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- 06/17/14--12:35: Obama: Benghazi capture sends message to the world
- 06/17/14--13:43: Scientists zero in on what’s causing starfish die-offs
- 06/17/14--14:30: IRS lost more emails in tea party probe, investigators say
- 06/17/14--15:06: Why did it take so long to capture key Benghazi suspect?
- 06/17/14--15:19: What Iraq’s violent sectarian split means for its neighbors
- 06/17/14--15:36: Report finds states raising bar for aspiring teachers
- 06/17/14--15:46: 40 years after the fall, revisiting Nixon in ‘Washington Journal’
- 06/18/14--12:50: U.S. prepares for trial of captured Benghazi attack suspect
- 06/18/14--13:12: What does it mean to be a caregiver in America?
- 06/18/14--13:41: Fed reduces stimulus despite slower growth projections
- 06/18/14--13:50: A new approach to death by snake
- 06/18/14--13:50: Architects, engineers compete to save the New York coastline
- 06/18/14--14:24: Children cost an hour of leisure every day
- 06/18/14--15:03: Bitcoin processor signs deal to sponsor NCAA bowl game
- 06/18/14--15:08: ISIL attacks Iraq’s main oil refinery
President Barack Obama, while in Pittsburgh for a TechShop event Tuesday, addressed the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the alleged attackers of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
“It’s important for us to send a message to the world,” Obama said, “that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible, and we will bring them to justice.”
The post Obama: Benghazi capture sends message to the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Video by Katie Campbell/Earthfix. Laura James also contributed to the video
Starfish are dying by the millions up and down the West Coast, leading scientists to warn of the possibility of localized extinction of some species. As the disease spreads, researchers may be zeroing in on a link between warming waters and the rising starfish body count.
ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. — Drew Harvell peers into the nooks and crannies along the rocky shoreline of Eastsound on Orcas Island. Purple and orange starfish clutch the rocks, as if hanging on for dear life.
In fact, they are.
“It’s a lot worse than it was last week,” said Harvell, a marine epidemiologist at Cornell University. She’s been leading nationwide efforts to understand what is causing starfish to die by the millions up and down North America’s Pacific shores and on the east coast as well. It’s been called sea star wasting syndrome because of how quickly the stars become sick and deteriorate.“It’s the largest mortality event for marine diseases we’ve seen,” Harvell said. “It affects over 20 species on our coast and it’s been causing catastrophic mortality.”
Scientists have been working for months to find out what’s causing the massive die-off and now Harvell and others have evidence that an infectious disease caused by a bacteria or virus may be at the root of the problem. The disease, they say, could be compounded by warming waters, which put the sea stars under stress, making them more vulnerable to the pathogen.
Harvell has studied marine diseases for 20 years. She had thought that the syndrome might spare Washington’s San Juan Islands. Until recently, pockets of cold water and swift currents seem to have protected the local sea star population from the epidemic.
But with the arrival of summer, the waters around the San Juan archipelago have warmed. From what Harvell and her team see as they survey beaches, there’s not much time for these starfish — or sea stars, as scientists prefer to call them since they’re not fish.
“The whole arm is flat. It looks dried out, wasted, thin, deflated. Sea stars are not supposed to look like that,” Harvell said. “My expectation is that within the next month all of the stars will die.”
The team checked this rocky patch last week and found 10 percent of the stars showed signs of the wasting syndrome. Today they estimate that number has increased to more than 40 percent. They’ve been monitoring sites around the San Juan Islands through this past winter and expect the percentage of infected stars to continue rising as the waters warm this season.
“Over this winter I surveyed here, and looked at every animal and there was no disease at all,” said Morgan Eisenlord, a Ph.D. student in Harvell’s lab at Cornell. “When we came back in the spring we found sick animals so it obviously spread as it started to get warmer.”
A Warm-Water Connection?
Some scientists see a connection between rising water temperatures and the wasting syndrome. The waters around the San Juan Islands tend to be colder than the Washington outer coastline where dying starfish were first reported last summer. Since the arrival of warmer weather this season, the syndrome has spread rapidly to areas like the San Juan Islands that were previously untouched by the syndrome. Recent reports have also surfaced of die-offs along Oregon’s coastline.Farther south in California where water temperatures are even warmer, starfish have been nearly wiped out, according to Carol Blanchette, a research biologist at University of California Santa Barbara. Blanchette has tracked the spread in Southern California closely, monitoring 30 sites. She said the hypothesis that rising water temperatures could be triggering the epidemic makes sense, based on what she’s seen.
“The period of time in which the disease progressed rapidly has been a period in which waters have been warmer than usual winter conditions,” Blanchette said.
