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

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    Watch Video After security forces attempted to forcibly shut down Pro-Morsi sit-ins, the country erupted into chaotic violence that has left hundreds dead and thousands reported injured. President Barack Obama addressed press from Martha's Vineyard Thursday.

    CHILMARK, Mass. -- President Barack Obama on Thursday canceled joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises, saying America's traditional cooperation with Egypt "cannot continue as usual" while violence and instability deepen in the strategically important nation.

    It's unclear whether scrapping the Bright Star exercise will have any impact in stopping the clashes between Egypt's military-backed interim government and supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Obama said his administration would look at possible further steps, but he gave no indication that the U.S. planned to cut off its $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.

    Speaking from his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, Obama said the U.S. wants democracy in Egypt to succeed. But he said achieving that outcome is not the responsibility of the United States.

    "America cannot determine the future of Egypt," Obama said in his first statement since violence erupted Wednesday. "That's a task for the Egyptian people. We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure."

    More than 500 people have died in Egypt since Wednesday in clashes between the interim government and Morsi's supporters. The government has declared a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.

    Obama said the United States informed Egypt's interim leaders Thursday morning about plans to cancel the military exercises. The president also ordered his national security team to "assess the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship."

    The Bright Star maneuvers, long a centerpiece of the deep ties between the U.S. and Egyptian militaries, were scheduled to begin next month and last about three weeks. Several other countries, including Turkey, Jordan and Britain, have also participated.

    The U.S. and Egypt have not held the biennial exercises since 2009, as Egypt grappled with the fallout from the revolution that ousted its longtime autocratic leaders Hosni Mubarak. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012 during Egypt's first democratic elections.

    Critics of Morsi expressed increasing concern over the past year that he was cracking down on democracy. He was ousted by the military on July 3, and his whereabouts remain a mystery.

    The U.S. has refrained from declaring Morsi's ouster a coup, a step that would require the Obama administration to suspend its military aid. Officials have said such a move would not be in line with American interests.

    "We appreciate the complexity of the situation," Obama said Thursday. "While Mohammed Morsi was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians."

    The president urged all parties in Egypt to refrain from further violence, calling it a "dangerous path." He said Egypt would have "false starts" in its efforts to embrace democracy and recalled America's own "mighty struggles to perfect our union."

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    By Paul Solman

    Is there really an economic consensus that unemployment is cyclical, as Paul Krugman suggests? Photo courtesy of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    Liberal economist and much-respected friend Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, where he keeps the Beat the Press blog, has appeared on PBS NewsHour often over the years, and recently on these pages in "Don't Blame the Robots." He appeared here again Wednesday, decrying what he called the media's "mindless" budget reporting.

    But when he wrote on his blog on Aug. 3 that "[t]he PBS Newshour won the gold medal for journalistic malpractice on Friday (Aug. 2) by having David Brooks and Ruth Marcus tell the country what the Friday jobs report means," he seemed curiously harsh and patently partisan.

    "Brooks and Marcus got just about everything they said completely wrong," Baker continued. "Starting at the beginning, Brooks noted the slower than projected job growth and told listeners: 'Yes, I think there's a consensus growing both on left and right that we -- the structural problems are becoming super obvious...'"

    BROOKS AND MARCUS On Unfinished Business as Congress Leaves for August Break

    But, Baker insisted, "It's hard to know what on earth Brooks thinks he is talking about. There is nothing close to a consensus on either the left or right that the economy's problems are structural, as opposed to a simple lack of demand (i.e. people spending money). This is shown clearly by the overwhelming support on the Federal Reserve Board for its policy of quantitative easing."

    In a post on his New York Times blog, "Conscience of a Liberal," another long-featured NewsHour commentator and key protagonist on the Making Sen$e Business Desk, Paul Krugman, enthusiastically seconded Baker's condemnation and called the previous day's Brooks/Marcus discussion on unemployment "structural humbug."

    He began: "OK, this is really depressing. The PBS Newshour isn't always a good place to get the best analysis, but it's a terrific place to take the pulse of Washington conventional wisdom -- and as Baker notes, that conventional wisdom has clearly swung to the view that our high unemployment is 'structural', not something that could be solved simply by boosting demand."

    "In short, the data strongly point toward a cyclical, not a structural story," Krugman concluded, "and there is broad agreement, for once, among economists on this point. Yet somehow, it's clear, Beltway groupthink has arrived at the opposite conclusion -- so much so that the actual economic consensus on this issue wasn't even represented on the Newshour."

    "As I said, this is really, really depressing," he finished.

    Now, as his readers know, Krugman is easily depressed. Indeed, in 2009 singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III serenaded an audience with "The Paul Krugman Blues," which features this verse:

    "When Paul goes on the NewsHour, To talk to old Jim Lehrer, He looks so sad and crestfallen It's more than I can bear."

    Baker is rather more chipper, even taking me on an economic silver lining tour during the depths of the Crash of '08. And there is no "Dean Baker Blues" of which I am aware.

    Look, folks, there may indeed be no "consensus growing on left and right" about the predominance of structural unemployment, as David Brooks alleged. Just look at how vigorously Krugman and Baker took the other side. But I rather doubt Krugman's assertion that there is an "actual economic consensus" on the unemployment debate that favors his cyclical explanation to the exclusion of the structural. Unless, of course, Krugman means a consensus among economists he agrees with.

    A confession: Brooks is a friend for whom I have great respect, as I do for Ruth Marcus. And, of course, I work for the NewsHour covering economics and have done so for 28 years now. So readers would sympathize, I trust, were I to reflexively defend all parties under attack, even though the attackers are also people I have long known and respected.

    But quite apart from sentiments and loyalties, I think Baker and Krugman were not simply being ungenerous, but misleading. Is it really "humbug" to suggest that there's a mismatch between employers and job seekers in today's U.S. economy?

    Krugman followed up the day after his critique with his definition of "structural unemployment": it is "the assertion that the 'full-employment' rate of unemployment, the level of unemployment at which prices and wages start to rise and you risk a wage-price spiral, has increased. When that happens, you can't solve the unemployment problem just by getting someone to spend more and thereby increasing demand; when it hasn't happened, you can."

    Well, that is one definition, which Krugman elaborated on in 2010. But usually, when people speak of "structural unemployment," they mean something more casual: a mismatch between jobs and workers that's built into the economy, at least for some extended period of time.

    Here's what Brooks went on to say on the NewsHour on August 3:

    When "this recession started a number of years ago, you had 63, something like that, out of 100 Americans in the labor force. Now we're down, fewer than when the recession started (below 59 percent employment/population ratio). And so that suggests we have got some deep structural problems. It probably has a lot to do with technological change. People are not hiring -- companies are not hiring human beings. They're hiring machines.

    "It probably has to do with a skills shortage, that as technology increases, skills have got to keep up and skills are just not keeping up. It has to do with some sociological changes, men dropping out of the labor force, women, and especially young women, never entering the labor force.

    "And so these are deep structural changes. And I think there's a consensus growing that something really fundamental has shifted in the economy."

    Now Brooks could be wrong about his points of emphasis, of course. His "probably's" acknowledge as much. He didn't mention that the baby boom has begun to retire, for example, and that surely lowers the employment-to-population ratio. It has also been pointed out that workers whose homes are "underwater," or worth less than their mortgages, may not be able to move and take jobs elsewhere in the country. Heck, employers may simply be unwilling to hire people at wages that Americans will accept because of what was once called "the reserve army of the unemployed," as I wrote here last year and chronicled on the NewsHour at a Mott's Apple Sauce factory strike soon after. But Brooks wasn't pretending to come up with a comprehensive list. And the employment-to-population ratio from before the Great Recession until today is just as he remembered it:

    The above chart shows the Bureau of Labor Statistics' seasonally-adjusted employment-to-population ratio for individuals 16 and over from the Current Population Survey.

    This isn't a debate that's likely to be resolved by whether or not inflation has reared its head. And of course Krugman and Baker are right in suggesting that government activism can solve the unemployment problem. All it has to do is create enough jobs that people are willing to take another batch of alphabet soup agencies like President Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), chronicled by PBS's "American Experience," or my own thought experiment, the Mass Massage Mobilization (MMM), which I suggested to Krugman during an interview this spring.

    But CCC jobs paid a dollar a day plus minimal room and board, the equivalent of between $17 and $50 for an eight-hour day in today's dollars, according to the Measuring Worth calculator, which comes to less than the minimum wage by even the most liberal conversion formula. Would enough people take the jobs? At some wage, they would. But is the answer to "cyclical unemployment" really for government to create jobs and pay wages high enough to get us to "full employment"?

    Unlike Krugman and Baker, my main job for 36 years now has been to interview not only economists like them, but hirers and hirees, firers and firees. I've done so through both recessions and recoveries alike. I wheedled soundbites out of the drearily downhearted high tech-workers of the late 1970s and spoke to the happily hopeful hires of the late 1990s.

    THE SOLMAN SCALE Is Baby Boomer Retirement Behind the Drop in July's Unemployment Rate?

    So yes, it's true: the economy has cycled up and down. Yes, there was "full employment" as recently as the late 1990s under President Bill Clinton -- down near 4 percent just before the dot.com crash, though you could hardly call Clinton's spending policies Keynesian at the time, since he was building budget surpluses (net of Social Security and Medicare), taking money out of the economy instead of adding to the annual deficit and thus raising our cumulative national debt.

    And yes, it's true: the same thing happened at the end of President George W. Bush's second term -- we had near-full employment -- just before the Crash of '08.

    But one counter argument is that the higher you fly, the harder you fall -- that the "full employment" of 2000 and 2008 were bubble-fueled mirages: the Internet bubble of '90s; the housing bubble of "the aughts."

    Another counter is that for decades now, official unemployment has been severely undercounted, an argument that Baker has convincingly made himself. We first reported this on the NewsHour in a story called "Non-working Numbers" back in 2003 when the term "jobless recovery" first came into vogue. We followed up in 2009 and in January of 2011, inaugurated our own more inclusive measure of under- and unemployment, "U-7," which we update the first Friday of every month in lockstep with the release of the government's official unemployment number, aka "U-3."

    None of the above is meant to argue that cyclicality plays no role in the unemployment rate. The chart below doesn't adjust for the official undercounting of unemployment, which began in the mid-'90s. If it did, the recent peaks would be much higher. But who would wish to contest the roller-coaster nature of the U.S. job market?

    Bureau of Labor Statistics' historical unemployment rate reflects the roller-coaster nature of the U.S. job market.

    Cyclical and structural unemployment are not mutually exclusive. A 2011 paper from the San Francisco Fed attributed 60 percent of long-term unemployment to cyclicality and 40 percent to structural factors.

