Quantcast
Loading...
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)
Loading...

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


Loading...

Channel Description:

Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

older | 1 | .... | 225 | 226 | (Page 227) | 228 | 229 | .... | 1175 | newer

    0 0

    Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: There was a new report today of cyber-spying by the Chinese, this time aimed at U.S. military and defense systems.

    According to The Washington Post, designs for more than two dozen U.S. weapon systems have been hacked and compromised. The Post cited a confidential report by a Pentagon advisory panel called the Defense Science Board -- among the designs said to have been breached: an advanced Patriot missile system; the FA-18 fighter jet; and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, considered the most expensive weapons system ever built.

    In a written statement today, a Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department "takes cyber-espionage very seriously," but "suggestions that cyber-intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect."

    Warnings about the cyber-threat from China to both the military and private businesses have grown in recent months. In March, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon told an audience that the attacks had to stop.

    NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TOM DONILON, United States: Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber-intrusions emanating from China at a very large scale. The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In February, cyber-security firm Mandiant issued a report saying that this building in Shanghai houses one of the Chinese military's most active hacking groups.

    And earlier this month, a Pentagon report said that U.S. government computers were targets of break-ins that could be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military.

    And to fill in the picture, we turn to Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and CEO of CrowdStrike, a cyber-security company, and James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington.

    Dmitri Alperovitch, starting with you, first fill in this -- what do we mean by design systems? What exactly is being stolen?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, Co-Founder and CEO, CrowdStrike: Well, it's everything under the sun really that's not bolted down.

    It's the blueprints for these weapons systems, these advanced weapons system that the Chinese can use to recreate and try to match our capabilities. It's also providing them with the ability to identify weaknesses in these systems, vulnerabilities that they can leverage so that they cannot just master those capabilities, but exceed them and potentially defeat us on the battlefield.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, James Lewis, is it possible to know how much damage or impact this has had at this point?

    JAMES LEWIS, Center for Strategic and International Studies: No, we can't really tell.

    We know that some Chinese weapon systems appear to be based on stolen U.S. technology, like their stealth fighter. In other cases where they have gotten into the intricate software that controls weapons, hopefully, we caught all the damage, but you can never be sure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just to stay with you, so to what end -- why would they be doing it? What purposes would -- what use would they put it to?

    JAMES LEWIS: You know, if you look at the systems that were compromised, it maps pretty well with Chinese strategic military interests.

    They read the Pentagon report that said that if there's a war with China, it will be an air/sea battle, so they went after air systems, missile defense, air defense, naval systems. What they're doing is they're looking for that military edge both by improving their own weapons and, more importantly, knowing how to beat ours.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What would you add to that, Dmitri Alperovitch?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: I think that's absolutely right.

    It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has paying attention to the news over the last five or six years, really, everything under the sun has been taken by the Chinese, not just for military contractors or government agencies, but private companies that are manufacturing commercial technologies, and now we're seeing sort of the results of that.

    It's striking to see that full list, because you wonder ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that's what I was wondering. I mean, we do hear about this a lot, but when you see this list of all these weapons systems, that's a little surprising, isn't it?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Absolutely. And it makes you wonder if there's anything left that they don't yet have, because it's a pretty comprehensive list of every cutting-edge weapon system that we have built over the last decade or so, from air systems, weapon -- missile systems, as Jim mentioned, naval systems.

    Do we have anything that is left that they don't have?

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what do you make of the Pentagon's statement that we saw, that -- saying that, we take it very seriously, but nothing has been compromised, nothing has been really hurt yet?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, I think it's always very difficult to estimate exactly how this information is going to be used.

    In fact, one can say that the Chinese have stolen so much that you really wonder if they can leverage and actually understand that has been taken, because it's a massive problem on their end just to analyze all this data.

    But there's no question that even if a fraction of that information is going to be put to good use, it will have damaging impact to our national security.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Jim Lewis, that was my next question, is how easy is it for them to take what they get through this cyber-espionage and learn about a particular design and then turn it -- actually turn it into a weapons system?

    JAMES LEWIS: I was kind of happy when I saw they had taken the V-22 Osprey, because it's expensive and it took us years to figure out how to make it work.

    What you see is a lag between the time the Chinese acquire the technology and the time they're able to introduce a competing product or a product military system. For example, stealth fighter technology was probably taken in 2002, and it was six or seven years later before they could field a fighter. So they don't have the capability to absorb all this.

    They're improving rapidly. A lot of this is their own indigenous investment, but they have got a lot of information that they don't yet know how to take advantage of.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Does that sound right to you?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Absolutely.

    But the other point that you need to be concerned about is that it's not just that they're taking this and duplicating it. It's what weaknesses are they finding in those systems that they can actually use to defeat those weapons systems. They may not need to build a V-22 Osprey, but when they face one, they sure may know how to beat it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about the -- where are the vulnerabilities in our system, I mean, in terms of the ability for the cyber-spying to get these designs? Is it at the defense contract level? Is it at the -- in the Defense Department itself? Is it everywhere?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: It's really throughout.

    The reality of cyberspace is such that offense will always be dominant. When someone wants something bad enough, they will always be able to get it, whether they do it through traditional cyber-espionage or through traditional spying through cyber-espionage. And that's what we're seeing is that there hasn't been a network connected to the Internet that hasn't been infiltrated if that network has something of value.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Jim Lewis, what's your answer to that?

    JAMES LEWIS: It's interesting to see how the targeting has changed, because DOD suffered significant losses, we can tell. They made a move to harden their networks, make them harder targets. And so whoever was spying on them, the Chinese, then switched to the prime contractors, the big defense contractors.

    DOD then went and worked with the contractors, got them to harden their networks. And the Chinese switched to the subcontractors. And now DOD is working with the subcontractors. It looks like the Chinese are switching to some of our foreign partners. So they're determined, they're inventive. And every place we close up a hole, they find a new one.

    I'm not sure Dmitri and I see eye to eye. I think you can make it harder for them to succeed, but we haven't done that good a job.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that, of course -- in our last couple minutes here, what should happen? Let me start with you Dmitri.

    What can the U.S. do government-wise, military-wise, but also company-wise?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: We need a policy, a national policy, for dealing with this problem, both the national security espionage that's taken place and even more importantly the economic espionage that's been taking place for the last six or seven years.

    And that policy needs to involve full toolkit of national power, economic power, diplomatic power. We really need to pressure the Chinese and let them know that there will be real costs to our relationship, to our trade partnership with China as a result of this activity. And we need to involve the private sector.

    Right now, the private sector is playing the role of the victim. They're told by the government, go sit in the corner and report when you're being attacked. The private sector needs to engage and really make it more difficult and weigh the costs and risks to the adversaries that are infiltrating our networks.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Jim Lewis, what's your prescription?

    JAMES LEWIS: Two things.

    First, we need to harden our own defenses. The executive order President Obama put out in February does some work to do that, but we really need Congress to step up to the plate and pass legislation. The second thing we need to do is, we need to engage with the Chinese. And that's where we need a comprehensive diplomatic strategy. Work with allies. Find penalties.

    The Chinese will probably yield to our pressure, but it's going to take years get to that outcome. We have just started. It's a long road, but I think we can make this work.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, James Lewis, Dmitri Alperovitch, thank you both very much.

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Thank you.

    JAMES LEWIS: Thank you. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It may be the biggest money-laundering scheme in U.S. history. The founder of an online currency transfer business, Liberty Reserve, was accused today of laundering six billion dollars worldwide. A federal indictment unsealed in New York named Arthur Budovsky and six others. He has been arrested in Spain. The website is based in Costa Rica. Federal prosecutors said the network became -- quote -- "the bank of choice for the criminal underworld."

    Outgunned rebels in Syria today urged the European Union to send them weapons immediately now that an E.U. arms embargo has ended, but it was unclear when shipments might begin.

    We have a report from John Ray of Independent Television News.

    JOHN RAY, Independent Television News: Arming Syria's rebels is a gamble. It might even the battlefield odds. It could also ignite an explosive arms race, just one of the risks Britain and France run in forcing the E.U. to abandon its ban on shipping weapons to Syria, in the hope it will force the Syrian regime to the negotiating table.

    WILLIAM HAGUE, British Foreign Secretary: The whole of the European Union is very strongly committed to a political settlement in Syria. So, yes, of course, on such a difficult foreign policy issue, there are disagreements.

    JOHN RAY: And danger is becoming ever more apparent. President Assad's Russian allies responded by announcing they would supply advanced air defense missiles to Damascus to deter what they called “hotheads” from intervening. And that, says neighboring Israel, is a threat to its security, as it warned against an arms escalation.

    YUVAL STEINITZ, Israeli Intelligence Minister: We are very concerned, and we don't understand. We think that this behavior of supplying such arms to Damascus, to Assad in this crucial time of terrible civil war, we think that this is totally wrong.

    JOHN RAY: In recent days, the Syrian civil war has spilled over its border with deadly clashes into Lebanon and missile and mortar rounds landing in Israel. A peace conference scheduled for next month carries a great deal of hope, but much less expectation.

    It's not yet clear when Britain might begin to supply guns, nor what limits it is placing on the size of the armaments, nor how weapons will be kept from the hands of hardline Islamist fighters now dominating the opposition.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart in Paris to work on preparations for that upcoming peace conference. The Syrian government has agreed in principle to attend. The opposition has not yet committed.

    At least 19 more Iraqis died today as a wave of sectarian killing rocked the country again. Bombing and shooting attacks struck from Baghdad north to Mosul. They came a day after car bombings killed more than 70 people in Shiite areas of Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned today his government will hunt down the attackers, Sunni and Shiite alike.

    PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI, Iraq: The cabinet has seriously discussed today all the challenges facing the security situation and the steps that the Council of Ministers should adopt to confront the current crisis. They have all agreed to shoulder the responsibility to face the outlaws, regardless of their affiliations, doctrine and their political parties.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In all, more than 450 Iraqis have died in the spike of violence this month.

    Gunmen in Pakistan shot and killed a woman working to vaccinate people against polio today. That led the World Health Organization to suspend its polio drive in the area. A second polio worker was seriously wounded in the attack in a village on the outskirts of Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan. There was no claim of responsibility, but Taliban militants have accused polio workers of spying for the U.S.

    A CSX cargo train derailed outside Baltimore, Md., this afternoon and touched off a thunderous explosion. The blast shook buildings half-a-mile away, sparked fires and sent up a heavy plume of smoke. Residents reported a strong smell of chemicals, and fire officials urged people within a 20-block radius to stay inside. Later, the county fire chief said the smoke and fumes were not toxic. There was no word on the cause of the wreck.

    In economic news, two private reports painted a brighter picture of the recovery. One found home prices in March jumped by the most since 2006. The other reported consumer confidence is the highest since early 2008. Wall Street rallied on the news. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 106 points to close at 15,409; the Nasdaq rose more than 29 points to close near 3,489.

    Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Gwen.


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Our next story takes us to the Jersey Shore. That's where the president headed today to take a look at its recovery in the aftermath of last fall's superstorm. Today's visit was a less somber occasion than his last New Jersey tour.

    Judy Woodruff has the story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rain and gray skies didn't stop President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie from taking in the newly rebuilt Point Pleasant boardwalk. And in nearby Asbury Park, the president praised the recovery efforts.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You are stronger than the storm. After all you have dealt with, after all you have been through, the Jersey Shore is back and it is open for business. And they want all Americans to know that they're ready to welcome you here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The visit came seven months after Hurricane Sandy battered the Garden State and caused $38 billion dollars in overall damage. Now Gov. Christie is busy touting the state's comeback, part of a $25 million dollar marketing campaign aimed at enticing tourists to return for the summer.

    But, as he told New Jersey Public Television on Friday, there is unfinished business as well.

    GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: I will go to bed tonight feeling really good about the fact that all these boardwalks are done, the businesses are open and people can come to the shore and bring their families, but also feel for those people, that 10 percent or so of people who are still affected.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president shared that sentiment today just 48 hours after he visited the tornado zone in Moore, Okla.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Part of the reason I wanted to come back here wasn't just to send a message to New Jersey, but send a message to folks in Oklahoma. When we make a commitment that we have got your back, we mean it. And we're not going to finish until the work is done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The October disaster initially brought Republican governor and Democratic president together, as Christie welcomed the assistance.

    CHRIS CHRISTIE: I think he is determined to work with us to make sure that we rebuild the things we need to rebuild. And I am grateful for his partnership.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The praise drew fire from other Republicans, who said it helped the president's reelection.

    But, today, the governor insisted again that the state's recovery was a bipartisan endeavor.

    CHRIS CHRISTIE: Everybody came together. Republicans, Democrats, independents, we all came together because New Jersey is more important and our citizens' lives are more important than any kind of politics at all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The state still faces a long period of rebuilding all that was lost, including some 360,000 homes and apartments damaged in the storm.

    We get more about the status of the recovery in the Garden State and the problems that remain. Mike Schneider is the managing editor and host of "New Jersey Today" on New Jersey Public Television.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    So, Gov. Christie is saying that New Jersey is come back. He's encouraging tourists to hit the beaches this summer. Has it come back?

    MIKE SCHNEIDER, New Jersey Public Television: In many ways, it has.

    If you go down to the shore, as I did a couple of days ago, and interview the governor there in Point Pleasant, exactly where he was today with the president, you get the sense that an awful lot of damage that has been done has been repaired. The beaches look quite similar to the way they did last summer in some places. The boardwalk has been repaired. The shops are open once again. The activities are there.

    And, in fact, the crowds as of Friday when the weekend began, the Memorial Day weekend began, were there. They were there in good numbers. They were enthusiastic. And there was a general sense that we got through something really bad. Here we are, we're about to begin the summer and all is well.

    That's not the case up and down the shore entirely. There are places where the damage is still profound and long-lasting. But for much of the state, as the governor is prone to say, for maybe 80 percent to 90 percent of the people in the state, life is certainly back to normal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mike, who are the 10 percent to 20 percent who are still waiting?