While scientists are reluctant to assign blame to climate change, Harvell explained that as oceans warm, outbreaks like this are more likely to occur.
“A warmer world would be a sicker world,” Harvell said. “Under warming conditions a lot of microorganisms do better. They grow faster. They replicate faster. Many of our hosts can actually be stressed by warm conditions. And so it kind of creates a perfect storm of sickness.”
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Sea star die-offs have occurred in the past, but never to this extent. In Southern California, Blanchette said die-offs occurred during warmer El Niño years — 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 most recently — but the sea star population eventually recovered. This most recent outbreak was first spotted in June 2013 on the Washington coast at a place called Starfish Point.
Scientists believe the pathogen spread through the water, as well as via physical contact (starfish often clump together). Another hypothesis is that the pathogen could also be concentrating in the mussels and clams that starfish like to eat.
At the University of California Santa Barbara Aquarium, captive sea stars started showing signs of the syndrome at the same time as their wild counterparts who live on the rocks several hundred feet from the tanks. The captive sea stars are kept in tanks of filtered seawater. In one tank they were fed mussels harvested from the rocks outside. In another tank the sea stars were fed frozen squid.
The animals that ate frozen squid stayed healthy, while the sea stars that ate the wild-harvested mussels contracted the syndrome. Blanchette cautions that these observations are purely anecdotal and the sample size is very small, but she believes this hypothesis merits further study.
That’s where scientists at Cornell come in. They are narrowing the list of pathogen suspects using DNA sequencing from samples of sick stars and hope to publish their findings in a scientific journal. Once the exact pathogen is identified and more is known about how the disease is spread, scientists will be better able to understand whether west coast starfish will be able to recover.
With projections for a warm El Niño year ahead, Harvell worries that things will only get worse for sea stars on the west coast.
Watch the original report from KCTS9/EarthFix that aired on the PBS NewsHour in January.
Seeking Boots On The Beach
In the meantime, there is a role for citizen science in tracking the epidemic. UC Santa Barbara, the University of Washington and Cornell University have set up websites where beach goers can share information about the location and abundance of infected sea stars. Then scientists can study how water temperatures, currents and other factors may correlate with the spread of the die-off.
“One of the reasons we’re a little obsessed with trying to learn everything we can about both the causative agent in terms of the microbe and the environmental conditions is to think about what we can do better next time,” Harvell said.
What Happens When They’re Gone?
Sea stars are an apex predator in the intertidal zone. They voraciously consume mussels and other shellfish, and they are referred to as a “keystone species,” meaning that, like in any stone building, if you remove the keystone, things start to crumble.
“It has an extraordinarily significant effect on the biodiversity of the entire community,” Blanchette said.“Losing a predator like that is bound to have some pretty serious ecological consequences and we really don’t know exactly how the system is going to look but we’re quite certain that it’s going to have an impact.”
Looking out at the rising tide on Eastsound, Harvell said, “This area has some of the highest biodiversity of sea stars in the world. We’re not just losing one keystone species, we’re losing a whole guild of stars.”
And the stars here are what’s called an endemic species, meaning they only live on this shoreline and nowhere else on the planet, she explained. If sea stars are wiped out along these shores, they could be gone forever.
She picks up a tiny young ochre star and looks carefully at its malformed arms for symptoms of the disease. If these juvenile stars can find a way to resist the pathogen, local extinction could be avoided, she said.
The future of sea stars in the San Juan Islands depends largely on what happens this summer, Harvell said. “If we lose all of the adult ochre stars and all of the young recruits in the San Juans, then I don’t think we’ll see ochre stars here for quite a few years.”
This report first appeared on EarthFix’s website. EarthFix is a public media project of Oregon Public Broadcasting and Boise State Public Radio, Idaho Public Television, KCTS 9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Southern Oregon Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The post Scientists zero in on what’s causing starfish die-offs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has lost more emails connected to the tea party investigation, congressional investigators said Tuesday.
The IRS said last Friday it had lost an untold number of emails when Lois Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011. Lerner used to head the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status.
On Tuesday, two key lawmakers said the IRS has also lost emails from six additional IRS workers whose computers crashed. Among them was Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff to Lerner’s boss, then-deputy commissioner Steven Miller.
Miller later became acting IRS commissioner, but was forced to resign last year after the agency acknowledged that agents had improperly scrutinized tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status. Documents have shown some liberal groups were also flagged.
Investigators from the House Ways and Means Committee interviewed IRS technicians Monday. The technicians said they first realized that Lerner’s emails were lost in February or March — months before they informed congressional investigators, said a statement by two top Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, chairman Dave Camp of Michigan and subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany of Louisiana.
