t have to change the definition of marriage.
RANDY JOHNSON: And there are other laws that are quite discriminatory. One of our children just turned 16 recently and was very excited about getting his driver’s permit. I had taken DeSean actually to the DMV to get his driver’s permit and take his written test.
However, once again, since my name is not on his birth certificate, nor on the adoption paperwork, they refused to allow me to accompany DeSean to take his driver’s permit.
MARTIN COTHRAN: Bless us, oh, lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive.
By changing the definition of marriage and expanding it so broadly that every model of marriage is equal, it’s a message we send to the next generation that this relationship is every bit as good as this relationship. Well, a lot of people don’t believe that.
MAN: Bless us, oh, lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive.
RANDY JOHNSON: One of the reasons that we wanted to join this lawsuit against the state of Kentucky to recognize us as a married couple was because we believe that many people in Kentucky feel threatened by families like ours, as if we are attempting to compromise the integrity of marriage, when, if they really knew us, they would recognize that we’re not threatening at all.
In fact, we just want the same things that they do. We don’t want to dictate anyone’s religious beliefs. We just want them to recognize that civil law is very important to families like ours.
MARTIN COTHRAN: The argument that the gay rights issue is a civil rights issues is basically saying that gays are in the same position as blacks.
Now, that’s been the analogy that’s been drawn. Well, I’m sorry. They were not shipped over here in slave ships. They didn’t have to drink at different drinking fountains. They were not persecuted in the way blacks have been persecuted. Gays are not politically powerless.
They should be treated fairly. There’s no question about that. But to be treated fairly doesn’t require you to change the definition of marriage.
PAUL CAMPION: Equal protection under the law shouldn’t be left up to a referendum or vote by the residents. Marriage should be allowed for gays and lesbians, as it is for heterosexual couples. And we think that the only way that this can happen is through the courts.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality throughout the land, probably the first thing — cry.
RANDY JOHNSON: It means an awful lot to us. Having spent 23 years together, and not being able to offer our kids the assurance that their parents are married to each other and are just as important as any other family — will be a huge event.
MARTIN COTHRAN: If we go down this road, and the court strikes down state laws on marriage, I think that this is going to continue to erode the legitimacy of the judiciary. People will increasingly see this as a place that is now a very political part of our government, when it’s not supposed to be. And I think that would be very unfortunate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And tune in to tomorrow night’s NewsHour for full analysis of the arguments before the Supreme Court.
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Monday, April 27 2015 10:20 PM
GWEN IFILL: Republican presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa this weekend were also drawn into the gay marriage debate, while the leading Democrat coped with problems of her own.
It’s Politics Monday, and we turn now to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.
It was at the Faith and Freedom Summit in Iowa that we saw this, this weekend. Let’s — I call, by the way, tonight’s edition the betwixt and between edition. You will see why.
GWEN IFILL: Everybody caught between a rock and a hard place.
Let’s listen first to what some of the members — the candidates for president had to say this weekend in Iowa about this issue.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) Florida: In this whole debate about the definition of marriage, I remind everyone that marriage as an institution that existed before even government itself, that the institution of marriage as one man and one woman existed before our laws existed.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, (R) Louisiana: I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. And unlike President Obama and Secretary Clinton, the governor of Louisiana’s views, my views, they’re not evolving with the times.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER, (R) Wisconsin: Marriage is a decision that should be defined by our state governments, not at the federal level. And in Wisconsin and other places across the country, marriage is defined between one man and one woman, and states should be the ones that make that decision.
GWEN IFILL: This is an unavoidable debate this year, isn’t it, Tamara?
TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Absolutely.
And, of course, the Supreme Court, as we just saw, is taking this up tomorrow. So, and there will be a decision that will then also be debated. These candidates have been asked whether they would go to a gay wedding. They were at this evangelical conference. And so, of course, they had to talk about gay marriage.
And they are, as you say, betwixt and between. The general election electorate, something like 59 percent of Americans now support gay marriage, but among Republican primary voters, it’s something more like 29 percent. And so they’re trying to figure out how to appeal to those people who could get them out of the primary and into the general, while also not completely potentially alienating everyone who is voting later.
