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- 08/20/13--13:51: _Why Lyme Disease Is...
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- 08/21/13--15:01: _Syrian Regime Denie...
- 08/21/13--15:05: _Will Latest Attack ...
- 08/20/13--13:51: Why Lyme Disease Is 10 Times More Common Than Previously Thought
- 08/20/13--15:05: How Much Does Foreign Money Affect Leverage in Egypt?
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- 08/21/13--08:44: Is 'Generation Debt' Out of Control?
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In 2011, 96 percent of Lyme disease cases were concentrated in 13 states. Map by the PBS NewsHour.
Around 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday, 10 times more than previously thought.
Using a trio of indicators including medical insurance claims, an analysis of clinical labs and a survey of the general public, the CDC concluded previous estimates of 20,000 to 30,000 cases a year based on physician's reports to states was only a drop in the bucket.
Three hundred thousand cases a year would put Lyme disease on the same scale as gonorrhea, which at 322,000 cases was the second most-commonly reported infectious disease in 2011. (Chlamydia is No. 1 at 1.4 million infections.)
"This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention," Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the CDC's Lyme disease program, said in a statement.
Tuesday on the PBS NewsHour, senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown talks to the Boston Globe's Beth Daley about their series on Lyme disease, Bitten by Uncertainty. (Daley's most recent article, "When the 'cure' doesn't end the pain," can be read here.)
The disease, which is transmitted to people via bites by poppy seed-size deer ticks, can cause fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash that looks like a bullseye. If caught early, Lyme can be treated with a round of antibiotics. But if left untreated (or if the infected person is unaware they have it), it can spread throughout the body and may have long-lasting affects on the joints, heart and nervous system. The CDC has a list of resources including how to remove a tick (hint: get out your needle-nose tweezers and put the matches away) and what to do if you are one of 10 to 20 percent of patients who continue to have symptoms after the antibiotics run their course.
The vast majority of Lyme cases are concentrated in New England and the upper Midwest. In 2011, 96 percent of infections were in 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. The CDC report did not indicate a change in the geographical spread of where most infections are found.
GWEN IFILL: Egypt's military government dealt another blow to the Muslim Brotherhood today, taking the group's supreme leader into custody.
Margaret Warner begins our coverage.
MARGARET WARNER: Authorities charged the group's general guide, Mohammed Badie, with inciting violence in the aftermath of former President Mohammed Morsi's ouster early last month.
Muslim Brotherhood officials condemned the move.
KHALED HANAFI, anti-coup alliance member (through interpreter): With regards to the arrest of our leader, we move as an alliance. He runs peaceful protests. He's a symbol. And we are greatly saddened about him being taken to prison without being prosecuted, without any legal procedures. This will affect us all.
MARGARET WARNER: But, on the street, some found it welcome news.
WOMAN (through interpreter): It is a great achievement. I was so happy. He is a nasty individual, an enemy, horrid.
MARGARET WARNER: Badie is just one of many Muslim Brotherhood officials who have been detained since the government moved against two large pro-Morsi encampments last Wednesday.
Nearly 1,000 people are estimated to have died in the violence that day and in confrontations since then. The Muslim Brotherhood places the death toll near 1,400. The turmoil has prompted Egypt's international partners, including the United States and the European Union, to reexamine their aid to Cairo.
The United States, which gives Egypt $1.3 billion a year in military assistance, has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets and pulled out of the Bright Star joint military exercises in Egypt set for September.
But Gulf allies Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have stepped in with some $12 billion in monetary and fuel aid to Egypt since Morsi was deposed July 3. Monday, the Saudi foreign minister promised to fill any financial gaps left by other countries suspending aid.
On Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said Egypt welcomed the help from other quarters, saying, "We are not looking to replace one friend with another, but we will look out to the world and continue to establish relations with other countries so we have options."
On the NewsHour last night, Egypt's ambassador to the U.S., Mohamed Tawfik, said America's aid program is important for both nations.
MOHAMED TAWFIK, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States: We would like it to continue to be a win/win situation, particularly since we agree on the objective. We have the same objective. We want to see a democratic system in place in Egypt.
MARGARET WARNER: There's some confusion about the current state of the program. The Daily Beast first reported today that, according to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy's office, the Obama administration has suspended the assistance temporarily.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest insisted that wasn't true.
JOSH EARNEST, White House Deputy Press Secretary: This is part of a complex and broad relationship that we have the Egyptians -- with the Egyptians. That review that the president ordered in early July has not concluded, and reports to the contrary that reports -- published reports to the contrary that suggest that assistance to Egypt has been cut off are not accurate.
MARGARET WARNER: But Leahy's office stood by its claim, in a statement saying: "The State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee was told that the transfer of military aid was stopped, that this is current practice, not necessarily official policy, and there is no indication of how long it will last."
Meanwhile administration Cabinet members met at the White House this afternoon to discuss the Egypt aid question further.
GWEN IFILL: For more on how much influence the United States and other funder nations have on the uncertain situation in Egypt, I'm joined by Tarek Masoud, assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief at Al-Arabiya news channel.
Hisham, who holds the financial leverage in all of this? We have heard the tale of UAE and of Qatar and of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Who is Egypt relying on?
HISHAM MELHEM, Al-Arabiya Television: You are watching new dynamics in the region, after the Arab spring and after the way the United States dealt with the regional -- the thorny issues of the region.
Now you have a coalition of three Arab states in the Gulf who are providing Egypt with the most financial assistance, $12 billion. This is some sort of a Marshall Plan, if you will, from the Gulf to Egypt. And this is essentially unconditional aid, unlike the American aid, which is very conditioned, and for a variety of legal reasons, in this country.
But what you see here is a function of the way the administration has been dealing with the regional issues for a while, even before the Arab spring. The administration is hesitant, it's reluctant and rarely decisive on any issue, even when it affects its own security or its own interest and its own reputation.
We have seen that, for instance -- I want to you give an example related to Egypt, the NGO issue. It was the military, by the way, not the Morsi government, that initiated the legal harassment, if you will, against international NGO's, non-governmental organizations, including a number of American ones.
But, instead of raising hell, the administration -- the administration of President Obama raised questions. And now, because we alienated many Egyptians over the years, people say we didn't criticize Mubarak when we should have -- and they are correct -- they say we didn't criticize the military when we should have -- and they are correct -- we didn't criticize Mohammed Morsi's government -- they are correct -- now we alienated everybody.
And the only real power in Egypt now, which is the military, and we are trying desperately almost not to really alienate them completely.
GWEN IFILL: Tarek Masoud, how much does Egypt rely on this international aid? Why is it essential?
TAREK MASOUD, Harvard University: Well, I think, as was noted in your report, first of all, the aid from the United States, about $1.5 billion goes to the Egyptian military. About 80 percent of that 1.5 billion takes care of the Egyptian military's arms purchases. And so it's very important for the Egyptian military's readiness.
And then, of course, the aid that the Saudis and the Emirates have been given obviously helps the Egyptians meet their current needs, including their subsidy program, et cetera.
But just to come back to the question that animated all of this, Gwen, how much leverage does any of this aid buy anybody, I think it doesn't -- it doesn't really -- none of this aid could compel the Egyptian military to do something it doesn't want to do.
You have got to remember in February 2011, when the military was trying to figure out whether to depose Mubarak in response to popular pressure, you can bet that the Saudis and the Emirates and other Gulf countries were making quite lavish promises to the Egyptians that, if they just continued to support Mubarak, they would provide aid, and yet that didn't sway the military, just as I don't think that losing the potential $1.5 billion in aid, the potential loss of that would sway the Egyptian military now in what it sees as a fight, an existential fight against internal foes in the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists who they think want to destroy the Egyptian state.
GWEN IFILL: Well, we know that there was a National Security Council meeting at the White House today. And there are questions on the table about what to do about this aid leverage or lack thereof.
Hisham, what are the questions?
HISHAM MELHEM: I think there will be some sort of a suspension of some aid, military aid. And they will probably play different -- in a different way with the economic aid.
But I don't think in the long run they are willing at this stage to make a decisive decision to really boycott the Egyptian military. They will continue to send spare parts, but they will withhold helicopter attack -- attack -- planes, and as we have seen with the suspension of the F-16.
But in the end, this is not a legal issue for the Egyptians. This is a political issue. And I doubt very much that, even if you have a total suspension of the aid now to the Egyptian military, they can live without the American military aid for a year or two, and this will not change their basic calculus, their decision-making process when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood.
There's a decision by them, supported by the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait, to crush -- and I underline crush -- the Muslim Brotherhood. And what happened to the Muslim Brotherhood is the biggest blow that they have suffered since 1928, when they were established.
The Muslim Brotherhood is down. I doubt that it is out. And these people have a long history of working underground. And, therefore, Egypt now has entered a long, dark tunnel where you are going to see not necessarily a civil war a la Algeria in the '90s or a la Syria today, but you're going to see a long, protracted civil strife.
GWEN IFILL: Tarek Masoud, pick up on that. To what degree is what happens with money coming from all of these different nations affect the potential for instability in Egypt, and how little control outsiders may have on that?
TAREK MASOUD: Well, you know, you said it in your question, Gwen.
I think that outsiders have very little control. The Egyptian military, as I said, thinks that it's engaged in a kind of existential struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood and with the Islamists. And they point to the burning of churches and other acts of violence that they attribute to the Islamists.
And so I think it's unrealistic for us to expect any amount of American pressure to knock the Egyptian military off of this course that it has chosen for itself.
GWEN IFILL: Is that because other people will step in and fill any gap left by the U.S.?
TAREK MASOUD: Gwen, even if nobody stepped in to fill any gap left by the U.S., even if there was no Saudi or Emirate aid, the Egyptian military would still be pursuing this course.
I think we shouldn't underestimate the extent to which they legitimately believe that the Muslim Brotherhood, the year of Muslim Brotherhood governance imperiled that country's security.
GWEN IFILL: Hisham?
HISHAM MELHEM: I agree.
I think the Egyptian military would have thought carefully before they embarked on this crackdown if they were not assured by the Gulf states that there would be economic aid. Egypt is a country on the verge of bankruptcy. They have huge international debt. This is the third year they don't have income from tourism. So, the Egyptian economy is really on the verge of collapse.
But I agree. Sometimes, international powers have very little influence on parties when they are involved in a civil strife or a civil war or in a struggle that they see as existential, as Tarek said. And I fully agree that.
And that's why our ability and the ability of the Europeans, for instance, to influence the decision is limited. And also beyond that, let me say quickly it is also a function of America's diminishing influence throughout the Middle East.
One of the reasons why the Gulf states are angry with the United States, not only because of what happened today in Egypt. It's because they see that the president was weak on Iran, was weak on Syria, was weak on Israeli settlements. And now -- and he dumped Mubarak quickly. And now they feel that the United States...
GWEN IFILL: So, all the leverage is gone.
