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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tens of thousands of Syrians have also fled to Egypt. For more about that and for the latest diplomatic maneuvering in the Arab world, we're joined now from Cairo by The NewsHour's Chief Foreign Correspondent Margaret Warner.

    How many Syrians have taken refuge in Egypt and are they being welcomed there?

    MARGARET WARNER: Hari, there are more than 100,000 Syrian refugees here. Now in a country of more than 80 million, that doesn't sound like much. But they're mostly concentrated in the cities, here in Cairo and Alexandria, and they're not being terribly welcomed. I've heard a lot of complaints from Egyptians saying you see them on every corner begging.

    Since the military ousted President Morsi July 3, police and military have been rounding up Syrian men and boys, putting them in detention essentially accusing them of being Morsi supporters or Muslim Brotherhood supporters and deporting some of them. And there are reports that some of the Syrian refugees feel so unwelcomed and threatened that they're paying smugglers to try to get them into Europe.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Let's talk about a bigger picture. It was about four years ago, June 2009, President Obama comes to the city that you're standing in now, tries to reset relations in the Middle East with that very big speech, the new beginning. With the reporting you've done over the past few days on this trip, what are you hearing about how much support Arab governments are willing to give the United States on a possible strike in Syria?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, one thing's for sure, Hari, there will not be a unified Arab support for a strike here as there was, vis-à-vis, Libya. You had the Arab League Meeting here earlier this week. Though the members did endorse the idea, the accusation that Bashar al Assad was behind that August 21st chemical weapons attack, they refused to endorse the military strike. And at the G-20 meeting that just ended in St. Petersburg, only two of the Muslim countries, majority Muslim countries there, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, signed onto this statement that called for some sort of,  quote enforcement of the prohibition against chemical weapons used.

    Secretary Kerry discussed in his testimony this week that there might be some financial support from Arab countries for such an operation. But so far, nothing has been at least materialized publicly about that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the Egyptian streets, so to speak? I know there are still people out because the curfews have been eased. But what do they say about possibly a military strike by the United States? Do they support it?

    MARGARET WARNER: I have talked to dozens of Egyptians in this past week. I have not met one, not one, that supports a strike against Syria, despite their compassion for people who were gassed in the chemical weapons attack.

    They talk about Iraq, that fact the U.S. intelligence is faulty. And the fact that Iraq has descended back into sectarian strife and is exporting jihadi terrorists to Syria and some they fear to Egypt.

    The other thing, Hari, is that this is exacerbated here by the strongest strain of Anti-Americanism I have ever felt. The pro-military ouster of Morsi Camp feels strongly that we, that is the Obama administration, coddled President Morsi as he became more and more autocratic, Morsi supporters, Muslim Brotherhood supporters went to a rally and angrily say to me, ‘Why won't your president call what happened a coup?’

    It's coming from both sides. And that has definitely made itself felt on us. We've been thrown out of restaurants. We've had people refuse to be interviewed because we're  Americans. We've had our local producer called a traitor to Egypt for working with us. So there is not much of a feeling of connection right between average Egyptians and really anything Americans do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While the world's been focused on Syria, the situation in Egypt seems to be deteriorating.

    MARGARET WARNER: It is deteriorating in the sense that this is becoming a very divided society. When we were just first during the revolution 2 1/2 years ago, seculars and Islamists alike were united in their excitement at ousting a dictator. And even later that year, at the end of the year when there was great unhappiness with military rule,  but still those two camps were united. Now you have deep polarization between the two-- each side branding the other as either as anti-democratic power grabbers or as terrorists.

    And one woman said to me on the street yesterday, it's so sad, ‘We don't even talk to each other anymore.’ She said, ‘if you're in the other group, I can't hear you.’ So this is -- who knows where it is going? This new government may be able to bring about some sort of a conciliation and get a civilian democracy back here. But for now, I would say it's very up in the air.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Margaret Warner, Chief Foreign Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour reporting for us from Cairo, thanks so much.

    MARGARET WARNER: My pleasure, Hari.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally -- The Connection -- our regular feature to help you make sense of all those scattered news items bombarding you every day.

    Tonight, sorting through contradictory marijuana laws.

    We started thinking about this recently when we heard New Jersey Governor Chris Christie say some chronically ill children should be allowed to take an edible form of marijuana -- as long as a pediatrician and a psychiatrist approve.

    The potential presidential contender -- said, "I believe that parents, and not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children."

    New Jersey is one of twenty states that allow medical marijuana. Out west, some states have gone further.

    Last November, Colorado and Washington State approved ballot measures allowing recreational use of the drug.

    And just 10 days ago, the Obama administration said, as long as strict regulations are in place, it would not challenge marijuana laws in those states - a decision that Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said "sends the wrong message to both law enforcement and violators of the law."

    It sounds like a good subject for a constitutional law class. But some people aren't taking the issue too seriously.

    A Washington Post reporter wrote that the issue was creating a "buzz." and that the president isn't "high" on the idea of ending the federal ban on the drug.

    Of course, thousands attending the recent hemp festival in Seattle didn't exactly spend the day analyzing the nuances of the law.

    Even though they were breaking the very forgiving Washington state law by smoking outside, they didn't have to hide from police.

    Instead of issuing tickets, the cops handed out bags of Doritos.

