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

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    Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.

    Remember that time House Speaker John Boehner's Republican members put him in a tough spot? When lawmakers wanted to pressure him to go farther on a fiscal matter, no matter the consequences?

    Yeah, that's happening. Again.

    The Morning Line

    Republican leaders on Wednesday pulled a measure that would have funded the government beyond the end of September, delaying a scheduled Thursday vote on the spending bill until next week. The current continuing resolution expires at the end of September, leaving little time for a compromise plan to pass both chambers and make it to President Barack Obama's desk.

    Tea party conservatives demanded that any funding be paired with a measure to defund the president's health care reform law. The bill in question does that, but has a legislative escape hatch that would allow for the Obamacare provision to be stripped out by the Senate. And party leaders were forced to admit they didn't yet have the 218 votes needed to pass that plan.

    Some of the most conservative members of Boehner's caucus want to see leadership go the distance.

    Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said that lawmakers "must use every legislative avenue available, through the CR, the debt ceiling, and sequester conversations to free the country from the president's train-wreck of a healthcare law." Scalise vowed he would "continue pushing for a CR that delays Obamacare for one year."

    Politico reports:

    A clearly frustrated Boehner seemed to realize that he leads a conference where no plan is quite good enough. There are frequently about 30 Republicans who oppose leadership's carefully crafted plans -- just enough to mess things up. A reporter asked him whether he has a new idea to resolve the government funding fight. He laughed and said, "No."

    "Do you have an idea?" he asked the reporters. "They'll just shoot it down anyway."

    And The Hill captures two lawmakers who illustrate the deep divisions within the GOP these days:

    Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) said proposals from conservatives that had more teeth and would directly defund the healthcare law stood no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    "Find me 60 votes in the Senate," Tiberi said. "That's what I would say. I'm with them philosophically -- completely. But show me how you get 60 votes in the Senate. That's the key."

    On the right, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) voiced frustration at what he characterized as a watered-down version of the policy that conservatives wanted: a single spending bill that would withhold funds for the healthcare law.

    "Wouldn't it be ironic if the government shuts down because our leadership won't offer a bill that Republicans will vote for?" Massie said. "I mean, that's what happened this week. Now we're a week further into this because they put forward a bill that Republicans won't vote for."

    The fight had been brewing all summer, fueled in part by the Heritage Foundation's tour and the involvement of Republican senators pushing the defunding issue. (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is attempting to tie defunding to an energy bill up for debate.)

    The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan sums it up:

    Some conservatives see the fall fiscal debates as the last best chance to shred Obamacare. And they're willing to do it at all costs, even if it means temporarily shuttering the government, which would be the result of passing something the president won't sign. Others see that as a disastrous outcome that will destroy the GOP brand.

    Democrats rejoiced at the Republican infighting.

    "Republican leaders spent all week pledging to jam through a temporary funding measure that defunds the Affordable Care Act, wreaks havoc on Medicare, and extends the life of the Republican sequester. But division in their own ranks scuttled this latest gambit and upended this doomed strategy," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

    A new CNN poll released Wednesday found support for the president's health care law waning: "In January 51% said they favored all or most of the provisions in the new law. Now that figure is down to 39%."

    And this is all playing out ahead of the health care exchanges, a key provision in the law aimed at expanding coverage, opening up in October. The NewsHour will be examining questions about Obamacare this month as lawmakers continue to wrestle with the spending battle.

    DIPLOMATIC DIFFICULTIES

    With Mr. Obama hitting pause on a potential military strike against Syria, the push for a diplomatic solution has also created an opening for Russian President Vladimir Putin to reassert himself on the international stage.

    On Thursday, he did so on the editorial page of the New York Times, issuing a direct challenge to Mr. Obama's claim of American exceptionalism in his address to the nation Tuesday night.

    "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Putin wrote. "There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

    On Tuesday, the president made the case that the U.S. must not allow the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people go unchecked.

    "America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong," Mr. Obama said. "But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional."

    Putin also asserted that it was not President Bashar al-Assad's government that used chemical weapons, but the rebels.

    "No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists," he wrote.

    And the Russian leader also took aim at U.S. foreign policy more broadly. "It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America's long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan 'you're either with us or against us.'"

    Those comments will hang over Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Switzerland Thursday, where he is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an effort to broker a diplomatic resolution that would result in Syria turning over its chemical weapons stockpiles.

    In an interview with Gwen Ifill on Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he remained skeptical of Russia's actions given the country's support of Syria.

    "One has to question whether the Russians are really sincere in this effort. And, it doesn't give you confidence when President Putin says, 'Well, the United States has to renounce all use of violence.' That is obviously unacceptable."

    McCain added: "This has to be played out, Gwen. It has to be at least for a period of time. I hope a short period of time. But we cannot ignore it."

    If diplomatic negotiations stall, McCain said the president would still face an uphill climb when it comes to changing minds in Congress to support a military strike.

    "I think it's a tough slog. I think you would have to identify more with American national security interests," McCain said. "I think we have to make the case, which I think the president could, if the Russian initiative turns out to be a false one, that he's tried every possible other option."

    In Thursday's New York Times, Peter Baker examines the Obama administration's strategy toward Syria, noting the "highly unusual series of pivots" the president has made in recent weeks.

    The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports on the CIA's push to deliver weapons to the rebels in Syria, which began arriving in the past two weeks.

    Watch Gwen's full interview with Senator McCain here or below:

    Watch Video

    LINE ITEMS

    The Washington Post's Ann Marimow and Philip Rucker report a D.C. businessman at the center of a city corruption scandal secretly financed more than a half-million dollars worth of get-out-the-vote efforts for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

    Roll Call's Abby Livingston and Emily Cahn have the five House primaries to watch.

    The House Ethics Committee will not launch full-scale investigations into several cases, but is continuing to examine the questions raised about possible ethics violations from Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Peter Roskam, R-Ill. and Timothy H. Bishop, D-N.Y.

    Public Policy Polling said it chose not to release a poll last week on state Sen. Angela Giron because its margin for predicting her loss in the Colorado recall election was so wide it looked like an anomaly. But the poll was correct. Giron lost on Tuesday by 12 percentage points. Later Wednesday, PPP, Nate Silver and other polling directors hashed out the ethics of the situation on Twitter. The Washington Post has the Storify.

    About 32 million viewers watched the president's speech on Syria Tuesday night. That's more people than many of Mr. Obama's other speeches on war, except for his announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, which drew about 56 million viewers.

    Former Rep. Clay Shaw, the Florida Republican who served in Congress for 13 terms after holding the mayoral seat in Fort Lauderdale, died Tuesday from lung cancer. He was 74.

    The White House canceled the 2013 Congressional Picnic again, thanks to the sequester.

    Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., tried to see a movie, but was interrupted by constituents who wanted to ask him to oppose the Syria resolution.

    Ben's Chili Bowl is opening a Virginia location, taking over the old Ray's Hell Burger site.

    A man wearing a President Obama mask robbed a New Hampshire Bank of America Wednesday.

    Whoa. Also: bummer, dude!

    NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

    Cindy Huang asked and got answers. See our multimedia project, "Why I Carry a Gun."

    Hari Sreenivasan examined what a post-Bloomberg Big Apple might look like following Tuesday's primary election results.

    Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

    "Drink Up" may not have been the best slogan for FLOTUS's water campaign. Sounds vaguely alcoholic.

    — Eddie Scarry (@eScarry) September 12, 2013

    Thank you, @JerryBrownGov and CA Dems, for calling on California to #raisethewage to $10. When California leads, America takes notice.

    — Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) September 11, 2013

    what it looks like to be on the radio. RT @dcbigjohn: .@evanmcsan in the dc buzzfeed timeout glass box of shame. pic.twitter.com/mqYFy5wZPF

    — E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) September 11, 2013

    Gov. Inslee weighing in on @CoryBooker, it wld seem. https://t.co/R8vJcJPNKD

    — Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) September 11, 2013

    You've got to be kidding. RT @CorbinHiar: The least touching 9/11 tribute you'll see all day: pic.twitter.com/RCE41oeviA

    — Matt Ortega (@MattOrtega) September 11, 2013

    Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

    Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

    Follow @burlijFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @ljspbs

    Support Your Local PBS Station

    //

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    St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Va., has 3,500 members and counting. Photos by Larisa Epatko.

    When Mary, a 29-year-old Coptic Christian from Minya, Egypt, landed seven months ago at Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, many thoughts were swirling in her head.

    How would she fare in the United States knowing so little English? Would her brother and other relatives she left behind in Egypt be OK?

    Her motivation for leaving an increasingly dangerous Egypt was embodied in her two lively little boys, ages 4 and 7.

    "I left my house and my family. It was hard for me, but I was thinking of my kids," she said recently after Sunday liturgy at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Va. She said she was being harassed and threatened for being a Christian, identifiable by the small traditional Coptic cross tattoo on her wrist. She had seen churches and homes burned in her city, and was too worried about the violence to send her children to school.

    Mary -- who asked to be identified by only her first name while she works to get permanent resident status -- and her husband originally went to Saudi Arabia after leaving Egypt. But coming from Minya, which has one of Egypt's largest Coptic Christian populations, they didn't feel at home in Saudi Arabia, where they couldn't find any Coptic churches.

    Instead, they traveled to the United States and connected with the growing Coptic community in the Washington, D.C., area.

    Digital billboards at the front of the church display readings and responses in three languages: English, Coptic -- which resembles Greek -- and Arabic.

    'Home Away From Home'

    Attendance at St. Mark has never been higher. It's added more church services to accommodate the overflow crowds, holding some events in the attached elementary school gym and initiating an Arabic-language liturgy on Saturday morning for the newcomers.

