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

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    The Balthazard Family around 1900. Photo by Flickr user Diane Cordell

    The Balthazard Family around 1900. Photo by Flickr user Diane Cordell

    Psychologists often focus on role of mothers in children’s development. Writer Paul Raeburn asks: when it comes to raising children, what does dad have to do with it?

    Dads are not just a second-income in a family, he says, but their role in children’s psychological development has been overlooked. Raeburn’s book “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Overlooked Parent”, delves into the effects an active, present father has on his children. He found recent research that suggests that fathers’ love and involvement is a crucial factor in children’s well-being, particularly in his sons’ and daughters’ teenage years.

    The book will be released this Father’s Day. Raeburn recently wrote about his findings in Scientific American.

    A father’s presence during his daughter’s childhood influences her sexual development, physically and psychologically, Raeburn says. Studies by Bruce J. Ellis at the University of Arizona found that when fathers had a close relationship with their daughters in the first five to seven years of life, they engaged sex at a later age and had a lower risk of teen pregnancy. Fathers’ involvement teaches young girls a “reproductive strategy” early in life, explains psychologist Sarah E. Hill of Texas Christian University.

    “When Dad is absent,” she said, “it basically provides young girls with a cue about what the future holds in terms of the mating system they are born into.”“When Dad is absent,” she said, “it basically provides young girls with a cue about what the future holds in terms of the mating system they are born into.”

    If dad is absent, physically or emotionally, she learns that men don’t stick around, Raeburn writes. “Finding a man requires quick action. The sooner she is ready to have children, the better. She cannot consciously decide to enter puberty earlier, but her biology takes over, subconsciously,” he summarizes.

    A father may give off pheromones that delay his daughter’s sexual development physically, he adds. Daughters who grew up with a highly-engaged dad started puberty later than girls with absent fathers. Ellis pointed to animal studies that found similar effects in other mammals: unrelated males’ presence spurred a female’s sexual development, but her father’s pheromones subdued it.

    The results of the research are as interesting as the innovative studies that helped uncover the roles fathers play at home, both socially and biologically. In one instance, Raeburn details how Ellis wanted to have a controlled experiment with limited variables, where one daughter would be raised in an ideal family setting, while another was subjected to hardship. Raeburn explains how Ellis found a naturally occurring experiment:

    Ellis came up with an innovative way to pose the question. He considered families in which divorced parents had two daughters separated by at least five years in age. When the parents divorced, the older sister would have had five more years with a father’s consistent presence than the younger sister. If father absence causes early puberty and risky behavior, then the younger daughter should show more of that behavior than her older sibling. Also, genes or the family’s environment would not confuse the results, because those would be the same for both daughters. It was close to a naturally occurring experiment, Ellis realized.

    Father’s love is just as important as mother’s when it comes to emotional development, Raeburn says. He found research from Melanie Horn Mallers, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton that showed sons with fond memories of dad were better able to handle day-to-day stress. And children who were accepted by both parents were more independent, emotionally stable and more positive than those who were not.

    “Fatherhood is about helping children become happy and healthy adults, at ease in the world, and prepared to become fathers (or mothers) themselves. We often say that doing what is best for our kids is the most important thing we do,” Raeburn writes. “The new attention to fathers, and the research we have discussed here, should help all of us find our way.”

    The post Innovative research focuses on family role of overlooked dads appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Detainees in the compliant camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Detainees in the compliant camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Guantanamo inmate Fayiz Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari put on a white cap and the traditional Middle Eastern white cotton shirt and pants on Thursday, in preparation for making his case to officials on why he no longer poses a risk to the United States.

    He was appearing before officials from the departments of defense, homeland security, justice and state, known as the Periodic Review Board.

    Al-Kandari, 39, has been held at Guantanamo since 2002 on war crimes charges. He is accused of going to an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan to learn about weapons and recruiting people to participate in jihad. He refutes the charges.

    His lawyer Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, who spoke on his behalf at the review, said through more than 50 visits with al-Kandari at Guantanamo and more than a dozen trips to Kuwait — the detainee’s home country — to meet with officials and his family, Wingard could “unequivocally declare that he is not a threat to the national security of the United States.”

    In additional to the rehabilitation facilities available in Kuwait, Wingard pointed to al-Kandari’s brother Abdullah, who also was a prisoner at Guantanamo for six years before his release back home to Kuwait, and is now a professional athlete, has started a family and “has posed no danger to anyone.”

    “Fayiz has spent his 12-and-a-half years (at Guantanamo) reading, writing, teaching and becoming fluent in the English language,” said Wingard of his client. “Fayiz has several business ideas that we frequently discuss,” and he is looking forward to going back to Kuwait, getting married, starting a family and a business, his lawyer said.

    An American flag flies over the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    An American flag flies over the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    After al-Kandari’s representatives gave their opening statements, the camera was turned off to the media. According to an official, closing the proceedings to the press enables the detainees to speak about personal matters without fear that the published information will be used against them later.

    “Often that might mean saying things that could potentially endanger themselves or their families by those looking to re-recruit, threaten, or otherwise endanger them,” the official said.

    The Periodic Review Board weighs the detainee’s responses to questions and the testimony of those who have worked closest with him when determining whether to recommend his continued detention at Guantanamo or recommend his transfer.

    The board’s recommendation goes to a second committee made up the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security, the attorney general, director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    The release of the detainee is contingent on finding a host country where security is in place to receive him, said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, the Pentagon’s spokesman on Guantanamo. Nearly 80 of Guantanamo’s 149 detainees are awaiting transfer because of these security provisions.

    “First of all, we’ve got to find a country that’s willing to take these guys. That’s not the most easy thing that we do,” said Breasseale. “It has to be a country that is not going to subject these detainees to inhumane treatment or torture, or have a history of torture. And finally, they have to be able to make verifiable security assurances.”

    Some detainees could be transferred for continued detention in another country, for monitoring, or for release but continued observation — all of which is negotiated with U.S. officials and the host country.

    Another approximately 20 detainees are considered eligible for prosecution under military commission, and about 30 are considered too risky to move and are being held indefinitely under the “law of war,” said Breasseale.

    A guard in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    A guard in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Congress gets a 30-day notification when a detainee is released. In the case of the prisoner swap in May when Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was traded for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo, some lawmakers said they weren’t notified.

    When asked, Breasseale said the Bergdahl trade didn’t change the way detainees are processed. “We continue to review detainees to determine if they continue to present an enduring security threat and if so, can it be mitigated and if it cannot be, make a determination as to whether or not they’re eligible for continued law of war detention or for prosecution.”

    President Obama authorized the review boards in 2011 as part of the overall effort to process the detainees and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The reviews began in January 2014.

    A detainee cannot appeal the board’s recommendation but is eligible for a later review. Each detainee is due a review every three years.

    Al-Kandari is the eighth detainee to undergo the board’s review. Of the five earlier cases the board has decided, three detainees were recommended for transfer and two were not because they still are considered a “significant threat” to the United States.

    The ones who were recommended for transfer had strong family support and were helpful in detention, according to the board. For those deemed a continued threat, the reasons included close ties to al-Qaida and anti-U.S. sentiments expressed to other inmates. In one case, the board said the detainee chose not to attend the hearing and urged him to do so next time.

    None of the three detainees that the board recommended for transfer has left the prison. The next review — of prisoner Muhammad Murdi Issa al-Zahrani — is on Thursday.

    The post What’s it take to get out of Guantanamo? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dave Vockell, a computer programmer, talked to senior citizens at the I-Hop to hone his health start-up. Photo by Flickr user Ula

    Dave Vockell, a computer programmer, talked to senior citizens at the I-Hop to hone his health start-up. Photo by Flickr user Ula

    A computer programmer and a kid in a Batman suit walk into a pancake house…it sounds like a joke, but it really happened, and now the programmer, Dave Vockell, has a new product to bring to market. It’s an app to help seniors talk to their doctors about medical care.

    “Like all great health care breakthroughs, it happened at the International House of Pancakes,” he says, half-jokingly.

    Venture capitalists are pouring more money than ever before into digital health start-ups, more than $2 billion so far this year alone, according to the venture capital firm Rock Health. They are betting that entrepreneurs can help doctors, hospitals and insurers become leaner – which the Affordable Care Act strongly encourages.

    Vockell’s endeavor started back in April, when Medicare released a huge database of how much it pays individual doctors. The government health plan for senior citizens and the disabled had kept that a secret for decades.

    So when Medicare suddenly dumped an entire year’s worth of data, finally making public millions of transactions, coders like Vockell tried to figure out how to make it useful for seniors.

    Enter the I-Hop.

    “My kids go there after school one day for funny face pancake lunch,” he says. “There were lots of seniors there. And my kids run around, and the seniors love when they come up and sit with them, and I was like, I could totally use my kids to source a whole bunch of interviews pretty fast.”

    His three-year-old in a Batman suit proved a great ice breaker, and over a lot of pancakes, 43 seniors told Vockell that knowing which doctors charge more and less wouldn’t necessarily send them shopping for the lowest price. Seniors generally like their doctors and don’t want to shop for new ones.

    Mostly the seniors told Vockell, “I know I have some procedures on the horizon, that I don’t know exactly what they mean that I have to do or what they’re going to cost me, I’d love to get some insight into that.”

    They also asked, “could you make the print really big?” Vockell says. And, he laughs, several mentioned, “the blueberry syrup is magnificent.”

    So Vockell developed a website that helps seniors understand the procedures their doctors are recommending, and the costs, so they can start conversations with their doctors – and they can print the information out on paper, in really big type.

    It’s too early to say whether his product will be the hot new topic on the shuffleboard circuit, but it was a winner at the big Health Datapalooza conference this month in Washington, DC.

    Big health care data is the raw material for a whole new segment of the IT sector. Entrepreneurs like Sean Power are also exploiting databases like the price list Medicare released this spring.

    “That’s hot,” he says. “Anytime anybody releases a new set of data we get excited.”

    Powers’ company, karmadata, is based on the idea that software engineers like him can find ways to use big data to save the government or big companies money, and that they’ll share some of their savings with him. There’s tons of opportunity in streamlining health care, he says.

    “It’s a great time to be starting a company in the health care data space. I think the gold rush is on.”

    Just like a real gold rush, hitting paydirt means lots of prospecting. Entrepreneurs can’t always find the information they really need to make a truly useful product. Dr. Omar Alvi is with a start-up called Accordion Health. Their big idea is to help families estimate future health care spending. So you could type in that grandpa’s got hypertension, mom’s got diabetes and one of the kids has asthma, and then get some idea of how much that’s all going to cost, and maybe even shop for the best price.

    A great idea, but, Alvi says: “Each patient is very different, and so in order to be able to make a meaningful prediction, you have to have a lot of data. So you can say, patients just like this went through these problems as they moved through the medical system. That’s really where it requires hundreds of millions of data points.”