    Conservatives like Brooks may think that corporate tax cuts will address the structural problem. Liberals like Baker and Krugman may think that's nonsense. Fair enough. But to deride Brooks and Marcus for suggesting that structural unemployment plays an important role these days seems, if not "humbug," to be at the very least intellectually stinting. Scrooge-like, even. For more on the structural/cyclical debate, here's one of our Making Sen$e reports from 2011.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The official toll in Wednesday's crackdown in Egypt rose sharply today to 638 dead and some 4,000 hurt. Supporters of the former President Mohammed Morsi claimed that casualties were far higher, and they vowed not to give in.

    Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News reports from Cairo.

    And a warning: Some of the images in his story are graphic.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: In a mosque in eastern Cairo, grief and disbelief, after Egypt's government killed hundreds of its own people on a single day.

    The Iman mosque is full of bodies. We reckoned around 200, though in this chaos, it was hard to tell, the dead and the living jostling for space. One coffin was being used as an ice bucket to keep the bodies cool, but in the heat of a Cairo summer, the ice kept running low.

    They are trying to keep the place clean, but a religious sanctuary has become a morgue. This doctor told me most had been shot in the chest or head. Many were badly burned.

    Scores of bodies are still in this mosque because they haven't been claimed by their relatives, sometimes because they're too badly burned to be recognized. The word massacre does seem to fit the picture here.

    Egypt's own Health Ministry now admits that over 200 people died near here yesterday. But the government blames the protesters.

    MAN: We will continue to going to the streets peacefully until they kill us all. This is our message for them. We will not carry guns. We will always be peaceful. And we will die. That's it, because yesterday what happened -- today, you can see here there are people are burned alive, not alive, but people are burned. You cannot even recognize them. their relatives can't recognize them. How the hell they did this?

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: In Giza, though, there was violence. State televisions said hundreds of supporters of Egypt's ousted president had stormed and torched local government buildings this afternoon.

    And the Interior Ministry has been honoring its dead, 43 policemen reported killed yesterday in the pursuit of security and safety, the ministry said, Egypt ratcheting up its martyrs on both sides of its bitter divide.

    This is where most of those dead protesters we filmed were killed. The government assault against them lasted over 12 hours. Their sprawling six-week-old tent city was burned to the ground, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

    Tomorrow thousands of Egyptian were camped out here yesterday, until police snipers and bulldozers moved in, a scorched-earth policy that's put the army back in control -- hundreds of abandoned shoes evidence perhaps of a terrifyingly fast retreat. These streets are now being cleared at breakneck speed.

    And Egyptian tourists are taking photographs of a crime scene they are delighted to see erased.

    "I'm happy the protesters have gone," this woman told me. "They are terrorists, and I hope they stay away from here forever. They are not good for Egypt."

    Behind her and gutted by fire, the mosque from where the Muslim Brotherhood hoped to engineer a second Arab spring which would see its toppled leader reinstated. But a short drive away, the Brotherhood's anger still boils. "Egypt will stay Islamic," they chant. "We have God on our side."

    Yesterday, they were shot in their hundreds. But their demands for justice have not died with them.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama today issued his first statement on yesterday's events in Egypt and announced the U.S. is scrapping joint exercises with the Egyptian military next month.

    He spoke from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where he's vacationing.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces.

    We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom or that might makes right.

    But, while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.

    As a result, this morning, we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise, which was scheduled for next month. Going forward, I have asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.

    Let me say that the Egyptian people deserve better than what we've seen over the last several days. And to the Egyptian people, let me say, the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop. We call on the Egyptian authorities to respect the universal rights of the people. We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully, and condemn the attacks that we've seen by protesters, including on churches.

    We believe that the state of emergency should be lifted, that a process of national reconciliation should begin, that all parties need to have a voice in Egypt's future, that the rights of women and religious minorities should be respected, and the commitments must be kept to pursue transparent reforms of the constitution and democratic elections of a parliament and a president.

    America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That's a task for the Egyptian people. We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure. I know it's tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what's gone wrong.

    We've been blamed by supporters of Morsi. We've been blamed by the other side as if we are supporters of Morsi. That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve. We want Egypt to succeed. We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt. That's our interest. But to achieve that, the Egyptians are going to have to do the work.

    I want to be clear that America wants to be a partner in the Egyptian people's pursuit of a better future, and we are guided by our national interest in this longstanding relationship. But our partnership must also advance the principles that we believe in, and that so many Egyptians have sacrificed for these last several years, no matter what party or faction they belong to.

    So, America will work with all those in Egypt and around the world who support a future of stability that rests on a foundation of justice and peace and dignity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president stopped short of suspending $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt. But is that the right decision, given the ouster of President Morsi last month and yesterday's violence?

    For answers, I'm joined by former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns. He's now a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a senior foreign affairs columnist at GlobalPost. And Joe Stork, he is deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch.

    Gentlemen, we thank you both for being here.

    Ambassador Burns, to you first. What's your reaction to what the president said?

    NICHOLAS BURNS, former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs: Judy, I think the president had to say what he said today, given the horrific, brutal attacks by the Egyptian military on their own people. The president had to condemn them.

    He had to distance the United States from the military government in Egypt, which he did. He had to cancel this very important joint exercise. As you mentioned, what he didn't do was sever all relations with the government and he didn't announce that the United States would cut off aid.

    And here is the big dilemma for the Obama administration. We have sometimes competing interests both in Egypt and in the wider Middle East. On the one hand, we have to be identified with human rights. That's the kind of country that we are. That's our history. We have to stand up and condemn a government like the government in Cairo when they act in this reprehensible manner.

    But, on the other hand, the United States has very important security and economic interests in Egypt. It's the keystone country of the Middle East. The peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, the Camp David accords that Jimmy Carter negotiated are critical and are the bedrock of our policy in the entire region. And Egypt has been a real partner of the United States, as you know, in countering terrorism in the region and also in trying to restrain and contain Iran.

    There's the dilemma for the president. How far do we go? I think the strategy here, Judy, by the United States government is to use the influence we have to push the military authorities towards some kind of a plan that would give some hope to the Egyptian people, a revised constitution, new elections, and hopefully the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in the political process.

    That's why I think they didn't announce the cutoff of aid today and why they hope to use that influence to push the Egyptian government in the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Joe Stork, do you think the president struck the right balance today?

    JOE STORK, Human Rights Watch: I think he probably did, although I certainly think the question -- aid remains an important part of the picture.

    I mean, he took a first step, I would say, in terms of making a very symbolic and visible high-profile decision like he did. But I think one of the problems is I can't tell you today that cutting off the aid or reducing the aid or suspending the aid would make a difference in Egypt today.

    So, I mean, if that's part of our calculation, that's part of the reason for doing it in terms of that is improving the situation, I'm not sure it would work. We would just be playing into a dynamic where the Egyptian military currently is riding a wave of popular nationalism and xenophobia that is -- as the president mentioned, is very hostile to...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about -- what we just heard Ambassador Burns say, on the one hand, there has to be a consideration for human rights. On the other hand, the U.S. has serious national interests in Egypt.

    JOE STORK: It does, although I don't think that the treaty with Israel and so forth, the things that sort of were the treaty bedrock for the military aid, I don't think that's, frankly, very important.

    And I wouldn't hold that up for too much consideration. I think the reason for doing -- taking that further step now would be primarily to further...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean cutting off the aid.

    JOE STORK: Cutting off the aid or portions of it would be to even more strongly signal -- distance the United States from the appearance of any complicity with the actions that the military has taken.

    I think there might be a further step, though. We're looking at a very, very polarized, dangerously polarized situation, where the facts on the ground are not entirely clear. On the one hand, the scale of the carnage yesterday -- and, in fact, since July 3 -- certainly would suggest there's been a lot of excessive use of force, a lot of unlawful killings by the authorities.

    But I think those facts are highly disputed. The perceptions are very different in Egypt, and I think some sort of -- frankly, I think the United States now should work internationally with its allies, but also in the context of the U.N., exercise its role in the Security Council and the Human Rights Council.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask, Ambassador Burns, what about the argument, though, that is out there that even if cutting off military aid right now wouldn't change the behavior of Egypt's leaders, it would at least make a powerful statement about where the U.S. stands, what its principles are with regard to what happened yesterday?

    NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, I think, Judy, every American administration has to answer the question, do we want to have a foreign policy of protest or a foreign policy where you're really focused on trying to make a difference?

    In some ways, it might have been easier for the president to have gone out today and condemned, as he did, what the Egyptian military did, and also say that he was going to take away the aid, because I think there will be congressional pressure towards that end, and a number of American allies, particularly in Europe, are going to want to take that same measure.

    But, on the other hand, the United States remains the most influential outsider -- outside country, outside force in the Middle East. We have very important security interests, not only in Egypt, but we certainly do in that peace agreement with Israel. And that's the bedrock concern of the Israelis.

    And I think there's an appreciation, Judy, that these Arab revolutions are going to go on and on and on. This is not going to be a short drama. They may be at the end of act one of a five-act play that will go on for a generation. So the calculation by the administration, which I think is right, is that you have to stay in the fight, you have to guard the influence you have, and you have got to use that influence behind the scenes.

    And I think you will see that happening. You saw that our secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, called General al-Sisi, the authoritarian leader of Egypt.


    NICHOLAS BURNS: And he said the military relationship is at risk. That is a warning to the Egyptian government. If they don't come forward with a plan for political reform, the United States could take the more drastic action in the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Joe Stork, we just heard Ambassador Burns say the U.S. is certainly among, if not the most powerful player in the region, and yet we heard the president today say the U.S. can't determine Egypt's future. So what is the influence?

    JOE STORK: Well, I think the fact that Chuck Hagel made these 15 or 18 calls to General al-Sisi over the last three weeks -- and we saw the results yesterday -- indicates -- is one indication of the limits of U.S. influence.

    Also, you know, the U.S. aid, this $1.5 billion, it's not small change, but on the other hand, it ain't what it used to be in 1979 or 1999, and we're looking at a situation where Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait are pouring in funds to support the general. So, it's not as easy a picture and equation as it used to be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Burns, so, in a way, you're both saying there are limits to U.S. influence.

    NICHOLAS BURNS: I think there are.

    I served in Egypt 30 years ago, Judy. We were -- we had much more influence then than we do now, but we still have influence. There's no other country in Europe or in Asia that has more influence than the United States does in Egypt, and for one reason, really. We have had a 30-year relationship with the Egyptian military.

    All those senior officers in Egypt have studied in our military schools. They have friendships with American military officers. They have been trained by us, and they use American equipment. That does give us influence, and I think the power of our country does as well.

    So I wouldn't minimize that. And I think the strategy we saw today was to try to use that influence, but maybe in a more nuanced way, behind the scenes, not in front of the cameras. I think, Judy, in that sense, this story will play out now over the next few weeks.

    But if there are more...


