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

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Now: New technology presents new concerns over privacy in unexpected places.

    An ever-expanding array of appliances and household devices has made our lives easier and sometimes safer. Now connected to the Web, they're becoming known as the Internet of things, baby monitors with cameras, home thermostats, even refrigerators. These so-called smart devices are programmable and easy to access remotely, both by their owners and, as it turns out, by hackers.

    Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission cited one seller of Web-enabled video cams for its inadequate security protections. It found that a breach in the company's software allowed hackers to post links to the live video feeds of its customers' security cameras.

    Hari Sreenivasan takes the story from there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Kashmir Hill is a senior editor and writes the technology and privacy column "Not-So Private Parts" at Forbes.com.

    Thanks for joining us.

    Let's start with putting this case in perspective. The FTC ruling yesterday, is this just limited to one company, or are there are lots of other companies that have this weakens?

    KASHMIR HILL, Forbes.com: It's not limited to one company.

    There are several device makers who are making products that are connected to the Internet now and there are many that have security vulnerabilities. Not only is TRENDnet not the only company that has vulnerable devices. It's not the only camera company.

    Just a few weeks ago, another company out of China called Foscam had a baby monitor in a Texas family's home that was hacked by somebody who came in and started saying nasty things to a 2-year-old, until the father rushed in and unplugged the baby monitor.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That's horrible.

    Now, you said in one of your articles that there's even a search engine to help people find this.

    KASHMIR HILL: There is a search engine.

    It's called Shodan. It's like Google. But where Google crawls for websites, this actually crawls the Internet looking for connected devices. And it's found all kinds of things. It's found cars that are connected to the Internet, the cameras that we have heard about, building control systems for Google's headquarters in Australia and power plants and water filtration companies.

    There are so many products now that are connected to the Internet, because it's so useful to be able to check on them or control things from afar. But a lot of times, these products are being designed without good security, so that somebody can, one, see that they're there, and in some cases even go in and control those devices or access their streams.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And you have been one of those people. You hacked into a smart home. Tell us a little bit about that.

    KASHMIR HILL: I have been one of those people.

    I was talking to security researchers about some research that they had done around home automation systems. And there was one particular product made by a company called Insteon that had no -- once a person had connected it to their home, it actually has no authentication system. You didn't need a password to be able to access it.

    And in some cases, the systems were showing up in Google search results. You didn't even need Shodan to get to them. And so I was able to do a very simple Google search. And I had a list of eight homes around the country where I was able to get in and turn on lights, turn water pumps on and off, potentially open garage doors.

    And so, in one case, I called this man in Portland who had one of these systems, and I asked him, do you mind if I see if I can turn your lights on and off? And I did. And he was shocked. He had no idea that anyone on the Internet could get access to his system.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what can someone do? I mean, as you say, there are so many devices around us that are connected, most of us might not be as conscious about the privacy settings or the security settings on each of these devices and the services that we're using through them.

    KASHMIR HILL: Yes, these devices are really convenient and there are a lot of benefits to them. You know, the big responsibility is with the vendors and companies that make these products. They need to make them with good security, so that consumers aren't put in this place where they're vulnerable.

    Things that consumers can do, one, make sure that if you have a device that connects to the Internet that you can access from somewhere else that it has some kind of username and password attached to it. If it comes with a default username or password, you should change that, because hackers can figure that out very quickly.

    In one case, a hacker -- an anonymous user went through and connected to 400,000 devices on the Internet using default usernames and passwords. So that's just not secure. And if you're a very savvy user, you can set up a virtual private network through which your device connects to the Internet, so that somebody who is searching the Internet can't find it.

    But I think that is above the technical levels of most consumers. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So is this something where technology is far ahead of any legislation to protect us or regulations?

    KASHMIR HILL: At this point, you know, when you buy -- let's say you get tires from a tire company, and those tires are defective in some way, and it causes you to crash, you have the ability to go after that company.

    At this point, we're not quite there with software. We're still trying to figure out what the kind of privacy and security responsibilities are for companies that are providing and making these kinds of products. The decision by the Federal Trade Commission to, you know, go after an I.P. cam maker that created vulnerable devices is telling.

    And so the hope is that companies will avoid making these kind of vulnerable products to avoid getting in trouble with the FTC. And the hope is that public shaming, appearing in negative news reports, will help.

    But I don't know that the law has really caught up with the possibilities here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Kashmir Hill, thanks so much for joining us.

    KASHMIR HILL: My pleasure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that was Hari appearing from our new New York studio.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: the life story of the world's first superhero.
    NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni is our guide.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: There's something about the Man of Steel.
    Superman has endured for 75 years, captivating people of all ages through. From scrappy crime fighter to American icon, the character reflects the changing world around him, but Superman always stays true to one ideal: helping others.

    The hero's evolution is the subject of a new book, "Superman: The Unauthorized Biography," by Glen Weldon. He covers pop culture and comics for NPR and joins me now.

    So, I would like to start with the big picture. Why do superheroes and comic book characters resonate with America, and how do they evolve along with our society?

    GLEN WELDON, "Superman: The Unauthorized Biography": Sure.

    Well, these characters -- it might sound corny to say these characters are our modern myths, but it's true. They exist on a symbolic level. And there's no more symbolic character than Superman, who created the archetype of the superhero. And everything that has come after him that's touched on the idea of somebody who dresses up in a weird outfit and fights for the powers of good comes from him.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: And so, turning directly to Superman, in your book, you chronicle his journey from his comic book debut April 18, 1938, to the silver screen, and call him the most recognizable figure of the superhero genre.

    Why is it? Is it just longevity?

    GLEN WELDON: No, actually. He -- because he created the archetype, and that's also because, you know, his costume is primary colors, red, yellow and blue.

    And he was the one who everybody who came after him was imitating or reacting to. But he does evolve. That's the thing about these characters. When I was researching the book, I wanted to show both what has stayed essentially the same about this character over 75 years and what's changed.

    And, specifically, what do those things that have changed about him say about us? And what does the fact that a certain part of him has stayed completely the same for 75 years say about us as well? And, basically, the only thing about him that hasn't changed at all in 75 years is his motivation.

    At first glance, it's a pretty basic hero motivation. He puts the needs of others over those of himself, and he never gives up. And when both of those things are present, you have a Superman story. When one or more of those things is missing, it just doesn't feel like Superman, because that's who this character is.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: It's the motivations for his good deeds. You wrote that he was once decidedly anti-militaristic, far removed from the uber-patriot he would become.

    So, how did that happen? How did truth, justice, and the American way really become his motto?

    GLEN WELDON: Well, when he was created both by Siegel and Shuster, they wanted him to be a -- sort of a progressive character.

    And he starts off going after people we would now consider the 1 percent. Who does he go after? He goes after corporate fat cats. He goes after crooked politicians. He goes after manufacturers who created shoddy goods that were unsafe for the public.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Coal miners that had unsafe practices. Right?

    GLEN WELDON: Absolutely

    So, he was going after and trying to upset the status quo, and he was kind of doing it in a kind of very rough way. He wasn't the paragon of virtue we see today. He was kind of a tough guy. But World War II came along and softened all of those hard edges.

    And, all of a sudden, he went from attacking the status quo to vigorously defending it. 

    So when World War II began, he was basically a children's comic book character. But because of the patriotic imagery and his use as a patriotic symbol throughout the war, by the end of the war, he was an American icon.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: And, so, specifically on that World War II shift, you saw him used in war propaganda from the United States government.

    GLEN WELDON: He was helping to sell war bonds and telling people to plant victory gardens, absolutely.

    And he was doing that on the cover of his books, not necessarily in the adventures, because the editors and writers were very cognizant that if you show Superman going over to Europe and bashing some Nazis around, you would be trivializing the sacrifices of the American G.I.

    So they wrote a story in the comic strip where Clark Kent goes to enlist, but he gets so excited that he accidentally reads the eye chart in the next room and fails his exam.

    So, he had to stay home and fight saboteurs, but, yes, he stayed home-side -- he stayed home-side during the war. 

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: One of my favorite little details is the aesthetics.
    Superman's costume and look has changed so much over the years.

    GLEN WELDON: Oh, sure.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Talk about that.

    GLEN WELDON: Well, it started off as -- they were inspired by very popular figures of the time, circus acrobats and trapeze artists.

    And so that's where the tight -- tights come from, because you needed something that would allow for freedom of movement, but you also needed something that the people in the back rows could really see. So you wanted to outline the form, but you also wanted it to pop, so you would have these very garishly colored outfits.

    The cape was there to really convey speed, because, remember, he started off as a creature on the page. And the only way you can really convey how fast somebody is moving, especially back then, before they had the iconography we now have today in comics of speed lines -- you draw little lines after somebody to kind of signify that.

    That was -- before that time, somebody needed a cape to flutter and flap. You could actually almost hear it snapping in the breeze in those first few images that we know of Superman.

    Certainly, the Superman “S”, which is now a very recognized symbol throughout the world, took a long time to evolve. And if you look at it over the course of 75 years, you see that it's still evolving. There's still tweaks that we make to reflect the style of the time. So it's constantly in some kind of state of change.

    What they have done now is they have taken away the tights and they have replaced it with kind of a weird armor. They have taken away the red pants. The red pants will return, but they took away the red pants. But they kept a big old chunky belt, a belt that is not holding anything up.

    So everything about this character, the spit curl, the pants, the belt, the boots, constantly cycles in and out of fashion. And it always will.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Is the message coming from the comic books one that reflects what we're thinking or is it coming from the creators trying to send a message to society?

    GLEN WELDON: Well, there's the character of Superman and there's the idea of Superman.

    The character is constantly iterated and reiterated, because he doesn't have what makes a story a story. He doesn't have an ending. He's part of an open-ended narrative in the comics, which means he just keeps churning over. They keep rebooting and killing him off and then bringing him back, and taking away his red pants and bringing his red pants back.

    But there's the idea of Superman which is bigger than that. So the character is owned by D.C. and Warner's. The idea of Superman, which is more powerful, purer than that, which transcends the media that deliver him to us, is owned by the world. And that's why we constantly look to him and look to have him inspire us.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Glen Weldon, the author of "Superman: The Unauthorized Biography," thank you.

    GLEN WELDON: Thank you.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: We're going to continue this discussion online.

