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

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    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Facing roadblocks at home and abroad, President Barack Obama this week plans to urge reluctant world leaders to back an American-led strike against Syria even though the prospects for military action depend on the votes of a fractured U.S. Congress.

    The uncertainty surrounding Syria will hang over the president's three-day overseas trip, which includes a global summit in Russia and a stop in Sweden. So will Obama's tense relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the world leader who is hosting the Group of 20 gathering and has perhaps done the most to stymie international efforts to oust Syria's Bashar Assad.

    "It's been like watching a slow-moving train wreck for nearly two years," Andrew Kuchins, a Russia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of the Obama-Putin relationship. "Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama don't like each other at all. I think there's a deep degree of disrespect."

    That's not Obama's only headache as he embarks on the long-planned trip.

    The timing of it pulls him away from Washington just as he's urgently seeking to rally lawmakers to support military action in Syria in response to what the administration says was a chemical weapons attack. And his unexpected announcement over the weekend that he would punt the decision to Congress on whether to strike Syria may have stoked doubts among world leaders about his willingness to make good on his threats to rogue nations.

    While Syria isn't officially on the agenda at the economy-focused G-20 summit, Obama administration officials say the president sees the gathering as an opportunity to press his counterparts to support military action against the Assad regime. World leaders also will seek guidance from the U.S. president about whether he plans to proceed with a strike if Congress rejects his proposed resolution -- a question Obama's aides have refused to answer.

    Obama spoke about Syria ahead of the meeting by telephone Monday night with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the White House said Tuesday. A White House statement said Obama and Abe pledged to consult on a possible international response.

    Votes in the House and the Senate are expected next week, just after Obama wraps up his trip.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been pushing for stronger action in Syria, said he expected Obama to continue his outreach with Congress even while traveling.

    "It's harder when you're overseas," McCain said after meeting with Obama at the White House on Monday, "but he's been manning the phones here the whole time and he'll continue to do that. He's all in on this, obviously."

    Obama is to arrive in Stockholm on Wednesday morning after an overnight flight from Washington.

    The White House hastily added the Sweden visit to Obama's schedule after he scrapped plans to meet one-on-one with Putin in Moscow ahead of the G-20. That came in response to the Kremlin granting temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, defying Obama's requests to send the former NSA systems analyst back to the U.S. to face espionage charges.

    Snowden's leaks to American and foreign news organizations about secret government spying programs have sparked outrage overseas, particularly in Europe. Obama is likely to face questions about the scope of the programs while overseas, as he did earlier this summer during meetings with the Group of 8 industrial nations.

    Even before the Snowden incident, relations between the U.S. and Russia were already on the rocks amid differences on missile defense and nuclear weapons, as well as American concerns over human rights and a new Russian law that targets "homosexual propaganda." Russian gay rights activists say they have been invited to meet with Obama while he is in St. Petersburg this week.

    Putin also has appeared to relish blocking American and Western European efforts to weaken Assad throughout Syria's 2.5 year civil war. Russia remains one of Syria's strongest military and economic backers.

    In a pointed jab last week, Putin asked Obama to reconsider a military strike, saying he was appealing to Obama not as a world leader, but as a Nobel Peace laureate.

    "We have to remember what has happened in the last decades, how many times the United States has been the initiator of armed conflict in different regions of the world," Putin said. "Did this resolve even one problem?"

    Administration officials insist the U.S. and Russia can still work productively together during the G-20, though in a slight to Putin, the White House has gone out of its way to characterize the trip as less of a visit to Russia than a trip to the G-20 that happened to be taking place there.

    The White House also has ruled out a one-on-one meeting between Obama and Putin on the sidelines of the summit, though the two leaders certainly will spend time together in the larger summit sessions.

    Obama is expected to have formal bilateral meetings with other leaders during the two-day summit. While those meetings are yet to be announced, the president may sit down with counterparts from Britain and France, two nations whose deliberations about Syria have affected his own.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron has backed Obama's calls for a retaliatory strike against Syria. But seeking broader global consensus, Britain pushed for a U.N. Security Council authorization that flopped last week. A day later, Cameron suffered a stinging humiliation when Britain's Parliament voted against endorsing military action, all but guaranteeing Britain won't play a direct role in any U.S.-led effort.

    But France provides Obama an opportunity to show it's not just the U.S. that's convinced it's time to act on Syria. French President Francois Hollande has said his country can go ahead with a strike, and the French constitution doesn't require such a vote unless and until a military intervention lasts longer than four months. France's parliament is scheduled to debate the issue Wednesday, but no vote is scheduled.

    Obama's stop in Sweden on Wednesday will focus on issues such as climate change, security cooperation and trade. The trip marks the first time a sitting U.S. president has made a bilateral visit to Sweden.

    While in Stockholm, Obama will hold private meetings with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and King Carl XVI Gustaf, and will break bread with Nordic leaders from Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. He also will highlight Sweden's technical research programs and celebrate Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is credited for saving at least 20,000 Jews during the Holocaust before mysteriously disappearing after being detained by authorities in the Soviet Union near the end of World War II.

    ___

    Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Josh Lederman at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP


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    By Nick Corcodilos

    Employers are only hurting themselves with formulaic rejection letters that don't value their prospective hires. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Robert S. Donovan.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: After I was tested and interviewed by the senior vice president of a local company for a senior executive assistant position, they dropped off the planet and made no contact with me. I sent an e-mail to the V.P. inquiring why there had been no contact, and the HR manager responded to me:

    Your e-mail below was forwarded to my attention as [V.P.] is away.

    Please be advised that we had not yet concluded our recruitment effort for this position. I appreciate that waiting can be frustrating and you may have preferred more frequent contact during this process. It is our practice, however, upon completion of the interview process, to contact all applicants either once they are no longer being considered for the position or to make an offer. You had not been contacted yet because you were among those being seriously considered for this position.

    We have made an offer to a candidate today; therefore, this opportunity has now closed. Thank you for your interest in employment with [the employer]. We wish you well in your employment search.

    Thank you, [HR Manager]

    Do employers know what HR is doing?

    Nick Corcodilos: If by employers you mean hiring managers, I think sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. But what really matters is that hiring managers relinquish (to HR) their personal interface to the professional community they recruit from (that's you). In other words, hiring managers let HR make them look bad. They let HR make their company look bad.

    Look at the steady and growing complaints from employers about the "talent shortage." Companies publicly fret that job applicants just don't have the skills they need. Managers can't seem to find the perfect candidate. Even while the unemployment rolls are enormous, companies still struggle to find the right hires.

    Does it sound like HR managers and hiring managers can afford to treat job applicants like troublesome puppies begging for attention? Imagine what would happen if the vice president learned that a sales rep was ignoring calls from prospective customers. Heads would roll.

    Most people who read this column want ideas and help about job hunting. But a considerable number of readers are hiring managers or work in HR. This one's for them.

    Let's dissect that letter and take a look at what it really says about the mistakes employers make when recruiting.

    "Your e-mail below was forwarded to my attention as [V.P.] is away."

    Translation: You've been passed on to the catch-all department because your call is not important. If you were a customer or a client of the company, the vice president would call you back. We never have enough customers, but we sure have more resumes than we'll ever need.

    "Please be advised that we had not yet concluded our recruitment effort for this position."

    MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask The Headhunter: Why America's Employment System Is so Broken

    Translation: This is a form letter, written in the passive voice to avoid personal responsibility. We could have sent you one or more update e-mails after your interview, just so you'd know what was going on, at little cost to the company, but we don't have to, so we didn't.

    "I appreciate that waiting can be frustrating and you may have preferred more frequent contact during this process."

    Translation: What you want and expect don't matter now that we've gotten what we need: several hours of your time taking tests and sitting for interviews, at no cost to us. We don't use "The No-Nonsense Interview Agreement."

    "It is our practice, however, upon completion of the interview process, to contact all applicants either once they are no longer being considered for the position or to make an offer."

    Translation: Our sales reps stay in frequent, regular contact with prospective customers because that's where our revenue comes from. But we haven't figured out that the next person we hire is just as important to our success as our next sale. We just don't get it.

    "You had not been contacted yet because you were among those being seriously considered for this position."

    Translation: You were considered so seriously that we didn't have even one follow-up question for you, and no reason to talk to you again. Imagine how we treat applicants who don't make the first cut! We knew we could ignore you entirely. We believe that if we decide to throw you a bone, you'll come running. We wish our prospective customers behaved that way, too. We just don't get it.

    "We have made an offer to a candidate today; therefore, this opportunity has now closed."

    Translation: We count chickens before they hatch. And we have an incredibly high opinion of ourselves. We also think you've got nowhere else to go. If our number one candidate rejects our offer, we think you'll drop everything and start work tomorrow -- even after we've told you to take a hike. Because why would anyone reject us?

    This dismissive attitude -- and this kind of behavior -- is just one of the stupid hiring mistakes employers make.

    Employers take note: How much time would it take a hiring manager to return a call from someone who took the time to apply for a job, attend an interview and take a test? Very little; it would have been a good investment.

    It's a safe guess that, like disgruntled customers who have been treated poorly by your company, this disgruntled job applicant will invest a bit more time now to poison your well by sharing her experience with others in the business -- including your customers.

    Good luck with your next applicant, and with your next sales prospect. And good luck to whoever accepts your job offer because bad behavior is habitual, and "Death by Lethal Reputation" is slow and agonizing.

    To the reader who submitted this story, I'll caution you: If the person who received the offer rejects it and the company calls back to offer you the job, before you accept, consider how you'd be treated as an employee.

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?", "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps" and "Fearless Job Hunting."

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman


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    PBS NewsHour will live stream statements and hearings on Syria as they become available, including Tuesday's hearing with Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Watch the player above for the latest. And at 6 p.m. EDT every weekday, this player will stream the NewsHour broadcast.

    WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday said he will support President Barack Obama's call for the U.S. to take action against Syria for alleged chemical weapons use and that his Republican colleagues should support the president, too.

    The Ohio Republican said the use of chemical weapons must be responded to. He said only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and warn others around the world that such actions will not be tolerated.

    Said Boehner: "This is something that the United States as a country needs to do."

    He spoke at the White House after he and other congressional leaders met with Obama.

    Watch Video On Tuesday, President Obama continued his administration's push to convince Congress to vote in support of his plan to launch a limited military strike in Syria. The president met with congressional leaders and cabinet members at the White House. Obama stressed that taking action would fit into a broader strategy of strengthening the opposition forces in Syria.

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    Volunteers with the Get Covered America campaign canvas a neighborhood, informing prospective health insurance consumers about their options under the Affordable Care Act. Photo by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    The federal health law's individual mandate, one of the key building blocks of the insurance overhaul, remains controversial as the October start date approaches for enrolling in new online marketplaces. Individuals who don't get insurance through work will shop for insurance on these websites for policies that will take effect in January.

    The mandate, which requires most people to obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty, survived a constitutional challenge last year in the Supreme Court but remains under attack by conservatives. In July, the Republican-led House voted to delay the mandate, although the measure is not likely to get a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    Despite all that attention to the mandate, 26 percent of Americans aren't aware of the requirement or didn't think the law included it, according to a March 2013 Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

    Here are some basic questions and answers about mandate.

    What is the individual mandate?

    The individual mandate is a provision of the federal health law that requires you, your children and anyone else that you claim as a dependent on your taxes to have health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty. That coverage can be supplied through your job, public programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, or an individual policy that you purchase. The health law is setting up online health insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges, to help you shop for plans.