    NICHOLAS BURNS: If there are more manifestations of killings, of direct fire into civilians as -- in the coming weeks as we saw this week, then I think the patience of the United States could and should wear out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Joe Stork, what do you...

    JOE STORK: I think we're likely to see that, frankly.

    We're looking at security forces that have behaved this way time and time again. I'm afraid we don't see any indication that they're going to suddenly do the right thing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so that's what you expect to happen? You expect them not to...

    JOE STORK: The situation to worsen.

    Yes, I expect there's going to be an escalation. And maybe this has to -- the question of U.S. aid, among many other things, has to remain on the table. There may come a time for that. Maybe because the situation is likely to worsen, you want to keep it on the table.

    But I think the key thing now is to work with allies, the Europeans especially, but also other countries, Latin America and so forth, in the U.N. forums to basically surround Egypt diplomatically.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you both.

    Joe Stork, Ambassador Nicholas Burns, thank you.

    NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you.


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    KWAME HOLMAN: At least 33 people were killed in a series of car bombings across Baghdad today. They're the latest in a surge of attacks that have killed 3,000 Iraqis since April. The bombings hit across the capital city, destroying cars and shops. No group claimed responsibility, but Sunni militants frequently are blamed for such attacks.

    A car bomber also struck in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 280. The target was a residential area in the south of the city, a stronghold for the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. The blast set fire to buildings and sent emergency workers and crowds scurrying to help victims. Dozens of people were trapped inside apartment houses hit by the blast.

    In California, state officials announced today a new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will open over Labor Day weekend, as planned. There had been talk of a delay after inspectors found more than 30 cracked seismic safety bolts. The $6 billion bridge has had a series of setbacks. A temporary fix for the bolts is planned for now. A permanent fix could be finished in mid-December.

    The marching band at Florida A&M University will return to performing at football games on September 1. That announcement today comes nearly two years after the band was suspended over the hazing-related death of drum major Robert Champion. Since then, the school has enacted anti-hazing policies and put restrictions on band membership.

    Wall Street had a tough day, after Cisco and Wal-Mart issued disappointing earnings and outlooks. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 225 points to close at 15,112. The NASDAQ fell 63 points to close at 3.606.

    Those are some of the day's major stories.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we return again to the issue of sexual assault in the military.

    Today, the Defense Department brass unveiled new initiatives to combat the problem. That comes as legislation with stricter guidelines for how the armed forces should deal with assaults continues to gain momentum.

    JESSICA WRIGHT, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness: The bottom line is, sexual assault is not tolerated, not condoned. It's not ignored.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pentagon officials today rolled out new initiatives on preventing and responding to sexual assault in the military.

    Jessica Wright is acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

    JESSICA WRIGHT: Everyone in the department, from the newest enlistee to the secretary of defense and everyone in between, are responsible to uphold our values and continue an environment of dignity and respect for all.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Among other things, the new measures include creating a legal advocacy program in each military service and ensuring that military prosecutors handle all pretrial investigative hearings.

    The problem has come into stark relief in recent months. A Pentagon study in May found that an estimated 26,000 troops were sexually assaulted last year, but only 3,400 attacks were reported. At a June hearing, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York argued that victims have little reason to expect fair treatment.

    SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.: Not all commanders are objective. Not every single commander necessarily wants women in the force; not every single commander believes what a sexual assault is; not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape, because they have merged all of these crimes together.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Gillibrand and her 46 legislative co-sponsors in the Senate want sexual assault cases handled entirely outside the chain of command. The Senate Armed Services Committee has rejected that approach, in favor of one offered by its chairman, Carl Levin of Michigan.

    It keeps prosecutions within the chain of command. Today, Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti said there's ample opportunity for victims to be heard.

    LT. GEN. CURTIS SCAPARROTTI, Department of Defense: Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines know that today, there's about 10 avenues for them to report. And they also know that when they do report, it immediately goes to a military investigation office in law enforcement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For her part, Senator Gillibrand voiced disappointment with the Pentagon's response. In a statement, she said: "It is not the leap forward required to solve the problem. There is a lack of trust in the system that has a chilling effect on reporting."

    Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today ordered military leaders to base decisions in sexual assault cases only on the facts and their independent judgment.

    That's after President Obama said this in May.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we find out somebody's engaging in this stuff, they have got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged, period.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Defense attorneys have since argued that President Obama's statement constituted undue command influence in judicial proceedings, and they have gotten charges dismissed or verdicts changed, in at least two sexual assault cases.

    And we assess the new measures now with Susan Burke, a lawyer who specializes in defending women in military sexual assault cases, and retired Army Major General John Altenburg. He had a 28-year military career, retiring in 2001. He served as the second highest ranking lawyer of his service and is now in private practice.

    And welcome to both of you.

    SUSAN BURKE, attorney: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let's just get a reaction, starting with you, Susan Burke, to the Pentagon's new initiatives.

    SUSAN BURKE: Well, I'm very disappointed.

    The reality is that the military has been on notice at least since 1991, the Tailhook scandal. They have been on notice that they need to take dramatic measures to change the way that the prosecution of rapes and sexual assaults are handled. Right now, there's less than 1 percent of the predators being convicted. It's dismal.

    They have got a serious embedded sexual predation problem. Yet what we see today are just minor tweaks, most of which have already been in place in at least one of the services in the past. What we really need to do is grapple with this at a system level. There needs to be fundamental reform.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right. We will come back to specifics.

    But, first, John Altenburg, your reaction?

    MAJ. GEN. JOHN ALTENBURG, retired U.S. Army: Well, I would split what DOD has done into two categories.

    One is directed to help the victims. And there's three of those, to change the executive orders so that they will have a right to be at a sentencing hearing. Another is that they -- that the accused will be moved away, there will be provisions to move the accused out of the unit, rather than moving the victim. And the third is the sexual victim advocacy spreading across the DOD.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you see these as new initiatives, new...

    MAJ. GEN. JOHN ALTENBURG: Well, the sexual victim going across the services is new. It's been tried in one service so far.

    And then there are some systemic things also, the idea of making judge advocates do the 32s, instead of line officers, and then the I.G. reviewing the investigations of the various services. Those are different and those are more systemic and not directed toward the victim...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so why are those not enough? Or you think they're just not getting at the problem? What is the problem?

    SUSAN BURKE: They're not getting at the problem.

    First off, there's a focus on kind of care and support for the victims. What there needs to be a focus on is to lock up sexual predators. And nothing addresses that. They haven't grappled with those issues at all.

    And so what you have to do is say, why do we have a problem in the military? Why is the military failing to put people in jail at the same rates as the civilian authorities are putting people in jail? And it gets back to an inherent bias.

    Right now, the decision-maker, the person who has control over the adjudicatory process, is not a trained prosecutor who thinks about public safety issues, thinks about winning prosecutions. Instead, it's someone who is the boss of the predator or the boss of the victim, or both.

    And so you have that inherent -- that inherent tension that this person who is being -- the chain of command that's being tasked with making the decision, his own career interests begin to play in. He is not the type of impartial person that we expect to have this kind of power.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, this goes to the chain of command issue that Senator Gillibrand has talked a lot about.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Why is that -- why is that still in place? Why is that important, the military -- even today, the Pentagon is not changing that.

    MAJ. GEN. JOHN ALTENBURG: Well, because the commander is the only one that can really effect change in the institution.

    And the commander is the one that can change the culture that she's talking about. And that's why we have made sure the commanders are the convening authorities. They in fact have the advice and council of prosecutors at every level from 03, to 05, to 06, and the general officers also and the admirals. And the prosecutors are very involved, as engaged as the prosecutors are in the civilian sector.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But even in these new guidelines, if it's -- if the case -- if the -- one of the ideas is to get the investigators involved more up front. Why not bypass the commander and just take it right to the lawyers the investigators?

    MAJ. GEN. JOHN ALTENBURG: Well, that's -- first of all, that's been happening for years, that the investigators are involved up front.

    The investigation have been done completely independent of the chain of command for years. Command doesn't direct investigations. That's a myth that's been exploited by some.

    I couldn't disagree with Susan more about comparing the prosecution rates. I believe prosecutions are more aggressively done in the military, that there are more of them, and the conviction rates are as high or higher than they are in the civilian sector.

    SUSAN BURKE: The data just doesn't bear that out.

    First off, the reality is that the on-the-ground reality that we know from directly interviewing the victims, as well as directly interviewing commanders, is that in fact many -- many allegations are simply shut down.

    For example, we had one victim who went in to report the rape to her commander, and he said, listen, it was five minute of her life. Suck it up and get back to work. Shut down, never went to investigation.

    There are very -- there are a myriad different ways to sweep this under the rug. And commanders do it because it can serve their own interests. Now, I would note that Congress has been -- has asked for data in order to exercise their oversight functions. The military had a deadline of 2010 to put this data forward. They still haven't put it forward.

    So it's not a myth. The reality is that there is day-in and day-out miscarriages of justice. We need to focus on -- not on culture, not on changing the misogynistic culture. That needs to be done, but that's not what has to be done in order to solve this problem. This problem requires focusing on incarcerating predators.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, at that hearing, press conference today, they did go out of their way to say that this is a -- they are taking this very, very seriously.

    Now, that's what -- that's the picture you're seeing, that they are addressing this and have changed not only the culture, but the law?

    MAJ. GEN. JOHN ALTENBURG: They have been changing it for several years.

    It clearly took a while for them to understand that -- the scope of the problem that they had in the military. But, in the last five years, they have hired civilian prosecutors, special victim prosecutors. They have completely revamped the way they prosecute these cases. They have addressed all the issues that Susan raises.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think that this new initiative by the Pentagon in some ways takes the wind out of the sails of Senator Gillibrand or whatever is happening in...

    MAJ. GEN. JOHN ALTENBURG: I don't think it should take the wind out of her sails. I think she should be proud that her activism has caused the military to do more. And I think that these are very positive steps that the military has taken.

    But I will tell you, I could not disagree more with this aspect that they're talking about, the prosecution success in the military being somehow less than it is in the civilian sector. These are hard cases to try in both sectors. They're ugly cases.

    There are problems of proof, just the nature of the -- you know, sometimes no witnesses, other than the two people.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Where do you think things go now?

    SUSAN BURKE: Well, the reality is that the data shows that the prosecution and conviction rates are far lower.

    You are looking at less than 1 percent of the predators that have been caught being put in jail. I think that what you have to ask yourself is that the military's had two decades, 22 years, to solve this, and what they have been trying again and again is the same type of thing they're trying today.

    We, as a nation, really owe it to the service members to step in. Congress needs to step in when the military has proven itself unable to solve the problem. And so the members of Congress need to step up and say service members shouldn't get second-class justice. They're entitled to the same type of fair and impartial adjudication that you or I or the general is entitled to as civilians.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we're going to follow this as it goes through Congress.