    MIKE SCHNEIDER: A lot of those are the people that you see in these horribly damaged homes in places like Ortley Beach, places that really bore the brunt of this storm, places that are waiting now for the determination of insurance companies or FEMA, flood maps to be finalized, things like that, to make a -- make a decision as to whether they have the money and the resources and perhaps the temperament to want to rebuild and to go back where they were, or whether they want to take their money, cash out, and go someplace else.

    Those people in many cases are still waiting now in rental units, being helped along by some sheltering funds and what have you. But those are the people who are still waiting and wondering. And there's no clear indication just yet when their stories will turn.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Overall, Mike, is the governor, are the people of New Jersey pleased with the role the federal government has played in all this?

    MIKE SCHNEIDER: By and large yes, because you have got to remember, the governor went to bat to try to help the president get that money through Congress, that -- those billions of dollars that were so crucial to rebuilding New Jersey's infrastructure.

    And there's a sense here that the president delivered on his promises and the governor has made an aggressive and determined effort to make sure the money is well spent and goes to the places it needs to go to as quickly as possible. There are some places, though, where there still are great questions about where the money is, when the money will get to them.

    Some people are very unhappy about the situation with FEMA and the flood maps, because a number of these places up and down the shore, many, many homes were told that they're going to have to elevate 10 feet or pay what could be prohibitive flood insurance rates in the future. So those kinds of questions still loom out there.

    But that notwithstanding, most of the people seem fairly enthusiastic and fairly -- I mean, if you take a look at the governor's popularity in the polls right now, you would have to say they're happy with the job he's done in regards to this crisis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the insurance companies, you mentioned, they're -- that it's mixed, it sounds like, what you're saying.

    MIKE SCHNEIDER: Well, what you have is, you have most of the insurance companies right now say they have closed out the vast majority of the claims that were filed with them. In some cases, we're hearing 98 percent of the claims have now been closed.

    But, in some instances, that's a procedural situation, where the claims have been closed without payments going out, because for some people in order to get the money that their policies themselves wouldn't cover, they have to go to FEMA. But before they can get the funding from FEMA or some alternative source from the federal government disaster funding, they have to have their insurance companies say, no, you're not entitled to it, we can't help you.

    The case is then closed, and they move on to the next step.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mike, there was a lot of attention paid to the politics of the president's visit to New Jersey last fall right after Sandy, the fact that Gov. Christie was effusive in praising him and thanking him.

    Today, first time the president goes back, was there something more behind today's visit? What do you know about that?

    MIKE SCHNEIDER: Well, I mean, you know as well as I that there's always a little bit of -- in the old days, when presidents had problems at home, they would go overseas. Maybe New Jersey in a way is the closest thing President Obama can get right now.

    The governor himself, of course, is running for reelection. He's way ahead in the polls, he's way ahead in fund-raising. But they seem to have carved out a very comfortable working relationship. The governor, a Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state and a president who may have some issues at the White House right now were coming back here where he can say, I saw your pain, I felt your pain, I got you the money, let's take a look and see what our tax dollars have really gotten.

    There could be something to that as well. But for the people here in New Jersey to see the two of them back together again, the governor's not wearing his fleece, so the disaster apparently is over. And the president had a broad smile on his face. The people, in regards -- in regards to this visit, seem to think it's a sign that we have come back, that the shore is ready and that Mother Nature will cooperate and we would get some good weather, that all would be well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I know a lot of people are glad to see New Jersey back so quickly after that terrible storm.

    Mike Schneider, thank you very much.

    MIKE SCHNEIDER: Thank you, Judy. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now: how investigators are breaking down the inner workings of a bomb. That particular kind of forensic work often happens out of the spotlight, but the Boston bombings and the device that was used brought it back to public attention.

    NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports.

    MILES O'BRIEN: We all watched the chaos of the Boston Marathon bombings with horror, but in Socorro, N.M., the raw emotion was mixed with scientific insight.

    VAN ROMERO, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology: It's really almost schizophrenic, I think, from my standpoint is, part of my brain is going into analysis mode, what -- that white smoke, what does that mean? I started looking for broken windows. Where is the pattern of broken windows from the video that I saw?

    Because that tells me where the pressure wave went and how big the pressure wave was. Is there a crater? So, all that analytical stuff is going through your brain.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Van Romero is the vice president of research at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, which operates the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, the most active explosives testing facility in the U.S.

    Name a terror bombing, Marine barracks in Beirut, Khobar Towers, Oklahoma City, the first attack on the World Trade Center, the London transit bombings. In each case, investigators have come here to test their notions of what happened to build a court case and find new ways to defend against future attacks.

    VAN ROMERO: You look at the scene of a terrorist bomb, it's just a mess. People have to go in and collect some very important and some very minute evidence that they make a big case out of.

    And so making sure that that evidence is accurate to the scenario that we assumed happened, that's the important role that we play, is, how do we put the pieces of the puzzle together so that we know they fit?

    MILES O'BRIEN: Every workday, at least two or three explosions echo across 40 square miles of barren desert canyons here. It began as and remains a favorite place for weapons-makers to measure the menace of their missiles and ordnance.

    We wanted to know more about what makes a pressure cooker bomb like those used in Boston tick. So, we hired these white hat bombers to show us how it's done. Fear not. We will not show you anything here about the device that isn't readily available on the Internet.

    VAN ROMERO: These are the basic ingredients for a pressure cooker device. It's just a pressure cooker that you would have in your home, and the way the pressure cooker works is that it creates a seal, if we can get it to come together here.

    It creates a seal. The pressure will build up on your stove. And this releases -- there is a vent here that releases all that pressure so it doesn't build up too much pressure in your kitchen. If we put energetic materials in here that create a lot of heat and a lot of gas very quickly, the pressure will build up so fast that the cooker can't contain it, and it will burst open, it will explode, throwing shrapnel all over into the environment.

    MILES O'BRIEN: The Boston bombers used nails and BBs. Here, they use nuts, because they are less hazardous and just as useful for an experiment.

    VAN ROMERO: These fragments will be going 1,000, 2,000 feet a second, so their shape really doesn't matter. Anything going that fast is going to penetrate into just about anything it hits.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Lighting gunpowder in this dish on a lab bench is not a problem, but tightly packed in a sealed container, it is another matter.

    They didn't show us how to trigger the bomb, and even if they did, we wouldn't share those kind of details. Suffice to say a simple how-to is not hard to find for someone who is determined. But could an untrained amateur stage such an attack without any hands-on training?

    VAN ROMERO: The fact that they were two for two kind of indicates to me that it was a little bit more than luck. And the fact that they were so close together -- 10 seconds, 10 to 15 seconds away is essentially simultaneous.

    And if you think about it, two different people planning two different bombs that went off at almost exactly the same time, to me, it indicates some level of sophistication.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Pressure cooker bombs are new to the U.S., but are a familiar instrument of terror globally. In 2006, Islamic terrorists set off seven of them in 11 minutes on crowded commuter trains in Mumbai, India, killing more than 200, injuring 700 others.

    When our bomb was ready, the warning siren sounded and we retreated to a bunker high above the site, 2,000 feet away.

    MAN: Five, four, three, two, one.

    MILES O'BRIEN: When the smoke cleared and the site was declared safe, we went back for a look.

    VAN ROMERO: OK. So, as we walk up, one of the things we will notice is, here's some of the nuts that they were -- be careful. They may be warm. This one has cooled down. Here's the lid from the pressure cooker.

    And -- but this is going to be a really important piece of forensic evidence, because this obviously was something that wouldn't be in the environment in a street city. Right? So, you find this, and you go, OK, this was part of the device.

    And now that I know that part of the device, I can analyze this metal and figure out what the brand, the model, the make of the pressure cooker, where the metal was forged, where this thing was manufactured. And then, as I collect other fragments, I want to make sure that they match the origin of this piece here.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Stinks -- sulfur smell.

    MAN: Yes, from the -- yes.

    MILES O'BRIEN: In Boston, investigators found one pressure cooker lid on roof of a six-story building nearby. They walked shoulder to shoulder, picking up every fragment they could find. And so it went here as well.

    MIKE STANLEY, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology: And I will dump some of these out, so that we can take a look.

    MILES O'BRIEN: But these -- these would be traveling. And these are things that would hurt you. These would be traveling how fast?

    MAN: Those could be going up to 1,500 feet per second.

    MILES O'BRIEN: In the lab, engineer and associate director Mike Stanley sifted through the fragments.

    MIKE STANLEY: Even though you have a detonation, all of the pieces are still there; they have just been separated. So, with enough time and enough diligence, you could actually probably put the entire pressure cooker back together.

    VAN ROMERO: OK. Mike, let's go ahead and run the high-speed video.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Explosions here at New Mexico Tech are all captured with high-definition high-speed cameras at 6,200 frames a second, allowing the experts to see how a bomb explodes in super-slow motion and minute detail.

    VAN ROMERO: One of the fragments, which appears to be part of the sidewall of the pressure cooker -- and let's run it just a little bit. As you will see, there's -- this seems to be the bottom. So if that is the bottom of the pressure cooker, we found that 100 yards away.

    MAN: One hundred yards.

    VAN ROMERO: Right, yes. And that's one that we measured the velocity. What did you say?

    MAN: Two hundred and seventy meters per second.

    VAN ROMERO: Two hundred and seventy meters per second, OK.

    You never stop really trying to understand what's going at the scene. Just because you identify one molecule or piece of a certain type of device doesn't mean that there wasn't other things that occurred at the same time. And you have to make sure you have peeled back all the skin of the onion to understand what's going on.

    MILES O'BRIEN: The plywood got completely blown out, huh?

    Authorities probing the Boston bombings have already reached out to these experts. Chances are they will once again be asked to help solve a troubling puzzle.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In his next report, Miles examines the facial recognition software that allowed investigators to match high-resolution images to the faces of the Boston bombers.

    And he continues his reporting on tonight's edition of NOVA, examining the role modern technology played in allowing detectives to unravel millions of clues. It's part of NOVA's night of special reports, which also includes a look at Oklahoma's deadly tornadoes. NOVA airs tonight on most PBS stations, and you can find a link to their website on ours. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The recent collapse of a vital but aging bridge in the Pacific Northwest is raising some big questions about just how safe other bridges and structures are in this day and age.

    Vehicles plunged into the water, beams collapsed, and three people were injured last week when this bridge over Washington State's Skagit River suddenly gave way.

    DEBORAH HERSMAN, Chairwoman, National Transportation Safety Board: You can see that the concrete section of that dropped span has slid off of its girders like icing sliding off of a cake.

    GWEN IFILL: The collapse of a 160-foot chunk of the bridge made for spectacular pictures that refocused the nation's attention on the state of its transportation infrastructure.

    The National Transportation Safety Board, chaired by Debbie Hersman, is investigating the failure, which occurred after a portion of the span was hit by a truck.

    DEBORAH HERSMAN: At the end of the day, why we are here is to figure out what happened, why it happened, and to issue recommendations to prevent it from happening again.

    GWEN IFILL: The government's National Bridge Inventory had rated the Skagit River bridge as “functionally obsolete,” outdated, but not necessarily unsafe. Hundreds of similar bridges dot the national landscape.

    In 2007, the Interstate 35 bridge that carried traffic over the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and Saint Paul also collapsed suddenly, killing 13 people and injuring 145. It had been classified “structurally deficient.”

    By last year, nearly a quarter of the nation's 607,000 bridges were classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The Federal Highway Administration reports that figure has actually dropped by more than 16,000 since 2005, but the Obama administration has repeatedly pressed Congress to increase spending on bridges and roads.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Miami!

    GWEN IFILL: In March, the president visited the Port of Miami.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: We have still got too many roads that are in disrepair, too many bridges that aren't safe. We don't have to accept that for America. We can do better. We can build better.

    GWEN IFILL: But Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, have resisted spending more unless it's paid for.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: It's easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all these things you want to give away, but, at some point, somebody's got to pay the bill.

    GWEN IFILL: Federal officials estimate it would take about $20 billion dollars a year to address all of the nation's bridge problems over each of 15 years. That's about eight billion dollars more than federal, state and local governments spend now.

    We take up some of the questions raised by all this now with two people who watch this field. Casey Dinges is the senior managing director of the American Society of Civil Engineers. And Dan McNichol is infrastructure analyst and writer. He studied the collapse of the Minnesota bridge and has been writing the history of the newly rebuilt San Francisco Bay Bridge.

    Welcome to you both.

    How serious, Casey Dinges, are these deficiencies?

    CASEY DINGES, Senior Managing Director, American Society of Civil Engineers: Well, looking at the broader infrastructure, ASCE released a report card of the nation's infrastructure -- infrastructure this year and gave an overall grade of a D-plus, which is a marginal improvement from the letter grade D that we issued in 2009.

    But as President Obama indicated at the Port of Miami recently, still not a great grade. There's a lot of work to be done. In the case of bridges, the grade actually went up since 2009. Your setup piece showed nicely there's been improvement, reduction in the number of structurally deficient bridges across the country. Nevertheless, we still have 65,000 structurally deficient bridges in this country and 85,000 functionally obsolete bridges. So, there's still work to be done.

    GWEN IFILL: Dan McNichol, maybe you could help us with these definitions here.

    We know about functionally -- what, fracture critical is one, and then there is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. What's the difference? It all sounds bad to me.

    DAN MCNICHOL, Author, "The Roads That Built America": Well ...

    And it can be very bad.

    The functionally obsolete means, if it were rebuilt today, they wouldn't built it like they did when they first built it. It's just out of state. It's historically not up to snuff. Structurally -- structurally deficient is a whole 'nother category that tends to be more serious. If the bridge is in disrepair, if it's going to fall or collapse or anywhere near it, it's going to have a structurally deficient category.

    And then, lastly, if you think about fracture critical, any bridge that has a minimal design where, if one piece fails, it all fails, that's fracture critical.

    GWEN IFILL: And that's what we saw happen in Washington State?

    DAN MCNICHOL: That's right.

    CASEY DINGES: If I could add one thing to what Dan said about fracture critical ...

    GWEN IFILL: Sure.

    CASEY DINGES: ... it's not every piece on a fracture critical bridge. There are certain elements of that bridge that are critical, and if they fail, there's risk of greater failure of the structure.

    So, the bridge was fracture critical. It was also functionally obsolete. But we're very early into this NTSB investigation.