HISHAM MELHEM: All the leverage is gone. And now they are stepping in and they have the means to do it. This is something new.
GWEN IFILL: Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiya and Tarek Masoud at Harvard's JFK School, thank you both very much.
TAREK MASOUD: Thank you.
KWAME HOLMAN: Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf was charged today with failing to prevent the anniversary of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Musharraf's called the case fabricated.
We have a report narrated by John Sparks of Independent Television News.
JOHN SPARKS: Armed personnel were stationed around the courthouse, forming a reception committee of sorts for Pakistan's former president.
But this wasn't a moment Pervez Musharraf would treasure. In fact, he seemed reluctant to get out of his vehicle. But the country's former military ruler had little choice. He had been summoned to court. Prosecutors were ready to indict him. And in a 20-minute hearing, Mr. Musharraf was charged with murdering the iconic former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Pervez Musharraf didn't speak, we're told, but his lawyers pleaded not guilty on his behalf. The case has shattered an unwritten rule, that military leaders are untouchable in Pakistan. Remember, it's been ruled by the generals for one-half of its existence. Still, Mr. Musharraf will be judged by the courts, although his lawyers say there's no evidence he murdered Benazir Bhutto.
AFSHA ADIL, attorney for Pervez Musharraf: The important thing is that you will have to prove the allegations with evidence. And, still, there is no evidence on record.
JOHN SPARKS: After years of self-exile, Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 2007 to contest elections.
BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan: I feel very, very emotional coming back to my country.
JOHN SPARKS: Yet she knew she was taking a risk. She narrowly escaped one assassination attempt in Karachi; 136 people were killed. Later, she warned of another plot to kill her.
BENAZIR BHUTTO: So, I have heard the next attack is going to be by placing certain people in the police department near my house in Clifton.
JOHN SPARKS: And two months later, she would lose her life as she waved to supporters after a rally in the city in Rawalpindi.
JOHN SPARKS: Pervez Musharraf, then president, blamed the Pakistan Taliban. Yet prosecutors say responsibility lies with Mr. Musharraf because he failed to properly protect her.
KWAME HOLMAN: Musharraf will be back in court for another hearing next week.
The damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has leaked its largest amount of radioactive water yet; 300,000 tons of highly-irradiated water escaped one of the plant's storage tanks and seeped into the ground. The plant was crippled in March 2011 when it was flooded by a massive tsunami, triggering meltdowns in its reactors. The power company said it has not determined the cause of the latest leak and issued this warning.
MASAYUKI ONO, Tokyo Electric Power Company (through interpreter): It's the equivalent of a limit for accumulated exposure over five years for nuclear workers, so it can be said that we found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour.
KWAME HOLMAN: Four other tanks at the plant have experienced similar leaks since last year.
A preeminent United Nations panel now says there's 95 percent certainty human activity is the main cause of global warming. The findings in their summary were published in The New York Times ahead of their report's release. The group of several hundred scientists warned, unless carbon emissions are slowed, sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century.
Near 100 groups and individuals have filed objections to the city of Detroit's request for bankruptcy protection. The deadline to file was Monday at midnight. Among the filers was the city's largest employee union. It claimed the city has not yet proven it's insolvent. Kevyn Orr, the city's emergency manager, says Detroit faces at least $18 billion in liabilities.
A federal judge has granted California prison officials permission to force-feed inmates waging a nearly seven-week-long hunger strike. About 130 inmates in six of the state's prisons have refused meals since July 8. They're protesting solitary confinement of reputed gang leaders and other inmates, some lasting more than a decade. State officials say about 70 of the strikers are in failing health.
Stocks on Wall Street were mixed today, but there were better results from retailers. The Dow Jones industrials lost more than seven points, to close at 15,003. The NASDAQ rose 24 points to close at 3613.
The bestselling crime novelist Elmore Leonard died at his home in Michigan today from complications of a stroke. Leonard published more than 40 novels during his career, many with con men and gangsters as the main characters. The 1985 novel "Glitz" set in Atlantic City was his first bestseller. A number of Leonard's books made it to the big and small screen, among them "Get Shorty" and the current FX show "Justified."
Elmore Leonard was 87 years old.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to the launch of Al-Jazeera America, an all-news around-the-clock TV network aiming to separate itself from the pack at a crucial and competitive time in the industry.
MAN: This is Al-Jazeera America.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Al-Jazeera America hit the airwaves today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.
MAN: And our top story, the president has convened his...
JUDY WOODRUFF: At a time when many news networks are scaling back operations, Al-Jazeera has expanded its efforts, launching all new programming featuring what it says will be in-depth domestic reporting and fewer commercials than other stations.
It's hoping to shape up traditional cable news and cater to Americans looking for an alternative.
Will Thorne is senior executive producer at Al-Jazeera English. He is part of a transition team that is helping with Al-Jazeera America's launch.
WILL THORNE, Al-Jazeera English: It's got a very wide network of bureaus both here in America, 12, and more than 70 across the globe. So put those two things together and you get an enormous news gathering machine, very experienced correspondents on the ground with local experience and knowledge.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Currently, 48 million households can access the channel, fewer than half of the roughly 100 million U.S. television subscribers that have access to CNN.
It is the latest move from what was a much smaller operation in the U.S. with Al-Jazeera English. That station continues to air outside the U.S. from its home base in Doha, Qatar. But with the new programs come heightened restrictions. After it merged with the Current news cable channel earlier this year, Al-Jazeera America has faced limitations.
The online live-stream feature, which many viewers across the U.S. use to access the network's content, has been cut off. And many cable and satellite companies remain reluctant to carry the new channel.
WILL THORNE: It's understandable that the live-stream for cable companies, that it's a difficult area for them, so there's an understanding that that's the case. But I think, going forward, there will be the ambition to get into more households and to have a wider distribution deal.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And while the company tries to make Al-Jazeera a household name in the U.S., it is forced to combat negative perception some Americans may still have of the Pan-Arab news channel. For now, with some 850 hires across the country, the network will try to sway new viewers in order to compete on America's 24-hour cable news battlefield.
What must Al-Jazeera do to win that fight?
We explore the challenges ahead with Deborah Potter, a former reporter for CBS News and CNN who is now executive director of News Lab, a resource center for television and radio news organizations. And Philip Seib, he's director of the Center on Public Diplomacy and professor of journalism and international relations at the University of Southern California. He is also author of a number of books, including "Al-Jazeera English."
Welcome to the NewsHour to both of you.
Deborah Potter, let me start with you. So what does Al-Jazeera America bring to the news landscape in this country that is not already here?
DEBORAH POTTER, NewsLab: Well, they're promising to bring almost 24-hour live news, so no taped programs late at night, repeats and so forth, so live fresh news through the day and through the evening, that is sort of straightforward and hard -hitting. They promise depth.
And they promise not the kind of thing that you see on some of the cable networks, lots of opinion and shout-fests and so forth. That's what they say they will be delivering.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Phil Seib, is that different from what exists in the landscape right now? I guess we could argue about what is out there, but how do you see what they bring?
PHILIP SEIB, Center on Public Diplomacy: Well, I think they're counting on there being an audience for kind of old-fashioned journalism, hard-edged journalism.
I expect they will do a lot of investigative work for and stay away from the Lindsay Lohan escapades and things like that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you have written a book about Al-Jazeera English. Of course, they're connected, same owner, the Al-Jazeera media network.
Tell us a little bit about who the owners are. And we know they're based in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Qatar. Who are they and what is their connection to Al-Jazeera America?
PHILIP SEIB: Well, there's a board directors for the Al-Jazeera parent company, which has Al-Jazeera Arabic, Al-Jazeera English, Al-Jazeera America.
There's an Al-Jazeera station in Sarajevo. They have got sports channels and children's channels. And it's basically a function of the royal family of Qatar, which is Al-Jazeera America has a financial plan that everybody else in the business is going to envy. There's lots and lots and lots of money.
And so if Al-Jazeera America wants to send a reporting team to some obscure place, they don't have to worry too much about budget. And that should give them a leg up also in their reporting efforts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it pretty much unlimited budget, spending?
DEBORAH POTTER: It sounds like it. These are very deep pockets that they're connected to.
And they're certainly counting on that, because they're going on the air with almost no commercials. About six minutes an hour is what they say they will have. That suggests that they either haven't been able to line up very many sponsors or that they really want to keep down to differentiate themselves again from what is already available.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Deborah Potter, questions clearly have been raised about how much control, editorial control on the part of the owners, whether there should be any concerns about editorial freedom on the part of this channel.
DEBORAH POTTER: Well, I will certainly say that the journalists who have gone to work there have been promised editorial freedom.
They're not expecting to be messed with from the Middle East. There were some issues when Al-Jazeera English launched. Some prominent people left, saying that they had had their stories and their copy dictated from across the ocean. And I think that maybe the channel learned something from that and recognized that they got a black eye, and they don't want to do that again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Phil Seib, how do you see this question of editorial freedom?
PHILIP SEIB: I agree with Deborah about that.
I think Al-Jazeera in Qatar knows that the -- to succeed in the United States, they have to clearly be independent. And if there's any controversy about meddling by the people who hold the money, then I think that is going to be a big issue.
It's very important to distinguish between Al-Jazeera America and Al-Jazeera Arabic. Al-Jazeera Arabic is in the midst of all the politics in that region. I don't think that is going to happen with Al-Jazeera America. I think that has been set up to be a news organization that represents not only the Al-Jazeera brand, but the Qatar brand. So, they want it to be really high quality.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And I think we saw in the last few days there was a -- there's been some reporting about a memo written by one Al-Jazeera official worried that Al-Jazeera America was trying to Americanize Al-Jazeera.
DEBORAH POTTER: Right, and be too independent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So push and pull in both...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. Go ahead.
PHILIP SEIB: That same issue came up with Al-Jazeera English, that people at the Al-Jazeera Arabic channel were afraid that they were going to soften the image of Al-Jazeera.
But these things work out. And I think that the Al-Jazeera Arabic, Al-Jazeera English and Al-Jazeera America will be able to coexist quite nicely.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Deborah, we reported that at this point they are only seen in about half or maybe a little less than half of American homes because of the cable -- limited cable access at this point.
How much of a challenge is that?
DEBORAH POTTER: Oh, it's enormous.
I think even those homes that get Al-Jazeera America today, many of them don't know it, because they never found Current to begin with, which was the channel that Al-Jazeera bought in order to put this on the air. So they have both a penetration issue, which is they need to be available in more homes, and then they have to become visible to those homes in which they are available.
So it's a two-step process. It's going to take time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How tough is it to get on those cable delivery systems, Phil Seib?
PHILIP SEIB: Well, pretty difficult.
I know I live in Pasadena, California, and I can't get Al-Jazeera America on a cable channel. And I think part of it is, there's a bit of a political hangover from the early days of the Bush administration, when Al-Jazeera was greatly vilified. And some of these cable carriers I think are still a little scared of that.