    Traditional Coptic chanted hymns are performed by a choir using small hand-held cymbals and the triangle.

    St. Mark was established in 1976 with about 80 families, according to its website. The concrete domed church was built in 1997 and now has more than 3,500 members.

    The congregation, mainly from Egypt, grows in waves, and at the moment is at a crest, said Moheb Andrawis, a volunteer at the church. On a recent Sunday, he stood in the lobby of the church wearing a crisp gray suit and a broad smile, greeting everyone walking by him.

    St. Mark began the Greeting Ministry two months ago. Andrawis said at first he was meeting about 15 new families each Sunday. The number has since dropped a bit as he's gotten to know people.

    Having such a large Coptic community is both good and bad, he said. "You can find many people to help, of course, but it is very easy to lose someone in the crowd." The purpose of the ministry is to sign up the newcomers so that the church can reach out with its services.

    Those services include helping new immigrants find and furnish apartments, get their driver's license, and enroll their children in school. The church also provides a free medical clinic.

    Fr. Paul Girguis says the number of Egyptians joining St. Mark has grown exponentially since 2011, when Egypt lost its structured government.

    "In the last two years, we've had a huge influx of immigrants coming from Egypt due to the persecution of the Christians specifically being targeted by the Islamists," said Fr. Paul Girguis, one of four priests at the church. He said about 10 to 13 families are arriving each month.

    The animosity in Egypt got worse in 2011, when massive protests led to then-President Hosni Mubarak's ouster. "There was no government and no security. The police weren't instated at the time. If anyone had an enemy, they could punish their enemy," said Girguis. Violence erupted in July when Mubarak's elected successor, Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, was forced out of office and his Muslim Brotherhood party blamed the Copts.

    Dozens of churches, Christian-owned shops and homes were burned in the two days following Morsi's removal. Some Muslims reached out to help, protecting their neighborhoods' churches from marauding gangs, while local authorities turned a blind eye to the trouble, Girguis said. "It's going to take a long time for Egypt to stand on its feet. It's a very broken country."

    The Copts who could afford to leave Egypt applied for asylum in places such as Canada, Australia and countries in Europe. In the United States, Coptic Christians are concentrated in California, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. Once they arrive and get settled with jobs and put their children in schools, they tend to stay.

    The initial adjustment can be difficult, said Girguis. Adults have to resort to odd jobs to make money, while they're waiting for asylum. Children looking to "fit in" at school try smoking and drugs, and wind up getting arrested.

    Coming from a more conservative culture, some Egyptians find the United States can bring new opportunities -- and problems. "It's not easy to have a girlfriend or boyfriend in Egypt, but here everything's open," Girguis said. "You find them getting into relationships and getting into trouble and making mistakes that they normally wouldn't make."

    In response, the church has organized more youth ministries for different age groups. The goal: to "create a sense of unity and family so they would feel that the church is their home away from home," he said.

    Despite the violence in Egypt, Girguis said he didn't think all Copts would flee. "The Copts are strong. We're a resilient people." The word Coptic is derived from the Greek word meaning "Egyptian". And even though some have moved away, Copts hold their homeland in their hearts, he added.

    'Egypt Is Our Country'

    A Madonna and Jesus icon graces one of the walls of the church.

    After Mass at St. Mark, children dashed around chatting adults. For those looking for a taste of home, such as molokhia leaves to make soup or some gibna rumi cheese, a market located in the halls of the church offers Egyptian products for sale.

    "I know after coming here, it would be a long time before I could go back," said Mary, sitting with her friends and their children at a table scattered with empty cookie wrappers. But she said she would like to return some day. "Egypt is our country."

    Andrawis, the volunteer greeter, has been in the United States for 18 years. He came from Cairo and still has family in Egypt. He said he worries about them all the time. "You can never tell what's going to happen tomorrow. It's very unpredictable."

    But here in Virginia, he said he's working to "bring all of God's children together," so at least they can take comfort in each other.

    Related Resources

    Coptic Christians Make an 'Easy Target' in Egypt's Unrest

    Watch an Aug. 22 book talk with Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Washington,D.C.-based Hudson Institute and author of "Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity"

    View the PBS NewsHour's recent reporting from Egypt

    The NewsHour's team in Egypt will have a report on the Coptic Christians airing soon on the broadcast.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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    By Lew Mandell

    Money Sign Annuities can give you a safe return on your money -- for life. Photo courtesy of flickr user 401K.

    Paul Solman: "Financial ability peaks at age 53," Lew Mandell points out. So "now what?" he asks. His answer: a new book entitled "What To Do When I Get Stupid: A Radically Safe Approach to a Difficult Financial Era." I began reading it recently and thought, this is material for readers of the Making Sen$e Business Desk. Lew, who helped found America's financial literacy movement, agreed to write up some of his key messages for us -- and you. Here's the first, on the payoff from annuities.

    Lew Mandell: Yes, there is a way for older Americans to receive guaranteed lifetime income that, for many of us, is more than three times the current rate on 10-year Treasuries. It is through the purchase of a Single Payment Immediate Annuity (SPIA), perhaps the least-known, best retirement deal on the market today.

    In finance, the word "annuity" refers to a series of payments made to a person (called the "annuitant") for life or for a set number of periods. In this post we refer to a fixed, life annuity, a plain vanilla annuity that will guarantee a set income each month for the rest of your life, no matter how long you live or what dumb mistakes you make along the way. If this guarantee looks familiar, it should, since it is pretty much what we get from Social Security as well as from a traditional "defined benefit" pension -- if we are lucky enough to have one. Both are forms of life annuities because both pay until you die.

    Treat Social Security as Insurance Against One of Life's Most Expensive Accidents: Failing to Die on Time

    Virtually every economist who studies retirement issues feels that annuities are generally the best way to close a lifetime income gap. In fact, economists are very surprised that relatively few retirees choose to invest at least some of their savings in a life annuity. They even have a name for this strange behavior, which they call the "annuity puzzle."

    Essentially an annuity can protect us against three important risks: longevity risk -- the risk of living longer than our life expectancy; market risk -- the risk that our income will fall if stock prices or interest rates go down; and what we might call judgment risk -- which is the risk that we, ourselves, might do something stupid to harm the lifetime income stream on which we depend.

    An annuity works because the organization that pools the money and offers the annuity (which could be an insurance company, your employer or Social Security) has a large number of people in the pool and has a pretty good guess of the average life expectancy of everyone in the pool. For every person who lives longer than his or her life expectancy and collects extra payments, someone lives shorter than life expectancy and gives up those payments. It is the job of the organization's statisticians or "actuaries" to estimate the life expectancy of those in the pool. Note that different pools may have different kinds of people with different life expectancies.

    The biggest pool is run by Social Security since nearly every American worker must belong to it. However, if you belong to a pool of college professors, like myself, who do little dangerous work or heavy lifting and tend to eat well and not smoke, its members will have a longer life expectancy than the average worker in the Social Security pool and an even greater life expectancy than National Football League players, many of whom have been found to suffer life-shortening effects of head injuries. As a result, the same upfront investment ("premium") will buy those in a pool of college professors a smaller monthly payment for life because they are expected to live so long, and will buy former football players a greater monthly payment because of their shorter life expectancy.

    Aside from providing an attractive fixed cash flow for life, a second major benefit of an immediate annuity, for those who worry about being swindled in their dotage by an unscrupulous investment salesman or a new spouse, is that most are virtually unswindleable. Once you pay the money, you are going to get a monthly check for the rest of your life, period. This is why an immediate annuity is sometimes called a "non-refund" annuity -- once your single deposit premium is paid, you generally can't get your money back, discouraging most swindlers. When they learn that your assets have been invested in an SPIA, they'll move on, instead, to the next vulnerable old-timer.

    But you have to be careful if you decide to use an "annuity" to close your lifetime income gap. That's because there are all kinds of financial products out there that call themselves "annuities," many of which never end up paying a dollar in lifetime income. A SPIA begins when you make a single upfront investment, called the "premium" and starts to pay you a monthly income for life beginning a month after you pay your premium. SPIAs are sold by most life insurance companies. Since payments are fixed, SPIAs eliminate market risk. Since they pay you for life, even if you live to be 105, they eliminate longevity risk. And since many can't be cashed in, they eliminate judgment risk. A few companies will sell them with inflation protection as well (at extra cost).

    For those seeking to supplement their lifetime income, SPIAs offer the huge benefit of generating much more guaranteed income than any other type of investment. While a 70-year-old man or a 73-year-old woman could get a safe return of perhaps 2 3/4 percent by investing in 10-year U.S. Treasuries, they could get a guaranteed annual cash flow of more than 8 percent, or about three times as much, for life, by investing in a SPIA.

    Some people resist buying an immediate annuity because market interest rates are currently very low. While this concern is valid for the purchase of other fixed income products, such as bonds, it is far less important for immediate annuities since most of the guaranteed monthly cash flow is due to return of principal (the amount you put in), not to earnings on the investment.

    The highest payments are made to those who choose a "straight life" SPIA, which pays a single person and pays nothing to his or her beneficiaries. A downside of a straight life immediate annuity is that if you die soon after putting in your money, your estate gets nothing back. However, if your primary concern is protecting your own standard of living for life, this may not be an issue. It is possible to guarantee lifetime income from your annuity for a second person, perhaps a spouse, and it is also possible to guarantee payments to your heirs for a certain number of years after you purchase the annuity, generally five or 10, if you die early. These added guarantees come at an extra cost per monthly dollar of lifetime income.