    YOUNG MAN:“These are delicious

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The police say they weren't trying to treat the munchies. Turns out these were actually educational bags of chips, detailing what the Washington state law does and does not allow.

    Seattle authorities, it seems, working hard to weed out fact from fiction.


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    MARTIN FLETCHER: It’s a running joke here in Israel: Moses led the Jews through the desert for forty years to the only place in the Middle East with no oil, no gas. So for all its 65 years, Israel has been almost totally dependent on fuel imports for energy. Costly and precarious for a nation surrounded by often hostile neighbors.

    But now that’s all changing. Israel has at last discovered so much natural gas, it’s heading towards energy independence, a gas exporter in just a few years.

    Fifty-six miles off Israel’s Mediterranean coast, the Tamar reservoir started flowing earlier this year – with enough gas to supply Israel for decades. Another field nearby, almost twice as big, should be pumping in three to four years. Israel believes both fields lie well within its maritime borders – though the Lebanese government has challenged that.

    The stakes are high because there are also reports of huge oil deposits near the very same gas fields. Some call these new discoveries an economic miracle.

    GIDEON TADMOR: Amazing. Amazing. Amazing story.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: And that joke about Moses?

    GIDEON TADMOR: We proved that joke to be wrong.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: It all began with Gideon Tadmor and his small Israeli company which began drilling for oil and gas onshore in 1991.

    GIDEON TADMOR (DELEK DRILLING CHAIRMAN): Obviously we needed luck and god’s help. We needed the resources to be underground. But I think that unique contribution that we were able to bring is the human spirit and the belief.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Tadmor – a lawyer by training - also needed partners with drilling experience willing to invest millions. He had a hunch there was gas in Israeli waters because Egypt had found some nearby, and sought investment from the Texas oil giants. But he says, nobody bit. Afraid, he believed, of upsetting their much bigger customers, the Arabs. Finally a small Texas company, with no Arab clients, today called Noble Energy, agreed to invest in the Israeli dream.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: It was a completely new industry here, is that correct?

    LAWSON FREEMAN (NOBLE ENERGY): That’s correct.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: You literally helped found it from nothing?”

    LAWSON FREEMAN: A that’s correct.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Gas began flowing through the Tamar platform in March. It should soon be able to generate most of Israel’s electricity, instead of relying on costly imports of coal, diesel and heavy fuel oil.

    LAWSON FREEMAN: We estimate that in fuel savings alone to the power plants that go right to the consumer, that over the life of Tamar, Israel will save over $100 billion in fuel savings.

    It took considerable engineering to get at the gas. Five wells were drilled – some more than three miles below the sea bed – in waters too deep for a production platform. So pipes were laid to shallower waters more than 90 miles away - the longest so-called “tie back” in the world. The platform and base were built in Texas and transported more than 8,000 miles to the Mediterranean…where the base was plunged into the sea and the platform placed on top. From conception to operation – just over four years.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: This is a gigantic place. The Tamar platform weighs 34,000 tons. It’s 290 meters high. And fifty people work here, around the clock.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: This is where it's coming in.

    On the platform, water and humidity are separated from the gas. It then comes onshore here, is filtered again, and is fed to multiple power stations which convert it into electricity to feed Israel’s electric grid.

    It's already helping the environment. Today 40% of Israel’s electricity is fueled by gas. It’s much cheaper, and much cleaner, than oil.

    LAWSON FREEMAN: We’ve saved the country 17 million metric tons of co2 emissions.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: What does that mean?

    LAWSON FREEMAN: That’s the equivalent of taking all the cars in Israel off the road for a year. So it’s a big thing.

    The biggest benefit: a huge boost to Israel’s economy. Gas will add 1% to Israel’s GDP this year. And that’s triggered a debate here.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: What will Israel do with its financial windfall? The key question: will energy independence make Israel stronger. And how?

    It’s a red-hot topic in a country that already spends twenty percent of its budget on defense, far more than other western nations. Critics worry that protecting the new platforms - sitting ducks at sea - will mean even more money is diverted from domestic spending to defense. And they say that’s a bad idea.

    There have also been protests about the government’s plan to export much of the gas. The government says that will generate billions in new revenues. But critics say the government acted without necessary parliamentary approval and are challenging the plan in court.

    Lawmakers like Tamar Zandberg say more gas should be kept at home, and more of the gas revenues should be invested in domestic projects other than defense.

    TAMAR ZANDBERG: There is an economic and a social threat and poverty is a bigger threat than security right now to Israel. Prices are going up, salaries are going down, and social services like, for example, housing are being neglected. We should build a more viable and a more sustainable economy. And this is something that the natural gas can truly help doing, but we need to be patient.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: And there's another aspect to this story: How will Israel's gas find affect the always volatile politics of the region? That's a concern because the gas basin is believed to extend into waters off Syria and Lebanon -- both technically at war with Israel. And Israel’s maritime border with Lebanon is in dispute. Michael Levi an expert on natural gas and energy security at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees both opportunities and risks because of the gas discoveries. He worries that maritime border disputes could erupt.

    MICHAEL LEVI: If you disagree about where your borders are and you both claim areas as your own, if something valuable is discovered there, you’re going to have some conflict, at least diplomatic, over who gets to develop the wealth of that area.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: But he also sees opportunities as well.