    And I hearken back to the Minneapolis bridge in 2007. In the first few days and weeks after that collapsed, we knew nothing about gusset plates. And yet that ended up being ...

    GWEN IFILL: Gusset plates.

    CASEY DINGES: Gusset plates are pieces of metal that help connect together different beams and girders on the bridge. And it was a design flaw in one of those gusset plates that brought that bridge down. So ...

    GWEN IFILL: In the early day, Dan McNichol, we heard the governor of the state of Washington say, hey, listen, if a truck hadn't hit this bridge, basically, that's what caused this problem.

    So, when we look at these kinds of weaknesses, are we talking about accidents? Are we talking about maintenance that's been deferred? Or are we just talking about age?

    DAN MCNICHOL: All of the above.

    Most of the bridges in the United States have been neglected as far as maintenance goes. I'm a fan of the DOTs. And they do remarkable work in maintaining their structures with the resources they have. But every DOT would like to have more money to put at fixing these bridges.

    And when you look at bridge like the I-5 bridge, sure you can say it's older. You can say that a truck hit it and it shouldn’t have, but it's part of the U.S. interstate system. And those red, white, and blue shielded highways are our king, are the top of the food chain when it comes to transportation and logistics.

    And if we have neglected -- in a short time, in seven years, we have seen two major bridge collapses that indicate that we have neglected our system as a whole. And when the chief system of transportation and supply chains has been neglected, there's great concern that the other lesser bridges have been neglected even more so.

    GWEN IFILL: Casey Dinges, let's talk about what we should be doing as a result. Should -- can these structures be shored up, the ones we have identified, or should they just be replaced?

    CASEY DINGES: Engineers will make that call and advise their DOTs on that, in some cases, just greater maintenance, in some cases, rehabilitation, in some cases, outright replacement.

    North of New York City, the Tappan Zee Bridge, a major structure, is being replaced. So, sometimes, you have to go all the way with that. The public needs to be engaged on this. Congress over the next 12 months will have to look at a reauthorization of the federal transportation programs. They have to look at funding issues.

    That's -- you know, that is center stage right now. And the Highway Trust Fund, which is where user fees are collected in this country that pay for our federal programs, that trust fund will go bankrupt by the end of next year.

    GWEN IFILL: Dan McNichol, you pay attention to these issues when people -- when bridges are not collapsing, when the public attention is not necessarily focused on them. Do you detect that there is a will either in local government, federal government, or even among individuals to do what it takes? It's a very costly project.

    DAN MCNICHOL: That's right.

    Bridges are celebrated in this country. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, we love our structures, we love our bridges. But there's been serious neglect and there's been serious decay in will, the political will.

    But I feel when we're now at a point where we're starting to see people become educated -- politicians don't lead. The public leads. And when they demand better bridges and better maintenance and a different culture in maintaining our vital structures, then we will see change. And I believe we have begun to see that change, which is very exciting.

    GWEN IFILL: Is that change likely to come, Casey Dinges, from maybe the private sector more than the public sector at this point?

    CASEY DINGES: There's a lot of discussion about the private sector investing more in infrastructure. You have seen that in other parts of the world.

    Europe and Asia, public-private partnerships are more common. And to add to what Dan just said, and to your question, the state and local governments are stepping up more. We have seen recently the state of Virginia made a big move on transportation after 30 years of doing nothing.

    Maryland has done something. Even the state of Washington is looking at a 10 cent increase in its gas taxes right now to handle structurally deficient bridges. The state of Wyoming passed a gas tax increase this year. So, the states are starting to step up on this.

    GWEN IFILL: How about tolls, for instance, Dan McNichol? Is that another solution, where it literally comes out of our pockets every time we use the roads or the bridges?

    DAN MCNICHOL: Yes.

    You hear politicians on both sides of the aisle say we need to increase our spending. And that money has got to come from somewhere. People have drawn a line in the sand about not raising the federal gas taxes. Maybe some states will continue to raise their taxes, but that means tolling. That means private money. That means public money, but it means certainly tolling.

    I just drove across the United States in the last -- over the Memorial Day weekend, literally from San Francisco to Boston, and I was only tolled in Chicago, Indiana, and Ohio. That says something. We're really on a free ride that's coming to a quick end, I believe.

    GWEN IFILL: As we look at these kinds of accidents or these kinds of episodes, as we saw in Washington State and a few -- five years ago and -- six years ago, I guess now, in Minnesota, how long do these investigations take and how important are they for deciding what happens next?

    CASEY DINGES: They take, I will say, maybe up to 12 months, although the NTSB is very good at educating the public as it goes along.

    And in the case of the Minnesota bridge, it let on that it was focusing on the gusset plate and a possible design issue early on in the investigation. And in terms of a replacement bridge, I think governor of Washington has said he hopes to have something in place by the middle of June. In the case of -- a temporary replacement bridge.

    A permanent replacement bridge, in the case of Minnesota, I think it took just a little over a year to do that.

    DAN MCNICHOL: That's right.

    GWEN IFILL: So maybe it won't take as long as it took you to drive across the country, Dan McNichol?

    DAN MCNICHOL: No, it shouldn't. And that's exactly right.

    It took 13 months on an accelerated schedule to build the new Minnesota bridge. And it became a beautiful bridge, an icon. And, often, engineering is about learning from failures. And this could be another case in point.

    GWEN IFILL: Dan McNichol, who wrote "The Roads That Built America," and Casey Dinges with the American Society of Civil Engineers, thank you.

    DAN MCNICHOL: Thank you. 


    Loading...
    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFFREY BROWN: Finally tonight, the second of two conversations about America's role in the world.

    Last week, Margaret Warner talked to former State Department Vali Nasr, who offered a behind-the-scenes critique of policy-making in the Obama administration.

    Tonight, Margaret gets a different view.

    MARGARET WARNER: The United States is overreaching abroad and under-performing at home -- that's the thesis of Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass in his new book, "Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order."

    It's a surprising viewpoint from a former top State Department and National Security Council official.

    Richard Haass joins me now to discuss his book and his recommendations for rebalancing our country's priorities.

    So, Richard Haass, welcome.

    You have spent your entire life dealing with how America should meet challenges abroad. Now you're saying it's time to refocus here at home. What led to this turnabout?

    RICHARD HAASS, President, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, as you suggest, it's not a book I ever thought I would be writing.

    MARGARET WARNER: No.

    RICHARD HAASS: It surprised me.

    In part, it was because of what wasn't going on in the world. There's no challenger out there that is of the scale, say, of Nazi Germany or Soviet Union during the Cold War. So despite all the challenges we face abroad, we have a little bit of space.

    On the other hand, it's always complicated out there. And what I wanted to do was write a book that would say, here's what to do and what not to do abroad, and, more important, here's what to do and what not to do at home.

    I actually think the biggest challenge, as you said, facing us is what is going on here domestically. Above all, the bases of American power, I believe, have been eroding. We have not been tending to them. And what I think we need to do, not simply to make the United States better for Americans who live here, but so we can be a force in the world, is we have got to put our house in order.

    MARGARET WARNER: when you talk about rebalancing, or you call it restoration, what are you talking about in practical terms? Is it the money we spend? Is it the president's time?

    RICHARD HAASS: It's resources in lots of ways.

    One is the foreign policy dimension of it, less time trying to remake the Middle East, more trying to keep things stable in Asia, more focus on North America, which is -- right now could be the economic engine of the world, tremendous energy resources, but rebalancing abroad, home, more resources here.

    Focus more on getting entitlements under control. Focus more on infrastructure, with right now we're barely Third World in many cases. Focus more on our K-12 schools. Margaret, I can't think of one child who comes to the United States to attend our public elementary schools. Sure, they come for Stanford and Harvard. Nobody comes for PS-this or PS-that. We have got to do a better job here at home.

    MARGARET WARNER: But we have known about these domestic problems for 10, 20 years even.

    What is the evidence that if the presidents, our last three presidents hadn't been so focused overseas, that these problems would have been addressed?

    RICHARD HAASS: Well, two things.

    One is, overseas, the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars have contributed to this. The long-term costs of that war, because of health care costs, will be quite considerable. More important, though, it's what we haven't done at home. We have gone from budgetary surplus to massive deficits, to some extent for understandable reasons, on the other hand, many self-imposed, the lack of regulation of the economy, for example, runaway spending on entitlements. That's the problem.

    MARGARET WARNER: But isn't it really political dysfunction at home that has made it so far impossible for us to adjust most of these?

    RICHARD HAASS: For sure.

    At the core of these economic problems are political problems. The system isn't working. And we can't get people to address what a lot of Americans I actually think would agree on in private needs to be addressed. Many of us know what's wrong.

    Our politics are simply letting us down.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, let me ask you this. The last three presidents, if you start with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all essentially campaigned initially on this theme.

    And, of course, then Kosovo and Bosnia wars. Then you had 9/11. Then you had Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Why -- one, were those misplaced for the presidents to get so involved in those? Why was it so hard for them to resist getting involved overseas?

    RICHARD HAASS: To a large extent, they were misplaced.

    Yes, there were some things we needed to do after 9/11, but most of what we have done abroad in the last 20 or so years I would say were wars of choice. And in many cases, our vital national interests weren't at stake. Presidents got pressured. And more often than not, they gave into the pressure. In some cases, the president just decided, like George W. Bush, that we would embark on a major adventure to remake the Middle East.

    And I simply think it was ill-advised. At the same time, they didn't tend for the most part on things at home. So we funded, for example, a new prescription drug benefit program. Well, where's that going to come from? Or we had the Simpson-Bowles commission under this administration. It gets reintroduced and then essentially it gets orphaned. And we're not doing anything now, so five, 10, 20 years from now when all the baby boomers are retired, we have got enough to take care of them.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, you're not saying all wars are to be avoided. Only, we have to be more discriminating.

    RICHARD HAASS: Absolutely.

    MARGARET WARNER: What's the criteria?

    RICHARD HAASS: This is not an isolationist book.

    I actually want us to do more in Asia, where the great powers, the economic powers of the day are increasingly colliding. Wars of necessity, where our vital national interests are at stake, where there are not good alternatives, we ought to fight those. But something like Syria, which is very much in the news, is not a vital national interest.

    There are alternatives to the United States getting heavily involved. We have always got to ask ourselves two questions: Can we make a difference, given local realities? And, second of all, do we have the luxury, if you will, of focusing on one square of a chessboard, given everything else in the world and everything here at home?

    And what I try to write is something of a guide to working through those challenges.

    MARGARET WARNER: All right, but that is where your doctrine will be most immediately put to the test is what to do about Syria. So what are the alternatives? You're saying don't get involved at all militarily? Are you say no to no-fly zone? Are you saying no to even further arming the rebels?

    RICHARD HAASS: I'm OK with selectively arming rebels. That's an indirect form of involvement.

    I'm OK conceivably with certain very, very limited military actions, for example, cruise missile strikes if chemical weapons are used. But, no, I don't want to set up no-fly zones. I don't want the U.S. Air Force involved. I certainly don't want soldiers on the ground. I don't want to be responsible for trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

    If and when the Assad regime goes, that's when the really difficult stuff is going to begin. That's what we should have learned from Afghanistan. That's what we should have learned from Iraq, a little bit of humility. There are limits to what American to power can do.

    Instead, we ought to focus it in foreign policy, where we really know our tools can be useful. And, more important, we ought to focus it here at home. We want to be a leader for the long haul. We don't want to be a short-term power. I have recently written, we want the 21st century to be a second American century. It will only be that if we first get strong again, and that means fixing things here at home.

    MARGARET WARNER: And what are the consequences if we don't?

    RICHARD HAASS: Interesting enough, the alternative to an American-led world, it is not a China-led world. It's not an India- or Europe- or Japan-led world. It's a world that no one leads.

    That's a world that's chaotic. And what we have learned is the world is not Las Vegas. What happens there doesn't stay there. It comes here. So a world in which there's chaos out there, that chaos will come here in the form of terrorists, the form of a breakdown of economic relations, in the form of climate change, in the form of nuclear proliferation. We have got to stay involved, but, again, we will only be able to do it if we're strong.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Richard Haass, thank you.

    RICHARD HAASS: Thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: And Richard Haass, the author of Foreign "Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order," will join us for further conversation online.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For the record, Margaret is a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. As she noted, Richard Haass is the organization's president.

    And, as she said, you can watch more of their conversation. That's on our home page. 


    0 0

    Rebecca Wyant (left) is the primary caregiver for her mother Mary, who suffers from Alzheimer's. Photo by Mike Fritz / PBS NewsHour

    Mary Wyant loved words. She loved to speak them and write them and read them. She was a stickler for proper grammar and a "mean" Scrabble player. "Mean in both senses of the word," according to those who played with her.

    That's why her daughter Rebecca noticed right away when her mother began calling a female friend "him" while telling a story. The small mistake was enough to make Rebecca think something big was wrong.

    "My mother was a master of the English language," she said. "I knew it wasn't a tic."

    She was right. As much as Mary tried to fight it, the confusion intensified and she began losing her memory at age 65. The official diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease came next, followed by frustration, depression and divorce. She moved in with Rebecca shortly thereafter.

    Like two-thirds of Americans, Mary had done virtually nothing to plan for long-term care. Rebecca became her mother's legal guardian, but they didn't discuss specifics for the future, "except for me to create a home where she could stay as long as she possibly could stay."

    As Mary began losing control of most of her independence and ability to communicate, that meant Rebecca had to assist her mother with everything from getting out of bed in the morning to helping her bathe. There are days Mary becomes "combative and agitated" and other days she wanders. But occasionally there are glimpses of her old self, like when her face brightens as she looks at old photos or when she gasps and smiles when she sees someone she recognizes.

    On Thursday's PBS NewsHour broadcast, Ray Suarez examines what it takes for people like Rebecca to maintain that kind of care. More than five million Americans now suffer from the disease and related dementias. Barring a breakthrough, the figure could triple by 2050. Like Mary, many of them will fade slowly and require years of long-term care during the decline. Tune in Thursday for the NewsHour's full report.