But if Al-Jazeera America starts delivering a very good product, I think there will be public demand for it and eventually people will have the opportunity to choose whether they want to watch it or not.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what is the measurement that you will be judging them by, Deborah? What should we look for from them?
DEBORAH POTTER: Well, I think they're not judging themselves based on the size of their audience, at least from the get-go. So, in a way, I think that is sort of not the relevant measure.
My judgment would be on the quality of the journalism. They certainly have invested a great deal in that. They have hired some very good journalists, some of whom we both have worked with over the years. And they have clearly made promises to them that they're going to be allowed to do serious, hard-hitting, in-depth coverage that is not available anywhere else, that will be covering undercovered communities in the United States, for example.
And if they deliver on that promise, I think, as Phil says, there will be a demand for it. How much of a demand, I don't know, because one of the challenges is that Americans say they want in-depth, hard-hitting, serious news, but they don't actually watch it. So, that will be something we will have to keep an eye on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What will you be watching for, Phil Seib?
PHILIP SEIB: Well, I think the seriousness of the journalism is important, because what the people back in Doha want, I believe, is for the people in the United States to be talking about Al-Jazeera America, to be saying to each other, did you see that story last night?
Al-Jazeera, since its inception, has wanted to be a major player in the international news business. And the fact is, you cannot be a major player unless you have a U.S. audience. So, that's why they spent so much money to buy up Current TV and why they're spending so much money now to get on the air. They want that influence. They want to be looked up to. They want to be seen as a major player, just like CNN and the BBC.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Philip Seib, Deborah Potter, thank you both.
DEBORAH POTTER: Thank you.
PHILIP SEIB: You're welcome.
Editor's note | Starting Sept. 7, the PBS NewsHour is expanding its family, adding a "PBS NewsHour Weekend" newscast on Saturdays and Sundays. The 30-minute show will be anchored by NewsHour senior correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.
The above interview is a selection from the NewsHour Weekend's rehearsal, presented by New York PBS member station WNET and broadcast out of the Tisch WNET studios.
Online magazine Boing Boing hosted its first hacking event called Ingenuity on Saturday and Sunday. At the invitation-only affair in San Francisco, hackers used OpenXC, Ford's open-source platform that connects smart phones and tablets to real-time data from cars (such as braking and accelerating), in projects that translated information into paint, created LED images as well as new ways of visualizing data.
"In an age of big data, hardware hacking, and open source culture, how can makers bridge the gap between cars and drivers to enhance the driving experience?" said David Pescovitz, editor of Boing Boing in an article about the event.
NewsHour's Hari Sreenivasan talks to David Pescovitz about Boing Boing's first Ingenuity meeting, featuring hacking events and performances celebrating technology.
GWEN IFILL: Now we look at how the Supreme Court's rulings on same-sex marriage are being interpreted across the country.
Ray Suarez has our story.
RAY SUAREZ: The June decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 didn't end the debate over gay marriage. The issue is still on the docket in courthouses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, up for debate in state legislatures, and on the ballot.
For an update, we turn to John Eastman, a Chapman University Law School professor and chairman of board of the National Organization for Marriage, and James Esseks, the director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender and AIDS Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
James Esseks, did the twin decisions of the Supreme Court on DOMA and Prop 8 change the legal strategy, change the landscape that faces both pro-legalization and anti-legalization forces?
JAMES ESSEKS, American Civil Liberties Union: Well, it didn't change the doctrine or the strategy.
What it does -- but it reinforces what we're already doing. That is, we have gotten to the place we're at right now, which is 13 states plus the District of Columbia, that allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry, through three different means.
We have got it through some court decisions. A bunch of state legislatures, seven state legislatures passed those bills. And then the people voted for the freedom to marry last fall at the ballot in three states. And our way forward is really more of the same. We're going to go to the state legislatures. We're going to go to the ballot and where appropriate we're going to go to court.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Eastman, last week, a New Jersey court heard an appeal of the existing state law there, based on the Supreme Court's reasoning in the DOMA case.
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania's registrar is marrying people, contrary to the laws of Pennsylvania, he says based on the Supreme Court's reasoning the DOMA case.
Does this change what the anti-legalization forces have to do now?
JOHN EASTMAN, National Organization for Marriage: Well, I think it's very important. And the people that are opposed to redefining the very core institution of marriage are going to continue to fight.
Justice Kennedy's opinion in the Defense of Marriage Act case rests heavily on the fact that states are the primary determiners of marriage policy in our country. So it's a little odd for somebody in Pennsylvania to say that, I'm going to use that decision to undercut the policy of Pennsylvania with respect to marriage.
Now, there are other parts of Justice Kennedy's opinion that are very flowery language that have a more equal protection-type aspect to them, but Justice Kennedy doesn't settle that question. Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act is still in place. And that says that no state has to recognize marriages performed in other states if it runs counter to the basic policy judgment of the state.
So the Pennsylvania local registrar, I think, is simply wrong. We're going to face that out in litigation there and in a number of other states where similar actions are being taken.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, in those other states that have their own Defense of Marriage Act on the books, does the Supreme Court opinion send a signal that there may be some patches in the language, some things to make their laws federal DOMA-proof? Do there have to be some changes?
JOHN EASTMAN: I don't think so.
The statutes and the state constitutional provisions that define marriage as it has been through most of human history, as a man and a woman, don't need to be changed. Either the Supreme Court is going to find a right to redefine marriage in the federal Constitution and all of those will be invalid, including in all 37 states that continue to have traditional marriage laws, or the Supreme Court is not going to find that right in the federal Constitution or make it up, in which case we will fight this out in the states in the political arena, which in a democracy is exactly where basic policy judgments such as this need to be fought out.
RAY SUAREZ: James Esseks, as you mentioned, the fight was already well under way in a lot of states where people were just waiting to see what the Supreme Court would do.
If your look at a place like Illinois, where the Senate has passed a legalization law, the governor has promised to sign it if it reaches his desk, but it was pulled before it went to the House, what effect does the Supreme Court ruling have? Does it give new hope, new strength to people who want to make it legal in Illinois?
JAMES ESSEKS: The Supreme Court decision in the DOMA case absolutely helps the political movement.
And it does it in some states in a very simple way. Prior to the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, if Illinois gave, as it does, protections to same-sex couples in a civil union, you didn't get much in the way of different protections if you got a marriage.
Now, after DOMA is gone, if Illinois gives same-sex couples civil unions, it gets all the state protections, but none of the federal protections that come with marriage. But if Illinois flips to giving the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, all of a sudden, same-sex couples get all the state protections, plus all of the federal protections.
And so there's now a vast disparity, even greater than there was before, between civil unions and domestic partner -- and marriage. I think that is going to mean that there are a lot of legislators who are taking another look at this issue.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, you heard James Esseks say that it gives political strength to the pro-legalization forces. What is the assignment now for people who, like yourself, want to keep the situation where this?
JOHN EASTMAN: Well, I think the other side of that coin is what we saw happen in Illinois.
Both parts of the legislature are controlled by Democrats, and yet the African-American pastors rose up to put a stop to this train that was going forward in Illinois. And they almost single-handedly stopped the redefinition of marriage bill from going through the Illinois legislature.
And I think that's particularly interesting, because African-American pastors confront the demise of the family more than almost any other segment of our population. And what we're trying to do here is redefine the institution of marriage to say that fathers are optional. That's predictably going to have very devastating consequences on civil society.
And I think that's why this thing was pulled from the Illinois legislature before it went forward. People are standing back now and starting to think about the collateral consequences that may flow from this radical redefinition of marriage.
RAY SUAREZ: Is there a 50-state strategy, James Esseks, or have several different strategies been unleashed over the past several months?
JAMES ESSEKS: Well, we're continuing to work through multiple means to get more states that allow same-sex couples to marry.
Look, it's clear what marriage is. Marriage is about family and commitment and love. And when same-sex couples make the commitment that is at the core of marriage, it's only fair that they get the protections that should come with that and that come with marriage in America. And that's all we're looking for.
I think one thing going on is we have -- the change, the increasing patchwork that we have in terms of protections for same-sex couples in this country is leading to very significant problems. So, for example, we are representing a lesbian couple that lives in Northern Virginia. One of them works in D.C., and the two of them got married in D.C.
When this woman is at work during the day, she is married. She is a married woman with a daughter. And when she drives home to Northern Virginia on her commute at the end of the day, all of a sudden, in the eyes of the state of Virginia, she becomes an unmarried single mother.
That's not what her life is like. And it doesn't make sense to treat her as unmarried, when she has made the commitment at the core of marriage because she got married. She and her wife got married under D.C. law.
What we're looking for is a very simple rule. When you're married, you're married, and it shouldn't change when you cross state lines.
RAY SUAREZ: James Esseks, we are going to have to stop it there.
But, Professor, the next chapter in this is what America will do after a long time of all states recognizing all marriages and the federal government recognizing them all.
Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.
JOHN EASTMAN: Thank you.
JAMES ESSEKS: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: It's no secret that President Obama loves sports. What you may not realize is just how much of a passion it is.
Kwame Holman returns with that story.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am proud to welcome the only undefeated, untied team in NFL history to the White House for the very first time.
Give it up for the 1972 Miami Dolphins!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KWAME HOLMAN: At the White House today, the commander in chief once again played a role he clearly relishes, sports fan in chief.
This time, it was to congratulate the team that made history 40 years ago with its perfect season.
BARACK OBAMA: They had the league's best offense. They had the league's best defense. They posted three shutouts. They doubled the score of their opponents eight times. And they did most of it after their outstanding Pro Bowl starting quarterback, Bob Griese, broke his leg in week five.
KWAME HOLMAN: When the Miami Dolphins won the Super Bowl over the Washington Redskins in early 1973, President Richard Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal and the tradition of a White House visit for the victor hadn't yet taken hold.
DON SHULA, former National Football League coach: Thank you, Mr. President.
KWAME HOLMAN: Former Dolphins coach and Hall of Famer Don Shula:
DON SHULA: We feel honored. It's been 40 years, but what the hell. We still feel honored.
DON SHULA: But when you look at that, the undefeated seem, and we all signed it, and we want to present you with this. And even though you were a Bear fan, we understand you have got to root for somebody.
KWAME HOLMAN: The sports fan president is notoriously loyal to his Chicago teams. But since entering the White House in 2009, Mr. Obama has brought in champions from every level and both genders, to a degree far surpassing any of his predecessors.
MARK KNOLLER, CBS Radio: The president's personal locker must be filled with team jerseys, caps and balls that have been given to him over the years.
KWAME HOLMAN: Unofficial presidential statistics keeper Mark Knoller of CBS Radio.
MARK KNOLLER: By my count, President Obama has had 53 events honoring different sports teams, professional, college, basketball, baseball, football, soccer. All of the NCAA champions have been brought in. The president has even honored Little League World Champions here at the White House.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today's event pushed that total to 54.