    MICHAEL LEVI: Now we’re looking at Israeli exports into the Palestinian territories and into Jordan that will intensify the economic relationship between those parties. And on top of all that, you’ll see discussions about new trade relationships. For example, will Israel be able to strike up trade arrangements with Turkey.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Better Arab-Israeli relations? Inshallah, they say in Arabic. Bezrat hashem, in Hebrew. With God’s help. But whatever happens, gas and oil will make Israel a wealthier country, less reliant on others. And that's no joking matter.


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    President Barack Obama sat down with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff Aug. 28 at the White House. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

    PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill will interview President Obama on Monday at the White House.

    (Saturday, September 7, 2013 - Arlington, VA) In the second interview with PBS NEWSHOUR in as many weeks, President Obama will sit down with NEWSHOUR Co-Anchor and Managing Editor Gwen Ifill on Monday, September 9, 2013.

    The President is expected to discuss his latest attempts to build support from the American public, Congress and the international community for a military strike against Syria in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21.

    The interview with President Obama airs Monday on the inaugural broadcast of the new PBS NEWSHOUR, with Ifill and Judy Woodruff as co-anchors and managing editors. It will also be available via the PBS NEWSHOUR live stream on our homepage and via the PBS NEWSHOUR Ustream channel.

    Ifill and Woodruff interviewed Mr. Obama at the White House on Aug. 28. Watch that interview or read the transcript here.

    Online, PBS NEWSHOUR offers a wealth of information about a variety of topics including:

    SYRIA • A resource guide to the Syrian crisisHow to tell Congress your opinion on SyriaHow do you want your Congressperson to vote on Syria

    POLITICS - http://www.pbs.org/newshour/topic/politics/

    WORLD AFFAIRS - http://www.pbs.org/newshour/topic/world/

    MEDIA CONTACT: Anne Bell abell@newshour.org Office - (703) 998-2175 Cell - (703) 334-1193

    As the Associated Press reports, the president "faces a high-stakes week of trying to convince a skeptical Congress and a war-weary American public that they should back him on a military strike against Syria."

    More from the AP:

    His administration came under pressure Saturday from European officials to delay possible action until U.N. inspectors report their findings about an Aug. 21 chemical attack that Obama blames on the Assad government.

    Yet foreign ministers meeting in Lithuania with Secretary of State John Kerry did endorse a "clear and strong response" to an attack they said strongly points to President Bashar Assad's government. Kerry welcomed the "strong statement about the need for accountability," although the EU did not specify what an appropriate response would be.

    The days ahead represent one of the most intense periods of congressional outreach for Obama, who's not known for investing heavily in consultations with Capitol Hill.

    Just back from a European trip, Obama is working to salvage a policy whose fate he's placed in lawmakers' hands.

    His administration's lobbying campaign culminates Tuesday, the evening before a critical vote is expected in the Senate. Obama will address the nation from the White House to make his case for military action.

    "Over 1,400 people were gassed. Over 400 of them were children," Obama said Friday at the close of a global summit in Russia.

    "This is not something we've fabricated. This is not something that we are using as an excuse for military action," he said. "I was elected to end wars, and not start them."

    A passionate debate in Congress, which returns to work Monday after its summer break, already is underway.

    On Wednesday, the first showdown Senate vote is likely over a resolution authorizing the "limited and specified use" of U.S. armed forces against Syria for no more than 90 days and barring American ground troops from combat. A final vote in the 100-member chamber is expected at week's end.

    A House vote is likely the week of Sept. 16.

    Last weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on the major Sunday talk shows. This Sunday, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough is preparing to do the same.

    The NewsHour's presidential interview will take place at the White House and will air in full on the show Monday evening and here on our website.

    Ifill and co-anchor Judy Woodruff interviewed the president at the White House on Aug. 28. Watch that interview below or read the transcript here.

    Tune in Monday and follow @NewsHour for updates.

    Read More:

    Syria Coverage: View all of our coverage of the Syrian Civil War

    Cheat Sheet on the Conflict: View the cheat sheet

    Talk to Your Member of Congress: Here's how

    Weigh In: Tell Us How You Want Your Lawmakers to Vote

    For more coverage, visit our politics page and our world page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Support Your Local PBS Station

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    Celebrated author Michael Chabon speaks with NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown about the artists colony community in Peterborough, N.H.

    The first time author Michael Chabon came to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H., it was 1996 and he was the new father to a one-year-old child.

    "The introduction of a child into my life had proved much more disruptive of my work than I [anticipated]," he said. "I wasn't really prepared for it."

    On the recommendation of a friend, novelist Mona Simpson, he came to MacDowell, an artists colony that supports the arts by giving selected fellows a quiet, inspiring place to live and work without distraction.

    Today, Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, author of "Manhood for Amateurs" and chairman of MacDowell.

    In a conversation with NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown, Chabon drew upon his own experiences living as an artist-in-residence at MacDowell.

    "The experience you have while you're here is constantly one of gratitude," he said.

    "There are very few times in your life that you have the experience of a place that is almost too good to be true. That shouldn't exist."


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    PBS talk show host Charlie Rose, right, interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Sunday in Damascus. His interview will air on PBS at 9 p.m. EDT Monday. PBS NewsHour Weekend's Hari Sreenivasan spoke to Rose Sunday. Listen to their conversation below.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Charlie Rose on Sunday that he is preparing for a U.S. strike, and that Syria and some of their allies would retaliate if one occurs. I spoke with Rose, host of the PBS program that bears his name, as he was boarding his flight back to the United States after interviewing Assad in Damascus, Syria, Sunday morning. It is the first interview the Syrian president has given to an American network in nearly two years.