    In the meantime, the New York-based Alzheimer's Foundation of America has compiled a list of "10 Things You Should Know About Alzheimer's Disease" -- how to recognize it early and steps every family impacted should take to plan for the future.

    Signs of Alzheimer's Disease: 10 Things You Should Know, According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America

    1. "Old age" is not an excuse.

    While some memory loss, cognitive decline and behavioral changes are normal as we age, Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging. Advanced age is the greatest known risk factor, however, with incidence of the disease doubling every five years after age 65. Also, while Alzheimer's disease typically strikes people 65 and older, a rarer form of the disease, known as young-onset or early-onset Alzheimer's disease, presents in people as young as in their 30s and 40s.

    2. Look for patterns.

    All of us from time to time forget someone's name or what we ate for breakfast. But consistent forgetting raises a red flag. It's easy for anyone to forget to pay a bill once. There is a problem if the same statement gets paid five times or if months go by without paying bills.

    3. Symptoms can mimic other conditions.

    Identifying the disease or problem that is causing memory loss helps with next steps. Some memory problems can be readily treated, such as those caused by vitamin deficiencies, depression or thyroid conditions. Other memory problems might result from causes that are not currently reversible, such as Alzheimer's disease. With Alzheimer's disease, symptoms gradually increase and become more persistent.

    4. Not every case is the same.

    There are general warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, but not everyone exhibits the same ones or at the same time in the progression of the illness. In addition, some individuals with the disease manage to cover up symptoms: for example, they might hide behind jokes or disinterest.

    5. Alzheimer's impacts day-to-day living.

    Alzheimer's disease is not only about memory problems; it also affects a person's ability to function day-to-day. It can cause difficulty performing familiar, pre-programmed tasks like dressing or bathing; misplacing items more frequently; becoming lost while walking or driving; and loss of interest in important responsibilities, such as paying bills. The concern is not so much if someone forgets where the car keys are, but if the person does not know what the keys are used for.

    For pre-retirees, symptoms of Alzheimer's disease often first become noticeable in the work environment. A supervisor, for example, might note that the person is unable to concentrate, can no longer multi-task or is performing at a lower level than in the past.

    6. Alzheimer's disease has cognitive symptoms.

    Common cognitive symptoms include:

    short-term memory loss

    problems with verbal communication such as not finding the right words or repeating things

    confusion about time, place or people

    trouble concentrating

    lack of judgment

    difficulty performing familiar, pre-programmed tasks like dressing or bathing

    misplacing items more frequently

    becoming lost while walking or driving

    disinterest in important responsibilities, such as paying bills

    7. Alzheimer's disease has behavioral symptoms.

    Behavioral symptoms might include:

    personality changes

    unexplainable mood swings

    sundowning -- increased agitation in the late afternoon/early evening

    irritability

    anxiety

    sleeplessness

    anger

    expressing false beliefs

    depression

    inappropriate sexual behavior

    Behavioral symptoms are often what trigger family caregivers to more seriously weigh additional help, such as a home health aide or long-term care placement. The results of a Harris Interactive survey prepared for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America found that about half of family caregivers surveyed said they would consider long-term care if aggression became too difficult to handle, the person self-harms or they fear injury or harm to themselves or other family members.

    8. Check out warning signs.

    According to a study of participants who obtained free, confidential memory screenings during the Alzheimer's Foundation of America's National Memory Screening Day in 2010, 74 percent were worried about their memory, but 83 percent of them had not discussed concerns with their health care provider. Why not? Forty-six percent said that they did not think that their memory issues were severe enough, and 20 percent said that their health care provider had never asked them about their memory.

    Start with your primary care physician. Depending on findings, the physician may recommend follow-up with a specialist. If you're a Medicare beneficiary, it's important to know that "detection of cognitive impairment" is a feature of the new Medicare annual wellness exam.

    9. Diagnosis is 90 percent accurate.

    Although Alzheimer's disease can only be confirmed by an autopsy, clinicians can now diagnose Alzheimer's disease with up to 90 percent accuracy. Diagnosing "probable" Alzheimer's disease involves taking a complete medical history and conducting lab tests, a physical exam, neuro-psychological tests that gauge memory, attention, language skills and problem-solving abilities, and brain scans.

    10. Don't just take the diagnosis and run.

    Good communication can maximize your visit to a physician. Ask questions such as:

    What other tests should I take?

    Should I see a neurologist, geriatrician or other specialist?

    How does the disease progress?

    What are all the available treatments, and their effectiveness in terms of helping to slow progression of symptoms?

    Do the medications come in different forms (liquid, capsule, patch)?

    Are there clinical drug trials that would be appropriate for me?

    Besides medication, are there behavioral interventions and lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise and mental activities, that might help?

    Next steps should include getting better-educated about the disease, obtaining support services and planning for the future. With that in mind, be proactive by:

    Finding out about national, local and online resources, such as educational workshops, support groups and discussion boards for both diagnosed individuals and family members

    Checking out the availability of various professional care services, such as adult day programs or home health agencies, in order to help a person remain independent longer and provide respite to family caregivers; and long-term care facilities when appropriate in the future

    Preparing estate planning documents and advance directives, such as a will, a living will that states end-of-life wishes and a durable power of attorney that appoints a person to make medical decisions on an individual's behalf

    Modifying the home environment in order to prolong independence, maximize safety and improve quality of life; this might range from de-cluttering walkways to prevent falls to securing doors in a way that are difficult to open to thwart wandering -- a common behavior that results in about 60 percent of people with the disease

    This process involves -- and helps -- both the person with Alzheimer's disease and family members. Someone who obtains a diagnosis earlier in the disease process when cognitive skills are more intact can make legal decisions and express wishes for end-of-life care, relieving family members of that decision-making. Support services can help lessen the emotional, practical and even financial toll of the disease; research studies show that caregivers who receive counseling and support services can help delay placing their loved ones in nursing homes.

    Given that Alzheimer's disease can last two to 20 years from diagnosis, caregivers often face a long and bumpy journey with loved ones. As one caregiver whose husband has Alzheimer's disease noted: "It is a devastating disease that you know won't get better. You just have to try and hope for a good day and then prepare yourself for a bad day."

    Related Content

    How Growth of Elderly Population in U.S. Compares With Other Countries

    Americans Seriously Unprepared for Long-Term Care, Study Finds

    Why Long-Term Care for U.S. Seniors Is Headed for 'Crisis'

    Support Your Local PBS Station


    0 0

    One of the participants in Nest, an organization that offers business consulting in developing countries. Photo courtesy of Nest.

    Over the last six months, the PBS NewsHour's Agents for Change series has profiled the work of highly motivated social entrepreneurs, under the age of 40, who are starting to make their mark on the world.

    When confronted with entrenched social challenges like poverty, food insecurity and unemployment, these individuals decided to do something. Their passions and pursuits are diverse, but they all worked to help communities solve problems, build businesses and create jobs.

    Illac Diaz is turning used one liter soft drink bottles into sources of light for people living in the slums of Manila, Philippines. He told NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro, "People think it's just a plastic bottle and a piece of sheet (metal). But they underestimate what 60 watts of brightness can do. Everybody starts feeling the effect of this. They start saving about 40 percent of their electricity."

    Photo of Illac Diaz by Fred de Sam Lazaro/PBS NewsHour.

    Elizabeth Scharpf developed a low-cost sanitary pad for women out of banana fibers in Rwanda. She plans to have women sell the pads in their communities to earn income. "I realized this was a global problem that not only affected productivity, but also health, education, and dignity," she said. "It really felt like this was something that was surmountable. So that's why I decided to do a social enterprise around it."

    Mark Ruiz has helped raise the incomes of more than a 1,000 small home-based store owners in the Philippines by offering them business training and better pricing on goods. He told the NewsHour, "All I knew is that whatever [the business] would be, it would fundamentally, at its core, have a mission to help people, and that should never be compromised."

    Donnel Baird is trying to tackle unemployment in inner-cities by training residents, specifically African American men, to install solar and energy efficiency technologies in churches, schools, small businesses and non-profits. Baird's experiences as a community organizer in Brooklyn motivate him. "One in three men in that neighborhood was incarcerated, and so many of them who had served their time in jail had come back to the neighborhood and had nothing to do," Baird said. "No one would hire them; they were not given a second chance."

    Jodie Wu redesigned bicycles so that peddling them also removes corn kernels from their husks. It is an innovation that could help the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world. One of Wu's main priorities is hiring local employees in Tanzania, where her company Global Cycle Solutions is based. "They know the market much better," she said. "In addition, [hiring local people] helps to vest the community in the success of the company."

    Ben Berkowitz developed at website called SeeClickFix where residents can post problems like pot holes and graffiti on a map, and alert other city residents, news outlets and city officials of the problem. Berkowitz came up with the idea after he tried to report graffiti to his local government in New Haven, Conn., and nothing happened. "I got the idea that my neighbors were reporting similar things, but there was no accountability and no collaborative discussion," he said.

    Rebecca van Bergen provides business consulting, financial support and retail connections to artisans in developing countries in her organization Nest. "We only work with artisans who show leadership and show scalability," explained van Bergen. "We want them to grow their operations. We really want them to operate like a business."

    A woman wears a sleeping-bag coat. Photo courtesy of the Empowerment Plan.

    Veronika Scott designed a coat that can be transformed into a sleeping bag. Her business the Empowerment Plan now employs 10 formerly homeless women in her hometown of Detroit to sew the coats, which are then distributed to the homeless around the country. "Everybody told me that my business was going to fail -- not because of who I was giving my product to, but because of who I was hiring," Scott said. "And I know my ladies enjoy proving everybody wrong."

    Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez runs an East Harlem bakery that employs women who are recent immigrants and have little professional experience. Her company Hot Bread Kitchen makes 25 types of bread to meet growing demand. She told the NewsHour, "We have a lot of work to do in New York, and I'd like to spread the operation to other cities."

    Deepa Gangwani developed a bioenergy system in India that turns food scraps and agricultural waste into ethanol and animal feed. Her goal is to help communities generate a more stable source of electricity and provide a more dignified type of work for India's trash collectors. "What we're really looking to do is to leap out of this background of energy poverty to one where people could actually generate additional opportunities for their livelihoods," she said.

    When we launched the Agents for Change series last fall, we encouraged viewers and readers to nominate their favorite young social entrepreneur. We've gone through the recommendations and selected the next five profiles which be posted on our Agents for Change page:

    Maria Springer and Tania Laden: co-founders of LivelyHoods, a social enterprise creating jobs for unemployed youth in Nairobi slums

    Cliff Schmidt: founder of Literacy Bridge, a nonprofit that distributes a "talking book" in rural Ghana to spread knowledge about health and agriculture

    Nick Vilelle and Raj Ratwani: co-founders of Cause, a bar/restaurant in Washington, D.C., where 100 percent of profits go to social causes around the world

    Mike Behan: founder of Njabini, which provides employment opportunities to women and farmers in a rural Kenyan community

    Shivani Siroya: founder of InVenture which provides credit scoring for "unbanked" people in developing countries so they can qualify for financing

    Let's keep the conversation going. Tell us about people or organizations that have been successful in tackling some of the world's problems, such as unemployment, lack of education and access to clean water, and environmental degradation. You can post your thoughts below in the comments section or tweet us @NewsHourWorld and use hashtag #AgentsforChange.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

    Support Your Local PBS Station


    0 0
  • 05/29/13--07:17: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    Chinese artist Li Wei performs as part of the Venice Biennial in Venice, Italy, which runs through Nov. 24. Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images.


    0 0
  • 05/29/13--07:34: Around the Nation
  • Here are four arts and culture videos from public broadcasting partners around the nation.

    From PBS Digital Studios, two videos from the series "Blank on Blank":

    "James Brown on Conviction, Respect and Reagan" Interview by Rocci Fisch, 1984. Washington, D.C., Convention Center. Originally recorded for ABC News Radio:

    Watch James Brown on Conviction, Respect and Reagan on PBS. See more from Blank on Blank.

    "David Foster Wallace on Ambition" Interview by Leonard Lopate, WNYC, March 4, 1996. Executive producer: David Gerlach. Animator: Patrick Smith:

    Watch David Foster Wallace on Ambition on PBS. See more from Blank on Blank.

    MN Original profiles Allen Brewer, "a visual artist who uses a variety of mediums to explore ideas of perception, understanding and truth. His latest project uses the words and descriptions of others to create new works based on pieces of art found at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. By using only the written description provided by museum-goers, Allen looks to highlight imperfections in a human's ability to perceive and communicate."

    In this excerpt from "Live From Lincoln Center," Audra McDonald performs "Craigslistlieder":

    "Unlikely but, as it turns out, perfectly fitting additions to the tradition of German lieder, these songs take their text and inspiration from ads on Craigslist. Audra McDonald pokes fun at her own classical training in these "passionate" performances."

    Watch Audra McDonald performs "Craigslistlieder" on PBS. See more from pbs.


    Loading...
    0 0

    President Lyndon Johnson hands a pen from the signing of the Older Americans Act to an unknown woman on July 14, 1965. Photo by Yoichi Okamoto and courtesy of the LBJ Library.

    It's been nearly 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in the White House Rose Garden. Never heard of it? You're not alone. The legislation was written in response to concerns that there weren't enough social services to support our country's seniors.

    "The Older Americans Act clearly affirms our Nation's sense of responsibility toward the well-being of all of our older citizens," President Johnson remarked at the bill singing on July 14, 1965.

    The OAA provided for the creation of a nationwide network of area agencies on aging, through which social and nutrition services could be organized and delivered to older people, and assistance provided to their caregivers.

    So why look back to the past? This week, the PBS NewsHour is airing the first report in series on long-term care in America. We follow Rebecca Wyant, a small business owner from Tucson, Ariz., and full-time caregiver for her mother Mary, who suffers from Alzheimer's. Her story illustrates how the OAA has remained relevant for communities across the country as the population ages.

    Rebecca Wyant, right, is a small time business owner and full-time caregiver for her mother Mary. Photo by Mike Fritz.

    "The purpose was to have, in every large community, one agency that would kind of be the point agency for any concerns for seniors," said Suzy Bourque, a caregiver specialist at the Pima Council on Aging in Tucson. It is one of the 629 area agencies on aging established following the passage of the OAA. Today, that network connects people to nearly 20,000 service providers across the United States.