MAN: Here is a memento team ball from all the guys.
KWAME HOLMAN: During his eight years as president, George W. Bush held 40 such events.
Despite welcoming the array of champs, Mr. Obama never forgets his personal loyalties. He attended the 2010 opening day for the Washington Nationals, but donned a Chicago White Sox cap to throw out the first pitch, more lob than fastball.
MARK KNOLLER: Even if the team that he is honoring isn't from Chicago, even if it beat Chicago, President Obama is not shy about mentioning that he wasn't rooting for the team that won, that he was rooting for his hometown teams.
KWAME HOLMAN: So, at today's celebration of the Miami Dolphins, the president had to make a painful acknowledgment about his beloved Chicago Bears.
BARACK OBAMA: A couple years ago, I hosted the '85 Bears out on the South Lawn. They'd also missed their chance to have a White House visit, and that day I called them the greatest team ever.
But, I mean, take it with a grain of salt.
KWAME HOLMAN: Of course American presidents have a long tradition of paying attention to sport.
NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni:
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: George W. Bush was a part owner in the Texas Rangers franchise, so he would often be seen going to the games. He would talk about his love of the game.
But it goes back way beyond that. I mean, Herbert Hoover actually had a medicine ball that he would play out on the White House South Lawn with members of his Cabinet, members of the Supreme Court, and even reporters. It became known as Hoover ball.
JFK was actually a golfer, but one of the reasons why he sort of kept that from the press was because the press had really criticized Eisenhower for doing so much golf during the war.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today's president celebrates his love of golf. By stat man Knoller's count, during last week's vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Obama played six rounds of golf in just nine days.
GWEN IFILL: Next: the rising toll of Lyme disease and the questions surrounding treatment.
Jeffrey Brown has the story.
JEFFREY BROWN: Lyme disease was first identified in the 1970s, but it now turns out that it's much more common than previously estimated, about ten times more.
The CDC reported this week that an estimated 300,000 Americans get the tick-borne disease every year. Symptoms can include fatigue, fever, skin rashes, and a headache. Left untreated, it can lead to arthritis, facial palsy, and problems with the nervous system. The number of cases has been increasing. Most are concentrated in the Northeast, with 96 percent of them in 13 states.
There's also been a long-running debate around treatment for the disease.
And for all this, we turn to Beth Daley of The Boston Globe. She has been working on a series about the disease and its impact.
Well, welcome to you.
So, first of all, how significant are these new numbers, more cases than previously thought?
BETH DALEY, The Boston Globe: You know, they're really significant, politically especially.
For years, scientists and those, I would say, who work with patients who have Lyme disease have felt like the numbers were off. There were estimates in the '90s that said Lyme disease was under-reported by three- to 12-fold, but no one had a really good hand on those numbers.
So, you know, sort of politically, when you talk about funding to protect people against Lyme, it was sort of really low on the totem poll. But with this new research, which is not yet complete, and the numbers could go much higher, 300,000 people is far different than the 30,000 that the CDC has been talking about.
JEFFREY BROWN: You know, you talk about under-reporting. How well understood is Lyme disease, even at this point?
BETH DALEY: Yes.
So, some things about Lyme disease, scientists know about, but there's much to be discovered. And this sort opens the door to this incredible controversy in Lyme disease that many people aren't aware of, that some doctors have had to travel with bodyguards to protect themselves from patients who have given them death threats.
It's a very controversial disease, in large part because there are so many questions about treatment and lingering symptoms of people with Lyme and if people actually have Lyme disease who are sick.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, just to get to the controversy, first, tell us that what is the normal course of treatment? What is it -- how does it stand now?
BETH DALEY: So, traditionally, you get bit by a tick, you might see a rash or feel a fever or you go to the doctor.
They sort of diagnose you through tests or clinically. And you would probably get three to four weeks of oral antibiotics. And that is -- most people agree, is usually enough to knock the disease from your system completely. Sometimes, it goes a little bit longer if it's more involved, but short courses of antibiotics overall.
However, a large segment of people believe that their symptoms linger for years sometimes, and the only way to treat them is to use long-course antibiotics, often through intravenously or orally, for years on end to -- so they can live, so they can really get out of bed in the morning.
And that is a controversy. The medical establishment says, listen, there's no proof this longer course of antibiotics work at all. And these Lyme patients say, yes, it does. Just look at us. We can get out of bed in the morning.
And a lot of the debate centers on, a lot of insurance companies won't pay for those antibiotics. And, as a result, lots of people go bankrupt. They lose their house. They sell their car to pay for these drugs.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, you have talked to a lot of people in these circumstances who have been told that while the treatment is done, you should be cured, but they still know something is going -- they feel something is going on?
BETH DALEY: They do.
And it's actually complicated by the fact that the medical establishment acknowledges and agrees that up to 25 percent of people who have been treated for Lyme have lingering symptoms, sometimes for days, sometimes longer, but they believe sort of the -- it sort of falls off very quickly.
But there is something -- something is going on there, and they're not sure quite what it is or what -- it could be many things. But what we're talking about are people who have been sick for years and months and months and months, and they just don't get better. They complain of fatigue. They complain of being tired. They complain of shooting pains, something called brain fog, that they just can't really remember how to drive home in the middle of the day. And those are the symptoms and the -- that's where the debate lies.
JEFFREY BROWN: And I know you have you been at a conference even that is ongoing now there in Boston about Lyme disease.
Is there -- how much is there a debate within the research establishment there about the treatment?
BETH DALEY: Yes, that's a really good question.
There doesn't seem to be a great deal of debate within the medical establishment that patients with Lyme who have lingering systems should use long-course antibiotics. No one I know has said that to me.
But what is interesting is that, there is slowly -- because people agree that some people remain sick, there's really good research going into why. There's some work at Yale that is looking at, maybe the bacteria, once it's killed off by antibiotics, leaves some bits of protein behind.
There's a study at Tufts that says, well, maybe -- in animal studies, the bacteria does survive. It seems weakened in some way and maybe doesn't make people sick, but they're trying to find out if that is true in humans. And that may be part of the answer.
JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, as you said, so, the new numbers, though, are expected -- you expect them -- will push this debate forward even politically?
BETH DALEY: I think so.
If you just consider Massachusetts, which is -- where The Boston Globe is, we spend $10 million a year and more on mosquito control. We spend $60,000 on tick-borne diseases. The disparity is great. And as Lyme disease burden grows on public health, hopefully -- I think people are hoping that the political forces will come to bear, that they will start seeing money to eradicate ticks in the environment or help people learn more about them.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Beth Daley of The Boston Globe, thanks so much.
BETH DALEY: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: Dolly Parton's longtime passion project, passing on the gift of reading.
The NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has the story.
JOHN MERROW: Most of you are probably familiar with Dolly Parton, but to some, Parton is more than a country music star.
DOLLY PARTON, Imagination Library: Everywhere I go, the kids call me “the book lady.”
JOHN MERROW: The book lady? It's not surprising to these children.
CHILD: I love reading books. Reading is my favorite thing
CHILD: My favorite was “Tortoise and the Hare.”
CHILD: No, “David and David Goes back to school.”
JOHN MERROW: Where do the books come from?
CHILD: Dolly Parton.
CHILD: Dolly Parton.
CHILD: Dolly Parton sent me the books.
JOHN MERROW: In 1996, Dolly Parton created what she calls the Imagination Library to send free books to homes like this one.
MADELYN, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.: I like this once because it reminds me of my grandma.
MAE LEA BARKER, Grandmother: If she hadn't had those books, she wouldn't have had anything until she started kindergarten.
JOHN MERROW: Madelyn and her great-grandmother, Mae Lea Barker, live in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
MAE LEA BARKER: Maddy was a -- she very quiet when she was little because she was just moved around so much. She would always either have to be with her mother or her father. And I think the books, she carried them with her a lot of times. I mean, that was hers. She had something that she could call hers.
CHILD: The little girl has a great imagination like me. She thinks of a monster. It's a green monster right here. And the granny tells her not to worry.
DOLLY PARTON: We send these books to them in their little name, with their name on it. They look forward to go into the mailbox. This is theirs. This is mine. So I am going to either learn to read it, or I'm going to make somebody teach me how to read it.
JOHN MERROW: It all starts here, at birth. At this hospital in her hometown of Sevier County, Tenn., every newborn gets a free book.
WOMAN: I have been here three-and-a-half years at LeConte in the labor delivery, and I have given probably 500 books to new moms.
JOHN MERROW: Families in Sevier County can also sign up at the library. Each child receives 60 free books, one every month, until age five.
DOLLY PARTON: It really, really started out as a very personal thing for me. And it was originally just meant for the folks in my home county because of my dad. There were not books in our house growing up. And my dad could not read nor write. It was a very crippling thing for him. My daddy was such a brilliant man.
JOHN MERROW: What started in one rural Tennessee county 17 years ago has spread to 1,400 communities across the United States, England and Canada. Each affiliate raises money to pay for books and mailing, $2.00 dollars each. The Imagination Library takes care of the rest, right here, where it all began.
DAVID DOTSON, Dollywood Foundation: Our belief was that, oftentimes, the most powerful things are the most simple things.
JOHN MERROW: David Dotson is president of the Dollywood Foundation. This international organization with a $20 million dollar budget produces and distributes almost 700,000 books a month.
DAVID DOTSON: I think what we are about is the emotional tie to books, that if children love something, they will continue to do it.
WOMAN: Both of the girls are excellent readers, just ahead of where they should be in reading. I think it makes a big difference when you have this huge library of books.
There's so much to choose from. I don't know that we would be able to afford to buy all of those books for our children. And it’s nice to know that we don't have to make that decision. We don't have to choose between a book and something else for the kids. It's just -- that just comes to our mailbox.
JOHN MERROW: The value of reading to children is well-documented. Kids who have books in their homes and are read to regularly are more likely to succeed in school.
REBECCA SMOCK, Teacher, Pigeon Forge Elementary School: We can definitely always tell if a child's been read to at home. Their vocabularies are so much larger.
JOHN MERROW: Rebecca Smock teaches pre-K at Pigeon Forge Elementary School.
REBECCA SMOCK: What do you use with a hammer?
CHILD: To nail.
REBECCA SMOCK: Nail, that's right.
I think if you see if that literacy is a big deal at their house, then they're going to really -- they just kind of embrace that more when they come to school. And they're ready for it.
Where is he sleeping?
CLASS: In the flower.
REBECCA SMOCK: In the flower.
DOLLY PARTON: The older I get, the more appreciative I seem to be of the book lady title. It's makes me feel more like a legitimate person, not just a singer or an entertainer. But it makes me feel like I have done something good with -- with my life and with my success.
JOHN MERROW: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has now given children almost 50 million free books.
By Paul Solman
Berkeley social psychologist Paul Piff and his researchers reenact their mirror study to demonstrate the relationship between wealth and narcissism.
