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

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    KWAME HOLMAN: An Egyptian court today ordered the release of ex-President Hosni Mubarak. A hearing was held at Tora prison, where the ailing 85-year-old has been detained for two years. Once freed, he will be placed under house arrest on orders of Egypt's prime minister. Mubarak also faces charges of failing to prevent the deaths of protesters in the 2011 uprising that ousted him from power.

    Meanwhile the European Union held emergency talks on the Egyptian crisis in Brussels. Its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the E.U. member nations strongly condemn the recent spate of violence between the interim government and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    CATHERINE ASHTON, European Union Foreign Policy Chief: We have agreed as well to review the issue of our assistance to Egypt with the understanding that assistance to the most vulnerable groups and to civil society must continue.

    Member states have agreed to suspend export licenses to Egypt of any equipment used for internal repression, and to reassess their export licenses covered by the E.U. common position.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The U.S. still is weighing whether to suspend some of its $1.5 billion in assistance to Egypt.

    The soldier accused in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting rampage rested his case today without presenting a defense. Army Major Nidal Hasan, who elected to represent himself, didn't testify or call any witnesses. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 at the military base in 2009. Closing arguments are set to begin tomorrow. If convicted, Hasan could face the death penalty.

    Staff Sergeant Robert Bales faced relatives of the 16 Afghan civilians he killed in a 2011 attack. Nine family members were flown from Afghanistan for the sentencing hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside Seattle. One man described the impact of losing 11 family members in the attack. Bales pleaded guilty in June to avoid the death penalty. The jury will decide whether his life sentence will include a chance for parole.

    The month of July saw a big boost in existing home sales. They jumped 6.5 percent, the fastest pace in more than three years. But for stocks on Wall Street, that bright spot didn't outweigh news from the Federal Reserve that it could end its massive bond-buying program soon. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 105 points to close at 14,897. The NASDAQ fell more than 13 points to close above 3,599.

    The last set of four secret audio recordings made in President Nixon's White House was released today by the National Archives and Records Administration. It covers a three-month span, ending July 12, 1973, the day before the existence of the secret recordings, ordered by Nixon, was revealed. The period includes a Soviet summit, the end of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

    In this excerpt, President Nixon speaks to then-Governor of California Ronald Reagan on April 30, 1973. That's the day the president gave a national address after firing two top aides as the Watergate scandal intensified.

    PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: How nice of you to call.

    GOV. RONALD REAGAN, California: Well, I just wanted you to know we watched -- my heart was with you. I know what this must have been and what this must have been in all these days and what you have been through.

    I just wanted you to know for whatever it's worth, I'm still -- you can count on us, we're still behind you out here, and I wanted you to know that you're in our prayers.

    RICHARD NIXON: How nice of you to say that. Well, let me tell you this, that we can be -- each of us has a different religion, you know?


    RICHARD NIXON: But, God damn it, Ron, we have got to build peace in the world and that's what I'm working on. And you're going to work on it, and all the rest. I just want to know I so appreciate your calling and give my greater thought to Nancy.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The recordings released today run 340 hours. Some 3,700 hours of conversations were taped; 700 hours remain sealed for national security and privacy reasons.

    The longtime host of NPR's Piano Jazz program, Marian McPartland, has died at her home in Long Island, New York. The British-born jazz pianist reached an audience of millions over her four decades on the air. She interviewed and played duets with many of the world's greatest musicians. She received a lifetime Grammy Award in 2004. Marian McPartland was 95 years old.

    Those are some of the day's major stories.

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    GWEN IFILL: Private Bradley Manning, the Army soldier responsible for the largest classified data leak in U.S. history, was sentenced today to 35 years in military prison.

    Manning, who provided the website WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents, was flanked by his attorneys, as military judge Colonel Denise Lind announced the punishment without explanation during a brief hearing this morning. Manning's attorney, David Coombs, spoke to reporters afterwards.

    DAVID COOMBS, attorney for Bradley Manning: PFC Manning was one of the brave Americans who wasn't willing to remain silent.

    Instead, he decided to provide us with information that he believed would spark reforms, would spark debate, and he provided us with information that he believed might change the world. The time to end Brad's suffering is now. The time for our president to focus on protecting whistle-blowers, instead of punishing them, is now.

    I'm joined now by Charlie Savage, who has been covering the Manning trial for The New York Times.

    Charlie, 35-year sentence, seven years perhaps before he gets a chance to be paroled. Is that considered a tough outcome?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE, The New York Times: It is a tough outcome.

    It is the longest by far sentence ever handed down in the United States in a case involving the leak of government secrets to the news media to be reported to the public.

    GWEN IFILL: So we're also talking about a reduction in rank, as well as a dishonorable discharge. Does that add to the sting as well?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, I think being reduced to the lowest rank of private and a dishonorable discharge was expected and is sort of a minor thing.

    The 35-year prison sentence is the important factor, a staggering amount of time compared to other sentences that have been handed down to convicted leakers.

    GWEN IFILL: What comparable sentences can you draw the link to here?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, you have to remember that there have been very few convictions of people for leaking information for public consumption at all in this country.

    The first time that happened was in 1985 or '84, where a former Navy analyst was sentenced to two years. And it was so rare that President Clinton later pardoned him because it was sort of unfair that this one guy had been convicted for something that happens all the time.

    Under this administration, of course, that we have seen, as has been well-documented, a flurry, a crackdown on leaking. There have been a few cases. One resulted in the sentence of one-year probation and community service. One resulted in 20 months in prison. One resulted in 30 months in prison.

    And so 35 years is a categorical difference. Of course, the scale of Private Manning's leaks was also unlike anything we have ever seen before.

    GWEN IFILL: But they were asking for more. They were asking for 60 years, right, which would have made him less eligible for parole in such a short amount of time.

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: The prosecutors were, indeed, asking for 60 years. Of course, they had originally sought to convict him on a charge that could result in a life sentence.

    And Private Manning himself had unilaterally pled guilty to charges that would put him behind bars up to 20 years. So 35 years sort of splits the difference between that 20 and that 60. My understanding of the military justice system, which is a little bit different than the federal criminal justice system, is that any sentence over 30 years makes one eligible for parole after 10 years.

    And so an even longer sentence might not have changed the outcome if someday he gets out on parole when he becomes eligible for it, which is a big if.

    GWEN IFILL: Let's talk about Bradley Manning. He was in court today for this very brief -- this very brief adjudication. What happened? Did he react? Was there any kind of outcry?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: I was there watching from a closed-circuit television feed and a colleague of mine was in the courtroom. She described him as sitting very quietly with his hands clasped, whispering to his lawyer sort of nervously before the hearing.

    He stood -- and we could watch him on the screen as well -- alongside at attention, alongside his lawyer and the prosecution in this sort of two-minute hearing, as the judge just sort of rattled it off, gaveled it closed and walked out.

    And, as soon as she was out of the courtroom, my colleague told me guards flanked him and sort of hustled him out of the front of the courtroom, as supporters who had been in the audience at the back of the courtroom started shouting messages of support to him.

    GWEN IFILL: He's become something of a cause celebre in some circles. And now his attorney is asking for a pardon. That was a long and interesting news conference he gave today afterward making that case.

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, that's certainly true that a movement has organized itself around Private Manning and sort of held him up as an iconic figure and his leaks as a heroic act to be emulated by others, they hope.

    And I think they certainly see the recent leaks by the NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have brought so much to light about domestic surveillance activities by the NSA as in this sort of tradition of the mega-leaker Private Manning sort of innovated, as it were.

    He is a figure of some renown to this open government movement. Of course, to his critics, he's someone who is a traitor, who betrayed the trust the United States government had put into him, either way, a sort of singular figure, a world historical figure, I would say, in our time.

    GWEN IFILL: His attorney, Mr. Coombs, said that the fight is not over. So what are the options, assuming that a pardon is not easily gettable?

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, the next step is that the so-called convening authority, who is the general that runs the military district of Washington, will have to review the sentence. He has the ability to accept it as is or to reduce it, but not to add to it. So that's the sort of first opportunity for clemency, if you will.

    And then it will be automatically appealed to the first stage of review by the Army Criminal Court of Appeals. It could go from there up several levels all the way to the Supreme Court, if the defense team wants to keep fighting that fight.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, Charlie Savage, thanks so much.

    CHARLIE SAVAGE: Thank you for having me.


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    RAY SUAREZ: Now to new revelations about government surveillance of Internet traffic throughout the U.S.

    Margaret Warner has the story.

    MARGARET WARNER: The nation's top intelligence official today declassified documents showing that, for three years, the National Security Agency, or NSA, collected more than 50,000 e-mails a year between Americans with no connection to terrorism.

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2011 ruled the collection methods unconstitutional. And today's documents show changes the NSA made so that the program, designed to target foreign intelligence, could continue.

    The release came hours after The Wall Street Journal reported the NSA has built a surveillance network covering roughly 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic, including e-mails, Web searches and Internet phone calls of Americans.

    And we're joined now by Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

    And, Siobhan, thank you for joining us.

    What is significant about these newly declassified documents and why were they released today?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN, The Wall Street Journal: Well, these documents show-the most significant example that we have seen of the problems that can occur when NSA has this sort of broad capability to intercept messages in the United States.

    Why it happened today is a little bit unclear, although it may be a response to a partial document that was part of the Snowden leaks that came out last week. And it may have been NSA's desire to raise -- to at least put some more context around that little snippet that was released last week that had just said that the court ruled that NSA had violated the Constitution with a particular type of collection program, but didn't really explain why or what had been done to resolve the problem.

    MARGARET WARNER: So now we actually can read that court's opinion in 2011. What was the tone of that?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN:  The tone was a pretty sharp rebuke.

    It talked about the -- it criticized the government for not taking stronger measures to protect privacy. It criticized the government for not even really trying to find new ways to collect information so it would not have these kind of violations.

    And in one of its sharpest rebukes, it said, you know, this is the third time in the last -- in less than three years that we feel that the government has misrepresented its collection programs to the court. So we have heard about sort of the checks that the court places on surveillance. And this opinion shows on the one hand that the court does provide a major check, but on the other it's after the fact and that NSA has a fair amount of leeway also to construct its surveillance programs, and there's a certain amount of self-policing that goes on there.

    MARGARET WARNER: And so this program now continues. Did the fixes the NSA made, did they completely eliminate the problem of e-mails between Americans here in the U.S. getting through the -- getting through and being looked at by the NSA?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN:  Well, it minimized the problem.

    The collection is still happening. And so the probability that wholly domestic communications are being picked up by the NSA is just the same as it has been at least since 2008. The way that NSA handles those communications now is somewhat different. They are trying to basically segregate and quarantine the sets of communications that are likely to contain wholly domestic communications and handle them so that they don't get distributed throughout NSA databases or into intelligence reports and make their way kind of throughout the system in a searchable form.

    MARGARET WARNER: OK. And, now, your piece, the one you co-authored today, talked about a much broader program, because you weren't talking just about e-mails, but also Internet searches and Skype-like phone calls.

    Is -- how does that work? How is -- how are the communications between or among Americans being protected? Or are they, as I think you reported, getting through to the NSA?


    Well, actually -- yes, what's interesting is that this court ruling and these disclosures actually prove a point that a number of people I had spoken with were making. And the violations that the court order describes bear directly on the program that I described today.

    The program that I described today is the same one, essentially. It's a set of programs, but those set of activities are what the court was criticizing. And what it is, is a set of arrangements that the National Security Agency has entered into under a court order with major U.S. telecommunications providers.

    Collectively, those providers cover 75 percent of United States communications. The NSA and the telephone companies have constructed sort of a two-step filtering system that means that the telecommunications companies do the first cut of filtering based on the guidelines that NSA provides under the court order, and then they pass a subset of that information to NSA. They call it a data stream.