The two lawmakers called on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS, something Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to do in the past.
“It looks like the American people were lied to and the IRS tried to cover up the fact it conveniently lost key documents in this investigation,” the statement by Camp and Boustany said. “The White House promised full cooperation, the commissioner promised full access to Lois Lerner emails and now the agency claims it cannot produce those materials and they’ve known for months they couldn’t do this.”
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“It is unfortunate that the IRS experienced equipment failure that resulted in several computers crashing and some email data being lost from Lois Lerner’s hard drive between 2009 and 2011,” said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “But every equipment failure is not a conspiracy. The IRS has taken every step to restore the data, and has already retrieved the emails sent internally during that time period from non-impacted computers.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was scheduled to testify before the Ways and Means Committee on Friday. He was originally scheduled to appear next Tuesday, but the hearing was moved up because of a scheduling conflict. The House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Koskinen to testify at a rare evening hearing on Monday.
The two House committees and the Senate Finance Committee are investigating the IRS over its handling of tea party applications from 2010 to 2012. The Justice Department and the IRS inspector general are also investigating.
Congressional investigators have shown that IRS officials in Washington were closely involved in handling tea party applications, many of which languished for more than a year without action. But so far, they have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the agency directed the targeting or even knew about it.
If anyone outside the agency was involved, investigators were hoping for clues in Lerner’s emails.
Lerner’s computer crashed in the summer of 2011, depriving investigators of many of her prior emails. Flax’s computer crashed in December 2011, Camp and Boustany said.
The IRS said Friday that technicians went to great lengths trying to recover data from Lerner’s computer in 2011. In emails provided by the IRS, technicians said they sent the computer to a forensic lab run by the agency’s criminal investigations unit. But to no avail.
The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 period because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. Overall, the IRS said it is producing a total of 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013.
The IRS said Friday more than 250 IRS employees have been working to assist congressional investigations, spending nearly $10 million to produce more than 750,000 documents.
The post IRS lost more emails in tea party probe, investigators say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: Kenya’s president blamed local political leaders for two nights of attacks that killed at least 60 people along the coast.
The Somali militant group Al-Shabab had claimed responsibility for the killings near the tourist resort island of Lamu that targeted non-Muslims.
But President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a nationally televised address, pointed the finger at people he described as hate-mongers, without directly naming anyone.
PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA, Kenya: The attack in Lamu was well-planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against the Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons. This, therefore, wasn’t an Al-Shabab terrorist attack.
GWEN IFILL: Security was tightened in the area today, as Kenyan officials searched for the attackers. They erected roadblocks, and asked people to come forward with any information.
An explosion hit the main pipeline that carries Russian natural gas across Ukraine to Europe, and Ukrainian officials said it might be terrorism. It happened in the center of the country, far from the unrest with pro-Russian separatists in the east. And it comes a day after Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine over a pricing dispute.
Newly released records show workers at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital received about $10 million in merit-based bonuses. It’s the same hospital an inspector general’s report found had excessive wait times and inappropriate scheduling of patients. Records show the bonuses went to about 2,100 employees over three years, and each year the amount increased.
In Nebraska, two farming towns were reeling today at destruction wrought by rare double tornadoes. The twin twisters ripped through the small towns of Stanton and Pilger yesterday afternoon. They touched down roughly a mile from one another, before merging. A 5-year-old girl was killed and 18 others were injured. Pilger was nearly 75 percent destroyed.
The county sheriff warned it will take a long time to rebuild.
MIKE UNGER, Sheriff, Stanton County: The business district is gone. City Hall is gone. The fire department is destroyed. The public library has severe damage. And we have numerous houses that are just gone and lots and lots of houses with structural damage that will take 100 percent repair, which means they’re going to have to tear them down and start from scratch.
GWEN IFILL: President Obama signed a disaster declaration today to send federal funds and resources to the area.
In World Cup soccer news, U.S. fans were still celebrating last night’s first round win over Ghana. Team captain Clint Dempsey scored 30 seconds into the game, making it the fifth quickest goal in World Cup history. After Ghana tied the score, John Brooks bounced a header in to win the match. Next up for the U.S. is Portugal on Sunday.
Curators and scientists have discovered one of Pablo Picasso’s first masterpieces. “The Blue Room” has had a secret all these years. A second painting is concealed behind the first, and that one holds a secret of its own: the identity of the bow-tied man in the portrait. The 1901 painting has been a part of the Phillips Collection in Washington since 1927. Museum experts used infrared/X-ray technology to find and refine the hidden portrait over the past five years.