    Life insurance companies that issue annuities are highly regulated by the states in which the policies are issued and are generally considered to be conservative and safe. States also have insurance funds with limits ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 to reimburse annuity holders in the very unlikely event that an insurance company fails. You can further protect yourself by diversifying annuity companies -- in other words, splitting your money between two or more highly rated providers.

    If you rush out right now to buy an annuity from the first salesperson you run into, chances are good that the salesperson will try to talk you into buying a "variable annuity." The world "variable" means that it does not give you the same guaranteed monthly amount of money for life. It also tends to be far more profitable for the insurance company that issues it and for the salesperson who sells it.

    If you put your money into a variable annuity, you are generally buying risky stocks and bonds rather than an ironclad payment for the rest of your life. Yes, you can arrange to get a payment for the rest of your life, but the amount of the payment depends largely on how well your investments do. If the stock market collapses, as it did in 2008, losing half its value, and if your variable annuity is invested in stocks or a stock mutual fund, you could possibly see your monthly payment fall substantially. If the variable annuity is invested in a target date mutual fund, you could be in real trouble since target date funds reinvest or rebalance your money away from safe assets, like bonds, into even more risky assets, like stocks, as the stock market falls.

    With the ability to defer paying taxes on money invested in variable annuities, they may be reasonable investments for younger, working people in high tax brackets who are willing to take on risk. However, they are not generally good investments for retired people whose tax brackets have fallen and who generally try to avoid risk.

    To get an idea of the guaranteed cash flow available on a SPIA, you might want to go to this site. This is a free web site that doesn't require a sign-in or identification from you and that tells you the monthly and annual payment that a fixed investment, such as $100,000, will give you for life, depending on your age and gender. You will be pleasantly surprised!

    Paul Solman: Now after reading Lew's unequivocal encomium to annuities, which I had requested after reading his book, I had two nagging questions. The first once concerned a favorite anxiety on this page: inflation. So I wrote to Lew: "Shouldn't one buy an inflation-protected annuity instead of a fixed-payment one?"

    Lew Mandell's response: As I point out in my book, there is a cost to inflation protection: it will lower one's lifetime payments by about a third. I have calculated the break-even inflation rate for a 70-year-old to be about 3.87 percent, which is above average U.S. inflation over the past century. A risk-neutral individual would only take the inflation protection if he or she felt that average inflation would exceed that during his or her remaining lifetime. Since few older individuals are risk-neutral, it is not a bad price for the added insurance, if it is needed.

    Paul Solman: But suppose I put all my savings into a life annuity and inflation skyrockets?

    Lew Mandell: I hope that a major contribution of my book is its focus on minimizing uncovered inflation-related expenses in retirement. This is done by having a fully-paid, age-in-place home and no other consumer debt as well as by maximizing Social Security retirement payments by waiting until age 70 to begin drawing them. Therefore, if your uncovered-for-inflation core expenses amount to, say, 10 percent of your total core expenses after you purchase the nominal life annuity, the impact of inflation on your standard of living is just a tenth of the level of inflation. A 20 percent rate of inflation would impact your living standard by just 2 percent per year.

    Paul Solman: Okay, one last question. Don't insurance companies charge whopping fees for annuities? Isn't that why financial planners have so often advised against them?

    Lew Mandell: Most insurance companies offer both fixed and variable annuities but often sell them in very different ways. Variable annuities tend to be heavily marketed, with huge commissions to salespeople (often 5 percent of amount purchased with no quantity discount) and often have their returns based on widely-advertised mutual funds at a great extra expense to customers. Total fees on variable annuities can total 2 1/2 to 3 percentage points.

    As I point out in the book, the immediate fixed annuity market is largely a quiet one in which insurers compete on the basis of price with virtually no marketing expenses. Profits are generally low, with total markups (according to my calculated estimates) of no more than about 1 percent.

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


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    .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; padding-top: 30px; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; height: auto; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } Watch the livestream of NASA's announcement on the Voyager spacecraft here.

    In September of 1977, Star Wars was a huge hit in theaters, the Bee Gees were on the brink of releasing the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and the world was mourning the death of Elvis Presley. Meanwhile, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune had aligned themselves just right for the launch of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft.

    Now, 36 years and 12 billion miles later, Voyager 1 has left the solar system and entered interstellar space, NASA announced Thursday afternoon, nearly settling a yearlong debate. New data published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science indicates that the spacecraft officially crossed from the heliosphere into interstellar space on or around August 25, 2012, making it the first manmade object to travel beyond our solar system.

    So where exactly is Voyager, and what exactly is the heliosphere and interstellar space?

    Voyager is now about 12 billion miles from Earth - that's six times farther than the distance between Earth and Neptune's orbit - and racing through space at 37,000 miles per hour, or 325 million miles per year.

    "We're well beyond the planets, but not all the comets," said Ed Stone, the chief scientist on the Voyager Mission. "We're outside the boundary of the sun. Not only is this an important goal in science, we are exploring where no one has gone before."

    The heliosphere is a bullet-shaped bubble surrounding the sun. As solar winds blast off the Sun's surface at 1.79 million miles per hour, they shoot into space, filling the void with ionized gas -- hot, highly-charged particles. (Scientists refer to this as helioplasma.) But those solar winds, scientists believe, slow down and eventually stop when they encounter interstellar space: a denser, cooler plasma made up of particles from the explosions of stars 15 million years ago. If each star has a heliosphere bubble around it, then interstellar space is what lies between those bubbles in our galaxy, Stone explained, a space beyond the influence of a star. And the boundary where the two the interstellar plasma and helioplasma meet is the heliopause, the threshold to interstellar space.

    NASA's Voyager spacecraft is now about 12 billion miles from Earth - that's six times farther than the distance between Earth and Neptune's orbit - and racing through space at 37,000 miles per hour. Image by NASA/JPL.

    Mark Swisdak, a research scientist with the University of Maryland and lead author of a recent study in the Journal of Astrophysical Letters that used particle change and a theoretical model to interpret Voyager data, put it simply:

    "The heliopause is a sharp boundary where you can draw a line and say our solar system ends here," he said.

    Scientists didn't know where that boundary was until now. When the Voyager mission began in 1977, many scientists believed it was just beyond Jupiter, Stone said, about 365 million miles from Earth.

    "We had no idea how big the bubble was," Stone said. "The space program was only 20 years old at the time. [The Voyager mission] was going to be our chance to get out there and see what those cosmic rays were like," he said.

    But for at least two decades, Don Gurnett, principal investigator of Voyager's plasma wave science instrument, believed the heliopause was much farther away -- 11 to 16 billion miles from Earth. Interstellar plasma is a 100 times denser than helioplasma, Gurnett had theorized. Solar flares from the sun send ripples through the plasma, causing the particles to vibrate. Those vibrations are picked up as frequencies by two antennae on Voyager, which it translates into an audible tone. If the pitch were to go up, that would mean the density of the surrounding plasma had increased - an indication that the spacecraft had reached the outer edge of the solar system - the heliopause.

    "It's like a bell. The frequency is telling you the density of the plasma," Stone said.

    Voyager records those frequencies on a tape and beams these signals back to Earth as a radio emission. Every six months, the recordings play back to scientists on Earth. But for the past nine years, Voyager was quiet.

    "It was kind of depressing," he said. "We hadn't detected plasma for nine years."

    Finally, the ripples from a burst of solar activity in April to May of 2012, which Gurnett called the St. Patrick's Day flares, reached Voyager in April 2013. Gurnett heard a 2.6 kHz tone, much higher than the 300 Hz sounds they had heard before. He believed he was hearing the heliopause, right where he had predicted it years ago.

    "It's gratifying and exciting," Gurnett said.

    Scientists played audio of the frequency during a NASA press conference on the Thursday, which sounded like a shriek as it entered the heliopause.

    Gurnett calculated backward to find the date when Voyager crossed over -- August 25, 2012. Swisdak's paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters predicted that Voyager had arrived in interstellar space around July 27, 2012, based on the same particle data. But many scientists weren't convinced, Swisdak said. The sound was not enough to convince all astrophysicists that Voyager had made it.

    "The idea was when you went through this boundary, you should see a jump in the magnetic fields. They didn't see a big jump," he said. "This is still going to be percolated throughout the community. It could be possible that something odd is happening."

    Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 charge on, taking the first data of low-energy cosmic rays in interstellar space. They should send data back for 10 more years, provided they maintain power, Swisdak said. The next leg of Voyager's journey will study how interstellar winds flow around our heliosphere.

    "Now that we're outside the solar neighborhood, we're going to see what it looks like without the sun," Swisdak said.

    Astronomers, TV stars and members of the Voyager mission sent this message to the spacecraft:

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    You can send your own message to Voyager on Twitter, using #MessagetoVoyager or send a Facebook post or video to @NASAVoyager.

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    Last weekend, NewsHour Weekend debuted on stations across the country on Saturday and Sunday

    This week, we begin Anchor Hours with NewsHour Weekend's Hari Sreenivasan (@hari). Hari will be joined by NewsHour Weekend Correspondent William Brangham (@wmbrangham).

    William will discuss his upcoming broadcast segment, which looks at the recent changes to drunken-driving laws in British Columbia that have led to a roughly 50 percent decrease in alcohol-related fatalities. Could such reform be effective in the United States? 

    Hari will also respond to your questions about the new show. Want further explanation about pieces you saw on air last week? Wondering what kind of topics will be covered on future programs? Weigh in on these and other questions 1p.m. EDT Friday.

    To participate in our chat on Twitter, use #AnchorHours and follow @hari, @wmbrangham and @NewsHour.

    Watch the conversation below at 1 p.m. EDT Friday.