    "This funding brought in monies for home delivered meals, for lots of services of people living in their own homes, for advocacy for people around legal issues," Bourque said.

    In the decades since it was first established, the OAA has been reauthorized, expanded and amended. In 2000 the National Family Caregiver Support Program amendment to the OAA provided funding for assistance to family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible. It specifically funded caregiver specialists like Bourque, who meet with individuals and families to discuss options for and challenges of care, and how to access services.

    But even though the number of seniors in this country is growing rapidly, according to Bourque, many people are not aware these area agencies exist as a resource, though they exist across the country.

    Find agencies and services in your area with this interactive map from the U.S. Government's Administration on Aging.

    Back in 1965 at the OAA bill signing, President Johnson noted "Lengthening the lifespan is a major achievement of our time," adding that people were "... becoming 65 at the rate of 1 every 20 seconds."

    In the past five decades, the pace has quickened dramatically, particularly as baby boomers (those born between 1946 to 1964) become 'senior citizens.' Today conservative estimates are that Americans turn 65 at a rate of roughly one every ten seconds. But older people are also becoming a larger portion of the population and living longer.

    In the same speech, President Johnson noted that in 1900, life expectancy in the United States was only 47 years of age. The National Center for Health Statistics now reports that someone born in 2009 can expect to live 78.5 years on average, though estimates are affected by gender and race. All these facts are contributing to the increasing pressure to support older Americans.

    Are we prepared to deal with it? Apparently few of us are. A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center found nearly two-thirds of Americans over the age of 40 have done little or no planning for their potential long-term care needs, such as setting aside money or talking with family members about how they want to be cared for. The survey was funded by The SCAN Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming and improving health care for seniors. The organization is also a NewsHour underwriter.

    These aging decisions can be difficult to broach with loved ones, or think about for ourselves. The SCAN Foundation has developed a series of publications addressing aging concerns, one of which is 10 Things Every Family Should Know About Aging with Dignity and Independence.

    Related

    Signs of Alzheimer's Disease: 10 Things You Should Know

    How Growth of Elderly Population in U.S. Compares With Other Countries

    Americans Seriously Unprepared for Long-Term Care, Study Finds

    Why Long-Term Care for U.S. Seniors Is Headed for 'Crisis'

    Support Your Local PBS Station


    0 0

    By Paul Solman

    Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Still from NewsHour video.

    Paul Solman: The big brouhaha in economics recently, about which I posted some weeks ago, has pitted Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and others against the famous academic research of Harvard economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, now famously challenged for a coding error and overstatement. The last few days have seen a flurry of thrust and parry, with Rogoff and Reinhart defending themselves eloquently and at length on Saturday against Paul Krugman's recent contumely in an "open letter". The estimable and evenhanded economics journalist David Warsh backed them and blasted Krugman in his weekly Economics Principals column on Sunday.

    Also on Sunday, Krugman responded sharply several times on his blog to Reinhart/Rogoff, as did Berkeley's excellent economist Brad DeLong, backing Krugman on his blog,Grasping Reality with Both Invisible Hands.

    The basic fight is over a number and a question: when the ratio of a country's debts to creditors exceeds 90 percent of what it produces in a year -- a 90 percent "debt:GDP ratio" -- does that represent a threshold or tipping point that will trigger a debt spiral? At 90 percent, will ever higher interest rates become inevitable, slowing the economy, leading to lower tax receipts, a greater need for borrowing, and ultimately, the kind of vicious circle that laid low Greece and Cyprus, Bear Stearns and Lehman?

    RELATED CONTENT: Krugman v. Reinhart/Rogoff

    The larger struggle, of course, is one that rages the world over these days, as it has almost forever in economics. It is a debate over what was first called, in 1933, "macroeconomic policy": austerity vs. stimulus; Republicans vs. Democrats; Hayek vs. Keynes; and on this page, John Papola vs. Jim Livingston and Paul Krugman vs. his critics. (For the actual posts, search "The Business Desk Archive" for the relevant posts on December 21, March 6, April 4 and 5. I also assembled a week's worth of Paul Krugman posts and critical responses to them in June of last year.)

    But all along, there has been at least one indicator of who might be right and who might be wrong: the actual interest rates any given country pays to borrow money. The higher they are, the greater the risk of lending to that country in the eyes of the world's investors. The lower they are, the lower the perceived risk. And by historical standards, they have been low indeed. Rock bottom low.

    To be sure, other factors are in play. An interest rate is not merely a function of the perceived risk of inflation or default. But perceived risk is the big mover of rates and when the perception suddenly shifts, many have warned, watch out.

    So here's a timely question: Will this month be remembered as the one that marked the big shift in interest rates, and a big shift from Paul Krugman's assurance about borrowing to Rogoff/Reinhart's warnings about cumulative debt? The reason I ask, on May 1, the interest rate the U.S. had to pay to borrow money for 10 years was 1.64 percent. This morning, it's 2.14 percent. That's a huge move -- a rise of nearly one third. By historical standards, 2.14 percent is still a bargain basement interest rate to borrow for 10 years. Think of how quickly you might jump on it for refinancing your home, say.

    Moreover, whether May's rise is a temporary blip or the long-predicted bursting of the bond bubble, only a fool would dare declare. But it's certainly dramatic.

    It's also a great pretext for excerpting part of an interview I did with Paul Krugman, much of which will run soon on the PBS NewsHour. And that's what the bulk of this post consists of. So, on to the first question:

    Paul Solman: Is the U.S. government uncontrollable, borrowing more and more, getting deeper and deeper into debt?

    Paul Krugman: Funny thing is, every president between (not including) [Franklin Roosevelt] and Ronald Reagan left the debt-to-GDP ratio -- the usual measure of the government's position -- lower when he left office than when he came into office. So we actually had a long stretch of very fiscally responsible government. Then we had a big increase under Reagan/[George H. W.] Bush, then it fell sharply under Bill Clinton, then it rose some under George W. Bush and then of course we had the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

    So looking at this on the government side, it's not that we have an addiction to debt and deficits; it's that Republican presidents run up the debt. That's a very different story right?

    We actually don't have a problem with government debt, not yet, but people are worried about the rise. Of course you can throw around big numbers. So you say "eight trillion dollars" or "10 trillion dollars" but the fact of the matter is that the US is a 16-trillion dollar-a-year economy and the numbers are not as overwhelming as they sound if you just give the raw numbers.

    Paul Solman: You've been accused of pooh-poohing the whole issue of debt as if it didn't matter. You do acknowledge that there's some point at which there's too much government debt?

    Paul Krugman: I'll turn deficit and debt hawk once we're out of this depression, but not now. This is a time when it's very costly to try to bring down government debt and quite likely self-defeating. It probably fails even in purely fiscal terms.

    [In other words, if the government borrowed less, it would so slow the economy, tax receipts would go down by more than the amount borrowed.

    But what about the argument that too much debt will inevitably lead bond investors to demand much higher interest rates and make government debt increasingly expensive, as happened in Greece? In the past few years the Federal Reserve has created several trillion dollars worth of (electronic) money and used it buy up U.S. bonds, thus keeping their interest rate lower than it otherwise would be. But doesn't the Fed have to stop expanding the money supply at some point? And wasn't Krugman himself a skeptic of targeted government spending back in the 1980s when many fellow Democrats were pushing it?]

    Paul Krugman: I've always believed in expansionary monetary policy and if necessary fiscal policy when the economy is depressed. But that only became terribly relevant in 2008. What made sense in 1985, which was to say, "the Fed just stabilized the economy and the government should try to run good bookkeeping" does not make sense in the world we're in right now because this is a once-in-three-generations crisis which has pushed us into a situation where somebody has to spend to support the economy and that somebody pretty much has to be the government. So the times have changed and so has the political climate. It's just amazing how Milton Friedman would be considered a dangerous inflationist by the standards of today's Republican party.

    Paul Solman: But can the interest rates on U.S. government debt stay this low?

    Paul Krugman: I look a lot at Japan, which is clearly not a story to be emulated but it's interesting all the same. In Japan, people have been saying, "Oh, those interest rates are going to go soaring any day now." It's been 20 years that people have been saying that they're going to have inflation from all that money printing. In fact, they're trying desperately to break out of deflation. I just don't see it coming.

    Paul Solman: But you can't know that it won't happen, that tomorrow interest rates won't start shooting up and continue up right? [Note: This interview took place on April 30, when the 10-year interest rate was 1.7 percent]

    Paul Krugman: Well, you can't know anything right? For all I know there's an asteroid that NASA failed to detect that's gonna hit. All kinds of things are possible. Not only is history opposed to that catastrophic view, but it's very hard to tell the story. Suppose that the market decided that it really is worried about U.S. debt. That still doesn't change the fact that the Fed can control short-term interest rates and it doesn't change the fact that long-term interest rates reflect expected future short-term interest rates. So the worst case is a fall of the dollar. And the fall of the dollar would actually be good for us. It would help our exports; it would make us more competitive. So I can't even manage to tell a coherent story about this alleged looming catastrophe.

    Paul Solman: But isn't it quite possible that interest rates will simply shoot up? I mean they've been so unnaturally low for so unnaturally long?

    Paul Krugman: I actually don't think it's unnatural. You've got a depressed economy; the private sector is not seeing a lot of investment opportunities. Households are trying to save more because their houses have collapsed in value and they've got all this mortgage debt. Why shouldn't interest rates be very very low? What's unnatural about them being very low? And how do interest rates shoot up for the United States? We borrow in our own currency. The short-term interest rate is set by the Federal Reserve, which buys or sells Treasury bills, the long-term interest rate is, roughly speaking, an average of expected future short-term rates. How does this interest rate spike even happen? So when people talk about this you know attack of the bond vigilantes, interest rates will spike, I don't think they're even thinking through the mechanics of it. They don't actually have a story about what happens on the ground to make that happen.

    Paul Solman: David Stockman says America has become addicted to debt and that those who don't realize it are "debt blind." When I pointed out that two and a half years ago he had said that interest rates were about to zoom and they've only gone down since, he said, "Well I just didn't realize how crazy the Fed was and that they would keep interest rates low for this long," but your point is the Fed could keep interest rates low forever?

    Paul Krugman: What's stopping it? The argument is supposed to be that the Fed is printing all this money to keep interest rates low, but then isn't the price of printing too much money supposed to be inflation and the Fed is actually worried right now that inflation is running too low, so where's the inflation, where is the limit, you know what's unsustainable here? What's unsustainable I think is mass unemployment which is eventually gonna wreak a terrible toll on our society. I think the interest rate predictions are not the be all and end all, but they are something you can check and the people who keep predicting disaster are also people who've been predicting soaring interest rates by and large actually for four years and more. And at some point you have to say they just had the wrong model of how the world works.

    Paul Solman: Worried about un- and underemployment, I've suggested, as a thought experiment, an "MMM": a Mass Massage Mobilization in which the government borrows the money to support a program that induces every adult American, by tax credits or otherwise, to get one massage a week. That would employ seven-10 million Americans, none of whom would need a conventional four-year Bachelor's degree. Would you be in favor of something like that?

    Paul Krugman: When the government goes out and borrows money these days, it's not taking money that the private sector would otherwise have invested; it's actually taking money that would otherwise be idle and so actually almost anything the government does would boost the economy right now. Remember, we ended the Great Depression not just with unproductive spending but with actually destructive spending, right? We spent a lot of money on tanks and bombs and planes and still ended the Depression. So I think there's probably better stuff to do than massages, but sure.

    This goes back to Keynes and the coal mines right? Famously, John Maynard Keynes said that if you propose any kind of government spending, people tend to object because they say there's some more useful way to do this. So why don't we do something completely useless? Why don't we bury bottles of money in coal mines and then let the private sector dig them up again and that way no one will object that it could've been spent better. And the actual spending will take place in the private sector so there won't be more government employees and it'll still stimulate the economy. Of course it wasn't a serious proposal but he was making a point.

    My version of that was we have to invent a threat from space aliens. It would require us to do a lot of infrastructure spending to prepare for the alien invasion. And if, two years later, we say "whoops, no space aliens, but gee we have full employment," that would be fine. So I don't think massages is where I'd go but I would take anything rather than what we're doing right now, which is austerity that is actually killing the recovery.

    Paul Solman: But massages, everybody's better off. I mean that's not burying dollar bills in bottles in coal mines, that's actually benefiting people.

    Paul Krugman: Well sure, maybe people should form circles in the street, be paid to form circles in the street and sing Kumbaya, that might be even better. Sure, whatever.

    Paul Solman: But there's got to be a point at which we simply are taking on too much debt, no?

    Paul Krugman: The government is a long way from having a debt problem. The household sector has too much debt, that's clear, we see that's what's driving our depressed economy. So it's not that debt is never a problem. The question is: is government debt a problem right now and is it enough of a problem even in the future to mean that you shouldn't be doing whatever it takes to get full employment now?

    Note: We plan to post former Reagan budget chief David Stockman's views on debt tomorrow.

    This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight.

    Follow @PaulSolman


    0 0

    By Larry Kotlikoff

    Harvard economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart. Still from PBS NewsHour footage.

    Paul Solman: The post before this one featured some discussion of the big flap in the econosphere over the work of Harvard professors Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart. Economist Larry Kotlikoff, who does double duty as our Social Security expert, "Ask Larry," thinks there's a very different problem with their work than what is currently under dispute.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's paper "Growth in a Time of Debt," has come under scrutiny due to a coding error discovered by Thomas Herndon, a Ph.D student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The coding error appears, however, to be inconsequential to the Reinhart-Rogoff (RR) finding that periods of low growth coincide with periods of high official government debt. (Note: In a prior release of this column, I incorrectly stated that the coding mistake pertained to RR's outstanding and justifiably famous book, "This Time Is Different." I wish to publicly apologize to RR for this mistake.)

    Research mistakes happen, and this was an honest one made by two of our country's premier economists whose integrity is beyond question. It's also one RR view as making little difference to the observed connection between official debt and growth.