    Rose said that Assad denies he had anything to do with the alleged chemical attack on Aug. 21 which the U.S. administration reports killed more than 1400 Syrians.

    President Barack Obama has planned a media blitz on Monday when he is expected to discuss his latest attempts to build support for a military strike against Syria. The president has granted interviews to several network news anchors including PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill. The president also plans to address the nation Tuesday night to make his case directly to the people on the need for military action in response to what he believes is the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

    Assad also said that he finds chemical weapons abhorrent and equates them to nuclear arms as weapons of mass destruction, Rose said.

    Rose's entire interview with President Assad -- approximately an hour long -- will be aired on PBS at 9 p.m. EDT Monday. Excerpts will be released Monday on CBS This Morning as well as CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley. Rose works for multiple programs on both PBS and CBS.

    Read More:

    Syria Coverage: View all of our coverage of the Syrian Civil War

    Cheat Sheet on the Conflict: View the cheat sheet

    Talk to Your Member of Congress: Here's how

    Weigh In: Tell Us How You Want Your Lawmakers to Vote

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

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We are joined by Susan Davis, a Congressional reporter for "USA Today." Thanks for being with us. A lot of people might not realize this could take several weeks to play out – that the decision is not happening immediately.

    SUSAN DAVIS: It's entirely possible. It depends largely and in part on how well the President's message is received on Tuesday, what sense we get whether members of Congress are coming together on this or falling apart on this. And we’ll know this better in the early part of next week.

    The first test of this is going to come Wednesday when the Senate will have a test vote to see how much support is there. If the Senate runs out the clock it could come as late as the weekend on next weekend on next weekend. And the House has made clear they are not going to vote until the Senate proves they can pass something.  So if that’s the case it would likely spill at least into the week after next. So the first two weeks back seem to be clearly dominated by the Syria debate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  We heard from Senator Rand Paul that he wants to do everything he can to stop it and he has a history of filibustering.

    SUSAN DAVIS: It’s entirely possible, I think what we are going to see in the test vote on Wednesday when you need a 60-vote threshold to get past this. I think Harry Reid has been confident he can get there in part because some Democrats, Joe Manchin for instance,  is a Democrat who has said he’s going to going to oppose the resolution but would not necessarily be a vote to uphold a filibuster. People are going to vote against it in the end but don't want to be obstructionist to the Senate having to take the tough vote.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:   In a recent survey by the Associated Press it said half the Senate and a third of the House are against it.  What about all the constituents they are hearing from who are opposed to taking military action?

    SUSAN DAVIS:  The one absolute we have heard from every member of Congress we talked across the political spectrum is that they are hearing from constituents about it and they are ten to one are against it. I think that is part of the odds stacked against the President as he tries to make his case to Congress.

    I caution that a lot of the vote counts that they count what are lean no’s and lean yes’s. We are coming off of a five week break. A lot of members of Congress have not been in Washington. A lot have not been privy to the classified briefings. While it is an indicator and while there does not seem to be much momentum moving in the favor of the President there are still a lot of factors that weigh in on how the vote comes down.

    I will say that is does  seems in the Republican-controlled House it is much harder slog, much more of an uphill battle. Not only to get Republicans on board but traditionally have Presidents had to rely on members of their own party to get this passed. Democrats control the Senate. They have about 200 votes in the House and it seems clear they have to build the majority of the support if the resolution has any chance of passing Congress.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:   Considering there are both edges of the political spectrum stacked against the President here, what does he have to do to try to reach both Democrats and Republicans?

    SUSAN DAVIS:   One thing that I think they are listening to on Tuesday night ,along with their constituents, is the argument that the President makes. Partly they have made it as a national security argument. But I think what we have seen through the weekend and what we’ve seen coming from the President is the humanitarian element to it.  I think it is a question of morality and of right and wrong; of whether we can allow people who perpetrated chemical attacks and killed hundreds of children to do so without repercussions.

    That is a message that he is going to press. It’s a message that we have heard consistently from Nancy Pelosi the Democratic leader in the House.  And I think it comes going to come down to a question of what is right and what is wrong.

    They seem to have backed away from the argument that this is not potentially an immediate threat to the national security of the United States which is a litmus test for a lot of members. But he  is going to have to make what is a clear emotional appeal to the sense of humanity not only in lawmakers but in their constituencies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:   Thanks so much.

    SUSAN DAVIS: Thanks for having me.

     


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: What will Congress be doing in the upcoming session when it’s not discussing Syria? Joining us now from Washington for that is Christina Bellantoni, she is the NewsHour’s Political Editor.

    So, Christina, this would otherwise be a consequential week in Congress. What else is going on?

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: There are a lot of things on Congress' plate. When they left for an August recess, one thing we thought the House would be turning to is immigration reform. The Senate passed by overwhelming bipartisan majority a comprehensive bill. Lawmakers on the House side are not as in favor of a comprehensive approach so they are going to put some piecemeal pieces of legislation on the floor to start considering those that might address the visa system and that would get people closer towards some sort of compromise package. That’s not going to happen, especially given what is happening with Syria. But the other major piece of this is spending: the debt, the deficit and what they are doing about funding the government.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the folks that we spoke to on Facebook was asking ‘What about the government shut down. Why isn't anybody talking about that?’ What do we have, nine days or so left when they get back?