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    Editor's Note: PBS NewsHour kicks off a special poetry series with U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. "Where Poetry Lives" features Trethewey and NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown. The pair will be on-location, reporting on issues that matter to Americans through the framework of poetry. This series starts Sept. 12.

    Often as a poet I find that I am somewhat outside an experience I want to hold onto, consciously taking mental notes or writing them down in my journal -- for fear that I will forget. It's not unlike being on a trip and taking pictures, your face behind a camera the whole time -- the entire experience mediated by a lens. But a few weeks ago at the New York Memory Center shooting a segment for the NewsHour's Poetry Series, instead of holding a camera or a pen, I was holding the hands of children as we walked toward the room where we'd meet adults living with memory loss. Or I was holding the hands of the adults with memory loss as we met and greeted each other, and then again as we said goodbye. It was the kind of being present in which you are immediately able to recall all of the names of the people you encounter, a kind of fellowship rooted in a profound human interaction -- all of it that day facilitated by poetry.

    While I was there I did not think, "I want to remember this," and yet perhaps I was in a heightened state of recalling so much because I was aware that some of them would not. Some had the kind of memory loss that meant they could recall their childhoods, their distant pasts, former lives with deceased husbands or wives, but not what had happened the day or even moments before. Memory loss takes many forms. But I could hear in their repetitions -- phrases uttered again and again -- the anaphora of poetry, one of the techniques a poet might use along with cadence and rhyme to make the language memorable.

    In a new series on PBS NewsHour, U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey visits the New York Memory Center, a community-based nonprofit designed to help people experiencing memory disorders. Photo by Anne Davenport.

    I could see in some of them the stages my great-aunt Sugar had gone through during the 10 years that she lived with Alzheimer's disease. Before she was too ill to continue to speak she began to talk only in the cadences of the psalms we'd recited in church -- some of the first poems I ever learned. She had taught them to me along with the rest of the children in my Sunday school group -- recitations to present to the adults during special programs. At the Memory Center, working first with the children and poet Gary Glazner, practicing to recite the poems for the adults with memory loss, I was reminded of my own childhood.

    The children in the Memory Center seemed delighted, as children often are, simply to speak the lines of the poems we used. And so did many of the adults who were able still to speak. A woman named Evadene called the children's exuberance a lovely "stage of life." I imagine that so many of us have had such experiences as children: from nursery rhymes we learn at home or in school, to sacred poems of religious ceremony, our grasp of language has a beginning in poetry. To see it used at a very different stage of life, and to such effect, was deeply moving.

    My own journey in becoming a poet began with memory -- with the need to record and hold on to what was being lost. One of my earliest poems, "Give and Take," was about my Aunt Sugar, how I was losing her to her memory loss. It seems fitting then that we began the journey to highlight the way poetry matters in the lives of countless Americans at the memory center, with people nearer to the end of their lives for whom memory is ever more essential.

    Natasha Trethewey is the U.S. Poet Laureate. She will be blogging for the PBS NewsHour during her travels on the "Where Poetry Lives" series.

    Watch excerpts and video extras from the series: Where Poetry Lives: Sharing Moments and Verse When Memory Fades


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    Flickr user omnibus/Creative Commons

    Photo by Flickr user omnibus/Creative Commons

    Jonathan Trappe, 39, took off from Caribou, Maine early this morning on a planned 2500-mile non-traditional flight across the ocean to Europe, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph. He will be dangling from more than 350 helium filled balloons, during his trip which some have said looks like a scene from the Disney film "Up."

    Weather is reportedly the most serious threat to Trappe's voyage, even though it will also play an important role in carrying him to his destination. Instead of sitting in a chair, as he has done previously, he will be in a small lifeboat in case of an unintended water landing.

    H/T April Brown

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  • 09/12/13--15:00: The NewsHour is LIVE
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    It's 6 p.m. EDT -- where are you getting your news from? The PBS NewsHour is streaming live on our UStream channel.

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    GWEN IFILL: The interim president of Egypt formally extended a national state of emergency today for another two months. The country's prime minister first previewed the move last night on the NewsHour. The state of emergency has allowed security forces to conduct a crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

    It turns out the U.S. National Security Agency routinely passes raw surveillance data to Israel containing details about American citizens. London's Guardian newspaper reported that today, based on still more documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The story said a 2009 agreement with Israel calls for safeguarding privacy rights, but there is no legally binding enforcement mechanism.

    Severe flooding in Colorado killed at least three people early today. Heavy rain sent torrents blasting down mountainsides where recent wildfires had laid the ground bare. The downpour began overnight, dumping as much as six inches of rain in Boulder County alone over a 12-hour time span and triggering emergencies. Entire roads were washed out, cutting off mountain towns, and rescuers worked to free people trapped in cars.

    Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said it's dangerous work.

    JOE PELLE, Boulder County, Colo. sheriff: This is not your ordinary day. It's not your ordinary disaster. And all the preparation in the world, all the want-to in the world can't put people up those canyons while those walls of water and debris are coming down.

    GWEN IFILL: Also today, fire officials in Northern California reported damage is worse than first believed in a wildfire about 150 miles north of Sacramento; 68 homes have been destroyed, with one person killed. That fire is now 65 percent contained.

    Another major fire erupted today in a New Jersey town that was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last year. Flames blazed across several blocks of the boardwalk in Seaside Park, after spreading from an ice cream store. Police said tar roofs and high winds fanned the fire and sent heavy smoke billowing down the beach.

    Foreclosures across the U.S. were down substantially in August. The listing firm RealtyTrac says only 56,000 homes went into foreclosure. That's the smallest number in nearly eight years. But the company said, the risk of foreclosure remains high in Florida, Nevada and Ohio.

    Supporters of raising hourly pay to what they call a living wage encountered a setback today in Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed a bill that would have forced large retailers to pay employees at least $12.50 an hour. He called it a job killer. The bill centered on Wal-Mart and its plans to build new retail stores in the nation's capital.

    In business news, Twitter has confirmed it's going public. The company announced it today in a tweet. It gave no details.

    And on Wall Street, stocks gave a little ground. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 26 points to close at 15,300. The Nasdaq fell nine points to close below 3,716.

    The Voyager 1 spacecraft is now officially going where no manmade object has gone before. NASA announced today that Voyager has traveled beyond the sun's influence 36 years after its launch. As seen in this animation, the spacecraft actually made its exit in August of 2012, but scientists needed until now to confirm that it's sailed into interstellar space.

     


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  • 09/12/13--15:05: A new set of records to beat
  • "Guinness World Records," the world's leading authority on record-breaking feats, released the 2014 edition of its popular book today. This latest installment features more than 3,000 new and updated achievements, including unusual accomplishments such as the fastest person to run 100 meters in high heels and the world's largest collection of vacuum cleaners.

    "Guiness World Records" is one of the highest selling book "series" of all time, with roughly 2.7 million copies of the newest edition being sold each year.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we delve fully into the Syria story.

    The diplomatic dance intensified today, with Damascus endorsing a global ban on poison gas, and the U.S. pressing for a verifiable plan.

    The announcement came from Syrian President Bashar Assad on Russian state TV. His government is formally applying to join the International Convention on Chemical Weapons.

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria (through interpreter): Of course Syria will send an appeal to the United Nations and to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. After this, the work which will in the end lead to the signing of the convention and the ban of chemical weapons, will start.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials at the U.N. confirmed receiving the application document from Damascus. Assad also said he's willing to hand over his chemical arsenal to outside control, under a Russian proposal, with one key condition.

    BASHAR AL-ASSAD  (through interpreter): It should be a two-sided process, and it's aimed, first of all, at stopping the U.S. from threatening Syria. When we see that the U.S. really wants stability in our region and will stop threatening and aiming to attack, and stop supplying weapons to terrorists, then we will consider the process can be brought to the final stage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave no sign that condition would be acceptable.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: President Obama has made clear that, should diplomacy fail, force might be necessary to deter and degrade Assad's capacity to deliver these weapons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kerry also dismissed Assad's offer, which the Syrian leader called standard process, to wait 30 days after signing the convention to submit chemical weapons information.

    JOHN KERRY: We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this minute. The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The secretary of state is in Geneva for at least two days of talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on how to secure and destroy Syria's vast chemical weapons stockpiles, the U.S. goal, to gauge just how credible Russia's proposal is.

    JOHN KERRY: This is not a game, and I said that to my friend Sergei when we talked about it initially. It has to be real. It has to be comprehensive. It has to be verifiable. It has to be credible. It has to be timely and implemented in a timely fashion. And, finally, there ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, President Obama said he was optimistic about Kerry's diplomatic efforts abroad.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov, as well as some of the other players in this, can yield a concrete result.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin aired his own views in The New York Times in the paper and on the Web.

    He wrote: "Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy, but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan you're either with us or against us.

    Meanwhile, in Syria, the civil war raged on. New amateur video out today showed victims of aerial bombing filling a hospital at a rebel stronghold in the north, near Aleppo.

    The rebels have been pleading for U.S. weapons, and The Washington Post reported that, after months of delays, the CIA began shipping them light arms and other munitions over the past two weeks. That was disputed by General Salim Idris, who commands the main rebel faction. He told NPR that U.S. assistance has been limited to food and medical materials, as well as flak jackets and communications gear.


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    PBS NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown, right, and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, center right, launch the series "Where Poetry Lives." Their first stop: Brooklyn. Photo by Anne Davenport/NewsHour

    "A short walk in the park, a sax, a lot of poetry: Memories lost, moments gained."