    But, for now, Susan Burke, Major General John Altenburg, thank you both very much.

    MAJ. GEN. JOHN ALTENBURG: Thank you.

    SUSAN BURKE: Thank you.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next to Southeast Asia.

    The nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is home to one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, that according to the U.N. They are Muslims known as the Rohingya. And human rights groups say they have been recent targets of ethnic cleansing by their Buddhist neighbors.

    John Sparks of Independent Television News reports on the dangerous journey for those who try to leave.

    JOHN SPARKS: On a windswept stretch of the Bangladesh coast, there is a ragged-looking settlement hidden amongst the trees, home to thousands who've fled from neighboring Burma. They're Rohingya Muslims fleeing vicious ethnic violence in their homeland, but few want to stay, however. They have come here to find themselves a ship. They want to escape. And these people are desperate.

    MAN (through interpreter): What else can I do? I would rather die than remain here. The people call us terrible names and the police put us in jail. It's the same situation in Burma. What would you do?

    JOHN SPARKS: Inside a shabby-looking shack, our team found one group waiting for instructions, waiting for a telephone call to say their boat to Malaysia is ready.

    Recruited by brokers, they have been here waiting for days, some young, some old, all determined to leave. The brokers have charged them 200 pounds each, but the true cost of this crossing will be much higher. Rohingya board vessels off Burma or Bangladesh with one basic aim. They want to be taken south, past Thailand, and onto Malaysia, where they're permitted to stay.

    U.N. agencies think 35,000 people have attempted the journey in the last 12 months. And brokers told us there were several vessels used to transport Rohingya anchored in a Bangladeshi port. There are cargo ships that carry timber north and human beings on the return leg south. And they're not easy to identify. The names have been painted over.

    Our team had to film secretly. It's thought the men on board carry arms. And we saw a series of metal cages below deck. Rohingya who've made the journey told us it's where the women and children are held. The men are kept in the darkness below.

    We spoke to Mohammed, who spent 11 days in the bottom of a traffickers' ship.

    MAN (through interpreter): We were kept on one of three or four floors in the hold, like wooden shelves. We had to squeeze in next to each other. We couldn't move, and we weren't allowed to stand up.It was intolerable.

    JOHN SPARKS: The brokers promise passage to Malaysia, but the ships don't sail that far. There's business to be done in Thailand. Passengers are disembarked and held on Thai islands, like this one. It's called Tarutao, and it's a Thai national park. But we discovered the southern half wasn't being used for recreation.

    It's an isolated spot and, according to our contacts in the Rohingya community, the site of several secret prisons where hundreds of people are held captive.

    We're getting closer now. And we're all feeling pretty tense.It's been hard to find a boat that would take us here. Local people are scared of this place. And we don't know what sort of reception we're going to get.

    We skirted the islands southern tip, and saw smoke from a campfire rising through the trees, so we went in for a closer look. The area seemed deserted, but we weren't alone.

    There's clearly people there, though. We can hear the voices. We can hear people speaking. A man dressed in white emerged from the trees. He wasn't happy and told us to go.

    MAN: No, no, no, no!

    JOHN SPARKS: Our driver said the man was a camp guard, and we decided to flee. It was a dangerous place to be. Former captives on the island told us they were held by armed guards. And to release them, relatives have to pay a ransom of around 1,500 pounds.

    Rafiq spent 19 terrifying days on Tarutao island. It's an experience he longs to forget.

    MAN (through interpreter): They lined us up and gave us a mobile phone. We were told to call our relatives. They demand the money and beat us up. They beat us continually until they get the cash.

    JOHN SPARKS: Rafiq's father, Salamot, is not a wealthy man, but he did as he was told. He sold his cattle to free his son. And if prisoners are unable to get the money, to raise the ransom, well, they're sold as slave labor to Thai fishing boats, we're told.

    Here's Mohammed:

    MAN (through interpreter): If you can't raise the money, you get sold to fishermen. The brokers warn you about it.If your relatives don't have money, they will sell you.

    JOHN SPARKS: Allegations of forced labor on Thai fishing boats have surfaced before, but the mass trafficking of Rohingya is cloaked in secrecy. However, we managed to meet a member of a trafficking gang. He called himself Bo and told us he was charge of security on Tarutao island. I asked him whether he beats the prisoners.

    MAN (through interpreter): We beat them to make an example of them.

    JOHN SPARKS: And how do the traffickers avoid the attention of the Thai authorities? "Simple," he said. "They have paid bribes to 10 different police and military units in the last four months."

    MAN (through interpreter): It is like, when we give money to this group, the next group comes along. And it goes on and on.It never ends.

    JOHN SPARKS: Back on the mainland, the local police chief denied that his officers take bribes.

    MAN (through interpreter): I am strict here myself. That sort of thing doesn't happen here.

    JOHN SPARKS: The police and the military here are well aware that Tarutao island and others like it are used by the traffickers.You know that.

    MAN (through interpreter): I know, but we don't have the resources we need to keep an eye on them all the time. The provincial police don't have a boat, for example.

    JOHN SPARKS: There was a surprising development.

    As we continued our investigation, Thai police found a number of vessels and conducted a raid on the same spot we'd visited days earlier. They provided us with these pictures.In a jungle clearing, they found a multitude of anxious faces huddled together in rudimentary huts and plastic-wrapped long houses. Other prisoners were discovered in camps located further inland.

    A stop sign warned captives not to approach a nearby beach, while a guard tower loomed overhead. The traffickers' accounts were seized.Names of individual brokers are recorded here; 176 were plucked from the jungle and taken to this police station on the mainland. And they were tired and shaken by their ordeal.

    "They treated us like dogs," said this man. Some told us they that wanted to go to Australia, but their journey concluded with a trip to the local detention center.

    However, more Rohingya are sure to follow, for there is money to be made from their misery.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And to the story of something furry, carnivorous and just discovered. It's a brand-new species of mammal unveiled today in Washington by scientists at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the first found in the Americas in 35 years.

    The olinguito is a small, nocturnal animal, part of the raccoon family. Living in the trees of the mountainous cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia, it's managed to stay hidden from view or, in several intriguing cases, unrecognized as a different species.

    Here to talk about his find is zoologist Kristofer Helgen, who spent the last decade tracking the two pound critters.

    And welcome and congratulations.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN, Smithsonian Institution: Thank you very much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So tell us first about this critter. What is it?

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: Well, I want you to meet the olinguito.


    KRISTOFER HELGEN: So this is the latest -- latest addition to the raccoon family tree.

    Until now, it's been confused with another kind of animal called the olingo, but it's really quite a different animal. Now, we published today a scientific paper where we gave this animal, the olinguito, its scientific name for the very first time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, when you say it's been confused, that's part of the intriguing thing of this story, right? These have been around -- you found them where -- the evidence, first, in museum collections like this.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: That's exactly right.

    And the story of the olinguito is one of mistaken identity. And so I first realized this animal existed by finding specimens in museum collections that had been put in the wrong place, sort of identified as the wrong animal.

    But I realized as soon as I saw it the significance of this animal. It was first in the Chicago Field Museum. I pulled out of a drawer -- I was studying other members of the raccoon family, olingos, kinkajous. I pulled out a drawer and I saw some orange-red pelts with long, flowing fur.

    I looked at some skulls just like this one. And I looked at the skull. I saw teeth and bones of the skull that were shaped different from any mammal I had ever seen. And it was then that I thought, can it be true? Can this be an animal here in the drawer that has been overlooked by zoologists until now?

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, that's what -- I have heard you use the phrase today hiding in plain sight. That's what you mean. It was there. Nobody knew what it was.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: Some of the specimens had been in museum drawers -- we're talking behind the scenes, not on display -- for decades, some even more than a century.

    We have even found that an olinguito had been displayed at American zoos in 1960s and '70s.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A living version.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: A living version of this animal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: So it's been in museums. It's been in zoos. But...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Excuse me, because I heard that the story of the zoo was interesting, because they said they couldn't -- it wouldn't mate with any other olinguito, and now we know why.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: Now we know why. It wasn't that this animal was just fussy.

    They moved it around trying to get it to breed with olingos. It just wasn't at all the right species, so a very different kind of animal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, what's the significance? How do you explain it? Describe it.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: Well, I think that the significance is huge.

    And that's because the discovery, I think, is so unexpected. So the group of animals that the olinguito is part of are what we call the mammalian carnivores, carnivora. This include the dog family, the cat family, the bear family, the raccoon family. And these animals are beloved by the public. And they're intensely studied by zoologists.

    And because of that, the classification of these animals tend to be well-established. Most of these, we have known about for hundreds of years. Scientists have known about them. So, this part of the animal family tree is maybe the last place where you would expect an animal like the olinguito to be hiding.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And once you discovered it in museums, you went to the actual place to see the actual living animal.


    So, the olinguito is only found in Colombia and Ecuador. I first realized that by studying as many museum specimens I could find. I went to essentially every relevant natural history museum in the world to see if I could find other overlooked specimens. They were all from -- all the specimens I could find, from the same kind of habitat and elevation, a habitat we call cloud forests in the Northern Andes, Colombia and Ecuador.

    So these specimens, even though they were in many cases decades old, gave us clues about what kind of habitats we could go and look for this animal in down in South America.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And was it hard to find when you got there?

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: We thought, maybe this will be a shot in the dark. I reached out to one of my closest friends, an Ecuadorian zoologist named Miguel Pinto. He knows the forests of the country extremely well.

    He took us to a place where he thought we would have our best chance. On the first night that we were there, we found the animal in the wild.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That's pretty cool.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: It was amazing.

    Taking it -- this story, kind of a detective's trail, from skins and skulls in a museum, all the way down to a cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, seeing -- first realizing the animal was a new species, and then seeing this new species in the wild.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is pretty exciting for you personally, huh?

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: It really is.

    I travel the world looking for new species of mammals, and I have discovered other mammals new to science, but I consider this my most exciting discovery yet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, you know what? We're going to continue the conversation about the implications of this. We will do that online.


    JEFFREY BROWN: We will invite the audience to join us there later.

    But, for now, Kristofer Helgen, thanks so much.

    KRISTOFER HELGEN: Thanks for having me, Jeff.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And now, a prescription for succeeding in school. It comes from pediatricians making their patients' reading skills a part of regular examinations.

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

    JOHN MERROW: Today, 2-year-old Shadman Uddin is here for his routine check up.

    DR. CINDY OSMAN, Bellevue Pediatric Clinic: Good job.

    JOHN MERROW: His pediatrician, Dr. Cindy Osman, checks his eyes, ears and heart, but that's not all.

    CINDY OSMAN, So, tell me what kinds of things he says these days.

    WOMAN: Juice, water.

    CINDY OSMAN: Great. Does he ever put words together?

    WOMAN: Yes.

    CINDY OSMAN: Perfect. Give me some examples of times he puts words together.