    And not even close to the millions of data points Alvi’s company needs are available yet. A lot of information about procedures, cost and effectiveness remain locked up inside insurance company computers, or in hospitals’ and doctors’ medical records – information they don’t want to share.


    This story is part of a partnership between NPR and Kaiser Health News. It can be republished for free. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

    The post How one entrepreneur found success over pancakes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Goalkeeper Noel Valladares of Honduras scores an own goal, France's second, as he fumbles the ball over the line during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between France and Honduras at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 15, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    Goalkeeper Noel Valladares of Honduras scores an own goal, France’s second, as he fumbles the ball over the line during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between France and Honduras at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 15, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    On Sunday the first goal scored and confirmed by goal-line technology awarded France a 2-0 lead over Honduras. The ball, blasted by French striker Karim Benzema, struck the inside of the top bar and then bounced off the Honduran goal keeper just over the line. France went on to win the game 3-0.

    Line technology is almost a staple now in any sport involving a ball, a line and questionable calls. FIFA, however, has long resisted using goal-line technology in their World Cup matches until 2014.

    A goal – according to FIFA – is scored when the whole ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts, and under the crossbar. The ball does not have to touch the net or even the ground to be counted. According to FIFA rules, it’s also written that, “the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.”

    Referees are humans and don’t see everything on the pitch, but this room for human error has long been part of the culture and raw emotion of watching the game.

    The new technology monitors the motions of the ball and detects when it passes over the goal line. It then alerts the referee when a goal is scored. The aim is to eliminate all human error when it comes to determining whether a goal was scored or not.

    That human error has called controversial goals throughout history. Arguably the most controversial goal was awarded to England in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. It was scored during overtime and England won the game 4-2.

    Germans argued that they saw chalk dust — meaning the ball hit on the line, not over it. Referee Gottfried Dienst consulted with his Azerbaijani assistant referee, Tofik Bahramov, who signaled it was a goal (the two had no common language so they communicated through hand signals). In 2004 England played Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier and English fans asked to place flowers on the grave of Bahramov. 1966 remains England’s only World Cup victory.

    More recently, at the 2010 World Cup, England and Germany faced off in the first knockout round. Towards the end of the first half England shot the ball which hit the underside of the top bar, but spun back out and into play. Video playback shows the ball did cross over the line, but neither referee was in a position to see it. No goal was awarded and Germany went on to win 4-1.

    German players joked that the countries are now even.

    Then in 2012 England eliminated Ukraine by one point in the Euro Cup after a controversial call denied Ukraine a goal. England’s goal keeper hooked the ball out of the goal, but it had clearly passed the line. The next day the referee admitted Ukraine had been denied a legitimate goal. Afterwards, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said goal-line technology is a necessity and “I am confident they (the International Football Association Board) will see the time has come.”

    The time has come and France’s goal on Sunday is unlikely to be the only one confirmed and unquestioned by goal-line technology.

    The post Goal-line technology begins to clear controversial goals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ghana has taken steps to reduce their power resources ahead of the nation’s World Cup debut in Monday’s match against the U.S.

    The West African nation has been forced to ration its electricity throughout the month due to shortages in natural gas and lower than average water levels needed to power the Akosombo dam along the Volta River. Currently, the dam is operating with one turbine while two other turbines are shut down.

    To ensure Ghanaian would be able to watch their Black Stars take on the U.S. with no interruptions, Ghana’s officials purchased 50 megawatts from neighboring nation, Cote d’Ivoire, and utility company Volta Aluminum Co. reduced their dam production in anticipation for the surge.

    According to the World Bank, 72% of Ghana’s population has access to electricity. In contrast, its neighbors Togo and Burkina Faso have rounded rates of 26% and 13%, respectively.

    In June 2013, the Obama administration proposed a project dubbed “Power Africa” that promised $7 billion dollars in financial support over the next five years to bring access to electricity to over 20 million households in 6 African nations, including Ghana.

    The Ghana government has also invested in alternative energy sources such as solar and wind but none has yet to produce the amount of electricity needed to keep up with the country’s continuing growth.

    Ghanaian officials expect full power generating capacity to resume in July, when water will have likely risen to its normal levels.

    The post Ghana rations electricity ahead of World Cup debut appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Paul Solman spoke with entrepreneurs and investors about the burgeoning cannabis business. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Paul Solman spoke with entrepreneurs and investors about the burgeoning cannabis business. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Last year, conferences sponsored by the ArcView Group, an investment firm that vets and funds cannabis entrepreneurs, were drawing a few dozen potential investors. This year, they draw hundreds. Paul Solman attended one such conference just outside Boston earlier this spring, where he caught up with investors and took note of the latest product pitches. You can see more of those products in Solman’s Making Sen$e segment airing on the NewsHour Monday night.

    On this page though, we wanted to zero in on the interests and motivations of the industry’s players. Some of them just like pot. Some haven’t tried it and don’t plan to. But nearly all of them see it as a growth industry whose rise rivals the tech boom of the 1990s.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    Paul interviewed Dooma Wendschuh and Jon Cooper, the co-founders of a product called Ebbu, which delivers five specifically branded highs via different delivery mechanisms — if and when marijuana is fully legalized — about their product and their own experiences using.

    Dooma Wendschuh: To be honest, we liken ourselves to a beer company. You know, when you go to a bar anywhere in the world, and you order a Stella, it’s going to look like a Stella, taste like a Stella and have that same psychoactive response that you come to expect from a Stella. Our business is to give those same qualities to cannabis. Right now, cannabis is more like wine. There’s a million different varieties. It’s very confusing. You don’t know what you’re getting when you try the product. Through our distilling process, we can create an artisanal product that is guaranteed to be consistent and reliable and give you the same psychoactive response every time.

    I’m sure you’ve gone to the store and ordered three Granny Smith apples and they don’t all taste the same. But in another industry, the perfume industry, for example, every bottle of Chanel No. 5 is going to smell the same. Our process is very similar to the way they make perfume. We’re pulling a bunch of ingredients out and then combining them together.

    Jon Cooper: You can’t find Chanel No. 5 out in nature. Our products that we’re creating, you don’t find that in this specific strain. We’re taking the best of each of the strains and we’re removing the worst of the best of the strains, in order to create the experiences and the feelings that represent Ebbu.

    Paul Solman: But some people might say, “Wait a second. You are de-authenticating life. You’re just turning people into druggies who can order up experience instead of actually having it.”

    Dooma Wendschuh: The issue is not de-authentication. The issue is improvement. There’s a lot of value that you can have from champagne that you can’t get from grapes. You can toast a special event that happened in your family; you can have a great night out with your friends. You’ll never get that from grapes. You need a process to go from grapes to something that you can enjoy recreationally and celebrate responsibly with your friends, and cannabis is not any different from alcohol. Of course, you need to use it responsibly, but it’s in many ways healthier and better for you than alcohol, so what we’re doing is giving people an alternative.

    Paul Solman: So we’ve talked to some people here who’ve never smoked marijuana – only a few of them — and some people who started when they were 13. You guys?

    Dooma Wendschuh: It’s kind of funny to tell you this because my parents actually don’t know, and they’ll probably find out by watching the show, but the first time I used cannabis was on my bar mitzvah. A couple of kids took me up to the roof of the hotel and gave me a joint and they said: Now you’re about to really become a man. And that was my first time. I didn’t use it that frequently since then, but I’ve since become quite a connoisseur.

    For some reaction to Ebbu, Paul spoke with investors, beginning with Todd Steinberg.

    Paul Solman: What did you think of this pitch?

    Todd Steinberg, investor: I think that as this industry moves to replicate the wine industry, there needs to be consistency, and I think the idea of focusing specifically on the effect is what the consumer wants. I think what Mondavi did for the wine industry in the United States, a product like this and a company like this could do.

    Ari Hoffnung, investor: I’m especially hopeful that the innovation that they and others like them are bringing to the industry first and foremost will help patients who need medical marijuana to address the conditions they’re suffering from. We’re living in exciting times right now, and this a real sea change. I’m hopeful that other states like my home state of New York will jump on board really soon and allow medical cannabis.

    Leslie Bocskor, another investor with ArcView, was interested in more than just medicinal opportunities; developing the industry has greater significance for him.

    Leslie Bocskor, investor: I’m here as a member of the ArcView angel investor network. I believe in the movement, I believe in the freedom that it represents, so I’m aligned culturally with my business goals, and that is very rare.

    This is a unique moment in history and these days will never return again. This is even more significant than the repeal of prohibition was in 1933. This is the most significant change in a prohibited substance that we have ever seen becoming an accepted business segment.

    Jay Czarkowski, another Arcview investor, agreed.

    Jay Czarkowski My wife Diane and I…believe this is clearly America’s next great industry. If I had to take a step further, probably the world’s next great industry. We’re here for business opportunities. We’re also here because it’s the right thing to do, to help develop this industry then move it forward. And we’ve been operators in the industry since 2009.

    Paul Solman: What does that mean, operators in the industry?

    Jay Czarkowski: Grow operations and dispensaries in Colorado. When I first came into the industry, I’ll admit and I’ll be honest, I got into it as a business opportunity. But then I began to see with my own eyes that it was medicine. I saw how it not only truly helped sick people, but I saw it save people’s lives.

    Paul Solman: And how many people here are users of marijuana? Pretty much everybody?

    Jay Czarkowski: I would say if you look across this room, you’ll see a wide range of people. Everybody’s professional. Most of them have been fairly successful all their lives. I would say most of them, the majority, are certainly users of cannabis. Not necessarily smoking a joint, but there’s a lot of other ways to use cannabis. Edibles, vaporizers…

    Paul Solman: Edibles, at least back in my era, was brownies – that’s what you’re talking about?

    Jay Czarkowski: You know, it’s not just brownies any more. Everything is professionally packaged — little chocolates, little mints. There are breath sprays. There are tinctures. You can put a couple of drops of tincture or a few dropperfuls of tincture in some decaf tea at night.

    Paul Solman: Decaf tea?

    Jay Czarkowski: And you’ll sleep like a baby.

    Paul Solman: Really? What about soufflés or eggs, no?

    Jay Czarkowski: I think that’s getting a little too complicated.

    But as Maureen Dowd recounted in the New York Times recently, edible tetrahydrocannibinol can be a daunting mouthful, in more ways than one. Moreover, isn’t it a risky business strategy to put so much money behind a substance that might not be legalized for widespread recreational use any time soon? Paul posed that question to investor Tom Gargiulo.

    Tom Gargiulo: I think the possibility of it not being legalized is remote. A lot of people in this room are tired of waiting. But it’s going to happen and there’s going to be enormous growth because when you compare alcohol to cannabis, I think the harm reduction is massive. If people begin to make those switches from the more harmful things like alcohol and cigarettes to things like cannabis, I think it’s going to be good for the overall health of the American population. I want legalization to happen and I want to add to that critical mass that’s going to make this happen.