    NSA then takes that data stream and filters it again against specific criteria that it has, such as an e-mail address or a set of Internet protocol addresses.

    MARGARET WARNER: And so in that data stream that gets to the NSA and then in the part of that data stream that the NSA store or analyzes, are there communications or Internet searches done by Americans strictly domestic in nature or between Americans in the U.S.?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN:  Yes, the documents that we saw today show that that whole process that I just described has a flaw when it comes to protecting American communications.

    And that is that certain types of communications, just because of the way technology has evolved, are bundled together. And so you may end up with a bundle of communications where some small portion of it contains information that is responsive to what NSA is looking for with its foreign intelligence filters, but they have to hand over the whole bundle of communications, which may also include wholly domestic communications.

    So, the problem is you can't decouple some of these sets of communications.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Siobhan Gorman, Wall Street Journal, thank you.

    SIOBHAN GORMAN:  Thank you.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: to the story of a Chicago theater where the scripts come from the real lives of the young performers.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    ACTRESS: I did it. I did it. I did it. I ran away.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In a new play called "Home/Land," two young lovers played by two teenagers leave behind their small village in Mexico for a long and dangerous trip to the United States.

    ACTRESS: Mommy will be sad. But we will get married and they will forgive us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's a scene that tells of the pain and promise of one kind of immigrant experience.

    ACTRESS: Tell me your story. Tell me how this happened. Tell me how we happened. Tell me, so I believe.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the play, several characters say to one another, "Tell me our story." It's a line that reflects the guiding spirit of an ambitious youth theater program that explores real life stories from this diverse Chicago neighborhood.

    Albany Park in northwest Chicago is a classic gateway neighborhood, home to generations of immigrants beginning with the Germans and Swedes in the 19th century. Today, more than 40 different languages can be heard in its streets and homes.

    It was here 15 years ago that David Feiner and his wife, Laura Wiley, founded the Albany Park Theater Project.

    DAVID FEINER, co-founder, Albany Park Theater Project: I'm so proud of what all of you have given to this play.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Their idea, to work with young people from many backgrounds, who would research, write and perform plays that tell their own stories.

    DAVID FEINER: The idea of working in a neighborhood where you would have stories that came from literally all over the world and that were fresh, were immediate, you would also have access to cultural traditions from all over the world, that was thrilling.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Laura Wiley died in 2007 of ovarian cancer. David Feiner has kept on. The Albany Park Theater Project, now with a staff of six and 23 young members, has built a strong after-school program that has produced more than 50 plays.

    ACTOR: I was born into food stamps. We went to the grocery store, swiped the Link card for food, paid cash for everything else.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Taking on subjects such as poverty, child abuse and racism, issues that the students themselves confront.

    DAVID FEINER: Some of them have lived in poverty. They understand some of the most difficult and unpleasant subjects intimately. As a theater artist, I want to be able to participate in some of the most significant discussions and debates happening in our world today. And I want to do with that teenagers.

    MAGGIE POPADIAK, associate director, Albany Park Theater Project: And thank your partner.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Maggie Popadiak is the company's associate director.

    MAGGIE POPADIAK: When people join APTP, they come because their friends either dragged them or they hear that we have a kitchen or there's a cute girl there. And so -- but -- and there's like some interest. . .

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's high school, after all, right?

    MAGGIE POPADIAK: It's high school, after all.

    And -- but at the same time, you know, people come here and they show up and they realize that it's more than just the opportunity to just be on the stage and perform and be an actress. We're telling the stories of people who are often ignored or stigmatized.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Maggie in fact was herself one of the first students to join the company. Her parents had fled communist Poland and come to Chicago in the 1970s. But her father died when Maggie was very young and her mother, working as a maid, battled alcoholism.

    MAGGIE POPADIAK: Are you guys ready?

    JEFFREY BROWN: The theater group became first a refuge and then something more. And Maggie wrote a play about her mother's experience.

    MAGGIE POPADIAK: So her struggle and her triumph is something that we put on the stage. And seeing that was -- for my family, it became a healing process. But it was through her coming to see the play that we were able to have a conversation about what that meant for us and how that -- you know, how that made us a strong family.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With "Home/Land," Albany Park has taken on perhaps its most controversial subject yet, illegal immigration. It's explored through a series of vignettes and stories, including one of a young Palestinian woman who came to the U.S. as a child.

    ACTRESS: We just need your I.D.

    ACTRESS: My I.D.?

    ACTRESS: For the paperwork.

    ACTRESS: I have my student I.D.

    ACTRESS: Birth certificate?

    ACTRESS: It's from Jordan.

    ACTRESS: Passport?

    ACTRESS: Jordan.

    ACTRESS: Social Security card.

    ACTRESS: Yes. But it says not valid for employment.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In another scene, a Mexican-born father held in a detention center and threatened with deportation is visited by his son.

    ACTOR: Why are you here? Why are you here? Why are you here? Did you do something wrong?

    JEFFREY BROWN: These experiences too reflect the real lives of the young actors, some of whom are themselves undocumented or have family members who are.

    They know this is tough territory and say their goal isn't a political statement, but to humanize the issue.

    Seventeen-year-old Bladimir Orduno is one of the young writer/actors.

    BLADIMIR ORDUNO, Albany Park Theater Project: A lot of people don't know about these things. That's why we come up here and we tell them. That's why we go into our community and gather these stories to share with people that don't know what's really going on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Bladimir, who will attend Pomona College on a full scholarship next fall, is himself an example of another key goal of the project, one that goes beyond the stage and into the classroom.

    MAN: We're going to quickly review what we just did.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It has an after-school tutoring program and offers college counseling that most of these young people would never otherwise get.

    BLADIMIR ORDUNO: Well, APTP really gave me that hope that I can go to college. And so throughout my high school years, you know, I started to do the best thing I can, straight-A student, everything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I mean, was there the expectation that you would go to college before that?

    BLADIMIR ORDUNO: Well, you know, in my family, we're not in such a good economic sense -- standpoint. It really didn't seem like I -- I didn't really receive much hope that I was actually going to go into college.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sixteen-year-old Lilia Escobar, whose parents are from Mexico and Colombia, says she plans to go to college, even though it's not something her family encouraged.

    LILIA ESCOBAR, Albany Park Theater Project: Now I feel like I'm capable of it all. I feel like I don't ever have to be compared to my family, because I'm doing my own thing. I no longer feel like they're keeping me out of anything, because now I can just say, this is what I want and this is what I'm going to do. And that's only because I came here. And I don't think I would have found that anywhere else.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Randy Dang, whose parents immigrated from Vietnam, says the group provides a better alternative to the gangs and violence in the neighborhood.

    ROBERT DANG, Albany Park Theater Project: I learned a lot about myself and what I can do, my limits. And I learned about these people I can relate to, I could talk to, I could be myself around.

    JEFFREY BROWN: "Home/Land" is now playing to packed houses in its small community theater, and recognition for the Albany Park Theater Project continues to grow.

    Chicago Sun Times theater critic Hedy Weiss, citing its unusually high standards for young people's theater, wrote of its latest offering that where -- quote -- "politicians of every stripe have failed, this prodigiously gifted, exquisitely directed youth ensemble has triumphed."

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    GWEN IFILL: A week from today, three U.S. presidents and thousands more will gather in the nation's capital to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

    We continue our look back over the decades tonight with the words of one of the student volunteers from that day, Miki Conn from Upstate New York, who at the time was attending Howard University.

    MIKI CONN, March on Washington participant: The March on Washington took place when I was 18, my first summer at Howard.

    I found out through the Nonviolent Action Group, NAG, that a March on Washington was being organized and that there was an office there that needed volunteers. In addition to learning how to do a mailing, I learned that it wasn't solely about that day, that it was about what comes after.

    What the March on Washington showed me is that there are always others who have the same interests, the same concerns, and that if you can get them together to think about it and plan about it, you can make changes.

    GWEN IFILL: That was Miki Conn from Upstate New York. She's one of many whose firsthand accounts appear in the new Web series Memories of the March produced by public television stations around the country for the PBS Web site Black Culture Connection.

    Now we turn to the second in our own series of conversations about the march.

    I spoke yesterday with Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., who in 1963 worked as one of the event's original organizers.

    Congresswoman Norton, thank you so much for joining us.

    In 1963, you were what they call a worker bee, someone behind the scenes actually putting that DELEGATE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, D-D.C.: Well, I suppose I was even lower than a working bee.

    There were a lot of students who went Mississippi for the first part of the summer knowing that there was lots of talk about the March on Washington, not knowing if it would ever come to be. But Mississippi was the last of the states where there had been no demonstrations.

    They had swept through the South, but not Mississippi. Halfway through the summer, I got a call saying it's going to happen, Eleanor. And Bayard is going to do it. He says, come on up if you want to work on the staff. Now, Bayard is...

    GWEN IFILL: Bayard Rustin.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Bayard Rustin, in my judgment, the only man in the United States who could have organized that march.

    GWEN IFILL: What do you mean?

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: There were a set of skills that we had no reason to have so nurtured.

    There had never been a mass march on Washington that anyone could find. There had been all kind of marches, veterans of this -- but not a real mass march. What did it take to organize such a march, with no experience, no precedent to draw from?

    GWEN IFILL: No social media, no flash mobs to be gathered.


    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Exactly, with only telephones and the usual old-fashioned 20th century means of communication.

    Well, first, it took organization. It took someone. And I think Bayard put all of it in one package in one person. He had been a pacifist, refusing the draft in World War II and even engaged in civil disobedience in Leavenworth when the blacks and the whites were separated.

    He had been on a freedom ride in the '40s. He had been close to the labor movement and knew how to organize things. And he had been mentored by A. Philip Randolph, the only man in the United States who had organized anything nationally.  And, of course, that was the Sleeping Car Porters.

    GWEN IFILL: I find it so interesting that when people think back on the march, they think in a monolithic, almost a kind of sepia-toned way, but in fact very different kinds of people put together.

    Here you were many things, a black woman, a law student, which many people hadn't seen that combination. Here was Bayard Rustin, an out gay man, who the movement wasn't real happy about, let alone other people. How do all those things come together? There must have been friction.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: There wasn't, until Strom Thurmond decided to take to the floor of the Senate to try to out a man who had never hidden his homosexuality.

    To the credit of the so-called big six -- and those were the major civil rights organizations -- they gathered around him. And that was it. This was a Southerner's way of trying to somehow derail the march. Particularly by that point, it just couldn't have been done.

    GWEN IFILL: How about the stature of women in the movement? I know you were a worker bee. You were behind the scenes. But when you look in front of the scenes of who was on that platform, there was discussion about how few women there were.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: But not at the time.

    GWEN IFILL: Really?

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Pre-feminism.


    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Today, of course, it would have gone up in smoke. Why wasn't Dorothy Height a speaker at the march?

    She was the leader of the broadest coalition of African-American women in the country. Who was to speak was the widow of Medgar Evers. She didn't make it to the march, so that there were no women speaking. And yet women had been very important in the movement.

    But, interestingly, you will not be able to think of a woman who was, except for Dorothy Height, considered a leader of the movement. And that, I think, explains it. Although African-Americans have been much more open to leadership of women, they weren't far that far advanced than the rest of the society. And feminism as we know it didn't become real until the late 1960s.

    GWEN IFILL: You had a unique point of view, because you were -- of your lowly status, you were the person who had to stay behind in New York and lock up the office. So you got to actually see the march a different way.


    At the last staff meeting, Bayard said, somebody's got to stay in this branch, on this four-story brownstone at what was 135th and Lenox all night, because you know somebody's going to call and say, how do you get there?

    So I raised my hand, native Washingtonian me, knowing that, first, I would get to go on a plane.


    GWEN IFILL: Not on a bus.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Not on a bus.

    And that view in the morning, I don't remember the exact time, but it was much too early for the march to have started. It was not too early to see great globs of people gathered, not on the Mall, but in an area, a staging area.