GWEN IFILL: Case in point, Amy, Ted Cruz, who took a picture, went to an event with a gay hotel owner, a very famous guy, Ian — his name is escaping me — in New York. Anyway, he got immediate criticism from the gay community for even having hosted Ted Cruz.
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: And he, this hotel owner, ended up going on to Facebook and apologizing, saying now, once I found out, boy, I didn’t know what this guy’s positions were, which is kind of amazing.
If you bring a presidential candidate to your home, you might want to know what their positions are on issues that are important to you.
And so that becomes really the question here, which is the balancing act that Republican candidates are taking now in a primary vs. what they are going to talk about in a general election. But I think most of them — there are a couple of exceptions — are trying to deemphasize this issue.
They were at a Faith and Freedom Conference. This was evangelicals. They’re going to talk about marriage being between a man and woman. But I think, once you get to the general election, this is not an issue that they are going to talk about.
The bigger issue, too, this is a party, we have talked a lot about diversity. Right? They know that they need to branch out from just winning over white voters. They have got to get minority. They also have to get younger voters. And this is a generational issue. Even among Republicans who are younger, this is an issue that they support.
GWEN IFILL: Betwixt and between. Here is my theme again.
Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton, who, of course, this weekend or in the last several days has come under a lot of criticism for the way the Clinton Foundation has handled or has accepted money. And after saying last week, all of last week, this is kind of a plot by a right-wing author to bring me down, the foundation came out with a statement this weekend.
Actually, they called it a commitment to honesty, transparency, and accountability. And they said: “So, yes, we made mistakes, but we are acting quickly to remedy them and have taken steps to ensure they don’t happen in the future.”
What does that mean, Tamara?
TAMARA KEITH: It’s all over.
GWEN IFILL: Oh, well, fine.
TAMARA KEITH: Well, I’m surprised that they didn’t say, mistakes were made. They actually said, we made mistakes.
I think that the challenge here for Hillary Clinton is that in some ways she would love to talk about the good works that the foundation has done or she would love to just sit in coffee shops and talk to real Americans or hand-selected real Americans.
But, instead, they’re having to answer for accounting issues with the foundation or questions about whether the Clintons enriched themselves through their foundation. And that really feeds that narrative that — the narrative that they aren’t of the people.
GWEN IFILL: Everyday Americans know, huh?
AMY WALTER: The everyday American slogan.
And what people — what voters are even more frustrated about, about Washington, it’s dysfunctional. But they believe that people in Washington who are here as elected officials are using that position to get themselves wealthy, and that they’re wealthy and out of touch and in a bubble.
These stories do not help Hillary Clinton change that perception. So there’s the perception that, yes, there were donors giving money to get access, but more important than…
GWEN IFILL: Not proven.
AMY WALTER: Not proven.
TAMARA KEITH: Not proven.
AMY WALTER: This is all just appearance, but the appearance that you have a charity that’s doing good works, but at the same time the donors to that charity are paying you and your husband to speak, hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak to their groups. That becomes…
GWEN IFILL: Still hovers in the air.
TAMARA KEITH: That’s right.
GWEN IFILL: OK. Let’s get away from betwixt and between and go to rock and a hard place. That would be Jeb Bush. This is good. I have got all of these lined up.
Jeb Bush, whose brother the former President George W. came out this weekend in a private, not for very long, meeting with some donors and basically was candid and basically saying, I’m a lodestone around my brother’s neck.
TAMARA KEITH: And, yes, the Bush name…
GWEN IFILL: Pretty much.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes, pretty much.
Perhaps stating the obvious, the Bush name is a problem for Jeb Bush, but Jeb Bush knows this and most people know this, that Americans are concerned about the dynasty thing. You go out, you talk to random people on the street and they say no more dynasties, no more Clintons, no more Bushes.
And Jeb Bush is trying to figure out how to answer that. And his brother pointed out the problem.
AMY WALTER: And said, I won’t campaign with him, just to make sure that…
GWEN IFILL: Which maybe he didn’t want to do anyhow.
TAMARA KEITH: No.
GWEN IFILL: But the other thing about Jeb Bush is he was supposed to be the big elephant in the room, so to speak.
AMY WALTER: That’s right. He was going to scare everybody out of this race.
GWEN IFILL: But it didn’t happen.