    WOMAN: Say mommy.

    CINDY OSMAN: Oh, so he's doing great with his language. Perfect.

    My role is to help parents parent more effectively, how to connect with their kids more effectively, what kinds of activities they can do that will better stimulate their cognitive development and get them better prepared for doing better in school.

    JOHN MERROW: She's a new breed of pediatrician, part doctor, part teacher.

    CINDY OSMAN: You can see a lot in how they handle a book. You can check out their fine motor skills. So I'm both checking their development, and I'm getting a sense of how frequently they're read to.

    What sound does a train make?

    What is he saying?

    WOMAN: Go, go, go.


    JOHN MERROW: Dr. Osman works in the pediatric primary care clinic at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. It's part of a national literacy program called Reach Out and Read.

    Books are given to children 6 months to 5 years old and parents are encouraged to read them aloud.

    MAN: He tried to started to read, to say little things.

    JOHN MERROW: Why the doctor's office? Because that's the one place where all children, including those most at risk, go regularly before they enter school.

    Without some school experience before first grade, most low-income children are almost guaranteed to begin school behind everyone else.

    And we are talking about a lot of children here; 5.1 million American children under the age of 5 are growing up in poverty. So what are states doing to get these kids ready for first grade? See for yourself.

    Only 10 states and the District of Columbia tell schools they must provide full day kindergarten; 34 states require half-day programs, and six states do not require any kindergarten at all.

    Preschool programs like Head Start reach about one-third of 3- and 4-year-olds. And in spite of their proven success, early education programs are now being cut.

    That leaves it to programs like Reach Out and Read to pick up the slack. About 11,000 children a year come through the clinic at Bellevue. All are from low-income homes and, for most, English is their second language.

    CLAUDIA ARISTY, Reach Out and Read: Most of the families that we serve are immigrants. And a lot of them didn't -- were not able to finish school. Some of them were not even sent to school ever.

    JOHN MERROW: Here in the waiting room, the flat-screen televisions are turned off, and the books are open. Volunteers like Esther Akinwunmi read stories to the children.

    ESTHER AKINWUNMI, volunteer: My goal and my approach is to let them have fun while they're reading, so that they don't -- they don't feel like, I'm reading a book, or I'm hearing a boring story, something that is interesting to them, so that it encourages them to read.

    JOHN MERROW: Volunteer Elizabeth Kasowitz is a former New York City school principal.

    ELIZABETH KASOWITZ, volunteer: I'm always looking up to see whether the parents are engaged. And very often, I see them with an ear kind of tilted towards what I'm reading.

    ESTHER AKINWUNMI: I think, sometimes, parents may not know how to engage their children in reading. So my hope is how I present a book to a child, a parent will be able to emulate that and do the same for them when they're at home.

    JOHN MERROW: The Reach Out and Read program can be found in 5,000 medical centers across the country. It touches almost four million mostly low-income children, at a cost of $10 per child, per year. Bellevue's program is one of the largest.

    CLAUDIA ARISTY: So, here it tells you the skills that he should be developing and how you can help him develop those skills by playing with him.

    JOHN MERROW: Program director Claudia Aristy often talks with families while they wait.

    CLAUDIA ARISTY: One of the ideas that I share with her is that she can be reading a book aloud to her 11-month-old while he's walking in the room, just putting language out there for him.

    We want to just bombard those brains with a lot of words. So we tell the parents just describe everything you see.

    JOHN MERROW: Families are likely to pay attention to advice given at the doctor's office, especially when it comes from their pediatrician.

    CINDY OSMAN: We help them through difficult times, whether it's, you know, a kid with temper tantrums or a kid who's up all night and is having trouble sleeping.

    We have an opportunity to -- to bond with families and make some suggestions that hopefully work. Families do turn to pediatricians for more than just prescriptions. That's for sure.

    JOHN MERROW: In this program, a child will have 10 regular checkups between the ages of six months and five years. That's just 10 books, just 10 opportunities for the doctor to stress the importance of reading. Is it enough?

    CINDY OSMAN: There's solid research that shows that just that intervention of handing a family a book, giving them a couple of age-appropriate pieces of advice about how to read with their kid, and just encouraging reading, they -- those kids will do better in school.

    JOHN MERROW: The research she refers to showed that children served by Reach Out and Read had a six-month developmental edge over their peers in the preschool years.

    With the introduction of the Common Core, a new set of standards being adopted in most schools nationwide, children entering first grade will be expected to be able to read and comprehend simple text.

    For those who haven't gone to kindergarten or who aren't being raised in homes filled with books, school will be even tougher.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a sad postscript to John's story. The Reach Out and Read program at the pediatric primary care clinic at New York's Bellevue Hospital lost thousands of books last week in the storm.


    For more information on the Reach Out and Read program, visit the Children of Bellevue website.

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    Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, pictured here at an interview in Portoviejo, Ecuador, on June 29. Photo by Meridith Kohut/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    BOGOTA, Colombia -- Ecuador will open a pristine swath of the Amazon to oil drilling after the international community failed to back an ambitious conservation plan to leave the crude untouched, the government said Thursday.

    In a nationally televised speech, President Rafael Correa said he was dissolving the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, in which the country planned to leave more than 840 million barrels of oil untouched if other nations would pay $3.6 billion, or half the market price of the crude.

    "We weren't asking for charity," Correa said, "we were asking for co-responsibility in the fight against climate change."

    The ITT oil block -- short for Ishpingo, Tambococha, Tiputini -- holds about 20 percent of the nation's reserves and lies in a remote corner of Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiversity-rich spots on the planet.

    The 2.4 million-acre U.N. biosphere reserve holds about one-third of all of the Amazon's amphibian species. In any given two-and-a-half acre plot of the Yasuní there are more species of trees than in the United States and Canada combined.

    Huaorani Indian in Gabaro Community, Yasuni National Park. Photo by Danita Delimont/Getty Images.

    The area is also home to the Tagaeri-Taromenane, one of the hemisphere's last tribes living in voluntary isolation.

    Correa said he was determined to protect the area and said the state-run oil company, Petroamazonas, would use cutting-edge technology to minimize the environmental impact. He also said oil exploration would be limited to an area of less than 1 percent of the national park.

    The government and environmental groups had hoped that the innovative model -- effectively crowd-sourcing conservation -- could be replicated in other poor nations.

    But since its launch in 2007, only about $336 million has been raised, mostly from European and developing nations. The United States, China and Japan -- the world's three largest gas guzzlers -- did not contribute to the project.

    Correa said the initiative was "before its time" and had suffered because it was launched in the midst of the global environmental crisis. But he also blasted developed nations for not supporting the project.

    "The primary factor for its failure," he said, "is that the world is a great hypocrisy."

    Family of red howler monkeys eats nuts from palm tree off the Napo River. Photo by Rebecca Yale/Getty Images.

    Despite its economic failure, the Yasuní-ITT Initiative has broad backing in Ecuador. Polls show that more than 80 percent of the population backs the initiative.

    Rival political parties are asking for a national referendum to settle the debate and some sectors have suggested they will organize protests to defend the area.

    Correa, a U.S.-trained economist who won reelection earlier this year, has enjoyed broad support thanks to his focus on new roads, schools and hospitals. On Thursday, he said Ecuador needs its oil resources to keep pulling people out of poverty. He also said that most of the income from the ITT oil would not be available until after he leaves the presidency in 2017.

    "We're not doing this for the next elections," he said. "We're doing this for the next generations."

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    Sharing dirty needles is such an effective way of transmitting the virus that one out of 10 new infections worldwide can be attributed to IV drug use. Of the 16 million injecting drug users in the world, 3 million of them are living with HIV.

    That's why many public health officials say it's so important for clean needles to be available every time an injection occurs -- even if governments or nonprofits need to take those needles directly into the drug dens where addicts are shooting up.

    PBS NewsHour's health reporter/producer Jason Kane recently profiled one such program in Tanzania in which a nurse and a drug dealer work together to combat infection.

    It's a highly controversial idea. Most public health officials say that delivering these so-called "harm reduction" services directly to the populations that need them most will be key to controlling some of the world's deadliest diseases in the long-run. Opponents, including former President George W. Bush, say it encourages drug use in society while fueling the cycle of addiction for current users.

    We're asking: How do you feel about needle exchanges and other harm reduction programs? Do you think they encourage drug use? Or are they necessary to stop the spread of HIV? Have you had any experience with harm-reduction programs in your community?

    Please share your answers below or fill out this Public Insight Network form.

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  • 08/16/13--11:39: Gwen's Summer Reading List
  • Watch Gwen's Take: Summer Reading on PBS. See more from Washington Week.

    Gwen Ifill's summer reading list is heavy on politics, but also full of lush fiction from writers like Edwidge Danticat, Elinor Lipman and Daniel Silva. On the non-fiction front, she's reading books from fellow political journalists Peter Baker, Dan Balz and Mark Leibovich, whose latest on Washington's power elite, "This Town," she says is "full of gossipy little nuggets -- so that was fun!"

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    By Dean Baker

    Dean Baker defends the cyclical interpretation of unemployment and advocates government spending to create demand for jobs. Photo courtesy of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    Paul Solman: Liberal economists Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, where he keeps the Beat the Press blog, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman took acerbic issue with what David Brooks and Ruth Marcus had to say about "structural unemployment" in PBS NewsHour's weekly political wrap segment on Aug. 2 -- the day July's unemployment figures came out. I responded Thursday. Friday, Baker counters, eloquently, and I, as proprietor of this page, give myself the last word.

    Dean Baker: Paul Solman takes me and my grumpy friend Paul Krugman to task for insisting that there is a growing consensus within the economics profession that we are not suffering from structural unemployment. Krugman and I used our blogs to complain about Aug. 2's segment in which Brooks suggested structural unemployment was the economy's main problem and that there was little that could be done about it.

    The United States currently has about 9 million fewer people working than if it had continued on its trend of growth from 2002 to 2007.

    The question is whether the unemployment problem is a lack of demand due to a loss of $8 trillion in housing bubble wealth, or whether there are structural problems that would prevent most of these 9 million people from being re-employed even if the demand were there. Krugman and I support the former idea; those who see unemployment as structural are in the latter camp. Here's another way to think about the problem. Imagine someone found a $1 trillion bill in the street and decided that, as a public service, she would spend the money over the next 12 months to boost the economy. For simplicity, let's assume that she decides to divide her $1 trillion so that it is spent in exactly the same way that the economy's current $16 trillion in annual spending is spent.

    MORE FROM DEAN BAKER: Mindless Budget Reporting: Fooling Some of the People All of the Time

    In my view, this $1 trillion of new spending would cause output to increase by roughly 6 percent. (I'm ignoring multiplier effects to keep things simple.) Employment would also rise by roughly the same amount, filling the bulk of the 9-million-jobs hole. In other words, this would be great news for the country.