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Exactly. Congress will have nine working days and what they need to do is come up with what is known as a continuing resolution. This is because of a divided government, they don't actually have the ability to pass a real budget that keeps the government funded and looks at different levels of spending for different agencies. Instead they have short-term resolutions usually that in place for one year. But that has been getting shorter and shorter. This is the third time we have had such a big argument about how to fund the government. And it expires on September 30, so if there is not a new continuing resolution in place by then, that means you could have a partial or full government shutdown.

    And the big sticking point here is that lot of House Republicans or conservative Republicans in the Senate would like to see the President's healthcare law defunded, parts of it that will be implemented over the fall over the next few months, they can take away the funding for that. And so that’s where the fight lies.

    If that isn't agreed to by that September 30 deadline -- it could be a real fight. In addition to that, you have the limit for what the government can spend on its debt. And that is coming to pass very soon. So that is all getting lumped into one big argument about spending.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So a little bit about this Obamacare push again to try to repeal it. It has been attempted many different times. Why now?

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, partially you see groups like the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups really capitalize on the popularity of some of the conservative Senate republicans. Senator Ted Cruz is one of them. Senator Mike Lee of Utah is another. And they’ve been out there all summer really beating the drum on this. And they are actually planning a massive rally on Tuesday. I should not necessarily say massive. We don't know which size it is actually going to be.

    And the focus is mostly on Syria and we’ve got the presidential address on Tuesday. They are going to have this ‘Defund Obamacare’ rally in Washington on Tuesday to really make the case for that, to to say we have a lot of unanswered questions about it. They are angry that the White House delayed the employer mandate for implementation of the health care law. And what they are really trying to do is choke it a little bit so it doesn't get fully implemented. Meanwhile, Democrats are using this as a campaign issue, as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Christina Bellantoni, Political Editor of the PBS NewsHour, thanks so much.

    CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Thank you.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: One issue unlikely to take up much time in Congress this fall is homelessness.

    What are cities doing about it? That's the subject of our regular feature- The Connection.

    We came across a story from Bogota Columbia about that city's ambitious new plan -- not only to feed the homeless -- but to offer them a shower, shave and vaccinations too.

    WORKER: We do this with the goal of restoring their dignity.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That same day, we read another story about the homeless in Columbia -- Columbia south Carolina.   That city is now offering its homeless a choice -- voluntarily go to a shelter not downtown or face arrest.

    Local merchants had complained that homeless people near their shops were hurting business.

    RESIDENT: We pay taxes, property taxes, business taxes, business license fees, and we deserve protection of our city.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That city is not alone. A New York community group has sued the Bloomberg administration for housing the homeless in their neighborhood.
     
    And in Indianapolis, police arrested four homeless who refused to leave the camp they had set up under a bridge.

    HOMELESS MAN: We had a community together.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You have to wonder if there'd be more sympathy for the homeless if we actually heard from them.

    TED: Thank you so much.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Think about what happened after a reporter engaged a homeless man two years ago in Columbus Ohio. The reporter had been intrigued by the man's sign, claiming he was a former radio announcer.

    REPORTER: I’m going to make you work for your dollar, say something with that great radio voice.

    TED: When you're listening to nothing but the best of oldies, you're listening to magic, 98.9.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The tape the reporter shot quickly went viral. And the homeless man was soon flown to New York where he appeared on The Today Show...

    MATT LAUER: It's great to have you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He was then offered a job doing voiceover work for Kraft.

    TED: You know you love it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That got us thinking about the all the others still out on the streets. What are their stories? How do they get home?

     


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    MICHAEL CHABON: Hello! Welcome all you raging Sondheimians who have made the pilgrimage here today to bask in the radiance of the master.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  A glorious August day in southern New Hampshire… and the prestigious MacDowell arts colony is giving its annual medal to musical theater’s most celebrated living composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim.

    In its 106 years, MacDowell, which has given countless artists a place to do their work, has honored the likes of Aaron Copland, Philip Roth, and Edward Albee, but never before an artist from musical theatre.

    Sondheim told us he’s grateful for the honor… but he admits to at least some ambivalence about the ‘elder statesman’ treatment. 

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: As you get older, you get -- a lot of -- a lot of awards, yeah. You get venerable.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You get venerable?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: Yeah.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How do you feel about being venerable?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: Well, it's good and bad.  You start believing your own notices, and that's not so good.  

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And so at 83, Sondheim isn’t simply enjoying the admiration of his many fans. He is taking on new challenges.  He’s working on a project debuting in the fall with jazzman Wynton Marsalis, that’s billed as a celebration of New York and a re-imagination of Sondheim’s work.

    Disney is producing a film version of his musical “Into the Woods.”

    He spread pitch on the stairs.
    I was caught unawares.
    And I thought: well, he cares

    And he’s also working on a new musical called “All Together Now”, with playwright David Ives.

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: As other people have said before me -- if it isn’t dangerous, it isn’t worth doing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And when you’re in that process, are you running up against doubts and uncertainties.

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM:  Oh, all the time. Come on. Everybody faces a blank piece of paper no matter what they’ve written or painted or composed before. I can’t imagine approaching every single new project with-without doubt. In fact, I think if you do, it’s not going to turn out that well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re trying to do something dangerous?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM:  Something that scares you -- exploring new territory; something that you are not smug about; that you’re not certain about.  You want to surprise yourself.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Sondheim’s been surprising audiences and critics for nearly 60 years now.  