    And, as people tired of waiting, because the civil rights leaders had gone into the White House, they just started marching. It was as if we came here to march. I don't know where you all are.

    GWEN IFILL: The leaders had to run to catch up with the crowd.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: They said, oh, boy, are we supposed to be leaders of this march or not?


    GWEN IFILL: The other interesting thing to me about this march is that people think of the '60s and they think of Woodstock. It wasn't a rally. It wasn't a you-all-come kind of march.

    There were manuals that said what we demand. There were demands.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: This is so important.

    First, the march was going to be -- I remember a staff meeting -- the march for freedom. I believe it was Bayard who insisted, wait a minute, what is the content of that? It became a march for jobs and freedom.

    Now, don't think jobs in the same way we do today. In fact, the economy was pretty good. It was about an equal job.

    GWEN IFILL: So, it wasn't about integration; it was about economic equality?


    It was about a time when, if you were and I went to get a job of any kind, but particularly a job of the kind we weren't supposed to be coming to, straight out, they would say, I'm sorry, Gwen Ifill, we don't hire blacks here.

    That was North, South, East, and West. So it was about even the most menial jobs in the first -- once the EEOC -- and this was the agency I myself was to lead 15 years later, something I could not have imagined -- the first cases were brought for the lowest kind of jobs in factories in the South, where you had to have no skills, but you had to take an I.Q. test in order to get the job.

    So that's the kind of discrimination. It was naked. It was bald and it was all about race.

    GWEN IFILL: Fifty years later, the march is now this iconic memory. Have we come as far as we could have come in that time?

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: No, but so much further than we were.

    Race -- the South has changed in part because some of those people aren't with us anymore, and new generations have come forward, partly because many people changed their views. It is not respectable today to be a racist. It was perfectly all right in 1963.

    No president today, like Kennedy, who was a friend of the march, a friend of African-Americans at least, would fear the march the way the administration feared the march. Now, remember, we had been engaged in a nonviolent movement, taking all kinds of blows.

    So the violence wasn't going to come to us. In fact, there were no guns. There were police who could only come without guns. If there was going to be violence, it was going to be people coming in from someplace else. But we didn't think, with all these people coming from all over the country, they would be coming.

    But, Gwen, coming from all over the country, were they really going to come from all over the country? Young and foolish me thought, look, I have been on the phone a lot with buses and trains. I think they're coming.

    GWEN IFILL: But is it possible -- would it be possible to replicate that today, given all we have accomplished? A lot of people think we're fine now.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Certainly not in the startling numbers.

    And one of the things that makes a straight line between the march and the '64 Civil Rights Act, the first enforceable civil rights legislation since the Civil War, is that it was startling to see so many people come. And I remember standing at the Lincoln Memorial looking out.

    Many people recall -- and, of course, I went down to see what looking up would mean. Look, looking out what was the sight for me, because I could not see the last person on the Mall. Now that mold has set the pattern for marches that are held on every conceivable subject today.

    It broke open the notion that mass movements couldn't happen. And, remember, we're talking '63. We have just come out of the '50s, which were the most complacent of decades, and when you had McCarthyism. So, you really had the dawning of a new era with the March on Washington.

    GWEN IFILL: But here you are today, a sitting member of Congress, a former head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as you mentioned. Is this anything you could have envisioned there standing there that day?

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Certainly not being a member of Congress, because the district had no member of Congress. It didn't even have home rule.

    And isn't it interesting that this time the district will try to draw the attention to the fact that the march is being held in the city that is least empowered? And the notion of being a federal official seemed farfetched, especially if you came out of the movement. First, you thought that might mean selling out.

    So, the whole notion of being a member of Congress, when there were a handful, maybe a half-dozen, if that, wasn't on our list. Our list was, are black people going to be able to go in, whether New York or Alabama, to say, I have been to high school, I have been to college, I want a job?

    It was very rudimentary. That has occurred. A whole new set of issues crop up. And movements are about adapting to the new set of issues, adapting to the fact that the Voting Rights Act must be revised, or it will be useless, adapting to the fact that Trayvon Martin, a kid, was murdered, and that there are still stand your ground laws on the books, which are a clear and present danger to every black man in the United States.

    Do we have a movement that is capable of growing to embrace these new issues? That, I think, will be the question on August 28, 2013.

    GWEN IFILL: Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congresswoman, thank so much.

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Always a pleasure, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: We will share more of our 50th anniversary conversations next week.

    On Monday, I talk with an activist who marched and with his son, now an elected state lawmaker, about how the march has reverberated across generations.


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    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.

    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 Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions. Follow @paulsolman

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    By Paul Solman

    Watch Video

    Never seen Michelangelo's David? With a little help from virtual reality, Paul Solman discovers it won't require a trip to Italy.

    Paul Solman: Like it or not, virtual reality , or "VR," is coming. Soon. And for those who think they're too old for video games, or too old-school for new technology, think again. We ran one story about VR in July, as well as an interview on this page with Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

    But we never shared what it's like when you're asked to cross a bottomless pit on a plank of wood or experience Michelangelo's David from the statue's point of view. We do so above, in a Making Sen$e Business Desk video exclusive. (The high points come here for the pit and here for the David.)

    And here are some of Jeremy Bailenson's responses to the many who communicated with him after our first story ran, suggesting ways in which to apply VR technology for the highest common purposes, rather than the lowest common denominator.

    Jeremy Bailenson: Thank you all for the great feedback in the comments section to our first post, via Twitter and in email. I wanted to share some messages I received from a number of people who provided fascinating ideas about how to apply this technology to other domains.

    MORE ABOUT VIRTUAL REALITY: Widening the Experiential: Jaron Lanier Explains Virtual Reality

    More than one person emailed to ask about using VR to train for stroke rehabilitation and other brain and spinal injuries. There is great research in this domain by a number of scholars, which you can view here,here,here and here.

    Others inquired about actually using this technology in the field, for example a London application to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and a California proposition to reduce plastic bag use. We are working on making this system portable for this very purpose. Recently, we presented this technology at a conference with energy decision makers.

    Finally, a number of people suggested that the technology be used for training people how to avoid costly life decisions, such as gang membership. These are great ideas. The industry is moving so fast, and regulations are so lax, I believe the movement to create "prosocial" content will need to be grassroots.

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

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    PBS NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs gathered voices of American youth, who reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. King delivered his famous address 50 years ago on Aug. 28 at the March on Washington.

    To watch these reflections, visit the Student Reporting Labs' Race and Change blog.

    Fifteen-year-old Lonnie Buchanan stands in front of a video camera waiting for his interview to begin. The Chicago native exudes a natural confidence and engages in friendly banter about his on-camera presence.

    With a flip of a switch the tone in the room changes and so does Lonnie's demeanor.

    Lonnie has just been asked whether or not he believes Dr. Martin Luther King's dream has been realized.

    With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington approaching, PBS NewsHour mobilized the youth reporters within its Student Reporting Labs network to gather youth perspectives on King's dream and race in America today.

    Aria McDonald, a student at Brooks College Prep Academy in Chicago, believes that America has seen progress since the 1960s.

    However, she still believes, "America doesn't value black life in accordance to a white person's life."

    McDonald, 18, goes on to say that people are too used to the idea of black people, especially young black people dying.

    Many of the students, including Jesse Horseman of Fort Mill, S.C., believe aspects of King's dream have been realized, but say there is still much change left to be accomplished.

    Schools and media programs participating in this report include:

    Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis, Ind. Fort Mill High School in Fort Mill, S.C. Free Spirit Media in Chicago, Ill. Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului, Hawaii. Paseo Academy in Kansas City, Mo. Trevor G. Browne High School in Phoenix, Ariz.

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    People around the world shared more than 1,400 images of themselves as part of the Wave at Saturn event organized by NASA's Cassini mission. The mission has assembled this collage from the shared images. Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    In June, we posted a column by Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini spacecraft's imaging team. In it, she promised that Cassini, which has been orbiting the Saturn system since July 2004, would capture and beam back an image of Saturn with its entire ring system during the planet's eclipse of the sun. Perhaps more exciting, our Earth would photobomb the picture, as a tiny speck of blue light in the lower right. And at the moment that Cassini pointed its cameras at the two planets and snapped the historic shots, she invited the world to wave.

    We told the camera shy not to worry -- at 898 million miles away, they'd never be seen from Saturn. But NASA has created a collage of the July 19 event using photos from the more than 1,400 people that participated. (See image above.)

    "While Earth is too small in the images Cassini obtained to distinguish any individual human beings, the mission has put together this collage so that we can celebrate all your waving hands, uplifted paws, smiling faces and artwork," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a NASA release.

    Scientists are still poring over visible-light and infrared data to compile the images of the Saturn system and Earth, which they expect will take at least several more weeks to complete, according to NASA. It will mark only the third time that a photo of the Earth has been taken from deep space. The first and most distant was captured 23 years ago by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft from nearly 4 billion miles away -- the famous Pale Blue Dot. Cassini also snapped an image in 2006 from a 926-million-mile distance.


    Author Jonathan Franzen had a story in National Geographic's July issue on the slaughter of songbirds and other migratory birds across the Mediterranean. He's written about the subject before, and discussed it last month on NPR's Science Friday. Here's an excerpt from the article:

    The grove was a magnet for southbound migrants, and every bird that flew in, regardless of its size or species or conservation status, was killed and eaten. For the young men, songbird hunting was a relief from boredom, an excuse to hang out as a group and do guy things. They also had a generator, a computer loaded with B movies, an SLR camera, night-vision goggles, and a Kalashnikov to fire for fun--they were all from well-to-do families.

    Their morning's catch, strung on a wire like a large bunch of fish, included turtledoves, golden orioles, and tiny warblers. There's not much meat on a warbler, or even on an oriole, but to prepare for their long autumnal journey the migrants build up stores of fat, which could be seen in yellow lobes on their bellies when the hunters plucked them. Served with spiced rice, they made a rich lunch. Although orioles are reputed in the Middle East to be good for male potency (they're "natural Viagra," I was told), I had no use for Viagra and helped myself only to a turtledove.

    Don't miss Rebecca Jacobson's NewsHour piece on what the now-defunct Kepler spacecraft has contributed beyond its search for other Earths. Includes "sub-Neptunes", strange "slingshot" orbits, and planets that orbit two stars.

    For the National Science Foundation's* latest Science Nation, Miles O'Brien reports on the eight-foot walls of video screens that envelop viewers in a three-dimensional virtual world at The University of Illinois at Chicago. One researcher is using the Cave 2 project to analyze brain scans and study nerve fibers.

    The debate rages on over whether the Voyager probe has left our solar system and reached interstellar space. Some say yes. Others say, not so fast.

    An Open Letter to My Former NSA Colleagues: Mathematicians, why are you not speaking out?

    "Within a week of arriving at the NSA, I was presented with an amazing smorgasbord of the most alluring mathematics problems I had ever seen, any of which could possibly yield to a smart undergraduate. I hadn't seen anything like it--and I never will again."

    Rebecca Jacobson contributed to this report.

    The National Science Foundation is an underwriter of PBS NewsHour.

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    What news are Americans reading?

    This question has been nagging at me ever since the owners of the Washington Post, the venerated Graham family, announced this month they're selling to the founder of Amazon. I've long known how lucky we are in the D.C. area are to have access to a great "local" newspaper that just happens to also have in-depth coverage of what Congress, the president and the Federal Reserve are up to, as well as solid reporting on the turmoil in Egypt and other international pressure points.

    But in addition, today's Post Metro section leads off with a piece about a program to give teenage, first-time offenders the chance to earn money at jobs like landscaping rather than go to jail. Just below it is the sweet news that three female Asian elephants will move to the National Zoo here, from the Calgary Zoo where they live now, so they can be part of a larger herd. It wasn't until I read this story on the Metro front page that I learned one of the three, 38-year-old Kamala, paints watercolors, and that each elephant consumes about 200 pounds of hay a day.