    Welcome to the first in a new series of reports we're doing with U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. We dreamed this up together, with the help of Rob Casper at the Library of Congress and Stephen Young at the Poetry Foundation, as a way to go into the world and look for poetry -- where and how it lives in sometimes unexpected places and ways. The idea is to follow where the poetry leads us into various corners of American life and, along the way, explore often difficult issues and problems in our society. Our first story involves the Alzheimer's Poetry Project.

    Recently, with producer Anne Davenport, Natasha and I visited the New York Memory Center in Brooklyn, and spent time with poet Gary Glazner as he worked with people with dementia.

    Glazner's goal: To use poetry to help people who've lost memories live in the moment, to connect to the past, to share new moments with loved ones and each other. With the cases of dementia on the rise, this is something that affects so many of us and I can say the visit was a moving experience for us all.

    Natasha told me, and writes in an accompanying essay, of her great-aunt Sugar, who lived many years with dementia. Coming to grips with that and with what it means to lose one's personal history, Natasha says, was part of her own early exploration in poetry. In Brooklyn's Prospect Park she read her poem, "Give and Take."

    Gary Glazner has been using poetry to help people since the 1990s when he worked in an adult daycare center in northern California. One day he hit on the idea of using classic poems to engage elderly patients who may have remembered poems they learned as kids. Glazner told the NewsHour the reaction of one previously-uninterested man: "I said the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem The Arrow and the Song: 'I shot an arrow in the air', and his eyes popped open and he said, 'It fell to earth and I know not where.'"

    From that point on, Glazner said he knew he wanted to connect poetry to older people. He founded the Alzheimer's Poetry Project almost a decade ago, using call and response (or what he calls "I say it, you say it") to build a common passion around the performance and creation of poetry. The APP has held 500 sessions at over 100 facilities across the country as well as internationally, training health care workers and family members in using poetry. He is now at work on a book entitled, "Dementia Art: Celebrating Creativity in Elder Care," which includes poems and performance tips in the form of recipes.

    Here's Glazner reading his poem, "We Are Forget" about his experience of working with people with dementia.

    Watch Video

    Gary Glazner and Natasha Trethewey joined forces at the Alzheimer's Poetry Project to work with children from Ace Preschool, which operates upstairs from APP.

    First they recited -- and acted out -- William Jay Smith's poem Laughing Time.

    Watch Video

    Then came William Wordsworth's Daffodils.

    Watch Video

    Natasha also engaged the participants in the Alzheimer's Poetry Project and their family in friends at the boathouse on the duck pond at Prospect Park. She chose Lucille Clifton's Why Some People be Mad at Me Sometimes. Watch Video

    Finally, here are links to some of Natasha's appearances on the NewsHour over the years:

    Natasha discusses her book Beyond Katrina in 2010Natasha joined us in 2007 when she won the Pulitzer for her volume, Native GuardNatasha reflects on her native Mississippi in 2006 after witnessing the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the landmarks she elegized in her book Native Guard

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, can the U.S. and Russia, who have been at loggerheads for years over Syria, come to an agreement?

    For some answers, I'm joined by Angela Stent. She's director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. She has served in the State Department and at the National Intelligence Council. And Andranik Migranyan, he is the director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a nongovernmental organization that has close ties to Russia's leadership.

    Welcome to you both to the NewsHour.

    Angela Stent, to you first. Why are the Russians deciding to get involved in this after all these years?

    ANGELA STENT, Georgetown University: Well, I think President Putin has just seen a major opportunity.

    I mean, for 20 years, the Russians have either complained and tried to block what the U.S. did, for instance, in the Balkans and Iraq, or they have gone along, but said they never had an opportunity to shape the agenda.

    They have an opportunity now. There's division in the U.S. The president has hesitated about what to do. Russia does have a special relationship with President Assad. And I think it's -- I welcome the fact that they have now tried to take the initiative, and find some solution to this awful situation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Andranik Migranyan, so it's just taking advantage of a window of opportunity?

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN, Institute for Democracy and Cooperation: No, I don't think so.

    We have another perception. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published information that a year ago, during the summit of G20 in Los Cabos, Putin raised this problem of Syrian chemical weapons and proposed the idea to put these weapons under international control.

    Even in April, when Kerry visited Moscow, they raised this question together with Lavrov, but, unfortunately, at that time, President Obama already said that Assad has to go. That's why they didn't pick this opportunity. Otherwise, a year ago, this process could start.

    And, unfortunately, if Americans at that time agreed with Russians, they had to legitimize Assad's power in Syria because you can't put under the control chemical weapons if you don't talk to the acting president. And this is the sad reality, which means Russia's position always was constructive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me put that -- let's come back to Angela Stent.

    His version is that the Russians have been trying to do something here for years and the U.S. just hasn't taken advantage of it.

    ANGELA STENT: Well, I don't really think that -- I wouldn't share that view.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just a moment.

    ANGELA STENT: I wouldn't share that view.

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: This is yesterday's Wall Street Journal publication.

    (CROSSTALK)

    ANGELA STENT: The Russians from the beginning have not wanted to see Assad go. And they believed that he could prevail. And maybe they're right. Maybe he will prevail.

    So they have been very reluctant to do anything to undermine his position there. But I think we have now gotten to the point where we know that chemical weapons were used, even though President Putin said in the article today that it's the rebels, the opposition that used them, not the U.S.

    But we're now in a position where I think the Russians realize that something has to be done. They would still like to keep Assad in power and the way to do this is to try and get rid of the chemical weapons issue while they still supply conventional arms to Syria, of course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Migranyan, what do the Russians want to happen in Syria?

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: Russia's position is constant.

    Russia's position was that Putin is not stuck with Assad, and today he repeated that in his article. Lavrov several times said about that Russia was in favor of negotiated settlement when both sides involved in the conflict could participate in these negotiations.

    But, you know, again, American position and Western position was, Assad has to go. But, listen, Assad enjoyed large support of the population over there, large support of ethnic and religious minorities. He enjoyed the support of his large army.

    Somebody had to represent these groups of people. You can't say, just go. Who is coming next? This is Russia's position. That's why Russia was very constructive in the sense, because Americans showed a very bad credit history within this region, because their involvement in Iraq was disaster. Involvement in Libya was disaster. Involvement in Egypt was disaster.

    That's why this is the time to listen to Moscow, not to the United States, but just follow...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear the message, and -- I hear your message, and I want to give Ms. Stent a chance to respond.

    ANGELA STENT: Well, we are listening to Moscow.

    So, you know, they had -- we had insisted before that we thought Assad had to go before you could have any solution. It's clear that at the moment, that's not going to happen. I mean, obviously, the United States has had to modify its position there because of events on the ground and because Russia has blocked any U.N. resolution to anything that would in fact enable one to talk about a transition away from Assad.

    And I think, in the end, maybe we and the Russians don't share such a different view of what we would like to happen in Syria eventually, which is a stable government not controlled by extremists. The problem is how you get there, and this may be a first step toward getting there, but we do have to wait and see how this is going to pan out and how sincere this is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, if that's the case, if the goal is the same, why haven't the two sides been able to get together, do you think?

    ANGELA STENT: Well, I think because it has to do with a -- with Assad himself, with a diagnosis of what is the problem, and I think with the Russian concern, which Mr. Putin expressed in the article and Mr. Migranyan is expressing, what comes afterwards and the fear that extremist Islamist elements can come to power in Syria, which will threaten the region and threaten Russian itself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mr. Migranyan, do you accept the idea that what the U.S. and Russia want ultimately in Syria is a stable country, and so maybe the interest is shared; it's just how do you get there that's different?

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: That's true, and I absolutely agree.

    But the only problem is that Russia knows better the region and Russia always thinks, what comes next? Because Americans and Westerners killed Gadhafi, country is in ruins. Washington demanded Mubarak go, and the country is in chaos. And that's why one must be very cautious making statements which then it's hard to play back. That's the reality.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Migranyan, what do you think the prospects are that the two sides will come together, that Mr. Kerry, Mr. Lavrov, the U.S. and Russia will be able to come to some agreement that will actually manage to separate the Syrians from their chemical weapons?

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: I think that if Congress will be determined not to give authority to president to strike against Syria in this case, we can have a success in diplomatic area.

    Otherwise, if -- I am afraid -- and I dare to say if Obama enjoyed the support of Congress, he could ignore Security Council, as that happened with Reagan, with Clinton, with Bush Jr., and could unilaterally act against Assad because he once said that he is crossing the red line. Fortunately, Congress is making more sober Washington policy vis-a-vis the region.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Angela Stent, it sounds as if he is saying if the threat of military force is taken off the table, maybe they can come together. How but do you see it? What do you think the prospects...

    ANGELA STENT: Well, I think the prospects at the moment, let's be optimistic, but it's a question of timing. How long is it going to take, first of all, for Syria to sign this convention, then to allow -- to show where its chemical weapons stockpiles are, and then to start getting rid of them?

    And one can foresee a situation, a scenario where this could keep dragging out, and at some point the president has made it clear that he would act even without Congress' support. I mean, he made that clear in his speech. And then I think it's a serious question, can you have a U.N. resolution that doesn't have some sanction against Assad if you don't say, if he doesn't comply with this, the threat of force is always there?

    If Russia doesn't agree with that, then how much leverage do you have? But I think we have to sit and step back and wait and see what Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov can accomplish, but I think timing is going to be the major question here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you both. Angela Stent, Andranik Migranyan, thank you.


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    "My own journey in becoming a poet began with memory -- with the need to record and hold on to what was being lost"

    Thursday on PBS NewsHour, Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and the NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown launch "Where Poetry Lives," a series that looks at how poetry affects people throughout the country.

    Throughout the series, Trethewey will keep a travel log of the journey.

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    GWEN IFILL: We turn now to Capitol Hill, where intraparty fights over health care could force another round of showdowns and setbacks on the budget.