    Unfortunately, there is a much deeper and uncorrectable problem with the debt figures used in RR's paper. This problem is not that some of the data on official government debt were inadvertently omitted from the analysis. The problem is that, in fact, none of RR's official debt series provide a meaningful, as in theoretically well-defined, measure of a country's indebtedness.

    RELATED CONTENT: Krugman v. Reinhart/Rogoff

    To the contrary, economic theory makes clear that what's counted as official debt reflects nothing about a country's underlying economic liabilities and everything about what the country does and doesn't call "official borrowing."

    It's easy to get queasy about using official debt numbers to capture true government obligations. Just find a retiree receiving periodic payments from Uncle Sam, some of which are called interest and principal on U.S. Treasury bonds and some of which are called Social Security benefits. Next ask why RR include in their debt measure only the present value of the future bond payments and ignore completely the present value of the Social Security payments?

    The answer is there is no economic answer. Lawyers will say that Treasury bills and bonds are backed by the "full faith and credit of the United States." But these fancy words don't preclude formal default, let alone informal default via government-caused inflation.

    Social Security benefits, on the other hand, are inflation-projected and backed by the 40-million strong American Association of Retired Persons. So each dollar of Social Security's current $60 trillion debt arguably counts more than a dollar of the public's $12 trillion holding of U.S. official debt in terms of its likely implied burden on today's and tomorrow's taxpayers. Yet, RR includes not one penny of Social Security debt in forming their historical time series of Uncle Sam's obligations. Nor do they include the present values of Medicare and Medicaid's massive future benefit commitments as well as those of more modest transfer payments.

    And what about obligations to future discretionary spending, like maintaining our military, repaving federal highways, or gassing up Air Force One? Why do these expenditures commitments get zero weight in the RR analysis, while expenditure commitments to interest and principal on Treasury bills and bonds, half of which are owned by foreigners, get full weight? Moreover, in their focus on gross official debt, RR ignore all the assets available to cover the government's bills, particularly the projected time path of all future tax receipts.

    Unfortunately, economic theory doesn't say whether to call a dollar received by the government "taxes" or "borrowing." Consequently, what gets measured as "official debt" is purely an artifact of what is and isn't labeled "borrowing." This is easiest to see in the case of Social Security, where our contributions could be called "borrowing" and part of our future benefits could be called "interest plus principal" on this borrowing. In recent decades, Chile, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Russia and many other countries engaged in precisely this relabeling in "reforming" their pensions. Rather than have workers pay social security "taxes," it had them contribute to pension funds. It then borrowed the contributions from the funds to pay current beneficiaries. Presto, the contributions were no longer "taxes," but "borrowing."

    Labeling choices aren't innocent. At the time of its reform, Chile was reporting a surplus, which the Chilean Navy wanted to tap to buy a used U.S. aircraft carrier. By enacting the "reform," Labor Minister, Jose Pinera, was able to tell the Admirals, "Sorry, the surplus is gone." When Argentina, Hungary and Russia recently reversed course and partially or fully nationalized their pension systems, they were able to re-label some or all workers' contributions as "taxes" and, thereby, report a smaller deficit. In the U.S., Europe and Japan, politicians have spent six decades running massive Ponzi schemes using the word "taxes" rather than "borrowing" to keep them off the books. This secured oldsters' votes and kept youngsters on board with promises of future benefits. Today, however, there are too few youngsters to pay the oldsters and people are starting to see "pay as you go" for what it is -- take as you go.

    It's easy to go back historically and reclassify, for each of RR's countries, all or part of each country's annual "tax payments" as "borrowing by the government" and reclassify subsequent annual benefit payments as, in part, "repayment of principal plus interest" on that borrowing. Each relabeling will produce a different time series for government debt and, consequently, a different set of RR results.

    ASK LARRY: The Perils of Taking Your Social Security Benefits Too Early

    At its core, then, the RR study relates a real economic quantity -- the growth rate of GDP -- to a non-economic and wholly arbitrary linguistic construct. With the right set of words, one can produce whatever time-paths of country-specific official debts one wants and, thus, whatever correlation between "official" debt and GDP one seeks.

    The pity here is that we have prominent, well-trained economists, like RR and Paul Krugman, arguing for and against austerity based on "official" debt figures that have absolutely no clothes.

    What then should we measure when it comes to the big economic questions associated with the word "debt," namely are the liabilities being left for future generations more than they can handle and did their accumulation promote consumption over saving, limit investment by limiting saving, and limit growth by limiting investment?

    The fiscal gap -- the present value difference over the infinite horizon -- between all projected spending, including servicing official debt, and all projected taxes, is the label-free measure dictated by economic science of the unpaid bills being left to today's and tomorrow's children. It's $222 trillion, based on the Congressional Budget Office's latest projections. This true measure of our children's fiscal abyss, which, by the way, grew $11 trillion over the last year, is almost 20 times the size of official debt held by the public!

    The relentless postwar expansion in the fiscal gap fueled a truly amazing consumption spree by oldsters that drove our national saving rate from 14 percent in 1950 to 1 percent last year. The ratio of the average oldster's consumption to the average youngster's consumption is now more than twice what it was back then. Domestic saving is the main determinate of domestic investment, so it's no surprise that take as you go has also wiped out most of domestic investment. And less domestic investment has meant slower economic growth. In sum, Reinhart and Rogoff are right. They just aren't using the right numbers to show they're right.

    Larry Kotlikoff is an economist at Boston University, co-author of The Clash of Generations, and Social Security expert for the Making Sen$e Business Desk.

    This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight.

    Follow @PaulSolman


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. economy is showing unexpected signs of strength this spring and prompting new optimism.

    The most significant development? The accelerating recovery in many regions of the housing market. Home prices in 20 cities rose by an average of nearly 11 percent in March compared to a year ago. The Case-Shiller index also reported yesterday that in some markets, such as Phoenix, San Francisco and Las Vegas, prices climbed by more than 20 percent. At the same time, a separate index of consumer confidence taken in May is at its highest since 2008.

    All of this comes as the stock market continues a strong run. During the first five months of this year, the Dow Jones industrial average has climbed nearly 2,000 points, although it closed at 15,302 today, down 106 points.

    We look at the ups and downs of the stuttering recovery with Catherine Rampell of The New York Times.

    Welcome. Welcome, Catherine.

    What are we to make of this housing rebound?

    CATHERINE RAMPELL, The New York Times: Well, the housing rebound has been pretty strong going for almost a year now, I would say.

    It's very widespread. All 20 cities that Case-Shiller tracks showed gains, both in the last month reported, which was March, and the previous couple of months. So, it's widespread and it seems to be here to stay.

    GWEN IFILL: Does it shift from region to region?

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: Yes, there are big differences.

    You mentioned that Phoenix, for example, and Las Vegas had had 20-plus percent growth. That is partly because, as we should remember, those areas had had major plunges in housing prices, so it's coming off of a very low base.

    GWEN IFILL: So, we don't want to over ...

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: There's big growth.

    GWEN IFILL: Sorry.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: Right, exactly. There's big growth, but it's not exactly as if the prices there are anywhere near their peak, which probably we don't want, given the unsustainable bubble values that we had in the earth 2000s and mid-2000s. But even now, they might still be undervalued just because they fell so far during the bust.

    GWEN IFILL: If you look at the overall picture, the overall economic picture, how big a part are these housing stats in driving what looks like at least a partial recovery?

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: It's a big contributor right now.

    We have had major cut in government spending. We have had tax increases earlier this year. As a result, there were a lot of economists who had predicted that consumer spending in particular was going to kind of fall off a cliff come January. And that hasn't happened. And while it surprised a lot of people, what they're basically pointing to is the fact that people are feeling wealthier. Their home values are going up. The stock market is also going up, of course.

    And that helps a smaller segment of Americans. But, really, there are so many homeowners out there who are feeling a sense of relief and are feeling a bit richer that they're a little bit more apt to loosen the purse strings a little bit.

    GWEN IFILL: I'm sorry

    That drives consumer confidence. That drives the stock investments.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: Exactly.

    GWEN IFILL: But there -- sounds like there's a "yes, but" in all of this.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: The "yes, but" is that, even though consumer confidence is up and even though consumer spending has been more resilient than people had feared, it's not particularly healthy.

    Consumer confidence numbers, as reported yesterday, were at their highest level in five years, but they're still at recessionary levels. Remember, we were in a recession five years ago. So, even though we are improving, even though we are in what is technically a recovery, we fell so far and we dug ourselves into such a deep hole, that the incremental improvements that we have had are still not really substantial enough to make us feel like we're living in a healthy economy, I mean, especially if you look at the job market.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that's what I was going to talk to you about.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: Let's just talk -- let's just look at the jobs market, especially who is rebound -- who is getting jobs back and who is not?

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: Well, governments are still laying off workers, or at least a lot of them are at state and local levels, so there are people who are actually losing their jobs.

    We have seen some strong gains in a lot of the lower-wage sectors, unfortunately -- I mean, fortunate that people are getting jobs, but, presumably, they would like higher wages. I'm talking about food services, retail. We actually have the highest share of Americans -- or highest share of jobs right now that are in the food services sector than has ever been the case on record.

    So there have been gains, but they have not been really substantial enough to whittle down the backlog of something like 11 or 12 million unemployed people that we still have right now. And, again, where we are creating jobs, they're often at lower wages than the jobs that people had lost.

    GWEN IFILL: We were told that there were two factors that were going to drive what happened to the economy this year. One was the sequester here in Washington, where they were going to cap government spending, and the other was the Eurozone crisis, which was also supposed to have some sort of residual effect here. Have either of them done that?

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: It's still a bit early to say what's going on with the sequester.

    The sequester, remember, officially started March 1st, but the way that it was designed, it means that government agencies basically have to cut some of their spending by the end of the fiscal year, which means by Oct. 1st. They didn't have to do it immediately.

    So, there were a lot of government agencies that waited a bit, either because they thought maybe Congress would change its mind and reverse this major cut to federal spending, since, after all, the whole thing was designed basically to get Congress to come to a deal that wouldn't not force these major across-the-board spending cuts.

    So, there were a lot of agencies that decided to wait and they didn't cut right away. And then there were also agencies that said, well, since we have some flexibility about when these cuts go into effect, maybe we will later.

    GWEN IFILL: I'm sorry. And the Eurozone?

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: And the Eurozone.

    So, the Eurozone is still very much a concern. It's not as much on the front burner as it had been a couple of years ago, when it looked like Greece was repeatedly on the verge of collapse. Things are still not healthy. There are still countries that are in Europe that are in recession right now.

    But the main source of concern from the Eurozone had been another financial crisis, that if Greece went under, then maybe Spain would and Italy would, and all of the banks that are -- that have tentacles in each of these places would have major shocks as well.

    To some extent, a lot of the U.S. banks have insulated themselves against this because the crisis has been going on for so long. So there's a little bit less concern there.

    GWEN IFILL: So, we're still waiting.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: As for ...

    GWEN IFILL: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: Sorry?

    GWEN IFILL: I was just going to say ...

    GWEN IFILL: Go ahead.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: The other risk from the Eurozone has to do with trade, that Europe is a major trading partner of ours. But it is a relatively small share of the American economy that would be affected there.

    So, even though it's not helping, it's not a huge drag, at least relative to a couple years ago.

    GWEN IFILL: Right. So we're still waiting for other shoes to drop.

    Catherine Rampell of The New York Times, thank you so much.

    CATHERINE RAMPELL: Thank you. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The European Union softened austerity demands for six countries today in a bid to spark economic growth. France, Spain and four other states will be given more time to get their deficits under control. That came as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that recession in Europe is threatening the global recovery. The group predicted the Eurozone's economy will shrink more than half-a-percent this year.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad served notice today that he will serve at least through elections next year and might even run again. The Syrian foreign minister made the announcement. He said the regime has new momentum from battlefield victories against the rebels. The statement could complicate U.S. and Russian efforts to convene a peace conference.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney said today that Assad cannot cling to power.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Spokesman: Bashar al-Assad long ago gave up the opportunity to participate in a transition process that would improve the future of the Syrian people and the Syrian nation. He chose instead to wage war on his people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:
    The Syrian opposition said today it might take part in peace talks, but only if there's a deadline for a settlement forcing Assad out.

    The carnage in Iraq has claimed at least 30 more lives. Bombings hit two neighborhoods in Baghdad after nightfall. Most of the victims were members of a wedding party passing by as the bomb exploded. Sectarian violence has flared in Iraq this month, killing more than 500 people.

    China issued a new condemnation of computer hacking today, amid allegations that Chinese hackers stole data on more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems. In Beijing, the assistant foreign minister didn't directly address the allegations made in a Pentagon report. Instead, he said China opposes all cyber-attacks and has promised to work with the U.S. to fight them.

    The first same-sex wedding was performed in France today, under a new national law making it legal.

    We have a report narrated by Cordelia Lynch of Independent Television News.

    CORDELIA LYNCH,
    Independent Television News: They say it's a victory of love over hate, a kiss that changes France forever, Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau, the first same-sex couple to marry there. It is the emotion you expect to see, but this was a wedding packed with strangers.

    VINCENT AUTIN, France: Nothing is more beautiful than love. We have to love in our society. It's hard enough as it is. So I beg you, love yourselves, love us, let's love each other, because it's important.

    CORDELIA LYNCH: But, before they wed, they faced the voices of those who disagree. Their union in Montpellier has split their country. And these images may not mark the end of months of demonstrations and political rows.

    Unlike the U.K., the debate is explosive and still raging. The law was passed less than two weeks ago, but these were scenes at the weekend. The largest protest against gay marriage drew nearly half-a-million people.

    But it isn't just elderly conservatives galvanizing the right. The young are playing their part, many Catholics opposed to gay adoption. But this was and still is about more than sexuality or an institution. It's political and personal.

    Many believe the president, Francois Hollande, obsessed over the bill, rather than dealing with troubled economy. His popularity is plummeting and gay marriage has mobilized right-wing voters.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In a related development, the French interior minister called for tougher penalties against anti-gay speech and actions.

    Switzerland moved today to end a lengthy fight between Swiss banks and U.S. investigators over tax evasion. The Bern government said it will let banks sidestep their famed secrecy and disclose information on American clients. The deal needs approval of the Swiss Parliament. The goal is to avert U.S. criminal charges against the banks for aiding tax cheats. They could still face heavy fines.