    He’s won a Pulitzer, 8 Tonys, 8 Grammys and an Academy Award.  It all dates back to the 1950s, when he wrote the lyrics to Leonard Bernstein’s score for “West Side Story.”

    Life can be bright in America
    If you can fight in America

    JEFFREY BROWN:  But even this early success was more complicated than Sondheim had imagined.

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: I certainly wanted my name in lights. I wanted my name on a marquee. I wanted recognition on Broadway. And then once I had my name on a marquee on Broadway with “West Side Story,” suddenly ‘gee, that’s all that is?’

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM:  I felt in a way deflated. Yeah. Because it was exciting. But, ‘ok, now what?’ And then you realize that you do that because you want to write something that you like, as opposed to write something that’s going to get your name in lights or be successful.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Over the next decades, as Broadway arguably went lighter…

    Sondheim went deeper, using language and music to explore complex ideas:

    Adult relationships in “Company”…

    You don’t live for her 
    You do live with her,
    you're scared she's starting
    to drift away,
    and scared she'll stay.

    The artistic process itself in “Sunday in the park with George”…Studying a face,

    Stepping back to look at a face
    Leaves a little space in the way like a window.
    But to see--
    It's the only way to see.

    And murderous vengeance in what many believe to be his masterwork, “Sweeney Todd,” set in Victorian London. 

    Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
    His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
    He shaved the faces of gentlemen
    who never thereafter were heard of again.

    FRANK RICH (at podium): In show after show Steve kept pushing the boundaries of the musical.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich introduced Sondheim at the MacDowell ceremony… and spoke to us.

    FRANK RICH: I’d argue that he singlehandedly has kept the modern musical theater in a serious place. It could have gone in a way where it could’ve just petered out or just been all frivolous, lowest common denominator. Sondheim kept the path of saying, ‘you know you can do Sweeney Todd. You can do Pacific Overtures and you can do Sunday in the Park with George. It doesn’t have to be all Cats and special effects and chorus girls and boys.’

    JEFFREY BROWN: Did you ever in your career have times where you were afraid to write because of the high expectations that were placed around you?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: The older I get, the more that’s true. Absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Still?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: Sure, absolutely. Because what that means is suddenly you’re not thinking about yourself. You’re thinking about the audience. And as soon as you think about the audience from that point of view, you’re dead.  Suddenly, you're thinking of yourself as an icon, as a figure or something like that.  And that's deadly.  That's just deadly.

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM (SPEECH): That’s the trouble with awards for a body of work.  They always come at both a good time and a wrong time.  Good because they tell you what you’ve been doing was worth the doing and wrong because they ought to come when you’re young and excited and hungry for assurance that what you’re doing is worth the doing.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Age, doubts and, yes, new honors are part of his life now. But, Sondheim says the challenge, and the work, keep him going.

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: That’s why I don’t like the word ‘career’. When somebody says to me, ‘oh, you’ve had such a wonderful career’, I think, ‘career -- that’s after you’re dead.’ I just don’t think that way.

    JEFFREY BROWN and how do you think?  I mean just day to day?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: That’s it. One show at a time.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Piece to piece and show to show. That just keeps you excited?

    STEPHEN SONDHEIM: Absolutely, sure. Then I’m 20 years old again. And what you want to do it get back to what you were like at 20. You’ve got to get hungry again. And the older and more venerated you get the less hungry you get. But as soon as you get hungry, then it’s fun again. 

     


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    A study released Wednesday by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization reports that one-third of the food produced in the world gets wasted. The annual loss of food is said to be $750 million.

    The AP reported the study states, "food waste hurts the environment by causing unnecessary carbon emissions, extra water consumption and the reduction of biodiversity as farming takes over more land."

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  • 09/11/13--08:04: NASA remembers Sept. 11
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    NASA posted this Instagram photo Wednesday morning, showing smoke billowing from downtown Manhattan in Sept. 11, 2001.

    Astronaut Frank Culbertson was the commander of Expedition 3 on the International Space Station when the attacks happened. He said he saw a "big cloud of debris" over New York City. When he realized what had happened, he reported from the ISS, "We flew past New York City and saw the effects of the attack on that city." He said it was like seeing, "a wound in the side of your country, family, and friends."

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    By Vivek Wadhwa

    Peter Thiel, who funds and mentors young entrepreneurs, speaks at a TEDx conference in Silicon Valley. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Suzie Katz via Creative Commons.

    Paul Solman: Our friend Vivek Wadhwa, last seen on this page tolling the death knell for Microsoft, has been engaged in a long-running debate, some would say feud, with Peter Thiel, who in 2010 starting paying young people to drop out of college (or never enroll) and become entrepreneurs instead. So what's become of Thiel's experiment? Vivek shares his view of the results thus far.

    Vivek Wadhwa: Frustrated that Silicon Valley's entrepreneurs "were not focused on breakthrough technologies that will take civilization to the next level," Peter Thiel announced the Thiel Fellowship in September 2010. He paid children $100,000 not to complete their college educations. His plan was to have them build world-changing companies instead of wasting their time at school burdened by "incredible amounts of debt."