    You could argue successfully that neither Metro story has information essential to get me through the week. But I'd push back that they do tell a little more about the community I live in. So it is with newspapers around the country, holding up a mirror to the community -- the good, the bad, the ugly, the heartwarming and the funny -- in a way that connects us all a little more to one another. Losing hundreds of newspapers over the past decade, and thousands of reporters, means there's not only less national and international coverage, but also less coverage of the communities we live in, of our neighbors.

    As much as I love reading on my tablet computer, turning pages with the powerful swoosh of an index finger, I miss many of these human interest stories when I do. I tend to look for politics or international coverage, or reporting on an issue that's in the news that week, and often don't take the time to search for a page B-3 piece about the District of Columbia footing the bill for 7,300 high school students to take the SAT, ensuring that more of them have a chance to go to college.

    Visiting family in Oklahoma this weekend, I did look at the Tulsa World online, and was heartened to see not just stories about crime and mayhem -- a murder and kidnapping -- displayed prominently, but also an update on Postal Service plans to cut back on the days of delivery, and a report about non-profits in the Tulsa area coming together to try to rejuvenate two "tough neighborhoods," making them safer and more supportive for the children growing up there. How many Tulsans read this story that describes a partnership between non-profits like City Year and the local public school system?

    Or the item about Oklahoma state health officials keeping a close eye on a measles outbreak in next-door Texas. Again, neither of these would make or break a person's day, but they give us a better sense of the place we regularly interact with. And they are features of the 108-year-old Tulsa paper that appealed to wealthy investor Warren Buffett, whose company has bought 70 newspapers -- 30 daily and 40 weeklies -- in 10 states over the past couple years, explaining he likes them because they cover the place where they are. The World's managing editor, Susan Ellerbach, explained earlier this year when the sale was announced: "They felt very good about the relationship the Tulsa World has with the community and they want to see that continue..."

    So, before we rush pell-mell to grab our phones and tablets, which inevitably do what they're advertised -- make us a little smarter -- let's not forget to stop, take a breath, and look around. And to look especially at the items an industrious local reporter worked on, that add to our knowledge of the world, the nation, and our own backyard.

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    By Robert Lerman and Nicholas Wyman

    Economist Bob Lerman and apprenticeship expert Nicholas Wyman write that apprenticeships, long popular in Germany, may be taking off in South Carolina. Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images.

    Paul Solman: Bob Lerman began life on the NewsHour as a gadfly, contesting the data of Dan Ariely, among others, that US wealth distribution is scarily skewed.It's not nearly so lopsided, argued Lerman,, if you take into account the implicit "wealth" that Social Security and Medicare represent.

    That said, Lerman, a centrist economist with the Urban Institute and American University, worries plenty about the problems of those who have been falling behind economically in America, especially our non-advantaged youth. And he has a favorite policy initiative to address them: apprenticeship.

    He's written about it here before in a popular post entitled The Youth Unemployment Crisis: A Fix that Works and Pays for Itself and again more recently.

    The latest post got the attention of, among others, the President and CEO of Siemens USA, who has just written about it on LinkedIn.

    In timely fashion, Bob just happened to have sent us another post, written with Australian apprenticeship expert Nicholas Wyman -- about the unlikely state that seems to be putting ideas like his into practice: South Carolina. Here it is.

    Robert Lerman and Nicholas Wyman: President Obama is embarking on a bus tour today to explain his plan to make college more affordable . Unfortunately, his near exclusive focus on college leaves little room for apprenticeships and other pathways to rewarding careers that are more cost-effective for millions of young people.

    We've written recently about two related problems: high youth unemployment and a scarcity of skilled labor. While two out of every five young adults have no job at all, executives complain of the labor market being short of machinists, computer numerical controllers, electricians, welders, healthcare technicians and dozens of other categories of middle-skilled people.

    The middle-skills gap has two main sources: (1) a general neglect of vocational education and (2) an unexamined notion that everyone should go to college, often interpreted as pursuing a baccalaureate degree. College-for-everyone is not only costly for families and taxpayers but also weakens the career prospects of young people who prefer learning by doing over sitting in classes all week. If there is one piece of conventional wisdom that needs debunking, this is it!

    More from Robert Lerman: Are College and Career Skills Really the Same?

    The good news is that we are seeing isolated cases where people are doing something about both problems. In New York City, for example, 'P-Tech' school, a collaboration involving IBM, the City's Education Department and CUNY, is providing a STEM oriented, grades 9-to-14 curriculum with work-based learning that leads to a high school diploma and an associates degree. P-Tech's aim is to turn out graduates with the skills they need to step directly into solid, good paying technical jobs--or to go on the higher learning with great confidence of success.

    We find even more encouraging signs in South Carolina where educators, employers, and government are working together to close the skills gap and create opportunity for young people on a broader scale. They are accomplishing this through greater attention to high school career and technical education, a first-rate system of state technical colleges, and a well-managed effort to increase the number of apprenticeship positions.

    An exemplary case of this collaboration can be found in rural Pickens County, which Nicholas visited recently. Pickens County is within eyeball distance of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's part of Appalachia, where the shuttering of cotton mills and textile plants has left many people's incomes and expectations fairly low (and they were none too high to begin with). Yet the county's K-12 school system is confidently preparing young people for decent careers. It begins in grammar school where children receive hands-on experience with STEM concepts and problem solving. It continues at the district's state-of-the-art Career & Technical Center, where vocationally-oriented high school students have access to industry-experienced teachers and to the machine tools, computers, robotic systems, and other equipment they will encounter in the most modern workplaces. School leaders and teachers have also overturned the long-standing perception of parents and students that the Career & Tech Center is for low-achievers. Entry to the Center's 'Technician Scholar' program is by application only; kids with low GPAs and bad attitudes need not apply. It's now cool to be a "Scholar Technician."

    The most encouraging aspect of the district's system is the extent to which its leaders have eliminated the usual boundaries between schools and area employers. Local CEOs work with the district superintendent on the big issues facing the local economy and the community; company managers and technicians are regular visitors to school classrooms and workshops where they work with teachers and mentor promising students. And this year teachers--many of whom have never worked in an office, hospital, or manufacturing environment--will spend part of their time in those settings, learning about the opportunities those enterprises have to offer, and about the knowledge and skills their students will need to capture them.

    Pickens County is showing us what can be done to raise young people's expectations and prepare them for the school-to-work transition. The 'secret sauce' here is collaboration and a high level of trust between educators, employers, and government. The state government's part is Apprenticeship Carolina (AC), which works with local employers to increase the number of junior and adult apprentice positions in manufacturing, technology, healthcare, and other industries. AC reps explain the benefits of apprenticeships to employers, handle all the paperwork, and coordinate the classroom component of apprentice programs with local technical colleges.

    The payoff has been remarkable. Since its 2007 launch, AC has increased the number of apprentices in South Carolina six-fold. Nearly 9,000 young people are now either in apprentice positions or have matriculated. The number of sponsoring employers has also exploded from 90 to 604. This progress did not require an army of state personnel or huge taxpayer outlays-- and it took place during one of the country's most dismal economic periods. Credit for this success goes to six talented AC reps, one administrative assistant, and a $1,000 per apprentice per year state tax credit--chump change relative to the program's return to the South Carolina economy and to the income and sales taxes that 9,000 highly skilled people will pay over their working lives. (Completing an apprenticeship adds an estimated $250,000 to an individual's lifetime earnings.)

    We should all hope that South Carolina's success will be replicated elsewhere. Perhaps someone should bottle their 'secret sauce' and pass it around.

    Robert Lerman is Professor of Economics at American University and Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute. Nicholas Wyman is founder of The Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation (IWSI) in Australia and recently returned from a visit to South Carolina.

    For more PBS NewsHour coverage on apprenticeships, watch Margaret Warner's report on how German apprentices contribute to Germany's strong and stable economy.

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    This story was first broadcast Feb. 8, 2012. Watch the video above or read a full transcript of the report.

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

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    During a speech Thursday morning in Buffalo, N.Y., President Barack Obama announced a new three-pronged approach to lower the costs of college. His goals include a new rating system of colleges and universities based on the best "bang for the buck" value, incentives for colleges to innovate, and further assistance that give students with debt the chance to repay it.

    Calling higher education an "economic imperative," President Barack Obama is pushing for an ambitious new government rating system for colleges that would judge schools on affordability and performance and ultimately determine how federal financial aid is distributed.

    The rating system, which the president wants implemented before the 2015 school year, would evaluate colleges on several criteria, including average tuition and student loan debt, graduation rates, and the average earning of graduates. Mr. Obama says he will ask Congress to link the new rating system to the way federal financial aid is disbursed, with students attending highly-rated schools receiving larger grants and more affordable student loans.

    "It's time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results and reward schools that deliver American students of our future," Mr. Obama told a crowd of more than 7,000 at the University of Buffalo.

    Mr. Obama detailed his proposal on the first stop of a two-day bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania. The tour underscores the White House's desire to stay focused on domestic issues, even as foreign policy crises in Egypt and Syria vie for his attention.

    Throughout the summer, the White House has been seeking to keep the president's public agenda centered on middle-class economic issues as a way to rally public support for his positions ahead of looming battles in the fall with congressional Republicans over the budget and raising the nation's debt limit. On Thursday, he tried to draw a clear distinction with some of his Republican opponents.

    "Rather than seeking, keeping focus on a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs, you know, we've seen a faction of Republicans in Congress suggest that maybe America shouldn't pay its bills that have already been run up, that we should shut down government if they can't shut down Obamacare," Mr. Obama said.

    Mr. Obama said a big part of middle-class security includes fundamentally rethinking how to pay for higher education.

    "Higher education cannot be a luxury, it's an economic imperative," he said. "Every American family should be able to get it."

    The White House chose the University of Buffalo because it is part of the State University of New York system, which the Obama administration credits as a leader in affordability and innovation. The attention to school costs comes after Mr. Obama and Congress recently cooperated on a new law governing student loans. But Mr. Obama said loan amounts aren't keeping up with skyrocketing college costs.

    Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the middle class needs the security of knowing they can afford to send their kids to college.

    "There's a growing sense that college is for the wealthy, for rich folks and not for hard working people who are doing the right thing every day," he said.

    The president's plan aims to better inform consumers and provide incentives for colleges and universities.

    "We need much greater transparency for the public," Duncan said.

    According to Obama administration estimates, average tuition costs at four-year public colleges have more than tripled over the last three decades. The average student loan borrower also graduates with over $26,000 in debt.

    To keep schools from gaming the ratings by enrolling only high-performing students, the president is also proposing legislation to give colleges a "bonus" based on the number of students they graduate who received Pell Grants. The goal is to encourage colleges to enroll and graduate low- and moderate-income students.

    "We want to make sure it's baked into the analysis so we don't create the wrong kinds of incentives out of this rating system," Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters Thursday.

    The Republican chairman of the House committee that oversees education did not embrace the proposal but said he would examine it.

    "I remain concerned that imposing an arbitrary college ranking system could curtail the very innovation we hope to encourage -- and even lead to federal price controls," Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline of Minnesota said in a statement.

    The administration will also seek to require colleges with high dropout rates to disburse student aid over the course of the semester as students face expenses, rather than in a lump sum. The aim is to prevent wasting grant money by ensuring that students who drop out do not receive funds for time they are not in school.

    Obama is also renewing his call for a $1 billion college "Race to the Top" competition that would reward states that make significant changes in higher education policies while also containing tuition costs.

    The bus trip unfolds as Mr. Obama also confronts a turbulent international scene, with tensions in Egypt and continuing bloodshed in Syria. The Syrian regime was continuing a military offensive in eastern Damascus Thursday where the opposition said the regime had killed over 100 people the day before in a chemical weapons attack.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest, aboard Air Force One, defended the president's decision to leave Washington despite the foreign challenges.