AMY WALTER: And, notably, today, there was another story out where he is talking about the fact that the super PACs that he’s raising money for right now will have more money than has ever been raised in 100 days by any presidential candidate in the history of whenever.
And yet you’re hearing more candidates still announcing that they are going to get in. Look, the fact that Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton is giving a lot of Republicans that same sense that they can overcome what looked like a very difficult front-runner.
And now that every other person, it seems, wants to put a super PAC together, every millionaire is going to be putting a super PAC together to help their favorite candidate, the idea that you can’t raise enough money to compete individually, that is no longer such a barrier.
And when your name is Bush and you’re still only at 15 percent in the polls, you don’t look as scary.
GWEN IFILL: I have officially run out of metaphors for being stuck in the middle of something, but it was valiant, I thought.
AMY WALTER: But that was quite impressive.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: Tamara Keith of NPR, Amy Walter of Cook Political Report, thank you both very much.
TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.
The post How will gay marriage play as a GOP campaign issue for 2016? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 10:15 PM
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s closing in on three years since a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, left 12 people dead and 70 others injured, making it the largest number of casualties from one shooting on American soil.
Today, the trial of the man accused, James Holmes, got under way. He’s been charged with 166 counts for attacks that took place on July 20, 2012. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Opening arguments began this afternoon and prosecutors immediately challenged the insanity argument.
GEORGE BRAUCHLER, District Attorney, 18th Judicial District: There were two psychiatrists, about a year apart, asked to do independent assessments and evaluations of him. They were picked by the Colorado Mental Health Institute of Pueblo, the state mental hospital, at the direction of the court.
And both of them say the same thing, that that guy was sane when he tried to murder all those people in that theater back in July of 2012.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Shortly after prosecutors began their case, I spoke with Mary MacCarthy of Feature Story News. She was at the courthouse earlier today.
Mary MacCarthy, welcome.
First of all, describe the scene in the courtroom today.
MARY MACCARTHY, Feature Story News: Well, to say that this is a long-awaited trial is an understatement. It’s been over two-and-a-half years, just over 1,000 days, since that fateful night in an Aurora movie theater where a gunman opened fire.
So, here, the Denver community, the community of victims, and anybody following this trial has really been on edge waiting for a long time. So it’s lots of media here, international media, people following the case closely, in the courtroom, of course, many victims, victims’ families and their friends, a packed courtroom.
And just to give an example of the scope of this trial, the courtroom itself had to be built out to make for a larger jury box. Normally, a juror — would have 12 seats in the jury box. Here, they have 24 seats for the 12 jurors, the 12 alternates. The judge wanted 12 alternates because the trial is likely to last so long that they wanted to make sure that if someone gets sick, in any contingency, they have enough jurors that will last until the very end of this high-profile trial.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you hear from the prosecution today in their opening argument?
MARY MACCARTHY: Well, some of the biggest questions about this trial, about the evidence were in fact revealed just in the very few first minutes of the opening statement by the district attorney, George Brauchler, who is known for his very eloquent, concise and hard-hitting opening statements.
He revealed just within the first few minutes that in fact the two mental health evaluations of James Holmes carried out by the state, that both of those evaluations found Mr. Holmes to be sane. There had been much speculation and expectation that perhaps one of the doctors who evaluated him had found him to be insane, the other sane, and that the trial would come down to the jury having to decide between those two state-mandated doctors and deciding which doctor they’d agree with.
The fact is that it almost makes it seem like a relatively easy case for the prosecution because both of those doctors did find James Holmes to be sane. The other big — one of the biggest mysteries going into this was that notebook that Mr. Holmes mailed to his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado the day before the shooting.
To this point, we didn’t know the contents of the notebook. Now after the opening statement of the prosecution, we have seen many pages of that notebook with Mr. Holmes’ own handwriting, a cursive script that is somewhat childlike, in which he lays out his plans to kill. Very clearly, he lays out his various methodology and even, in fact, some of his reasoning.
He said, for example, that his message, when he hoped to some day carry out a killing, was that there would be no message, a very nihilistic point of view. He said that he thought about carrying out a mass murder, a mass killing at an airport, but that could be construed as a terrorist message. He didn’t want that. He wanted his point to be that this killing has no meaning, that life has no meaning.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, what do you expect to hear from the defense? They’re going to be trying to prove that he’s mentally — was mentally ill?