    In an article that I wrote when I first heard about his idea, I pleaded, "Friends don't let friends take education advice from Peter Thiel." The best path to success is not to drop out of college, but to complete it, I argued. "Thiel's experiment will increase the probability of success for the students he selects," said Stanford Engineering Dean Jim Plummer, "because of the mentoring and the financial help they will receive."

    Indeed, with all the connections and hand-holding that they receive, the Thiel Fellows, Plummer and I expected, would achieve success exceeding that of other Stanford engineering graduates and dropouts -- and of those in similar startup incubators like Y-Combinator and TechStars. We thought that because the deck was stacked, there would be many wildly successful Thiel startups.

    MORE FROM VIVEK WADHWA The Immigrant Brain Drain: How America Is Losing Its High-Tech Talent

    But three years later, I'm not amazed at any Thiel startups. The few successes lauded seem to be a mirage -- or just plain silly. After all, is a "caffeine spray," which Thiel Fellow Ben Yu developed with venture capitalist Deven Soni, a world-changing innovation that will "take civilization to the next level"? I don't think so.

    The best-known Thiel Fellow is Dale Stephens. What's his greatest achievement? He got a book deal to talk about what he achieved by dropping out of school: getting a book deal. Stephens may have gained fame and fortune by persuading other children not to go to school, but that does not improve the world.

    The much-hyped first exit of a Thiel company was the acquisition of GigLocator. Founder James Proud supposedly sold it for a six-figure sum. GigLocator aggregated information about artists and the venues where they played. But how is that different from the simplistic Silicon Valley startups that Thiel complains about? And on what basis does a company that was started in 2008 -- three years before Proud joined -- represent a successful Thiel Foundation exit?

    And then there was the disastrous Airy Labs. According to TechCrunch, it wasn't Thiel Fellow Andrew Hsu who ran the company; it was his father, mother and brother. No surprise. How can a child with no basic education and no business experience manage 20 employees and millions of dollars? That's not to say that there aren't a few interesting startups listed on the Thiel Foundation's website. SunSaluter, founded by Eden Full, built a prototype of a device that rotates solar panels to follow the sun.

    Paul Gu is credited with co-founding a website, Upstart.com, to help people crowd-fund their education or business in return for a percentage of their future earnings or revenue. (Ironically, this values a person more highly for better education and pedigree.)

    And Laura Deming was lauded for working on the development of a cure for ageing. But Eden Full is back at Princeton pursuing a mechanical engineering degree (she said via email that others are still working on her product). It turns out that Paul Gu didn't come up with the idea for Upstart but joined as a co-founder some ex-Google executives who had. And Laura Deming abandoned her research at MIT to become a venture capitalist instead.

    There may be some great Thiel startups existing in stealth mode that I don't know about. And it may well be that some Thiel Fellows achieve success on their second or third attempts. I certainly hope that is the case.

    But the survival rates of Thiel startups pale in comparison with those emerging from TechStars, which provides hand-holding and mentorship as the Thiel program does. Of the 129 companies that TechStars (which publishes its success rates) has accepted over the past three years -- in the same timeframe as Thiel -- 98 percent are still in operation, and 69 percent were able to raise venture capital. Yes, we are comparing adults in the TechStars program with teen college-dropouts, and that isn't a fair comparison. But wasn't Thiel's point that he could incubate his own Mark Zuckerbergs by saving children from the tyranny of college?

    Three years is a long time in the technology world, and there should have been several notable successes from the batches of 20-24 students that the Thiel Foundation admitted. If Thiel had delivered what he promised, these startups should have all been in the category of "world-changing," and a vast majority should still exist.

    The reality is that a bachelor's degree is an important foundation for success for most entrepreneurs. Yes, a few, such as Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, were able to achieve success after dropping out. But they surrounded themselves with very competent adults, and they were very lucky. All three have extolled the virtues of education and encouraged children to finish college. And their companies rarely hire college dropouts.

    One good question Thiel often raises is whether you need to learn what's taught in college. My dean at Duke University, Tom Katsouleas, has a great answer. He tells the story of a high school teacher whose students confronted him with the same question: "Why do we need to learn this?" The teacher replied, "You don't. You need to learn to ask just one question." The piqued students implored him to tell what that was. His answer: "Would you like fries with that?"

    Sadly, for the vast majority of college dropouts, the opportunities are sparse. They won't earn nearly as much as their friends who had the perseverance to finish what they had started. And if they do become entrepreneurs, the companies they start will be far less successful than those started by degree-holders. After three years, Thiel's experiment is beginning to prove that there are no shortcuts to success.

    Let me suggest an alternative experiment to Thiel: fund disadvantaged kids from non-elite schools. Thiel Fellows such as Eden Full rave about the experience they had in the program. For them, this is a nice detour from their courses at elite universities. They can always go back to Princeton or Harvard without having lost anything. Why not give the same opportunity to children who are left out?

    Hanging out with venture capitalists and industry moguls in Silicon Valley could be life changing for brilliant but poor children. Or better still, provide these children with scholarships so that they can complete their higher education and then fund their startups. I expect that this will have a far greater impact and will motivate many others to think big and help solve the world's problems.

    Editor's note: We have sought a response post from Peter Thiel, which we hope to post soon.

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


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    Photo by Ben Nguyen/Flick

    Many parents spend years waiting to adopt a child, but some decide to give up their newest family members days after receiving them.