    "As we're weighing these domestic policy positions and foreign policy decisions, the president puts the interests of the United States of America first," Earnest said. "The fact that we are doing this bus tour is an indication that the president has his priorities straight."

    The backdrop for the president's rollout will be colleges and high schools throughout New York state and Pennsylvania. He'll hold his first event Thursday morning at the University of Buffalo before traveling by armored bus to Henninger High School in Syracuse, N.Y. The president will hold a town hall Friday at Binghamton University, then travel to Scranton, Pa., for an event at Lackawanna College.

    Vice President Joe Biden, a Scranton native, is scheduled to join Obama in his hometown. Biden spent much of the week in Houston, where his son Beau underwent a medical procedure at a cancer center.

    For Mr. Obama, who has made no secret of his desire to get out of Washington when he can, the bus tours have become a favorite method for reconnecting with the public. Beyond his official events, the president often makes unscheduled stops at local restaurants and businesses, and sometimes pulls off on the side of the road to greet cheering crowds.

    In 2011, the Secret Service purchased a $1.1 million bus for Obama's first bus tour as president. The impenetrable-looking black bus has dark tinted windows and flashing red and blue lights.

    Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

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    In 2013 Superman marks his 75th anniversary. Over the decades the hero has leaped from comic books to movies, TV shows, radio, video games and merchandise. But Superman's main goal of protecting truth, justice and the American way remains the same as it did in 1938.

    A Heroic Beginning

    This first edition of Action Comics hit the shelves in 1938.

    According to Comic Vine, the comic book marked the introduction of Superman, saying his place of origin was a "distant planet." Photo: DC Entertainment

    Super Success

    The Action Comics version of Superman was so popular, he became the first character to get his own comic book.

    This Superman #1 comic hit newsstands in the summer of 1939, according to Neatorama. Photo: DC Entertainment

    Man of Steel Comes to Earth

    DC launched its "Man of Steel" series in October 1986, according to the Grand Comics Database.

    This special edition cover -- with Clark Kent opening his shirt to reveal the Superman 'S' -- was only available at direct-sales outlets. Photo: DC Entertainment

    Overcoming Kryptonite

    Has Kryptonite always been Superman's weakness?

    Not quite, according to Comic Vine. In this edition, "Superman Breaks Loose," the Man of Steel helps with a kryptonite-powered generator test, but a problem results in a massive explosion. The side effects, however, transform all of earth's kryptonite into ordinary iron. Photo: DC Entertainment

    Lois Lane and Clark Kent

    DC Comics published The Adventures of Superman #619, titled "Prestidigitation Nation," in fall 2003.

    According to the Grand Comics Database, Lois Lane and Clark Kent (Superman's alter ego) covered a story about a new politician. Photo: DC Entertainment

    Protecting Earth's Citizens

    Superman often bears the responsibility for protecting those on earth.

    In this edition, "For Tomorrow, Part One," Superman deals with an event known as "The Vanishing." According to Comic Vine, the tragedy includes the disappearance of a million of the planet's citizens. Photo: DC Entertainment

    All-Star Superman

    DC released the first issue of its "All-Star Superman" in January 2006.

    According to the Grand Comics Database, Superman saves a mission to the sun that Lex Luthor has sabotaged. Photo: DC Entertainment

    Superman's Demise

    DC shocked the comic book world in January 1993 with the death of Superman.

    According to Comic Vine, each page of the book displays a full-page shot of the battle. Superman defeats the villain Doomsday, but at the cost of his own life. Photo: DC Entertainment

    Superman Today

    DC published the first edition of its "Superman Unchained" series in June.

    It features the threat of falling satellites and Superman's attempt to get to the bottom of the disaster. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor remains locked in prison.

    Scott Snyder wrote this book and Jim Lee drew its cover. Photo: DC Entertainment

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    Charlotte White in her garden in the Rainbow Rock Village Mobile Home Park. White's home was built in 1976 and now has problems with rot and mold. Photo by Amelia Templeton/EarthFix

    If you walk into Charlotte White's home, this is what you notice: colorful potholders hanging from the cabinets. A cat stretched out in a beam of sunlight. And the loud rattle of the washing machine.

    "It spins off balance, because the floor is uneven, because it's rotten," White says.

    In the hall and the bathroom, the floorboards feel spongy underneath her feet. White had to replace the kitchen floor, too, after it rotted out.

    White is 64 years old and retired. She lives in a single-wide home in the Rainbow Rock Village mobile home park just off Highway 101 in Curry County, Ore.

    Her home was built in 1976, the same year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development adopted the first construction and safety standards for homes built on an assembly line.

    It's known as the HUD Code, for short. It sets minimum requirements for energy efficiency, strength and fire resistance. In the years since the HUD Code was created -- and in particular, after it was updated in 1994 -- the quality of manufactured homes has dramatically improved.

    But in the rural Northwest, many people like Charlotte White live in homes that were built before the code was adopted, or that were built to its minimum standards in the 1980s. According to the county assessor, between 25 and 30 percent of the housing stock in Curry County is manufactured housing. Of those, about half were built before 1980.

    "It's on our clothes and in our shoes. Everything turns green. Sometimes you have to throw those out and buy new ones. There's something about the mold, it doesn't leave the fabrics." --Charlotte White

    White's home was not built to last three decades. In addition to the rotting floors, mold has developed somewhere deep in the walls. White has stacks of clothes piled up in the middle of a bedroom. She's stopped using several of her closets because the mold keeps spreading.

    "It's on our clothes and in our shoes. Everything turns green. Sometimes you have to throw those out and buy new ones. There's something about the mold, it doesn't leave the fabrics," she says.

    The mold is particularly problematic for White's daughter, who has asthma.

    Then there's the matter of her energy bills. White's home has minimal insulation. As soon as the heater turns off the cold starts creeping back in through the windows, the duct work and the cracks in the walls.

    In the winter, to heat this small space, she says her electricity bill runs $280 a month. Her Social Security check is under $400.

    According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, manufactured homes built before 1980 consume an average of 84,316 BTUs per square foot, 53 percent more than other types of homes. A study by the energy consultant group Frontier Associates found that in extreme climates, residents in older manufactured homes pay up to $500 a month for electricity. For some, that is a majority of their income.

    Charlotte White's bathroom has extensive problems with mold and rot. Photo by Amelia Templeton/EarthFix

    White has lined the front porch with pots of flowers and ferns, and she can see the sun set over the Pacific. She's quick to smile and reluctant to complain about her home or her situation. But she does say that friends with much larger homes pay half of what she does for electricity. To help pay the bills, she has a roommate.

    "You just deal with it," she says. "I feel blessed I have a home because some people don't have a home."

    According to data from the 2006 American Community Survey, in rural Oregon, Washington and Idaho, manufactured homes account for about 15 percent of homes. And in some individual counties, they account for more than 25 percent of the housing stock.

    Move your cursor over this interactive map to see how many of the homes in your county are manufactured homes.

    Fixing aging mobile and manufactured homes has become a high priority for Curry County, the local electric cooperative and a host of state agencies and community action groups.

    The county estimates it has at least 600 older homes that are near the end of their lifespan and need to be repaired or outright replaced. Many of the people living in aging mobile homes are retirees on fixed incomes who can't easily afford to make repairs or finance a new home.

    Annette Klinefelter works for the Curry County Public Health Department. She says the condition of the homes creates health risks for the occupants.

    "They weren't necessarily designed for a climate like Curry County that's wet and damp and has high winds. And when they've outlived their life cycle and they begin to break down, the water enters, the dust mites enter and the vermin enter. It results in indoor air problems that impact people's health," she says.

    Klinefelter is particularly concerned about two chronic conditions: asthma and arthritis. She says along with diabetes and heart disease, asthma and arthritis are among the most common chronic conditions in the county and a major source of health care spending. She believes fixing up dilapidated manufactured homes can prevent asthma, helping aging residents maintain their mobility, and avoid ending up in a nursing home.

    Karen Chase with Oregon Housing and Community Services agrees. She says improving the quality of homes is a strategic way to approach community health, given how much time Americans spend indoors.

    "When we're spending up to 90 percent of our time indoors and up to 70 percent in our residential housing, the quality of that housing really matters for the health of the people living in it," Chase says.

    Charlotte White's neighbor, Dynelle Lentz, believes mold in her home has contributed to her health problems. Photo by Amelia Templeton/EarthFix

    Klinefelter and Chase are key players in a plan supported by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to begin repairing and rehabbing the manufactured homes in Curry County.

    Last month, in partnership with the nonprofit group NeighborWorks Umpqua, the county launched an initiative called reHome Oregon. The goal: replace 25 old manufactured homes with new, Energy Star certified models. They also want to help hundreds more manufactured homeowners make repairs with the help of small grants (up to $5,000) and rebates for energy efficiency through the Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative.

    Though it may not sound ambitious, reHome is one of just a handful of efforts across the nation working to tackle the aging manufactured home problem.

    Leadership in the Northwest

    The Pacific Northwest has a reputation for pioneering energy efficiency and quality in manufactured housing.

    Due in part to partnerships between the home building industry and Bonneville Power Administration, since 1989 two-thirds of manufactured homes in the Northwest have been built to high efficiency standards, according to the American Council for An Energy-Efficient Economy.

    In the past, most community advocates -- and banks -- viewed manufactured homes as an asset that quickly depreciated and became a liability.

    Now, some advocates like Chase believe new manufactured homes are often built quite well and can provide a valuable low income housing option.

    But, these new manufactured homes are prohibitively expensive for people like Charlotte White who live in older models that have lost their value. The cost for a new, energy-efficient single-wide runs $60,000 or more.

    NeighborWorks Umpqua has a complicated plan for how to make manufactured home replacement more affordable through the reHome initiative in Curry County.

    First, the group will use grant funding to fully cover the cost of removing outdated manufactured homes. The old homes can contain asbestos and lead paint, and cost up to $5,000 to get rid of.

    Second, the group is negotiating discounted prices and transport costs with manufactured home builders.

    Finally, the crux of the reHome Oregon initiative is to help people purchase replacement manufactured homes with low interest loans from groups including the USDA Rural Development Housing Program and the Network for Affordable Housing.

    Whether or not reHome Oregon succeeds may ultimately hinge on the USDA Rural Development Program's degree of commitment to the initiative.

    In 2012, just two of the 2,771 loans the federal agency made or guaranteed in Oregon were to manufactured homeowners. That year, the agency also made or guaranteed just five loans for manufactured homes in Washington and three in Idaho.

    In an e-mail, USDA Rural Development spokeswoman Jill Reese said a number of obstacles make it difficult for manufactured homeowners to participate in the loan program. For example, the agency only makes loans to individuals who own both the home and the property it's built on. Many manufactured homes are sited on leased land in parks.

    Reese said it has also been difficult for the agency to find banks to partner with because a typical homeowner's loan is 30 years and the lifespan of mobile homes is viewed as too short.

    However, she's optimistic the agency will be able to work with Curry County and the reHome program. She says the agency has recruited Eagle Home Mortgage in Tigard to help finance some of the manufactured home loans.

    For her part, Charlotte White is interested in getting help from the new program, but says she has had difficulty qualifying for home loans in the past. "If I had enough money or collateral to get a loan, I would. I don't. I know that I don't, so you kind of get stuck between a rock and a hard place," White said.

    Neighborworks Umpqua says it is looking for additional grant funding to help people who are living in pre-1976 manufactured homes but cannot afford to make monthly payments on a loan.

    The reHome program will begin taking applications from manufactured homeowners looking to make repairs or replace their unit in January 2014.

    EarthFix is a public media project of Oregon Public Broadcasting and Boise State Public Radio, Idaho Public Television, KCTS 9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Southern Oregon Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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    RAY SUAREZ: President Obama took aim at the soaring cost of college today with an ambitious plan to rate schools and link tuition prices to federal financial aid.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future.