    Who is affected by the mandate?

    The mandate is aimed at some of the 57 million people younger than 65 who now do not have insurance. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in 2014 nearly three out of five Americans will have coverage through an employer-provided plan and 12 percent through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, federal-state programs that provide insurance to lower income Americans. If you have insurance in either of those ways, you are not affected. If you are in Medicare, you also meet the requirement.

    Are there any exceptions to the mandate?

    Yes, the government has identified exemptions. Individuals who cannot afford coverage because the cost of premiums exceed 8 percent of their household income or those whose household incomes are below the minimum threshold for filing a tax return are exempt. People experiencing certain hardships, including those who would have been eligible for Medicaid under the health law's new rules but whose states chose not to expand their programs, also are exempt.

    Other exempt groups include prisoners, Native Americans eligible for care through the Indian Health Care service, immigrants who are in the country illegally, people whose religion objects to having insurance coverage, members of a health care sharing ministry and individuals who experience a short coverage gap of less than three consecutive months.

    CBO estimates that in 2016, after the major provisions of the health law are implemented, 24 million people will be exempted from the mandate's penalties.

    Why is there a mandate anyway?

    The health law was designed to extend insurance to nearly all people, including those who have medical conditions that require expensive care and are often denied coverage today. But to pay for their care, insurance companies need to have a large enrollment of consumers, especially young and healthy people who use fewer services. The mandate was adopted to guarantee a broad base.

    Topher Spiro, the vice president of health policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning nonprofit that supports the law, says it will be more effective with the mandate than without it. "This individual mandate is to keep premiums low for everyone," he said, noting that "if you don't have incentives for everyone to sign up for coverage then only the sick people will enroll which will drive up premiums."

    But others suggest the mandate won't be effective because the penalties are set so much lower than the cost of coverage.

    "The mandate was an attempt to get around the fact that insurance is going to become a lot more expensive for a lot of people even with the subsidies," said Joseph Antos, an economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Antos believes the tax penalty for remaining uninsured is too low and questions the government's ability to identify those who end up not filing taxes. "I would argue that the individual mandate is largely unenforceable and does not turn out to be this solution to the other problems that raise insurance costs for that particular group of people," he added.

    How do I satisfy the mandate?

    Health coverage provided through a job-based plan (including COBRA or a retirement plan), policies that you bought for yourself or your family, Medicare (and Medicare Advantage), Medicaid, CHIP, some Veterans Administration health programs or TRICARE coverage for members of the military and their dependents will satisfy the mandate.

    If you are uninsured or thinking about switching plans, you can shop for coverage through the online marketplaces beginning Oct. 1. These marketplaces will operate in every state and the District of Columbia and will alert people with lower incomes that they are eligible for Medicaid. The marketplaces will also offer tax subsidies to help reduce the cost of premiums if your income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four in 2013) and cost-sharing subsidies that will substantially reduce the deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and total out-of-pocket spending limits for people with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($28,725 for an individual and $58,875 for a family of four in 2013).

    Although the law takes effect Jan. 1, the initial enrollment period continues through March 31. Since people are exempted for a short coverage gap - less than three months - individuals that obtain coverage before the end of March will be exempt from the payment for that period.

    How do I report my coverage or exemptions to the government?

    You will not have to report your coverage or exemptions until you file your 2014 income tax return, which won't be due until April 15, 2015. Insurance providers will also be required to help their clients report their health coverage. The Internal Revenue Service says it will put out details later about how the reporting will work.

    If your income is so low that you do not file a tax return, you are exempt from paying the penalty.

    What happens if I don't get coverage?

    If you do not have the minimum level of coverage and do not qualify for an exemption, you must pay a penalty to the IRS at the end of the tax year. The penalty for the first year is up to $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

    The fine, however, increases over time and in 2016 will be as much as $695 per adult and $347 per child (up to $2,085 for a family) or 2.5 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

    The amount you owe will be pro-rated to reflect the number of months you were without coverage.

    CBO estimates that 6 million people, about 2 percent of the population, will be assessed a penalty in 2016.

    How do I apply for an exemption?

    If you are seeking an exemption for incarceration, membership in an Indian tribe or health care sharing ministry, you can apply through the health insurance exchanges or make a claim when you file taxes, according to a final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you are claiming economic hardship or a religious exemption, you must get an exemption certificate from the online insurance exchange. If you are claiming that coverage is unaffordable, you are in the United States without proper documentation or have a coverage gap of less than three months, you can make the claim when you file your 2014 taxes in 2015.

    What were the issues in the Supreme Court challenge?

    Opponents of the law argued that forcing individuals to buy insurance was unprecedented and could lead to much greater federal intrusions against individual freedoms. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in fact, asked during the arguments on the law if such a provision meant the government could force Americans to buy broccoli. Supporters countered that the mandate was part of a long tradition of Congress regulating business trade under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. In the suit brought by 26 states, the Supreme Court allowed the mandate to stand because a majority of justices, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said it was a tax and Congress has the power to impose taxes.

    Where did the idea of the mandate originate?

    The origins of the individual mandate have been controversial. Many Democrats who support the law suggest it was originally a conservative idea developed in 1989 by the Heritage Foundation's Stuart Butler to counter liberals' efforts to establish a single payer system and impose a mandate on employers to provide insurance. Several years afterward, Republicans used the individual mandate in a bill they offered as an alternative to Bill Clinton's proposal to overhaul health insurance. The mandate also was incorporated as part of the Massachusetts overhaul of health insurance in 2006 under then-Gov. Mitt Romney.

    Democrats later adapted the concept and pushed it as part of the congressional debate over the Affordable Care Act, despite President Barack Obama's initial reluctance to embrace it. Whatever their prior views, most conservatives opposed the health law's version of the mandate, and Butler made a spirited argument that the current mandate is not what he was endorsing years ago.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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    Watch Video On Tuesday, President Barack Obama continued his administration's push to convince Congress to vote in support of his plan to launch a limited military strike in Syria.

    WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's call for a military strike in Syria won significant momentum Tuesday, with leaders of both parties in Congress announcing they are convinced that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own people and that the United States should respond.

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner emerged from a White House meeting and told reporters: "This is something that the United States, as a country, needs to do. I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action."

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also said they will support Obama because the U.S. has a compelling national security interest to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.

    PBS NewsHour will live stream statements and congressional hearings on Syria as they become available. Watch the player above for the latest. And at 6 p.m. EDT every weekday, this player will stream the NewsHour broadcast.

    But their endorsements still don't resolve the deep ambivalence and even opposition toward action in both parties, and Boehner's spokesman followed up the speaker's announcement by describing the resolution's passage as "an uphill battle." Dozens of conservative Republicans and several liberal Democrats have come out against intervention, and may be prepared to ignore the positions of their leaders and the president.

    Pelosi stressed that Americans need to hear more of the intelligence to be convinced that a strike is necessary. "I'm hopeful that the American people are persuaded," she said.

    "This is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior and we must respond," she argued as she left the West Wing.

    Obama met with more than a dozen lawmakers in the White House Cabinet Room to press the case for strikes aimed at dismantling Assad's chemical weapons capabilities. The president said he's confident Congress will authorize the strike and tried to assure the public that involvement in Syria will be a "limited, proportional step."

    "This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan," Obama said.

    Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Tuesday that he was working with panel Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., to craft a resolution narrower than the broad measure the administration proposed on Saturday. He said their resolution, which could be ready as early as Tuesday evening, would limit the duration of the operation and prevent the deployment of U.S. ground troops.

    Obama indicated he is open to changing the language to address lawmakers' concerns and called for a prompt vote.

    "So long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad, to degrade his capabilities to use chemical weapons, not just now but also in the future, as long as the authorization allows us to do that, I'm confident that we're going to be able to come up with something that hits that mark," Obama said.

    Sen. Rand Paul said he would probably vote against any resolution. But he said it also wouldn't be helpful to amend the resolution in a way that constrains the president too much to execute military action, if authorized.

    After Obama met with the congressional leadership, administration officials offered a classified briefing for all members of Congress. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., emerged saying he has concerns about a U.S. attack, including how Assad's purported use of chemical weapons represented a threat to the U.S. "There's an old saying, we don't have a dog in the fight. In this case, back home in west Virginia, they're saying we don't have any friends in the fight either," Manchin said.

    Asked specifically about Boehner's endorsement, freshman Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., said he still hadn't made up his mind.

    "Being new here, I'm very skeptical of Republicans and Democrats that have dragged us into wars of the past," he told reporters. "Still today, when we look at Afghanistan and Iraq, I am questioning: What is the end goal within these countries? What have we accomplished with so many lives being lost?"

    Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck put responsibility for winning votes in the White House's hands in a written statement following up on the speaker's brief comment to reporters. "Everyone understands that it is an uphill battle to pass a resolution, and the speaker expects the White House to provide answers to members' questions and take the lead on any whipping effort. All votes authorizing the use of military force are conscience votes for members, and passage will require direct, continuous engagement from the White House," Buck said.

    Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey also attended the meeting with lawmakers before heading over to Capitol Hill for testimony later in the day before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    The U.S. said it has proof that the Assad regime is behind attacks that Washington claims killed at least 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists, says it has so far only been able to confirm 502 dead.

    "We are talking about weapons of mass destruction. This is a war crime," said New York Rep. Eliot Engel, who attended the White House meeting as the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "If we didn't respond in kind it would send a message to every despot, every thug, every dictator, every terrorist group in the world that you can commit war crimes and murder your own citizens with impunity and nothing is going to happen."

    Boehner said only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Assad. "We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior. We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up when it's necessary," he said.

    Boehner was the only Republican to speak to reporters after the White House meeting and he took no questions. Cantor announced his support in a statement that argued, "America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States."

    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also attended the meeting, but did not commit to supporting authorization afterward and instead encouraged the president to keep updating the public. "While we are learning more about his plans, Congress and our constituents would all benefit from knowing more about what it is he thinks needs to be done -- and can be accomplished - in Syria and the region," he said in a statement.

    After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, polls show most Americans opposed to any new military action overseas. Their skepticism is shared by many tea party Republicans and others, whose views range from ideological opposition to any U.S. military action overseas to narrower fears about authorizing the use of force without clear constraints on timing, costs and scope of the intervention.

    Obama's task is complicated further because he leaves for a three-day trip to Europe on Tuesday night, visiting Stockholm, Sweden and then attending the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Vice President Joe Biden's office said he was postponing a trip to Florida Thursday to stay in Washington and work on Syria while Obama is away.

    Associated Press reporters Nedra Pickler and Bradley Klapper wrote this report.

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    The father of 13-year-old Yahya Sweed talks with his son a day after he was released from the hospital after one of his legs was amputated following shelling by government forces in the town of Kfar Nubul, Syria. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/ AFP/ Getty Images.

    Deep uncertainty surrounding Syria hangs over President Barack Obama as he and his administration lobby to convince Congress to authorize use of military force against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

    As the nation waits to see how lawmakers will choose to proceed on Syria, here's an updated list of trusted Twitter accounts you can follow for live #Syria updates. With news from journalists and foreign affairs correspondents to Human Rights Watch activists, this compilation of Twitter accounts is mainly focused on delivering up-to-date coverage of the ongoing conflicts in Syria.

    General

    @USEmbassySyria The U.S. Embassy in Syria @OCHA_Syria: Mobilizes and coordinates humanitarian assistance in Syria.