    Also there, you can find a slide show of Superman through the ages, and a look at the science of superheroes, from Spiderman's silk to the Flash's speed.

    And we want you to weigh in: Who is your favorite comic book character?


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    It's one of the biggest changes in social policy in modern times.

    In just a matter of weeks, one of the most crucial parts of the new health care reform law -- known as the Affordable Care Act and often referred to as Obamacare -- will kick in.

    Starting Oct. 1, the new insurance marketplaces will open for enrollment. The purpose: offer new choices for those who are uninsured or are looking to change insurance. But there are questions about how it -- and other parts of the law -- will work in reality.

    That's why we want to hear from you. Whether you like the new law, hate it or, like many Americans, just don't know all that much about how it works, we want to know what questions you have about the law and how it will affect you.

    Whether you're an employer worried about having to offer insurance, an employee worried about how your plan may change, a young adult wondering if you qualify for tax credits, or a a senior focused on Medicare, we want to listen to your questions.

    Here's how you can share your questions with us:

    Submit a short and crisp video on YouTube, which could end up on the broadcast. Email us at onlinehealth@newshour.org Fill out this Public Insight Network form. Tweet us @NewsHour using #myhealthcare Or ask us on Facebook.

    Stay tuned. We'll begin answering them in the next weeks.

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    President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference in St. Petersburg, Russia on the last day of the G-20 summit. Watch his remarks live, scheduled to begin at 9:50 a.m. EDT.

    ST. PETERSBURG, Russia --** President Barack Obama is using his last day in Europe to renew his quest for foreign support for a U.S. military strike in Syria. But three days after he left Washington, it's unclear whether the global coalition the president has been seeking is any closer to becoming a reality.

    Putting up stiff resistance to Obama's appeals, Russia on Friday warned the United States and its allies against striking any chemical weapon storage facilities in Syria. The Russian foreign ministry said such targeting could release toxic chemicals and give militants or terrorist access to chemical weapons.

    "This is a step toward proliferation of chemical weapons not only across the Syrian territory but beyond its borders," the Russian statement said.

    Moreover, China remained a firm no. The European Union is skeptical about whether any military action can be effective. Even Pope Francis weighed in, urging leaders gathered here to abandon what he called a "futile mission."

    Still, Obama was undeterred. He and French President Francois Hollande, the U.S.'s strongest ally on Syria and a vocal advocate for a military intervention, met on the sidelines of the summit about attracting European support for action. "It's clear that there are many countries that agree with us that international norms must be upheld," Obama said.

    Holland told reporters invited into their meeting that they came to summit "wanting as large a coalition as possible," but without saying whether they picked up more support for military intervention.

    "To do nothing would mean impunity," Hollande said. "We must take our responsibility" and act.

    As the president pressed his case on the world stage, he was dispatching his U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, to a Washington think tank to argue that the global community cannot afford the precedent of letting chemical weapons use go unpunished.

    Illustrating the risks associated with a strike, however, the State Department on Friday ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon, a step under consideration since Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian regime last week. The travel warning said it had instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to depart Lebanon.

    Yet even as Obama sought the global buy-in that could legitimize a potential strike, his aides were careful to temper expectations that the world community could speak with one voice. Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said the president wasn't asking his peers to pledge their own militaries to a U.S.-led strike, but simply to say they agree a military response is warranted.

    "We don't expect every country here to agree with that position," Rhodes said Friday at the Group of 20 economic summit, where Obama was huddling with foreign leaders.

    Standing on Russian soil, Rhodes suggested the U.S. had given up hope that Russia - a stalwart Syria ally - could be coerced into changing its position. "We don't expect to have Russian cooperation," he said.

    A key status update was to come Friday when Obama, his diplomatic dexterity pushed to the max, will be quizzed by reporters in the waning hours of the summit.

    A jobs-and-growth agenda awaiting world leaders gathering at the ornate Constantine Palace quickly gave way to intense posturing over Syria - at least on the surface. The leaders served up Syria as dinner conversation Thursday at the suggestion of the summit's host, President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader has steadfastly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad and disputes claims that Assad's regime was behind chemical attacks that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 Syrians. Other estimates are lower.

    Syria dominated the nearly three-hour meal, with leaders condemning the use of chemical weapons but reaching no consensus about the proper response, said a French official in St. Petersburg. Many leaders at the dinner remained in doubt about whether Assad's regime was behind the attack, said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named according to presidential policy.

    So too was the Syrian crisis a prevailing theme in Obama's individual meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the summit in this Russian port city.

    The White House said Obama conferred on Syria Thursday evening with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong supporter of airstrikes against the nation on its southern border. Syria also came up on Friday as Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose government has warned vigorously against the use of force.

    Before his scheduled return to Washington late Friday, Obama also planned to meet with Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, calling attention to another area of disagreement with Moscow.

    A fleeting interaction between Obama and Putin became the high-drama moment of the summit, underscoring the labored state of relations between the two leaders. The eyes of the world watching, the Russian and the American were all smiles Thursday as they made small talk in front of news cameras for a few seconds as Obama arrived at the summit.

    But the welcoming handshake may have been where the pleasantries ended. In other venues, the two nations were repeatedly bumping heads.

    Russia's foreign ministry, in a statement Friday, said a U.S.-led strike would mark "a new dangerous turn" in the crisis, risking the release of chemical weapons or their possession by terrorists. And the head of the foreign affairs panel in Russia's lower house of parliament, Alexei Pushkov, blasted Obama on Twitter as having "completely transformed into a president of war."

    Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia was boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, moving in warships into the area and stoking fears about a larger international conflict if the United States orders airstrikes.

    Even at home, there was far from a consensus that an American strike on Syria was the best course of action. Awaiting Obama upon his return was an equally fractious debate in Congress over whether to authorize the limited military action he was proposing.

    Pulling out all the stops, Obama was working the phones from Europe and appealing for support from leery lawmakers, Democratic and Republican alike. And he called off a planned trip to California next week, opting to stay in Washington to keep up the pressure on Congress to say yes.

    As top national security officials continued to brief Congress on the accusation against Assad and the proposed response, a measure authorizing Obama to act was advancing tenuously through the Senate, winning approval from a foreign relations panel Wednesday and heading to the Senate floor. The measure's prospects were dicier in the Republican-controlled House.

    In an unusual turn of events, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner both said that a delegation of Russian lawmakers had sought to meet with them to discuss Syria. Both leaders, who are supporting Obama's call for a strike, turned down that invitation, aides said.

    "I don't know that the Russians have anything to add to the debate in the United States, given that we know where Russia stands," said Rhodes, the Obama aide.

    Associated Press writer Angela Charlton contributed to this report.

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  • 09/06/13--09:07: #NewsHourWeekend User Guide
  • Hari Sreenivasan will anchor the new "PBS NewsHour Weekend" which debuts on Sept. 7. Photo by NewsHour

    Get ready to watch the PBS NewsHour seven days a week. We've been counting down to the premiere of PBS NewsHour Weekend and getting sneak peeks of the show for so long (are we there yet?) it's hard to believe the first airing is finally here. PBS NewsHour Weekend debuts on Saturday, Sept. 7. To get you ready for the show we've prepared a user guide.

    If you have additional questions please ask them in the comments section and we will respond. For now, we've answered some of the most pressing questions for you:

    Remind me, what's PBS NewsHour Weekend? PBS NewsHour Weekend is a Saturday and Sunday newscast. Veteran NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan is anchoring the 30-minute newscast, which New York PBS member station WNET is producing out of the Tisch WNET studios.

    Oh that, yeah! So where can I watch it? What time? Most local PBS affiliates will carry the show. Check your local station for listings. The show also will be aired on Ustream from 5 to 5:30 p.m. ET Saturdays and Sundays.

    Now I already record the NewsHour with Gwen and Judy, do I have to reset my DVR? Don't reset your DVR. After all, you don't want to miss Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff (who are debuting as co-anchors of NewsHour on Monday, Sept. 9.) To record NewsHour Weekend you need to set up a separate recording. The shows, because they have different titles, will not be automatically recorded together. It's a pain we know, but we're hoping to have it resolved in the future.

    Sometimes I watch the NewsHour streaming online, can I do that over the weekend, too? What time? You bet! Like we mentioned, you can stream NewsHour Weekend online. It will be available on Ustream from 5 to 5:30 p.m. E.T. Saturdays and Sundays.

    Can I watch reruns of segments online? When will those be available? You can watch reruns online, right on the PBS NewsHour website or on our YouTube channel. Online segments will be available shortly after the broadcast airs. Some segments will be up faster than others, so please be patient.

    What about social media? How do I connect with PBS NewsHour Weekend? Well, hopefully you already are. If you are connected with PBS NewsHour on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, RebelMouse, etc., you connected with PBS NewsHour Weekend because we're all the same account (family, that is). You can also connect directly with NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Instagram. If you're not connected, well what are you waiting for? Click on those links and get connected.

    We hope you enjoy the new show.

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    By Paul Solman

    Officially, this month's unemployment number is, in the words of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "little changed" at 7.3 percent. The other headline number -- of 169,000 jobs added -- would have elicited an "eh" in my youth; a "meh" today. More meh still: a sharp 74,000 downward revision of the summer's job numbers. If last month's supposed 162,000 new jobs had been accurately reported, as per the downward revision, it would have been announced as 104,000, it turns out. That would have elicited headlines of doom.

    On the other hand, our own hyper-inclusive U-7 number dropped dramatically -- to 15.7 percent. U-7 adds to the officially unemployed (11.3 million Americans), part-timers looking for full-time work and "discouraged" workers -- everyone who didn't look for a job in the past week but says they want one.

    What's going on with U-7? Fewer unemployed Americans (by about 200,000); many fewer part-timers looking for full-time work: 334,000. And there are just as many Americans officially "not in [the] labor force" who no longer say they "currently want a job."

    How to make sense of it all? Well, my own guess is that the baby boom retirement story, first tentatively told here last month, is becoming more plausible.

    Here's what I wrote last month:

    The official "workforce" actually declined -- by about 40,000 people. What could explain the drop, given the rise in population? 'Ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 today' has become a demographic cliché (or meme, if you prefer). Barring a mass and age-selective plague, that means that 10,000 or so are also turning 66, their official Social Security retirement age. Many, if not most, baby boomers are retiring. And since 10,000 a day equals 300,000 a month, if two-thirds of them are hanging up their rock 'n' roll work shoes, Friday's numbers would make sense: 200,000 or so retirees offsetting the 200,000 or so new working-age Americans.