Paul Solman: We first met Paul Piff, a social psychologist and post-doctoral scholar in the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley, when shooting our two-part Making Sen$e series on the psychology of wealth and the connection between money and happiness at Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center.
We also reported more of the Center's research in a transcript of our conversation about happiness with Christine Carter, Berkeley sociologist and director of the Center's parent program. Read more on why those who feel they have less give more in a transcript of our conversation with Dacher Keltner, director of the Center. (Keltner's book, "Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life," is highly recommended.)
In his peer-reviewed experiments at Keltner's center, Piff has found that people who feel less well-off, whether because they are rich or because they've been assigned that role in the lab, tend to act more charitably. Paul Solman even gained some insight into his own behavior when playing monopoly with Piff. See the experiment at this point in "Money on the Mind," which happens to be our first video to have gone bacterial on YouTube.
When we were at Berkeley, Piff also told us about his ongoing research into the relationship between narcissism and wealth. We had asked Piff and his researchers to illustrate one experiment in particular, which we call the "mirror, mirror on the wall" study, and which has been embargoed until now. You can see what it looked like above, but since the identity of the original subjects is private, be aware that this is a reenactment by the researchers.
We asked Piff what led him to study narcissism, why it's a critical personality trait and why it seems to make individuals feel psychologically entitled. Here's his answer:
Paul Piff: Narcissism is a tremendously important social variable . In many ways, it indexes how people see themselves in relation to others; it's a critical piece of personality. People who are narcissistic have inflated views of themselves: they're more egocentric and often express real-world behaviors like selfishness, greed, aggression, competitiveness, self-centeredness, impoliteness, unfriendliness, and the list goes on. Psychological entitlement, or how deserving of things someone feels relative to others, is a central piece of narcissism. One measure of this entitlement is the sentiment, "If I were on the Titanic, I would deserve to be on the first lifeboat!"MORE ABOUT WEALTH: Why Those Who Feel They Have Less Give More
I wanted to test the relationship between wealth, entitlement and narcissism, guided by our earlier work suggesting that people who are wealthier, or who feel richer, tend to be a little more self-focused and self-interested than others. We found that wealthier participants reported significantly greater psychological entitlement. They were more likely to see themselves as deserving of good things in life and entitled to a bigger piece of the pie than others. We even found that students whose parents were wealthier and better educated (in other words, people who hadn't done anything themselves to be wealthy) felt more psychologically entitled. Further, we found that wealthier individuals not only feel more entitled, but they also report more narcissistic tendencies on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, endorsing statements like, "I like to be the center of attention," "I find it easy to manipulate people" and "I like to show off my body."
Vanity is a big piece of narcissism: wealthier participants we studied were more likely to behave narcissistically by opting to look at themselves in a mirror. Above and beyond gender (women look at themselves in the mirror more than men) and ethnicity, wealth consistently had this impressive effect such that the wealthier you were, the more entitled and narcissistic you were.
I'm following this work up now with all sorts of new studies. I am interested in what it is about wealth and feeling wealthy that has these effects. I am also looking at whether entitlement can drive different attitudes toward wealth redistribution. For instance, feeling deserving of what you have may make you less likely to want to share wealth with those less fortunate.
I am also looking at the effects of various psychological manipulations to reduce levels of entitlement and narcissism. One study in the current paper found that reminding wealthier participants of the benefits of treating others as equals actually made them less narcissistic, suggesting that wealth reduces egalitarianism and actually gives rise to an ideology of self-interest; that's not necessarily always a bad thing, but when allowed to go uncurbed, it could have a whole host of pernicious social effects.
Women in Cap Haitien, Haiti, pour melted beeswax at a candle-making workshop. Photos courtesy of Prosperity Catalyst.
Siiri Morley, executive director of Prosperity Catalyst, knew ever since her Peace Corps days that she wanted to help women in poor parts of the world better their economic situations. But she also knew she had a lot to learn.
From 2001 to 2004, Morley worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho in southern Africa, helping women in a rug and textile weaving business develop and market their wares.
The women were using the money they earned to provide for their families and educate their children.
"It was helping their lives, but it didn't get them into a higher income bracket," said Morley.
While they could sell their products individually, the women didn't have the know-how to expand their customer base and businesses, and neither did Morley. And while she loved her work in Lesotho, after three years Morley felt that more could be done to help women prosper economically.
In the following years, Morley worked in places such as Afghanistan, Ecuador, Namibia and Croatia in large and small business development projects, where she said she culled different ideas about growing a business.
She enrolled in the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., earning an MBA in 2009. She approached two friends and entrepreneurs, Ted Barber and Amber Chand. "I told them, 'I'm eager to put my MBA learning to use. And they told me, 'We have a concept we're working on.'"
What sprang out of their mind meld in 2009 to 2010 was Prosperity Catalyst, a nonprofit to help train women in business, and Prosperity Candle, its for-profit sales enterprise.
They wanted to help women connect to markets that pay them a living wage with access to repeat customers, Morley said.
While they were embarking on a pilot program in Baghdad to help train women to make and sell candles, a massive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, killing an estimated 223,000 people.
The vulnerability of the already impoverished island to the forces of nature struck a chord in the partners, and they decided to launch a candle-making enterprise in Haiti as well. After visiting, Morley said she "felt this incredible energy from the women there."
With the help of a $50,000 grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the guidance of a local organization (Asosyasyon Fanm Soley d'Hayiti, or AFASDA, which supports women and girls who have experienced domestic abuse) Prosperity Catalyst identified 12 "apprentice entrepreneurs", as they are called, to participate in its program.
A collection of glass and stone containers will hold the candles.
The women are trained how to make market-quality candles and design their own personal budgets for their profits. The classroom also provides a space for learning about women's health and safety and for literacy training, Morley said. (Read about one woman's experiences in the program.)
Those who participate in Prosperity Catalyst's program have a ready-made market: that of its sister organization, Prosperity Candle, whose products range from $4 to $60. But the founders are always on the lookout for more customers, including large retailers and corporations seeking to hand out social good gifts.
Why candles? There's an international demand for candles and the ingredients can be found nearly everywhere. Women in Baghdad can make candles in their own kitchens, and women in Cap Haitien, Haiti, can work together in Prosperity Catalyst's workshop, known in Haiti as Fanm Limye, or "women enlightened" in Creole.
Not to mention that candles are a consumable product, so they naturally attract repeat customers, Morley said.
Each candle is stamped with its creator's name, she continued, and some customers have said they enjoy the "sense of connection" from using something that came from a female entrepreneur's hands.
Series of reports: Haiti Two Years After the Earthquake
Siiri Morley was nominated through Twitter to be part of our Agents for Change series, which highlights individuals helping communities solve problems, build businesses and create jobs. Follow the series on Twitter using the hashtag #AgentsforChange.
Open enrollment for health insurance exchanges begins Oct. 1. The Obama administration is hoping to enroll 7 million people in the exchanges by the end of March 2014, including 2.5 million young, healthy people.
Young Americans are the key to the success of the program, but whether the exchanges will benefit them and if they will sign up for them are still big unknowns. A June 2013 Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that 74 percent of people age 30 and under believe it's very important to have health insurance. About 51 percent are unsure the Affordable Care Act is still the law.
In this week's Twitter chat we're discussing the health insurance exchanges, including whether it's important to have health insurance, some of the reasons why people remain uninsured, and if health care reform will benefit or burden young people.
Join the chat on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 1 p.m. EDT, using #NewsHourChats. You can also view the chat taking place below.
Family insurance premiums have risen by a modest 4 percent for the second year in a row, a new survey finds. But a growing number of workers are feeling the pinch of deductibles of at least $1,000. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
For the second year in a row, health insurance premiums for job-based family coverage rose a relatively modest 4 percent, reflecting slowed health spending.
Nonetheless, workers are likely to feel an increased pinch from health care costs: More than a third have annual deductibles of at least $1,000 this year before their insurance kicks in, while wages continue to grow far more slowly than health insurance costs.
The average family plan premium topped $16,000 for the first time, with workers paying on average $4,565 toward that cost, not counting copays and deductibles, according to a survey of about 2,000 employers released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.
The average cost of a single employee's insurance premiums rose 5 percent, to $5,884, with workers paying an average of $999, the survey found. Workers' wages increased 1.8 percent on average, while general inflation rose 1.1 percent. The survey was done between January and May of this year.
"The premium increase this year is very moderate, but the pain factor for health insurance cost has not disappeared," said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the foundation. "Over time, what people pay for health care has dramatically eclipsed both their wages and inflation."
The increases documented in the report, moderate by historic standards, come amid ongoing debate over the federal health law's ability to rein in health care costs. In July, the Obama administration granted a one-year delay, until 2015, in the requirement that employers with 50 or more workers offer coverage or face a fine, prompting Republicans to call for a similar delay in the rule requiring most individuals to carry coverage. Critics and opponents have also sparred over whether the health law will slow premium growth. All sides may find fodder in the report, observers say.
"You will have the administration and the Democrats saying, 'Look how the health law is helping moderate health cost increases,' and Republicans and those against the law will say, 'It hasn't done anything because costs are still four times inflation,'" said Paul Fronstin, director of the Health Research and Education Program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.
The employer survey found that 93 percent of firms with more than 50 workers offer coverage, down from 95 percent in the 2012 survey. Overall, 57 percent of all employers offer health insurance to their workers, down from 66 percent decade ago. The rate of coverage by employers with 200 or more workers remained steady, with about 99 percent offering insurance. Coverage drops off with firm size, with only 45 percent of the smallest companies offering insurance to workers, down from 55 percent in 2003.
Other findings include:
Workers pay 18 percent of the premium costs for single coverage on average, and 29 percent of the premium cost for family plans, rates that have changed little in a decade.
Health insurance premiums have risen 196 percent since 1999, with worker contributions growing 182 percent. Meanwhile, wages have grown an average of 50 percent since 1999.
Thirty-eight percent of all workers with single health insurance had at least a $1,000 annual deductible, the amount they pay before most insurance coverage kicks in. At small firms, 58 percent of those covered workers had at least a $1,000 deductible, while nearly 31 percent had deductibles of at least $2,000, up from 12 percent in 2008.
"One of the changes in this report is the growth in deductibles," said economist Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. The deductibles were likely "a factor behind the premium increase being as low as it was."
Workers in small firms with three to 199 employees face an average annual deductible of $1,715 compared with $884 for those in larger firms.
Small businesses generally see more volatile insurance premium rates than larger firms. Scott Hauge, who runs an insurance brokerage firm in California, says his clients have seen increases averaging around 10 percent a year for the past seven years. He doesn't dispute the findings of the survey, but added that "small businesses are not seeing those minor increases."
Analysts say premium increases are cyclical, with periods of rapid increases, such as the double-digit hikes that marked the late 1980s and the early 2000s, followed by periods of slower growth. Since about the mid-2000s, rate increases paid by employers fell below 10 percent each year, with the smallest annual growth tracked at 3 percent in the 2009-2010 employer survey. In what surprised many analysts, rates jumped by 9 percent from 2010 to 2011 before moderating the past two years to around 4 percent.