    It should be noted that not all investors or entrepreneurs came to the industry as long-time users. Daniel Yazbeck is an entrepreneur behind a portable pot analyzer called MyDx.

    Paul Solman: And you yourself began using marijuana when you were a kid?

    Daniel Yazbeck: No, I was a guest at my brother’s…he used to smoke and I didn’t like it because we were in college and I felt it was a stoner type [thing to do.] I was an A student, wanted to do everything right. I started smoking at around 30. After I joined Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, and I joined Panasonic to help them get into the medical industry and create diagnostic devices, I started smoking and I realized cannabis has an interesting effect on my brain, and helps me see things differently and it helps me appreciate life a little bit more. At the same time, it doesn’t distract me from being proactive and getting things done. But I wanted to discover how it works, so I started reading, reading, reading, and then one thing led to another, and we were creating this device. Because I want consistency. I want to be able to feel how I want to feel, when I want to feel it. And I think this will eventually help us get there.

    Nat Ames was in graduate school when he and another student started developing a machine that distills plant oils. Paul assumed he got into it for the “high” returns, psychotropically speaking.

    Paul Solman: So were you guys marijuana users in college who thought, hey, we can take this technology we’ve learned and apply it to something we care about?

    Nat Ames: No, sir. In fact, nobody in our company partakes in marijuana or cannabis use. We actually started the business all for essential oil for decaffeinating and then the cannabis industry found us. The technology doesn’t care whether you use it on any plant — cannabis, lettuce, tomatoes; they all process the same. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    Paul Solman: But now that you’re in the cannabis industry and at a cannabis convention, have you tried it?

    Nat Ames: No sir. I haven’t. I came from the oil and gas background – very straight laced. Right now it’s illegal. We’re from Ohio, so far as I’m concerned, it’s still illegal. I think it’s great that some people can. I just don’t have any desire at the time, anyway.

    Even if entrepreneurs themselves are gung-ho about the industry, surely there remains a stigma attached to developing products for what was, and in much of the U.S. still is, an illegal substance. Paul asked Tom Bollich, one of the founders of game maker Zynga (Farmville, Words with Friends), about the optics of now investing in the marijuana market.

    Paul Solman: What do your billionaire, entrepreneur hi-tech friends think about you in the marijuana industry?

    Tom Bollich: They think this is the best idea I’ve ever had. No joke. They’re all chomping at the bit, honestly. They love it.

    Paul Solman: Why?

    Tom Bollich: It’s a $140 billion black market sitting there.

    Paul Solman: What do you mean, black market?

    Tom Bollich: Well, right now $140 billion of it is black market. Right now, in the legal market, it’s probably like $4 billion. All that is going to move at some point. You’re going to have less people in prison, so local, county and state are going to get more revenue. Hopefully, eventually, the country gets more revenue from it. It’s kind of a win all around. Everyone in Silicon Valley is like, “duh.”

    Investor Sam Znaimer agreed, comparing this new high finance sector to the IT industry in the late 20th century.

    Sam Znaimer This really does resemble the IT industry and the computer industry in the 1980s. If you had gone to the Comdex trade show in 1982, this is what it felt like. It was a lot of hustling, young entrepreneurs with a vision for the future, and that’s what this industry can become. But, unlike the tech industry, where you’ve got to worry about really expensive developments cycles, long development times and technology risk, this is a marketplace where we know that there is a willing market out there to buy the products, where the risk is primarily regulatory and where you’ve got young entrepreneurs with a lot of hustle and a lot of vision to create the next Microsoft or the next Mondavi.

    Of course, what’s booming in the legal market right now has benefited from the black market and from years of illegal use, says investor Shaun Arora. He’s invested in an entrepreneur he met through ArcView who makes scissors for more efficiently trimming the plant. His desire to get in early on the market shows just how it’s taking shape, and how much, depending on whom you talk to, users have changed.

    Shaun Arora: It’s nice to get in on the ground stage of the company in an angel kind of environment, helping these budding entrepreneurs grow and sharing some of the lessons that I’ve had in the past. … There’s a lot of people who are doing what we’re doing here today that are now in jail, and now we’ve built an industry on their backs. We’re standing on their shoulders, building something where it’s not illegal to do it anymore.

    Paul Solman: Any concerns on your part — you seem like a very motivated guy – that making marijuana legal will make a lot of people who use it demotivated? That’s been my experience with people who have used marijuana, and that demotivation is the last thing Americans need at this stage in our global economic history, right?

    Shaun Arora: Well, I’m not hanging out with the same shady element that you seem to be hanging out with. The people that I meet here are incredibly motivated. They’re seeing opportunity; they see problems in the industry that are being neglected by other industries. Yesterday, I met some guy who’s trying to solve problems with bacteria. They are incredibly motivated people in the industry, and too often, this industry gets lumped in with the stoners on the couch, bingeing on the product, and ordering pizza at 2 in the morning. It’s not that type of consumer.

    The post What’re they smoking in the next high-finance industry? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Roger Boulay

    Photo by Roger Boulay

    Fifteen years ago, Charlotte Boulay visited India. The experience profoundly changed the poet.

    “It stayed with me, the feeling of being there … I just felt in love with the country. The things I saw there were such beautiful landscape and such horrific poverty,” Boulay told Art Beat.

    That juxtaposition of “beauty and ugliness,” as Boulay described it, is a central theme in her debut collection, “Foxes on the Trampoline,” which plays with that idea beyond the context of India.

    The title poem of the collection was inspired by home videos that people have posted on YouTube of foxes jumping on the trampolines in their backyards.

    “It’s so gorgeous, I loved it. Just these wild animals discovering this trampoline and they are psyched about it. They are thrilled… But also, if you think about it for more than a second, it represents how much we’ve taken over their habitat that they’re wandering into people’s backyards, to be entertainment for us.”

    The book took Boulay eight years to write as she struggled with questions of how to best represent these dichotomies. She was especially cautious about her many references to South Asia, concerned with painting a picture of otherness.

    “Some of the early drafts I felt were exoticize-ing the Indian landscape. Our first instinct is to compare a different place than what we know and to think it’s strange. But, you can get over that with time, and I’ve learned it takes me a lot of time to process things, more than some people, which is fine. I was just trying to address (India and America) in ways that were not easy.”

    In the opening poem, “Fruits of My Labor,” Boulay explores all of that simultaneously, acknowledging how difficult it was for her to compose the collection.

    “It felt very hard putting the book together at certain points and at the point I’m writing this poem, I thought this is a kind of work, but work can be so many different things. I guess I was thinking about Phillip Levine’s poem ‘What Work Is’ and responding to that. But then this poem combines all imagery from other poems in the book, imagery from trips I’ve taken to India with a road trip in America and — the trailer hauling pigs — some American imagery. The book is moving between those two landscapes and thinking about how to process each of them.”


    Listen to Charlotte Boulay read “Fruits of my Labor” from her debut collection of the same name.

    Fruits of my Labor

    I was working. Every time I dove into the pool,
                    or woke in the dark to hear a night bird
    calling, or waited through the late afternoon heat

    for the bell to ring for tea. Passing time was a job–
    my white arms and legs leaden,

                    my hair limp with rain. I wanted affirmation.
    I wanted other things too, but especially that.

    Across the world, idle tractors soak their jaws
                    in oil. A jet plumbs the sun and a trailer

    hauls pigs; one pink ear flaps between the slats. Once
    I saw a musician play

    Paganini on Paganini’s own violin. He stood, counting,
    counting silently,

    and when the orchestra reached his part he flipped
    the instrument into the air and caught it under his chin.


    At first, Boulay wanted her readers to understand the context for everything. She included a notes section at the end of the book to explain certain references. But, as the poet evolved in how she wrote about her experiences in India, her need for explanations changed as well.

    “Early versions of the book had a lot more notes and then at a certain point I stopped worrying. People will get from the poems what they get from them … I hope that (the references) just interest people in learning more. I don’t feel the need to explain everything.”

    In the end, images of India and the memories from a road trip in America, culminate in asking one central question.

    “What’s enough when you desire something or want something? Is there an answer that you can come up with instead of that?” Boulay explained to Art Beat.

    “The answer is that everything’s enough if you let it be in some ways. The musician catching his violin under his chin, the foxes on the trampoline — those small moments of, I guess what I would call, grace or beauty.”

    “Foxes on the Trampoline” was excerpted from the book “Foxes on the Trampoline” by Charlotte Boulay. Copyright © 2014 by Charlotte Boulay. Reprinted courtesy of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

    The post Weekly Poem: Charlotte Boulay writes ‘small moments of grace’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Because of high demand for tune, worldwide stocks of the popular fish are dwindling.  Photo by Flickr user Danny Hope

    Due to the high demand for tuna, worldwide stocks of the popular fish are dwindling. Photo by Flickr user Danny Hope

    President Anote Tong of the tiny Pacific Island nation of Kiribati announced Monday the closure of a vast fishing ground known as the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. The area, which spans over 150,000 square miles of ocean — roughly the size of California — will become one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries for tuna and other endangered species.

    In large part due to overfishing to feed the global appetite for tuna, worldwide stocks are in a dramatic decline. While Kiribati’s protected area covers just a small part of the Pacific where tuna migrate over the course of their lifespan, President Tong hopes his nation’s step will encourage others to follow suit. More than 4 million metric tons of tuna are caught annually by tens of thousands of vessels worldwide.

    Tong made his announcement this morning at the State Department’s two-day “Our Ocean” conference, where political leaders, ocean scientists and industry officials are gathering in Washington to address various threats to ocean health including overfishing, climate change and pollution.

    “Action is our obligation for our children and our children’s children,” Tong said. “The closure of the Phoenix Island Protected Area will have a major contribution for regeneration of tuna stocks, not only for us but for our global community, and for generations to come.”

    Secretary of State John Kerry introduced President Tong and acknowledged that while there are many international crises to attend to, it was important to focus on the health of the world’s oceans because the “survival of the planet is at stake.”

    Watch for NewsHour’s interview with President Tong later this week.

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    newswrapimage

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    GWEN IFILL: Gunmen went on a rampage in Kenya, killing at least 48 people and burning down two hotels. Some of the victims had gathered to watch the World Cup. The attacks happened in the coastal town of Mpeketoni, and the Somali militant group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility. Witnesses said the attackers targeted non-Muslims and met little resistance from Kenyan security forces.

    The Kenyan government vowed to crack down on militants.

    JOSEPH OLE LENKU, Interior Minister, Kenya: I wish to assure the country of the government’s commitment to deal with political incitement and caution political leaders inciting the public to desist from destructive politics and ethnic profiling that may be responsible for this heinous act.

    GWEN IFILL: A State Department spokeswoman today reiterated its warning to American citizens traveling to Kenya, citing terrorist threats in Nairobi and along the coast.