Stocks extended their gains on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average added 27 points to close at 16,808. The Nasdaq rose 16 points to close at 4,337. And the S&P 500 gained four points to close at nearly 1,942.
The post News Wrap: Kenyan president says deadly attacks were ‘politically motivated’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: Nearly two years after the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the U.S. has captured one of the suspected ringleaders in the offensive.
President Obama heralded the mission this afternoon at an event in Pittsburgh, shortly after the news broke.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are all aware of the tragedy that happened in Benghazi, where four Americans, including our ambassador there, Chris Stevens, was killed in an attack on a consulate office there.
I said at the time that my absolute commitment was to make sure that we brought to justice those who had been responsible. And, yesterday, our special forces, showing incredible courage and precision, were able to capture an individual, Abu Khattala, who was — who is alleged to have been one of the masterminds of the attack.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And he is now being transported back to the United States. I say that, first of all, because, you know, we continue to think about and pray for the families of those who were killed during that terrible attack.
But, more importantly it’s important for us to send a message to the world that, when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice.
GWEN IFILL: Jeffrey Brown has more on the dramatic capture.
JEFFREY BROWN: The special forces team apprehended Abu Khattala with the help of the FBI in a secret raid outside Benghazi. He’s the first accused perpetrator of the 2012 attacks to be nabbed and taken into U.S. custody.
And joining me now is the reporter who first broke the story, Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post.
Karen, thanks for joining us.
How much detail do we know at this point about the operation that led to his capture?
KAREN DEYOUNG, The Washington Post: Well, we don’t know a whole lot.
We know that it occurred on Sunday afternoon, Washington time, that it was, according to the Pentagon, months in the planning, that President Obama approved it on Friday, and that it was pretty much carried off without any violence at all. Nobody was hurt. And he was very quickly removed from his villa in the south of Benghazi.
JEFFREY BROWN: And done with or without the cooperation or coordination with the Libyan government?
KAREN DEYOUNG: The Libyans were not informed prior to this operation.
Of course, there have been previous operations in Libya, notably one last October where an al-Qaida suspect was abducted. And, at that time, the administration informed Libya what it was also interested in getting Abu Khattala. They didn’t get him at that point. And they didn’t tell.
And, again, their response was just, well, it’s no surprise to them that we have been trying to get him.
JEFFREY BROWN: And where is Abu Khattala now? It sounds as though the intent is to bring him here and arraign him to stand trial?
KAREN DEYOUNG: He is in a secure location outside of Libya. That’s all the military and the administration have said.
Previously, when incidents like this have happened, they have taken people and put them aboard U.S. warships for some initial interrogation. There has been a criminal complaint filed against him in district court in the District of Columbia.
You know, most of these cases have been tried in New York, but this one, I think, will be the first terrorist trial, big-time terrorist trial in Washington, D.C., and so he will be brought here shortly is the only term they will use to be arraigned and ultimately to stand trial.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, one of the stranger aspects to all this, of course, is that reporters have sat down with him in the past two years, with Abu Khattala, since the Benghazi attacks.
There was a — some sense that he was kind of hiding in plain sight. So, what’s the explanation at this point for why it took so long to capture him?
KAREN DEYOUNG: Well, certainly, initially, right after the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, for several months afterwards and into the beginning of last year, he was fairly frequently interviewed by American, British and other media in Benghazi.
The actual criminal complaint against him wasn’t filed until last summer. And the explanation that the administration has for why is it as easy for them to find him at least a year ago, a little more than a year ago, and so difficult for them is that — not that it was necessarily difficult to know where he was, but to arrange the kind of raid that they carried out where no one was hurt, where there was an element of surprise, where they could get quickly in and out.
That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.
JEFFREY BROWN: And what about the evidence that links him to what happened in Benghazi? How — what does the government say about how solid it is? This is a way for you to backtrack a little and remind us who he is and his connections to various groups.
KAREN DEYOUNG: He is the head of the Benghazi branch of Ansar al-Sharia, which is an Islamist militant group that was formed after the fall of Gadhafi.
Abu Khattala himself was imprisoned by Moammar Gadhafi for many years. In the videos and in witnesses’ statements that were compiled after the Benghazi attacks, there were members of Ansar al-Sharia — there were some indications that they had done it.
And he himself, in these various media interviews that he did, acknowledged that he was there, although he usually said that he came upon the assault of the diplomatic compound when it was almost over, and — but didn’t participate in the initial assault.
They say they have witnesses. And, again, they do have some video.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the U.S. authorities, I gather, they think that they — well, they fairly believe that others were involved in the attack. So, are they still in pursuit? What’s the situation there?