    News Organizations

    @Now_Syria NOW Lebanon Staff @syriadeeply Independent Digital Media project led by journalists/technologists @SANA_English The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) is the national official news agency of #Syria. It was established in 1965.

    #Syria neighbors brace for refugees fleeing #US strike https://t.co/fRBjmFuQft#NOW_Eng#NOW_Syria

    — NOW Syria (@NOW_Syria) September 3, 2013

    Journalists

    Lara Setrakian @lara Foreign Correspondent based in Dubai/Middle East Jim Roberts @nycjim Executive Editor of Reuters Digital

    Syria refugees top 2 million; UN sees worst greatest threat to world peace since Vietnam. http://t.co/x9tpO7zKBq

    — Jim Roberts (@nycjim) September 3, 2013

    Laura Rozen @lrozen Reporter at Al Monitor

    Max Fisher @Max_Fisher Foreign Affairs blogger at The Washington Post

    Should the the U.S. strike Syria? These are the five smartest arguments. http://t.co/kTOJ5zmL27

    — Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) September 3, 2013

    Paul Danahar @pdanahar BBC Middle East Bureau Chief

    Azmat Khan @AzmatZahra Al Jazeera America Senior Digital Producer

    Ilhan Tanir @WashingtonPoint Turkish daily Vatan Washington Correspondent

    Breaking: Explosion in a depot in Hatay, borders w/Syria, killed 6 total, 1 of them Turkish. #NTV

    — ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) September 3, 2013
    Anup Kaphle @anupkaphle Digital Foreign Editor at the Washington Post Laura Kasinof @kasinof Freelance Journalist Javier Espinosa @javierespinosa2 Middle East correspondent for El Mundo based in Beirut Richard Engel @RichardEngel NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent

    The number of Syrians internally displaced is more than double the number of those who fled. Here's a helpful map: pic.twitter.com/yHHuvMiBU5

    — Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle) September 3, 2013
    Ayat Basma @AyatBasma: Reuters reporter/producer based in Beirut Liz Sly @LizSly: Beirut bureau chief covering Syria, Lebanon, Iraq for The Washington Post Alexander Marquardt @MarquardtA: ABC News Middle East Correspondent Andrew Tabler @andrewtabler: Syria and Lebanon expert, senior fellow at the Washington Institute

    2 million Syria refugees, 3 million by end 2013. They flee in fear with nothing and little hope of going home soon http://t.co/bKbE33fuPZ

    — Liz Sly (@LizSly) September 3, 2013
    Arwa Damon @arwaCNN: CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Hubbard @nytben: The New York Times Middle East correspondent Cara Swift @cswift2: BBC Middle East Producer Deb Amos @deborahamos: Covers the Middle East for NPR.

    #UN's Mokhtar Lamani in #Damasus tells @BowenBBC there's "a risk of genocide" in #Syria

    — Cara Swift (@cswift2) September 2, 2013
    Lina Sinjab @BBCLinaSinjab: BBC correspondent in Syria. Martin Chulov @martinchulov: Covering the Middle East for The Guardian. Matthieu Aikins @mattaikins: Reports from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and other places for magazines including Harper's, the Atlantic, GQ and Wired. Miriam Elder @MiriamElder: Foreign editor at BuzzFeed.

    Life in #Damascus back to normal after delay in strike time! Daily shelling and mortars going out and inside the city. #Syria

    — Lina Sinjab (@BBCLinaSinjab) September 1, 2013
    Paul Conroy @reflextv: Sunday Times photographer covering Syria. Tracey Shelton @tracey_shelton Senior correspondent for The Global Post covering Syria, Libya and conflict zones throughout the Middle East. Richard Colebourn @rcolebourn: BBC News Middle East bureau chief. Sam Dagher @samdagher: Middle East correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. Covering Syria and Lebanon.

    I can confirm RT @_RichardHall: @timesofindia Russian embassy in #Syria says no sign of missile explosions after ballistic launches detected

    — Sam Dagher (@samdagher) September 3, 2013

    Analysts, Scholars and Activists

    Ian Pannel @BBCiPannell: BBC correspondent. Jad Bantha @JadBantha: Human rights researcher and social media expert reporting from inside Syria. Fadi Salem @FadiSalem: From Aleppo, Syria. Author and director of Governance & Innovation at Dubai School of Government. Malath Aumran @MalathAumran Syrian Activist Joshua Landis @joshua_landis: Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma.

    I met two #ISIS fighters & interviewed them. Were recruited in 1990s to fight against #US in #Iraq and now turned against #Assad in #Syria

    — Jad Bantha (@JadBantha) September 2, 2013
    Ole Solvang @OleSolvang: Senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. Steven Heydemann @sheydemann Special Advisor, Middle East Initiatives for the United States Institute of Peace. Edward Dark @edwardedark Activist in Syria. Edward Dark is a pseudonym for the Syrian currently residing in Aleppo.

    Also be sure to keep up with our Foreign Affairs team: @NewsHourWorld; Foreign editor Justin Kenny @JustinPKenny; deputy senior producer Dan Sagalyn @DanSagalyn; and reporter/producer P.J. Tobia @PJTobia.

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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    President Barack Obama meets in the Situation Room with his national security advisors to discuss strategy in Syria of the White House. Photo courtesy of the White House.

    On Saturday, President Barack Obama addressed the nation on U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. The president made news on two fronts: he said that the U.S. should take military action in Syria, and that he will seek authorization from Congress before going forward.

    "Our country is stronger when the president and the people's representatives stand together," Obama said.

    The American people have already begun voicing their own votes for and against military involvement in Syria. A recent poll from Pew Research Center shows that 48 percent of Americans are against an airstrike in Syria, 29 percent are in favor of airstrike, while 23 percent of Americans remain unsure.

    We asked the PBS NewsHour audience on Facebook and Twitter how they want their congressional representatives to vote on military involvement in Syria. Out of the nearly 500 responses we received, there was no overall consensus.

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    Many were adamant against involvement in Syria. Facebook user Adam Vogal asked, "how does creating more death and destruction stop death and destruction? It doesn't. The paradigm of war is a broken one."

    And user Tony Ratagick did not believe chemical warfare was enough to intervene, saying, "prior to the use of chemical weapons, thousands were killed, imprisoned or tortured. Why does the method warrant our involvement? Are we saying that Assad can go on killing as long as he doesn't use chemical weapons?"

    Others cited international law and the use of chemical weapons as reasons to take action.

    "Punishing Assad's forces for using chemical weapons isn't about making a difference in the Syrian civil war. It's about setting the precedent of cost for any leader who considers the same in the future," said Facebook user Jeffrey Jones.

    David Motley believes in intervention "so long as we can avoid putting boots on the ground, and as long as our intervention doesn't directly cause the death of more innocent civilians. And if we have an endgame so we know clearly when the intervention would be over."

    Several remained questioning and wanted more information about potential repercussions for actions of force or passivity before solidifying their opinion.

    "I am so conflicted by this whole nightmare. I want the UN to step up & take a leadership position in organizing against the Asad brutes. But I don't want to Americanize the Syrian civil war." Facebook user MaryAnn Williams said.

    As President Obama's administration continues to campaign for Congress's approval for military action, this debate will only continue.

    We're asking you to keep weighing into this conversation. How do you want your congressional representative to vote? What are your reasons? What questions remain for you? Tell us below.

    And see our guide for the best way to contact your representative or senator.

    Read more:

    Your Cheat Sheet to the Syrian Conflict

    Obama Gaining Bipartisan Support for Syria Strike

    Read the latest on Syria's civil war on the NewsHour's Syria page.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama won key support today as he stepped up his courting of Congress to back military action against Syria. He and his top lieutenants lobbied for punishing the Damascus regime over the use of chemical weapons.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to thank the leaders of both parties for being here today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president called in House and Senate leaders this morning, plus key committee chairs, in part to reassure them that he has no intention of overreaching in Syria.

    BARACK OBAMA: I want to emphasize to the American people, the military plan that has been developed by the Joint Chiefs and that I believe is appropriate is proportional. It is limited. It doesn't involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Moreover, Mr. Obama said, he is willing to work with Congress to adjust the resolution's language authorizing the use of force.

    BARACK OBAMA: So long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad, degrading his abilities to use chemical weapons, I'm confident that we're going to be able to come up with something that hits that mark.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Afterward, it appeared the president had hit his mark with the lawmakers. House Speaker John Boehner backed the call for military strikes on Syria.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: This is something that the United States as a country needs to do. I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: Good morning.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed. But she also said the administration does need to win over the public.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI: I am hopeful, as the American people are persuaded that this action happened, that Assad did it, that hundreds -- hundreds of children were killed. This is the behavior outside of the circle of civilized human behavior. And we must respond.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, Secretary of state John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took the administration's pitch directly to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: I will tell you there are some people hoping that the United States Congress doesn't vote for this very limited request the president has put before you. Iran is hoping you look the other way.

    Our inaction would surely give them a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hagel suggested a U.S. failure to act would also embolden the Syrian government.

    DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL: The Assad regime, under increasing pressure by the Syrian opposition, could feel empowered to carry out even more devastating chemical weapons attacks without a response.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Both men played down fears of a wider war. Kerry agreed the language of the resolution could rule out any use of U.S. ground troops.

    At one point, the proceedings were interrupted by anti-war protesters. And Kerry reached back to his early years opposing the war in Vietnam.

    JOHN KERRY: You know, the first time I testified before this committee when I was 27 years old, I had feelings very similar to that protester.

    And I would just say that is exactly why it is so important that we are all here having this debate, talking about these things before the country, and that the Congress itself will act representing the American people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kerry and Hagel, both former senators, generally got a supportive reception. But Idaho Republican James Risch made clear it wasn't unanimous.

    SEN. JAMES RISCH, R-Idaho: Are we really going to be giving them credibility if we go in with a limited strike, and the day after or the week after or the month after, Assad crawls out of his rat hole and says, look, I stood up to the strongest power on the face of this earth and I won, and so now it's business as usual here?

    JOHN KERRY: There is no question that whatever choices are made by the president, that he and his military effort will not be better off, number one, and the opposition will know that and the people in Syria will know that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the end of the day, the president still faced a fight, with a number of conservative Republicans and some liberal Democrats opposing any action in Syria. And a new Washington Post/ABC News poll found broad public opposition as well.

    Meanwhile, the United Nations' secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, warned against any American attack without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

    Also today, Russia criticized the deployment of U.S. warships near Syria, complaining it's only aggravating tensions. And illustrating those tensions, a U.S.-Israeli joint missile exercise in the Mediterranean sparked a brief overnight flurry of alarm in the region.

    GWEN IFILL: As the Syria debate unfolds in Congress, we will be talking to lawmakers from both parties as they decide what comes next.

    Tonight, we get the view from one senator who supports the president, but believes the U.S. should be doing even more. Michigan Democrat Carl Levin is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    I spoke with him a short time ago.

    Senator Levin, thank you for joining us.

    First of all, I want to ask you, where do you stand tonight on the president's authorization request?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-Mich.: I think we should authorize the use of force. And in order for it to be most effective, that means that we have got to do a couple of things besides authorize it.