    That was a story about July. So what happened in August? The population again increased by 200,000. And sure enough, the labor force declined -- by 300,000.

    Statistically, this should come as no surprise at all. The baby boom started in 1946, a decent interval (nine months?) after several million soldiers returned from World War II.

    U.S. birth rate (births per 1000 population). The red segment from 1946 to 1964 is the post-war baby boom. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control, "Vital Statistics of the United States, 2003, Volume I, Natality," via Wikipedia.

    Add in immigration, and the year that ended in July of 1947 saw the biggest gain in the U.S. population, in percentage terms, since the early 1920s: nearly 2 percent or 2.7 million new Americans.

    Now, age all the brand-new ones by 66 years, today's official age at which full Social Security kicks in, and you would have a baby boom retirement boom -- right about now.

    As we've shown in our "New Adventures for Older Workers" multi-media package, while it's true that Americans are working longer, the majority are still retiring by the time they're 66. And so this month's numbers echo last month's: 10,000 baby boomers a day hitting 66 and thus, a shrinking workforce, with today's new Americans of working age, most of them immigrants, being sopped up by the ever-so-modestly growing job market.

    In an interview I did just a few moments ago with economist Lisa Lynch, the dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, she agreed that retiring baby boomers are part of today's story. But she added that unemployment went up last month for young men, ages 25-34, with a high school diploma or less. Those men used to get jobs in construction or manufacturing, she pointed out, but no longer. And thus they sit idle.

    Backing her up is a story from this week's Wall St. Journal, "Long-Term Jobless Left Out of the Recovery," though the story doesn't emphasize the extent to which the "long-term jobless" may be young people stigmatized by unemployment during the Great Recession and/or simply unemployable if they don't have a college degree.

    A few further observations. One is that the steep drop in part-timers looking for full-time work seems to contradict a major criticism of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which we're about to report on for the NewsHour. The criticism is that it will force employers to cut workers to part-time status to avoid paying for their health care. That would show up in the data as a surge of part-timers wanting full-time work. But at least this past month, it would seem, just the opposite happened.

    More good news from the BLS: "The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased." And in August,"average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $24.05." That offsets an ominous dip in earnings that was reported last month.

    LAST MONTH'S NUMBERS Is Baby Boomer Retirement Behind the Drop in July's Unemployment Rate?

    Of course no reporter worth his or her salt can fail to include some bad news. And so, to end on a negative note, the jobs being added in this economy seem, once again, to predominate on the upper and lower ends of the pay scale.

    "Retail trade added 44,000 jobs in August and has added 393,000 jobs over the past 12 months," the BLS reported.

    "Employment in health care increased by 33,000 in August. Within the industry (however), most of the job growth occurred in ambulatory care services (+27,000)."

    And yet, said Friday's BLS report, "employment in professional and business services continued to trend up (+23,000)."

    "A Tale of Two Cities," Brandeis' Lisa Lynch calls it, a continuation of the troubling pattern we've seen for decades, frankly: jobs at the top, jobs at the bottom, and fewer and fewer in between, the so-called "hourglass economy," as dubbed by the late Bennett Harrison back in the 1980s.

    Lastly, the view from elsewhere:

    Revisions have knocked -100k jobs off over past 2 reports. Given usual cyclicality, this is much worse than the +50k some may have expected.

    — Justin Wolfers (@justinwolfers) September 6, 2013

    Wolfers followed that up with a post on Bloomberg, writing:

    ...Actually, the news is slightly worse than this. Typically, revisions are pro-cyclical, meaning that good news tends to be initially understated. (No one is quite sure why this is, but it's been a fairly robust pattern over the past decade.) And as such, it might have been reasonable to have expected recent healthy reports to have become even healthier. Compared to this counterfactual, today's news really is quite dismal.

    August jobless rate for people 25+ with bachelor's degree or more: 3.5%. Some college: 6.1%. High school grads: 7.6%. No h.s. diploma: 11.3%

    — Sudeep Reddy (@Reddy) September 6, 2013

    Auto industry up 18k jobs, clothing stores +14k, temp services +13k, health care sector +32k, restaurants +21k, local gov't (teachers) +20k

    — Reid Wilson (@PostReid) September 6, 2013

    On Zerohedge.com, "Tyler Durden," writes, "Quality of August Jobs Added: Absolutely Abysmal."

    Catherine Rampell, of the New York Times, analyzed the employment gains, writing:

    Employment gains in the recovery have been disproportionately in lower-wage sectors like food service and retail, causing concern about not only the quantity of the new jobs but also their quality. The industries are more likely to hire part-time workers and operate on just-in-time schedules, making it difficult for employees to predict how many hours they will have from week to week.

    The Wall Street Journal points out that Friday's data is at odds with more positive numbers out recently:

    Other data this week indicated a strengthening economy. Activity readings for manufacturing and non-manufacturing businesses from the Institute for Supply Management soared to multi-year highs in August. Auto makers reported a pace of new sales for August not seen since before the recession. And new jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell again last week. They have hovered around five-year lows since late July.

    With the participation rate still falling, the unemployment rate is less relevant than ever. And all the Fed board knows it.

    — felix salmon (@felixsalmon) September 6, 2013

    And, of course, all eyes were on Friday's numbers for an indication of what the Federal Reserve will do to its quantitative easing policy. Jeffrey Bartash reports for MarketWatch:

    The lackluster employment report could upset the Federal Reserve's timetable on how much to ease the throttle on a massive economic-stimulus program. Most observers had expected the Fed to start to tap on the breaks at its two-day meeting that ends Sept. 18.

    Reuters reported:

    Some Fed officials have indicated they are ready to scale back their stimulus, but others have been less committal, making it hard to discern where the consensus on the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee lies.

    "This is a period where it's even more important to go into an FOMC meeting with an open mind," Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans told reporters on Friday.

    "There's been cumulative progress on the economy. I can be persuaded that there has been enough improvement."

    Neil Irwin writes on Washington Post's WonkBlog:

    Jobs numbers ebb and jobs numbers flow, and as always, it would be unwise to make too much of one report. But this one has enough signs of weakness embedded in enough places that it has to make economy-watchers -- including those at the Federal Reserve who meet in less than two weeks -- reassess their confidence that a solid, steady jobs recovery is underway.

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


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    Freelancers, like new members of Freelancers Union, above, are left out of the official employment figures. Photo courtesy of Freelancers Union's Flickr account.

    Here at the Making Sen$e Business Desk, the first Friday morning of each month is busy. Sure, we count down the seconds until the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report at 8:30 a.m., but analyzing the official unemployment number, the "U3," is just the beginning of our day. We then use the BLS data to calculate our own more inclusive unemployment number, arriving at a figure, which we call the "Solman Scale U7," that we think is a much more accurate representation of just how many people in this country are without jobs.

    That August's more inclusive U7 (15.9 percent) was about 8.4 percentage points higher than the official U3 (7.3 percent) reinforced for us that the BLS isn't asking the right questions of the right people in the household surveys used to calculate the U3.

    We're not the only ones who think the BLS data doesn't tell the whole story. Sara Horowitz, the founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, who writes the Dispatches blog and appeared in this 2009 Making Sen$e segment, has been a vocal critic, and we were curious to know more about her reasoning.

    We asked her to weigh in on what our "Solman Scale U7" adds to the official rate. But more inclusivity, it turns out, doesn't address the issue freelancers have with the BLS data. "While your calculation definitely includes more people, and may give a more accurate assessment of who is working and who is not," Horowitz said, "we're interested in how people are working and what it looks like to be employed at a sustainable level -- which is different than what's being measured now."

    To hear more about what questions the BLS needs to ask, we asked Horowitz to elaborate on what she finds problematic with their data.

    Sara Horowitz: When the unemployment numbers are released the first Friday of each month, they drive headlines. Retailers cross their fingers. The business world looks for signs that interest rates may rise again.

    The problem is that the unemployment numbers are wrong. They just aren't keeping up with the changes we're seeing in the new workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment surveys were designed (back in the 1940s) to keep track of who has a full-time job, who doesn't, and who's looking.

    But the way we work has changed dramatically since then. People are abandoning the 40-hour workweek -- some by choice, some by circumstance -- and becoming freelancers, working gig to gig, project to project. At last count, in 2006, more than 42 million people were considered independent workers. That's nearly one-third of the workforce.

    The BLS surveys haven't kept up. They don't capture this type of independent, variable employment because they're not asking the right questions. The baseline question in the household survey is, "Last week, did you do any work for either pay or profit?"

    Imagine Caroline, a freelance web designer who just finished a project a week ago and has a gig with a new client starting in a few days. Last week, she did not "work for pay or profit," but she wasn't exactly unemployed, either; she had a job lined up. What would the BLS make of her?

    The BLS still uses a standard workweek as the measure of employment, but there's a whole workforce out there that doesn't fit easily into that box. For many freelancers, full-time employment is really a series of short-term (or part-time) gigs and projects.

    Imagine Marcus, an independent anesthesiologist who works 20 hours a week for a doctors' group, teaches as an adjunct professor at a local medical school and is a serious amateur photographer, selling photos on Etsy.

    His BLS interview would go off the rails at the question, "What is the main reason you do not want to work full-time?" Marcus has crafted the flexible work-life he wants, but the BLS assumes that he (and all Americans) should want to work one, full-time job.

    Traditional work is being replaced by fractional work and micro-gigs, and the BLS isn't capturing this massive economic movement. It's impossible to know how many people are being miscounted, undercounted or left out entirely. With freelancing on the rise, we can't just leave this new workforce out of our economic data. The BLS surveys need to be updated to reflect the way people work now.

    The issue isn't really about whether the official unemployment number would go up or down, but about rethinking what it means to be "employed" to address whether your income provides a sustainable life. The unemployment numbers currently tell us whether a person is or is not going to a job, but they don't tell us much about the quality of that job -- from an economic or social viewpoint -- which is important information to have to understand the economy and the labor force.

    Instead of focusing on whether someone's job is full-time or part-time, how about asking if they have enough work to sustain a life?