KAREN DEYOUNG: There — in this criminal complaint that was filed under seal last summer here in the District of Columbia, there were as many as a dozen others that were listed as wanted for the same — the same attacks.
They say they’re still after them. They haven’t caught them yet. We don’t know what all their names are, but that the investigation is still ongoing and that they’re still trying to capture them.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, everything, of course, related to Benghazi has been a major political issue, and I saw some of the reaction right away today, Mitch McConnell saying that the suspect needs to be interrogated extensively. He said we shouldn’t read him his rights and get him a lawyer.
You said earlier the intent is to bring him to trial in New York, perhaps. So, this is…
KAREN DEYOUNG: In Washington.
JEFFREY BROWN: In Washington.
So this is going to continue as a — clearly, as — in — in American politics?
KAREN DEYOUNG: Well, it was interesting.
The very first reaction this morning, when the story broke, was, good for you, American military, you did a great job, but very quickly became divided along partisan lines, with many Republicans saying, we hope that you’re not going to treat him as a normal criminal defendant.
This is a line that is very familiar in these kinds of cases, suggesting that he be taken to Guantanamo, which, of course, the Obama administration is not going to do. They have been trying to close Guantanamo and have refused to put anyone in addition there.
They say that they have had much better luck with civilian criminal trials, that there have been many of them and many convictions and many people are in jail, while the track record of the military commissions in Guantanamo is not very good in terms of commissions, and, in fact, there are a lot of people there they don’t know quite what to do with because they can’t convict them.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, and all that to unfold in coming months.
Karen DeYoung, thank you so much.
KAREN DEYOUNG: You’re welcome.
The post Why did it take so long to capture key Benghazi suspect? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: President Obama is expected to meet with congressional leaders on Iraq tomorrow. At the same time, a State Department spokeswoman said she doesn’t expect the U.S. and Iran to have any more discussions about Iraq on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna.In Baghdad, 10 people were killed and dozens injured in a car bombing in a Shiite neighborhood today. And the country’s prime minister dismissed four of his top security officers after the city of Mosul fell to insurgent forces late last week.
In the north, it appears Shia militia are beginning to fill the void left by fleeing government forces.
Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News is there.
JONATHAN RUGMAN, ITN: These Shia militiamen are chanting that they are answering their country’s call, scores of them filmed apparently headed to Tal Afar today. The army seemingly deserted them in the face of Sunni extremists. So now it’s guerrilla warfare on both sides.
Their city fell to ISIS yesterday. But it was fear of government airstrikes which sent this family packing, leaving home at 3:00 this morning. Tal Afar is a city of 200,000 people. Now unknown numbers of Sunni and Shia are fleeing it, joining those still escaping from Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, which fell a week ago.
In Mosul itself, residents filmed ISIS militants as if they were a tourist attraction, even if some of the jihadists are probably foreigners and conflict tourists themselves, the bustle of everyday life here shown perhaps as a deliberate contrast with the executions and atrocities of recent days, though this ISIS fighter is ordering a woman to cover her head up.
At this checkpoint near the city, Ibrahim Salim told us he couldn’t be sure which side in this conflict frightened him the most.
Were you frightened of them because they are radical jihadists?
IBRAHIM SALIM: It’s really, you don’t know who’s your enemy. You don’t know, is the government of Iraq or you don’t know if that — or the jihadi is your enemy. You don’t know. Everybody — like, in the beginning of two days, there was bombing the civilians. We don’t know…
JONATHAN RUGMAN: By whom?
IBRAHIM SALIM: We don’t know. Just a bomb fell down on the people.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: Merging into this crowd, we found soldiers from Tal Afar now seeking sanctuary in the Kurdish north, after abandoning their posts in fighting yesterday.
Islamic extremists were driven out of Tal Afar by the American Army. But the story, which seems to be emerging from these people who have fled from the conflict today, is the army that the Americans trained gave up. It ran away without putting up too much of a fight. This soldier feared reprisals from either side. He said he had surrendered to ISIS after his commanders escaped first.
Did the Americans train you, though, to fight?
MAN (through interpreter): Yes, we were trained by the Americans for three to eight months. But the issue was, we’d ran out of ammunition. Otherwise, we would’ve resisted.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: How many dead people did you see with your own eyes?
MAN (through interpreter): I have seen many dead people, between 100 to 150. Two of my friends were killed. We haven’t found their bodies yet.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: We can’t verify that figure. Another soldier told us he feared the Sunnis of ISIS would disfigure or execute him if they found out he was a Shia from the south.