Some employers say changes associated with the health law, such as a provision allowing adult children to stay on their parents' plans until age 26, are adding costs.
"We're all seeing it," said Forrest Cook, vice president of human resources at NCP Solutions, a 350-employee company in Birmingham, Ala. "We have around a 5 percent to 6 percent increase this year. Before that, our costs held steady for about three or four years."
Cook was also concerned with the uncertainty surrounding the health law, such as the year delay in the requirement that large employers provide health coverage or pay a penalty.
His firm does not require workers to pay a large sum before their insurance kicks in because "when you have a high deductible plan, it's going to discourage people from using it," Cook said.
But the firm is enthusiastic about wellness programs, as are 35 percent of employers in the survey, who consider them an effective strategy for controlling costs. Such programs range widely, from providing small gifts to employees for filling out a health risk questionnaire, to offering large reductions in premiums for workers who get screened and meet certain goals for weight, blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar. The federal health law allows employers to increase those financial incentives from 20 percent of the cost of the health coverage to 30 percent.
NCP offers workers financial incentives to participate in wellness programs, including getting flu shots and checking for such things as high blood pressure. Those who sign up for a stop-smoking class get credit for paid time off, Cook said. And the firm discusses health costs with workers.
"We're very honest about the cost of our plan," said Cook, whose firm is self-insured. "We tell people if you control the cost of the health plan, if you're lively and well, it will cost us less."
Do you have questions or concerns about Obamacare? Leave them in this Public Insight Network form, and the PBS NewsHour will try to answer them in the weeks ahead.
Ankita Rao contributed to this story. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Kamenetz joins Hari Sreenivasan in New York to discuss a new study revealing more and more undergraduates are relying on federal aid in order to attend college. In just five years, that number has increased from 47 to 57 percent.
Editor's note | Starting Sept. 7, the PBS NewsHour is expanding its family, adding a "PBS NewsHour Weekend" newscast on Saturdays and Sundays. The 30-minute show will be anchored by Hari Sreenivasan. The above interview is a selection from NewsHour Weekend's rehearsal on Aug. 20, presented by New York PBS member station WNET and broadcast out of the Tisch WNET studios.
Edward Snowden is the eighth person to be charged for espionage by the Obama administration. Learn more about the history of alleged "leakers" in America and what distinguishes Snowden from the others.
By Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein
In an encore post, Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein explain that the early Jewish emphasis on literacy set Jews up for economic success.
Paul Solman: Of the three most popular posts in the six-year history of the Making Sen$e Business Desk, two seem unsurprising, at least in retrospect: Charles Murray's "Do You Live in a Bubble Quiz" to test how in or out of touch you are with mainstream white American culture and "Ask Larry" Kotlikoff's original retirement post: "34 Social Security Secrets You Need to Know Now".
But the popularity of the third-ranked post, of the more than a thousand originals we've run on this page since 2007, was as remarkable as it was gratifying: a 3000-word essay by two eminent economic historians who teach in Italy and Israel respectively summarizing their explanation of Jewish economic success, a thesis more than a decade in the making that has become the book "The Chosen Few."
The post also generated nearly 500 comments on our pages and questions on Facebook as well. We asked authors Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein if they would read the responses and address them. Today, they do.
Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein: Back on April 18, on the Business Desk, we briefly summarized the main message of our book "The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492." In the following few days, the post generated a flood of comments (many posted online, a few sent directly to us). We took some time to sift through and think about these remarks; here we answer some of them, hoping our responses may be of general interest.
Before doing this, a clarification may help dispel a few misunderstandings behind some of the comments posted. Ex-ante, when we started studying this topic more than 13 years ago, and then in writing the book, we did not have (and we still do not have today) any ideological agenda. As scholars, we had (and still have) a genuine scholarly interest in trying to understand one of the most fascinating puzzles of Jewish history: why such notable economic success?
Ex-post, what we learned from the history of the Jews between 70 and 1492 is a positive message for anyone, Jewish and non-Jewish: investing in education is a powerful lever that can lift people out of poverty, raise standards of living, improve well-being in several other dimensions, foster intellectual achievement and promote technological and scientific progress.
As to the responses to our article, there were a number of insightful comments and questions -- some critical, some supportive of the main argument in our post -- that are actually addressed in the book. Answering here some of the comments that Business Desk readers raised, though, gives us an opportunity to clarify and highlight some important points that were missing in our first post. For this reason, we are very grateful to those readers who raised these issues.
Why did you choose the title "The Chosen Few"? Don't you feel it may create misunderstandings?
We explain the meaning of this title in the book's introduction. But instead of repeating here what is clear throughout the book, let us communicate another positive message that our book intends to spread: in the world of almost universal illiteracy back 2,000 years, the Jewish religious leadership -- the rabbis and scholars in the academies in Judea and Galilee -- required each Jewish individual, child or adult, rich or poor, farmer or merchant, to learn to read and study the Torah. Instead of restricting learning, study and knowledge to a small elite, the Jewish religious leadership of that time went exactly in the opposite direction: it pushed Judaism toward making literacy, education and knowledge universal among all Jews. Centuries later, this apparently odd choice of a religious norm became the lever of the economic prosperity and intellectual achievements of the Jews.
Have the Jews been an urban population specialized in the most skilled occupations (e.g., trade, finance, medicine, law) since biblical times?
The answer is: no. Back 2,000 years ago, when our book starts, the occupational structure of the Jews was not peculiar at all: almost all Jews were illiterate farmers, exactly like the rest of the population in the locations in which the Jewish communities dwelled -- Eretz Israel, Mesopotamia, North Africa, Syria, the Balkans and southern Europe. If one travels back in time and takes a picture of the world as it was 2,000 years ago, one could hardly distinguish a Jew from a non-Jew when it came to the way people earned their living. If we took the same picture in the 1920s to 1930s, as the eminent economist Simon Kuznets did, using a lot of data and statistical analysis, one would see a completely different pattern: between 91 and 99 percent of the Jews in the world were engaged in urban skilled occupations, whereas most of the population in the world, with the exception of very few countries such as the United States, was still earning a living from agriculture. In the almost 2,000 years from 70 CE to 1939, the occupational structure of the Jewish people had become distinctive.More from Botticini and Eckstein: The Chosen Few: A New Explanation of Jewish Success
This fact immediately raises a question: when and where did this occupational transition happen? It began in Mesopotamia (where more than 70 percent of world Jewry dwelled) under the rule of the Umayyad, and later, the Abbasid Muslim caliphates, during the eighth to ninth centuries, and then it spread to other locations. The economic changes prompted by the geographical expansion, the commercial growth and the vast urbanization in the newly established Muslim caliphates had a profound and lasting impact on the occupational structure of the large Jewish community dwelling in this enormous empire.
Literacy (which the Jews became endowed with because of the profound transformation of their religion after 70) is not enough to explain the specialization of the Jews in urban skilled occupations. There is much more than just literacy that can explain their peculiar occupational structure (e.g., the ability to think in an analytical way because of the study of the Talmud, networking abilities, mutual trust, etc.).
We agree with some of these suggestions. In fact, in chapter 6, we describe in great detail the positive spillover effects for the Jews of being able to read and to study the Torah in the vastly illiterate world of the first (and part of the second) millennium. Let us summarize them here, albeit briefly.
If Jewish children and adults learned to read the Torah in Hebrew (as their religion required), they could read other texts written in the same language (such as letters, contracts, account books, business records and other non-religious texts). Thus "religious literacy" (the ability to read the Torah in Hebrew) helped acquire "general literacy" (the ability to read any text). Back 2,000 years ago (and still many centuries later), general literacy was almost useless to farmers (Jewish and non-Jewish), but it was very valuable to craftsmen and merchants often in need of writing letters and business contracts and to keep account books.
Judaism after the year 70, required both children and adults to read and to study the Torah. That is, it was not enough to just read without understanding the text and it was not enough to just memorize the text. This means that after 70, Judaism imposed on its members not just literacy per se but also the duty of understanding what was written. Again, this skill was valuable for occupations that benefited from understanding what was written in a contract or business letter such as crafts, trade or banking.
From the way learning happens even today, we know that if someone learns one language, it is more likely that the same person can learn a second or third or a fourth language. In the period we study (70-1492), Jews read the Torah in Hebrew and learned the different local languages of the locations in which they dwelled (e.g., Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Spanish and German).
Acquiring basic literacy was the first step in moving to higher studies and acquiring more and more education. So learning to read and studying the Torah were prerequisites for learning and studying more complex texts such as the Mishna and the Talmud. Those who studied these texts (consisting of extensive debates and discussions among rabbis and sages) acquired the ability to think in an analytical and argumentative way -- skills that could become helpful in commercial, entrepreneurial and financial activities.
Literacy and education fostered mobility because literate and educated Jews could more easily migrate to new locations in search of business opportunities, learn the local languages, and stay in touch with relatives and business associates back at home by writing and reading letters. (In chapter 6, we provide a sample of these letters.) Mobility was not an asset for farmers, but it surely was for merchants and traders.
Literacy, education and mobility fostered networking abilities among Jews living in different locations: it is hard to stay connected with business associates if one cannot read and write letters and contracts. Again, networking was not especially valuable for farmers, but it was very valuable for traders and bankers, who could exploit arbitrage opportunities through networking with business associates in different locations, and exchange information and capital when needed.
Literacy and education are prerequisites for having legal codes and courts that can enforce contracts. Even today, having contract-enforcing institutions promotes commercial and trading activities. Many centuries ago, thanks to their literacy and education, the Jews had a set of contract-enforcing institutions, more precisely: a legal written code (the Talmud); the rabbinical courts that ensured that deeds and contracts among Jews could be enforced regardless of where the Jews were living; and the rabbinical written Responsa that helped solve legal controversies when unforeseen in the Talmud.
To sum up: in our first post we focused on literacy. However, in our book we explain that the Jewish religious leadership imposed religious literacy on its members after 70. It did so for purely religious motives -- to ensure that every Jewish individual could learn and obey the Jewish Law written in the Torah -- but the side effect was that Torah study endowed the Jews with other skills and assets, including general literacy, the ability to understand texts, analytical reasoning, mobility, networking abilities and contract-enforcement institutions. Centuries later, those skills would become the lever of the transition into high-skill occupations and specializations like crafts, trade, entrepreneurial activities, finance, medicine and the law.
In what sense does your book really deliver a novel argument? From reading your post, isn't it obvious to anyone that Jews have been more educated than other people for most of their history and this is the reason why they became successful traders, bankers, doctors, lawyers, etc.?
To those readers who are skeptical about the novelty of the analysis in our book, we reply with three main points.