    We have got to help the Syrian people who are resisting Assad to have the weapons to fight for themselves. So far, certain weapons which would be very helpful in that respect have not been provided for them, and particularly in response to a chemical attack. If they had anti-tank weapons to go against the tanks which protected the launchers which launch the chemical weapons, for instance, that would show that this is not just an American fight, that this is a fight that the Syrian Free Army is right in the middle of and is willing to fight, but they need the weapons.

    We ought to help get those weapons to them. And, secondly, it seems to me it's important that, when we do strike, that we have other countries with us for it to be effective, and that includes a number of Arab countries. We were assured today there will be a number of company -- countries that would join with us. And that's very important for the effectiveness of any action on our part.

    GWEN IFILL: Let's talk about one thing at a time.

    The first part, with is arming the rebels, which you have been arguing on behalf of for the better part of this year, is that something which you understand will become part of the authorization request as redrafted in Congress?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: I would like to see it as part of the authorization of Congress.

    But whether it's part of the authorization or not, if the administration does move in that direction -- and I am more confident now than I was before the meeting this morning that there will be that kind of an effort -- then it has the same effect.

    So, one way or another, it seems to me, we have got the Syrian people who hate this dictator. We have got a Free Syrian Army which is willing to take him on every day, take him on, but right now they don't have the kind of weapons that would allow them to respond to a chemical attack inside of a city. For that, they need, for instance, to go after the tanks and the artillery which are protecting the rocket launchers which are the ones that launched those chemical attacks.

    GWEN IFILL: And the second part, point you made was that you had been assured this morning that there would be support from Arab nations in this enterprise. What kind of assurance did you get?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: Well, we got assurance that there will be at least some nations that are willing to speak out. I think almost all of the Arab nations want us to do it, but there will be a few, we will be assured, and they weren't named, and that is appropriate.

    But, nonetheless, we were assured that there would be some Arab nations that would actually participate with us, and a number of additional nations, both Arab and non-Arab, that would be publicly supportive of this action. It's important that this be viewed not as just an American effort to

    keep a red line which the world has drawn against chemical weapons intact, but that in fact it is an international effort.

    And not every other -- not every country may join us. But providing there are a number of countries that do, it will send the same signal.

    GWEN IFILL: Back to this issue of arming rebels, we have had this conversation before. In fact, last time we talked about red lines, I think the president said he would do it. If it hasn't happened, why not? And what certainty do you have that it will happen this time?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: Well, because I heard some things this morning that reassured me that it's going to happen, that they now have a greater comfort level with certain parts of the opposition, so that we can make sure, to the extent that is humanly possible, that the weapons do not fall into the wrong hands, because there are parts of the opposition to Assad that are not people that we want to provide weapons to, because they could use them for the wrong purpose.

    It's a very complex situation. The Free Syrian Army is led by a person who we know is a moderate, that we know will, when they succeed, help the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army move Syria in the right direction. But there are other elements such as al-Qaida. We surely do not want to do anything which could help them get the kind of weapons that they would use.

    GWEN IFILL: And you are reassured that this plan, whatever plan that you have been briefed on, would assure that these weapons didn't end up in the hands of jihadists, the Al-Nusra Front, and that there wouldn't be a vacuum that followed as a result?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: Well, there is greater assurance now than there was months ago that we have -- that we can identify the groups that should have the weapons to take on Assad and that it can be done safely.

    It's not a perfect deal. There's no guarantee that some of these weapons wouldn't fall into the wrong hands, but there's greater confidence level. Now, one other thing, particularly as it relates to the anti-tank weapons, these are tanks which are protecting Assad rocket launchers, for instance.

    Those tanks are -- can only be knocked off with anti-tank weapons. And those anti-tank weapons are useful only against Assad's tanks because there are no other tanks in Syria beside Assad tanks. So those kind of weapons, it seems to me, can be safely provided to the vetted components of the Syrian opposition.

    GWEN IFILL: Secretary Kerry said today there would absolutely, positively no way would be boots on the ground and that he would be open to this being included as part of the war authorization.

    Do you think it's a good idea to draw that line?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: I do.

    GWEN IFILL: Why?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: Because I think it's important that the American people know we're not going to get dragged into a civil war, that there are ways of taking action against the use of chemical weapons which needs to be taken, if countries such as Syria and Iran understand that the transfer, for instance, of weapons of mass destruction or the use of weapons of mass destruction will precipitate a response on our part, because if those are transferred, such as chemicals going to terrorist groups, they could end up attacking us.

    This is in our interest. And Congress has voted that it's in our interest that chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction not be used, and -- because they are so readily transferred to terrorist groups which are targeting us. So I think it is very important that the steps be taken that I have outlined, but also that we not be dragged into a civil war.

    We can act against the use of weapons of mass destruction and help others, like the Syrian Free Army, to act against the use of chemical weapons, without being dragged into a civil war ourselves.

    GWEN IFILL: Senator, how do you reassure your constituents and others around the country who look at this and see echoes of the arguments which were made for Iraq or Afghanistan that this is not going to drag us into a wider war or that even these chemical weapons are the reason to act now?

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: Well, I don't -- I, first of all, distinguish Iraq from Afghanistan, for a lot of reasons.

    But going back to Iraq itself, what has changed now is that there is a global terrorist network now which is much more threatening now to us than it was five or 10 or 15 years ago. And so the possibility that weapons would be transferred to a terrorist group now with a global reach is a very different and more threatening situation to us than it was before.

    That doesn't defend our failures before, particularly to the use of chemical weapons by Iraq, but I am saying that it is a much different situation now than it was 10 or 15 or 20 years ago.

    GWEN IFILL: Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, thank you very much.

    SEN. CARL LEVIN: It's good being with you, Gwen.

     


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    House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday said he will support President Barack Obama's call for the U.S. to take action against Syria for alleged chemical weapons use. Do you agree with him? Tell your congressperson what you think.

    On Saturday President Barack Obama announced that he will seek congressional approval for a strategic military strike in Syria. And so the debate begins. Many members of Congress remain undecided on how they will vote and are looking to their constituents for answers. What action do you think they should support? While many remain skeptical of ordinary citizens' influence inside the Beltway, the PBS NewsHour compiled a list of the top ways that you can make your voice heard.

    "The best ways to get in touch with your member of congress is either a phone call or email. We do our best to respond to both" said the office of my own Representative Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "It's better to ring us and let us know how you feel. Physical letters are fine, but there is a time lag. This is a somewhat time sensitive issue. We still have a few more days until congress is in session to deliberate, but Hagel and Kerry are appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today so the wheels are already in motion. But we welcome all commentary and criticism alike."

    Any constituent can call up their representative or senator and register their opinion on Syria. In fact some representatives, like Morgan Griffith of Virginia, have issued letters urging citizens to tell them what they think. It is often best to ask a hill staffer for a written confirmation that you have registered your opinion with your representative so that you can follow up with that member of congress and see how they voted. Email and letters are accepted as well but seem to be less effective than phone calls. It's as simple as finding your representative's office number.

    Some members of congress are holding special town hall meetings to hear their constituents' opinions on the crisis in Syria. Rep. John Larson held a meeting yesterday in West Hartford, Conn., and both Rep Justin Amash of Michigan and Rep Tom Reed of New York are holding meetings today in their home states. If you would like to attend one of these Town Halls here is a guide to the best ways to prepare. You can visit your representative's websites to find out if there is a town hall meeting scheduled near you.

    Lastly, you can sign a petition or tweet directly at congressional members. MoveOn.org has a petition to not strike Syria without Congressional approval, while Petition2Congress is running one to intervene in Syria. Rep. Larson and Rep Neugebauer tweeted a few photos from their town hall meetings, while others like Senator Coons of Delaware have used the platform to make their opinions known on the subject.

    In West Hartford to discuss possible military action in Syria pic.twitter.com/BNYZ5sBpIx

    — Rep. John Larson (@RepJohnLarson) September 2, 2013

    Statement from Senator Coons on Syria http://t.co/hvmXNdNqOq

    — Office of Sen. Coons (@SenCoonsOffice) August 31, 2013

    In my Roundup: Town Halls, #welfarereform, #ProstateCancerAwareness, and #Syria http://t.co/LQuRh4oWzN

    — Randy Neugebauer (@RandyNeugebauer) September 3, 2013

    Now go forth and make your opinions heard!

    Read more:

    Your Cheat Sheet to the Syrian Conflict

    How Do You Want Your Congressperson to Vote on Syria?

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    KWAME HOLMAN: The sporadic violence in Baghdad surged again today. At least 67 Iraqis died in a series of bombings in the early evening. Some of the targets were in Shiite areas. Others were largely Sunni. More than 4,000 people have been killed in Iraq during a period of sectarian violence spanning the last five months.

    Al-Jazeera television's affiliate in Egypt and three other stations were blacked out today. An Egyptian court ordered them shut down for siding with ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. That brought divided reactions from those who favored and opposed the ruling.

    REDA BARAKAWI, attorney (through interpreter): I filed this case against the Al-Jazeera channel because it is not objective and it's transmitting a picture that doesn't reflect the truth about the protest, which is inciting violence against the regime.

    MAHMOUD MOHSEN, Egypt (through interpreter): This is not the democracy we have been waiting for. Back during the revolution, Al-Jazeera was the one showing the truth, while other Egyptian channels were not. And now they say it opposes the revolution because it shows the truth and the people who got killed. That's not right.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Egyptian helicopter gunships struck militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula today. At least eight were killed and 15 injured as part of a campaign to control Islamic radicals in the region.

    In economic news, new data showed U.S. manufacturing grew in August by the most in more than two years. And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 23 points to close near 14,834. The Nasdaq rose more than 22 points to close at 3,612.

    The largest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world opened for business in San Francisco today. Vehicles began crossing the new section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, some six years behind schedule. The span cost $6 billion, five times more than its original budget. A section of the previous bridge collapsed in the 1989 earthquake.

    Those are some of the day's major stories.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There's more bad news from Japan about radioactive leaks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and a new plan to deal with those problems.

    We begin with a report from Tom Clarke of Independent Television News.

    TOM CLARKE: It's two-and-a-half years since the reactors here were sent into meltdown, and the cleanup has hardly begun. Instead, engineers have been battling daily to prevent hundreds of tons of radioactive water leaking from storage tanks from the site.

    As confidence in the plant's operator, TEPCO, has dwindled, today, Japan's prime minister announced the government would intervene.

    PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE, Japan (through interpreter): The whole world is watching whether we can successfully resolve problems at the plant and decommission the reactors. We must all work together on the issues.

    TOM CLARKE: The current crisis at the plant stems from the huge quantities of water needed to cool the four stricken reactors. Nearly 400,000 tons of water is being stored in these hastily constructed tanks. More are being added daily, and they're running out of space.

    Since the initial meltdown in 2011, contaminated cooling water has been leaking from the reactor buildings into the groundwater beneath, and a fortnight ago, TEPCO admitted radioactive water had leaked from storage tanks too.

    Today's plan is to drill hundreds of boreholes around the reactors and pump them full of supercool seawater to freeze the ground, forming an ice barrier that will stop contaminated water leaking out.

    TREVOR JONES, nuclear technology consultant: The difficulty comes in actually being age able to get close enough or to get into the locations that they would require to install the wells. So it may be that they have to make the ice wall further away from the radioactive source than they would have ideally wanted.

    TOM CLARKE: The rest will be spent on the thousands of tons of contaminated water in leaky tanks. It's being suggested today's action is to improve Japan's image abroad on the eve of the decision to choose the 2020 Olympic host nation.