    However, if Brooks and other proponents of the structural unemployment argument are right, the economy lacks the ability to increase production by enough to fill this additional demand. In that case, by adding $1 trillion in demand to the economy, our philanthropist would create all sorts of bottlenecks and shortages.

    This may appear in soaring prices for specific commodities (oil or gas), but it should also show up in shortages of various types of labor. For example, we might see the wages of people with computer or engineering skills soar while the wages of factory workers languish. Let's be clear what a structural unemployment problem would look like: There wouldn't be a shortage of labor, but a shortage of workers in the right places or with the right training.

    In short, this story -- that employers would be hiring workers if workers just had the right skills -- is not supported by the evidence. If employers can't find the workers they need, they raise wages. This is how a market economy works.

    The problem with the structural unemployment story is that it is very difficult to identify any substantial segment of the labor market where there are rapidly rising wages. In the last decade, even the wages of college grads have not kept pace with the rate of inflation. If college grads just got their share of productivity growth, their wages would be rising by more than 1.5 percentage points a year above the rate of inflation. In fact, there is no major occupational category, even among workers with a college degree or higher, where wage growth has kept pace with productivity growth over the last decade.

    We don't see rising wages, therefore we can assume that employers are not having trouble finding workers; end of story.

    This simple fact, and others that follow from it, has led to a growing consensus in the economics profession that the economy's problems stem from a lack of demand rather than from structural issues.

    In my Aug. 3 blog post, I cited the change in views on this topic by Narayana Kocherlakota, the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. Kocherlakota had been a vocal proponent of the structural unemployment view, but he changed his position when he saw that the Fed's quantitative easing policy was not leading to the inflation that he had predicted.

    Krugman cited the work of Eddie Lazear, a well-respected economist who was the head of President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. Lazear argues explicitly that the economy's problems are cyclical, not structural. And we can also point to recent research by the International Monetary Fund, not a known hotbed of leftist economic thought, which finds that cutbacks in government spending have lowered growth and raised unemployment, exactly as we Keynesian-demand types predicted.

    Economists holding to the structural unemployment view espouse this position largely without evidence, I think it's fair to say. Most had predicted that fiscal and monetary stimulus in the last five years would lead to soaring interest rates and rising inflation, but these predictions have proven false.

    Let's look at the specific claims. Brooks notes that a smaller percentage of the population is part of the labor force, meaning that they neither have a job nor are looking for work. Some seem to view this drop as a reflection of a change in people's willingness to work. While this is possible, it is highly unusual for large numbers of people to suddenly change their attitudes towards work. (Most don't have this luxury.) The fact that this change in behavior coincides with a period in which many people can't find jobs leads us demand-side types to think the problem is that people don't see jobs out there.

    We heard the same argument in the weak recovery following the 2001 recession. The labor force participation rate fell from a high 67.3 percent in the early months of 2000 to a low of 65.9 percent in December 2004. Coincidentally, when the economy began to create jobs again at a healthy pace, the labor force participation rate rose back to 66.4 percent in December 2006 and January 2007. So, we can believe that the dropouts from the labor force indicate a change in willingness to work, or we can believe that this is simply the normal cyclical pattern that we always see with labor force participation rates following employment growth.

    It is also noteworthy that this is overwhelmingly a story of prime-age workers dropping out of the labor force, not baby boomers edging into retirement. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data, the employment-to-population ratio for workers between the ages of 25 and 54 fell from 79.9 percent in 2007 to 75.9 percent in the second quarter of 2013.

    Structuralists also say that firms are hiring machines instead of workers. The data does not support this claim either. While investment has been reasonably healthy given the overall weakness of the economy, it is still down as a share of the economy from its pre-recession level. In 2007, investment in equipment and intellectual products was 9.8 percent of GDP. In 2012, it was down to 9.4 percent. That change is moving in the wrong direction for the structuralists; firms are hiring fewer machines now than they were when employment was growing rapidly.

    We can also look more directly at productivity. The structuralist argument implies that firms don't need workers because machines allow them to produce more with the same number of workers. But the numbers don't go in the structuralists' favor by this measure either. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity growth averaged 2.7 percent annually in the dozen years from 1995 to 2007. In the last three years, productivity growth has averaged just 0.8 percent annually. Insofar as machines are displacing workers, they are doing it far less rapidly than in previous years when the economy was creating large numbers of jobs.

    In short, structuralist claims do not square with the evidence, and we haven't heard a plausible reason why our imagined philanthropist could not quickly create millions of jobs by spending her $1 trillion jackpot.

    Since I am not betting on a do-gooder finding a trillion dollar bill in the street, I want the government to play this role. The economics would be exactly the same, even if some people don't like the idea of the government spending money. And, since the well-being of tens of millions of people hinges on the willingness of the government to follow this path, people like Krugman and I can get a bit grumpy over its failure to do so, and at the people who oppose its doing so.

    Paul Solman: Baker's may be the best possible summation of the cyclicalist argument. Moreover, he may well be right: throw enough money at the economy, and at some point, everyone will be employed.

    But if economics teaches us anything, it's that every decision has both benefits and costs. What might be the cost of Baker's Keynesian "Trillion-Dollar Solution"?

    Mainly, that the jobs created may be unsustainable. The economist who gave Keynesianism its name, John Maynard Keynes, in his famous 1936 book "The General Theory," proposed the following thought experiment:

    "If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with bank-notes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal-mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again...there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is."

    Clearly, this was not meant to be a long-term solution to the grievous problem of the unemployment of the Great Depression 1930s. At some point, private enterprise would have dug up all the notes. What, then, would the note-diggers have done for a living? Not to mention the question of how the note-buriers would be employed once they had emerged from the coal mines.

    Is Structural Unemployment 'Humbug'? Or Are Krugman and Baker Biased?

    As I read him, Keynes was turning on its head the logic of those who believed in "laissez-faire" -- let the market do as it will and all will be well -- a principle he roundly derided. "If you believe in laissez-faire," he seemed to be saying, "why not try something as nutty as this?"

    Should we create productive government jobs that are sustainable? Few would argue in a country where something like 17 percent of us already work for government. But critics argue that as it is, many of those jobs are not productive. Can we really create another trillion-dollar's-worth that would be?

    What I'm about to write may be unfair, but I wonder if Keynes wouldn't wonder if Baker (and Krugman) aren't making the same all-will-be-well assumptions of the laissez-fairians they too usually deride.

    Look, I have my own thought experiment -- the "Mass Massage Mobilization" or MMM -- in which every American would be given tax incentives or subsidies to get one-hour-long massage per week. That would employ 7 to 10 million newly trained massage therapists, depending on how hard you want to work them. No college degree would be necessary, and everyone, pretty much, would be better off. (See chapter 9, "Touch," in the book "Born to Be Good" from Berkeley's Dacher Keltner, for the psychological benefits to giver and receiver alike.)

    But to make the MMM a sustainable solution, at some point, people need to be willing to pay for their massages. Either that or we move more and more to a socialist answer to the problem of unemployment. That may be okay, but it's hard to ignore the problems that socialism typically brings with it -- the sort of problems that conservative economist Ed Yardeni raised when we did a story on government infrastructure spending with liberal economist Bob Frank of Cornell during the depths of the Great Recession.

    If the cyclicalists are right, spend a trillion dollars and new jobs will eventually emerge, as they indeed regularly have throughout American (and world) history. If the structuralists are right, however, history is in the process of changing and the government jobs will last only as long as the trillion dollars.

    As to Baker's point about baby boomers not retiring, again, he could be right. But 10,000 a day are hitting 65, and as our New Adventures for Older Workers project illustrates, only a third are planning to work beyond that age. That would suggest that close to 200,000 baby boomers a month are now calling it quits, which jibes, although perhaps coincidentally, with last month's unemployment numbers, indicating that nearly 200,000 Americans left the workforce in July, as you can see from the difference between the June and July seasonally-adjusted civilian labor force in this Bureau of Labor Statistics chart.

    In closing, let me offer one very recent piece of evidence. There have been more than a hundred comments in response to my Thursday post that took issue with Baker and Krugman. Here's one of them:

    "I just got offered 110K a year + 4 years RSUs (restricted stocks units -- a form of options) worth literally hundreds of thousands more out of college in California. I'm considering turning it down. I have recruiters literally hunting me down and cold-calling me to interviews. All my friends in tech are coming out with similar offers (3 job offers at least). Opportunities are out there by the boatloads."

    Those opportunities, however, are out there only for those with a set of specialized skills. If the structure of the U.S. economy is changing to employ those who have such skills and disemploy those who don't, the structuralists have a point.

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

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    Blues musicians Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite performed the acoustic guitar-harmonica duet, "You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend)" for Art Beat at the Gibson showroom in Washington, D.C. The song is off the duo's recent album, "Get Up."

    On Friday's PBS NewsHour broadcast, senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown speaks with the duo about their collaborative effort to make "all-purpose blues."

    Tom LeGro and Joshua Barajas shot this video.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: They called it a day of rage in Egypt, and it lived up to its name. The bloodletting claimed at nearly 100 more lives, as thousands of Islamist protesters confronted security forces. That's on top of more than 600 killed Wednesday.

    We have two reports, beginning with Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News in Cairo.

    Be advised: Some of the images may be disturbing.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: They chanted for the downfall of military rule, and they marched in their thousands. This was Ramses Square in Cairo this afternoon, in a haze of tear gas and the air ringing with a sound of automatic gunfire.

    MAN: Fire. Gunfire.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: The downtown area of Cairo, the biggest city in the Arab world, is now as dangerous as a war zone. And as for the Arab spring of 2011, well, that seems like a very long time ago.

    Some protesters threw petrol bombs towards a police station.


    JONATHAN RUGMAN: We heard gunfire coming from the police station's direction. The demonstrators wheeled in a street stall as a barricade to keep the security forces out. They knew the police had been authorized to use live ammunition. It wasn't enough, though, to keep them away.

    MAN: We have no guns. We have no -- we have water, only water. We have our bodies, only our bodies.

    MAN: They have stolen our votes, and we want our votes back. And we are not going to leave the streets, whatever happens, before getting the democracy back.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: State television showed men with Kalashnikovs amid the crowd on a nearby overpass. The deposed president's supporters were accused of doing the firing, but we couldn't tell.

    What we saw was a stream of motorbikes acting as ambulances for the dead and injured, and angry Egyptians accusing their military leader of murder.

    MAN: Sisi, you are a killer! You are a killer! You’re a killer? Sisi, we will kill you! We slaughter you through!

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: A few hundred meters from the square, a crowd was desperate to show us a mosque transformed into a hospital. Everywhere we looked, frantic attempts to keep the injured alive.

    This is how today's so-called march of anger called by the Muslim Brotherhood has ended. We counted 12 dead during our visit, but that figure has more than doubled since. And while some helpers ferried in tanks of oxygen, others ferried the bodies away.