SABAH SAAD (through interpreter): It was very frightening coming through the ISIS checkpoint. ISIS are terrorists. It’s terrifying. They’re against civilians, and they are against the army.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: Tonight, ISIS launched a chilling new global recruitment video for what it called the decisive battle. “Hungry lions are being unleashed,” it said, calling this a jihad against Shiites, its stated target, Baghdad.
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GWEN IFILL: Late this evening in Baghdad, Reuters reports that Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni political leaders, including the prime minister, made a joint call for national unity.
Tonight, we take a closer look at what the Iraq crisis and its sectarian divisions mean for an already volatile region.
I’m joined by Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief of Al-Arabiya news channel, and Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress. But the views she expresses here are her own.
What is the dangerous, Hisham, that the Sunni-Shiite split, which we have become so familiar with now, is going to spread beyond the borders of Iraq throughout the entire region?
HISHAM MELHEM, Al Arabiya News: What we see now in terms of Shia-Sunni rivalry is unprecedented in the history of Islam.
This is the first time we see bloodletting on a continuum front from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon. And if you add to it occasional flare-ups in Bahrain and Yemen, you will get an idea.
This has never happened in modern history, or even any time throughout the history of Islam. That’s why it’s extremely dangerous. When you add to that the fact that you have major Arab countries that are literally unraveling along sectarian ethnic lines, fault lines, Syria and Iraq, you add to that refugee problems in two brittle countries, Lebanon and Jordan, you add to that dearth of leadership in the region, you add to that dearth of leadership in Europe, which makes American leadership extremely important, unfortunately, American leadership also was absent in the last two years.
Because we didn’t do much about the rise of ISIS in — the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — because we didn’t do much to check their power in Syria, allow that environment, allowed them to fester in that environment, we see them now moving from Syria to Iraq.
And now one final point. We have two major non-state actors, Hezbollah and ISIS, throwing their weight around the region and acting like states. Never happened before.
GWEN IFILL: Some people say the other acronym for ISIS, which is ISIL, is actually scarier than ISIS, because it’s about more than Syria. It’s about the entire region, the Levant.
I want to ask you, Mary-Jane Deeb, about whether this conflict that Hisham describes, is it just becoming regional, but it already is?
MARY-JANE DEEB, Library of Congress: Well, it is in many ways, because the idea of ISIS, and idea of the Islamist group is not simply to change a particular government within a particular reason.
It is to change the region as a whole, to turn it into an Islamic state. And so we see the situation developing along a number of lines. Not only is it sectarian, Sunni-Shiite, but I think there is also an actor that we do not see, and that is, I would say, the old army, Iraqi army, the army that has been broken up and sent back home.
And that may be the background, the backstage, if you want, of what is happening in Iraq today.
GWEN IFILL: There was a lot of attention paid in Vienna this week when there was some discussion on the sidelines between the U.S. and Iran. How critical a player is or should Iran be in the middle of all this?
HISHAM MELHEM: Iran is on ascendancy throughout the Middle East.
That is Iranian power, projection of power in Syria and now projection of power in Iraq, Iranian influence in Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah, is scaring the countries of the Gulf and Turkey. These are Sunni powers who are extremely concerned about the rise of the Iranian role.
And now they will be more concerned because of signs that the United States is willing to discuss Iraq with Iran, and, in fact, even John Kerry yesterday said it in a fleeting moment, that we may even be willing to collaborate militarily.
This is going to…
GWEN IFILL: Well, and he pulled back from that.
HISHAM MELHEM: He pulled back, of course. This is the first time in American history you have four most senior positions occupied by senators. And senators talk. That’s what they do, unfortunately.
HISHAM MELHEM: But the point is, Iran’s influence in Iraq and now the Iranians are calling on the United States to collaborate with it militarily — this is the same Iran that was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of hundreds of Marines and American soldier in Iraq in the past 10 years. And now we’re contemplating dealing with it.
GWEN IFILL: But more immediately, does this or any collaboration that might exist, whether it’s diplomatically or otherwise, with Iran, does that put our nuclear talks on the back burner?
MARY-JANE DEEB: Absolutely. And this is one of the major dangers is that, if we start talking now about what is happening in Iraq, we are stopping the discussion on the nuclear issue.
And that is of immense importance, because Iran can play the game of, yes, let’s talk about Iraq and, yes, let’s move and let’s do this, and, anyway, continue building up its nuclear forces.
GWEN IFILL: Almost every country that you mentioned, including — also including Libya and Egypt and Turkey, have a different — they have different skin in this game, different concerns about what is going to happen in Iraq. Is there any agreed-upon solution, other than that the U.S. ought to do something?
