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How do Israelis and Americans feel about the drumbeat toward war with Iran?

Preparing for war: A section of underground parking that can be used as a bomb shelter for 1,600 people at the Habima national theater in Tel Aviv. Photo: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

The seemingly inexorable march toward an armed conflict with Iran received a fresh boost this week when the Associated Press reported that Israeli officials do not plan on warning the United States if and when they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The rationale, according to an unnamed American official, is that Israeli officials want to keep the U.S. in the dark, so the Obama administration can’t be blamed for failing to stop the attack.

But the article, one of a slew of reports in recent weeks citing unnamed sources on the likelihood of a conflict between Israel and Iran, would seem to suggest that the machinery of war is in motion. The New York Times, for example, also reported this week that Iran is likely to launch terrorist-style attacks against U.S. civilian and military targets if Israel does indeed strike one or more of its nuclear facilities. The article seems, in a way, to be both downplaying the potential blowback of an attack on Iran and also to be softening the ground for a likely U.S. role in any Iran-Israeli conflict.

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Mike Daisey takes a bite out of Apple

Mike Daisey in 'The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,' created and performed by Mike Daisey and directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

This year, technology giant Apple Inc. may have finally met its David. By some estimates, it is now the most valuable company in the world. Yet it recently capitulated to public pressure when it tasked an independent investigation into one of Apple’s major subcontractors, Foxconn Technology Group, where popular electronic devices like iPads and iPhones are manufactured. For several years now, human rights groups and mainstream news organizations have have focused on the China-based Foxconn for its poor working conditions, highlighted by the recent plant explosion in Shenzhen that left dozens injured and a spate of employee suicides.

And these questionable working conditions are now getting the spotlight treatment in New York City.
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Did the NYPD’s spying on Muslims violate the law?

Last August, the Associated Press launched a series detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, including preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes being committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD’s activities is under dispute. Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads – is now arguing that, as he said last week, “Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional.” Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 prohibiting profiling by law enforcement based on religion.

Fifteen Muslim clerics, including Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur Rashid, boycotted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's annual interfaith breakfast last December over a police effort to gather intelligence on Muslim neighborhoods, whose existence was revealed in a series of Associated Press articles. Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.
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A revolution unfinished: One year after Mubarak’s ouster, Egypt’s fate remains uncertain

A mural depicting military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi on the left side of the face and and ousted president Mubarak, right, and Arabic that reads, "who assigned you did not die," in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Photo: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

One year after the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is in turmoil. The military has maintained its tenacious grip on power, using iron-fisted tactics to intimate dissidents and discourage protesters. A strong national government has yet to emerge to challenge the army’s rule after parliamentary elections, and the economy is languishing. Politicians seeking to appeal to nationalist sentiment have arrested American pro-democracy workers, stoking tension with the West. In many ways, the situation in Egypt today is just as dire, and just as fragile, as it was on the day of Mubarak’s resignation.

To get a sense of how the post-Mubarak era is taking shape, Need to Know spoke with Steven Cook, the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the book “Struggle For Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square.”

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Video: Economic impact in Northwest and West Central Ohio

WBGU explores the state of the Toledo and Lima economies since 2008. They look inside the Lima plant, which manufactures Abrams battle tanks for the military, and explore the possibility of the army closing the plant, which would mean a loss of 1,000 jobs in Allen County. They also traveled to Toledo to speak with an organization which operates a food bank and provides free lunches on the weekends.

Watch Economic Impact: Northwest and West Central Ohio on PBS. See more from WBGU Specials.

This segment was produced with the support of a grant that Need to Know provided to eight public television stations across the country to highlight national issues that are impacting local communities. Grants were awarded to the following stations: KNPB-TV Channel 5 (Reno, Nev.), Mountain Lake Public Telecommunications Council (Plattsburgh, NY), Nashville Public Television (Nashville, Tenn.), Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (Lincoln, Neb.), Nine Network of Public Media (St. Louis, Mo.), Pioneer Public Television (Appleton, Minn.), WXXI (Rochester, NY) and WBGU-TV (Bowling Green, Ohio).

Another big problem with Newt Gingrich’s ‘food stamp’ claim

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich with his wife Callista during a Florida primary night rally on Tuesday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Now that Mitt Romney has thumped his rivals in Florida and regained the mantle of GOP front-runner, there’s only one person who can really decide whether the race ends soon or drags on: Newt Gingrich. Gingrich’s grandiosity — or his “nuttiness,” as some conservative commentators have called it — is likely to animate the Republican primary at least through Super Tuesday. And even though Gingrich is unlikely to win the nomination, there are still many conservative voters who like his bombast and culture war broadsides against “the establishment” and “the media.”

Those broadsides, however, aren’t always based in reality — and they threaten to derail both his campaign and, potentially, the GOP effort to unseat President Obama. For example, Gingrich is still defending perhaps his most infamous claim yet, that Obama is the “greatest food stamp president” in history. Critics and fact-checkers have denounced the claim as offensive, racially charged and flat-out wrong. Obama himself dismissed the claim as “divisive” in an interview with ABC this week. And there are factual problems with the statement, too.

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New task force to investigate mortgage-backed securities

Back in April of last year, we reported on the case of Charlie Engle, a professional ultra-marathoner who had been convicted and sentenced to prison time for lying on mortgage applications. It was a story originally reported on by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, who questioned why the government had gone to such great lengths to prosecute Engle, while the lenders and banks responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis had not faced criminal punishment.

Could we finally see some of those prosecutions that Nocera and other critics have been calling for since the housing crisis?

During the State of the Union address earlier last week, President Obama announced the creation of a new “special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general” to expand “investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.” The new effort, which has been formally dubbed the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s New Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, is being co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Watch Big Fish Little Fish on PBS. See more from Need to Know.

Partially fueled by his original refusal to sign on to the nationwide settlement with banks in the wake of the robosigning scandal, Schneiderman has been heralded by some liberal groups as a great progressive hope. Writing in Politico last November with Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, Schneiderman described the need for “a more comprehensive investigation before the financial institutions at the heart of the crisis are granted broad releases from liability,” a call echoed by many critics who saw the potential deal between banks and the State Attorneys General as not being punitive enough.
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Need to Know’s Jeff Greenfield discusses GOP debate on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’

Need to Know host Jeff Greenfield appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday to discuss Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate and the crucial Florida primary set for Tuesday. Watch the clip below, and don’t forget to tune in tonight for Greenfield’s report from Florida on the voting power of seniors there, and how that may affect Republican plans for entitlement reform.

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The presidential debates are broken. Help us fix them.

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry during a GOP debate in Las Vegas in October. The debates are more about good TV than good answers. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

The Republican presidential debates — 36 of them so far, with another set for Thursday night — are a ratings smash. The networks and cable news channels have each taken turns setting new viewership records. The audiences howl with anger and delight, and even the candidates want more of them, not less.

But are they good for democracy?

With their inane questions (Would you be submissive to your husband? Deep dish pizza, or thin crust?) strict time constraints and Pep Rally-like atmospheres, the debates seem less concerned with eliciting substantive answers to important policy questions than with pitting the candidates against each other in a bruising, bare-knuckled political cage match. Maybe that’s good sport and fun TV — one writer approvingly compared the debates to “the best reality TV shows” — but it’s not actually all that helpful for voters trying to decide who the next president should be.

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