    MAN: We haven't expected the guns to shoot out again. We are trying to get our rights, and they are shooting us again. I don't know why.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Parts of Cairo are echoing with gunfire tonight, and dozens have been killed. The outside world has again called for restraint, but, right now, there seems no exit from Egypt's deadly spiral of violence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The violence also spread again to other cities in Egypt.

    Our second report is narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News. And, again, it contains some graphic images.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Muslim Brotherhood supporters marched down the Corniche in Alexandria, where the movement is traditionally strong. They carried a banner of General Sisi, Egypt's de facto leader, with an Israeli Star of David. "Traitor," they cried.

    "Leave, leave," they chanted at the government, waving pictures of their ousted President Mohammed Morsi and shouting that they were ready and willing to be martyred for their cause.

    MAN (through interpreter): The security forces are doing what the Mubarak regime did, burning churches and blaming it on the Brotherhood.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Earlier in the day, soldiers in armored vehicles patrolled the Corniche. Brotherhood supporters had burned down the judges club overnight. They see the judiciary as enemies, too.

    Some of the worst violence occurred in Ismailia, where Brotherhood supporters walked straight up to armored vehicles. The pictures are upsetting. The soldiers showed no mercy. They shot to kill. The young men braved small-arms fire, shouting, "We're peaceful." Some ran away as bullets pursued them, but others went straight into danger to rescue their comrade.

    Is this the face of Egypt from now on, youths roaming Alexandria, setting tires on fire, turning a ramshackle resort into an urban wasteland, and Ismailia, the city of beauty and enchantment, where the Brotherhood was founded, a war zone where citizens fight the army as the nation descends into disaster?





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    JEFFREY BROWN: The day's developments prompted protests elsewhere in the Muslim world as well against the crackdown in Egypt. Thousands of people gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, condemning the violence in Cairo. They waved images of Mohammed Morsi and chanted their backing for the Muslim Brotherhood.

    In Pakistan, crowds in Karachi also criticized the Egyptian regime, and they attacked what they called U.S. support for dictators in the Muslim world.

    But, in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah endorsed the actions of Egypt's interim leaders. He called it a fight against terrorism.

    We get more on the situation in Egypt now from Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers. She's in Cairo and spoke with us a short while ago via Skype.

    Well, Nancy, welcome.

    You're under a curfew now, I know, but what can you tell us about the latest about what's going on around you there tonight?

    NANCY YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspapers: Well, most of the country is relatively quiet, compared to this morning, when there were street fights all over the country.

    And most of what we're seeing now is activity in the Sinai. There are some buildings on fire here. And there's a lot of anxiousness, if you will, in the country, as the Muslim Brotherhood has said that they'd like these protests to continue for another week, which portends potentially more violence and more instability.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you about. There are really no signs whatsoever that they're backing down at this point, that they are calling for continued rallies. Is there any debate within the Muslim Brotherhood that you can discern about what should happen next?


    In fact, we talked to some of the leadership within the Brotherhood and they said they can't back down, because to back down would be to acquiesce to military rule which, from their perspective, was one of the things that the 2011 uprising was supposed to end.

    And, also, frankly, they have no incentive at this point to back down, in the sense that there are no negotiations going on. There's nothing for them to gain, in the sense of political participation, and so for them, it's all or nothing. And, frankly, they have the advantage of a lot of people, Brotherhood members and sympathizers alike, who think that they have been wronged in this last week.

    And I think there's an interest from their perspective to take advantage of that momentum and really try to get back some of the ground that they lost on July 3, when the military forced Mohammed Morsi, who is a Muslim Brotherhood member, to step down from the presidency.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about the regime? In addition to what it's -- what they're doing in the streets, how are they trying to rally public support? What kind of rhetoric are they using?

    NANCY YOUSSEF: It's incredible, the amount of rhetoric they're using. There are simple things like having pictures of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the minister of defense, who announced Morsi's ouster, his posters now hanging all over the country. On state television, every channel has a graphic in the corner that says "Egypt fighting terrorism," referring to those who support Mohammed Morsi.

    There are statements coming out from them and video coming out from them saying -- purporting to show the Brotherhood attacking them, setting churches ablaze, shooting on to the police. There are funerals that are televised of police officers allegedly killed by the Brotherhood.

    And so there's a very active media campaign to convince and show the public that they are in fact defending the state from people who threaten it, not the other way around.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, I noted in the piece you wrote tonight for your paper, you said, for the first time Friday, Egyptians spoke of potential civil war and asked how their nation compared to Algeria. It's really getting to that point from people you're talking to?

    NANCY YOUSSEF: Yes, because there's no room for negotiation for either side. Nobody is talking about finding a settlement.

    The negotiation effort that was led by deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and by the European Union, and by local interlocutors here failed. And they couldn't -- and in those negotiations, they couldn't even agree on minimal things. And so both sides seem to think that they are -- have the moral high ground in this battle.

    And so you start to -- you are starting to hear people refer to the other side as them and us vs. them. People are asking, are we going to be like Algeria, which also erupted in civil war in the '90s, when -- after the first round of elections in which the Islamist won were canceled? So their Islamists didn't even get to office when that civil war broke out. It was quite ugly and it went on for years.

    And you're starting to hear concern that Egypt is headed on this path between the rhetoric, the divisive nature, and the number of deaths. These are deaths that haven't been seen here ever. The deaths that we have seen this -- in the past 72 hours are more than all those killed during the 18 days of the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

    And so it is that shock and the polarization that is really spurring this worry amongst everyday Egyptians about where their country is headed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Nancy Youssef in Cairo, thanks so much.

    NANCY YOUSSEF: Thank you.

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    KWAME HOLMAN: The number of dead in Thursday's car bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, went up at least 22 today, with more than 300 wounded. It was the deadliest attack there in nearly three decades, engulfing a busy street in fire and smoke. The site is near a complex where the Shiite militant group Hezbollah holds rallies. Today, the group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, blamed Sunni radicals. He pledged to double the number of Hezbollah forces helping fight Sunni rebels in Syria.

    A sudden wave of refugees from Syria is pouring into northern Iraq. U.N. refugee officials reported today that many come from Aleppo, Syria's largest city, and their numbers approach 8,000 a day. They have been crossing at a new bridge over the Tigris River. There already are more than 150,000 Syrian refugees registered in Iraq.

    Wall Street ended a tough week on a down note. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 30 points to close at 15,081. The NASDAQ fell three points to close at 3,602. For the week, the Dow lost 2.2 percent; the Nasdaq fell 1.6 percent.

     Bert Lance, who served as budget director for President Jimmy Carter, has died. He passed away last night at his home in Georgia. Lance was a Carter friend and political ally who headed the National Bank of Georgia. He went to Washington in 1977 to take the budget post in the new Carter administration. Within a few months, he was forced to resign his position amid a banking scandal, but he ultimately was cleared of wrongdoing. Bert Lance was 82 years old.

    Those are some of the day's major stories.

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    MARGARET WARNER: For weeks, President Obama has said the NSA's information-gathering on Americans was strictly limited and tightly overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court.

    But, today, The Washington Post reported the spy agency has overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress expanded its powers in 2008, and the FISA court's chief judge told The Post his court doesn't have the ability to independently verify if the spy agency is complying fully with privacy protection rules.

    The report was based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

    Washington Post correspondent Carol Leonnig worked on both stories and joins me now.

    And, Carol, welcome.

    CAROL LEONNIG, The Washington Post: Thank you, Margaret.

    MARGARET WARNER: First of all, what, sort of information has the NSA been collecting and storing on Americans that is beyond the scope of the law or the court rules?

    CAROL LEONNIG: The court's rules are very strict on several things, but the most important is not intruding on Americans' privacy when there is no reason to suspect that they have some link to terrorist organizations or are in communication with foreign powers.

    And the violations that are documented in this memorandum from the NSA -- remember, we're only seeing a partial window. We're seeing what the NSA headquarters reported in a year's time, not what all the other NSA satellite offices offered -- but that in those instances, they broke some of the privacy rules, and they broke some other rules that have to do with foreign intelligence gathering.

    The most striking, probably, example that people are taken by is that there were a series of phone call records stored from the Washington, D.C., area code -- zip code -- forgive me, area code 202 -- and this was a glitch. Essentially, it was because a switch missed read 202 for 20, which is the country code for Egypt.


    CAROL LEONNIG: We are allowed to collect a lot of records about foreign communications, but when you start collecting a lot of Washington, D.C., phone records, it's another story.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, had these violations been reported to the court, as I gather they are required to?

    CAROL LEONNIG: What's from the document, because it's really an NSA internal audit, is how many of these were reported to the court. A portion them should have been that have to do with FISA authorities, when you're looking into Americans' records.

    And we honestly don't have the rest of the chain to know what was reported. What we do know is that there are thousands of them and that the Obama administration has assured us and the public before this came out that it happens infrequently, once in a while.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, equally startling was your companion piece, what the district court judge, Reggie Walton, said to you about the FISA court's authority when you asked him about this. Explain that a little more.

    CAROL LEONNIG: So he's the chief judge of the secret spy court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, that is supposed to be the linchpin for the checks and balances on our government spying programs.

    It takes it really seriously. It does everything in a classified, secret skiff, but it's a diligent, careful court. What he essentially said was, there are practical limitations on what we can do, and we must trust the government to report to us these violations, because we can't independently, with our resources, ferret that out.

    MARGARET WARNER: And why can't the court ferret that out, verifying the information independently?

    CAROL LEONNIG: Well, there are the obvious issues of resources. I mean, this is a court with a number of judges who all have plenty of busy dockets themselves. Reggie Walton has a very busy docket himself.

    And they have a staff of five lawyers.

    MARGARET WARNER: For the whole court?


    So, those lawyers receive this information about the compliance allegations. They review them. They elevate the most serious ones to a judge if it warrants it. And that's a very practical reason why it would be impossible to be policing and looking behind the government when they report thousands of violations.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, doesn't this compliance or violations of compliance information also have to be reported to Congress, and, what, the Department of Justice?

    CAROL LEONNIG: It does.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do they verify it?

    CAROL LEONNIG: Well, Congress has a lot more in the way of staff for reviewing.

    Do we know the degree to which they look over it? We don't. I did find it interesting last night when we asked Senator Feinstein for her comment -- and, as you know, Senator Feinstein has been a pretty arch supporter of the government...

    MARGARET WARNER: Chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

    CAROL LEONNIG: Exactly, and a very strong ally for the government and the NSA in supporting these efforts.

    She said that she feels that the subsector, subsection of violations that she doesn't have authority over, she should now perhaps gain authority to review some of those that have to do with foreign communications.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, what was the reaction, both from the administration and also on Capitol Hill?

    CAROL LEONNIG: There's been a lot of reaction.