MARY MACCARTHY: That’s right.
Knowing that the state-mandated experts both found Mr. Holmes to be sane, that means that the defense’s case will hinge on the testimony of their own mental health experts. They, of course, called in several. We know that several of theirs, perhaps all, several of them at least anyway, have found him to be insane.
But we also know that those experts spent significantly less time with the defendant than the state’s experts did. So, again, the defense’s case will hinge on those experts. At this point, it looks like it will be a battle of the testimony between those experts called in strictly by the defense and the state experts whose point of view agrees with the prosecution.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mary MacCarthy on this trial in Colorado that has now gotten under way after, as you said, more than two-and-a-half years, we thank you.
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Monday, April 27 2015 10:10 PM
GWEN IFILL: On Friday evening, Sabeen Mahmud, a leading Pakistani human rights activist, was shot and killed outside the Second Floor, the cafe she ran in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. Her mother was seriously wounded in the attack.
Shortly before her killing, Mahmud posted a photo online of an event she’d just held at the cafe, which was known for its lively political and arts discussions. Friday, the topic was killings and the disappearance of political activists in the province of Baluchistan, allegedly carried out by the Pakistani military.
Just last month, NewsHour correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro spoke with Mahmud at her cafe about her work, its dangers, and the space she created.
SABEEN MAHMUD, Human Rights Activist: People get an opportunity to take their minds off of whatever is going on, and we’re an open space. And it’s open to all and anyone who chooses to walk through its doors.
And it’s a model. It’s a template for other people to create similar public spaces in other areas of the city. And maybe, you know, those are the only — that that is a respite that we need from the violence and the anguish sometimes that you can’t help but feel.
I have a very cavalier attitude to fear, but maybe I — I don’t care. I just feel, when the time will comes, the time will come.
GWEN IFILL: Sabeen Mahmud was buried Saturday, mourned by more than 200 colleagues, as her murder was condemned by Pakistan’s prime minister and by the United States.
To tell us more about her life and work, Fred de Sam Lazaro joins me now.
Fred, how did you come to know of Sabeen Mahmud?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Well, Gwen, we had gone to visit her because she really was an icon for a lot of young people in Pakistan, and particularly in Karachi.
She was a tech entrepreneur earlier in life. And she was only 40 when she was killed. But there is a growing techie culture in Karachi. And that was the focus of our story. We will have that story on pretty soon on the NewsHour. And so I had gone to her to talk a little bit about that whole scene and about what life was like in Karachi for someone very connected to the world, and yet hemmed in by all the political turmoil that Pakistan is roiled in right now.
GWEN IFILL: She talked to you about being cavalier about fear. Did she recognize the risk?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: I think she was well aware, acutely aware of the risk, because this is one of the world’s most violent cities.
There are a number of targeted killings, particularly of people who are considered liberal and people who dare to venture into no-go areas, and Baluchistan appears to be one of those.
She was, of course, fearless. Karachi is a place where a lot of people have armed escorts. She did not. She traveled very freely. And, as she said on the tape, when the time comes, the time comes.
GWEN IFILL: One of her friends, you quoted her online in your piece. One of her friends is quoted as saying that she was silenced. Do we know who did the silencing? Are there any thoughts about what the cause of this was?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There’s blame that — there are fingers being pointed in all kinds of direction.
One of the biggest frustrations, Gwen, is that there’s a climate of impunity. And no one knows for sure or can intelligently point to suspects in this kind of a climate. One thing that seems to be a consensus is, it’s highly unlikely that the people who killed her will ever see justice.
GWEN IFILL: And so, when something like this were to happen here, we assume there’s a next step, a criminal justice system which steps up and gets to the bottom of it. Is there any evidence of that so far?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There hasn’t been from similar kinds of episodes.
We have seen a number of people in the so-called liberal establishment in Pakistan who have been felled by gunfire, social workers, political leaders who have dared speak out, for example, against the blasphemy law, which is very controversial, very, very little follow-up to that. And, of course, the media buzz dies down.
There is a great groundswell of deep mourning right now. And how much that might sustain an ongoing judicial process is an open question. People are doubtful that the real culprits will ever be found, however.
GWEN IFILL: Well, Fred, you always bring us these untold stories. And, in this case, it was incredibly and, sadly, timely actually.