    Russia cut off natural gas deliveries to Ukraine today. Gazprom, the Russian state gas authority, had demanded nearly $2 billion for Ukraine’s past due bills. And it wanted up-front payments for future supplies.

    In Kiev, Ukraine’s prime minister rejected the move, likening it to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing separatist insurgency in Eastern Ukraine.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Prime Minister, Ukraine (through interpreter): It is not about gas. It is a general Russian plan to destroy Ukraine. We are not going to subsidize Russian Gazprom. Ukrainians are not going to pull out of their pockets $5 billion every year for Russia to buy weapons, tanks, and planes to bomb Ukrainian territories.

    GWEN IFILL: Ukraine says it has enough reserves to last until December. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, said he’s offering up a peace plan that includes a cease-fire with pro-Russia rebels. But he noted Ukraine’s armed forces have to get the border with Russia under control first.

    The U.S. Army launched an investigation today into the 2009 disappearance of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was captured and held by the Taliban for five years. But former members of his unit have said he walked off on his own. A two-star general is in charge of the probe. Bergdahl, who is now recovering at an Army medical center in Texas, will not be interviewed until his caregivers give the go-ahead.

    One of the candidates in Afghanistan’s presidential runoff has called Saturday’s vote a fraud. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah decried initial reports that his rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, was leading by a million votes. Final results aren’t expected until July 22, but Abdullah said the early numbers can’t be right.

    ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Presidential Candidate, Afghanistan: When the commission announced that the turnout is over seven million people, there is no collaborating evidence at all throughout the country. That is something that is questionable. And what we are concerned about is once again engineered fraud.

    GWEN IFILL: In April’s first round of voting, Abdullah led with 45 percent of the vote. Ghani lagged more than 13 points behind.

    The latest talks on the future of Iran’s nuclear program are under way in Vienna. An interim agreement with six world powers comes to an end in late July. Under that deal, Iran cut back on parts of its nuclear program in exchange for reduced economic sanctions. The number two U.S. diplomat, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, will be among the U.S. officials participating this week.

    Starbucks is offering its employees two years of free or reduced-cost college, in a new partnership with Arizona State University. It applies to any of the 135,000 U.S. employees who work at least 20 hours a week. And it’s for online undergraduate courses.

    At the announcement in New York, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the company’s work force to take advantage of the opportunity.

    ARNE DUNCAN, Secretary of Education: It’s not easy working. It’s not easy raising a family. It’s not easy taking classes online. But if you do this, if you invest in yourselves, what you are going to do for yourself, for your kids, for your families for the next 40 or 50 years, you are going to absolutely change that trajectory.

    So, I urge you to take advantage of this. I urge you to work hard together and support each other in this new journey. If you guys can do this well, think about the example this sets for the rest of the nation.

    GWEN IFILL: Employees who take part in the tuition plan will not be required to stay at Starbucks after earning their degrees.

    GM announced another whopping new recall today: 3.2 million cars in the U.S. for possible ignition switch problems. The company said it will change or replace the keys on the cars from the 2000 to 2014 model years involved in the recall. GM is in the midst of a major safety review of problems with ignition switches the company failed to disclose for years.

    It was a mostly quiet day on Wall Street today with slight gains. The Dow Jones industrial average added five points to close at 16,781. The Nasdaq rose 10 points to close at 4,321. The S&P 500 gained more than a point to close above 1,937.

    San Antonio Spurs fans had a lot to celebrate today, five national basketball championship titles. Last night, the Spurs defeated the two-time defending champs, the Miami Heat, 104-87. The Spurs captured the title in front of the home crowd in game five of the series. Outside, thousands partied in the streets of San Antonio, in mostly peaceful celebrations.

    Formula One racing legend Michael Schumacher has emerged from a coma, and was moved to a Swiss medical center today. He was in a skiing accident late last year in the French Alps, and has been hospitalized with brain injuries since then. His manager said Schumacher will continue the process of rehabilitation and recovery in Switzerland.

    Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died in California today of cancer. Gwynn played 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres, earning his nickname Mr. Padre. He had 3,141 hits over his career and won eight National League batting titles. In 2010, he had the first of two operations to remove tumors in his right cheek. Gwynn attributed his cancer to using smokeless tobacco throughout his career. He was 54 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Al-Shabab gunmen rampage coastal hotels in Kenya appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    iraqivolunteers

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    GWEN IFILL: The crisis in Iraq continues to escalate, with reports of mass killings by Sunni extremists, as government forces lose more territory.

    Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News is on the ground.

    Some viewers might find elements of this report disturbing.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN, ITN: This is Iraqi air force video of helicopters attacking ISIS militants outside Tal Afar. But it wasn’t enough to stop the city falling to jihadists overnight.

    A city official said families have been trapped in their houses by the fighting and many people were killed. And from ISIS, another shocking video of another apparent atrocity — five Iraqi soldiers in all seen pleading for their lives in the desert.

    A man identified as Jafar Zaki is ordered to swear allegiance to an Islamic state. When he refuses, the footage goes on to show that all the men are shot dead. “God is great. I killed a Shiite,” says the voice on the tape.

    We can’t verify this appalling scene, nor these photos of an alleged mass execution of soldiers which appeared on the Internet yesterday. But as more volunteers flocked to Baghdad to enlist, an army spokesman said the photos were authentic, but 170 troops killed he said, not 1,700 that ISIS claimed.

    BRIG. GEN. FADHIL ABDUL-SAHI, Iraqi Army (through interpreter): False news has been circulated about an exaggerated number of soldiers and volunteers killed by ISIS gangs. This news is baseless and Baghdad military operations command has denied it.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: And in this escalating spiral of violence, hundreds of thousands are believed to have fled the fighting in the last week alone. The combination of reported atrocities by Islamic militants and government airstrikes is continuing to drive Iraqis from their homes.

    And with no sign of a new coalition government being formed in Baghdad, there’s no political solution either to Iraq’s widening sectarian divide. We headed into the city of Kirkuk, where Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been battling ISIS on the outskirts.

    A school had been taken over by families fleeing from Tikrit, which had been fell to ISIS last week. The Mussa family saw their local mosque badly damaged by fighting.

    “It’s not you we have come to hurt,” the jihadists told them, “but the Iraqi government.”

    Mr. Mussa seemed terrified by both sides, so I asked him if the time had come for separate states, with Sunni and Shia apart.

    MAN (through interpreter): Yes. They are getting further apart because there are so many provocations. As there are no wise elders, everyone is inflaming the situation.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: The U.N. is expanding its operations here and planning for a humanitarian crisis, as evidence of atrocities continues to mount.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. is sending additional military assets to the region. The USS Mesa Verde, a transport dock ship, entered the Persian Gulf today. It joins the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, which moved there on Saturday.

    Secretary of State John Kerry told Katie Couric of Yahoo! News this morning that the president is still considering military options. And he didn’t rule out the possibility of talks with Iran.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We’re open to discussions if there’s something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of the government to reform.

    KATIE COURIC, Yahoo! News: Can you see cooperating with Iran militarily?

    JOHN KERRY: I — at this moment, I think we need to go step by step and see what, in fact, might be a reality.

    KATIE COURIC: A lot of analysts over the weekend were talking about the fact that airstrikes are not going to be effective because there are members of this organization scattered among the population at large. So what’s your response to airstrikes just aren’t the answer here?

    JOHN KERRY: Well, they’re not the whole answer, but they may well be one of the options that are important to be able to stem the tide and stop the movement of people who are moving around in open convoys, in trucks, and terrorizing people. I mean, when you have people murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that.

    GWEN IFILL: The administration later sought to clarify Kerry’s comments, saying there are no plans for military coordination with Iraq, but U.S. and Iranian officials may discuss the region’s security on the sidelines of unrelated nuclear talks in Vienna this week. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said such collaboration would be — quote — “the height of folly.”

    The White House said the president’s national security team will present the president with options tonight.

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    Unrest Near Mosul

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    GWEN IFILL: This latest sectarian uprising in Iraq has caused the U.S. to move some embassy employees out of Baghdad and, according to the Associated Press, consider sending special forces into the country.

    Tonight, we look at the insurgents behind that violence. The group is known as ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also referred to as ISIS.

    For more on who they are and the threat they represent, we turn to Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation. He’s also a research fellow at the West Point Military Academy. And Rania Abouzeid, an independent journalist who has written for The New Yorker and TIME magazine. She’s spent time with Sunni militant fighters in Northern Syria.

    Welcome to you both.

    Brian Fishman, who is — who are ISIL, and why do they seem, feel more dangerous?

    BRIAN FISHMAN, New America Foundation: Well, ISIL is the modern incarnation of the organization that was originally founded in Iraq by Abu Musab al Zarqawi that began in the early days after the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

    It turned into al-Qaida in Iraq in 2004, was later, after Zarqawi’s death in October of 2006, an entity called the Islamic State of Iraq was declared. And that was the first time that this organization really wanted to attempt to govern large areas in Iraq.

    The ISI at that point though was largely defeated by the Anbar awakening, the tribal uprising against al-Qaida, and U.S. forces. But with the beginning of violence in Syria with the civil war, the ISI was able to regain strength and in 2012 began calling itself ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    But, fundamentally, this is the organization that was begun by Abu Musab al Zarqawi back in 2004.

    GWEN IFILL: Rania Abouzeid, this organization seems to have great expectations of what it can accomplish even beyond the borders of Iraq.

    How does it compare to other insurgencies like the al-Nusra Front, for instance.

    RANIA ABOUZEID, Independent Journalist: Well, the al-Nusra Front was formed by the ISI that Brian Fishman referred to.

    The ISI leader sent a group of men into form al-Nusra Front in late 2011, just a few months after the start of the Syrian uprising. Jabhat al-Nusra became quite a potent force in Syria. And in April 2013, the ISI leader decided that he was going to form ISIS or ISIL and merge Jabhat al-Nusra with the ISI.

    The Jabhat al-Nusra leader rejected this move. Now, the two groups are very different, even though they basically share the same ideology, which is that they want to see — they want to establish an Islamic state in Syria and in Iraq. And they want to restore the caliphate.

    They differ, however, in terms of who should lead that operation, in terms of their strategy and their tactics. The Jabhat al-Nusra, for example, is very careful not to antagonize the local populations in which it is based. ISIS, however, doesn’t seem to share that concern.

    And it actually imposes its rather harsh ultra-conservative understanding of Islam on the local people in the areas in which it is based.

    GWEN IFILL: Brian Fishman, the name we keep hearing is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

    Tell us about him.

    BRIAN FISHMAN: Well, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was born in Samarra, which is a town just north of Baghdad.

    And he’s sort of exalted in sort of an interesting way by the jihadis that support him. He — they tell this rags-to-riches story of a very poor boy that wound up going to study perhaps for a doctorate at a university in Baghdad, studying Islamic theology and poetry.