    We do have an employment problem in this country, but we're not going to figure out what it is until we start asking the right questions.

    This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions. Follow @paulsolman

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    By Sara Horowitz

    Freelancers, like new members of Freelancers Union, above, are left out of the official employment figures. Photo courtesy of Freelancers Union's Flickr account.

    Here at the Making Sen$e Business Desk, the first Friday morning of each month is busy. Sure, we count down the seconds until the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report at 8:30 a.m., but analyzing the official unemployment number, the "U3," is just the beginning of our day. We then use the BLS data to calculate our own more inclusive unemployment number, arriving at a figure, which we call the "Solman Scale U7," that we think is a much more accurate representation of just how many people in this country are without jobs.

    That August's more inclusive U7 (15.9 percent) was about 8.4 percentage points higher than the official U3 (7.3 percent) reinforced for us that the BLS isn't asking the right questions of the right people in the household surveys used to calculate the U3.

    AUGUST'S UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS: America's Shrinking Workforce?

    We're not the only ones who think the BLS data doesn't tell the whole story. Sara Horowitz, the founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, who writes the Dispatches blog and appeared in this 2009 Making Sen$e segment, has been a vocal critic, and we were curious to know more about her reasoning.

    We asked her to weigh in on what our "Solman Scale U7" adds to the official rate. But more inclusivity, it turns out, doesn't address the issue freelancers have with the BLS data. "While your calculation definitely includes more people, and may give a more accurate assessment of who is working and who is not," Horowitz said, "we're interested in how people are working and what it looks like to be employed at a sustainable level -- which is different than what's being measured now."

    To hear more about what questions the BLS needs to ask, we asked Horowitz to elaborate on what she finds problematic with their data.

    Sara Horowitz: When the unemployment numbers are released the first Friday of each month, they drive headlines. Retailers cross their fingers. The business world looks for signs that interest rates may rise again.

    The problem is that the unemployment numbers are wrong. They just aren't keeping up with the changes we're seeing in the new workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment surveys were designed (back in the 1940s) to keep track of who has a full-time job, who doesn't, and who's looking.

    But the way we work has changed dramatically since then. People are abandoning the 40-hour workweek -- some by choice, some by circumstance -- and becoming freelancers, working gig to gig, project to project. At last count, in 2006, more than 42 million people were considered independent workers. That's nearly one-third of the workforce.

    The BLS surveys haven't kept up. They don't capture this type of independent, variable employment because they're not asking the right questions. The baseline question in the household survey is, "Last week, did you do any work for either pay or profit?"

    Imagine Caroline, a freelance web designer who just finished a project a week ago and has a gig with a new client starting in a few days. Last week, she did not "work for pay or profit," but she wasn't exactly unemployed, either; she had a job lined up. What would the BLS make of her?

    The BLS still uses a standard workweek as the measure of employment, but there's a whole workforce out there that doesn't fit easily into that box. For many freelancers, full-time employment is really a series of short-term (or part-time) gigs and projects.

    Imagine Marcus, an independent anesthesiologist who works 20 hours a week for a doctors' group, teaches as an adjunct professor at a local medical school and is a serious amateur photographer, selling photos on Etsy.

    His BLS interview would go off the rails at the question, "What is the main reason you do not want to work full-time?" Marcus has crafted the flexible work-life he wants, but the BLS assumes that he (and all Americans) should want to work one, full-time job.

    Traditional work is being replaced by fractional work and micro-gigs, and the BLS isn't capturing this massive economic movement. It's impossible to know how many people are being miscounted, undercounted or left out entirely. With freelancing on the rise, we can't just leave this new workforce out of our economic data. The BLS surveys need to be updated to reflect the way people work now.

    The issue isn't really about whether the official unemployment number would go up or down, but about rethinking what it means to be "employed" to address whether your income provides a sustainable life. The unemployment numbers currently tell us whether a person is or is not going to a job, but they don't tell us much about the quality of that job -- from an economic or social viewpoint -- which is important information to have to understand the economy and the labor force.

    Instead of focusing on whether someone's job is full-time or part-time, how about asking if they have enough work to sustain a life?

    We do have an employment problem in this country, but we're not going to figure out what it is until we start asking the right questions.

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


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    Just an eyeblink ago, the most common complaint about Washington was that bipartisanship was dead. Most Democrats and most Republicans would not even agree to share a sandwich.

    Well, cross-party cooperation is back, but it's not the type the White House was hoping for.

    As Congress gears up to debate authorizing the president to launch attacks against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, more than a few Republicans and Democrats have suddenly found common ground.

    They plan to vote no.

    The push from the right flank comes from Republicans like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is leading the resistance in the upper chamber against the war powers authorization the president has requested.

    "War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened," he wrote on Time.com. "I don't think the situation in Syria passes that test."

    Paul is joined in that effort by at least two other Republican senators who can see themselves running for president in 2016 -- Texas' Ted Cruz and Florida's Marco Rubio.

    Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska summed up this side of the debate when she spoke with me on the PBS NewsHour Wednesday. "We can have a narrow strike, but then, is that a shot across the bow?" she said. "What does that mean? Let's define that. Let's define what the mission is. There's a lot of unintended consequences out there."

    Among those unintended consequences, critics worry, is that Syria will strike back -- at the U.S. or at others in the region -- or respond by releasing even more chemical weapons.

    There is, of course, a subset of Republican opposition who appear to be against intervention because it would mean supporting a Democratic president. But how does that explain the reluctant Democrats?

    When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to approve the authorization on Wednesday, two Democrats voted no. (One voted present.) New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall told NPR the U.S. should be "rallying the world" to avoid war.

    "I don't think this is the time for us to get embroiled in the Syrian civil war and what is looking like a widening conflict between Sunnis and Shias in the region," Udall told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep. "I don't think we have exhausted all our other options. A great country like ours should only go to war as a last resort."

    Liberal Democrats in the House are similarly exercised. Florida Rep. Alan Grayson went as far as to launch an online petition against intervention that, by midweek, had attracted more than 45,000 signatures.

    "What the public sees is that we can't afford this anymore," Grayson told The Atlantic's Molly Ball.

    "The public also understands that every time we do something like this, it seems to end up a big mess, and America has problems of our own to deal with. There are 20 million people in this country looking for full-time work. How do you explain to them the virtues of military adventurism and humanitarian bombing 6,000 miles from home?"

    So there you have it; bipartisan agreement across the aisle -- often for vastly different reasons -- but agreement just the same.

    And there is this. It is not the first time Republicans and Democrats have shared a bed on the question of intervention in Syria. As NBC's Mark Murray wisely points out here, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan agreed with President Obama in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons would cross a red line and demand U.S. action.

    It served everyone's purposes then, and it can again. It's an open question whether this sudden burst of bipartisanship will drive the outcome.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: The world's 20 leading economic powers wound up their summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, today deeply divided over how to punish Syria for using chemical weapons. It was a setback to President Obama's campaign for military strikes, but he played up what support there was, just the same.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have been encouraged by discussions with my fellow leaders this week. There is a growing recognition that the world cannot stand idly by.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The president came away from the summit saying there had been a full airing of views on Syria and he insisted most of the G-20 nations agree on a central point.

    BARACK OBAMA: Here in Saint Petersburg, leaders from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have come together to say that the international norm against chemical weapons must be upheld, and that the Assad regime used these weapons on its own people and that, as a consequence, there needs to be a strong response.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In all, 10 nations plus the U.S. signed a joint statement accusing Syria of attacking civilians with chemical weapons last month. But they notably stopped short of directly urging military action as punishment.

    Russia remained firmly opposed to any strike. President Obama did meet today with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but failed to make any headway.

    BARACK OBAMA: Listen, I don't expect us to agree on this issue of chemical weapons use, although it is possible that after the U.N. inspectors' report, it may be more difficult for Mr. Putin to maintain his current position about the evidence.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At his own news conference, Putin argued it's not only Russia that opposes military intervention in Syria.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): Who is condemning and opposing that way of action? Russian Federation, India, China, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Italy, and the secretary-general of the United Nations also voiced his protest against the military intervention.

    JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama also acknowledged today that he faces a -- quote -- "heavy lift" in getting the U.S. Congress to go along.

    BARACK OBAMA: it's conceivable that at the end of the day I don't persuade a majority of the American people that it's the right thing to do.

    And then each member of Congress is going to have to decide, if I think it's the right thing to do for America's national security.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The president said he plans to address the nation Tuesday night to make his case. He wouldn't say whether he would still order an attack against Syria if Congress rejects the use of force.

    BARACK OBAMA: I think it would be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate because right now I'm working to get as much support as possible out of Congress.

    But I will repeat something that I said in Sweden when I was asked a similar question. I did not put this before Congress, you know, just as a political ploy or as symbolism.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In Washington today, in a session that lasted five minutes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid formally began the process of bringing the issue to a vote next week.

    Meanwhile, security was tightened at U.S. diplomatic posts in Lebanon and Turkey. And the State Department ordered nonessential personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to leave the country amid rising security concerns in the region.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran has directed Shiite militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad if there's a military strike on Syria. And Russia announced it is sending more warships into the Eastern Mediterranean. One was said to be carrying a -- quote -- "special cargo." The statement gave no details, but insisted Russia's beefed-up naval presence is meant to ensure security.


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    KWAME HOLMAN: The new foreign minister of Iran has confirmed he sent a message on Twitter yesterday celebrating the Jewish new year. The tweet said, "Happy Rosh Hashanah," and came from the account of Mohammad Javad Zarif. He said it was aimed at Iran's small Jewish community. The gesture came amid continuing tensions between Iran and Israel over Iran's nuclear program.

    Many of the striking gold miners in South Africa accepted a new wage offer today. Tens of thousands walked off the job late Tuesday, demanding up to a 60 percent increase in pay. Today, a spokesman for the mine workers union said most have now agreed to salary increases of up to 8 percent. South Africa's gold industry is one of the biggest in the world, but it's been plagued by falling gold prices.

    The last surviving witness to Adolf Hitler's final days is dead. Rochus Misch passed away Thursday at his home in Berlin. Misch was in Hitler's Berlin bunker, working as his S.S. bodyguard as the battle for Berlin raged in April 1945. He said he didn't hear the gunshot when Hitler committed suicide. Rochus Misch was 96 years old.