So, thank you very much for that. And we look forward to seeing your complete report later on the NewsHour.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Thanks, Gwen.
The post Who silenced Pakistani social activist Sabeen Mahmud? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 09:55 PM
Gluten-free. It’s among the hottest trends in food today. It competes with “non-GMO,” “local” and “organic” for mindshare among today’s health-conscious, price-insensitive, and trend-following foodies, yuppies, and self-anointed amateur nutritionists. It’s become so fashionable to be gluten-free that even Fido and Spot have jumped on the bandwagon.
We’re likely in the midst of a gluten-free bubble; one that seems poised to burst.
Like financial bubbles, the herd behavior identified by such popular attention is never sustainable. Here’s the big disconnect that captures the essence of the problem: less than 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, approximately 6 percent are gluten intolerant, and … drum roll please … almost 30 percent of American adults are trying to avoid gluten. One of the main reasons consumers avoid gluten is they feel it’s healthier. It’s generally not.The blunt reality is that many gluten-free foods are not healthier for the 93 percent of the population that doesn’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Consider that a Glutino Original New York Style Bagel has 26 percent more calories, 250 percent more fat, 43 percent more sodium, 50 percent less fiber and double the sugar of a Thomas’ Plain Bagel. Further, because many gluten-free products utilize rice flour, they are also at risk of containing higher levels of arsenic than desirable or healthy.
And then there’s the cost. The Glutino bagel I just described costs 74 percent more than the Thomas’ bagel. Nabisco’s Gluten-Free Rice Thins cost 84 percent more per cracker than Nabisco’s Multigrain Wheat Thins. And when it gets to baking products, the costs are even higher. Betty Crocker’s gluten-free brownie mix is more than 3 times the cost per serving of Duncan Hines regular mix.
While economic logic might lead you to conclude that higher prices would lead to lower demand, you’d be wrong. In a classic indicator of bubble dynamics, higher prices have been met with higher demand.
That’s right, despite the facts I’ve just shared — namely that gluten-free may harm those not needing it for health reasons and that it’s more expensive — the gluten-free craze continues. Market research firm Nielsen estimated that sales of products with a gluten-free label have doubled in the past four years, rising from $11.5 billion to more than $23 billion. While the trend is impressive, it’s partially driven by marketing efforts. Chobani Greek yogurt and Green Giant vegetables, for instance, added “gluten free” labels onto products that never contained gluten. Add a label, grow your sales! Reminds me of Internet mania when merely announcing a URL increased valuations overnight.
Consider Trader Joe’s campaign advertising “Gluten-Free Greeting Cards For 99 Cents Each! Every Day!” Another sign the gluten-free bubble is nearing its end is the popular backlash against casual gluten-free diners.
None of this is to suggest that there isn’t a real underlying need for gluten-free products. There is, and I know from personal experience. In October 2011, my doctor informed me that a blood test indicated I had heightened sensitivity to gluten. The sensitivity was so high he recommended a gluten-free diet. I protested, suggesting he was over-diagnosing my unhealthy diet.
I asked: “Have you considered icecreamitis? That’s a disease I know I have,” bluntly admitting my addiction to the divine creamy frozen sugar to which I was devoted. I insisted he conduct a genetic test to determine if I had a genetic marker for celiac disease. When the results came back, I was saddened to learn that I indeed had the gene. I’ve been gluten-free for 3.5 years now and I genuinely do feel better.
Whether you have celiac disease, are gluten intolerant, or just part of the fashionable trend-following crowd, you can rest assured that this article is certified gluten-free.
The post A celiac economist on why ‘gluten free’ isn’t worth the price appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 09:11 PMShortly after Freddie Gray’s funeral, protesters have taken to the streets of Baltimore. As of this posting, Baltimore Police Department is reporting that seven officers have been injured in clashes and at least one police car has been set on fire.
Here’s a Twitter list of reporters, officials and people who are updating from the scene:
The post Who to follow on Twitter for updates from Baltimore appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 07:57 PM
Several Baltimore officers were hurt Monday as riots erupted, following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died April 19 from a spinal injury while he was in police custody. Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said some officers sustained broken bones and one was unresponsive as rioters threw rocks and bricks at local police officers.