    Without an agreement, the federal government could shut down in less than three weeks.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: There's all this speculation about -- about these deadlines that are coming up. I'm well aware of the deadlines. So are my colleagues.

    GWEN IFILL: The first of the deadlines hanging over House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of Congress arrives October 1, at the start of the new fiscal year. That's when lawmakers have to approve major spending bills, or risk shutting the federal government down.

    But a core group of House Republicans, spurred on by Tea Party activists, are insisting that funding for the health care law, now universally nicknamed Obamacare, be cut first.

    REP. PAUL BROUN, R-Ga.: We have got to send a message from all across America to members of Congress in the House and in the Senate and particularly to the leadership, we're not going to put up with funding Obamacare. We have got to get rid of it, and this is our last, best chance.  

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    GWEN IFILL: In one showdown this week, Tea Party Republicans refused to support a temporary spending proposal that would have allowed the Senate to restore Obamacare. Still, Boehner said today he's confident an agreement can be reached.

    JOHN BOEHNER: So, we're working with our colleagues to work our way through these issues. I think there's a way to get there. I'm going to be continuing to work with my fellow leaders and our members to address those concerns.

    GWEN IFILL: But time is short, so House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced a congressional recess scheduled for later this month may not happen.

    REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va.: Members are advised that, pending ongoing discussions on the continuing resolution, the House may need to be in session during the week of September 23 and possibly into the weekend.

    GWEN IFILL: Democrats say Republicans need to back off. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer:

    REP. STENY HOYER, D-Md.: There was a poll taken November 2012. The president of the United States won that poll. But your myopic focus on that one issue threatens to shut down government and put at risk the creditworthiness of the United States of America.

    GWEN IFILL: That same message was delivered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who met behind closed doors today with House leaders.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: If the Republican leaders keep giving into the Tea Party and their impossible demands, they must be rooting for a shutdown.

    GWEN IFILL: And turning from discussion of Syria, President Obama echoed the same message at a White House Cabinet meeting.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The American people are still interested in making sure that our kids are getting the kind of education they deserve, that we're putting people back to work, that we are dealing properly with a federal budget, that bills are getting paid on time, and that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved.

    GWEN IFILL: That last item refers to the other key deadline: The government could default on its obligations by mid-October, unless Congress raises the national debt limit in the next few weeks.

    Joining me to help explain what's behind all the political maneuvering is Todd Zwillich. He covers Congress for “The Takeaway" from Public Radio International and WNYC.

    First, explain to people who are confused about this, what does Obamacare, the health care law, have to do with the budget?

    TODD ZWILLICH, WNYC Radio: Nothing, until you factor in the politics of the right. Tea Party members, not exclusively Tea Party members, are vehement about getting Obamacare defunded and repealed.

    We have talked time after time. What are they up to now, 33, 34, 35 votes to eviscerate Obamacare. Why now? There's another deadline that you didn't discuss in the piece there. It's also October 1, the day Obamacare exchanges launch. And you heard Congressman Broun say, this is our last, best chance. He means it.

    They have tried again and again. They had two elections. They have had a Supreme Court decision, but Republicans know -- and they will discuss this on Capitol Hill -- once the exchanges are up, once the subsidies are flowing, they know that Obamacare will become an entitlement that people are used to. And they think this is their last chance.

    GWEN IFILL: There is -- this is also being spurred on in part by members of the Senate, people Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. They're also juicing this along, aren't they?

    TODD ZWILLICH: They are.

    And this has become a way for the right, senators like Cruz, groups like Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, and Senator Rubio to either show their conservative bona fides -- Marco Rubio is well-touted as a possible presidential candidate -- but also to use the vehemence of the right to put pressure on their own party.

    Much of this is not, Gwen, about putting pressure on the Democrats. This is about Republicans on the right putting pressure on Republicans of the establishment, putting pressure on the John Boehners and Mitch McConnells.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: So, what is John -- what is John Boehner's plan? He obviously thinks it's a bad idea to put everything in the health care, the Obamacare basket. What is his plan to get around that?

    TODD ZWILLICH: It is really unclear.

    And he made a quip earlier today or yesterday, saying, if you have any ideas, send them my way. Send me some amendments. I would love to see them.

    He said today in that press conference where you showed some video there, there are a million ideas floating around out there. We will find one. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also intimating that there weren't really any ideas and Democrats are sitting back and waiting.

    GWEN IFILL: Democrats aren't really heartbroken about this?

    (CROSSTALK)

    TODD ZWILLICH: Not at all, because they are confident that nobody really wants a shutdown. They know Speaker Boehner doesn't, because this would be terrible politics for Republicans, or so they believe.

    Democrats feel they're kind of in the power seat here, sitting back and waiting for John Boehner and the Republicans to come up with something that really doesn't try to defund Obamacare. Then they can fight over actual spending levels.

    GWEN IFILL: Let's talk about that. Let's set aside Obamacare for a moment and talk about what is at the root of this. What is the -- where does the spending debate stand?

    TODD ZWILLICH: And this is interesting, because this is actually where John Boehner's probably about to get a little bit of a win here.

    Underneath all the dust about Obamacare, remember sequestration? Of course. Those cuts that were automatic cuts hanging over everything. This continuing resolution, they're usually designed to continue spending levels at the current levels. We don't have an agreement yet. Let's just kick the can two or three months.

    That's what this is going to do, but here's the debate between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats say, sequestration, we want to try to fix that. We want to plug that. We don't want to assume that sequestration stays in effect.

    GWEN IFILL: How?

    TODD ZWILLICH: Well, their budget assumes that it's going to be fixed with a bigger deal, maybe surrounding the debt limit, come up with some tax increases or spending cuts in other areas to get rid of what the president calls the meat axe approach, cutting everywhere.

    Here's the Republican's play on this. Their continuing resolution, Gwen, has the sequestration cuts baked in, not pretending like it hangs over everything, but these are the new levels, the new baseline, $988 billion, to throw one number at you.

    Democrats have shown really not much of an appetite to fight over the number. They're pointing to the Obamacare fight, because it makes Republicans look divided and weak, and they are divided on this. But, on the number, John Boehner seems to be pushing a 988 number, and Democrats don't really seem to show much motivation to fight it.

    GWEN IFILL: And, yet, this is the not the first time John Boehner has run into resistance from like a core member resistance, unyielding member of his own caucus, also on the farm bill, on other issues.

    TODD ZWILLICH: Oh, no.

    GWEN IFILL: What...

    TODD ZWILLICH: Farm bill, transportation bill, the debt limit fight last year, where John Boehner put a legislative gambit on the floor to satisfy conservatives and watched it fail. He had to yank that off the floor, so that it didn't fail out from under him. But he is going to get a little bit of a win. Conservatives at the end of this are probably going to be very upset with John Boehner, because Obamacare won't be repealed. We know the president will never sign that. Harry Reid won't put it on the floor. We can assume that pretty safely.

    But if he gets this number, this 988 that he wants, they might like the lower spending numbers, even though conservatives want cuts even deeper. However, an extra $20 billion John Boehner is getting for defense problems that Republicans like -- the whole point of sequestration was everybody feels the pain. Domestic programs, Democrats feel the pain. Defense, Republicans feel the pain.

    That's still in effect, except an extra $20 billion worked into this deal that goes towards defense, sort of ease up the pressure on defense. That's not the final deal yet, but that looks like where this is headed. And if it does, Boehner has something to show to Republicans, even though he doesn't get the Obamacare repeal.

    GWEN IFILL: Rubber hitting road.

    TODD ZWILLICH: In a big way. Lot of deadlines coming up, and we're a long way from the end of it.

    GWEN IFILL: Todd Zwillich, WNYC, thanks a lot again.

    TODD ZWILLICH: Pleasure.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The new fall TV season is getting under way, a critical time for broadcast networks and the industry. But it's a business that's evolving faster than ever, with new players hungry for eyeballs and dollars and established veterans seeking to hold on to their turf, while often trying to remake themselves along the way.

    We begin an occasional series tonight about what's at stake for the future of TV.

    Hari Sreenivasan kicks it off.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You can still shop for a TV at your local electronics store. And you can still use it to watch network and cable TV.

    But that traditional model is just one in a dizzying array of options these days. On larger, thinner and, increasingly, HDTVs, viewers set their DVRs or TiVos to record their favorite cable and network shows. Or, using devices like a Roku box, Apple TV, or a gaming console like Xbox, consumers stream video from online subscription services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, which increasingly are creating their own shows.

    By one estimate, the online video market attracts an average of 75 million viewers every day and streams nearly 40 billion videos each month in the U.S. alone. In fact, the future of TV increasingly doesn't even involve a TV, as more people turn to cell phones, tablets and laptops to view content.

    DAVE ROZZELLE, Suddenlink Communications: The state of video has never been stronger.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: At a House hearing yesterday on innovation and regulation, executives from companies operating in this rapidly changing environment spoke to both the opportunities and challenges it presents.

    Dave Rozzelle is with Suddenlink Communications, a regional cable and Internet provider.

    DAVE ROZZELLE: The path to continued growth for cable is to enhance and expand its customers' use and enjoyment of our networks. Cable is investing billions annually to ensure that this potential can be realized.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, as consumers change what they watch and how, new fault lines are emerging over who produces and distributes content, how it's delivered, and what happens to the old economic models of the business.

    This summer, a dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS led to a blackout of CBS for millions of customers. The argument was over retransmission fees, payments that networks charge cable companies to carry their shows. Those fees are also now at the heart of a fight over a new company called Aereo.