    Initially, the White House wasn't commenting for our story. The NSA, I noticed this morning, issued a statement saying, these are unintentional violations, and we use this exercise always to try to improve our work, and we keep trying to improve our work so our violations will go down.

    On the Hill, you already heard what I said about Senator Feinstein, but Speaker Pelosi said these are very disconcerting numbers and she wants to look more deeply into them.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you think this will add fuel to the fire behind the idea that in the FISA court, you need opposing counsel, there needs to be somebody else in there other than the government lawyers?

    CAROL LEONNIG: I think this will add fuel to the concept that we shouldn't all feel safely assured that violations are rarely happening and that oversight is robust and full.

    And as for whether a privacy advocate should be added to the court, that's really not my role. That's one of the things that's been mentioned on the Hill. There are other people who have raised really good practical questions about how in the dead of night a privacy advocate can be summoned to weigh in on whether or not some collection can take place. That's something for others to hammer out.

    But it clearly -- these two things together, raise questions about the assurances we have received from the administration.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Carol Leonnig, Washington Post, thank you.

    CAROL LEONNIG: Thank you.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. space agency confirmed yesterday that its renowned Kepler telescope is beyond repair, a big blow in its search for planets.

    The Kepler was launched into an orbit around the sun in 2009, its purpose, observe stars thousands of light years from Earth that may harbor Earth-like planets. By looking at what happens to the light emanated by the stars, it's discovered more than 3,500 possible planets, more than 100 of which have been independently confirmed.

    But it has not yet found one planet that has the right conditions for sustaining life as here on Earth. NASA says the spacecraft's wheels, which are critical for keeping it pointed correctly, do not work anymore. Astronomers are now assessing its legacy.

    Michael Lemonick is the author of a book about Kepler called “Mirror Earth." He has long written about space and science for TIME magazine.

    Michael Lemonick, welcome to the NewsHour.

    Tell us a little bit more about what the original mission for the Kepler was.

    MICHAEL LEMONICK, author: The original mission was to take a census, really, of a group of stars, an average group of stars, to find out what percentage of them have planets of any kind, and what sizes those planets come in and how far they are from their stars, how the temperature on the surface of those planets would be, if you were there.  

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And why is that important? And how much of that mission did it get done?

    MICHAEL LEMONICK: It got -- well, first of all, it got a huge amount done.

    It's important because when -- the reason we look for planets around other stars at all is because we're interested in whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. And the best bet for life, we would think, would be on a planet just like Earth, that is, about the same size as Earth, orbiting a star like sun, with the right temperature for water to exist in liquid form, which is a requirement for life, we think.

    And since we know there's a planet like that already in the universe, and life is here, we want to look for a planet like that elsewhere as the best bet for finding life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so what happened to the telescope? We mentioned the wheels not working. What -- was this something they expected would go wrong?

    MICHAEL LEMONICK: Well, so, these wheels help the telescope point very precisely at the stars it's looking at.

    You have to hold the telescope very steady in order to detect the very faint fluctuations in light that happen when a planet goes in front of a star, so it dims just a tiny bit. And the wheels help keep it pointed incredibly precisely. And they have had four of these reaction wheels that the satellite went up with.

    One of them failed last year. Another one failed last spring. And with only two wheels still working, you can't point with the accuracy that you need. And so the telescope is still in perfect working order. It just can't aim in the direction that it's supposed to.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Lemonick, it must be incredibly frustrating for the NASA scientists who put so much effort into this. How are they taking it?

    MICHAEL LEMONICK: Well, they're actually taking it pretty well. When Kepler was first approved in 2000, it was approved for a four-year mission. That's what the scientists asked for. And NASA said, yes, you can have four years.

    And they have completed the four years. In 2012, the scientists said, wow, we could do better science if we had another several years, and they got another three-and-a-half. But the first primary phase of the mission has been completed. And only the first two years worth of data from those four years have been analyzed yet. And those numbers you quoted in the introduction, all those planets it's found already, that's just from the first two years of data.

    So they have got two more years' worth to probe through, many more discoveries to make. All they're -- all that is lacking is the ability to then go even deeper and look even further. So they're disappointed, of course. They would have liked to do more with this amazing satellite, but they're incredibly satisfied with what they found already.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But in terms of adding to our understanding of space, you're saying this is significant?

    MICHAEL LEMONICK: This is very significant.

    What they have done in the survey is discovered what they are convinced are more than 3,000 planets. They haven't all been confirmed yet, but most of them will be. And what they see is that if you look out around average stars, you will see some planets, like Jupiter, big, gassy, giant planets that would be very inhospitable to life, more, smaller planets like Neptune, still not very hospitable.

    But as you get smaller and smaller and closer to Earth in size, there are more and more planets. And if they extrapolate from what they have seen, one estimate, one lowball estimate is that in the Milky Way, there would be 17 billion planets with just the right conditions for life, and that's a low estimate. There are probably more than that.

    So, we didn't know any of this before Kepler. Now we know that Earth-like planets are almost certainly very common in the Milky Way. Fifteen years ago, we didn't even know there were planets at all around other stars. Now we know that Earths are very common in the Milky Way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do they believe it's going to take to find out where those other Earths are?

    MICHAEL LEMONICK: Well, so Kepler's primary mission is often misunderstood.

    It wasn't specifically to find those planets in particular. It was to get an idea of how common they are. That's the basic mission. So, if it found that Earth-like planets are very rare, that tells astronomers, OK, maybe it's not worth going out now and trying to find specific ones. What it's found instead is that Earth-like planets are probably very common.

    There are probably plenty of them reasonably close to us, and now we can start targeting, with new telescopes, targeting stars closer to Earth than the Kepler stars, which are quite far away, looking for those planets, and, ultimately, with more powerful telescopes, looking at their atmospheres and their surfaces to try and determine whether there's really life there, because it's one thing to say, yes, this is a good place where life could exist.

    We want to be able to say, yes, life does exist on these planets. And that is now not a crazy thing to try and do, thanks to Kepler. We now know it's not a quixotic endeavor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that is pretty exciting.

    Michael Lemonick, thank you very much.

    MICHAEL LEMONICK: I think so.

    Thank you.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn now to Ecuador, where one of the world's most biodiverse places is under new threat. The nation's president announced last night that he will allow oil drilling in the country's Yasuni National Park.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story behind the decision. Our report was produced in partnership with The Miami Herald.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ecuador's Yasuni National Park is teeming with plant and animal life. According to scientists, any football-field-sized area of Yasuni has more species of trees than the U.S. and Canada combined.

    The park also includes 121 different species of reptiles, 150 species of frogs, 596 species of birds, and 187 species of mammals.

    Max Snodderly is a professor of visual neuroscience at the University of Texas in Austin.

    MAX SNODDERLY, University of Texas, Austin: This park has 10 species of monkeys, and so it's an opportunity to compare animals that are in the same environment.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He works on this platform in Yasuni's canopy.

    MAX SNODDERLY: One of the things that this area is known for is the species richness and the incredible biodiversity that's here. So, that -- and depending on where you are, there's a different ecology, but this one has a particularly rich one.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But Yasuni may soon look very different. It's believed that 846 million barrels of oil lie beneath the park, 20 percent of Ecuador's reserves, worth $7.2 billion.

    To protect this square of wilderness, Ecuador's government presented a bold plan in 2007. President Rafael Correa asked foreign governments, civil society groups and others to give Ecuador $3.6 billion, about half the estimated value of the oil beneath Yasuni over 12 years. In return, the president offered to save the park from exploration. The effort, however, fell short.

    Despite agreeing with the goal, many researchers and environmentalists concede that Ecuador's government is ill-equipped to save the park on its own. More than a quarter of Ecuadorians live below the poverty line. Average daily income is just $26.

    DAVID ROMO, Tiputini Biodiversity Station: This is like a very poor family trying to protect the family jewels, and in the meantime, most of the people in the family are starving to death.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David Romo co-directs the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a base for scientists to work in the Yasuni. Another scientist, Terry Erwin, has been coming to Yasuni for 20 years. He's a top entomologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

    TERRY ERWIN, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: One of the really amazing things about what we're collecting here is the fact that 85 percent of the species from the canopy in our samples -- and we now have about 11 million specimens from all of our canopy work -- about 85 percent are new species to science.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He also studies the effects of a small road built on the edge of Yasuni in 1994 to allow oil companies into the area.

    TERRY ERWIN: The road is actually a clearing that's 121 kilometers long. The local indigenous folks eat the bush meat forever, as long as they have been here, for thousands of years, and now they had a game trail that was 27 meters wide and 121 kilometers long, and they just hunted it out.

    When we first started, we had five species of monkeys, and you could see at least three species every day. The abundance was big. But after three years of work, there were no monkeys whatsoever in my plot.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The park is also home to four indigenous tribes which are under threat as well.

    RAMON INKERI, Huaorani Leader (through interpreter): My grandfather in 1955 killed five missionaries in the river Querarey when they came to evangelize and change on lives, because our history is that we live like nomads.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ramon Inkeri is a leader of the native Huaorani tribe. His community abandoned the nomadic life after the road came. They have built houses and taken up farming.

    RAMON INKERI (through interpreter): We're thinking, because we have lost a lot of our identity -- later, a kid here says the typical clothing is embarrassing. The grandparents are willing to teach, but the youth don't want to learn because this world has changed. It's a world dominated by the oil companies, because the oil company fascinates them because they get clothing, they get food for free. And all that dominates. And that's the part we have lost.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But the Smithsonian's Erwin thinks that oil extraction, if done correctly, can coexist with Yasuni's indigenous population and biodiversity.

    TERRY ERWIN: I think, in all of my work throughout the Amazon, in Peru, and in Bolivia and in Brazil and here in Ecuador, the lesson that I have learned is that if a government actually makes strict rules about how the oil companies behave, you can extract oil and save the biota.

    But if you just open it up to the choice of the oil company, who will do things economically for the company and their investors and so forth, it's not going to work. But if you have regulations and they have to follow, then they get the oil, the economy of the country benefits, and biodiversity is still here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While blaming the international community for not coming through with funding in a national address last night, President Correa tried to play down the potential impact of oil drilling on the park, saying it would affect only 0.1 percent of the Yasuni basin.

    Some environmental advocates don't buy that assessment. Andrew Miller is with an environmental group, Amazon Watch.

    ANDREW MILLER, Amazon Watch: That is kind of an extraordinary claim. Even the very slight environmental impacts can destroy entire species. It's also the headwaters of the Amazon. And so, any oil drilling that happens and inevitable oil spills all flow downstream and end up in the Amazon.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It's still too early to know exactly what the impact of drilling will be in Yasuni or if it will remain one of the most pristine, diverse places on Earth.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you can see more stories on Yasuni written by Miami Herald's Jim Wyss. That's on our Web page.



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