Thousands of mourners attended Gray’s funeral Monday. Doors to New Shiloh Baptist Church in the city opened at 9:30 a.m., and by 11:15, the 2,500-person church was almost filled to capacity, the Associated Press reported.
The white casket encasing Gray’s body was opened for family, friends and supporters to view as projections on both church walls read, “Black Lives Matter & All Lives Matter.”
In front of the northern Baltimore funeral home during Gray’s wake on Sunday, cars sounded their horns in support as demonstrators shouted, “Honk for Freddie!”
Baltimore resident Caira Byrd, 21, was one of the handful of peaceful protesters outside the wake. She said Sunday’s protest was to show an alternative to the chaos that erupted during protests Saturday night.
“We want to give them an insight on a positive protest,” Byrd said. “Everybody was hurting. It was painful. We as black people, we’ve been going through this for a long time. So as of right now, Freddie Gray, we feel like he died for change.”
Some protests turned violent Saturday night, with demonstrators smashing police cars and shattering a storefront in downtown Baltimore. Police met protesters in full riot gear, making 35 arrests near Camden Yard, where the Baltimore Orioles play. Six officers suffered minor injuries.
Tension between black residents and the police is not new in Baltimore. Last year, the Baltimore Sun released an investigation that found the city had paid about $5.7 million since 2011 to citizens who sued for police brutality and civil rights violations.
The tension was reignited with the release of a cellphone video on April 12 that showed officers dragging Gray’s limp body into a police van while he was screaming in pain.
Baltimore resident Daniel Mickens, 57, knows of this history well, having spent his entire life in Baltimore. Mickens said he attended Sunday’s demonstration with the hope of showing younger residents positive solutions.
“Still right to this day I still have some resentments, but I’m not going to respond with a negative element. I’m just going to take what I know through my experience and try to help the next individual’s experience to be a much more positive outcome.”
Diamond Scott, a 29-year-old Baltimore resident said she was protesting Sunday for a better future for her 7 year old son. “I just want justice, that’s it.”
After Gray died, six Baltimore officers were suspended with pay while the police department conducts a criminal investigation. Additionally, the Department of Justice is reviewing the case for potential civil rights violations.
City officials said the investigation would be completed by Friday, May 1, and the findings would be given to state prosecutors who then will decide whether state criminal charges will be filed.
The post Riots erupt in Baltimore as thousands mourn Freddie Gray appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 05:09 PM
On Monday, the devastation from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the heart of Nepal on Saturday was not yet fully known. The death toll surpassed 4,000 without accounting for the mountain villages where rescue workers still struggled to go.
Thousands of survivors were sleeping outdoors and in need of shelter, food, fuel and medicine. Lingering tremors and traffic jams in and around the capital Kathmandu made distribution of relief supplies difficult.
To learn more about what some relief organizations are doing and how individuals can help, click on the following links:
- USAID has given the Nepalese government an initial $1 million and sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Nepal. The agency’s staff in Bangkok, Thailand, is coordinating with other U.S. relief organizations in the region. A situation report says some buildings have collapsed, roads are damaged, telecommunications networks are spotty but landlines appear functional.
- AmeriCares dispatched a response team from Mumbai, India, and is shipping medical supplies from its warehouses in the United States, Europe and India.
- CARE, which already has a 150-member staff in Nepal, is supplementing its workforce with specialists from around the world.
- Doctors Without Borders is sending eight medical teams from Bihar state in India to the affected areas, along with a surgical team from Brussels.
- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal to help 75,000 vulnerable people with food, shelter and water and sanitation.
- International Medical Corps has response teams on the ground throughout Nepal, providing support where many medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed.
- Save the Children and UNICEF are channeling their efforts to help children and families affected by the quake.
- The World Health Organization distributed emergency kits of medical supplies to doctors in Nepal aimed at helping 40,000 people for three months.
- USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information has listed dozens of more nongovernmental organizations helping.
Monday, April 27 2015 05:07 PM
Video by The Denver Post
Prosecutors revealed Monday that two mental health evaluations concluded that Aurora, Colorado, theater shooter James Holmes was sane when he committed the acts, the first time the results of the different evaluations became public.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers made their opening statements Monday at the trial of Holmes, who opened fire and killed 12 people at a suburban Colorado movie theater, nearly three years ago.