    For as little as $8 a month, Aereo offers subscribers the ability to watch and record free broadcast TV live, without having an antenna or a cable connection. Aereo streams live TV to phones, tablets and computers.

    To do that, Aereo has millions of dime-sized antennas that capture freely available broadcasts and then transmit them to the customer.

    NARRATOR: Live broadcast TV off the air wherever you are whenever you want.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The company says it is perfectly legal. But networks, including NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and PBS, are suing Aereo. They say it's stealing content and depriving them of revenue, since Aereo doesn't pay the retransmission fees.

    So far, Aereo which also provides service in Boston, Atlanta, Miami, and Salt Lake City, and hopes to be in nearly 18 more cities within the year, has won a pair of decisions from federal judges. This week, another federal judge shut down a similar streaming service called FilmOn.

    I recently spoke with the chief of Aereo in our New York studio.

     We're joined by chief Chet Kanojia.

    Thanks for being with us.

    CHET KANOJIA, Aereo: My pleasure.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, why start Aereo? Why was this technology necessary?

    CHET KANOJIA: Well, the goal of Aereo was to create an alternative, to create a parallel system almost, if you will, because the current system in which you get television is a highly integrated, monopoly-based sort of system.

    The goal was to create an alternative, so we can do more things later on that may be better user interfaces. Additional content may come in. All kinds of different things are -- could be possibilities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the people who are profiting from the traditional systems, including the broadcasters, are fighting back pretty aggressively.

    A huge consortium in the New York market, including the PBS station that is hosting this program, sued you, saying, hey, listen, you are giving away our content. You are making money off of it, and we don't have any control.

    Is it copyright infringement?

    CHET KANOJIA: Well, three federal courts have said it's not.

    So, Aereo has been validated by three courts. And it's an important distinction that I want to make, that is Aereo is a technology provider, and, as such, since broadcasting started, companies have sold antennas, television, VCRs, all manner of equipment, and made money doing that, and it's perfectly legitimate and permitted by law.

    And just because it's a new way of doing things, I mean, there's no -- there's no reason why technology should stand still to respect all business models.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you have got the antenna farms that you're building, essentially. If I'm a customer, I have one particular antenna inside of the Aereo room, so to speak.

    But does it seem like a technicality, when you actually don't need 5,000 antennas in a room? You're saying it's to be by the letter of the law. Are you violating the spirit of the law?

    CHET KANOJIA: Not at all. I think Congress always intended that consumers to have the ability to have an antenna.

    And it's a simple manifestation of that, saying, well, that's what the intent was, the consumer can have an antenna. So, whether I put it in my window or my roof or my neighbor's roof, those aren't restrictions that Congress ever intended or proposed.

    So, I think it complies with actually the spirit of the law as well, and perhaps more so, because the idea that consumers should have that choice was always intended by Congress.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, let's talk a little bit bigger picture about the future of TV and television as we know it. Let's look at the revenue model that this is challenging. Right?

    So, if you have a DVR that allows people to skip advertising, advertisers are upset. If you have this ability to go around retransmission fees, the broadcasters say that's another huge revenue stream. You can see why they're fighting back. But what are technologies like this going to do or doing to television as we know it?

    CHET KANOJIA: We firmly believe that these are going to be -- they're going to increase audiences.

    They're going to more people in different modalities, use, cases, tremendous opportunities in different types of ad models. Let's not forget in the '70s, the same broadcaster fought cable television, who now they sometimes embrace, although currently they're still fighting them.

    VCR, same thing. And all these industries created billions of dollars for everybody involved.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is what is happening to TV now what happened to print or newspapers in the last 10 years? Is that the kind of disruption we're seeing?

    CHET KANOJIA: I think there is certainly a transformation under way. And it's a function of the Internet bandwidth is really how I look at it, that when you have sufficient bandwidth, and consumers have the flexibility and choice, change is forced upon the system.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how do you see this shaking out? Are we going to be successful -- let's say in a perfect Aereo world, there is a disaggregation, an unbundling of channels, people are allowed to choose exactly which channels they want. What does that do to the way that television is packaged and distributed to people today?

    CHET KANOJIA: I think our belief -- and I think any rational person would agree that there is absolutely no need for 500 or 700 channels. There's no justification for that.

    It's a legacy model that's been -- because, back then, when these models were developed, there were no digital on-demand technologies. So, majority of content that is in the -- what I call -- we will call scripted categories, people like on demand.

    Netflix is a great example of what is going on. We think the evolution is going to be a live, a separation between live and libraries. And live technologies are going to -- or live access is going to be a function of technology, how great the signal quality is, picture quality, availability on any device, any time, social features, shareability.

    All those things are going to be important. And libraries are going to be distinguished by proprietary, unique content that those libraries create. So, we think that's the way the future is.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what happens to that communal, shared, live event, the Super Bowl or the end of some Dancing with the Stars show, where people are actually -- or let's say the elections, where they're watching it together at the same time?

    What does a disruption like this do?

    CHET KANOJIA: Well, I think it just creates -- it creates the ability for them to be able to be freed up, so they can consume on any device, anywhere.

    And there's absolutely -- today, those consumers can do that today with an antenna. I think NAB cites a statistic somewhere around 54 million people use an antenna in some way, shape, or form. I think there's sort of this obsession or disruption, which I don't think is necessarily true here. This is evolution of where a modern consumer wants things to be. It's inevitable. It's going to happen, with or without Aereo.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the idea of control that distributors say they would like to have? They create the content, they package the content, they figure out how it should be, and essentially we're ceding that to a distributor that we don't have a relationship with.

    CHET KANOJIA: Well, I think, just to be very clear, Aereo's technologies only apply to free-to-air broadcast television.

    That's the equivalent of saying an antenna manufacturer is somehow bound by control. We're an equipment supplier to the consumer. This is not applied to ESPN or HBO or any of those kind of things. Right? Those are separate types. They're cable networks or cable channels. This is applied to free-to-broadcast.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, do we have a future where Aereo complements existing television as we know it?

    CHET KANOJIA: I think Aereo is a wedge in to start the discussion on where the evolution is likely to go.

    I think an open platform in which technology and programming are decoupled, so the platform is purely about how consumers may use programming, is where we think the future is going to be. So, I -- today, we don't know what the future is or not. It's not written, obviously. But we certainly think that it's going to be highly complementary to a lot of people in this ecosystem.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Chet Kanojia, thanks so much for your time.

    CHET KANOJIA: My pleasure.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: In New York City last night, what has become an annual tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks lit up the sky once again.

    The display, which marks where the Twin Towers once stood, remembers those lost that day. A new book about one of the victims, a passenger on the first hijacked jet, talks about life, as well as loss.

    Ray Suarez has our conversation.

    RAY SUAREZ: Danny Lewin was one of 92 people aboard American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11, 2001, originally heading to Los Angeles.

    But terrorists took over the plane and flew it into the World Trade Center North Tower. Lewin's role has been largely unknown until now. But it is believed that he tried stopping the hijacking before the plane flew into the tower, and was killed in the struggle.

    Lewin was a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur. He had a major role in transforming the way the Web worked and working on algorithms that speeded up the delivery of content considerably. His story is the subject of a new book, "No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet."

    The author is Molly Knight Raskin, a journalist who has also worked previously for the NewsHour.

    Molly, good to have you with us.

     MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN, "No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet": Good to be here.

    RAY SUAREZ: Well, this is your first book. What got you interested in the story of Danny Lewin?

    MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Well, I first heard about Danny on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which surprised me, because I thought I had heard so many stories until then, and didn't really expect to hear a story that I would want to go out and tell.

    And a friend of a friend came to me and said, there's a story of this victim of 9/11. And his company, which is based in Cambridge, wants to produce a documentary about him as a tribute. And this was a private thing. But the more I learned about his life and began to research and interview people, the more I just felt that it was a story that needed to be told.

    RAY SUAREZ: You know, that idea, the man who saved the Internet, that's a pretty big title to hang around anyone's neck or put on their resume. How did he do it? What was the problem? Take us back to the late '90s and the growing pains of the World Wide Web.

    MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Well, I think everybody, if you used the Internet back then, or You tried to, in the mid-'90s, the biggest impediment to the growth of the Internet was really this problem of congestion.

    The Internet is a distributed system, and it still is today, and so instead of having one tunnel through which information can be processed and content can be sent, there's this whole sort of tangled web of roots through which all this content passes every day.

    And, basically, Danny wrote a set of algorithms for his thesis at MIT, and he came up with this idea that, by using math, combined with theoretical computer science, he could have some practical application to the Internet, and he could end what at the time was being called the worldwide wait.

    If you remember, you would dial into a Web site, and, you know, these days, it would probably seem like an eternity. You would wait and wait and you would hear the beeping and chirping, and then most of the time, you would get the message, please wait, the server is busy.

    And so, in that environment, it was almost impossible to grow an e-business, where people needed to click and they needed to get products or information fast. So, Danny wrote this set of algorithms. And, basically, what he did was use them to program software, which he patented with his professor at MIT Tom Leighton, and create this distributed system, a layer on top of the Internet that functioned in a very different way, that used his math to make intelligent software that was like a FedEx for the Internet.

    It knew the fastest route and it knew how to get around the traffic jams.

    RAY SUAREZ: It was a sensation from its first days of taking on some big customers. But when the dot-com bubble burst, the company started to sail through some rough waters.

    September 11 casts a long shadow across this book, and I think one of the most beautiful, karmic convergences of the whole thing is when the story of September 11 itself backs one of the first mega-news stories of the Internet age, and it's the day that kills Danny Lewin at the same time.

    MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Yes, it's really the tragic irony of the story.