    We know for a fact that he was imprisoned in a U.S. facility during the insurgency back in 2005. Exactly when he was released and the conditions under — the circumstances of that release are not exactly clear.

    But what is clear is that he rose — he was radicalized in prison and then rose through the ranks of the ISI and then the ISIL. And he is somebody that, unlike other jihadi leaders, very much is willing to stay out of the limelight. He seems very focused on sort of the practical application of force and the movement towards his strategic objectives.

    Now, as Rania said, that doesn’t mean that the ISIL has not been brutal. It has been extraordinarily brutal, but I think it is notable that al-Baghdadi, as opposed to somebody like Abu Musab al Zarqawi, historical, is very, very focused on his long-term objectives, and he does seem to be more flexible in terms of how he applies his understanding of Islamic law in various places.

    So you see ISIL taking a much harsher approach in Syria than it has in Iraq, for example, where it has been able to rebuild some relationships with tribal groups and other Sunni militant organizations that it had alienated previously.

    GWEN IFILL: Rania Abouzeid, who pays for all this? How did this organization suddenly bloom? Or, at least to us, it seems sudden.

    RANIA ABOUZEID: Well, in Syria, for example, ISIS or ISIL has taken over vast swathes of the eastern part or the oil-producing part of the country. It also finances itself via racketeering, via imposing taxes on some of the people who live in its facility, and just general criminality, in addition to also having sponsors, individual funders, you know, sheiks in Gulf countries, for example.

    GWEN IFILL: Brian Fishman, is Nouri al-Maliki, is he equipped to handle this uprising? Can we tell yet?

    BRIAN FISHMAN: Well, you know, I think Nouri al-Maliki has fed this uprising with what I think is a very sectarian agenda. He has driven some of the Sunni tribes and some of the Baathist organizations back into the arms of ISIL, ISIS.

    And, you know, Maliki’s approach now, which is really a stopgap one, he is calling out Shia militias to help blunt the ISIS approach on Baghdad, and that may work in a military sense. But the more that this fight becomes framed as a sectarian one between Sunni and Shia, the more that ISIL gains over the long run and the bigger threat they will be not just in the region, but to the West.

    GWEN IFILL: Rania Abouzeid, is that the same way you see it from there?

    RANIA ABOUZEID: I think that while — I disagree somewhat.

    I think that while ISIS has been able to take advantage of the fact that many Sunnis feel disenfranchised because of Maliki’s increasingly sectarian rule, I don’t think that that relationship may last. I think that we have seen already in Mosul, for example, just two days after the ISIS took over the city, it declared its rules for life in Mosul, and they were extremely harsh.

    They included things like, you know, women must now wear the all-enveloping black cloak. They must wear the face veil. They can only leave their homes when necessary. People — it has imposed obligatory prayers five times a day in the mosques. So it’s basically imposing its very harsh ideas on the people.

    And if we recall just a few short years ago, that’s exactly the same approach that lead to the sahwat, to the tribal awakenings, when Sunnis with the aid of the U.S. military rose up against the then al-Qaida affiliate in their midst and removed it.

    So ISIS doesn’t seem to have learned from its recent history, because it is taking the same approach in some regards in terms of holding territory that it has now won.

    GWEN IFILL: Rania Abouzeid of “TIME” and “New Yorker” and Brian Fishman of the New America Foundation, thank you both very much.

    Early this evening, the White House released a letter that President Obama sent to the speaker of the House, John Boehner, and to the president pro tem of the Senate. The president informed them that up to 275 U.S. armed forces would be deployed to Iraq. The troops will be in country to protect American citizens and property.

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    Supreme Court To Rule On Obama Healthcare Law

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    GWEN IFILL: Two Supreme Court decisions today, one on purchasing firearms and the other involving political speech.

    Jeffrey Brown has that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As it happens, both cases involve when the truth must be told.

    In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the federal government can enforce its ban on so-called straw gun purchases. Under that law, buyers must tell the truth when they are buying guns for someone else. In a separate ruling, the court looked at an Ohio law that bars the making of false statements about candidates in a political campaign. The court unanimously ruled that a legal challenge to the law can go forward.

    Here to tell us more, as always, is Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal.”

    Marcia, let’s start with the gun case first.

    MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: OK.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This involved the purchase of a gun by a man for his uncle.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right, exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But what happened?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, Bruce Abramski was a former Virginia police officer, offered to buy the gun for his uncle who lived in Pennsylvania, because he thought he could get a discount on the price, given his law enforcement background. The uncle gave him the money. He wanted to buy a Glock.

    Abramski went forward, bought the gun and later transferred it to his uncle in Pennsylvania. But the problem for Abramski is that when he bought the gun, he checked a box on the form that asked if he was the actual buyer. And the form made clear that, if you are buying the gun on behalf of someone else, you are not the actual buyer. You are what is known as a straw purchaser.

    He was later arrested and convicted of making a material false statement under the federal Gun Control Act.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And in this case, we should say, they were both legal…

    MARCIA COYLE: Very important, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … gun owners, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: They were both — they were both legally eligible to buy a gun.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right. All right, so the lower court upheld the conviction, and Justice Kagan today, writing for the majority, agreed.

    She said, “Allowing this argument by the plaintiff to stand would virtually repeal the gun law’s core provision on background checks.”

    MARCIA COYLE: Not only background checks, but documentation, record-keeping by gun dealers that is essential for a gun dealer to know who is — or to know who the buyer is in order to determine whether the sale is legal, and also critical to law enforcement that claim they need this information in order to trace guns that are committed in crimes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kagan also wrote that only a numskull — I have to ask you this — a technical legal term, she’s using, right?

    “Only a numskull would provide a paper trail for violating the law.”

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes. Justice Kagan does write colorfully at times. She’s a match for the main dissenter in this case, Justice Scalia, who wrote for the chief justice and Justices Thomas and Alito.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    MARCIA COYLE: He said, you look at criminal laws and interpret them by their ordinary meaning. If he gave his son $10 to buy milk and eggs at a store, they wouldn’t — the store wouldn’t claim that the actual buyer was Justice Scalia; it was his son.

    And he said Congress never intended to make criminals out of people who were legally entitled to purchase guns.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So he is just saying this is a misinterpretation of…

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes. He said it may have been a compromise that Congress came to. It was dealing with a controversial area. But he still didn’t believe that the law as written would cover these two men in this particular purchase.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It is a rare case. I was looking at the reaction to it from various sides. It is a rare case where the gun industry and gun rights advocates are actually on the losing side.

    MARCIA COYLE: That’s right.

    In fact, I think something like 26 states came in on the side of Mr. Abramski, supporting him in this. So, it’s — as you can tell from the 5-4 decision, it wasn’t the easiest case for the justices to resolve.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And it was Justice Kennedy, we often talk about as the swing vote, who went…

    MARCIA COYLE: Exactly. The decision divided them ideologically. Justice Kennedy at this point went over to the side of the more liberal justices.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, case number two is an Ohio law that says you cannot make a false statement about political candidates, a law that probably a lot of people don’t know exists, right?

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARCIA COYLE: That’s true. And believe it or not, something like 13 states have similar laws on the books.

    The Susan B. Anthony List is an anti-abortion political action committee. They made it clear in 2010 that they were going it to run ads, some on a billboard, attacking then Congressman Steve Driehaus for his vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act, although they were going to say on their billboards, “Shame on Steve Driehaus. He voted for taxpayer-funded abortions.”

    He filed a complaint with the Ohio commission that enforces this law. They found probable cause that the Susan B. Anthony List was violating this law.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He said he is opposed to abortion himself.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right, exactly.

    And he later — they both agreed to put it aside until after the election. He lost the election, withdrew his complaint. But the Susan B. Anthony List had filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. And so the issue before the court today was really whether that lawsuit could go forward. The lower court said, hey, this is over. The complaint was withdrawn.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right. There’s no case anymore, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Right. Exactly. And the Supreme Court today unanimously disagreed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    So the lower court is basically saying there’s no case anymore.

    MARCIA COYLE: That’s right. The complaint had been withdrawn. The Susan B. Anthony List brought the appeal to the Supreme Court. And, today, Justice Thomas, writing for the entire court, the unanimous court, said that there is something to go forward here. He found that there is a credible threat of prosecution, that the Susan B. Anthony List planned to do these ads in the future, attacking other candidates, and other organizations also wanted to do similar ads.

    The Ohio commission that enforces the law does continue to handle these complaints, say, 25 to 40 per year. And it’s very possible that the Susan B. Anthony List would be found again to have cause to violate the law.

    And so right now, it means that the case is going to go back to the lower court and the Susan B. Anthony List gets a chance, an opportunity to prove that the law is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, and maybe it will come back to the Supreme Court on that basis, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: It might very welcome back, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal,” thanks, as always.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure, Jeff.

    The post Supreme Court enforces ban on straw purchase of guns, upholds challenge to political speech law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    highhopesimage3

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    GWEN IFILL: With recreational marijuana already legal in Colorado and Washington, and efforts to legalize its use under way in as many as a dozen other states, start-up businesses, and their financial backers, are scrambling to get in on the ground floor of a newly legitimate industry.

    Paul Solman recently met up with a few. It’s part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    LESLIE BOCSKOR, Investor: This is a unique moment in history, and these days will never return again.

    MAN: This is like the wild West right now, right, unfolding before our eyes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A flock of gung-ho investors who’ve traveled to a hotel north of Boston to hear product pitches in an industry that, until recently, was strictly illicit.

    TROY DAYTON, Co-Founder, The Arcview Group: It’s a really, really beautiful scene, to look out and see the people who are shaping the next great American industry, the cannabis industry.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Troy Dayton is co-founder of Arcview Investors, which vets and funds canna-biz entrepreneurs. Just a year ago, Dayton noted:

    TROY DAYTON: We had 40 people in a conference room. And now we have over 200 people out there today. The last few months, the interest level from investors has been astounding.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Presumably, that’s because legal recreational pot is finally here.

    MAN: Got some legal weed.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Only in Colorado and Washington for now, but, says the Marijuana Policy Project’s Rob Kampia:

    ROB KAMPIA, Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project: We expect to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island and Alaska this year, and we will probably end up with about 12 states over the next four years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: This sets the stage for a gold rush that could conceivably rival the repeal of prohibition. In Colorado alone, state officials predict a billion dollars in sales, and over $100 million in tax revenues this very first year, despite the fact that because of federal drug laws, banks and credit card companies are still keeping their distance.

    Now, there were no actual product samples at this recent conference outside Boston — Massachusetts allows only medical marijuana — but plenty of buzz nonetheless.

    JON COOPER, Co-Founder, Ebbu: Would you like a drink, or perhaps an Ebbu?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Jon Cooper and Dooma Wendschuh had an old-fashioned sales pitch for their newfangled product line.