     


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we check in again with two people who've helped us keep up with the continuing crisis. Arjun Makhijani is an engineer special -- engineer specializing in nuclear fusion. He's the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Kenji Kushida specializes in Japanese studies at Stanford University.

    Welcome back to both of you.

    Arjun, first, let me start with you. How serious are these new revelations about the water contamination?

    ARJUN MAKHIJANI, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research: Well, the last time we spoke, there were -- we talked about the leak and the radiation levels that could give a worker an annual radiation dose in 12 minutes.

    Well, more recently, there have been reports that the radiation levels near another tank are 1,800 millisieverts per hour. This is an extremely high level of radiation. A few hours basically constitutes a lethal dose. So now we're talking about radioactive contamination in these tanks, the liquid stored in these tanks, that are very highly radioactive. And so these leaks are extremely problematic for the workers and for management.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And is this something they just discovered, or what suddenly causes that much more serious amount of levels?

    ARJUN MAKHIJANI: Well, the best I can understand from all the confusing information that is out there is the first measurement was done with an instrument that only went up to a hundred millisieverts and maxed out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ARJUN MAKHIJANI: So, now they're making more measurements and they're finding there are more contaminated spots and apparently more leaks.

    So I'm not quite clear what the company knows when. But the information is kind of dribbling out. And the government is clearly concerned that the situation is getting more out of control.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Kenji Kushida, you pick up on that, because there's the company and then there's the government. Clearly, the government is stepping in with much more force now, right?

    KENJI KUSHIDA, Stanford University: Yes, absolutely, because the next election in three years is going to definitely reflect their response on this nuclear issue, because they're essentially a pro-nuclear party that just won a landslide election.

    And so if they can't credibly manage the operator's rescue efforts -- and the operator which clearly seems to be unable to deal with the worst parts of the situation -- then the government is on the hook.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, from the outside, it looks like this is taking a long time to get to even the kind of understanding of the contamination levels that -- never mind getting to a lot of the more serious work that still needs to be done. What is the sense in Japan as far as you can tell about the levels of, I don't know, desperation or urgency there?

    KENJI KUSHIDA: Yes.

    Well, similar to what we said last time, the operator's reputation and people's confidence in it, which was already at an all-time low, is now even lower. And after the government essentially de facto nationalized the operator about a year ago and replaced top management, people hoped that the ability of the operator to deal with some of these problems would have been enhanced.

    But some of the media reports coming from Japan are saying things like subcontractors are leaking information that -- literally leaking information that the tanks, thousand or tanks that they put together, in great haste, under severe cost pressure from TEPCO, which was -- before it was nationalized right after the disaster -- they were put together with bolts, but not welded together.

    And so some of these subcontractors are saying, well, in the long run, even medium run, you would expect them to start springing leaks. So, clearly, the operator hasn't been on top of the situation and people are getting fairly nervous about that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, Arjun Makhijani, explain this idea of the ice wall. It sounds strange. How exactly would it work, and how much has it been tried before?

    ARJUN MAKHIJANI: Well, I don't know that an ice wall like this has been tried before.

    It's like building a dam underground, but with ice, by freezing all the poor water in the soil, all soil has -- so there's water coming in from uphill, through the side and going into the ocean, all underground. It's an aquifer. Some of that water contacts the molten fuel and is becoming contaminated.

    And they hope to build -- to freeze the soil, basically, with a giant freezing machine, just like your freezer at home, put cooling coils in the soil, lots and lots of them. It takes an enormous amount of electricity and they would freeze it. Of course, it contains the water behind it like a dam, but eventually it's going to overtop the dam, as it did before.

    They had another wall that they built. They chemically impregnated the soil to kind of solidify it. And that is what is overflowing into the sea 300 tons a day. So...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so it has been done before, but not on this scale, you think? So is it an -- how would you describe it? Is it an experiment? Is it a kind of stab at something?

    ARJUN MAKHIJANI: It is an experiment.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ARJUN MAKHIJANI: And I think it's a risky experiment, because if the power fails, you know, just like if your -- when the power goes out with your refrigerator, everything will de-freeze in -- defrost in the freezer.

    So, if this ice melts suddenly and it's blocking an enormous amount of contaminated water behind it, then you have got a problem. At the same time, you know, the tanks are themselves something of a threat, if there's another earthquake and this highly contaminated water gets into the ocean. And so they have a got a very -- couple of very, very serious problems of containing the water.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then, Kenji Kushida, there is still, as we said, the long term here, which I heard talk about decades to decommission the plant, for example.

    KENJI KUSHIDA: Yes.

    Some of the estimates are a minimum of 40 years to decommission the plant. So this idea of frozen underground walls, a massive spending into innovative infrastructure projects can be a good thing. But when it's the last line of defense designed as a permanent solution to an almost seemingly intractable problem, I think the general public would be more comforted if they saw several options out there, rather than all the eggs being put into this potentially risky, unknown, and untested solution that may or may not work.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You were talking about the politics earlier. Is there any uncertainty as to the will to stay with this for the decades that you're talking about?

    KENJI KUSHIDA: Well, there's no choice.

    Given that the party is pro-nuclear and that they do not face elections for three years, their interest is definitely to do whatever possible, because if this gets truly out of hand in a greater sense than now, then they will be -- and their heads will be on the chopping block in the next election, but they would like to avoid that.

    That being said, it's not like there's a set of technical solutions that are easily possible here that can be chosen from. So, in the very long term, they do need to try to stay in power, so you would expect them to put as many resources as possible. And, as we do see, they are moving, but they need to much more quickly, as most general public would agree.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Kenji Kushida, Arjun Makhijani, thank you both again very much.

    ARJUN MAKHIJANI: Thank you very much.

    KENJI KUSHIDA: Thank you.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to rapidly changing world of technology and telecommunications, where two big deals have been announced in as many days.

    The latest, Microsoft is buying Nokia's smartphone and cellular handset business for just over $7 billion. It comes just days after questions were raised about the future of Microsoft when CEO Steve Ballmer announced his intention to retire.

    On Monday, Verizon announced that it would buy Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion, making it one of the largest merger and acquisition deals in history.

    Cecilia Kang of The Washington Post has been covering these stories, and she joins me now.

    Welcome back to the NewsHour, Cecilia.

    Let's start with the later -- or the newsiest of the two stories, and that is Microsoft buying Nokia. What is behind this?

    CECILIA KANG, The Washington Post: Well, what is behind this is, Microsoft has really struggled to really get a foothold in the smartphone market that has really just dominated all of technology in the last six years, since the iPhone was released.

    And it's struggled because its software development has been slow and it has not been able to compete with companies like Apple and Google, which now completely dominate the smartphone market. And this is really where the future of all technology is going.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And why is Microsoft so behind the other two?

    CECILIA KANG: Right.

    Microsoft is behind for -- well, for several reasons, but much of it is the development of its software, its Windows software. But, also, it made a strategic bet about six -- before six years ago, actually, before the iPhone was introduced in 2007, where it believed that its ability to extend its dominance in technology from the P.C. market could be done in the same way in the mobile device market by simply licensing software.

    But what it saw was Apple really broke out and came out with a new model where -- when it introduced the iPhone, and then subsequently the iPad. It showed that it could be -- that the real successful model for that company initially was to control the device, to actually produce and control the device, as well as the software that runs on it.

    And Microsoft has really struggled to be able to compete with and bring forth a device and software that is as appealing to consumers as Apple has, and subsequently Google with its Android platform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So do analysts believe this is going to allow Microsoft to catch up in some way or what?

    CECILIA KANG: Well, Microsoft is coming really late to the game. Again, the iPhone was introduced in 2007. It's really only been able to make some waves with its Nokia Windows phone called the Lumia in the last few quarters really. And this is many years out.

    So it's really in a way coming very late, but also it's admitting that maybe its strategy years ago was wrong. It's now trying to in some ways mimic the Apple strategy by buying Nokia and developing in-house both the technology hardware and the software. And whether it's able to succeed in this way will really be difficult.

    Just by putting these companies, the developers under one roof may not be able to produce the results that it's betting it will be able to do, which is to create the next big hit device, blockbuster device.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Cecilia, what about the other much bigger deal, and that is Verizon spending $130 billion for Vodafone's share in Verizon Wireless? What's the thinking there?

    CECILIA KANG: Well, the thinking there -- and it's -- and you're -- Judy, the price tag really can't be underestimated. It can't be understated; $130 billion really says a lot about the future of the wireless industry.

    And not so disconnected from Microsoft's bid for Nokia, this all has to do with the fact that consumers want access to Internet and they want all their communications to be done on mobile devices whenever they want and wherever they want.

    And in the case of Verizon Communications' purchase of the rest of Verizon Wireless' stake that Vodafone had, it's really a sign that Verizon believes that the future will only be more increasingly about mobile access to the Internet. And it wants to be able to have all the revenue that it had been sharing with Vodafone for that in the future, and it also wants to be able to have complete control over all the wireless networks that it has here in the U.S.

    And so that was really the reason. It's a huge price tag, $130 billion. And it really says a lot about how in the future so much more than what we see today will be wireless, cars, machines, et cetera.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, analysts think this was a good deal?

    CECILIA KANG: I think analysts think that it makes sense because it's a long-term future bet.

    Also, Verizon Communications will immediately get 45 percent of the revenues it had been sharing with Vodafone. So there is actually money coming in directly from that deal. And also nobody disagrees that wireless will be any less important than it is today. Everybody just thinks that there's going to be growth.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Cecilia, what about the effect for consumers on all this, both the Microsoft move and Verizon?

    CECILIA KANG: There may be more direct effect from the Microsoft purchase of Nokia, in that you're going to perhaps see a third player come out with more devices and more options for consumers.

    So, in terms of what you see in your retail shelves, what you're able to buy online, what kinds of devices, that deal may reap more direct consumer effects.

    As far as the wireless market goes and as far as your service carrier and the Verizon deal, there won't be a direct effect so much on consumers, because really what you're seeing is that you have two major players here, two major companies, Verizon and AT&T, that dominate, and they only really get bigger.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Cecilia Kang helping us understand it all, thank you.

    CECILIA KANG: Thank you.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: It's a new school year in most parts of the country, a good time to explore the important ideas being discussed and debated in education.

    We start our series with a report from Oakland, Calif., on a different approach to the dropout problem, where young black men are more likely to miss school, get suspended, or end up in jail than other students, statistics that have alarmed school officials.

    Our story from special correspondent Joshua Johnson was produced by our colleagues at KQED in partnership with The San Francisco Chronicle. It's part of the American Graduate Project, a public media initiative about the dropout crisis.

    MAN: Good morning, sir. How you doing?

    MAN: Good.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Sizwe Abakah teaches the manhood development class at Oakland's Skyline High School.

    MAN: Glad you could be here with us, brother.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: He and about a dozen African-American male teachers are focused on making sure that black boys graduate high school.

    SIZWE ABAKAH, Skyline High: We're trying to make transformations. A lot of our brothers are failing disproportionately. Like, if we look at the statistics in Oakland, we're the highest in everything we don't need to be in.

    JUNIOUS WILLIAMS, Urban Strategies Council: You will see higher rates of dropout, lower rates of graduation, higher rates of chronic absence, higher rates of suspension.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Junious Williams is CEO of the Urban Strategies Council, an Oakland-based nonprofit working to eliminate persistent poverty.

    In 2010, the council partnered with the Oakland School District to develop solutions for improving academic and social outcomes for black boys. The result was the Office of African-American Male Achievement.