    RAY SUAREZ: The president unveiled his proposal before a crowd of more than 7,000 at the University of Buffalo in Upstate New York.

    BARACK OBAMA: At a time when a higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make. Either they say no to college and pay the price for not getting a degree -- and that's a price that lasts a lifetime -- or you do what it takes to go to college, but then you run the risk that you won't be able to pay it off because you got so much debt.

    RAY SUAREZ: According to the administration, tuition at four-year public universities has risen 250 percent over the past three decades, even as the average family income has risen just 16 percent. That's led to students taking on more debt. Today, the average student loan borrower graduates with more than $26,000 to pay off.

    The president said that must change.

    BARACK OBAMA: Higher education is still the best ticket to upward mobility in America. And if we don't do something about keeping it within reach, it will create problems for economic mobility for generations to come. And that's not acceptable.


    RAY SUAREZ: His answer? A new rating system for colleges and universities, both public and private, that would link federal dollars to schools' affordability and performance.

    Among other metrics, it would take into account a school's average tuition cost and average student loan debt, graduation rates, the number of its graduates who received Pell Grants for low- to moderate-income students, and the average earnings of its students once they graduate.

    The idea builds on the College Scorecard, a tool designed to help students sort colleges based on value that's already available on the Web site WhiteHouse.gov. The president said today he wants to implement this new system before the start of the 2015 school year, and to work with Congress to tie federal student aid to the ratings.

    BARACK OBAMA: Colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up. It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future.


    RAY SUAREZ: But Republican Representative John Kline, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, expressed doubt about the proposal, saying in a statement: "I remain concerned that imposing an arbitrary college ranking system could curtail the very innovation we hope to encourage, and even lead to federal price controls."

    In another move, the president proposed expanding to everyone a program that allows graduates to pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income to service student loan debt. On the campus of George Washington University in downtown Washington, students preparing to start their fall terms said these tools could help.

    KY RHODA, The George Washington University: Things like affordability and retention rate and things like that are all very important to me.

    ASHLEY WAIN, The George Washington University: If a school that you're at isn't too affordable and it's not really setting you up to be successful after graduation, prospective students should be able to know that before going into the college or going into the school.

    RAY SUAREZ: Tomorrow, the president continues his two-day bus tour to promote the plan, with a stop at the State University of New York at Binghamton for a town hall with students and faculty.

    For more, we turn to Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education, Anya Kamenetz, author of a new book on higher ed called "DIY U" and a contributing writer for "Fast Company," and Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York.

    I would like to start with all of you by getting your quick impressions of the policy package.

    President Mellow, what do you make of the president's proposals?

    GAIL MELLOW, LaGuardia Community College: Well, it's always great, Ray, when the president of the United States talks about higher education. College presidents really like that.

    I'm excited by it and concerned at the same time. When I think about my students, the student at community colleges, which make up about half of all undergraduates in the United States, I wonder if the measure that we're going to put together really allow us to make the differentiation that the president wants us to make.

    RAY SUAREZ: Anya Kamenetz, same question. Did you see a lot to like in the president's proposals, obviously more to be found out about what's in them, but in a broad overview?

    ANYA KAMENETZ, author: I'm really excited about the principle of what he's talking about, because it's very clear, and yet it's revolutionary.

    For so long, colleges have been allowed to gain prestige by how many people they keep out, and they're not asked to provide good information about who they're graduating and what happens after that.

    So the simple idea of an accountability measure that is based on how affordable the college is, what good a job it does at attracting people from a diverse social and economic background, and then what happens to them after that, I think that is a very, very important set of criteria that we should be judging our higher education system on.

    RAY SUAREZ: Professor Baum?

    SANDY BAUM, The George Washington University: I don't think this is a simple proposal at all. I think it's very complicated.

    I think that colleges that are really causing problems for students are not those that are seeking prestige. We do need more information. Students absolutely need more information, but it's going to be really challenging to try to accomplish what the president is proposing.

    RAY SUAREZ: Some of the earliest reactions had to do with a distaste for federal control in this institution, but since we are talking about federally subsidized and supported institutions in many cases, shouldn't the taxpayer have a scorecard, know what they're getting for their money?

    SANDY BAUM: The taxpayer should know, and we should certainly eliminate schools that are not doing well by students from the federal student aid program, but we shouldn't tell a student that if your institution raises their price, sorry, we're going to cut your aid.

    RAY SUAREZ: President Mellow, given what the president is talking about measuring, is a school like yours that deals with a large low-income population, a lot of immigrants, in one of the most diverse communities in the United States, are you going to be burdened by that, even though you're doing some of the heaviest lifting in American higher ed?

    GAIL MELLOW: It really depends on the nuance, on the specificity of those measures.

    What's happened in all of higher education in the United States for a long time is, there's a pyramid, and the people at the top of the pyramid are the most prepared, but they also get the most federal money.

    So I think rethinking that would be really important to imagine what might happen. But I also think, Ray, what you're talking about is, where do students start? And if we can really measure an equal starting point, then I think the changes that a place like LaGuardia Community College make are evident of great investment for federal dollars. That's a tough thing to do.

    RAY SUAREZ: So, completion rates, just as a blunt statistic, you might not look very good on those, but if we looked at where some of your students were starting out, with remediation and so on, you might score very highly?

    GAIL MELLOW: Absolutely.

    I always say that I'm a better return on investment than Harvard because of the amount of change that we make. But it's really important to think that there are a lot of other pieces of the president's proposal. I think a lot of the innovation, particularly on student services, the look at student debt, those kinds of things I think could be very powerful and important for students.

    But it really is going to depend on what happens. And we also have to remember that one of the challenges for higher education has been the rollback in state support for what happens in higher education, and we don't see the president's proposal addressing that.

    RAY SUAREZ: Anya, if you're a high schooler trying to figure all of this out, and maybe nobody in your family has even been to college to help you out with it, is it easy to find the kind of statistics the president is talking about using in this scorecard, easy to find on your own the measurements he wants you to be able to comparison shop?

    ANYA KAMENETZ: It's very, very difficult and very complicated.

    There's a lot of conflicting sources of information. And the sad fact is that a student like that is very apt to be targeted by the type of college, particularly the for-profit online college, that doesn't do a very good job of graduating their students and does graduate students with a lot of debt.

    So, the idea that there's a public conversation about the outcomes of education and what happens to students in that process is, I think, really important on that level of the individual high school student trying to make a decision.

    And I would like to add as well that the center of the president's proposal is performance funding, and it is all based on data. And colleges historically have really opposed to that kind of data collection. They don't want to be subject to the same kinds of accountability measures that have become commonplace in our K-12 schools. And they don't want to see individual students tracked.

    So, there's a really big political fight ahead, I think, in this proposal where we talk about what's the role of higher education, how independent and how diverse is higher education going to be, vs. the kind of measurements that many want to impose.

    RAY SUAREZ: Sandy Baum, a resistance to the kind of transparency that Anya Kamenetz is talking about?

    SANDY BAUM: I think there is some resistance to transparency and we do need better data on individual students, but we need to be careful.

    Higher education is very diverse. And there is a lot of uncertainty. Students are going to have trouble navigating the information. And one of the things that is very important is that we have to protect students for whom this doesn't work out well. The student loan proposals are terrifically important. Maybe the most important thing is that the administration proposes to notify students when they're getting into trouble that they're getting into trouble and that there may be better options to protect them from defaulting on their student loans. That's very important.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, what happens now?

    SANDY BAUM: Well, right now, there are lots of protections in place for students, but they don't know about them, they don't know how to access them. And so they get into trouble, when they really don't have to.

    RAY SUAREZ: President Mellow, one of the proposals that came up today was an idea of widening the access to the pay-as-you-earn program that would cap the percentage of a graduate's income that goes to paying down debt. Does that have some appeal for you?

    GAIL MELLOW: It has a lot of appeal.

    What we have to understand is that American higher education, especially American community colleges, are the work force development engine for the United States. More -- almost -- I'm sorry -- almost half of all of our undergraduate students are over the age of 24. Almost without fail, that means that they're working.

    So the ability to marry education with your work is very important. And being able to cap that debt is important. But I would say one of the issues that I have with President Obama's proposal is perhaps not enough attention to that older student, because acceleration and those kinds of issues which the president has talked about presume that you can go to college full-time.

    And that's great for a guy like Steve, who is one of my students who just got back from four tours in Iraq, has put everything on hold to start college. But it's not so good for another student of mine, Desiree, who has a kid, who helps her mother out, who works full-time. Acceleration doesn't mean much for her.

    And, unfortunately, I don't see enough in this new set of proposals that would really help the adult student who is also working.

    RAY SUAREZ: Fair criticism, Anya, that when you listened to the president talk today, it seemed like he was talking about the kid who can go full-time for four years, finish all at once, and then start the rest of their lives?

    ANYA KAMENETZ: Well, I think we all have a tendency, I think, historically to look at college that way.

    But, actually, some of the language that Obama used, especially talking about rebooting regulation and moving toward more competency-based degrees and programs I think can be very helpful for the kind of working adult that President Mellow talked about.

    I mean, online degree programs, competency-based programs, blended learning programs, and recovering some of those 37 million adults who have some college and no degree, getting them back into the program, I think innovations of different kinds can help address all of those issues. And, you know, it doesn't make sense just to focus on the acceleration.

    RAY SUAREZ: Anya Kamenetz, Madam President, Professor Baum, thank you, all.

    ANYA KAMENETZ: Thank you.

    GAIL MELLOW: Thank you, Ray.

    SANDY BAUM: Thank you.


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    KWAME HOLMAN: A technical glitch on the Nasdaq exchange shut down trading for three hours this afternoon. The problem wasn't fully resolved until just before 3:30 p.m. The freeze in Nasdaq trading didn't shut down other markets.

    The Dow Jones industrial average gained 66 points to close above 14963. In the end, the Nasdaq closed up -- closed up 38 points at 3638.

    Jia Lynn Yang covers the financial markets for The Washington Post and has been following the Nasdaq story today.

    Jia Lynn, thank you.

    What is known at this point about what happened to cause this freeze in trading on Nasdaq?

    JIA LYNN YANG, The Washington Post: Nasdaq is basically blaming a computer error that they discovered earlier in the day that basically made it difficult to figure out what prices stocks should be quoted at.

    And so once they figured that out, they halted trading immediately of all Nasdaq-listed companies. So we're talking big companies, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, not just on Nasdaq, but also U.S. exchanges. It took them about a half-hour to get that computer glitch figured out. Then they spent the next two-and-a-half-hours trying to coordinate to make sure that when they got the stock market back up, things would run smoothly.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Jia Lynn, there was a so-called flash crash some years ago, and then Goldman Sachs had difficulty with its computers more recently.

    Is this something people -- 401(k) holders should be concerned about?

    JIA LYNN YANG: This -- this thing today is at a new -- sort of a new magnitude we're talking, because the flash crash that you referred to, you know, for those who don't remember, this happened in 2010.

    And, basically, stocks just dove for a few minutes, and then shot right back up in just a few minutes of trading. And that startled everyone, and there's also been, you know, as you mentioned, a couple other incidents that affect -- Facebook had an issue when it had an initial public offering.

    There have been these scattered moments, but today was really just a whole different set of problems, because you were talking about trading completely halting on the second biggest stock exchange in the country, and these are stocks that are owned by most investors. If you have a 401(k), if you invest in mutual funds, these are stocks that you own a piece of, and the fact that there was no trading allowed for hours -- basically, the whole afternoon was off -- this raises questions about the stability of the markets, given how complicated they are and how much technology is behind them now.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Very good.

    Jia Lynn Yang of The Washington Post, thank you very much.

    JIA LYNN YANG: Thank you.