District Attorney George Brauchler held up a photo of the back door of the Aurora movie theater.
“Through this door is horror. Through this door is bullets, blood, brains and bodies,” he said. Holmes swiveled in his chair and appeared calm as Brauchler delivered his statement.
“Through this door, one guy who thought as if he had lost his career, lost his love life, lost his purpose, came to execute a plan,” Brauchler said, before playing a recording of a 911 call from the theater. The call was punctuated with screams.
There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.
After a jury selection process that whittled down a record 9,000 summons to 12 jurors and 12 alternatives, the trial will determine, among other questions, whether Holmes was, as his lawyers said, “in the throes of a psychotic episode.”
“By the time Holmes stepped into theater, his perception of reality was so skewed, he no longer lived in the same world we live in,” public defender Daniel King said in his opening statement. “But to him, it seemed as real as this seems to you right now.”
Prosecutors have filed 166 charges against Holmes, including 24 counts of murder and 140 counts of attempted murder. Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. reminded the jury Monday that Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all of them. Under Colorado law, the burden lies with prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not insane, the judge said.
On July 20, 2012, Holmes attacked a midnight screening of the Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises” at a Century movie theater. The shooting claimed 12 lives and injured another 70 people. The Denver Post reported that as many as 400 people attended that night’s showing.
Holmes’ lawyers acknowledge that Holmes was the shooter, but also maintain he was suffering a psychotic episode during the shooting. At this time, five mental health experts are expected to take the stand to offer their evaluations over Holmes’ sanity, The Denver Post reported.
For the next several months, the jury will decide whether Holmes was guilty of the mass shooting. And athough Holmes’ lawyers have tried to avoid the death penalty, prosecutors continue to pursue it as an option for the jury.
The Denver Post is live blogging developments from the Arapahoe County Justice Center as the Aurora theater shooting trial begins.
The post ‘Through this door is horror': Opening statements begin in theater shooting trial appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Monday, April 27 2015 04:53 PM
Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit college company, has stopped operating and closed its remaining 28 campuses, according to a statement released Monday by the company.
The closures come about 10 months after Corinthian first disclosed it was under federal investigation.
About 16,000 students were still attending the schools run by the company in California, Hawaii, Oregon, New York and Arizona until Sunday.
Because many of the campuses are accredited as career colleges, students will face an uphill battle in transferring their credits to community colleges or four-year institutions, Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for California’s Department of Consumer Affairs told the Los Angeles Times.
Students will be eligible to have their federal student loans discharged due to the closings, something a group of students from still-operating schools Corinthian was able to sell last year is currently lobbying the Department of Education to do.
Corinthian’s slow-motion collapse began with last year’s federal investigation. When the company did not provide documents the Department of Education requested, the department put a 21-day hold on student federal aid funds going to the company’s schools. Without enough cash-on-hand to continue operating, the company negotiated the sale of the bulk of its campuses. Earlier this month, the Department of Education fined Corinthian $30 million because its investigation found campuses that had falsified graduate employment data reported to the department.
PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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Monday, April 27 2015 04:17 PM
Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for more than two years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.
Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours — the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February by Simon & Schuster.
Watch Larry explain how Paul and his wife could collect an extra $50,000 in Social Security benefits:
One thing is clear about Social Security’s rules. They were mostly written in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s when women were supposed to “know their place,” — namely stay at home, clean the house, make supper, bring up the kids, remain monogamous, and, in the case of divorce, don’t remarry. The rules are also very generous to new wives, especially younger new wives.
GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?
Times have changed, but Social Security has not. Women are still earning less than men, on average, and the system’s rules are, as a result, effectively sexist despite their nominal sex neutrality.
My definition of sexism here is that the rules are more likely to harm women than men.
Here is my list of 20 Social Security rules, provisions and outcomes that are, I believe, sexist:
- You need to be married at least 10 years to collect divorcee spousal or divorcee widow benefits.
- If you get divorced, you can’t collect child-in-care spousal benefits based on your care of young or disabled children unless you are older than 62.
- If you remarry, you lose your right to divorcee spousal benefits.
- If you remarry before age 60, you lose your right to divorcee widow benefits.