    MAN: We’re just months away from being the first cannabis company that can guarantee a specific, consistent response to our products.

    MAN: So these would be feelings like energy, or chill, or giggles.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Chill as in relaxed, one of five branded highs Ebbu will offer, via five different delivery mechanisms, if and when marijuana is fully legalized.

    People here were pitching from the stage, in the hallways, during speed-dating sessions with would-be investors. And the products they were pitching ranged from the most mundane business and financial services to paraphernalia long the sole province of head shops, augmented by high tech.

    Jason Levin and Jessica Riley were here with their Spyre, sort of an e-cigar.

    Why is it better than a joint, or in this case a blunt?

    JASON LEVIN, CEO, UpToke: For one, it’s vaporization, so you’re not taking in carcinogens and you’re not creating any kind of that tar, or residue that’s going to clunk up your lungs and cause you to cough and wheeze.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, without necessarily buying the health claims, the aim seems straightforward enough: a standardized, regulated product.

    Arcview co-founder Steve DeAngelo.

    STEVE DEANGELO, Co-Founder, The Arcview Group: Sadly, today, the cannabis consumer in most places around the world is in the same position that the meat consumer was in before Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle,” and we had modern sanitary regulations.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It’s a problem one significant segment of this budding industry addresses.

    NARRATOR: MyDx will empower manufacturers, distributors, regulators and consumers to test the safety and potency of cannabis.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Daniel Yazbeck helped invent MyDx, a portable pot analyzer.

    MAN: Now, that’s going to vaporize the sample and start sniffing the chemicals, like THC and CBD, which determines how you feel or what ailments you relieve.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Pretty much what the Ebbu guys are going for with their branded highs.

    JON COOPER: We’re creating a lot of intellectual property associated with how a person actually is experiencing that ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Investor Todd Steinberg was impressed.

    TODD STEINBERG, Investor: I think what Mondavi did for the wine industry in the United States, a product like this and a company like this could do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Fortunes seemed to beckon to those who place the right bets early enough, just as with computers and the Internet, where investors like these made their own first scores.

    MAN: This really does resemble the I.T. industry and the computer industry in the 1980s.

    LESLIE BOCSKOR: I was an investment banker who focused exclusively on the Internet and new media in the late ’90s and early — and mid-’90s. And this is a bigger opportunity than that even was.

    TOM BOLLICH, CEO, Surna: One of the things I have learned from doing Zynga is that you can tell when something’s like — an industry’s going to be big.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Tom Bollich made his millions investing in and helping run the video game titan Zynga.

    NARRATOR: Experience a completely new farm filled with all new activities.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Who could have dreamed that, at its peak, “FarmVille” would boast 84 million users and spawn a brood of similar digital diversion? So why not invest in his new venture, Surna, which makes energy-efficient climate control systems for indoor cultivation.

    TOM BOLLICH: This is the next big industry, so might as well be in it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What do your billionaire entrepreneur high-tech friends think about you in the marijuana industry?

    TOM BOLLICH: They think this is the best idea I have ever had.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nate Ames, co-inventor of a machine that distills plant oils, is a good example how far this industry may reach.

    MAN: We actually started the business for decaffeinating and then the cannabis industry found us.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Their sales have since shot up 10-fold.

    So, now were you guys marijuana users in college who thought, hey, we can take this technology we have learned and apply it to something we care about?

    MAN: No, sir. In fact, nobody in our company partakes in cannabis use. It’s illegal in our state. We’re from Ohio, so far as I’m concerned, it’s still illegal.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Fair to say, though, that most at this conference were as much devotees of the herb as economic opportunists.

    STEVE DEANGELO: Oh, well, I have been a cannabis activist and entrepreneur since I was about 15 years old.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In addition to co-founding Arcview Investors, Steve DeAngelo is head of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary. For DeAngelo, it all started nearly half-a-century ago, at age 13, when a friend turned him on, and he had what he calls a life-changing spiritual experience.

    STEVE DEANGELO: The way that the sunlight filtered through the leaves, and the way that the guppies swam in the water, and the way that the wind blew in my hair, I felt all of these things simultaneously, and felt connected to them in this really profound way that I never had been before.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I myself first smoked grass excitedly in my late teens. But I quit a few years later when it began to freak me out. I know others who’ve had much worse reactions.

    TROY DAYTON: It’s not a panacea and it’s not harmless. I do think that some people have challenges with it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, possibly dangerous, says Troy Dayton, but compared to what?

    TROY DAYTON: With cannabis, I don’t think we’re going to see even remotely a fraction of the social costs that we see from alcohol. And one of the things I think cannabis is so great for, for so many people, is it gives them a moment to relax and reflect, and to think about what really matters to them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But what if they get too relaxed, asks California Governor Jerry Brown?

    GOV. JERRY BROWN, D, Calif.: How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Of course, most of these folks would disagree.

    MAN: Cannabis stimulates my mind.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But some seemed to sympathize with Jerry Brown.

    Longtime marijuana users?

    JESSICA RILEY, UpToke: On and off. Right now, off, because it turns out running a start-up takes a lot of time, and you can’t exactly show up to one of these things stoned.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because, if you do, you might just get weeded out in this new frontier of, to use our last obligatory pot pun, high finance.

    The post Budding recreational pot industry sparks innovation and investment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    thetrueamerican

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    GWEN IFILL: What if someone tried to kill you? If you could face him again, what would you do?

    Hari Sreenivasan has our book conversation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After September 11, a lone gunman went what he called Arab hunting in Texas. He shot three separate South Asian mini-mart workers. One of the victims, who was shot in the face, survived and later went to lead a charge to spare his attacker from the death penalty.

    It’s the true crime that New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas uses to examine much more about America in his new nonfiction book “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas.”

    He joins me now.

    So, let’s talk about these two very distinct characters. One comes from Bangladesh and comes one from Texas. Tell us about them.

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, Author, “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas”: In a way, they each typify their world.

    So, one of them is an immigrant from Bangladesh, a Muslim who comes to this country not fleeing a terrible life, but a perfectly decent life that still didn’t feel enough to him. And so he is an air force officer in his society, but comes to America wanting to get in on the I.T. revolution and is working in a gas station in Dallas as a kind of way station to that goal.

    The other is a product of a kind of ailing white working-class in Texas that has done progressively worse over each generation, as in his own family, and had always — Mark Stroman has always kind of wrestled with meth and wrestled with being in and out of prison, as so many of our young men are, and in the aftermath of 9/11 became possessed of this idea that he, Mark Stroman, would have to avenge these attacks and do so by going on strike against three different South Asian clerks.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So he thought he was being patriotic.

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: He called himself the true American.

    Part of the reason to write this book is to ask, what is really a true American?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Rais Bhuiyan, who comes from the Third World, technically, into the First World kind of gained access to this land of opportunity that we all think about. And then yet he’s face-to-face with somebody who is almost in a Third World inside America that we don’t think of very often, the class conversation that you have in this book.

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: Absolutely.

    And, you know, he — if he had had the typical immigrant story — I come from an immigrant family that originated much like his story — I think he might have, had his path been normal, never even realized that there was another America, besides his kind of upwardly own aspirational America that worked for him.

    And despite being shot, it still worked for him. He was still able to rise up, get education, work at the Olive Garden, get more education, make six figures in I.T. But because he was shot and had to go to the trial of the man who shot him and then had to work at the Olive Garden, instead of I.T. for a little while and work with native-born working-class Americans who he might not have worked with otherwise, he got an exposure to another America, as you say, a Third World America right beside the First World America that he had accessed.

    And he decided eventually that he wanted to do something about the hurting country that had produced a man who attacked him.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how do we get to — and I’m going to use your description here — to the point where a half-blind immigrant using Islam to challenge Texas on not to execute the white racist who tried to kill him? How do we get to that?

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: … kind of all in there, isn’t it?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: He — two things happened.

    One, you know, it was a religious epiphany. As a Muslim, a very devout Muslim, when he thought he was dying in the gas station that day, he looked to the sky and said to his God, if you save me now, I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping others.

     

    Well, for several years, he didn’t because he was so consumed with eye surgeries and getting $60,000 into debt after getting kicked out of the hospital on day two, to any other number of — depression, any number of other problems.

    But, eventually, years later, on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he kind of had this awakening that, now is the time. God wants me to repay that favor now, and I need to serve others.

    But the second part of that epiphany was becoming an American over that same period. He became a citizen also that same year, 2009. And being a citizen filled him with this sense that now he had equity in the republic. And it wasn’t just something to complain about or analyze. It was something to fix if you didn’t like what was going on.

    And he didn’t like the fact that there was this under-nation of hurting people beneath them for fortunate country he had accessed. And so the conversation of that religious epiphany of wanting to serve and that diagnosis of all these Americans, native-born Americans trapped in an underclass, kind of came together and made him say, I want to forgive this man. I want to fight for his life. I want to fight the Texas authorities to save him, but then I really want to use that case and the conversation to save millions of others who are not murderers, but are trapped in circumstances that leave them with no hope.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the interesting things in this book is kind of comparing two different poverties or two different underclasses.

    It’s almost that your central figure comes to the realization that in Bangladesh, it’s pretty crappy to be poor, but at least we’re poor together. And here, when you’re poor, you’re alone.

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: It’s the most striking part of it for me. And I have spent time reporting on poverty here and poverty in places like that.

    And it is a very striking difference, that part of, I think, what we don’t understand about the specialness of poverty in America is that our poor people in this country, if you are poor, you are less likely to be married, you are less likely to have people around you, to have communities that are intact.

    In most societies, it is the poor who, despite not having resources, at least have community. And in a way people, understand in the poorer parts of the world that, if you are poor, solitude is an extravagance. And too many Americans who are poor pay the unfortunate tax of also being alone.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what happened after Mark Stroman’s execution? It seemed that this guy even reached out to Stroman’s children, and to be a resource for them, and then he went on speaking tours. Kind of update us on where he is.

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: He, right after the execution which he failed to prevent, though he tried valiantly, he reached out to the Stroman daughters, and specifically to Amber Stroman, Mark’s eldest daughter.

    And he said to her something that I will never forget. He said, you may have lost a father, but you have gained an uncle. And if ever I can do anything for you, call.

    And she did call. And she needed money. And he started wiring money to her, until her family actually asked him to stop, because they suspected it was fueling a meth habit.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Anand Giridharadas.

    The book is called “The True American.”  Thanks so much.

    ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: Thank you.

    The post In ‘The True American,’ victim of attempted murder tries to save attacker appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is urgently deploying several hundred armed troops in and around Iraq and considering sending an additional contingent of special forces soldiers as Baghdad struggles to repel a rampant insurgency, even as the White House insists anew that America will not be dragged into another war.

    President Barack Obama notified Congress Monday that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad. About 170 of those forces have already arrived and another 100 soldiers be on standby in a nearby country until they are needed, a U.S. official said.