    There were signs the U.S. birth rate may be stabilizing after falling sharply four straight years during the recent recession. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that nearly four million babies were born in 2012. That was only a few hundred short of the year before. At the same time, the birth rate among women in their early 30s was up for the first time since 2007.

    Wall Street finished out the week on a disappointing note. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 15 points to close at 14,922. The Nasdaq rose one point to close at 3,660. For the week, the Dow gained less than 1 percent; the Nasdaq rose 2 percent.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to today's report on jobs and unemployment in the U.S., one that's raising concerns again about sluggish hiring and the pace of economic growth.

    The NewsHour's economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has the story, part of his ongoing coverage of Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Today's headline numbers, employers added 169,000 new jobs last month. The official unemployment rate slid from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent. But what to make of the numbers?

    We enlisted NewsHour regular Lisa Lynch, a former Labor Department chief economist, now at Brandeis University.

    LISA LYNCH, Brandeis University: In today's report, we have a little bit of something for everyone. We saw the unemployment rate drop. Jobs were added to the economy. That's good news. But when we go deeper into the numbers, we see a more mixed picture.

    PAUL SOLMAN: While the quantity of jobs added looked OK -- though lower than average gain over the past year -- Lynch questioned their quality, because, continuing a trend throughout the recovery, most of the added jobs were low-paying.

    LISA LYNCH: We saw a lot of jobs added in the retail sector in stores. That's good news. Consumers are shopping. But those jobs tend to be lower-wage jobs. And we saw jobs added in restaurants and hotels. Again, that means people are spending money. They're going out. But those jobs themselves are not high-paying jobs.

    PAUL SOLMAN: By contrast, well-paying finance and information jobs shrank -- also vexing, a sharp 74,000 downward revision in jobs already counted as having been added earlier this summer.

    LISA LYNCH: In fact, the newly revised figure for July says that we only add a little more than 100,000 jobs to the economy. Now, if we were told in July when the report was first released that we had only added 100,000 jobs to the economy, people would have put their arms up in the air and said, oh, my goodness, we're going into a recession. There would have been a lot of doom and gloom. So those downward revisions give one pause.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And there may be another cause for pause, says Lynch, a drop in the percentage of Americans who are either working or looking for work.

    LISA LYNCH: We're down to a labor force participation rate that we haven't seen since 1978.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But isn't the drop the result of the baby boomers finally retiring?

    LISA LYNCH: I think we saw in today's report some of that. But we're also seeing young people either not going into the labor market or delaying entry into the labor market. So you're seeing it at that end. And then you are seeing the impact of an aging population. While more older people are working than in the past, they still have much lower participation rates.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, markets will be digesting the numbers in advance of the Federal Reserve, whose Open Market Committee will meet later this month to decide whether or not to pare back the Fed's $85 billion-a-month bond-buying stimulus program, which depends on how well the economy is doing, which depends in turn on how to interpret today's unemployment numbers.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: Next: new revelations about the government's ability to crack through important Internet privacy safeguards.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story from our New York studio.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Like other surveillance stories in recent weeks, the government's efforts have been led by the National Security Agency, or NSA. And like other disclosures, the latest information comes from documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

    In this case, the reporting was done by a partnership of The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian. Reporters found the NSA is able to crack through encryption or protective encoding tools that are used by businesses, banks, social media and other kinds of online commerce.

    For example, it's often assumed that when you purchase a product online or bank online with a secured and locked HTTPS connection, you have protected your password and financial information. But the news reports say the NSA can unlock that information.

    Nicole Perlroth is a cyber-security reporter with The New York Times. She joins us from San Francisco.

    So, Nicole, how significant is this?

    NICOLE PERLROTH, The New York Times: This is huge.

    This was the last bastion of privacy on the Internet. And what we have discovered is that, for the last two decades, the NSA has been actively working to crack or circumvent the encryption technologies that we all use, not just for Internet banking and to protect medical records and electronic voting systems, but that we actually, as you pointed out, use for everyday Internet communications like e-mail or Internet chats, et cetera.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how does the NSA do this? We're talking about a set of locks and keys that we think we have to protect the things. Do they have another set of keys or have they poked holes in the locks?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: All of the above.

    What we have learned is that there's been a sustained multipronged effort to break or circumvent many of the encryption technologies that have been developed over the last two decades. So, in some cases, the NSA is using its power and influence as the world's best code maker to set standards that only it knows how to break.

    In other cases, it's getting into servers and taking encryption keys. It's using secret court orders, in some cases through its intermediaries, to grab encryption keys from private companies. And, in some cases, it's working hand in hand with companies to embed itself into encryption chips that scramble information for much of the world's businesses and governments or working with companies to build in custom solutions that give it pre-encrypted access to communications.

    This has all been done in secret. So, as we point out in our article, two decades ago, we as a nation had a big conversation around the Clipper chip, which was the Clinton administration's way of putting in a backdoor to all encryption technologies. And, as a nation, we decided that this was fundamentally unacceptable, that we wanted some things to remain secret.

    And what we found out yesterday and what we said today in our article is that the NSA has gotten around that, effectively done the same thing in secret.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what's their justification? That they want to be able to pick the locks of communications from the bad guys?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: Exactly, that their efforts depend on the ability to read terrorist communications, and to track where the money is going, and that the only way that they can do that is to break this encryption.

    The problem is now it's no longer targeted. So, during World War II, the U.K. and U.S. broke the encryption surrounding the Enigma machine, and that was hugely influential in determining the end of that war. The problem is now, it is not just the Enigma machine. It's everyday communications. It's U.S. technologies that basically assure their users that they can trust these companies that their communications are private. And what's been happening is in the background the NSA has been finding ways inside.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, have U.S. technologies been complicit in this? Have they been enabling the NSA with backdoor keys or access?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: It's difficult to say how much of this is voluntary and how much of it is coerced.

    If you look at the documents that we got from Edward Snowden, there's multiple mentions of cooperative partnerships and voluntary relationships, which would insinuate that the partnerships are voluntary. But then I spoke with a number of technology companies that said off the record that they were compelled by court order, and faced in some cases contempt of court, if they didn't hand the government their encryption keys or build out these custom solutions.

    And they're not able to talk about this because they are under gag order or secret court orders forbid them from talking about exactly what these relationships look like.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And this sort of influence by government is something that we have accused Chinese companies of, putting in backdoors into American technologies.

    NICOLE PERLROTH: That's right.

    What we found out is that all these accusations that American lawmakers have leveled against Huawei and ZTE in China, that basically American lawmakers accuse those companies of planting backdoors in their systems that would allow the PLA to spy on American corporations.

    And what we have been finding out essentially in our report today is that the U.S. government has been doing the exact same thing. So, it definitely puts American lawmakers in a bind and it puts American companies in a bind in terms of their global market share. And it will be interesting to see what happens over the next coming months.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So your report tomorrow morning -- in tomorrow morning's paper is going to be about the reaction to all of this. How are government agencies or people that are in the technology community reacting?

    NICOLE PERLROTH: Well, the NSA put out a statement today that effectively said that this was a huge setback for them, and that they didn't believe that the story should have been published, that there was -- that national security concerns outweighed the public's need to know and debate about this topic.

    Everyone else I have spoken with, however, is very glad that we made these disclosures. People in the cryptography community that thought they had won this war with encryption two decades ago are heartbroken. American companies are extremely frustrated that they continue to make assurances to their customers that their systems have not been breached or compromised and they are not handing the government their encryption keys, but I think the public no longer can trust those assurances anymore.

    So I think what we're seeing now is a fundamental lack of trust.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Nicole Perlroth from The New York Times, thanks so much.

    NICOLE PERLROTH: Thank you.

     


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    Watch Video The Doubleheader with Mark Shields and David Brooks returns this week in a slightly modified format.

    And we're back. After a brief summer hiatus, the Doubleheader -- with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks -- returns in a slightly new format. Now that I'm anchoring in New York, we're going to try conducting the Doubleheader via Google Hangouts. (Tell us what you think so far and we'll keep you posted.)

    In our sport of politics section, the gentlemen pundits find agreement between the topic of immigration in the upcoming legislative session, but you may be disappointed to know why. In the politics of sport, we discuss the NFL season and this year's Super Bowl picks.

    Enjoy your weekend and join us! (From the shameless plug department, in case you haven't heard by now the Newshour is expanding to seven days a week. Want to watch? We thought so, so we produced this handy user guide. So now you can watch us seven days a week.)

    You can subscribe to Hari on Facebook, Google Plus and on Twitter @Hari.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we come back to Syria with two takes on reaction to the conflict in the Arab world.

    We begin with a look at how the crisis has spilled beyond Syria's borders. Earlier this week, the United Nations Refugee Agency announced that more than two million people have fled the fighting.

    NewsHour foreign affairs producer Dan Sagalyn was in neighboring Jordan recently on a trip sponsored by CARE, the development and humanitarian organization. His story begins in the remote far eastern corner of the country.

    Ray Suarez narrates our report.

    RAY SUAREZ: These Syrian men, women and children are stepping into safe territory in Jordan. Some are carrying all their possessions in one suitcase.

    These refugees are just a few of the now more than two million who have poured out of their homeland since fighting began in Syria more than two years ago. Jordanian soldiers provided them with food and water, and also stood guard, ready to protect them if Syrian forces opened fire. Their journey out of war was dangerous and often deadly.

    This group drove for two days to southeastern Syria to find a safe crossing point. Then, they walked more than four miles through a buffer zone before reaching Jordanian soldiers.

    MAN (through interpreter): The armed forces will take us from here. On the other side is more danger. This is better. The armed forces will come this way. They will give us good services. We thank them so much. We are very grateful for them.

    RAY SUAREZ: These refugees were helped onto a truck and taken for medical treatment. They will be handed over to the United Nations and taken to a refugee camp, where they will be registered. All the countries surrounding Jordan have taken in significant numbers of refugees.

    Jordan has sheltered an estimated 515,000. Lebanon is now home to over 700,000 Syrians. Turkey has 460,000 refugees, and Egypt 110,000. Iraq, which has had a surge in recent weeks of incoming Syrian refugees, now has more than 168,000.