    An investigative report released Monday exposes the vast underground network of families and individuals who are looking to give away or take in unwanted adopted children.

    Using forums such as Yahoo's since-deactivated Adopting-From-Disruption group, parents who are struggling to raise the children they've adopted can seek support and can even post ads offering their children up to new families.

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    The car that converted into a submarine as James Bond famously drove it into the ocean in "The Spy Who Loved Me" sold at an auction earlier this week for just shy of $1 million.

    The submersible Lotus Esprit was discovered in 1986 by a Long Island building contractor in a storage container he purchased for $100 -- roughly $213 today and about 0.02 percent of the winning bid.

    The Guardian reports that the Lotus Esprit was one of eight vehicles used in the 10th official Bond movie, and is said to be fully functional in submarine mode, but cannot be driven on land. It was sold at the RM Auctions house in London for £550,000, following a bidding war between two rival collectors.

    The 1977 bond movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, his third time playing the role.

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    Gun Law Banning Handguns Is Overturned Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    A controversial Iowa state law prohibits denying the right to carry a gun based on physical ability, including blindness. To do otherwise, supporters claim, is illegal discrimination based on disability.

    But in the meantime, here's what supporters and opponents are saying.

    "Although people who are blind can participate fully in nearly all life's experiences, there are some things, like the operation of a weapon, that may very well be an exception," said Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, to the DeMoines Register.

    "We don't believe there should be a blanket prohibition on blind people owning or carrying guns," Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, told ABCNews.com. "It's certainly true that the blind person or visually impaired person needs to be cautious about using a firearm, but so does everybody else."

    "A visually impaired person, in my opinion, is more entitled for a permit to carry, just for the sheer fact that they don't pick up on the cues that a sighted person would have," Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington, who has been granting gun permits to the visually impaired since he became sheriff in 2007, told ABCNews.com. Wethington has a daughter who is legally blind. "People with disabilities are just as much citizens as you and I are. Just because they can't see doesn't mean we should be able to pick and choose what rights they enjoy."

    H/T Elizabeth Shell

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     Sen. John McCain at a June campaign stop in Mesa, Ariz.; Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has consistently pushed President Barack Obama's administration to intervene in the Syrian civil war, said today the president's speech to the nation was ill-timed and disappointing.

    "The president was arguing for action and at the same time arguing for a pause," McCain said. He also said the president should have urged Americans to support the Syrian rebels in their effort to oust President Bashar al Assad. The rebels, he said, are beginning to feel the U.S. has abandoned them by not providing direct military support.

    He also said the president lost the opportunity to broaden his argument by highlighting the negative spillover effect the Syrian conflict is having in the region -- including In Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel. "This is no longer a civil conflict," he said. "It's a proxy war."

    Meeting with reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, McCain suggested he has little faith in a diplomatic alternative he described as a "stalling tactic" -- placing Syrian chemical weapons under Russian-led international control. "Put me down as extremely skeptical," he said.

    "Why does John Kerry need to go to Geneva to negotiate with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov over something we know needs to happen?" he said. He added that Kerry was "nuts" to suggest a limited, "unbelievably small" attack would be enough.

    But, he added, if Russia rejects a proposal that allows for follow-up military action -- as the French have proposed -- the "Russian rejection could strengthen the president's hand" when he returns to Congress for a delayed war authorization vote.

    McCain conceded that it would still be an uphill fight to win approval in the Senate until diplomatic options have been exhausted.

    "He's in a very difficult situation," McCain said of the president. "And I do have some sympathy for him ... but he didn't have to put himself in that box."

    Photo by Getty Images

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    "Time" is asking people to help identify Patrick Witty's incredible photo of onlookers just as the Twin Towers collapsed.

    I took this photo 12 years ago today, just as the South Tower collapsed. Help me identify the subjects. pic.twitter.com/pddkHtmKP3

    — Patrick Witty (@patrickwitty) September 11, 2013

    H/T Colleen Shalby.

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    Creative commons photo via Flickr user powtac.

    Hackers are in high demand as cyberwarfare -- once the stuff of science fiction -- becomes an increasing threat to the data of individuals and companies, and to the United States, including nuclear plants, power grids, trains, water plants and satellites. In 2012, there were 190,000 cyber incidents. There have been more than 214,000 so far this year.

    Private security firms and the government are competing for the same talent pool of hackers to try and prevent cyber attacks. David Kushner reports for Rolling Stone on their various recruiting strategies.

    Attracting talent can be difficult when the demand for hackers far surpasses the number of qualified geeks. And while patriotism influences some to work for the fed, most decide to work in the private sector where they're paid more and deal with less hassle, according to the article.

    Jayson Street, whose title is "Chief Chaos Coordinator" told Kushner that he would never work for the government.

    "The American government has to understand that to get someone who thinks outside the box to work for you, you can't immediately put them in a box ... And that's the problem."

    Related: - U.S. Government, Industry Fed up with Chinese Cyber Theft; What's Being Done? | July 8, 2013

    CyberWar Over Spam Slows Access for Internet Users | March 27, 2013

    Napolitano says Iran, Russia and China are biggest threats for cyberattacks | Feb. 15, 2013

    H/T Ellen Rolfes.

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    Poet Billy Collins reads "The Names," his tribute to the victims of 9/11 and their family members. This video was part of the NewsHour's coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    H/T Thaisi Da Silva.

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