    While Obama has vowed to keep U.S. forces out of combat in Iraq, he said in his notification to Congress that the personnel moving into the region are equipped for direct fighting.

    And separately, three U.S. officials said the White House was considering sending a contingent of special forces soldiers to Iraq. Their limited mission — which has not yet been approved — would focus on training and advising beleaguered Iraqi troops, many of whom have fled their posts across the nation’s north and west as the al-Qaida-inspired insurgency has advanced in the worst threat to the country since American troops left in 2011.

    The moves come at the White House wrestles with an array of options for helping Iraq repel a Sunni Muslim insurgency that has captured large swaths of territory collaring Baghdad, the capital of the Shiite-led government. In a rare move, U.S. officials reached out to Iran Monday to discuss ways the long-time foes might help stop the militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    The conversations took place on the sidelines of separate nuclear negotiations taking place in Vienna, Austria. U.S. officials quickly tamped down speculation that the discussion might include military coordination or consultation, though Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview with Yahoo! News that the U.S. would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.”

    Kerry stressed that any contacts with Iran would move “step-by-step.”

    Taken together, the developments suggest a willingness by Obama to send Americans into a collapsing security situation in order to quell the brutal fighting in Iraq before it morphs into outright war.

    The White House said the forces authorized for support and security will assist with the temporary relocation of some staff from the Baghdad embassy. The forces are entering Iraq with the consent of that country’s government, the White House said.

    Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the troops on standby could “provide airfield management, security, and logistics support, if required.” They could work with embassy security teams or operate as a stand-alone force as directed.

    Officials would not say where the soldiers would be on standby, but It is likely they would be in Kuwait, which was a major basing ground for U.S. troops during the Iraq war.

    If the U.S. were to deploy an additional team of special forces, the mission would almost certainly be small. One U.S. official said it could be up to 100 special forces soldiers. It also could be authorized only as an advising and training mission — meaning the soldiers would work closely with Iraqi forces that are fighting the insurgency but would not officially be considered as combat troops.

    The White House would not confirm that special operations forces were under consideration. But spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that while Obama would not send troops back into combat, “he has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces.”

    It’s not clear how quickly the special forces could arrive in Iraq. It’s also unknown whether they would remain in Baghdad or be sent to the nation’s north, where the Sunni Muslim insurgency has captured large swaths of territory collaring Baghdad, the capital of the Shiite-led government.

    The troops would fall under the authority of the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad and would not be authorized to engage in combat, another U.S. official said. Their mission would be “non-operational training” of both regular and counter terrorism units, which the military has in the past interpreted to mean training on military bases, the official said.

    However, all U.S. troops are allowed to defend themselves in Iraq if they are under attack.

    The three U.S. officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plans by name.

    Obama made the end of the war in Iraq one of his signature campaign issues, and has touted the U.S. military withdrawal in December 2011 as one of his top foreign policy successes. But he has been caught over the past week between Iraqi officials pleading for help — as well as Republicans blaming him for the loss of a decade’s worth of gains in Iraq — and his anti-war Democratic political base, which is demanding that the U.S. stay out of the fight.

    While the White House continues to review its options, Iran’s military leaders are starting to step into the beach.

    The commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, was in Iraq on Monday and consulting with the government there on how to stave off insurgents’ gains. Iraqi security officials said the U.S. government was notified in advance of the visit by Soleimani, whose forces are a secretive branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that in the past has organized Shiite militias to target U.S. troops in Iraq and, more recently, was involved in helping Syria’s President Bashar Assad in his fight against Sunni rebels.

    In fighting on Monday, the insurgents seized the strategic city of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, and an Iraqi army helicopter was shot down during clashes near the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad, killing the two-man crew, security officials said.

    In the short term, the U.S. and Iran both want the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stabilized and the Sunni-led insurgency stopped. But in the long run, the United States would like to see an inclusive, representative democracy take hold in Iraq, while predominantly Shiite Iran is more focused on protecting Iraq’s Shiite population and bolstering its own position as a regional power against powerful Sunni Arab states in the Gulf.

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said any discussion with Iran would concern ways that Iran could help press al-Maliki’s government to be more inclusive and treat all of Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups equally.

    Any talks with Iran “would be to discuss the political component here and our interest in encouraging Iraqi leaders to act in a responsible, nonsectarian way,” she told reporters. “Certainly a discussion of that is something that we would be open to.”

    ___

    AP writers Matthew Lee, Lolita Baldor and Ken Dilanian contributed to this report.

    The post President Obama says up to 275 U.S. military troops will deploy to Iraq appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    jasonmoran

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: a major voice in and for jazz.

    Jeffrey Brown has our report.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pianist and composer Jason Moran is one of today’s best-known younger jazz musicians. Performing solo and with his trio around the world, he’s a true believer that his art form can transport and transform an audience.

    JASON MORAN, Artistic Director for Jazz, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: Well, there’s a power that kind of starts to stir in the body. The molecules start to, start to want to jump around. It has a possibility to change how the body feels, how the mind feels.

    And that is something that you can’t quantify. And then, when the music hits the audience, and when it hits the space, the air, it has the possibility to change everything in that person’s being.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now the 39-year-old has a distinctive public perch here at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where he’s been named artistic director for jazz, with a goal of both preserving a tradition and building new audiences.

    It’s a prestigious position previously held by renowned musician and educator Billy Taylor, who died in 2010. It would seem an uphill challenge. Jazz accounted for just 2 percent of overall album sales last year, trailing 10 other genres. But Moran has seen it happen, first in himself. He’d studied classical piano as a child growing up in Houston. Then, just into his teens, he heard a recording by jazz legend Thelonious Monk, and his world changed.

    JASON MORAN: I love Mozart, and I love Bach, and Brahms, and — but at 13, I didn’t understand any of that that I was playing. And there was something very pure. And I don’t know. It resonated with me. And Thelonious Monk’s playing, I thought, oh, this has the depth and the simplicity and the rigor that I think makes great art, great music and…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Explain that, the depth and the simplicity.

    JASON MORAN: Well, if you hear Thelonious Monk play a run that goes from the top of the piano, OK, he has opened up the Grand Canyon with that. He’s the river that’s carved this entire space that we call the Grand Canyon. He does that with one run. He lets you know like what the possibility of the sound of the piano can do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Moran went on to the Manhattan School of Music and made his first album at age 24 on the famed Blue Note label. Seven others would follow, the most recent in 2010. Titled “Ten,” it celebrated the 10th anniversary of his trio, Jason Moran & The Bandwagon. That same year, he earned a MacArthur genius fellowship. Now Moran wants to bring more people in to the jazz experience.

    JASON MORAN: I think it’s important that we consider how they can — if they do not have an entryway into the music, how they can make an entryway.

    Once you step on stage, the people are actually looking to be transformed. That’s why they showed up, that’s why they spent some money. And great performances do that. And they figure out that balance of how to like grab you and then how to like fling you, let you freefall. And then they catch you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Toward that end, Moran has helped organize a number of public events at the Kennedy Center, including an election night jam in 2012 and a showcase for young artists as part of Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead, an educational program.

    At a recent celebration of Blue Note’s 75th anniversary, he performed “Boogie Woogie Stomp” with Robert Glasper. In fact, he’s intent on highlighting the get up and dance aspect of an earlier age of jazz to rev up today’s audience. With that in mind, he’s organized some 30 Fats Waller Dance Parties around the country, honoring the great pianist and composer from the first half of the 20th century.

    JASON MORAN: Having a Fats Waller Dance Party is trying to understand how music engages an audience that shows up to actually get down, you know, not sit in a chair, but like let me get down on the floor. And can I make music that can have people do that? So,, really, it’s challenging.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A further challenge is to bring music into nontraditional spaces and collaborations with other art forms. In 2012, for example, Moran performed with his wife, soprano Alicia Hall Moran, as part of the Whitney Museum’s biennial exhibition of contemporary art.

    JASON MORAN: It’s not just a conversation about jazz that’s important. It’s a conversation about art and arts that are important.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The whole thing.

    JASON MORAN: The entire thing. And it’s important that the art forms communicate, whether it’s the dance program with the jazz program or the classical program with the opera program, that these conversations becomes fluid.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Moran says the jazz conversation will continue with what he calls a series of listening parties, in which he and fellow musicians will join the audience in discussing classic works. His own next work, a new album titled “All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller,” is due out this fall.

    The post Jason Moran strikes up the band — and a conversation — to enthrall new jazz listeners appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group in this file photo taken September 11, 2012. Photo by Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

    The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group in this file photo taken September 11, 2012. Photo by Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A Libyan militant suspected in the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack on Americans in Benghazi has been captured and is in U.S. custody, marking the first U.S. apprehension of an alleged perpetrator in the assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

    President Barack Obama said Ahmed Abu Khattala, a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terror group Ansar al-Shariah in Libya, will “now face the full weight of the American justice system.”

    “The fact that he is now in U.S. custody is a testament to the painstaking efforts of our military, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel,” said Obama, whose administration has come under intense criticism from Republicans for being unable to apprehend those responsible for the attack.

    Abu Khattala, who will be tried in U.S. court, was captured by U.S. forces on Sunday and is being held in an undisclosed location outside of Libya, according to the Pentagon press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.

    Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years.

    Last year, the U.S. filed charges against Abu Khattala and a number of others in a sealed complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington. The complaint, unsealed Tuesday, charges Abu Khattala with providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists that resulted in death; discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence; and killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility and conspiring to do so.

    Officials said he could face the death penalty if convicted of the latter charge.

    Until now, no one had been arrested in the attack in which a group of militants set fire to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

    As the U.S. raid took place Sunday, forces loyal to a renegade general attacked Islamic militant camps in Benghazi as part of a new assault against the groups. Airstrikes targeted the camps on behalf of Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a top military official under dictator Moammar Gadhafi who later defected and lived for years in the U.S.

    It isn’t clear what the strikes targeted. The general later said the clashes killed five of his fighters. Hifter’s forces have targeted Ansar al-Shariah, a hard-line Islamist militia blamed for the attack on the U.S. Consulate there.

    In August, Abu Khattala told The Associated Press that he was not in hiding, nor had he been questioned by Libyan authorities over the consulate attack. Abu Khattala was the commander of a militia group called Abu Obaida Bin Jarrah at the time of the attack. In August, he said he had abandoned the militia and begun working as a construction contractor.

    “I am a Libyan citizen and the American government has nothing to do with me,” he said. “I am in my city, having a normal life and have no troubles and if they have an inquiry to make, they should get in touch with Libyan authorities.”

    Efforts to reach Abu Khattala Tuesday were not successful, as his mobile phone was apparently turned off.

    According to a U.S. official, the operation that captured Abu Khattala was planned over a long period of time and executed by U.S. special operations forces. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to disclose sensitive details by name, said the operation was conducted in conjunction with the FBI.