    KWAME HOLMAN: A wildfire raging near California's Yosemite National Park more than tripled in size overnight. The blaze has scorched some 84 square miles of forest west of Yosemite. But the park remains open. Firefighters are working on the unruly fire, but it's only 2 percent contained. It threatened some 2,500 homes, hotels, and camp buildings.

    The U.S. soldier who gunned down 16 Afghan civilians in two villages apologized in a military court today. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has admitted he shot the villagers in 2012. Today, at his sentencing hearing in Washington, he told family members of the victims it was an act of cowardice. A military jury will decide if his life sentence should offer the chance of parole.

    Army Private 1st Class Bradley Manning has requested hormone therapy so he can live as a woman. The soldier responsible for the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history was sentenced to 35 years in military prison yesterday. Today, Manning gave a statement to NBC's Today Show saying he now wants to be known as Chelsea Manning. The Army doesn't provide hormone treatment or sex-change surgery.

    Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was released from prison today. State television broadcast video of a helicopter with the ailing 85-year-old aboard flying to a military hospital near Cairo. He is to remain under house arrest. Photos showed him being transferred on a gurney to an ambulance amid heavy security. Mubarak still faces charges of failing to prevent the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising that removed him from power. He has a court appearance scheduled next week.

    A disgraced Chinese politician strongly contested the charges against him in his bribery trial today. Bo Xilai denied he'd taken more than $3 million in bribes from businessmen. His fall from grace began early last year when his wife killed a British businessman and Bo allegedly tried to cover it up.

    We have a report from Angus Walker of Independent Television News.

    ANGUS WALKER: Judgment day for a man who was once one of China's powerful party leaders in the most politically driven trial for a generation.

    The court heard Bo Xilai had taken bribes and tried to cover up his wife's involvement in the killing of a British business consultant, Neil Heywood. But the disgraced politician angrily rejected key evidence, claiming he'd been forced to confess. If this is a show trial, Bo Xilai hasn't read the script.

    Until his arrest last year, Bo Xilai was a charismatic, popular figure. Among the crowds outside the court, a show of support. It lasted seconds.

    MAN (through interpreter): After the Bo Xilai trial, where will China go politically? Will we have more human rights?

    ANGUS WALKER: Listening in, the police have heard enough.

    Well, we were just talking to this man, but because he was showing some support for Bo Xilai and criticizing the trial, he's been taken away by the police.

    As one of China's most senior leaders faces what the government insists is open justice, the police were trying to control protests against injustice. A pensioner grabbed his chance to make a stand. His house had been demolished by the government, he shouted. They pulled him down, too, and he was taken away.

    And how the mighty fall. Bo Xilai is also in the hands of the state, a historic day, when China's political system is also on trial.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The trial went into recess after about eight hours of testimony and was due to resume Friday morning.

    Those are some of the day's major stories.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The drumbeat of Western leaders demanding a United Nations' investigation of yesterday's reported chemical weapon attack in Syria continued today.

    Margaret Warner has the story.

    And a warning: This report contains graphic material that some viewers may find disturbing.

    MARGARET WARNER: France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said today the international community must consider military action in Syria if allegations of chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime prove true.

    LAURENT FABIUS, French Foreign Minister (through interpreter): If it is confirmed, France's position is that there must be a reaction, not sending troops on the ground, but a reaction, not only, of course, of international condemnation, but a reaction that could take the shape of the use of force.

    MARGARET WARNER: The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session yesterday to discuss the incident that reportedly killed over a hundred Syrian citizens, including women and children, on Wednesday morning. It called for a thorough investigation of the attack, but stopped short of demanding Syria let U.N. inspectors on the ground visit the site.

    But, today, a spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the U.N. chief has called on the Syrian government to grant the team access.

    EDUARDO DEL BUEY, Deputy Spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General: The secretary-general now calls for the mission, presently in Damascus, to be granted permission and access to swiftly investigate the incident which occurred on the morning of the 21st of August, 2013. A formal request is being sent by the United Nations to the government of Syria in this regard. He expects to receive a positive response without delay.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Syrian government has denied being behind the attack. And Russia, an ally of the Assad regime, has said the attack could be the work of the opposition -- all this as government forces today pounded the Damascus area where the chemical attack reportedly occurred.

    In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. hasn't reached a conclusion yet on whether chemical weapons were used.

    JEN PSAKI, State Department: The president has directed the intel community to -- here in the United States to urgently gather additional information. This is our focus on this end. At this time, right now, we are unable to conclusively determine C.W. use. But we are focused every minute of every day, since these events happened yesterday, on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts.

    MARGARET WARNER: One year ago, President Obama said any such move by the Assad regime would cross a red line.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that's a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.

    MARGARET WARNER: In mid-June, the Obama administration gave its assessment that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on a small scale on multiple occasions within the past year.

    White House official also said the U.S. would begin sending limited arms to the opposition, though it's unclear if they have actually been delivered. As for other possible options, in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin last month, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey said containing Syria's chemical weapons stockpile would require lethal force.

    "At a minimum, this option would call for a no-fly zone, as well as air and missile strikes," he wrote. "Thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces would be needed to assault and secure critical sites. Costs could also average well over $1 billion per month."

    In another letter this week, Dempsey cautioned the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, against backing the rebel forces militarily. "Syria today is not about choosing between two sides, but rather about choosing one among many sides," he wrote. "It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not."

    The American people appear reluctant as well. In a July Quinnipiac University poll, 61 percent of Americans said it is not in the national interest to be involved in Syria.

    If it's proven that the Assad regime was behind yesterday's attack against civilians, does the West have a duty to act?



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    It's not just great CGI animation and big-name actors that make Spiderman and Iron Man such big hits at the box office. The resurgence of comic book characters has taken the country by storm for more than a decade.

    What is it about costumed superheroes that we love so much?

    I recently interviewed NPR's Glen Weldon, author of "Superman: The Unauthorized Biography" about why he thinks that character in particular resonates with Americans and has remained such an icon in our pop culture for 75 years.

    The characters "exist on a symbolic level," and none are more symbolic than Superman, who created the superhero archetype, he said.

    "Everything that has come after him that has touched on the idea that someone dresses up in a weird outfit and fights for the powers of good comes from him," Weldon told me during our discussion, which will air soon on the NewsHour.

    View Slide Show

    NewsHour desk assistant Sam Lane assembled this slide show of Superman through the ages.

    I was recently in New York City and noticed comic book heroes were just about everywhere. Weldon notes that even though the writers at DC Comics kept Superman -- who makes a habit of saving Metropolis -- far away from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, fans placed him in New York nonetheless.

    "You really see the power of this character and how much he has invaded the American psyche," Weldon said. "He's not like Spiderman. This isn't the hero that we relate to. We don't see him over in the corner. He's not our friendly, neighborhood Superman. He is a character in whom we believe. It's different. Our relationship to him is much different. And he's an ideal. So they kept him out of that whole fracas."

    Instead, an online movement sprang up, with people posting their own images of Superman at the site of the World Trade Center defending it from attacks or crying, Weldon said: "Because there was this need for him to represent both the power of America and the feeling of helplessness."

    Weldon and I chatted extensively about the relatability argument. Do we really want our heroes to be as flawed as we are?

    Personally, I've always been partial to Iron Man. He's brilliant, but in a far more charming way than, say, his fellow Avenger Bruce Banner who becomes the Incredible Hulk.

    Batman has always been just too dark and gloomy for me, and Spiderman is too tied up in his women to be an effective hero. What, you disagree with me? That's why comic books are so great! We can have this kind of impassioned conversation about worlds that are completely imagined.

    So what else can we say about comic book characters? The White House got in on the action this summer with a Google hangout on the topic, and we've also pulled together a scientific examination of just how Spiderman's silk works, or whether it's even humanly possible for the Flash to run that fast. (Spoiler alert: It's not!)

    For more Superman, listen to my conversation with Weldon recently when I sat in as a guest host for Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU.

    In an online exclusive, I also asked Weldon about how Lois Lane evolved over the decades, and about the comic book he likes best. Watch:

    Watch Video

    Now it's your turn. Who is your favorite comic book character and why?

    Consider the comments section below an open thread for discussion, or have your say on Twitter using the hashtag #comicbookheroes.

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    MARGARET WARNER: To debate that, I'm joined by Robert Zarate, policy director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, and Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.


    Robert Zarate, let's start with, given the scale of the human suffering in Syria, whoever is proven to be behind yesterday's attack, does the West have an obligation to intervene militarily?

    ROBERT ZARATE, The Foreign Policy Initiative: Yes, I think the West has an obligation -- the United States in particular has an obligation to intervene militarily, and not just because of what happened in the suburbs of Damascus, but because of what has happened over the last two-and-a-half years, since the Assad regime began its conflict with the Syrian people.

    Over 100,000 people have died. Upwards near -- approaching a million people are now displaced internally, and it's destabilizing the entire region.

    MARGARET WARNER: Joshua Landis, how do you see it? Is there a -- almost a moral duty to intervene at this point?

    JOSHUA LANDIS, University of Oklahoma: The international community has a responsibility in this situation to do something to alleviate human suffering.

    A third of Syrians are displaced, two million outside the country, five million inside the country. It's a country of about 22 million to 24 million people. The problem, as Dempsey has outlined, is that we don't have a partner in this. The Syrian opposition is dominated by Islamists.

    And that makes it very difficult for us to jump in, because the last response that was given to this situation was to arm and to send lethal weapons to the opposition. If we send more lethal weapons, we're going to destroy what remains of the Syrian state. And there are 1,000-some-odd militias running around Syria.

    This situation could become a lot worse.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you this.

    ROBERT ZARATE: So, now an occupation force of over 100,000 people in order to freeze the situation and begin to supply food and aid to people, we're only going to make the situation worse.

    MARGARET WARNER: What I'm asking is, is there a sort of moral dimension to this, that at some point -- I think that's what you're saying -- maybe come back to you, Mr. Zarate.

    You're saying, at some point, the West has to sort of stand up and do something militarily for moral reasons.

    ROBERT ZARATE: Not -- both for moral and -- reasons and for reasons of national security interests.

    Look, what we're seeing right now in Syria is a rogue regime that has used weapons of mass destruction. We're seeing the creation of safe havens within Syria for terrorists. And, last, we're seeing terrorists within grasp of getting chemical weapons. It's quite possible that the Assad regime could lose control of these things.

    This is the very sort of thing that the United States for decades has fought to prevent. And in that argument for further action is both an argument that stands on national security interests and on moral humanitarian leadership.

    MARGARET WARNER: And, Joshua Landis, we're having a little trouble with your audio, but weigh in here.

    What do you think just in general -- at what point do moral considerations or the duty to sort of stand up against atrocities counterbalance or even outweigh the practical obstacles, which, of course, we heard General Dempsey and many others have laid out? Or does that never -- is that never the case?

    JOSHUA LANDIS: Of course it's the case.

    I mean, you have to be able to make the situation better. And in order to do that -- Syria is a failed nation. We have two sectarian groups who are fighting each other, the Sunni Arabs and the Alawites and other minorities, along with the many rich Sunnis who are still clinging to this regime.

    And if America goes in and helps one side conquer the other, things could become -- it's not going to solve the problem. We did that in Iraq. We gave the Shiites a total win against the Sunnis, and now the Sunnis are all radicalized and they're joining al-Qaida.

    We cannot rebuild -- if we go in, we have to either rebuild Syria or we have to divide it up into three states, like we did in Yugoslavia. And America doesn't have -- the problem is, today, Americans don't want to do it. They don't want to spend the money. This would be an extremely expensive endeavor.

    Should the world do it? Yes, absolutely. The suffering is enormous in Syria, and it's going to get a lot worse. Agriculture has collapsed, and this winter, we're going to see many, many more refugees and people starving.