    Chris Chatmon is the executive director.

    CHRIS CHATMON, Oakland Office of African-American Male Achievement: One of the strategies with our manhood development classes and just getting eye level with the youth is, how do we put kind of the swag back in education, in learning?

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: One challenge to restoring that swag, that swaggering sense of cool, was getting boys motivated to even show up to school.

    CHRIS CHATMON: What we found was that if kids weren't excited about being in school, and they were engaged and being encouraged, actually, then they would get turned on to the streets.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Skyline is one of eight high schools and three middle schools in Oakland that offer the manhood development class. Students come from varying academic, economic, and family backgrounds.

    Define manhood for me. In the context of this program, what does it mean to be a man?

    SIZWE ABAKAH: I just want brothers to embrace all aspects of manhood, not just so much the strength, but the compassion, the love, aspects of fatherhood, aspects of husbandhood, aspects of brotherhood.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Every day, Abakah, also known as Brother Sizwe, leads the boys in exercise. It focuses their minds so that they can become better students.

    SIZWE ABAKAH: And my major concern is a lot of our brothers don't know how to receive information. They don't know how to take notes. They don't know how to just sit down, some of them. A lot of our brothers need fathers, just period. I don't know what other way I could put it.

    STUDENT: In elementary school, a lot of the teachers used to tell me I will never accomplish anything. And I was actually one of the smartest kids in my class.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Abakah says sometimes the class feels more like therapy.

    SIZWE ABAKAH: We might have to deal with a brother that lost a cousin, or a brother that might be having a baby next week.

     

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Students built altars to honor fallen classmates and other victims of gun violence, stark reminders of the trauma many carry into the classroom.

    STUDENT: I grew up on 94th. That was a bad area. A lot of killings happened.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Wesley Brownlee, a 15-year-old freshman, is a student in the manhood class. When he graduated from middle school, he had a 3.5 GPA. Once he started high school, it began to drop.

    STUDENT: I have seen myself hanging out with kind of the wrong friends and all that, like into bad stuff.

    MAN: Brother Wes, how are them grades?

    STUDENT: They're looking good so far. But I just got to turn in a big history assignment. And I'm kind of late on it already.

    MAN: Whatever support you need, between myself, the youth center, you know, tutoring on campus, it's time.

    STUDENT: Before, all I was worried about was just sports, and now Brother Sizwe, he made us dig deeper into school. If we don't have a good education, we might not get to the school we want, or we might not have the job that we want when we get older.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: A few miles away from Skyline, a charter school is trying a more comprehensive approach. It's targeting kids starting in kindergarten, and all of the nearly 75 students enrolled are African-American boys.

    MARK ALEXANDER, 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School: A lot of boys that come to this school have failed in other schools. They have been kicked out, expelled. And we are not quick to do that.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Dr. Mark Alexander, a retired epidemiologist, is board chairman of the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School, which opened in 2012. The focus is on an educational mix of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. The school currently serves elementary students, but the goal is to expand coverage through 12th grade.

    MARK ALEXANDER: And I grew up foster homes. I grew up in very, very tough situations. I used to fight a lot. I used to get suspended. And so I see a lot of myself in these boys. And I see the genius in a lot of these kids.

    So what is that doing?

    I know that it only takes a few people to just give someone the encouragement that they need to really thrive.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Kids at the school start every morning with breakfast, then line up to repeat their morning affirmations, also known as the scholar holler.

    MAN: Who are we?

    STUDENTS: We are leaders!

    (SHOUTING)

    MAN: Who is ready to learn?

    STUDENTS: We are!

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: The school's robust offerings include a homework club, an aeronautics class, as well as mentoring in medicine and science.

    The goal is to make sure that all the needs of African-American boys are met.

    If you had not received the kind of support as a boy that you are providing to these African-American boys at this school, where would you be today?

    MARK ALEXANDER: I would be in San Quentin or dead.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: You seem very sure of that?

    MARK ALEXANDER: Absolutely. I had a lot of people that refused to let me fail, who said, you have got to do this. You have got to do this. There are no other options for you. And we have got to have -- we have that attitude towards our children today.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Dr. Alexander says the situation is more dire than people may think. It's not just an African-American issue or even an Oakland issue. It's an economic issue that impacts everyone in California, a state where minorities now make up the majority.

    JUNIOUS WILLIAMS: When we fail black boys, Latino boys, whomever it is, there is a cost attached to that, incarceration, social services, added police protection, insurance rate. The litany goes on and on and on, and it is a huge price tag. When you invest up front and you make those boys successful, you turn that, you invert that.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: The Office of African-American Male Achievement is seeing some early signs of progress. Some of the participating schools are reporting fewer discipline problems, better grades, and improved attendance. But reversing the old trends remains daunting.

    For Chris Chatmon, success begins by acknowledging achievements every step of the way. This year, Chatmon's office co-sponsored an annual honor roll event celebrating African-American boys and girls from eighth to 12th grades who maintained a 3.0 grade-point average. One of the Skyline manhood development students, 15-year-old Javon Maybon, performed a spoken word piece at the event.

    JAVON MAYBON, Skyline:I'm 11 years old in the sixth grade, and I can't read. The class is so full that the teachers didn't notice me, but I can't read.

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: Javon didn't have the GPA needed to win an award, but hopes to next year.

    JAVON MAYBON: But on this biggest game of the school year, I was coming down the lane getting ready to do my thing, when number 13 crashed into me. And at the same time that I heard my knee snap, I see my family's dreams shattered. So now I'm asking you all, what are my options? I can't read.

    WOMAN: Wow.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JOSHUA JOHNSON: His performance was both a painful reminder of what black boys are up against and a moving testament to their potential.

    GWEN IFILL: The American Graduate Project is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jobs numbers in the United States are due later this week, and they're expected to show hiring continues at a moderate pace. But, even as the economy recovers slowly, there are other worries, including a lack of progress on wages.

    That was the subject when Ray Suarez sat down with the secretary of labor recently.

    RAY SUAREZ: Labor issues frequently don't capture the top headlines, but the question of a living wage is moving front and center of late.

    Protests by fast food workers have helped raise the profile of the issue. In the largest demonstration yet, workers from 60 cities walked off the job last week. They're seeking $15 an hour and the right to unionize. Many restaurant owners say those added costs would make it too difficult to maintain their businesses. For his part, President Obama has called for raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, up from the current level of $7.25.

    Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is a key voice for dealing with these and other issues. He was just recently confirmed by the Senate.

    And welcome to the NewsHour.

    SECRETARY OF LABOR THOMAS PEREZ: It's a pleasure to be here, Ray.

    RAY SUAREZ: We saw in many places fast food restaurants with workers outside leafletting, trying to tell the public where they stand.

    Recently, you wrote: "People who work full-time in America shouldn't have to live in poverty, simple as that."

    But how do you change a marketplace that manages to get people to come in to work on very low wages?

    THOMAS PEREZ: Well, I think you take a page out of what happened 50 years ago.

    We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. And that wasn't simply a march for civil rights, as you know. It was a march for economic justice. And one of the demands of the marchers was a fair and decent wage. And that is really what the president is calling for in this context, because nobody should have to live in poverty who is working a full-time job.

    And there are a lot of myths about minimum wage workers: They're all teenagers. That's just categorically inaccurate. And in order to get people up to the ladder of opportunity, they need to make a decent wage. And for all too many people across America, the rungs between the ladder are growing further and further apart.

    RAY SUAREZ: The share of the American work force that is represented by labor unions has dropped pretty significantly in recent decades. Is organized labor still important, or does the secretary of labor have to look more broadly to employers when talking about the fate of American workers?

    THOMAS PEREZ: I think the answer to your question is both. Organized labor is still important.

    I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., a strong union town, and labor unions continue to play an important role there and across America. At the same time, we need to make sure that we're not talking about yesterday's battles, us against them, labor against management. We need to be focused on tomorrow's challenges. We're all in this together.

    That's what I learned in Maryland when we were trying to create jobs. And you look at the partnerships in Nevada between the labor unions and the large employers, MGM and others. You look at the partnerships in New York City between SEIU and the health care system. They have come together around an understanding that if we're going to bring jobs back to America, whether it's manufacturing, service or otherwise, we have to come together around a shared vision and a shared understanding, and leave yesterday's battles behind, and come together around a joint need for skill development and partnership.

    RAY SUAREZ: Has the law in many places in the country just made it too hard to organize if you're a group of workers who would like to be represented by a union?

    THOMAS PEREZ:  Well, it's up to each state in terms of whether they want to pass right-to-work laws.

    I happen to believe, as the president does, that right-to-work laws are not good public policy. That is a state judgment. And in those states, it has been more difficult to organize. I would like to see a level playing field, so that workers can make a full and fair choice, and some states have that and some states don't.

    But, again, I -- what heartens me as much as anything is I think there's an acute recognition in the labor movement and among responsible employers that we can't fight yesterday's battles anymore. If we're going to bring jobs back, if we're going to build a robust economy, we have got to recognize that we're all in this together.

    RAY SUAREZ: Your department has recently put in place targets, new targets for people who do business with the federal government for hiring disabled workers and veterans. How does that work and what is that meant to respond to?

    THOMAS PEREZ: Well, what it's meant to respond so is that the promise of the Americans With Disabilities Act, that that law has been a game-changer.

    But, in the employment context, there are still stubbornly high unemployment rates among people with disabilities. Now, how many people do you meet, Ray, who come up to you and say, I want to be a taxpayer? That's what people with disabilities tell me. And what this regulation sets in place is that, for veterans with disabilities, for people with disabilities, employers need to set targets, their goals.

    And they need to have a plan to make sure that when you're looking at a person with a disability, you're focused on their ability, not their disability. And I applaud employers like Walgreens and Sodexo others who have already exceeded these goals and are models for the nation. And I'm confident that this will open up windows of opportunity for people with disabilities.

    RAY SUAREZ: A group of H.R. managers and large employers have gotten together to complain that this puts them in the position of asking their prospective workers about possible disabilities in a way they wouldn't have before. In effect, they're saying the federal government is forcing us to invade their privacy.

    How do you respond to that?

    THOMAS PEREZ: It's incorrect.

    There's no requirement on the prospective employee to answer any questions. All the questions are voluntary. And, again, I would go back to all of these employers, large and small, as I mentioned, Walgreens, Ernst & Young, others, who issued statements strongly supporting this initiative. This isn't a partisan initiative.

    RAY SUAREZ: There's so much to talk to you about, but I'm going to have to close with a question about the long-term unemployed...

    THOMAS PEREZ: Sure.

    RAY SUAREZ: ... because, while the unemployment rate has been coming down steadily, not -- perhaps not as fast as the administration and the American people would like, but it has come down -- people who have been unemployed for a long time are having a terrible, terrible time getting jobs.

    What can we do for them?

    THOMAS PEREZ: Well, we can do a lot.

    And you're correct that, while the economy is slowly and steadily growing, we have to go at a faster pace. And, in particular, we need to address the needs of the long-term unemployed. And the president has been talking about this issue specifically and a number of things that we can do.

    Number one, we have been talking about with employers. And, as recently as a few days ago, I engaged in this precise conversation about what we can do to identify employers with best practices for hiring the long-term unemployed, making sure that there aren't inadvertent barriers in place that screen out the long-term unemployed.