First, as described above, documenting the timing and geography of the Jewish occupational transition is one of the novel and main contributions of our book. In doing so, we did not re-invent history but coherently put together the evidence that many prominent historians have collected. Instead of focusing on one geographical area or a specific time period, we considered the stretch from 70 to 1492; in doing so, we could track the timing and geography of the profound transformation in the occupational structure of the Jews.
Only once we know when and where the occupational transition of the Jewish people occurred is it possible to address the second fundamental question: why, at a given point in their history, did the Jews become an urban population engaged in the most skilled occupations, which remains so today?
Before claiming to put forth any new theory, scholars doing serious academic research study and analyze what other scholars have written on the same topic. Others have cited restrictions on Jewish land ownership, bans on their lending money or religious persecution to explain the Jews' investment in education and human capital. Still others have suggested Jews voluntarily segregated into urban jobs to preserve their religious and cultural identity. We disagree with these theories because we show that they are inconsistent with the key historical facts -- facts that we did not invent, but that have been documented by many historians.
Second, it is well known that after 70 CE, Judaism became a religion focused on reading and studying the Torah by each member of the community. It may not be equally well known that Judaism was the only religion at that time (and for many subsequent centuries) that required families to send their children to school or the synagogue to learn to read and to study the Torah from the age of six or seven. As explained in our first post, this was a unique and quite revolutionary change in the primarily agrarian and illiterate world of 2,000 years ago. A farmer -- whether Jewish or non-Jewish -- needed children with physical strength who could help him with the farm work; by contrast, children who could read the Torah did not help farmers earn a living; they would have been an economic burden given the way the economy functioned back then.
Yet, unlike other scholars, we disagree with the argument that the investment in literacy and education was the outcome of persecutions (known as the "portable human capital" argument), and we go into a lot of detail in to explain why.
Here we just briefly summarize the two main points to highlight another key novelty of our book: two thousand years ago, the Jews were the majority of the population in Eretz Israel, where Judaism's transformation into a literate religion began. It is therefore hard to apply the argument that Jews became educated because they were a persecuted religious minority where they clearly were not.
Moreover, in the first millennium, there were other religious or ethnic minorities, who experienced persecutions like the Samaritans, the Druses and the Christians in the first three centuries. Yet none of them decided to require their members to educate their children and themselves. In more recent times, the Roma, aka "Gypsies," are an example of a minority that has been repeatedly persecuted, yet they have not invested in literacy and education.
As many historians have documented, Jews experienced restrictions, persecutions and massacres in some periods and in some locations. Nobody denies these historical facts. Neither do we. But we disagree with the argument that persecutions were the reason why Jews decided to invest -- before and to a larger extent than any other population -- in literacy, education and (portable) human capital. In contrast, the emphasis by one Jewish group (the Pharisees) on reading and studying the Torah and sending the children to school pre-dated the historical events of the year 70. The traumatic destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem accelerated this transformation of Judaism toward a literate religion -- a transformation that one group within Judaism had pushed forward one or two centuries before the Jewish wars and related persecutions that punctuated the history of the Jews in Eretz Israel and the Diaspora during the first and second centuries.
Third, regardless of why a proportion of Jews invested in education and human capital, why does our book set forth a novel argument? Shouldn't it be obvious that a literate and educated population would prefer earning higher incomes in the crafts, trade or banking instead of struggling to make a living as farmers?
We disagree with this statement. In fact -- and this is the third novel argument of our book -- the Jews remained mostly farmers for seven or eight centuries after the transformation of Judaism into a literate religion. Why? The Jews, now more literate and more educated than the rest of the population because of the unique requirement imposed by their religion, had to wait for the establishment of the vast empire under the Umayyad and later the Abbasid Muslim rulers. The concomitant commercial expansion and urbanization in the vast area stretching from Spain to India suddenly created a huge demand for professions that required and benefited from literacy, education, mobility, networking abilities and contract-enforcement institutions. The Jews found themselves accidentally equipped with these skills thanks to their unique religious norm. This is why they left farming and moved into crafts, trade, banking, medicine and other skilled occupations -- the opportunity had finally arisen.
What else is novel in your book?
Another novel contribution of our book is to explain the striking decline in the size of the Jewish population from the first to the sixth century, and from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. Like other scholars, we agree that war-related persecutions and massacres, as well as factors affecting general population decline (epidemics), account for a significant part of the Jewish demographic decline. However, we show that these factors cannot account for the entire decline of the Jewish population in those periods. There was something else that made Jews' numbers dwindle: conversion to other religions with less demanding norms than the costly requirement of educating children that Judaism required.
To what extent was Judaism unique in requiring its members to read a sacred text? Didn't Islam have the same requirement? What about Protestants?
During the first millennium, Judaism was the only religion requiring all its male members to learn to read and to study its holy text. Muslims are required to learn the Quran, but from reading experts on the history of religions, it seems this learning can occur through memorization, not necessarily through reading. Also, as far as we know, there was no norm in Islam in the time period we cover that required families to send their children to school to learn to read and to study the Quran.
As for Protestantism, we do not mention it (or other religions that spread after 1492) because our book ends in 1492. However, Protestantism also required its members to learn to read and to study the Bible. Indeed, literacy has often been suggested, by scholar Ernest Gellner for example, as a reason for Protestant economic success. Jews imposed this requirement 15 centuries earlier.
Why do you deny the role that restrictions, persecutions, banishments and expulsions had on the way Jewish history was shaped? Why do you put all this emphasis just on literacy and education?
We ask skeptics to read the explanations above, and chapters 2, 6, 7 and 8 of our book for a detailed answer to this question. Yet, let us repeat even more forcefully than we already have: we do not deny restrictions or persecutions or expulsions in Jewish history. When they happened, we record them in our book; we are not changing or re-inventing history, we summarize what hundreds of historians have documented.
What we say in our book is something different. There were documented times and locations in which legal or economic restrictions on Jews did not exist. For example, Jews could own land and be farmers in the vast Umayyad and Abbasid Muslim empire. The same is true in early medieval Europe.
Therefore, if these restrictions on land ownership did not exist for most of the time period we cover (70-1492), they cannot explain why the Jews left agriculture and entered trade, finance, medicine and other skilled profession. There must have been some other factors that led the Jews to specialize in the professions they do today.
A final word about why people should read your book?
We respect anyone's opinion, but to agree or disagree with a book, you first need to know what the book really says. It is now summer, a good time to borrow a book (any book!) from the local public library and read it. Reading a book is rarely a waste of time, even when we end up totally disagreeing with its main message.
This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight.
Artist's rendition of the Kepler telescope. Courtesy: NASA/Kepler mission/Wendy Stenzel
Last week, scientists announced that after four years of surveying a strip of the Milky Way galaxy, the Kepler Space Telescope would officially go offline, due to a broken wheel that's been damaged beyond repair.
And while the lion's share of attention since has focused on the mission's primary goal -- its contribution to the search for Earth-like planets -- there's also a great deal to say about what Kepler has found beyond this search, scientists say.
To date, the Kepler mission has confirmed 136 planets, and 3,548 unconfirmed, potential planets. Of those unconfirmed planets, 272 are believed to be in the so-called "habitable zone," warm enough for liquid water and life, said Wesley Traub , chief scientist of NASA's exoplanet exploration program.
But Kepler also turned up hundreds of unusual planets and solar systems in our galaxy, said Geoffrey Marcy, astronomer with the University of California Berkeley, and he calls this a monumental step forward for exoplanet studies.
"Eighteen years ago...the whole field of exoplanets didn't exist at all. We've gone from no planets and no prospect of finding any in 1995, and now we are overwhelmed with a tsunami of new planets," Marcy said.
Here's a sample of what the Kepler mission has turned up, beyond the search for other Earths:
SUPER-EARTHS AND SUB-NEPTUNES
Artist's concept of Kepler-22b, a "super-Earth" orbiting in the habitable zone. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth. Courtesy: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Among the Kepler mission's more remarkable findings is a whole class of planets larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, said Natalie Batalha, the lead scientist on the Kepler mission. In fact, these "super-Earths" or "sub-Neptunes" made up a surprising 85 percent of the planets found in Kepler's arsenal.
That find is really unusual, Marcy said. "There's a dominant type of planet, one to four times the size of Earth, that are the common run-of-the-mill planet. Yet in our system, we don't have any at all."
But don't be fooled by their names, Batalha warned. They could be rocky like the Earth, or icy, gaseous planets, more like Neptune. "We don't understand the nature of those planets. Can you have a Neptune-size planet that's rocky? Or can you have an Earth-size planet that's an ice ball?"
BACKWARD, VERTICAL AND ELLIPTICAL ORBITS
Artist's concept of Kepler-11, a planetary system 2,000 light years away where six planets orbit a star. Kepler-11 is the first discovered exoplanetary system with more than three transiting planets. Courtesy: NASA/Tim Pyle
The eight planets in our solar system travel in a near-perfect circular orbit. And they all travel in the same plane and the same direction. But Kepler found solar systems with elongated, elliptical orbits, where planets swing close to their home star, and then slingshot far away.
It's a mystery, Marcy said, explaining the traditional orbit like this: As some gas and dust collapse to form stars, gravity pulls the remaining matter in a circular pattern, like water swirling around the drain, he said. That matter comes together to form planets, which continue traveling around their home star in a circular orbit. Which begs the question:
"How in the world did the darn planets get into elongated orbits?" Marcy asks.
Kepler also spotted solar systems that featured several planets crowding their home star, orbiting closer than Mercury is to our sun, Traub said. For example, there are six planets in the Kepler 11 system, 2,000 light years from Earth, floating closer to their sun than Venus.
And not all planets travel in the same pattern. Kepler has found evidence of planets orbiting backward, against the direction of their fellow planets, and others traveling in a near-vertical axis to their sun.
Scientists had previously considered this "completely against the rules of the solar system," Traub said.
Artist's concept of Kepler-76b, or "Einstein's Planet", a "hot Jupiter" which orbits its star every one and a half days. Courtesy: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
Kepler also spotted Jupiter-sized planets floating closer to their stars than our Mercury. Heather Knutson, assistant professor of planetary sciences at the California Institute of Technology, analyzed the weather of one such behemoth, the blue HD189733b, with the Spitzer Telescope. Temperatures on HD189733b ranged from 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit by day.
That's so hot that Knutson and her fellow researchers estimated the planet must be boiling away, losing more than 2 billion pounds of mass per second.
These hot Jupiters appear to be rare in our galaxy, Batalha said. And they are lonely planets, too. Hot Jupiters are the only planets in their systems, likely forming away from their star and migrating inward, Knutson said, but no one knows how.
"It's a very random, very messy process when solar systems form but there are many combinations possible," she said. "We picture [planets] as static; they form and stay in place. What we're discovering is they don't stay put, and maybe we're the exception, not the rule."