    MARGARET WARNER: And that raises an important point about public opinion, Mr. Zarate. Where is the outrage when you see the kind of things we have seen for two-and-a-half years, yet the public has consistently -- it's a 2-1, 60 percent, 65 percent say shouldn't intervene militarily. What do you think explains that?

    ROBERT ZARATE: Well, I think one of the biggest factors that explains public indifference is the absence of the commander in chief taking his -- the stage to explain what's going on.

    You know, over the last few months, we have seen the White House issue statements after the use of chemical weapons, but these statements have not come from the president himself. They come from his advisers. And the fact is, if the president prioritizes this issue, if he believes it's important, he needs to go out there and explain it to the American people. And that's just something we haven't seen him do.

    MARGARET WARNER: And you think that presidential -- the president taking the lead can overcome this antipathy that we're now seeing to really any kind of involvement overseas militarily?

    ROBERT ZARATE: Absolutely.

    This is what -- this is the essence of presidential leadership. And there are times when the president must persuade the American people, explain to them what's at stake. And make no mistake, there's a lot at stake in Syria right now.

    MARGARET WARNER: Joshua Landis, what do you think...

    JOSHUA LANDIS: I think that's wrong.


    JOSHUA LANDIS: I think that's wrong.

    We had strong presidential leadership when we invaded Iraq, and it turned out disastrously. And we spent $1 trillion. And we have gained very little in terms of our national interests, if anything at all.

    It's not clear that strong leadership by America is going to solve the Syrian problem. We have a country that is falling apart. And in many ways, the Syrians are going to have to come to a new balance of power within their country. Trying to figure out what that balance of power is between Shiites, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds is something that nobody has an answer to today.

    In the United States, in our civil war, 750,000 people were killed, and, in 1860, we had a census of 30,000 people. Syria is about 24,000 -- 100,000 and a little bit more having killed so far. Syria is nowhere near up to the American Civil War.

    Now, should any international force through the British or the French have intervened and stopped Americans from killing each other? Probably, they should have. But would it have made America a better place? I'm not sure it would have.

    MARGARET WARNER: On that note, we will leave it there.

    Joshua Landis and Robert Zarate, thank you.



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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to newly released audio recordings that give us insight into the Nixon presidency.

    Over 300 hours of secret tapes recorded at the White House during the spring and summer of 1973 cover a tumultuous period, when revelations about the Watergate scandal were gripping the country.

    On the night of April 30, 1973, President Nixon took a series of phone calls from supporters and advisers following a televised address in which he announced the resignation of his two top aides after they were implicated in the scandal.

    Yesterday, we reported on the praise he received from a man who would follow him in office, Ronald Reagan.

    He also got a congratulatory call from George H.W. Bush.

    And here's part of the call from the influential Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham:

    REV. BILLY GRAHAM, evangelist: I think this is your finest hour.

    PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: that's nice of you, Billy.

    BILLY GRAHAM: Really, I wanted to reach through the TV screen and hug you.

    RICHARD NIXON: It's not easy.

    BILLY GRAHAM: I thought you were just great, and everybody I've talked to feels the same way. And I...

    RICHARD NIXON: You know, they all continue to slash away, so what the hell.

    BILLY GRAHAM: Well, you know Ruth, she...

    RICHARD NIXON: Excuse me. Excuse me to hell, but...

    BILLY GRAHAM: Well, Ruth, she thinks it's all a communist plot, left-wing and everything else.

    RICHARD NIXON: It is. It is. It is. You know that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That same night, President Nixon spoke with Defense Secretary Elliot Richardson, whom he had just announced would become acting attorney general.

    In the speech, Nixon -- Mr. Nixon had said Richardson would have full authority to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Watergate affair, but, on the phone, there was a different message.

    RICHARD NIXON: The one thing they're going to be hitting you on is about the special prosecutor.

    ELLIOT RICHARDSON, U.S. Defense Secretary: Yes. 

    RICHARD NIXON: The point is, I'm not sure you should have one. I'm not sure but what you should say you assume the responsibility for the prosecution and maybe bring that nice fellow Hastings or whatever his name is, say he's -- but whatever you want.

    ELLIOT RICHARDSON: Well, I'm thinking about it, and I met with Henry Petersen this afternoon.


    ELLIOT RICHARDSON: And I talked with him about it, and I will think about it some more.

    RICHARD NIXON: Do what you want, and I will back you to the hilt. I don't give a damn what you do. I am for you. Do you understand? Get to the bottom of this son of a bitch.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: A few weeks later, Richardson appointed law professor Archibald Cox to be special prosecutor.

    Well, here now to help us understand some of the historical context, we turn to veteran journalist and author Marvin Kalb, who covered the Watergate scandal. He is a senior adviser at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. And Ken Hughes, he studies recordings from the Nixon presidency at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.

    Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

    MARVIN KALB, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marvin Kalb, let me start with you. This was a tough day for President Nixon. He had just asked his two top aides in the White House to leave, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. He had fired John Dean, who was his legal counsel. He had accepted the resignation of his attorney general. Then he went on television last -- night. So, tell us -- set the scene for us.

    MARVIN KALB: Well, the amazing thing to me is that he finally at this point recognized that, from a political point of view, Watergate was a big scandal that could tear his presidency to pieces.


    The sad part about Richard Nixon, though, is even though he recognized that -- and you would think at that point he would come to terms with it -- he goes on air that night on April 30 and delivers a speech filled with one lie -- forgive me -- after another.

    He would say, for example, that it was from a newspaper that he found out about Watergate. That's nonsense. He would continue time and time again to mislead, even when he knew that the evidence was clearly in another direction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ken Hughes, so what's the significance of these attaboy phone calls he was getting from almost everybody he talked to that night?

    KEN HUGHES, University of Virginia: Judy, ordinarily, after President Nixon made a nationally televised address, he would do like a victory lap through his Rolodex with all his advisers praising him.

    And he loved it. That's -- he wanted -- he soaked all that up. But, on this night, he was in a very different mood, because while he was putting a brave face toward the public, privately, he recognized that, with Haldeman and Ehrlichman implicated in the Watergate investigation, all the bulkheads of the Titanic, save one, had been breached, and the next one that could be implicated was Nixon himself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, he had a difficult conversation with Haldeman, with H.R. Haldeman, that day...

    MARVIN KALB: Indeed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... where he was almost apologizing for asking him to resign.

    MARVIN KALB: I had the impression, listening to that tape, that he might have had a drink or two before he did that conversation with Haldeman, and maybe even more than that.

    He was apologizing, and, at the same time, he couldn't quite come to grips with what it is that had happened. And I think he was engaged in a process of self-deception, as much as he was engaged in a process of deceiving the American people. He was a very smart man. He knew what was going on. And yet he couldn't quite come to terms with it.

    KEN HUGHES: That's exactly right. One of the fascinating things -- everybody always asks, why didn't Richard Nixon burn the tapes?

    Fascinating find in this latest round is that, shortly before he asked Haldeman and Ehrlichman to resign, he took Haldeman aside and said, those tapes, most of them are worth destroying. Some of them are worth keeping. Would you take care of that for me?

    And Haldeman agreed at first. And if Haldeman had actually followed through on that, I think the history of Watergate would be entirely different and we'd be talking about H.R. Haldeman as the mastermind of Watergate, because without those tapes, we wouldn't know what Nixon had done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What's the significance, Marvin Kalb, of the conversation with Elliot Richardson, who he had just announced that day he was going to appoint as an acting attorney general?

    MARVIN KALB: Well, again, I find that, when you read that, there's a sadness that runs through that conversation, because he brings on Richardson because he really admired him. He respected him. He thought, this was a really honorable guy who was going to help me.

    And then he says to him -- first, he says to the American people, I think it's a good idea to have a special prosecutor. Then he says to Richardson, well, you know, I don't think it's a very good idea. They're going to press you to do this, but you really don't have to.

    What -- who was he saying that to? He seems to be trying to say something to himself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How much was he maneuvering behind the scenes to try to deal with everything? Was it just overwhelming...


    KEN HUGHES: At this point -- sorry.

    At this point in his presidency, Watergate takes over. And it's all maneuvering.

    MARVIN KALB: Exactly.

    KEN HUGHES: And that Elliot Richardson phone call is setting up a colossal confrontation that will take place later that year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And yet we know -- we know, Ken Hughes and Marvin Kalb, right around this same period, earlier this month, he had a conversation with his ambassador to China, David Bruce...


    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... about dealing with the Chinese.

    And we have a very interesting -- we're going to -- we're going to quote because, actually, the audio from this conversation wasn't very clear, but what President Nixon said to Ambassador Bruce.

    He said: "We have got to get along with this one-fourth of all the people in the world, the ablest people in the world, in my opinion, potentially. We have got to get along, or not. It's no problem for the next five years, but in the next 20 years, it's a critical problem for our age."

    Ambassador Bruce said, "It has nothing to do."

    And President Nixon came back and said, "And the other thing is if you could constantly, of course, whenever you're talking -- they are very subtle, but -- and are not like the Russians, who, of course, slobber at flattery and all that sort of thing."

    MARVIN KALB: He had so little respect, really, for the Russians, other than their military power, and he wanted and he did strike an arms control deal with them.

    For the Chinese, he loved them. He was mesmerized by them, and talking so marvelously about Zhou Enlai, the premier of China, and how energetic he is and how brilliant he is and all that. He would never say that about a Russian leader.

    But, to him, the game -- the triangle between the U.S., China, and Russia was an essential piece of his diplomacy, and he really thought that, if he could persuade the two of them to come along with him, to show them how wonderful it would be to deal with the United States, he could get them to get us out of the Vietnam War. But the North Vietnamese wouldn't play the game.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there were a few things in -- but, Ken, he is fascinating that he was saying in 1973, he said, it's not important that the Chinese are the ablest people in five years, but in 20 years, it matters. 

    KEN HUGHES: At the same time that he is involved in this very detailed cover-up of low crimes, he has a very panoramic view of the world and of history. And he has developed that his entire life, and that doesn't go away, even as he is going down.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This -- Ken Hughes, this is the last group of recordings we have from the Nixon presidency, because they stopped the recordings during this summer.

    KEN HUGHES: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the significance? What does that mean we lose? What more is there to know about the Nixon presidency? Have these tapes all now been pored over?

    KEN HUGHES: Well, they're -- the tapes haven't all been pored over yet, but now they have finally been released, so we can do that.

    But what it means for people who love the presidency and the history of the presidency is that we finally have this near perfect specimen that we can study. I mean, Nixon, unlike any of his predecessors, had the voice-activated tape recording system.

    So, for two-and-a-half years, critical years in the country's history, this tape recorder went on, and it kind of gives us this time machine that we can go back and see what really happened in one of the most fascinating presidencies that...

    MARVIN KALB: Nixon respected history.

    He looked at these tapes as a way of recording history. And he felt himself to be such a powerful figure in world history, that we owe it to the world, in a sense, to allow them to see what -- every word, to hear every word that I'm saying. It's so important.

    He made a personal commitment to the Chinese. Commitment is a big word when the president uses it. And he said that he had made a commitment to the Chinese that, if they have a quarrel with the Russians, a war perhaps, the United States is going to be on China's side.

    That was a huge statement, a commitment of policy. And yet he felt he could do it without any kind of check on that because he was so much a figure of history. He saw himself as a big player.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as Ken Hughes just said, all the while, he was dealing with this massive, growing scandal.


    MARVIN KALB: Compartmentalization, I think they call it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Compartmentalization.

    KEN HUGHES: That's the word.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what we are looking at?

    KEN HUGHES: Yes, we are. There are different Nixons for every occasion.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it's a remarkable -- a remarkable set of tapes.

    And this is -- this is just part what was released from the Nixon Presidential Library.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ken Hughes from the University of Virginia, Marvin Kalb, thank you both.

    MARVIN KALB: Pleasure.

    KEN HUGHES: Thank you, Judy.



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