    Secondly and equally, if not more importantly, investing in skills, because the thing I hear the most in my conversations with CEOs across the country is, I am -- for every job I have, I have 50 or 60 percent of the applicants don't have the skills necessary to do the jobs.

    And so we're -- the Department of Labor is a department of opportunity. And the way we enhance opportunity is by making sure that people have the skills to succeed.

    RAY SUAREZ: Thomas Perez is the secretary of labor.

    Thanks for joining us.

    THOMAS PEREZ: It's a pleasure.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, some words of triumph from endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. The 64-year-old became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She covered 110 miles in 53 hours.

    At a press conference today in the Florida Keys, Nyad said she'd chased her dream of making the epic swim for decades. Her fifth try was finally successful.

    DIANA NYAD: There are so many factors out there against you. If you were going to lay a line in Vegas, it wouldn't be pretty. You wouldn't make money unless you bet against it. But we did it.

    (APPLAUSE)

    DIANA NYAD: For me, as a swimmer, you're never happy in wind. Any time you are having to breathe and go up and down and fight it, you're not happy, and you're not feeling well.

    And when I had to put on the jellyfish mask at night, I felt 100 percent prepared for the jellyfish, but every breath when you're in waves like that coming through that mask, and I started swallowing the 13 hours of Saturday night tremendous volumes of seawater. Then I started vomiting constantly. And as soon as that happens, and you can't replace that food, the protein, the electrolytes, you're in a bad place. You're not strong. You're cold. And that night was hell on earth.

    I think my favorite, honestly, though, press question for the readers -- and several people have asked me, well, do you have any boats that go along with you?

    (LAUGHTER)

    DIANA NYAD: You know, or you just do it by yourself?

    I said, no, no, no, I put a couple of banana in my suit, and I take a portable saltwater distiller on my back. And I carry a bowie knife, and I grab fish and I skin them and eat them alive.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DIANA NYAD: Yes, I have boats that go along with me.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DIANA NYAD: The thing about aging is, it's true that the clock seems to be ticking faster as you get older. It isn't, but it seems to be.

    Time seems to be running out. And I wanted to swim this endeavor not to just be the athletic record. I wanted it to be a lesson for my life that says, be fully engaged. Be so awake and alert and alive every minute of every waking day, because that's where I had to be for these fortunately years to get this done.

    GWEN IFILL: That was Diana Nyad reflecting on her history-making swim from Cuba to Key West.

     


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    PBS NewsHour will live stream statements and hearings on Syria as they become available. On Wednesday, watch a live stream of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, with Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, scheduled to begin at noon EDT.

    WASHINGTON -- In an impassioned appeal for support both at home and abroad, President Barack Obama said Wednesday the credibility of the international community and Congress is on the line in the debate over how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. As Obama made his case overseas during a visit to Sweden, his proposal for military intervention was under consideration by skeptical House members at home.

    Asked about his past comments drawing a "red line" against the use of chemical weapons, Obama said it was a line that had first been clearly drawn by countries around the world and by Congress, in ratifying a treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons.

    "That wasn't something I made up," he said. "I didn't pluck it out of thin air. There's a reason for it."

    Obama said that if the world fails to act, "we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important."

    And that, he said, would embolden despots and repressive regimes around the world to flout all sorts of international standards.

    "The moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing," he declared at a news conference in Stockholm with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

    Back home, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could vote on authorizing the use of force as early as Wednesday, the first in a series of votes as the president's request makes its way through Senate and House committees before coming before the two chambers for a final vote.

    And in a setback to Obama's push for backing on Capitol Hill, Sen. John McCain said he doesn't support the Senate resolution.

    McCain has been an outspoken advocate of intervention and wants more than cruise missile strikes and other limited action, although he has said he doesn't favor U.S. combat troops on the ground there.

    Sending a message to Congress from afar, Obama said Wednesday there was far more than his own credibility at stake.

    "I didn't set a red line, the world set a red line," he said. "The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of world population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent." He added that Congress set a red line when it ratified the treaty.

    With Obama in Europe, his top national security aides were to participate in a series of public and private hearings at the Capitol Wednesday to advance their case for limited strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in retaliation for what the administration says was a deadly sarin gas attack by his forces outside Damascus last month.

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top members drafted a resolution late Tuesday that permits Obama to order a "limited and tailored" military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn't exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations.

    "We have pursued a course of action that gives the president the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime's criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused," said the committee's chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who drafted the measure with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the panel's senior Republican.

    "We have an obligation to act, not witness and watch while a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in plain view," Menendez said.

    Obama also needed to persuade a Republican-dominated House that has opposed almost the entirety of Obama's agenda since seizing the majority more than three years ago. Several conservative Republicans and some anti-war Democrats already have come out in opposition to Obama's plans, even as Republican and Democratic House leaders gave their support to the president Tuesday.

    House Speaker Boehner emerged from a meeting at the White House and declared that the U.S. has "enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior. We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up when it's necessary."

    Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, also backed action. But he acknowledged the split positions among both parties and said it was up to Obama to "make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action."

    Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, will try to make that argument in a public hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. They and other senior administration officials also will provide classified briefings to the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees.

    A consistent refrain in Tuesday's Senate hearing was the need for clearer limits on the duration and scope of any resolution that authorizes military force. Chief among them was language barring American soldiers from being sent to fight in Syria, something Obama has said repeatedly he has no intention of doing.

    "There's no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity for American troops on the ground," Kerry told lawmakers. "President Obama is not asking America to go to war."

    The administration says 1,429 died from the attack on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-government activists in Syria, says it has been compiling a list of the names of the dead and says its toll has reached 502. Assad's government blames the episode on the rebels. A United Nations inspection team is awaiting lab results on tissue and soil samples it collected while in the country before completing a closely watched report.

    Obama, who arrived in Stockholm early Wednesday, was hoping to maintain the momentum toward congressional approval that he has generated since Saturday, when he announced he would ask lawmakers to authorize what until then had appeared to be imminent military action against Syria.

    On Monday, the president met privately at the White House with the Senate's two leading Republican hawks, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and persuaded them to support his plans for an intervention on condition that he also seek to aid the Syrian rebels seeking to oust Assad.

    A day later, he sat down with Boehner, Cantor and several other senior lawmakers to make a similar case that Assad must be punished for breaching the nearly century-old international taboo of using chemical weapons and for crossing the "red line" Obama set nearly a year ago. After gaining significant support, Kerry, Hagel and Dempsey appeared to get the backing of most senators at Tuesday's hearing.

    "You're probably going to win" Congress' backing, Rand Paul of Kentucky, a conservative senator and likely opponent of the measure, conceded in a late-afternoon exchange with Kerry.

    However, even proponents of military action urged Obama to do more to sell his plans to an American public that is highly skeptical after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Obama, who will travel from Sweden's capital to an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday, has little international support for action right now. Among major allies, only France has offered publicly to join the United States in a strike, although President Francois Hollande says he'll await Congress' decision.

    Obama had canceled a one-on-one meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid tensions over Russia's granting of asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

    In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Putin expressed hope that the two would have serious discussions about Syria and other issues in St. Petersburg. Putin has warned the West against taking one-sided action in Syria but also said Russia "doesn't exclude" supporting a U.N. resolution on punitive military strikes if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people.

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    By Wahyd Vannoni

    What's in a name? Quite a lot when it comes to book sales. J.K. Rowling, above, reads the first pages of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows." Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ran Yaniv Hartstein.

    Is there a formula for new authors to get their books on the bestseller list? Or is it "ultimately in the hands of the book gods," as Morgan Entrekin, the president of Grove Atlantic and publisher of "Cold Mountain," told the New York Times Saturday?

    Earlier this year, Little, Brown & Company distributed bound galleys of a London detective story from first-time author Robert Galbraith. But the advance copies didn't make much of a splash. As James Stewart wrote in his "Common Sense" column in the Times, many retailers didn't remember ever seeing the copies or hearing from the publisher.

    "I don't know if we bought any copies. Maybe one," bookseller Roxanne Coady, told Stewart.

    That changed in a heartbeat this July when London's Sunday Times revealed that Robert Galbraith was actually J.K. Rowling. It was an act of the book gods themselves! And not surprisingly, the change of authorship resulted in soaring sales.

    Given its widely acknowledged quality, could "The Cuckoo's Calling" have conceivably crept onto some bestseller charts eventually? And why did so many readers rush out to get Rowling's second post-"Harry Potter" novel when her first -- "The Casual Vacancy" -- got such poor reviews? Hult Business School marketing professor and consultant Wahyd Vannoni wrote a post for the popular Italian website Linkiesta asking, in effect, "What's in a name?" Pretty much everything, he concluded. We asked him to translate and elaborate. Here, for the first time in English, are his thoughts.

    Wahyd Vannoni: The first question I ask my brand management students is to consider two white shirts, identical in size and fabric, and think about how much they would pay for each.

    Then, through a touch of word-processing gimmickery, I add the logo of a brand, say Nike, Adidas or Burberry, on one of the t-shirts. I then ask again how much the students would pay for each t-shirt. Invariably, the amount they would pay for a t-shirt with a recognizable logo increases.

    This is at odds with how we would like to perceive ourselves, namely, as rational beings who have a keen sense of the value of things. We know what a computer is worth given its specs. But what happens when we face something new, something for which we have no frame of reference?

    In the past couple of months, we had the opportunity to study a large scale example of how the public might react without and with a brand name on a product.

    On July 13, it was announced that a previously unknown author named Robert Galbraith, author of "The Cuckoo's Calling," was none other than J.K. Rowling. This revelation allows us to measure the effect of the brand, or name recognition, on a previously unknown publication.

    The above chart reflects the number of mentions on social media for the terms "Rowling" and "Cuckoo," generated via Topsy.com.

    From April 15, the day Amazon.com published the book, to July 13, the day before the Sunday Times revealed the identity of Galbraith, 21 reviews were published, and nearly all save two reviews gave the book between four and five stars. Qualitatively, most reviewers praised the book, with lines like, "This is a great book to cuddle up with in front of a fire" or "From the first sentence he makes you glad you found this book. I hope this author will be around for a long long time. Completely compelling."

    On July 14, the day of the announcement, 28 reviews were published. As of Aug. 30, 3,039 reviews have been published and the average customer review is four stars -- very close to the average of the first 21 reviewers who wrote thinking that Galbraith was a new author.

    In terms of sales, The Independent, citing data from Nielsen Book Scan, reveals that only 43 copies of the book had been sold during the week preceding the revelation. The following week, 17,662 had been sold.

    J.K. Rowling is Robert Galbraith. "The Cuckoo's Calling" jumps to #1 on Kindle. http://t.co/27zI9KmGCS

    — Kindle Team (@AmazonKindle) July 15, 2013

    It is also interesting to compare these numbers with the performance of Rowling's previous book, "The Casual Vacancy," which had sold 124,603 copies in its first week of publication. To date, "The Casual Vacancy" averages three stars, but 883 out of 3,930 gave it only one star.

    Going back to "The Cuckoo's Calling," even some professional publishers passed on the chance to publish it. Orion fiction editor Kate Mills admitted she had turned the book down, calling it "well-written but quiet" and saying it "didn't stand out" for her.

    It is, of course, impossible to know for certain whether Galbraith would have eventually become a success. The optimists would argue that eventually, quality does come to the surface. All successful authors were unknown before they published their first books, including Rowling before the success of the Harry Potter series.