    In the immediate aftermath of the stunning attack, political reaction formed along partisan lines that hold fast to this day.

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and others said Obama had emboldened Islamic extremists by being weak against terrorism. But the public still credited Obama with the successful strike against al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden a few months earlier in Pakistan.

    The accusation that took hold was a Republican charge that the White House intentionally misled voters by portraying the Benghazi assault as one of the many protests over an anti-Muslim video made in America, instead of a calculated terrorist attack under his watch.

    Obama accused the Republicans of politicizing a national tragedy. He insists that the narrative about the video protests was the best information available at the time.

    After 13 public hearings, the release of 25,000 pages of documents and 50 separate briefings over the past year and a half, the arguments are the same.

    The post Benghazi attack suspect captured; in U.S. custody appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Man hidden below Picasso's "The Blue Room." Courtesy of the Phillips Collection.

    Man hidden below Picasso’s “The Blue Room.” Courtesy of the Phillips Collection.

    Picasso’s 1901 painting “The Blue Room” — housed at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. — portrays a young Parisian woman bathing near a window. But hidden below the masterpiece, is a completely different scene.

    Using infrared technology, scientists and researchers have discovered a painting of a man hidden below the “Blue Room.”

    Picasso's "Blue Room." Courtesy of the Phillips Collection.

    Picasso’s “Blue Room” painting. Courtesy of the Phillips Collection.

    According to the AP, in 1954, a conservator noted odd brushstrokes on the painting that could be an indication of something below the surface. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that a fuzzy image of something was revealed, but the question remained of what exactly that something was.

    The bearded man has been revealed as the canvas’ original painting. Who is he? That question remains unanswered.

    The post Picasso’s ‘Blue Room’ painting hides another masterpiece appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The hepatitis C virus as it appears under a transmission electron microscope. Photo by BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

    The hepatitis C virus as it appears under a transmission electron microscope. Photo by BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Your money or your life?

    Sovaldi, a new pill for hepatitis C, cures the liver-wasting disease in 9 of 10 patients, but treatment can cost more than $90,000.

    Leading medical societies recommend the drug as a first-line treatment, and patients are clamoring for it. But insurance companies and state Medicaid programs are gagging on the price. In Oregon, officials propose to limit how many low-income patients can get Sovaldi.

    Yet if Sovaldi didn’t exist, insurers would still be paying in the mid-to-high five figures to treat the most common kind of hepatitis C, a new pricing survey indicates. Some of the older alternatives involve more side effects, and are less likely to provide cures.

    So what’s a fair price?

    The cost of this breakthrough drug is highlighting cracks in the U.S. health care system at a time of heightened budget concerns. The Obama administration has a huge political stake in controlling treatment costs, but its critics may cry rationing.

    “People are going to want to try to dodge this hot potato,” says economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

    For insurers, there’s a frustrating twist: For each middle-aged person they pay to cure with Sovaldi, any financial benefits from preventing liver failure are likely to accrue to Medicare, not to them.

    More than 3 million Americans carry the hepatitis C virus, and many don’t realize it. It’s a public health concern since the disease can be transmitted by contact with infected blood, and sometimes through sexual activity. Health officials advise all baby boomers to get tested.

    The illness is complex, with distinct virus types requiring different treatments. While it progresses gradually, it can ultimately destroy the liver, and transplants average $577,000.

    An estimated 15,000 people died from hepatitis C in the U.S. in 2007, when it surpassed AIDS as a cause of death.

    “If it’s going to get me the medicine, I’ll put my hand out there with a tin cup,” said Stuart Rose, a hepatitis C patient in New York City. His insurance would pay only $4,000 a year for medications, but Rose was able to get assistance from charitable foundations. He recently started taking Sovaldi.

    Until the drug’s approval late last year, standard treatment for the most common type of the disease required daily pills and extended use of interferon, an injection that can produce debilitating flu-like symptoms. “Brain fog,” said Rose.

    Taken once a day for 12 weeks, Sovaldi greatly reduces the length of interferon treatment, making things more tolerable for patients. Now, many more people might want to try the cure.

    A similar drug, Olysio, also approved last year, is priced a bit lower.

    The nation’s largest care provider for chronic hepatitis C, the federal Veterans Administration, sees promise. With 175,000 patients, the VA has started more than 1,850 of them on Sovaldi.

    “After 20 years in infectious diseases, I never thought we would be in a position to cure this disease,” said Dr. David Ross, head of the VA’s program.

    By law, the VA gets drug discounts of over 40 percent. Will the agency break even by avoiding the disease’s worst complications?

    Not necessarily, said Ross. “If it leads to cost benefits in the long run, that’s gravy.”

    Private insurers will probably introduce Sovaldi gradually. “Not everybody is going to get this all at once,” said former Medicare administrator Mark McClellan.

    Drug maker Gilead Sciences, Inc., reported Sovaldi sales of $2.3 billion worldwide in just the first three months of this year. Gilead will not disclose its pricing methods, but vice president Gregg Alton said the drug’s high cure rate makes it “a real huge value.”

    In many countries, the government sets drug prices. In the US, insurers negotiate with drug companies. Medicare is forbidden from bargaining, a situation that critics say saddles U.S. patients with high costs while subsidizing the rest of the world.

    The Associated Press asked DRX, a technology company that researches drug prices for major insurers and government programs, to look at Sovaldi. The findings:

    — There aren’t many deep discounts:

    The midpoint — or median— discount that private payers are securing is about 14 percent off the average wholesale price of $1,200 a pill, bringing it down to $1,037. The biggest discount DRX found was nearly 36 percent, approaching the VA rate, and bringing the cost to $773. DRX surveyed more than 300 payers.

    — How do other drugs compare?

    DRX compared the total drug cost of treating the most common type of hepatitis C with Sovaldi and three alternatives. The regimen included pills, interferon and an antiviral called ribavirin.

    Treatment with Sovaldi had the highest cost, a median of $97,376. The lowest was $48,084 for Victrelis, a somewhat older drug with a lower cure rate.

    Two others were about $8,000 less than Sovaldi. The total median cost with Incivek was $89,178. With Olyisio, it was $89,319.

    “While Sovaldi still is the most expensive, all of these are five-figure regimens,” said Jim Yocum, DRX executive vice president. “Sovaldi is an advance … and it doesn’t seem to be priced completely out of whack.”

    But Dr. Sharon Levine, a top official working on drug policy with insurer Kaiser Permanente, disagrees.

    “There was never any question that we would cover and prescribe this drug,” said Levine. But she firmly believes the price is out of line. Countries where the government sets drug prices are paying much less, she noted.

    U.S. insurers aren’t interested in price controls, said Levine, but “eventually the American public is going to start getting very uncomfortable” with high prices. Drug costs have moderated in recent years, but new medications in the pipeline for cancer and other diseases are expected to push spending up.

    The California Technology Assessment Forum, a private group that reviews medical treatments, recently voted Sovaldi a “low value,” because it would be cost-prohibitive to treat the high number of potentially eligible patients. But after their own assessment, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases issued clinical guidelines recommending that doctors use Sovaldi as a primary treatment.

    Meanwhile, Gilead has a new hepatitis C pill close to approval that will not require interferon use.

    There’s no word on how it will be priced.

    The post Insurers choke on price of new hepatitis C-curing pill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Richard Shelby is among the many senators who voted to wage war in Iraq in 2001, but are now wary renewed military action.  Photo by Medill DC

    Sen. Richard Shelby is among the many senators who voted to wage war in Iraq in 2001, but are now wary renewed military action. Photo by Medill DC

    WASHINGTON — The prospect of the U.S. military returning to the fight in Iraq has turned congressional hawks into doves.

    Lawmakers who eagerly voted to authorize military force 12 years ago to oust Saddam Hussein and destroy weapons of mass destruction that were never found now harbor doubts that air strikes will turn back insurgents threatening Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government and Baghdad.

    Fears of Mideast quagmire and weariness after a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan loom large for even those who talk tough on national security. More than 6,000 Americans died in those wars, which cost a trillion dollars.

    As President Barack Obama mulls his next step, there is little unanimity in Congress on what the United States should do despite some Republican voices — most notably Sen. John McCain — loudly calling for air strikes and stepped-up military action. The sectarian violence between the pro-government Shiites and Sunnis adds to congressional uncertainty.

    Obama will discuss the situation in Iraq with House and Senate leaders of both parties at the White House Wednesday. State Department and Pentagon officials will hold closed-doors briefings with lawmakers over the next couple of days.

    “Where will it lead and will that be the beginning or the end?” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said, when asked about air strikes. “We don’t know that. This underlying conflict has been going on 1,500 years between the Shias and the Sunnis and their allies. And I think whatever we do, it’s not going to go away.”

    Shelby was one of the 77 Senate Republicans and Democrats who voted to give President George W. Bush the authority to wage war. Casting the strong bipartisan vote on Oct. 11, 2002 were Democratic Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada.

    “After a decade of war, we’ve all had enough,” said Reid, the Senate majority leader.

    “It was one of the worst votes I ever cast,” added Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, another who voted yes. Asked about what the vote means more than a decade later as the U.S. ponders intervention anew, Harkin said: “It is weighing heavily on my mind.”

    But Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who also voted for use of force in 2002, said that vote would have no effect on her thinking this time. She declined to say if she supported military action. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, another Democrat who authorized military action in Iraq the last time, also wouldn’t give his opinion.

    Senators from both parties appeared almost unanimous in their view that al-Maliki should leave power, even as many called for assistance to his government in battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant insurgency.

    ISIL has conquered several cities in Syria and Iraq. The administration is sending almost 300 American forces in and around Iraq to help secure U.S. assets.

    “I support almost anything that would curtail” ISIL, said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “That’s a very dangerous situation.”

    McCain, who spoke by telephone over the weekend with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, said not many forces would be needed for an effective operation in Iraq and they’d only be for close air support. He said no combat troops are needed, but some personnel should be on the ground to identify targets for air strikes.

    “That would be a handful of probably special forces, forward air controller people,” he said, expressing frustration that the administration hasn’t done more.

    Among the newer senators, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., expressed support for air strikes, but Tim Scott, R-S.C., had his doubts.

    “The president’s comments about he doesn’t know who to strike doesn’t give me ‘a warm and fuzzy,’” Scott said. “The option should remain on the table, but clarity should come first so that I can have an understanding and appreciation. If they don’t have an understanding and appreciation, I certainly don’t have one.”

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who voted for the war authorization in 2002, wanted to learn more about the administration’s plan.

    “The question is whether air strikes can be targeted enough that they don’t kill innocent people,” she said.

    The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Obama must offer a strategy and act quickly to provide the Iraqi government with assistance before “every gain made by the U.S. and allied troops is lost.” He didn’t outline a specific course of action.

    The post In Congress, prospect of new Iraq fight turns hawks into doves appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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