    Former Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann is calling it a career in the U.S. House. The Minnesota congresswoman announced today she will not seek reelection. Bachmann narrowly won a fourth term last year. She said today she was not worried about another tough reelection fight. She also dismissed concerns about an investigation of how she financed her unsuccessful campaign for president last year.

    This was the day 60 years ago that Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first to climb Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain. Since then, more than 3,000 people have scaled the peak in Nepal, at 29,000 feet above sea level. Today, the city of Katmandu, the Nepalese capital, staged a colorful parade to mark the occasion. Statues of the two climbers were adorned with flower garlands, and family members rode in that parade.

    Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Gwen.


    Loading...
    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are new findings that show moms more than ever are becoming the breadwinners of the American family. A record 40 percent of all families with children under the age of 18 are now headed by women who are the sole or primary source of income.

    That analysis, based on census data, was released today by the Pew Research Center. Notably, there are big income disparities among these women. Almost 25 percent of families are led by single mothers who earn a median of $23,000 dollars a year. Another 15 percent of families are comprised of married mothers who earn more than their husbands. Their families' median income was almost $80,000 dollars a year.

    For more on what these trends are and what they suggest about the changing dynamics of work and family life, we turn to Paul Taylor, an author of the report and executive vice president of the Pew Research Center. And Ellen Galinsky, she is the president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute.

    And welcome. Welcome to you both.

    And, for the record, I'm a member of the institute's board.

    I want to say to Paul Taylor first, this is a dramatic change. I mean, from 50 years ago, women were, what, 10 -- or mothers ...

    PAUL TAYLOR, Executive Vice President, Pew Research Center: About 10 percent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ten percent of families. They were the -- or 10 percent of them were women who were the principal or single breadwinner. Today, it's 40 percent.

    PAUL TAYLOR: And this -- this really captures the -- a half-century change, the movement of women into the work force, all of the challenges that presents to women and to men and to their children in terms of work-family balance.

    And, as you said in your setup piece, demographically, it's two very different groups of women, the single mothers who tend to be at the lower end of the socioeconomic scales, and the wives who outearn their husbands. And both of these groups have been growing. And what connects them both is that work is increasingly an economic necessity.

    Of course, it's a choice that women make and men make as well. But the majority of households with children now have a mother who works. That change -- the public accepts that change, approves of that change. In addition to showing the census data, we did our own survey about attitudes towards this, and we find a public that at one level very accepting of it and approving of it. Everybody gets the fact that in today's economy, you need two incomes. And, certainly, if you're a single mother, you need an income to raise children.

    But there are reservations and concerns about whether this is best for children, and even some concerns about whether this is best for the marriage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to get at the attitudes, Paul Taylor, but first, what do we know about why this has happened? What are the background trends that have brought this on? How much of it is the economy?

    PAUL TAYLOR: Well, a tremendous amount is the economy.

    And we know over the last 40 or 50 years that the changes in the economy have been tougher on men than on women. And the kinds of industries that used to provide the middle-class jobs for men who didn't have as much education as others, those are the ones that have contracted, and men have struggled over the last 30, 40, 50 years.

    So the reaction within families is for women, wives to pick up the slack. And certainly if you have single-parent households, typically women, that's not slack picking up. This is how you keep the family afloat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ellen Galinsky, Family Work Institute does a lot of research on these issues. What do you see in these numbers?

    ELLEN GALINSKY, President and Co-Founder, Families and Work Institute: We have seen the same trend in our national study of the changing work force.

    And we have seen that there's actually a pretty big gap. We look at women who earn at least 10 percent more than their husbands and have found that that is 27 percent of all dual-earner families. And you have 80 percent of families -- of people who are couples in the work force where both of them work. So it certainly is the new normal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Ellen Galinsky, staying with you, what about this discrepancy that Paul just described between that chunk of these women who are working with children who are single parents, and those who are outearning their husbands? What do you see there?

    ELLEN GALINSKY: Well, we talk about choice, and choice so important to our American way of living, but a lot of families don't feel that they have choices, whether they're in a couple or not.

    If we go back to the recession that wasn't too long ago, at least initially, men lost most of the jobs, and, in fact, women went into the work force or stayed in the work force to keep their families afloat. We find that women bring in about 45 percent of family income in dual-earner families.

    When I started to do this research, women's work was called “pin money.” Now we found as early as 1995 that women define themselves as caring for their families as being both economic providers and nurturers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Paul ...

    ELLEN GALINSKY: And men have changed, too.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead. I'm sorry. I interrupted

    ELLEN GALINSKY: Oh, no.

    Men have changed, too. I mean, we find that men want to be more involved in their families. It's not just their wife or their partner saying, do more, share, share more, help. We find that men want to be more involved in -- particularly with their kids. And if you look at men of different ages, younger men, millennials, Gen Xers and boomers, the younger men will spend a lot more time, even if they have got young kids, than the older men.

    So, there's a real societal shift in men, too, in wanting to be more involved with their kids and with their families.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Paul Taylor, picking up on that attitude point that you brought up at the outset, how are people looking on this? Are they pleased about it? Are they feeling something is out of whack? What are you seeing?

    PAUL TAYLOR: I think they are of two minds. They are living this change and it's dramatic and almost everybody lives it.

    And when we asked, do you want to go back to the old world, the traditional -- with women in their traditional roles, by which we mean sort of just the homemaker, 80 percent say no. So, that change is there and the public accepts that. And they see the economic value and necessity of women in the workplace.

    But we asked the question, well, what's best for children? Is it best if the father stays home and cares for the kids full-time? Eight percent say that's best for children. Is it best if the mother stays home and cares for the kid full-time? Fifty-one percent say that's best.

    So you have attitudes changing, but you still have the traditional template that exercises some influence on the way people think about this. To pick up on Ellen's point, we did a big time-use survey over the last 50 years. There's no question fathers are doing more at home. They don't do as much as mothers. They only do about half as much in terms of the housework and child care. But it's more than they used to.

    And they want to do more. But women and mothers are still on the front lines of caring for the kids. That's just the way things are.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Ellen, what about the children? You have looked at that question closely, and also what the children think about this.

    ELLEN GALINSKY: Well, in the Pew study, I think it was interesting that the younger you were, the less likely you were to hold those traditional values.

    So, we see a values shift. I did a study where I asked children if they could make one change, only one change, that would improve the way their mother's or father's work affect their life, what would that be? And most adults thought that kids would wish more for more time, because we tend to see as time mainly.

    What kids wished -- and I think this is important -- is that their parents would be less tired and stressed. The majority of kids wished for that. So, it's -- you know, when we look at, is work good or bad for kids, it depends. It depends on the job that you have. Research shows that very clearly.

    It depends on what your beliefs are, and it depends on the quality of the care or education you have for your children when you're not there. So the impact on children really comes out to the fact that you can't tell very much about how a child is going to turn out simply because that child's mother works.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's not just the time. It's the quality of the time and the attention.

    All right, Ellen Galinsky, Paul Taylor, we thank you.

    PAUL TAYLOR: Thanks for having us.

    ELLEN GALINSKY: Thank you. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: U.S. forces killed the number two commander of the Pakistani Taliban today with a missile fired from a drone.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pakistani intelligence officials say this man, Wali-ur Rehman, was killed in the drone attack, along with four others. They say the drone fired missiles at a house in Miran Shah, a town inside the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghanistan border.

    Rehman had a five million dollar U.S. bounty on his head, but in Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn't confirm the attack or any deaths.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: If those reports were true, or prove to be true, it's worth noting that his demise would deprive the TTP, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, of its second in command and chief military strategist. Wali-ur Rehman has participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against U.S. and NATO personnel and horrific attacks against Pakistani civilians and soldiers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For its part, the Pakistani Taliban denied the report of Rehman's death, calling it false news.

    And the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying, "Drone strikes violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law." There was no direct mention of Rehman.

    Today's strike came less than a week after President Obama said he's implementing new restrictions on drone attacks, even as he defended their use.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: America doesn't take strikes to punish individuals. We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Pakistani government has been highly critical of U.S. strikes inside its borders, pointing to numerous civilians injured and killed in the attacks.

    Incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the drone attacks, and he's expected to press for an end to them. The Pakistani Taliban was responsible for numerous attacks leading up to this month's elections. But Sharif has said he's open to talks with the militants, in a bid to end the fighting in tribal areas. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Now to the second of our stories on the role of technology in unraveling the Boston bombing case.

    Last night, science correspondent Miles O'Brien traveled to an explosives testing facility to learn more about the bomb itself. Tonight, as part of his work for a special NOVA program, he reports on the facial recognition software that allowed investigators to identify the bombing suspects.

    MILES O'BRIEN: It is a small unit on the cusp of a big change in the way police do their job. Welcome to the New York Police Department's facial identification section.

    Inspector Ken Mekeel is the man in charge.

    Do you feel like you're sort of at the beginning of when fingerprints first came in? Is this the beginning of where policing is headed, in many respects?

    INSPECTOR KENNETH MEKEEL, New York Police Department: Yes, very much so. It's not as good as a fingerprint.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Right.

    KENNETH MEKEEL: This doesn't have the confidence level of that. It's not a definitive science such as fingerprints and DNA. But this is good.

    Just basically, maybe we can get a lead. Maybe we can be pointed in a direction that this might be a possible person. Hollywood makes facial recognition look easy. But when you face the facts, this law enforcement tool is not as easy as it looks in the movies.

    Mekeel gave us a demonstration, a scenario similar to the Boston Marathon bombings: a grainy surveillance image of a suspected terrorist. First, they look for the best picture.

    KENNETH MEKEEL: This image, as you can see, has the head a little turned. The distance is a problem. This particular head is down. There's really not much face. And we are looking for -- comparison and facial recognition software is a frontal pose.

    This seems to be the best picture that we would utilize in this type of situation, so we would grab that picture, basically cut it out.

    MILES O'BRIEN: But the software only works if the person is squarely facing the camera. And this angle is not good enough. But there is a way to fix that. They map out the suspects face, placing crosshairs on several key features: ears, nose, eyes, chin, and mouth.

    Once the software knows where all those features are, it uses a formula to convert the slightly askew photo into a three-dimensional image. And that allows them to turn the suspect's face directly toward the camera virtually.

    KENNETH MEKEEL: So, now we're using the frontal pose. It's called the normalization pose. We're going to enter it into the facial recognition software. So, we want to use this probe image from an unknown individual against our gallery of known individuals. And we basically have close to four million images that we use within the NYPD.

    MILES O'BRIEN: The images are mug shots, but in this demonstration, they are actually cops. Police here say they don't look for a match by trolling through driver's licenses, passport or visa photos, much less Facebook.

    KENNETH MEKEEL: So, now, in order to put that in, we input it into our facial recognition software. We want to line up the eyes as best as possible, try to center it. And you can see, even though this picture is not aesthetically nice to humans looking at it, you can see that it can work, though, within the software.

    MILES O'BRIEN: In the demo, the face is a match. But this makes it look a littler easier than it is. The database is relatively small. And, in this case, the perp is Detective Roger Rodriguez, assigned to the unit, and sitting in the back row watching the boss do the demo.

    KENNETH MEKEEL: The problem that we have within law enforcement doing criminal investigations with facial is that we are not utilizing controlled images as probes, so the unidentified person is a bad image for the most part.

    MILES O'BRIEN: So far, this unit has analyzed 1,900 images, turned up more than 386 matches, and that has led to 141 arrests.

    KENNETH MEKEEL: The optimum scenario is a good high-resolution picture, very well-pixelated. We need it to the point where the lighting is correct, the distance is not too far, and those are easier to manage and to work with within the facial recognition system.

    MILES O'BRIEN: In Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon University's Biometrics Center, engineer Marios Savvides is leading a team that is pushing facial recognition to the next level.

    When he saw the photos of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects released three days after the attack, he sprang into action, even though the odds were slim that he could do anything to help investigators in Boston.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES, Carnegie Mellon University Biometrics Center: The problem in the Boston case is that the image was so small that technology cannot handle that low-resolution face. There's simply not enough information. So you have to employ super-resolution techniques and image-enhancement techniques to basically, what we call, the computer has to hallucinate.

    And I hate to use that word, but if you look at the input image and you look what the computer or algorithm can develop, you will almost think, well, how on earth it was able to actually extract that?

    MILES O'BRIEN: How, indeed? The best possible image was this one, a very low resolution, poorly lit, but nearly full-frontal image of the younger Tsarnaev brother, Dzhokhar. Savvides and his team plotted 79 distinct points on his face as best they could.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: We will click on the image, and this is what you're really seeing. And you can see you really don't see a lot of facial structure.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Right.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: So we had to guesstimate, estimate where those landmarks are on the face.

    MILES O'BRIEN: They fed the blurry image with the markings into their latest facial recognition algorithm.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: Our algorithm was able to basically enhance and extract this face. So this is the face that came from that.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Savvides calls it a super-resolution enhanced image. He intended to send it to the FBI, but by the time they finished, it was 2:42 Friday morning. The shoot-out in Watertown was over and the brothers were identified.

    Now there were plenty of high-resolution shots to choose from. On the surface, it seemed as if Savvides' computer hallucination wasn't very accurate or useful. But computers see the world differently. So Savvides tried an experiment. He added a high-resolution frontal image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to a database of one million images.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: So, we want to see, could we find him? Is he in the top 100? Where is he? Did what we enhance actually be able to match one of the Tsarnaev's frontal images?

    MILES O'BRIEN: When compared to the computer-generated face, the Tsarnaev image ranked 1,417.

    But when Savvides narrows the search, it gets more interesting. After ruling out women, non-Caucasians, heavy facial hair and those over 25, the photo ranks number 20. For Marios Savvides, this was a eureka moment.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: Based on the results that we have, we see that they're accurate. This is -- our work is at an infancy, but we're still blown away on how it works. I mean, we still can't believe how amazing we got. When we enhanced that image and we go -- and I saw, well, this wasn't a random face.

    MILES O'BRIEN: All right, smile or just neutral?