MARY-JANE DEEB: Well, I would say that Saudi Arabia is worried about Iranian influence, primarily. That is its major worry, and probably would like to see a more important role played by the United States.
But the other countries have different agendas. A number of countries would like to see the Sunnis come back to power in Iraq. And, certainly, I would say that countries like Egypt, for instance, would like to see a return and a strengthening of Sunnis in the region.
GWEN IFILL: Would these countries perhaps like to see Iraq partitioned?
HISHAM MELHEM: I think — I think — I think — in my moments of despair, I think we are watching the death of a country.
This whole political order that emerged in the Middle East falling the First World War, a century later now, is falling. It’s falling apart along sectarian, ethnic lines. And the Kurds, I would argue, will go their own separate way. Maybe the Shia will go their own separate way in the south, and that would leave the Sunnis in the center. They will be…
GWEN IFILL: This is something Joe Biden talked about years ago, but was rejected out of hand.
HISHAM MELHEM: Yes, exactly, but not through this kind of violence.
The Sunnis will be sullen and angry and armed. And they’re not going to accept a situation like that.
GWEN IFILL: But ISIS will continue to exist, even if this kind of deal comes up.
So, the question becomes, because ISIS has access to a lot of resources, a lot of money, and who — and part of the question is, who is giving them this money? Are any of these regional actors also helping to support this insurgency?
MARY-JANE DEEB: It is very possible. It is very possible that some of them are supporting, that money is coming in.
It could be individuals. It could be foundations. It could be — it could even be governments.
HISHAM MELHEM: And they’re now generating their own — their own funds.
MARY-JANE DEEB: That’s right.
HISHAM MELHEM: Already, they got hundreds of millions of dollars from Mosul banks.
MARY-JANE DEEB: By attacking other — by attacking banks, by attacking shops, by attacking economic institutions.
HISHAM MELHEM: Impose protection taxes.
MARY-JANE DEEB: Absolutely. It’s like the mafia. But I think there is more serious financing of these groups.
HISHAM MELHEM: But what you need in the end, you need a political solution. You need allies to fight ISIS.
And that was our main mistake in Syria. We didn’t invest in the moderate Syrian opposition, so that they will take on these groups when — and nip their threat in the bud. We didn’t do that.
GWEN IFILL: Who is Nouri al-Maliki’s friend in the region in all of this?
HISHAM MELHEM: Iran. Iran.
MARY-JANE DEEB: Iran.
GWEN IFILL: Only Iran?
HISHAM MELHEM: Iran.
MARY-JANE DEEB: And that’s the danger. That’s the danger, because Iran might be asked to move in.
HISHAM MELHEM: And he owes his political future to them.
MARY-JANE DEEB: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: So is there pressure from any of these nations or from us, or should there be, for Maliki to move aside?
HISHAM MELHEM: I think the United States should have exercised — exercised that option a while ago.
MARY-JANE DEEB: I agree.
HISHAM MELHEM: I blame the Bush administration for living with him without really exercising too much pressure on him — the same thing with the Obama administration.
He owes his position to American bayonets, and we didn’t act as such.
GWEN IFILL: Final word.
MARY-JANE DEEB: However, who is going to take his place, through what process?
After all, he was elected. And so who are we expecting to take over? It has to be, I suppose, a coalition that needs to be pulled together. And I don’t know who can do that.
GWEN IFILL: Seems like the same dilemma has cropped up, has, periodically replacing people, but either they don’t go or you can’t find someone to take their place.
It’s quite remarkable.
Hisham Melhem, Mary-Jane Deeb, thank you both.
MARY-JANE DEEB: Thank you.
HISHAM MELHEM: Thank you.
MARY-JANE DEEB: Thank you.
The post What Iraq’s violent sectarian split means for its neighbors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: The president used the power of executive authority again today, this time to protect a wider expanse of the central Pacific Ocean.Jeffrey Brown has the story and why scientists believe the area needs special safeguards.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we drain our oceans of their resources, we won’t just be squandering one of humanity’s greatest treasures. We will be cutting off one of the world’s major sources of food and economic growth.
JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama announced his plan to create the world’s largest marine preserve in a video message delivered today at a State Department conference on oceans conservation.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as president to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for mountains and rivers and forests.
JEFFREY BROWN: Today’s directive would add to U.S. marine monuments in the Central Pacific designated by President George W. Bush during his administration. President Obama’s proposal could expand protection areas around seven islands and atolls in the U.S. territorial waters from 50 miles to 200.
And while final boundaries have not yet been determined, the executive step would expand the sparsely inhabited Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 780,000. That would put drilling, fishing and other activities in the new preserves off-limits.