    I mean, Danny spent so many years going out there and trying to sell this technology. And in the early days, it wasn't easy. And he basically said, there will be a day on which the Internet will get a crush of requests. It will be a crush unlike anything you have ever seen.

    And everything he predicted proved true on that day 12 years ago. And he, sadly, perished that day, and was unable to see his company not only survive the crash, but also Akamai Technologies, the underpinnings of which were his algorithms, were responsible for keeping all of these websites live on September 11 that people used who were in desperate search of information about lives that were lost.

    It was -- it was the Web equivalent of the 100-year flood. And websites like CNN.com were struggling and, in fact, crashed that morning, and the first call a lot of them made was to Akamai.

    RAY SUAREZ: In a tribute to Danny Lewin, one of his best friends called him the first casualty of the first war of the 21st century. What do we know about the way he died?

    MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Well, we don't know exactly what happened on Flight 11, and we never will. It happened very fast. It happened before really anybody knew anything about that terrible day.

    But what we do know from the facts gathered by the 9/11 Commission is that the passenger seated in 9-B in business class, which was Danny's seat, according to the flight manifest, was stabbed and killed in some kind of a struggle on that flight. And we also know that Danny was a trained warrior.

    He had trained in one of the most elite counterterrorism units of the Israeli army. So his friends and family say, the moment they heard about the crash and knew that there had been a struggle in his seat, that he had stood up and tried to fight back. And, at that time, nobody had perished yet from the attacks.

    RAY SUAREZ: The book is "No Better Time."

    Molly Knight Raskin, thanks for joining us.

    MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Thanks for having me.

     


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    "We go to the Moon, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

    --John F. Kennedy, speaking at Rice University, September 12, 1962.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, the first in a new series we will be bring you over the coming months. We're calling this project Where Poetry Lives.

    Jeffrey Brown tells us about it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We have a special guide traveling with us, poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. Our goal is to explore poetry and literature in various corners of American life, in sometimes unexpected ways and places, and we will seek to connect these trips to aspects of Natasha's personal experience and, no doubt, to the experiences of many of you.

    We will encounter some difficult and even painful problems, but also, we hope, capture the joy and more that art can bring.

    We certainly saw all of that in this, our first report.

    GARY GLAZNER, Alzheimer's Poetry Project: Mortal, though.

    MEN AND WOMEN: Mortal, though.

    GARY GLAZNER: Not sleeping.

    MEN AND WOMEN: Not sleeping.

    GARY GLAZNER: We must save it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Marianne Moore's poem "The Camperdown Elm," and standing before the tree itself on a beautiful day in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, poet Gary Glazner led a recitation.

    GARY GLAZNER: OK, I say it, you say it.

    Props are needed.

    MEN AND WOMEN: Props are needed.

    GARY GLAZNER: And tree food.

    MEN AND WOMEN: And tree food.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's a performance, a kind of game, and something more, for these are men and women at various stages of dementia, now participants in the Alzheimer's Poetry Project created by Glazner almost a decade ago.

    MEN AND WOMEN: A poem as lovely as a tree.

    GARY GLAZNER: I think it's momentary happiness and satisfaction, quality of life.

    I think that's the thing we can learn from people living with dementia, is that they live in the moment, and in that moment, if we're playful and we're joking around and we're doing poetry together, it's just beautiful.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Natasha Trethewey and I joined Glazner and his group on their recent outing in the park, as they listened, recited and even created some poetry of their own.

    MEN AND WOMEN: It's a perfect day.

    GARY GLAZNER: I don't call this a cloud.

    MEN AND WOMEN: I don't call this a cloud.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was part of a project that now operates in 24 states, as well as Germany, Poland and South Korea. In New York, it operates out of the New York Memory Center, a community-based nonprofit organization that's designed a rigorous day program for people experiencing memory disorders, including yoga classes, computer skills instruction and poetry.

    Several times a month, they're joined by preschoolers housed in the same building. On this day, together, they recited William Wordsworth.

    GARY GLAZNER: And then my heart with pleasure fills.

    CHILDREN: Then my heart with pleasure fills.

    GARY GLAZNER: And dances with the daffodils.

    CHILDREN: And dances with the daffodils.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Natasha joined in for a lighter moment.

    NATASHA TRETHEWEY, U.S. Poet Laureate: I'm a poet.

    GARY GLAZNER: I'm a poet.

    NATASHA TRETHEWEY: And I know it.

    GARY GLAZNER: And I know it.

    NATASHA TRETHEWEY: And my feet surely show it.

    GARY GLAZNER: And my feet surely show it.

    NATASHA TRETHEWEY: Because they're long fellows.

    GARY GLAZNER: Because they're long fellows.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GARY GLAZNER: All right. Very good, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She also worked separately with Glazner and the Alzheimer's group on "The Ode to the Statue of Liberty" by Emma Lazarus.

    MEN AND WOMEN: Give me your tired, your poor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Seventy-five-year-old Ola Hightower first came to the center nine years ago.

    NATASHA TRETHEWEY: When Gary said Emma Lazarus, you immediately said?

    WOMAN: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.

    (CROSSTALK)

    NATASHA TRETHEWEY: Now, how did you -- now, how did you memorize that poem?

    WOMAN: Well, I guess I learned it when I was in college, you know, and I remember stuff. And I like reading. Oh, God, you should see my library.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Memories of poems, of family members, of one's own self, they're what Alzheimer's steals, short-term memory first and then, progressively, longer-term memory.

    Today, some five million Americans live with the disease. As the population ages, some estimate the number will grow as high as 13.8 million in 40 years. It's something that touches so many of us, including Natasha, who told of how watching a beloved aunt living with Alzheimer's affected her and her early poetry.

    NATASHA TRETHEWEY: The idea that what she was losing was personal history because she was losing memory, that's the first thing I tried to make sense of, and how I saw her trying to grasp or hold onto things as she was losing so much in her head.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There's a lot still not known about the causes of Alzheimer's, and there's no cure.

    But Memory Center executive director Christopher Nadeau says scientists and psychologists are seeing clear care benefits from working with language and art.

    CHRISTOPHER NADEAU, New York Memory Center: What we're seeing is more and more studies come out showing that we can certainly improve the quality of life of individuals that are living with Alzheimer's and related dementia. And so what does that translate into? It translates to improved levels of self-esteem, a decrease in depression levels, and sustaining people in the community for longer periods of time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We saw simple, but direct examples of language triggering memory and a bit of fun, as Gary Glazner finished reciting Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat," ending on the word moon.

    MEN AND WOMEN (singing): Fly me to the moon let me play amongst the stars.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Seventy-nine-year-old Norman Marcus, a retired stockbroker and Frank Sinatra fan, launched into a old favorite.

    Patricia Bradley told us how, several years ago, her once-confident mother had grown anxious and fearful. These days 84-year-old, Kathleen Bradley goes to the Memory Center every day and quietly joins in the activities.

    You like going to the Memory Center?

    WOMAN: Yes, I do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You do?

    WOMAN: It gets out of the house.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You what? You get out of the house.

    WOMAN: Get out of the house.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, you like getting out of the house.

    (CROSSTALK)

    WOMAN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you have friends there?

    WOMAN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    WOMAN: Mom is very lucid, and things come out and can come out very clearly. And it's like wow. And other days, it's not that easy. And it sometimes seems like, is there -- what's going on, like, what is the thought process? Can she really -- is she really understanding at the moment what she's really reading, because sometimes it seems like she is, but then it's like forgotten.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then there was Bernie Packer, a former cook who talked, kidded and sang his way through the stroll.

    MAN: Well, I'm 94. I do the best I can. I will be honest.

    I approach the long-term memory -- and now the short-time memory is getting pretty short. So it's not that great anymore. But I made a deal with God...

    JEFFREY BROWN: What's the deal?

    MAN: ... you know, that he could do anything he wants to my body, but he must not fool with my brain. I want to remain sane until the day I go, you know?

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how's the deal going?

    MAN: OK. I live in the present.

    GARY GLAZNER: Once upon a midnight dreary.

    MEN AND WOMEN: Once upon a midnight dreary.

    GARY GLAZNER: While I pondered weak and weary.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Joy was the word for one moment we all experienced in the park, as we came upon a saxophonist playing for the birds and passersby.

    He joined Glazner and the group for an improvised version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."

    GARY GLAZNER: Quoth the raven, nevermore.

    MEN AND WOMEN: Quoth the raven, nevermore.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A short walk in the park, a sax, and a lot of poetry, memories lost, moments gained.

    And we have much more on this story online, including Gary Glazner and Natasha Trethewey reading their own poems about memory and loss. Natasha has also written a short essay about our trip. And you can send us your thoughts and questions about our report. Natasha and I will answer them in an online chat we will post next week.

    Next up in our series: a visit to Detroit and a report on InsideOUT, a writing program in inner-city schools. We will have that for you in October.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was lovely.

     


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    Set in 1920 Halifax, "Portrait of Julia" follows Julia Robertson, the young war widow featured in the bestselling book "Burden of Desire." In his fourth novel, Robert MacNeil, longtime anchor and executive editor of the PBS NewsHour, Julia ventures out into a new world, filled with radical ideas. "It's making personal the ideas that interest me about that period," MacNeil told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown.

    Julia travels to London, Paris and the South of France as she discovers new ways of thinking, but MacNeil is very much interested in Canada after World War I. He explains that it was the Canadian involvement in the war that allowed for a Canadian identity. "Burden of Desire" was set at the time of the Halifax explosion and this continuation of the story starts just three years later.

    Watch an in-depth interview with MacNeil Thursday on the NewsHour. You can live stream the show at 6 p.m. EST on our Ustream channel or check your local PBS station's schedule.


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