- Take two wives, A and B. They both have high-earning husbands who earn the same amount. Wife A doesn’t work a day in her life and pays not a penny in Social Security taxes. Wife B works every day of her life and pays 12.4 percent of every dollar she earns to Social Security. Wife A and wife B can collect exactly the same benefits, i.e., wife B may get absolutely nothing back for paying all those FICA taxes month after month.
- In the above, if wife A’s husband earns more than wife B’s, wife A can end up with more benefits than wife B even though she hasn’t paid a penny into the system.
- If the ex-husband takes his retirement benefit early, the wife gets a smaller widow benefit when he dies.
- A wife can’t collect her spousal benefit until her husband files for his retirement benefit, which can be as late as his reaching age 70.
- An ex-wife can’t collect her divorcee spousal benefit until her ex is 62 and she’s been divorced two or more years (unless her ex has filed for his retirement benefit).
- Delayed retirement credits are not provided for spousal, divorcee spousal, widow, or divorcee widow benefits if the beneficiary is waiting to claim them until after full retirement age.
- Thanks to the family benefit maximum, an ex-husband that has children with his new wife will reduce the child benefits available to children from prior wives.
- Because they accumulate less wealth by retirement, women are less likely than men to be able to afford to wait to collect far higher retirement benefits.
- Wives that are four or more years younger than their husbands never have to wait beyond full retirement age to collect full spousal benefits.
- Husbands can get their new wives spousal benefits after being married for only one year.
- Husbands can get their new wives’ widow benefits by being married for just nine months.
- Husbands that divorce their wives can collect spousal benefits on their wives’ work record when that’s not generally the case.
- Women are disproportionately employed as teachers and other state workers in non-covered employment. Their SS benefits are substantially docked (via the Windfall Elimination and Government Pension Offset provisions) due to receipt of pensions from non-covered employment.
- Those who earn above the taxable ceiling after age 60 — mostly men — get automatic benefit increases each year they work.
- If you work and lose your child-in-care spousal benefit, or your mother’s benefit due to the earnings test, there is no compensation in the form of higher benefits after full retirement age.
- If you are a high-earning woman and take time off to have children, the years of zero earnings won’t be filled in with earnings above the taxable ceiling arising in the years you earn above the ceiling.
The Counter Argument
Every coin has two sides, and one can view many of these features as assisting women relative to men. After all, given their relatively lower earnings levels, women are the major beneficiaries of child-in-care spousal benefits, spousal benefits, divorcee spousal benefit, widow benefits, and divorcee widow’s benefits.
My list provoked some discussion about the ways these rules have been challenged over the years, and whether there have been instances of policies that were discriminatory toward men.
Jerry Lutz, the long-time former Social Security technical expert who reviews all of my columns for accuracy, had this to say:
I started with SSA in 1976. At that time, in order for husbands and widowers to receive benefits on their wives’ accounts, they had to prove that they were receiving more than one-half of their support from their wife. In practice, that meant that there was virtually no such things as husband’s or widower’s benefits.
On the other hand, wives and widows never had to prove dependency on their husbands in order to receive benefits. This was challenged in a court case, and ruled discriminatory in 1977.
SSA was forced to acquiesce to this ruling and allow husbands & widowers to also receive benefits without proving dependency. But in response, Congress passed the government pension offset provision in order to preclude career civil service employees from receiving Social Security benefits on the accounts of their spouses.
Jerry’s response reminded Paul Solman — NewsHour economics correspondent and a co-author of our book, “Get What’s Yours” — of something he had read in The New Yorker, a 2013 profile by Jeffrey Toobin of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, which discussed her involvement in another case on that exact issue:
Ginsburg launched a series of cases targeting government rules that treated men and women differently….Often, Ginsburg’s clients were men, and she tried to choose test cases in which the facts were startling, even tragic. Stephen Wiesenfeld was a widower whose wife, a schoolteacher, had died in childbirth. He wanted to devote himself to raising their infant son, so he applied for survivor benefits from his wife’s Social Security. Widows automatically received the benefits, but a widower had to prove that he was dependent on his wife’s earnings, which Wiesenfeld could not do. Ginsburg took Wiesenfeld’s case to the Supreme Court and in 1975 won another unanimous victory.
So I’ll leave it to you, my readers, to form your own take on the degree to which these provisions are or are not sexist. But I also encourage you to ask whether we should condemn our children, grandchildren and their offspring to a system with these provisions.