THE PLANET, VULCAN
Artist's concept of Kepler-10b, nicknamed "Planet Vulcan". Courtesy: NASA/Kepler Mission/Dana Berry
One of the earliest confirmed planets of the Kepler mission was Kepler-10b, a rocky planet orbiting a star twice the age of the sun, 560 light years away. Batalha started calling the planet "Vulcan", after the Roman god of fire -- not, she's quick to clarify, after "Star Trek" Spock's home planet. This is because Kepler-10b is 23 times closer than Mercury to its star which makes it a canonical "vulcan" planet, Batalha explained.
"The heat from its parent star is going to be so intense that the surface temperature will be in excess of the temperatures needed to melt iron," she said. "An entire hemisphere is an ocean of lava, not of water."
TATOOINE PLANET ORBITS TWO STARS
Artist's concept of Kepler-16b, also called "Tatooine", the first confirmed planet to orbit eclipsing binary stars. Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyle
In the "Star Wars" film trilogy, Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine featured a double sunset, something that scientists doubted could ever happen, Batalha said. Orbiting two stars would be difficult; the planet would be pulled by so many gravitational forces, she explained. But Kepler found it. Kepler-16b is one of the planets the telescope identified as orbiting two stars -- now nicknamed "Tatooine" for the planet in George Lucas' film. And there may be more. Kepler found 2,165 pairs of stars orbiting each other in its survey so far.
"It's interesting to think about how science fiction informs science and vice versa. I just loved watching that play out in reality," Batalha said.
Super-Earths, hot Jupiters and binary star systems are just scratching the surface of Kepler's data. It may be offline, but the data Kepler has left behind is overwhelming, says Andrew Howard, an astronomer with the University of Hawaii. Scientists are still working day and night, literally, to comb through all of the data, and it may be decades before they understand it all, he said.
"One thing about the Kepler data is that the spigot turned off about a year before we were able to catch up," he said. "There is so much -- and such rich -- data to make sense of."
Scientists are still hoping to find evidence of carbide planets in Kepler's readings, planets with mountains made of diamond instead of silicon-based rock. Others hope to comb through the data looking for signs of "free-floating" planets, planets that have been ejected from their solar systems. Upcoming missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will tell astronomers more about the closer planets in Kepler's survey, Traub said.
Still, Batalha's ultimate goal is to find something familiar in the galaxy.
"I want to find something that really does look like home," she said. "That sounds myopic, and it sounds too narrow-minded, but we only have one example of life and that's here on this outpost called Earth."
RAY SUAREZ: The Syrian government pounded rebel areas outside the capital, Damascus, early today, and anti-government activists said some rockets included chemical weapons that killed hundreds of people.
A warning: There are disturbing images in this report.
Women and children shielded their faces with handkerchiefs, while victims, writhing in pain, gasped for air, some foaming at the mouth. These amateur videos all posted on social media Web sites that cannot be independently verified showed scores of bodies filling clinic floors and hallways. All showed little signs of visible injuries.
In one local doctor's account:
MAN (through interpreter): It is a huge crisis. The number of victims is very high. I have carried in my own hands around 50 dead children. The gas was losing its effect after half-an-hour, but unfortunately people went down to the basements, and because the gas is heavy, it reached the basements, and, as a result, the number of wounded increased.
RAY SUAREZ: It's all evidence, Syrian opposition leaders in Turkey say, of the government's gassing of its own civilians, in what could be one of the deadliest incidents in the two-year-long Syrian conflict.
KHALED SALEH, Syrian National Coalition: These are the faces of terrorists that Bashar al-Assad is targeting. This massacre puts the world on attention. It really sends a message to all of the international organizations to the -- the number of crimes this regime is willing to commit.
RAY SUAREZ: But, back in Damascus, a military spokesman denied the allegations.
MAN (through interpreter): The media channels have lied, as usual, that the Syrian Arab army used chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus today. The general leadership of the army confirms these allegations are completely false and are a part of the dirty media war that is led by some countries against Syria.
RAY SUAREZ: The purported attack comes amid reports that Assad forces have regained major swathes of territory in the country in recent weeks and just days after a 20-member United Nations inspection team arrived in Syria to investigate three other possible chemical weapon incidents.
In Washington, the Obama administration expressed alarm at news of the attack, but White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest stopped short of confirming details, instead calling for a U.N.-backed investigation.
JOSH EARNEST, White House Deputy Press Secretary: There is an investigation team that is on the ground in Syria right. And we are hopeful that the Assad regime will follow through on what they have claimed previously and give the investigators access to the sites, the opportunity to interview witnesses, the opportunity to collect physical samples, and other things that would help them reach a credible determination about what exactly occurred there.
RAY SUAREZ: World leaders, including the foreign ministers of Britain and Germany and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, expressed shock at the chemical weapons allegations and called for a thorough investigation, as did Russia, which has protected the Assad regime by vetoing U.N. sanctions aimed at ending the violence.
In a statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman suggested the incident could be a provocation by the opposition, saying: "This is supported by the fact that the criminal act was committed near Damascus at the very moment when a mission of U.N. experts had successfully started their work of investigating allegations of the possible use of chemical weapons there."
The U.N. Security Council did meet in emergency session late today to discuss the day's events, all this as thousands of Syrians continue to stream over the borders everyday to neighboring countries Iraq and Jordan, trying to escape the ongoing violence.
RAY SUAREZ: For more on the possible chemical attack, I'm joined by Jeffrey White, a former senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Amy Smithson, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
Jeffrey White, the images are terrible. What does this tell you about the state of the civil war in Syria?
JEFFREY WHITE, Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Well, unbelievably, it continues to escalate, right?
And it looks like the regime conducted this operation using a fairly significant amount of chemical weapon. And it demonstrates once again that the regime will go as far as it needs to, to win this war.
RAY SUAREZ: What's the significance of the location, so close to Damascus?
JEFFREY WHITE: These were areas, east Guta and western Guta in the Damascus suburbs, that the rebels have held and controlled for a long time.
The regime has been conducting a series of extended offensives to get the rebels out of these areas, unsuccessfully. It's also been losing troops, personnel, tanks, and so on in these offenses. So it looks to me like the regime is trying to make a decisive action here and force the rebels out.
RAY SUAREZ: Amy Smithson, several European foreign ministers today said they're going to wait until there's verification of what they saw in that video. The Turkish foreign minister spokesman said he saw all he needed to see, this was clearly a chemical attack.
When video like this arrives of uncertain provenance, you don't know who shot it, you don't know who the people are in the video, how do you determine whether it's the real thing?
AMY SMITHSON, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies: Well, the last incident that the world saw where there were chemical casualties on this scale was Halabja, which was Saddam Hussein's attack in 1988 against a small town, Kurdish village.
There weren't cell phones around then to record all these types of images. The only pictures I have ever seen of that are still photographs. And I have heard of no reports anywhere else in the world of an incident of this magnitude.
So all signs are pointing toward Damascus and this is something that happened within the last 24 hours.
RAY SUAREZ: But when a government has policy decisions may hinge on the verifiability, the authenticity of these images, how do you satisfy yourself that you know what you're seeing, where it happened, how many casualties there are?
AMY SMITHSON: Well, I think the casualty toll will become clearer with the passage of time. These people were taken to several different hospitals and even makeshift facilities.
And it's really impossible to know from just video images what specific chemical was involved. These symptoms that you're seeing, the twitching, the pinpoint pupils, sometimes convulsing, are consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals, not necessarily just sarin or V.X., the classic warfare agents.
And the inspectors that are there have sampling equipment and will be able to determine that if they're let out of the hotel.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, that's a good point.
The inspection regime often involves negotiations before the team arrives about what they're going to be able to see, where they're going to be able to go. When an incident happens once they're already on the ground, can you renegotiate the terms when they're in-country?
JEFFREY WHITE: You can try.
The Syrian government certainly has demonstrated over the past several years that in any negotiations over any access like this, it's a very difficult partner in those negotiations. It tries to circumscribe as much as possible the activity of any human team operating inside Syria.
It puts conditions on what they can do. It rejects proposals that they make to take out -- take inspection-type actions when it feels like it doesn't want that to happen. So there's no guarantee that the U.N. inspectors will be able to see anything outside of their hotel room.
The regime clearly has a significant interest in denying access to this area. If they do, it will be a sign that they are, in fact, guilty of this particular action.
RAY SUAREZ: Amy Smithson, is Syria a signatory of any treaties that limit the production and use of chemical weapons?
MY SMITHSON: Syria is not a member of the chemical weapons convention, which does just that. But 188 other nations are.
And this is the treaty that outlaws the use not just of sarin and V.X., but of any toxic chemical for military purposes. And I agree with Mr. White that it looks like a concentrated predawn attack. This is something that a commander who is knowledgeable in ideal conditions for having a gas hang in the same area.
If you did this in the middle of the day, the wind is likely to blow it away. In these predawn hours, it's cool, the winds are very low and the gas will just stay where it's fired.
RAY SUAREZ: So it sounds like you have no doubt that it's a fairly small number of players in Syria who would even be able to carry out an attack like this?
AMY SMITHSON: The scale of this attack is very different from previous incidents, which the casualty tolls were rather small and maybe one device was used to deliver it.
This is coordinated in the predawn hours in a quantity of material that's probably inconsistent with anything other than somebody who's been making this stuff and has a delivery capability that can put that much on the target in that short period of time.
RAY SUAREZ: So, Syria is not a signatory, but the world is full of them, including some of the most able nations on the planet. Are they on the hook for some kind of response if a non-signatory violates the terms of that treaty?
JEFFREY WHITE: I think they're on the hook in terms of the morality of the situation and the -- and the circumstances of what's going on there.
I don't know if they're required to do anything by any of the -- any of the protocols or whatever they have signed. But certainly there's a moral obligation to take action here. This is a horrific act, probably by the Syrian government.
So there's going to be pressure to take action, not just to punish for what happened here, but to prevent any further action along these lines.
RAY SUAREZ: Amy?
JEFFREY WHITE: The chemical weapons convention requires every state that signs it to agree to provide assistance in the event that any other member is threatened with or understood goes an attack.
Now, Syria's not a member, but we are talking about basic human decency here, which is one of the reasons why I have encouraged countries to provide defensive equipment not just to the Syrian rebels, but to the Syrian civilians.
RAY SUAREZ: It's pretty hard to defend against this kind of thing, isn't it?
AMY SMITHSON: Well, a gas mask will go a long way to help.
And it's not ideal. Ideally, you would be able to provide them with a defensive garb that covers you all over. But prior to the 1991 war, Israel equipped its entire civilian population with gas masks. And what you could see in these films was that the Syrian civilians were trying to decontaminate the victims, to wash their skin, which would help reduce the possible effects there.
So gas masks and some serious coaching about how to decontaminate and decontaminate fast will reduce the amount of casualties. It won't eliminate it.
RAY SUAREZ: Amy Smithson, Jeffrey White, thank you both.
JEFFREY WHITE: Thank you.
AMY SMITHSON: Thank you.