    The civil war has also displaced another 4,250,000 inside Syria's borders.

    ANDREW HARPER, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees: It is a devastation with no end in sight. I don't think anyone in the region has seen the scale of conflict for decades, probably not for over the last century.

    RAY SUAREZ: Andrew Harper is the U.N. Refugee Agency's representative in Jordan. We spoke with him after he met with a delegation of Americans, including a member of Congress and foreign assistance experts.

    Despite a high number of refugees flooding into Jordan earlier this year, 50,000 to 70,000 per month between January and April, the flow into the Hashemite kingdom has slowed to a trickle recently.

    ANDREW HARPER: So we went from about 2,500 to 3,000 per night to about 1,500 to 500 to 100 to basically no one coming across the western border at the moment.

    RAY SUAREZ: Over the summer, there were media reports the Jordanian government wasn't allowing new refugees in. A number of the humanitarian workers told us the military has closed the border in the western part of the country and has turned refugees back because the country can't handle the vast number it already has.

    They didn't want to say this on camera because they feared that it would compromise their ability to help refugees already in Jordan.

    JULIEN SCHOPP, InterAction: From the geography of Syria, the main roads are toward the west. The main cities are toward the west. The main trade routes are towards the west. So, if you go east, you have to go through desert. It's a real, real struggle to actually make it across the border.

    RAY SUAREZ: Julien Schopp is the director of humanitarian practice at InterAction, the umbrella group of nongovernmental organizations performing relief and development work throughout the world.

    JULIEN SCHOPP: So one can assume that all the refugees that are actually walking through the desert are doing so because they cannot find refuge or asylum in any other routes or roads that are most traveled.

    RAY SUAREZ: Jordanian officials, however, deny the military is turning refugees away. Mohammad Al Momani is the government's spokesman. He too met with the delegation of visiting Americans in Amman.

    MOHAMMAD AL MOMANI, Jordanian government: Our policy when it comes to refugees remains the same. Those who reach our borders are actually allowed in, in accordance to international law, international humanitarian law. Any fluctuation with the numbers has to do with the situation inside Syria.

    RAY SUAREZ: Al Momani said the large number of Syrian refugees, in addition to Palestinian and Iraqi refugees who came in earlier waves, is straining his country.

    MOHAMMAD AL MOMANI: This country is a country with limited resources, actually, and with this large number of refugees, it's really putting tremendous, tremendous amount of pressure on our infrastructure, on our economic situation, security forces.

    RAY SUAREZ: Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, the world's second largest with more than 120,000 Syrians packed into a few square miles of desert, has become a poster child of sorts for the harsh conditions facing refugees who have fled Syria.

    Less known to the world, however, are the struggles facing Syrians who live outside the camps in Jordan. They make up 70 percent of Syrian refugee population in the country. As in the camps, children are in many ways being hit the hardest.

    Fatima Hamdi is the mother of a family of nine living in a tent next to an orchard. She's barely hanging on. Hamdi and her 21-year-old son, Ahmad, said they can't afford the basics, including schooling for the younger children in the family.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): They used to be in school in Syria, but in the past two years, they stopped going to school.

    MAN (through translator): Even if they wanted to go to the school, given the situation, it difficult.

    WOMAN (through translator): We don't have the means.

    RAY SUAREZ: Khaldwoon Khadh, who escaped from Syria this past April, lives in an apartment building. His children spend their days at home, instead of getting an education.

    KHALDWOON KHADH, refugee (through interpreter): We visited so many schools , and some of them are so far away, and some said there is no place for our kids. But if the schools will be so far away from my house, we will not register them because I have no money.

    RAY SUAREZ: There are 250,000 Syrian children now living in Jordan. Only 30,000 to 40,000 of them are in school. Since it's illegal for Syrian refugees in Jordan to work, there's often no money for education and other basics.

    KHALDWOON KHADH (through interpreter): For the past two months, I had not work. I worked in piping and electricity in Jordan. But for the past two months, I have no work. I'm not allowed to work. They will take me to jail.

    RAY SUAREZ: Khadh was asked how he pays for food and rent.

    KHALDWOON KHADH (through interpreter): I leave it to God. Whoever has will help the person who doesn't have.

    RAY SUAREZ: This family of 12 can only afford to rent one room and a kitchen. They are supported by their 17-year-old son, who works at farm.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): He gets five or six Jordanian dinars per day.

    MAN (through interpreter): But it depends on the day. And it's not enough.

    RAY SUAREZ: Five or six Jordanian dinars, that's $7 or $8 a day.

    The international community has tried to ease the burden of refugees and their host countries; $500 million has been given to Jordan alone. The United States has provided $100 million and committed another $200 million to help with such things as coping with water shortages and building schools. In addition, the U.S. has committed over a billion dollars to help with the humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis throughout the region.

    As the conflict in Syria continues, the U.N.'s Andrew Harper stresses the need help Jordan withstand the onslaught of refugees.

    ANDREW HARPER: Syria is being destroyed. Egypt is probably going similar. Iraq is going down the drain. So what we need to do is to look at sustainable programs which will ensure that those people fleeing conflict can be protected and assisted for as long as possible.

    And we need to make sure that Jordan is maintained as that hub of stability within the region as long as possible.


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And to our second take on how Syria is impacting the wider region.

    Margaret Warner is in Egypt. I spoke with her earlier today.

    Margaret, the president is out seeking support from the global community. What are you hearing from officials and key players there?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jeff, let's take the major players, starting with the Egyptian government.

    They're clearly opposed, as they made clear in the Arab League this week. The deputy prime minister said to me yesterday, the Egyptian government simply doesn't believe that this will significantly affect Assad's behavior. They don't think it will help the Syrian people. He said, we really are not persuaded by the intelligence, especially after what happened over the Iraq war intelligence. And he said, finally, people in this region, our constituents, are very weary of war after the last two years.

    Then I went to see a figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, and he said much the same thing. He said, it's not logical, is the way he put it, for President Obama to be so concerned about 1,000 people killed in a chemical weapons attack, when 100,000 have been killed, have been slaughtered by Assad in the last two years.

    And, basically, people, Jeff, here, do not accept this distinction that the president's trying to make between the use of chemical weapons and the wholesale killing of Syrian civilians by aerial bombardment and artillery. They see it as an esoteric argument about some international weapons convention treaty that just has no relevance to their lives.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, on the streets, what are you hearing about Syria?

    MARGARET WARNER: Jeff, to a man or woman here, I am hearing the same kind of vehement opposition.

    We interviewed the co-founder of one of the youth movements that got all those millions into the streets, that helped lead to the ouster, the military ouster of President Morsi. And he was violently opposed. He said, why is President Obama supporting the terrorists in the ranks of the rebels?

    And I can also tell you that American officials here are braced for the possibility of a violent reaction from the streets if and when a strike occurs. And they're counting on the Egyptian security forces this time to do a better job of protecting the American Embassy here than they did last 9/11, when, in fact, mobs stormed the American Embassy and some even got over the wall.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, give us a brief preview of what you're working on for next week.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jeff, we're working on whether Egypt, the country in this region that seemed to have a successful Arab spring revolution, seemed to make an evolution to democracy, it has now seen it go up in smoke, and whether they're going to be able to resolve their differences here without resorting to the kind of violence between the two really fiercely opposing camps that we have seen in Syria.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We will look forward to that.

    Margaret Warner in Cairo, thanks so much.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    The president, Mark, went to the Group of 20 meeting over the last few days, hoping they would support the call for military action. They didn't. How much of an embarrassment is it?

    MARK SHIELDS: It's certainly not encouraging for the president. I mean, he did get a statement that, we will hold your coat and we will be -- we will be with you, but we won't participate. So

    I, mean, it's still basically a very, very small coalition at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of an embarrassment, and what does it look like in Congress?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, internationally, it looks a little more unilateral, so it looks a little more Bush-like, to be honest.

    Before, Russia seemed isolated. Now we're looking not isolated, but with a smaller coalition, as Mark said. In Congress, I think it's bad. I think the decision to go to Congress was a very unfortunate decision, because it made it much bigger than Syria itself.

    Now it's a test case for Obama's credibility, credibility around the world, and credibility at home. There is a common assumption that he can rally public opinion, he can lean on Congress, and ultimately they will force Democrats to say -- they don't like the policy, but they will say you can't let Obama go down and have his credibility destroyed.

    I'm really dubious that that's going to be the case. I think Republicans are going to be largely against. That's really clear. The Democrats in their hearts, they're against. The noise from their districts is going to be solidly against. Pelosi is very good at rallying votes. But I think this is a -- going to be an uphill fight for them, and if he loses, it will be really bad for the administration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You agree it was a mistake to go to Congress?

    MARK SHIELDS: No, I don't think it was a mistake to go to Congress, Judy.

    I think I have never seen any president on the eve of initiating military action that is war action, that is hitting another country with less popular support, less public support, less political support, and less international support than the president had a week ago, when we met.

    The idea of doing it then, I don't -- I mean, it just amazes me -- and with all respect to David -- people on the left who say, oh, ignore the Congress. The Congress is lousy.

    I mean, would they have the same attitude if a President Ted Cruz were there? I mean, it is the constitutional order for a president to do that. And when you're making a decision, there's none more grievous than that to go to war. To involve the Congress and the country in that decision, I think is absolutely imperative.

    It's the only way there's going to be any sense of national support, let alone unity, for this action, which is controversial.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You don't agree?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, no, I don't.

    I mean, I certainly agree, if Syria was the main thing. I think, when you go to war, if Syria was the main thing we were worried about, and if we actually had a plan to actually change something materially for the good in Syria, then going to Congress would be fine, and that would be a good thing to do, to get popular support, so the president isn't isolated, so you get enough people on board in the beginning, so they're there at the end when things get complicated.

    That would be fine. But this really isn't about Syria. The policy is not going to do anything materially to affect Syria. We may lob a few missiles in there. That's just face-saving. Let's face it. The real issue is the broader credibility of the president, the international credibility of the United States, especially vis-a-vis Iran.

    This is really about Iran more than Syria. And by going to Congress and potentially getting slapped down, then our credibility vis-a-vis Iran is in shatters, and the president's credibility at home is in shatters.

    And so I just -- on substantive ground, I think Mark is right. On Machiavellian ground, I think it was a mistake.

    MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I just look at this, and I think the president made the case himself, in which he said, a president can go and take military action.

    And let's be honest about -- a Tomahawk missile weighs 2,900 pounds. This is enormous armaments you're delivering upon a country. And we're talking about shooting them in batches of 40. And I just think the president is right. He said, a president can act if the national security of the country is at threat. And he said, I couldn't make that case. I couldn't make the case that the immediate national survival of the United States was at threat, at peril unless I did act.

    So it made sense to go to the Congress. It may not make political, but let's find out. There is in this country a great resistance -- and the president's countered it didn't begin with him and it didn't begin with Syria. There is less trust, less confidence, and less enthusiasm for military intervention.

    It has not -- it can knock a despot out. It doesn't bring peace. It doesn't bring democracy. It doesn't establish a civil state. We have lost confidence in military intervention as a solution, especially in the Middle East.

    I mean, Margaret just reported from Egypt. That's -- if that's the best that we have produced, after billions and billions of aid and support, and 30 years, I mean, that's a tragedy.

    DAVID BROOKS: It's important to remember, the president is now locked into a major, major effort to champion a policy he doesn't really believe in, in a region he wants to get out of.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how did he get into that situation?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, a whole series of mistakes, the red line mistake, the going to Congress mistake, in my view.

    And I'm -- again, I'm just speaking politically. I understand Mark's case on substantive ground if Syria was the real case. A whole series of mistakes he made where he wasn't thinking more than one step ahead, and so he's locked in. So, now we're having a big debate about Syria, which is derailing immigration and everything else he wants to do, when his whole policy was to get out of the Middle East.

    So, how did he get himself locked in? So, my point of view, if I'm the president, get myself out of this box. Just do whatever you have to do in Syria. It won't do any good, probably, but at least it won't destroy the credibility of the office. Now he has raised the stakes and made the stake -- and make the downside just tremendous.

    MARK SHIELDS: It's going to be a big struggle. Part of the problem...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean to get this through the Congress?

    MARK SHIELDS: To get Congress, no question.

    But part of the problem, we saw in Paul's piece with Lisa Lynch on the economy. The U.S. household median income has gone down every year since 2007. You heard them say there are fewer -- a smaller percentage of Americans in the work force today than any year since 1978.

    And so Americans are understandably turning inward and saying, look, we have got problems here. We have got problems that haven't been solved. We don't need to go, whether it's to Syria or to Egypt or to Afghanistan or -- and the bad reports every day from Iraq.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, what about the president's argument, this would be a targeted, narrow strike, that it's all about the chemical weapons...

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, the president...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... and reaching international...

    MARK SHIELDS: Sure.

    And I think the president has high moral ground there, but he's got he's got to make the case. He's not -- to the country, Judy. It's a skeptical country. The people who have made up their mind are against it. He's speaking to a Congress that is skittish.

    We're talking right now -- there are 200 Democrats in the House of Representatives. I think the real fight, both of us agree, is in the House of Representatives. You have got the speaker of the House...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You think it will pass the Senate vote?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think the chances of it passing the Senate -- if it doesn't pass the Senate, then the whole thing is over.

    But, Judy, there are 200 Democrats in the House. All right? And they're counting right now -- they need at least 85 percent of them. Now, that's 170 Democrats out of 200. That's saying that 30 people who have careers, only 30, who voted against every military intervention are going to come over. Many of them will have to come over.

    And then you have only got the Republicans delivering something like 48 out of 233, with the speaker and the majority leader for it. I mean, it's going to be a tough slog.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what happens if he doesn't get the vote? Can he go ahead? I mean, that was what -- he was asked that three times today at a news conference, and he said, I'm not going to answer that.

    DAVID BROOKS: I don't think he can go ahead.

    And then -- I don't know then what he does, because he will -- in Iran, in the Middle East, in the region, the Chinese will be watching. The Iranians will be watching. The whole world will be watching this. And they will see that he couldn't even rally a majority for this, and they will have noticed that. The Americans will be watching.

    Within the Republican Party, by the way, there will be -- and it's already happened within the Republican Party -- the opponents, the noninterventionists, are on the offensive against the establishment, which wants to support this thing. And they're already probably going to crush the establishment. If they win on this, then that will further tilt things within the Republican Party.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But where does it leave the president if he can't -- I realize I'm asking you to speculate, but if he doesn't win, where...

    DAVID BROOKS: I think his credibility would be in tatters. I really think it would affect the second term in a very significant way.

    MARK SHIELDS: I mean, I don't recall a president losing a national security vote in my lifetime.

    I mean, when Bill Clinton had his economic package in 1993, the key to his entire first term, to his domestic program that raised taxes and cut the deficit, the day they voted, Judy, they were 18 votes short in the House. Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice and say, OK, we're going to take a chance, and people are going to come over.

    This is going to be a tough one to get, because a war vote sticks with you for the rest of your career. Make no mistake about it. In 2008, the out-party nomination for president was fought, and the winner's campaign was energized, Barack Obama, because Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton had all voted in 2002 to go to war against Iraq. And it was unpopular.

    Now, if you vote with Barack Obama in 2013, will it be the kiss of death in 2016 for the Republicans? So, I mean, it's a very, very -- politically, it's an incredibly thorny bush.

    DAVID BROOKS: And it should be said, historically, presidents have been able to rally public opinion and rally congressional opinion.

    MARK SHIELDS: That's right. Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: I think that's much less true today, especially in Washington. This is not that Washington anymore, where you had a whole bunch of Republicans especially who were basically national security Republicans, who were going to support an intervention.

    Those Republicans are really a very small number here. The Democrats have moved because of...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraq changed that.

    DAVID BROOKS: Before Iraq, on the Democratic side, you had a number of Democrats who would support intervention for human rights and humanitarian.

    But now Iraq has changed that. So that number is smaller. And so, on both Republican and Democratic side, you have less instinctual support for a presidential intervention.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, you're arguing he should have gone to Congress to get authorization, to ask for authorization, but it's very unlikely he's going to get that...

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS: No, I'm not -- I don't think it's unlikely. I wouldn't bet against the president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You think he...

    MARK SHIELDS: He has got a tough job on Tuesday night, Judy, to make the case.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does he need to say speaking to the country?

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS: What he needs to do, we just had story after story on the trillions of dollars we're spending on all this national security stuff.

    We can tell whether David's credit card was used. If he can't present graphic evidence, compelling evidence to the country about what has gone on in Syria, and the suffering that's happened, I mean, he's really -- I just think he's got to make that case. Do you remember when Adlai Stevenson stood in the U.N. and showed the pictures of the Soviet missiles in Cuba?

    I mean, that -- you have got to do something...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Actually, I don't remember that, but I will take your word for it.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, you don't. Well, I do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

    MARK SHIELDS: But it was -- and it was persuasive.

    And Barack Obama -- and, at the same time, he has that to reestablish his congressional as the anti-war candidate that the Democrats twice nominated and elected.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But do you think they're going to have more evidence to show?

    DAVID BROOKS: No. No, they don't.

    My understanding from speaking to them is they don't have more evidence. And my understanding is that I wouldn't emphasize Syria all that much particularly. I think there's some evidence that the regime did it. I don't think there's much strong argument that whatever we do in Syria is going to make some fundamental difference in Syria.

    So you have a policy that's kind of ineffective, even to those of us who believe in it, and we believe in it not because it's a great policy, because the alternative is much worse. And so that would be my case, that if we don't do this, then the credibility with -- on arming Iran just is very bad.

    And the second thing I would say -- and to go back to Mark's argument about the economy, I do think the president should make a case that, yes, the economy needs to be refurbished and we do need to invest at home, but America just can't withdrawal from the world, and the world becomes a much more dangerous place unless we're an aggressive force in the world. And that aggressiveness, that assertiveness will be gone, at least for a time, if he loses this vote.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that an argument that will win votes?

    MARK SHIELDS: It may win votes in the Congress. I'm not sure it wins votes in the country. And...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we haven't even talked about that.

    MARK SHIELDS: No. I mean, I think that's where he's -- the Congress has to hear from that.

    And let's be very blunt about this. There are people in Congress in the Republican Party who wouldn't vote for Barack Obama if he voted -- if he initiated support for the fire department at the time of arson, if he pushed for a Mother's Day resolution.

    I mean, there is that -- and there were, you will recall, when Bill Clinton was president, Kosovo and Bosnia. There was a large body of Republicans in the House, Tom DeLay leading them, who wouldn't support the president. So, this is partisan and polarized, but it's not the first time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the polls are overwhelmingly against.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    MARK SHIELDS: Strongly against at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we shall see. Tuesday night, he speaks to the nation.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

     


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, we pick up on some of the themes that Mark and David were just talking about.

    As we have heard, the president will make his case about Syria to the nation next week.

    Gwen Ifill gets some historical perspective on the War Powers Act and a commander in chief's ability to sway public opinion.

    GWEN IFILL: As the White House and Congress debate how the U.S. should handle the situation in Syria, what can past military engagements teach us about what we face today?

    For that, we turn to presidential historians and NewsHour regulars Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian: Thanks.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: The most common comparison we have heard in the run-up to this, whatever is going happen next to Syria, is a comparison to Iraq.

    Michael, how much is this like that and how much is this not?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, the Iraq -- one way of comparing it to Iraq was, in the 1980s, Iraq was using chemical weapons against its own people and against Iranians, and the United States didn't do a thing.

    But the problem with the war in Iraq for a president like President Obama nowadays is that everyone has in his or her memory the fact that we went to a very costly war, both in terms of lives, treasure, and years, that was fought, at least ostensibly, to rid the world of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that didn't turn out to exist.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, one of the things that we all remember in our muscle memory is that there have been great debates about war and peace in Congress. And now we see a debate about to unfold that is rooted in the War Powers Act, or is it not?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: It is an outgrowth of the War Powers Act, which is itself an expression of a tug-of-war that is basically older than the republic between the executive and Congress.

    Literally, one of the real points of debate at the Constitutional Convention was over a president's war-making powers. George Mason of my namesake university didn't sign the final document because of his objections.

    More recently, you talk about Iraq, for example. One of the real big differences, it seems to me is, clearly, Iraq was about regime change. I mean, there was that just -- a justification.