    The pessimists might argue that more often than not, quality goes unnoticed because the public does not have time to assess value or disregards anything that has not been endorsed by friends, family and other members of the public. This is one reason why Hollywood spends so much to market new releases: they must generate positive word-of-mouth from scratch for those critical first two weeks of box office exposure.

    One way to settle the matter, and assess the extent to which quality is overlooked by the public, would be for Amazon to prominently disclose the number of books rated four stars and above with sales under, say, 1,000 copies.

    So far, Amazon.com and other online booksellers allow readers to discover new books through sections such as: "Related to Items You've Viewed," "Recommended for You" and "Inspired by Your Wish List."

    All of the above take into account my past purchases, probably my computer cookies (where else I have browsed), how these relate to other customers' purchases and the kind of books that they want to promote.

    However, as far as I can tell, all of the suggestions generated by the algorithm tend to be books that are already quite successful: "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg or "Inferno" by Dan Brown. And it's unclear what the advantage to an online retailer would be to periodically promoting little known authors to the masses. I may be wrong, but Amazon and its competitors have likely already calculated that there would be too many failures and that diverting resources from promoting the authors whose works carry guaranteed financial success would cost too much.

    Finally, one key question, to which there will probably never be a firm answer, is whether Rowling would have revealed her identity in the end, regardless of whether the book had succeeded. Without pretending to know what Rowling might have done in a hypothetical scenario, I can highlight two plausible approaches.

    Skeptics would say she would not have revealed her identity, especially if the book were failing. The law firm at the source of Galbraith's leaked identity had to compensate Rowling and make a substantial donation to a charity. Almost like a parent company who wouldn't want the public to know its association with an unsuccessful subsidiary, Rowling really cared about not being outed, this outlook suggests.

    However, on the other hand, Rowling's use of a pseudonym may have been a personal challenge: could she still write a book that the public would like without her name influencing its initial perception? Like wine tasted blindly, "The Cuckoo's Calling" credited to Galbraith may have been an attempt to garner objective assessment before revealing the real author.

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


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    GWEN IFILL: President Obama went to Europe today for a previously economic summit, but Syria stayed at the top of his agenda. The administration's push for military action advanced in Congress, even as the president issued a new appeal to the world.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My credibility's not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line.

    GWEN IFILL: Arriving in Stockholm today, the president immediately moved to turn up the pressure on potential allies, and he defended his year-old statement saying Syria shouldn't cross a red line by using chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war.

    BARACK OBAMA: First of all, I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war.

    GWEN IFILL: Syria never signed the 1993 international convention on chemical weapons, but Mr. Obama insisted Bashar Assad's government must not be allowed to act with impunity. Instead, he appealed again for Russia, a major ally of the Assad regime, to stop blocking U.N. Security Council action on Syria.

    BARACK OBAMA: Because I think that international action would be much more effective, and, ultimately, we can end deaths much more rapidly if Russia takes a different approach to these problems.

    GWEN IFILL: The president heads to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a G20 meeting this week, but, in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the U.S. appeal. He warned the West has no right to initiate military action without U.N. support.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): I do not exclude this, but I would like to draw your attention to one absolutely key aspect. Only the U.N. Security Council could sanction the use of force against a sovereign state. Any other pretext is inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in Washington, President Obama's policy passed its first test in Congress. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution authorizing the limited use of force, but it bars any deployment of American combat troops.

    Republican John McCain won approval of an amendment that also advocates a broader strategy of strengthening the Syrian rebels.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: I feel in the strongest terms that we need to have that provision that calls for reversal of momentum on the ground battle against Bashar Assad. If Bashar Assad remains in an advantageous position, he will never leave Syria. He has to know that he is losing, and that way, you get a negotiated settlement for his departure.

    GWEN IFILL: Today's committee action marked the first vote approving military strikes since October 2002, when Congress authorized the invasion of Iraq. On the other side of the Capitol, the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard from Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Anti-war protesters waved hands painted red, simulating blood, as Kerry spoke.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: There are risks of acting, but, believe me, it is our judgment collectively and the president's that the greater risks are not acting. We will have said to him, nobody cares, gas your people, you do what you need to, to stay in office, and we're backing off. That would be -- I honestly find -- I mean, that would be one of those moments that will live in infamy.

    GWEN IFILL: The president reaffirmed his desire for congressional support in his Stockholm appearance today, but he suggested a no-vote wouldn't tie his hands.

    BARACK OBAMA: As commander in chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress, but I didn't take this to Congress just because it's an empty exercise. I think it's important to have Congress' support on it.

    GWEN IFILL: In Paris, the French Parliament began its own debate on a military response as the prime minister echoed the warnings from Washington.

    PRIME MINISTER JEAN-MARC AYRAULT, France (through interpreter): To not act would be to put in danger peace and security in the entire region, but also beyond that our own security. I ask the question, what credibility would our international commitments have against nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons?

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, the fighting in Syria continued, unaffected by debates around the globe. Rebels and regime forces engaged in heavy gun battles on the outskirts of Damascus.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Kerry also said today that he believes President Obama will address the nation on Syria in the next few days.

    Now, for more on the White House perspective, Tony Blinken is President Obama's national -- deputy national security adviser. I spoke with him a short time ago.

    Tony Blinken, thank you very much for joining us.

    Let me just start by asking if you think the administration will have the votes it needs in Congress to take military action.

    TONY BLINKEN, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser: Judy, I do.

    Look at what we have seen over the last couple of days. Yesterday, we saw the emergence of strong bipartisan support for this authorization. We had Speaker Boehner. We had leader Cantor, Leader Pelosi in the House. We have a strong bipartisan group in the Senate, including the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez and Senator Corker.

    And then just today, we have the passage in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of our resolution authorizing the use of force. So the momentum is there, and I think we're heading in exactly that direction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tony, in an interview with the NewsHour last week, the president said the main point of any military strike would be to punish and deter the Assad regime.

    Now, though, we hear Senators McCain and Graham saying, in their conversation with the president, he's talking about degrading the capabilities of the Assad regime. That's going a step farther, isn't it? What does that mean to degrade?

    TONY BLINKEN: So, Judy, there are two things going on here that are important to understand.

    First, with regard to the underlying conflict in Syria, there has been a civil war going on, as you know. And we have been working very hard to end that war, and we think the best way to do that is through a negotiated transition that moves Assad out through a political process. In order to do that, we have got to get him to the negotiating table, and that involves, in part, putting the pressure on him, isolating him, and building up the opposition, which we have been doing over the -- in recent months, as well as having a diplomatic track.

    And there, we will be, I think, doing more to support opposition as they try and convince Assad that he needs to negotiate an end to this. Within that, we have this terrible chemical weapons attack of August 21. And we believe that it's imperative that we respond to that, because there's been a norm against the use of chemical weapons for nearly 100 years. If we allow this to go unchecked, Assad will continue to do it with impunity.

    Other countries around the world and in the region who have weapons of mass destruction or seek to acquire them will conclude that they can use them with impunity. So, the action that we have -- that we're proposing would be focused on the chemical weapons and making sure that Assad is deterred from using them again, and that his ability to use them again is degraded.

    And that's what this is focused on. Now, it's also true in any action we take, Assad is very likely to conclude that things he holds dear are at risk, and, in that sense, he's likely to have a greater incentive to want to negotiate an end to this underlying conflict.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in other words, in addition to punishing, you want to weaken the Assad regime, make it easier for the opposition to take over the government.

    TONY BLINKEN: So, the focus of this military effort that we're proposing is limited and focused on his chemical weapons capability. And it's to deter him, just to tell him, don't do it again.

    But it's also to make it a lot harder to do it again if he makes the mistake of trying to do it again. But, in that context, he's also going to learn that things that are important to him militarily are at risk, and that can have the effect of convincing him that he needs to negotiate an end to the underlying conflict as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in terms of helping the rebels, we know there was a very prominent news report yesterday that help -- or military lethal aid had not yet reached the opposition.

    Now we're hearing that it may be close to reaching the opposition. Can you tell us whether it has at this point, and, if not, is it about to?

    TONY BLINKEN: So, Judy, a number of countries have been providing assistance to the opposition, including the United States.

    And some months ago, you will recall that when our intelligence community concluded initially that Assad had been using on a small scale chemical weapons over the past year, the president said that we would be increasing our support to the opposition. And we have spent some time putting in place an effort to do just that.

    And what I can tell you now, without detailing any of the support, is that we have moved out on that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So lethal aid has reached the opposition, is reaching it now?

    TONY BLINKEN: So, Judy, what I can say is, without detailing the kind of assistance we're providing, is that we have significantly increased the assistance that is getting to the opposition.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How long do you any campaign strike against the Assad regime will take? The reason I ask, Tony Blinken, is that we know, in striking Kosovo many years ago, the Clinton administration spoke about it lasting a few days. It went on for something like 72 days.

    How -- once something like this get started, how do you know you can put an end to it?

    TONY BLINKEN: Judy, it's really important that people understand what this is and what this isn't.

    And it's understandable that people have concerns about this being some kind of open-ended potential action. It is not. The reason people tend to have that as an initial reaction is, they are looking at this through the frame of the last decade, a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of American troops committed.

    Well, what this is, is a very targeted, very focused, time-limited action to deter Assad from using chemical weapons again, and to make it harder for him to do so. What it is not is open-ended. It is not boots on the ground. It is not Iraq. It is not Afghanistan. It's not Kosovo. It's not even Libya.

    I can't be any more precise than that, but it is a very limited, targeted action, but an effective one, to deal with the use of chemical weapons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And is the administration prepared for unintended consequences? The Syrian foreign minister is saying today there's no way of knowing what will be the repercussions of a U.S. strike. He talks about Syria striking back at Turkey, at Israel, and at Lebanon if the U.S. hit his country.

    TONY BLINKEN: We are very well-prepared.

    We know that any action has risk, any action can have unintended consequences. We do a lot of work to make sure we anticipate what those might be and to take steps to mitigate them. But we also believe fundamentally that not acting would have far greater and far graver consequences.

    If we don't act to enforce a norm of the use of chemical weapons that has been around for nearly 100 years that Congress has gotten strongly behind over the last decade. If we don't do that, Assad will conclude that he can use these weapons again with impunity. Other countries in the region and beyond who have such weapons or aspire to get them will also conclude that they can acquire them and use them with impunity.

    That would do terrible damage to our security and to the security of countries around the world. So, there are always dangers in acting. We work to mitigate them. There are far greater dangers in not acting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Final question about Egypt. There's an Associated Press report this afternoon that the administration, top national security advisers to the president are recommending that he cut off aid to the Egyptian military, hundreds of millions of dollars, in retaliation for the removal of the Morsi presidency.

    Is that the case? Is that what you and others are recommending to the president?

    TONY BLINKEN: So, Judy, we know that, after what happened in Egypt, as the president has said, it's not going to be business as usual.

    And in the wake of the violence that we saw after Morsi was pushed out of power, we suspended the delivery of F-16s. We suspended a major military exercise. And the rest of our assistance is under review. We also have a strong incentive to encourage the Egyptians to get on a democratic track, to have an inclusive process that brings an inclusive government into power.

    And we're working with them on that. And beyond that, at this point, all I can tell you is, we look at this on a regular basis, and we have already taken steps to suspend some of our assistance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tony Blinken, who is the deputy national security adviser to President Obama, thank you.

    TONY BLINKEN: Thanks for having me, Judy.

     


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