    So how does it work? I volunteered my face for a demonstration. The reduced-resolution image, 25 pixels across the eyes, leads to this interpretation.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: But the general face structure, that is pretty much well-maintained. All these features are there from this.

    MILES O'BRIEN: What about 12 pixels between the eyes, the kind of image you would typically get from a CCTV camera?

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: So let's see what happens when we run our algorithm. OK. Wow.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Not bad.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: Not bad. So we went from this image to this image.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Yes.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: And if we compare it to the actual high resolution, again, the eyebrow structure is there, the nose, the eyes, the mouth. We have lost the high-frequency texture because there is no information. But the structure of the face is there.

    MILES O'BRIEN: How low can it go? What about six pixels from eye to eye?

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: So from this to get this, that's amazing, and that's how computers can be better than human minds, because I could not extrapolate this information from this.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Boy, I should have shaved, huh?

    Anyway, you're really getting every whisker.

    The secret is machine learning and pattern recognition. Instead of trying to tell the computer how to turn a few pixels into a recognizable face, Savvides simply shows it thousands and eventually millions of examples of the same faces in very low and very high resolution. Over time, the computer identifies patterns and makes connections that humans cannot. It learns.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: That's where computers can be smart, and that's where it can do things that our human brain cannot do, because it can learn the relationship of what a low-resolution, degraded-face image is, and what the high res. When you give it enough data to learn that relationship, then it can actually build an algorithm to extract the high-res face that you can feed into such systems to try to give you a match.

    Well, if you use the periocular, we're not looking at the mouth.

    MILES O'BRIEN: So, no expression?

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: It doesn't affect it all.

    MILES O'BRIEN: Expression can be a problem for you, right?

    This is not all they are working on here. They are looking for ways to identify faces simply by focusing on the eyes or even just the eyebrows. They are predicting age better than a carnival barker. They are working on putting facial recognition software into smartphones, and they are developing sophisticated infrared cameras that scan irises.

    COMPUTER VOICE: Identified. Welcome, Miles.

    MARIOS SAVVIDES: When law enforcement has nothing to work on, have no leads, any lead is something. So there's a chance it may be wrong. It was wrong, OK, but it was a lead. But if it was right, if it was able to get you an image in that top 50, then that's huge. And this is the thing. How can you give the investigators something to work on?

    MILES O'BRIEN: Facial recognition may not measure up to the movies just yet, but it is coming soon to a police department near you. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Next, we take a look at the issue of border security, as part of our ongoing series “Inside Immigration Reform.”

    And to Ray Suarez.

    RAY SUAREZ: It's critical to the debate over immigration reform: security along the United States' nearly-2,000-mile border with Mexico.

    Nogales, Ariz., is a case in point. A long stretch of fencing separates the 20,000 residents there from more than 200,000 people just across the border in Nogales, Mexico. It's one of the busiest ports of entry between the two countries, and U.S. Border Patrol agents process millions of legal crossings each year.

    But more than 124,000 people were caught crossing illegally last year. Millions more have not been caught over the years. And Republicans say they shouldn't be given a path to citizenship until the border is secured.

    Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona helped author the immigration bill now headed to the Senate.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: We have confronted the reality of de facto amnesty for the 11 million or more people who came here illegally by proposing a lengthy path to citizenship that doesn't place lawful immigrants at a disadvantage and it -- and is contingent on doing everything possible to make our border secure and discourage future waves of illegal immigration.

    RAY SUAREZ: On the other hand, many Democrats argue the border has never been safer. They point to nearly 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling the boundary and to a network of cameras, sensors, drones and some 700 miles of fencing. President Obama made that point on his visit to Mexico earlier this month.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think it's important for everybody to remember that our shared border is more secure than it's been in years. Illegal immigration attempts into the United States are near their lowest level in decades.

    RAY SUAREZ: Indeed, some 1.6 million people were apprehended on the southwest border back in 2000, while in 2012, the number fell to just over 350,000.

    So, how secure is the border?

    For that, we get two different views from law enforcement leaders whose counties sit directly on the U.S. border with Mexico. Tony Estrada is the sheriff of Santa Cruz County, Ariz. And Captain Robert Wilson is a sheriff's deputy in Hudspeth County, Texas.

    And, gentlemen, a lot of attention's been paid to border security in the dozen years since 9/11. As we're approaching a national debate over immigration reform, can you, Sheriff Estrada, say the say the border is more secure than it used to be?

    SHERIFF TONY ESTRADA, Santa Cruz County, Ariz.: You know, I can definitely say that, because I have been there 45 years along the border with Mexico, and we have had more resources, more technology, more boots on the ground.

    It just has improved tremendously. The urban area, we consider Nogales and Santa Cruz County as pretty secure. But it's a challenge. The border with Mexico continues to be a major challenge that we're going to have for a long time.

    RAY SUAREZ: Capt. Wilson, same question. Is the border more secure?

    CAPT. ROBERT WILSON, Hudspeth County, Texas, Sheriff's Deputy: Well, I agree with the sheriff that there has been more resources thrown at the border, and maybe in that area.

    But, in Hudspeth County, Texas, we have 99 miles of river border with Mexico, and the border is not secure in that area. We still have continued cartel activity across the river. We still have folks from our communities being executed, taken from Texas and executed in Mexico. And the immigration problem, the people coming over is the same. It hasn't diminished.

    RAY SUAREZ: Let me follow up with you, Capt. Wilson. Is it possible -- you mentioned 99 miles of river frontier with another country -- is it possible, is it affordable to seal Mexico off from the United States in those places to control cross-border movements?

    ROBERT WILSON: I don't believe it's feasible to completely seal the border with Mexico. And I don't believe you would want to. I mean, there's a good relationship with that government. There's commerce and trade, and I think that needs to continue.

    RAY SUAREZ: So what do you need that you don't have?

    ROBERT WILSON: I believe that we need more people, more patrols from U.S. Border Patrol. They're doing what they can with what they have. And maybe policies out of Washington concerning the border might need to be looked at.

    RAY SUAREZ: Sheriff Estrada, you heard Capt. Wilson talking about a mostly rural area. Nogales is one of the major crossings in your part of the country. How are the problems different there?

    TONY ESTRADA: Well, I guess we have a rugged, remote terrain, you know, valleys, canyons that, obviously, are very attractive for these organizations to move drugs and people.

    So, we have always had that challenge of having to deal with those remote areas where you actually have very little ways of detecting that type of activity and that type of movement. We're not seeing the violence, obviously, that the sheriff -- or the captain mentioned that he's having in his area.

    And I think that's very important to recognize that and be mindful that the dynamics change tremendously from border to border.

    RAY SUAREZ: And when we look at a place like Nogales, would we, if we were to visit the border today, see more in the way of actual physical barriers so that people can't cross on foot as easily any longer?

    TONY ESTRADA: Oh, definitely. They have more barriers, obviously more walls, more sensors, more floodlights, a lot more technology that has been applied along the border, which makes it more and more difficult.

    But you still have the major thoroughfare from Sonora that connects to the major highways here in Arizona and the major hubs of Tucson and Phoenix. So, this is a major corridor for drugs and people. It's going to continue. It's going to continue. They're going to find ways.

    We have had tunnels. Since 1995, about 100 drug tunnels have been discovered. So, people will come through the ports either making false claims, false documents, they have overstayed with their visa, they will go under the fence, over the fence, around the fence. So it just doesn't stop. So, the border is secure in a certain way, but you can't have perfect security. That's not attainable.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, you heard Capt. Wilson mention that he just needs more people. What do you need?

    TONY ESTRADA: Well, definitely.

    We're a small department with a small budget, with major challenges along the border. Obviously, we need more funding, and we're getting some more funding from the federal government. Department of Homeland Security is providing that Stonegarden funds, which puts extra people out there to hot spots in Santa Cruz County, which is partnering with Border Patrol and very helpful not only to help them out, but to provide more security for the residents and the visitors of Santa Cruz County.

    RAY SUAREZ: Capt. Wilson, does the immigration bill that is currently working its way through Congress hold any promise to get you closer to your goals in securing the border?

    ROBERT WILSON: No, I don't believe so.

    Even if this immigration bill comes -- is passed and comes to light, I believe that they're still going to continue to come across the border in Hudspeth County, and all along Texas and the United States, and the cartels and their activity with drug smuggling and the things that they do, that's not going to stop that.

    RAY SUAREZ: And how about you, Sheriff Estrada? Does the current proposed immigration bill now in the Senate hold any promise and any help for Santa Cruz County?

    TONY ESTRADA: I think it will. I think it will make a difference.

    There are still some triggers obviously that are going to make a difference to make sure that we don't repeat the mistake that we made in the 1980s with the amnesty at that time. But we need to continue to focus and be mindful and understand that it is a border. It's a robust border. It's an active border. It's a dynamic border.

    And we're going to continue to have those issues. If the United States consumes over 50 percent of the world's drugs, then we have an issue with consumption here. If we also have poverty along the world, there's going to be people that are going to keep coming in. That's the reality of the whole thing. Irregardless of immigration reform, which will be a good step forward, it's not going to eliminate the problem.

    RAY SUAREZ: Capt. Wilson, are you being asked to do too much? Is the federal government taking enough of the burden for watching such a big chunk of frontier off of your shoulder and your department's shoulders?

    ROBERT WILSON: Well, Hudspeth County is 5,000 square miles.

    We have 10 regular deputies to work this problem. They use overtime from the state. We call it “Border Star.” Our guys are out there all the time after their shift. I think the Border Patrol is doing -- doing what they can do with what they're allowed to do. And that basically -- I don't think you could put enough guys in these places to curb all of the drug trafficking and immigration problems.

    RAY SUAREZ: Sheriff Tony Estrada, Capt. Robert Wilson, gentlemen, thank you both.

    TONY ESTRADA: Thank you. 


    0 0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: Dolly Parton's longtime passion project, passing on the gift of reading.

    The NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has the story.

    JOHN MERROW: Most of you are probably familiar with Dolly Parton, but to some, Parton is more than a country music star.

    DOLLY PARTON, Founder, Imagination Library: Everywhere I go, the kids call me “the book lady.”

    JOHN MERROW: The book lady? It's not surprising to these children.

    CHILD: I love reading books. Reading is my favorite thing

    CHILD: My favorite was “Tortoise and the Hare.”

    CHILD: No, “David and David Goes back to school.”

    JOHN MERROW: Where do the books come from?

    CHILD: Dolly Parton.

    CHILD: Dolly Parton.

    CHILD: Dolly Parton sent me the books.

    JOHN MERROW: In 1996, Dolly Parton created what she calls the Imagination Library to send free books to homes like this one.

    MADELYN, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.: I like this once because it reminds me of my grandma.

    MAE LEA BARKER, Grandmother: If she hadn't had those books, she wouldn't have had anything until she started kindergarten.

    JOHN MERROW: Madelyn and her great-grandmother, Mae Lea Barker, live in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

    MAE LEA BARKER: Maddy was a -- she very quiet when she was little because she was just moved around so much. She would always either have to be with her mother or her father. And I think the books, she carried them with her a lot of times. I mean, that was hers. She had something that she could call hers.

    CHILD: The little girl has a great imagination like me. She thinks of a monster. It's a green monster right here. And the granny tells her not to worry.

    DOLLY PARTON: We send these books to them in their little name, with their name on it. They look forward to go into the mailbox. This is theirs. This is mine. So I am going to either learn to read it, or I'm going to make somebody teach me how to read it.

    JOHN MERROW: It all starts here, at birth. At this hospital in her hometown of Sevier County, Tenn., every newborn gets a free book.

    WOMAN: I have been here three-and-a-half years at LeConte in the labor delivery, and I have given probably 500 books to new moms.

    JOHN MERROW: Families in Sevier County can also sign up at the library. Each child receives 60 free books, one every month, until age five.

    DOLLY PARTON: It really, really started out as a very personal thing for me. And it was originally just meant for the folks in my home county because of my dad. There were not books in our house growing up. And my dad could not read nor write. It was a very crippling thing for him. My daddy was such a brilliant man.

    JOHN MERROW: What started in one rural Tennessee county 17 years ago has spread to 1,400 communities across the United States, England and Canada. Each affiliate raises money to pay for books and mailing, $2.00 dollars each. The Imagination Library takes care of the rest, right here, where it all began.

    DAVID DOTSON, President, Dollywood Foundation: Our belief was that, oftentimes, the most powerful things are the most simple things.

    JOHN MERROW: David Dotson is president of the Dollywood Foundation. This international organization with a $20 million dollar budget produces and distributes almost 700,000 books a month.

    DAVID DOTSON: I think what we are about is the emotional tie to books, that if children love something, they will continue to do it.

    WOMAN: Both of the girls are excellent readers, just ahead of where they should be in reading. I think it makes a big difference when you have this huge library of books.

    There's so much to choose from. I don't know that we would be able to afford to buy all of those books for our children. And it’s nice to know that we don't have to make that decision. We don't have to choose between a book and something else for the kids. It's just -- that just comes to our mailbox.

    JOHN MERROW: The value of reading to children is well-documented. Kids who have books in their homes and are read to regularly are more likely to succeed in school.

    REBECCA SMOCK, Teacher, Pigeon Forge Elementary School: We can definitely always tell if a child's been read to at home. Their vocabularies are so much larger.

    JOHN MERROW: Rebecca Smock teaches pre-K at Pigeon Forge Elementary School.

    REBECCA SMOCK: What do you use with a hammer?

    CHILD: To nail.

    REBECCA SMOCK: Nail, that's right.

    I think if you see if that literacy is a big deal at their house, then they're going to really -- they just kind of embrace that more when they come to school. And they're ready for it.

    Where is he sleeping?

    CLASS: In the flower.

    REBECCA SMOCK: In the flower.

    DOLLY PARTON: The older I get, the more appreciative I seem to be of the book lady title. It's makes me feel more like a legitimate person, not just a singer or an entertainer. But it makes me feel like I have done something good with -- with my life and with my success.

    JOHN MERROW: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has now given children almost 50 million free books. 


    Loading...

older | 1 | .... | 225 | 226 | (Page 227) | 228 | 229 | .... | 1175 | newer


Loading...