    GWEN IFILL: They're making the point that's precisely what this is not about.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Exactly, yes.

    GWEN IFILL: But when you think about the War Powers Act, the president has never really had to go to Congress -- in fact, this president said, I don't have to go, but I'm going to go anyway.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes.

    The War Powers Act was passed in '73. Virtually every president since then has said, I don't think this is constitutional. But at the same time, they plan these military engagements so that it doesn't kick in. Something as grand as the Gulf War in 1991, that was to some extent designed so that it wouldn't last longer than the 60 days that would bring Congress in to say whether this is a good idea or not.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: And, remember, the War Powers Act, again, is very much a creation of its time. It was passed by both houses, literally, the week that Spiro Agnew resigned as vice president, and it was vetoed by a greatly weakened Richard Nixon the same week as the famed Saturday night massacre.

    It represented the absolute nadir of executive authority following Vietnam and Watergate. And, for 40 years, as Michael says, presidents and Congresses, for that matter, have been dancing around the constitutionality of the act.

    GWEN IFILL: How is this different, however, from not only Iraq, but, say, Kosovo, say, Grenada, say, the Nicaraguan Contras, say, Rwanda?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Different from all of them.

    Kosovo is the most recent and big example, 78 days of NATO bombing to make sure that atrocities were not committed any more by Serbs, and that succeeded and wound up in a peace treaty. That was a great success. But Bill Clinton wasn't able to get Congress to agree to this, with the exception of financing it. So, that was a case where he was able to do good without Congress declaring itself involved.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: And Kosovo, in many ways, was a reaction to the fact that the world had done nothing in Rwanda. This is -- this is, needless to say, exactly flipped.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: And the idea, to the contrary, is that chemical weapons is something that civilized nations of the world have felt strongly against ever since mustard gas in the trenches in World War I.

    GWEN IFILL: Including Congress in 2003.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. And no one is doing anything about it.

    If Franklin Roosevelt was here, he would say, that's why I created the United Nations, because they would just pass a resolution and the U.N. would make sure that chemical weapons are not used. Unfortunately, the U.N. never measured up to what he expected.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: And in a real sense, that brings us full circle.

    What this debate is about, among other things, is the meaning of the term American exceptionalism. I mean, the president is taking an almost Wilsonian view that America's greatest weapons literally are not military, they're not bombs and tanks. They are values. They are moral weapons, if you will.

    GWEN IFILL: Is the president taking a view that when you define the national interest, that it's broader than just someone is going to attack us here?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Sure he is.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Yes.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Although, in a very cynical time that we're in, and with great public skepticism that it's no longer the Vietnam syndrome, we're now dealing with the Iraq syndrome, he has got to cloak that in language that, even if it's very contrived, just ties that as much as possible to American national interests as possible, without getting into false claims that, you know, the Syrians about to invade Chicago.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you about that, because we are in the middle of a persuasion period, where the president and his allies are trying to persuade not only Congress, but also the American people, that this is something worth doing.

    Is that something -- have we seen presidents who have been able to change the public's mind about an international intervention in the past?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: No question.

    After Saddam invaded Kuwait, how many Americans were worried about the fact that the government of Kuwait was dominated by the Iraqis? It was George H.W. Bush quickly, in the wake of Vietnam -- it hadn't been that many years -- who said, I want to send 500,000 Americans around the world to retrieve Kuwait, and I think this is something that is in the American interest.

    September of 1990, when that happened, most Americans would have said, this is ridiculous, we're not doing this. But, in a few months, he was able to use the power of the presidency to move Congress and move the people. And that's the key thing. If you go through American history, presidents, even to this day, have an amazing ability to change Americans' minds on foreign policy when they have to.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Literally overnight, Ronald Reagan transformed the mood of the country and the conversation, needless to say, around the watercooler, remember, following the terrible explosion in Lebanon, where over 200 American Marines were killed.

    And what was it? Within 48 hours, 72 hours, American troops were in Grenada liberating American medical students and preventing allegedly a communist takeover of that island. So, sometimes, it isn't words, but deeds.

    GWEN IFILL: And images. Do images change people's minds? We have seen pictures not only of apparently poisoned children, victims of chemical warfare. We have also seen pictures of rebels appearing to line up and assassinate government forces after stripping them.

    Do those images change minds, too?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: They do.

    I mean, Bill Clinton -- we were in Somalia on a humanitarian mission. Americans in 1993 saw an image of a dead American being dragged through the streets. People said, we want no more of this, and he wasn't able to sustain it.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Yes. I actually think it's harder, in this day where we are suffused with images, and the Internet is a significant part of this.

    You can get any truth you want. And I think it's harder for a president. Plus, we haven't even mentioned the president is trying to do this at a time of continuing polarization in the country.

    GWEN IFILL: Richard Norton Smith, Michael Beschloss...

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Stay tuned.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Stay tuned. Thank you.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Thanks.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: You bet.


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    Israel’s recent discovery of huge offshore natural gas reserves could mean a profound transformation for the nation’s economy and for the region's political stability. A small Texas company named Noble Energy took on the challenge of getting the gas to market. Long-time NBC Tel Aviv bureau chief Martin Fletcher reports.

    Tamar Gas Field

    Just 56 miles from Israel’s Mediterranean coast, the Tamar reservoir started flowing earlier this year. Experts believe the reservoir has enough gas to supply Israel for decades. There’s also a supply almost twice as big nearby named Leviathan. And, according to some reports, there may even be oil fields in the area.

    34,000 Tons in the Sea

    Correspondent Martin Fletcher tours Israel's Tamar natural gas platform in the eastern Mediterranean. PBS NewsHour Weekend was the first television crew granted access to the Tamar Platform. “This is a gigantic place,” Fletcher said. “The Tamar platform weighs 34,000 tons. It’s 290 meters high. And 50 people work here, around the clock.” Much of the on-site staff is from Noble Energy’s home state, and Texas accents are common.

    Around the World

    Building the Tamar platform was a massive undertaking. It was an exercise in “Lego-like construction” assembling massive pieces shipped in from around the globe. The 20,000-ton-platform jacket came 8,000 miles from Texas as did the deck. Other elements traveled from shipyards in Europe.

    Lego-like Construction

    The giant platform was guided into place and then hoisted upright. “The base of the platform actually has to slide off and float in the water so that you can catch hold of it and set it up. And there’s people thinking in the back of their mind, 'It is gonna float, right?'"

    Underwater Mileage

    Underwater, the construction tasks were just as massive. Divers at as deep at 240m installed 457 miles of pipe. Over 1,200 miles of umbilical tubing is used to move the gas from the field to the platform -- together they make the longest subsea tie back in the world at 150 km.

    Going Online

    “We thought about it for three years. And we estimated what day it would happen," said Lawson Freeman of Noble Energy. "First it was what year it would happen. Then it was what month. And then what day and then practically what hour it would happen." The Tamar began platform receiving gas in March, 2013.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    KRISTEN GILLESPIE: It’s been months now since Dallal Al-Absi last saw her husband.

    In January, she says government forces attacked their village in a rebel-controlled area in southwestern Syria and several of their relatives – including children -- were killed.

    A short time later, she fled the country with her own kids. Her husband stayed behind.

    DALLAL AL ABSI: (in Arabic, translated) I came to Jordan in spite of myself. I did not want to come, but my husband made me for the sake of our children, so that they can stay safe. He saw his brothers’ children getting killed, and he told me to run.

    KRISTEN GILLESPIE: This is where she came – to the Zaatari refugee camp, about 10 miles across the border from Syria in northern Jordan. The camp opened only a year ago but, as the civil war back home has escalated, its population has swelled.

    The camp has grown so large – to more than 120,000 people –that it actually feels like a city. 

    Zaatari camp is today the fourth most populous place in Jordan. All along this road, shops have opened on a street where the French government opened a hospital. It’s known as the Champs Elysees , or, people here call it the Cham d’Elysees. Cham -- meaning Syria -- in Arabic.

    It is now the second largest refugee camp in the world – and that has put a strain on nearby communities in Jordan, where water is often scarce.

    The surge in the refugee population has also severely taxed humanitarian efforts, says Aoife  McDonnell of the United Nations.

    AOIFE MCDONNELL, United Nations High Commission for Refugees: If we want to continue to support these people we have got to be well funded. The delivery of water, the delivery of food everyday, the provision of, of shelters, not just tents but a pre-fab, something that a family can call a temporary home. A shelter that they can stand up straight in. Every single aspect of service delivery in this kind of environment is incredibly difficult.

    KRISTEN GILLESPIE: Life is certainly difficult for those they are trying to help. Dallal and nine others live in an unfurnished 200-square foot tin shed. They sleep on mattresses on the floor, use communal bathrooms several hundred feet away, and rely on a gas cylinder to cook. They get free rations of oil, sugar, tea and rice. When we visited she was cooking something called mashi, zucchini stuffed with rice. She can purchase vegetables and other items at shops in the camp.

    DALLAL AL ABSI: (in Arabic, translated) Our life here is hard-really hard. We have so little. I need to work to support my daughters. I have to feed six girls.

    KRISTEN GILLESPIE: We asked her 13-year-old daughter about her life in the camp.

    KRISTEN GILLESPIE: (in Arabic) How is life in the camp?

    LAMA AL-ABSI: (in Arabic, translated) It is not good. Our country is better than here. There, we go to school, we go to other places, we go out and play with our friends. Here, we don’t have friends.///We used to go to school but it is too far from here in the camp. We cannot go there.

    DALLAL AL ABSI: (in Arabic, translated) I am afraid for my daughters and the school is far. All we do is sit at home all day.

    AOIFE MCDONNELL, United Nations High Commission for Refugees: These are ordinary families. Families that had homes, that had washing machines, that had a pick up truck, and their own kitchen and bathroom, and now they're facing a who knows how long, um, living with their families in a tent.

    KRISTEN GILLESPIE: The challenges facing aid workers might actually grow if there is a military attack against Syria. UN officials say they are making contingency plans to house an additional 150,000 Syrians who might flee into Jordan.

    That could mean more divided families… just like Dallal’s. For now, her only connection to her husband is the phone.

    DALLAL AL ABSI: (on phone, in Arabic, translated) Hello, peace to you – how are you? How is the village today? The bombing is still going on? God help us, sweetheart.


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