Some Republican lawmakers, like House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, claimed the move was an overreach of presidential powers. In a statement, he said: “This is yet another example of how an imperial president is intent on taking unilateral action, behind closed doors, to impose new regulations and layers of restrictive red tape. Oceans, like our federal lands, are intended to be multiple-use and open for a wide range of economic activities that includes fishing, recreation, conservation, and energy production.”
The president also today issued a memorandum to federal agencies to develop a program that would ensure all seafood sold in the U.S. is both sustainable and traceable. In the meantime, any expansion of the Pacific marine reserves will be implemented later this year, after a public comment period.
The U.S. controls more than 13 percent of all ocean areas overseen by countries, and today’s action was being watched by international observers as well as on Capitol Hill.
We’re now joined by Joshua Reichert. He is the executive vice president of the Pew Charitable Trusts, where he directs environmental initiatives. And Juliet Eilperin, who reported this story for The Washington Post.
And welcome to both of you.
JULIET EILPERIN, The Washington Post: Thanks so much.
JOSHUA REICHERT, Pew Charitable Trusts: Thank you.
JEFFREY BROWN: Joshua Reichert, let me start with you. Tell us more about this area of the ocean, and why is it important to protect?
JOSHUA REICHERT: Well, it’s one of the most isolated, remote areas of the ocean that’s under the jurisdiction of the United States.
And because it’s isolated and hard to get to, these islands and atolls have been uninhabited essentially forever. So the amount of ocean life that they contain is absolutely remarkable. It’s a staggering assemblage of fish, sea birds, marine mammals, and critical habitat that’s needed by a wide variety of species that occupy these areas.
JEFFREY BROWN: I suppose one would wonder, if it’s so little remote and so little used, why does it need protection, as opposed to other places?
JOSHUA REICHERT: Well, the world is shrinking.
And areas that 50 years ago were considered to be absolutely inaccessible today are not that way. And I think, over the short to medium term, these areas will be opened up and they will not be nearly as remote as they are today. Fishing vessels now ply these waters on a regular basis, and, 50 years ago, they didn’t.
JEFFREY BROWN: Juliet, what can you tell us about the decision and the process to take this action, and in this way, through an executive action?
JULIET EILPERIN: Well, first, when you look at the issue starting with the executive action, that this is something that presidents have done for decades.
Under the Antiquities Act, they have had this authority for roughly 100 years to essentially designate — designate lands for protection — or waters — without congressional approval. So that’s nothing new. What is interesting is President Obama, who has used that authority 11 times already to protect areas on land, had never used it in the ocean.
And what it reflects is actually a renewed focus on this driven by two members of his administration, John Podesta, his counselor who has worked on ocean issues for several years and really was pushing for this, and Secretary of State John Kerry, who hosted the conference you referenced over the last two days.
Both of them were looking for the president to do something big, symbolic on this issue.
JEFFREY BROWN: And I referred in the introduction there to some opposition quickly voiced by Republicans. Are they seeing this differently from what President Bush did?
JULIET EILPERIN: Well, it’s an interesting question.
I talked to Chairman Hastings about this, and one thing I asked is since President Bush actually created the initial monument in 2009, I asked him whether he had voiced concern then. He replied that he had not weighed in at all because he had not been on the Natural Resources Committee at that point.
But there was very little outcry from congressional Republicans when President Bush undertook several steps to declare parts of the ocean off-limits.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so let’s — starting with you, Joshua Reichert, what does it mean to declare a wide swathe of ocean a monument? What will not happen or what will happen there? How do you even protect — how do you do that?
JOSHUA REICHERT: The management plan — there needs to be a management plan that’s created for these areas, but I think the assumption here is, is that all extractive activity within the parameters of these monuments will be prohibited.
So the production of oil and gas, fishing, deep-sea mining, and these are — so, they’re areas that are designed to be set aside. And as Juliet indicated, the Antiquities Act has been used by presidents over the past century to protect areas like this.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you know how much the plan is already set? Or is this what happens over the next period?
JULIET EILPERIN: This plan is not set, and they will have to work through it. They are going to get some public input. What’s interesting is, partially because this is something that really came together in recent weeks, is that there isn’t a detailed plan.
And, also, since the president could do this by themselves, there’s no designated time for how long they take public comment, but certainly they will be basically waiting to hear from folks over the next couple of months.
JEFFREY BROWN: And I know you reached out for a reaction from people in the fishing industry. So, what did they have to say about this?
JULIET EILPERIN: So, the members of the recreational fishing industry have some concerns about this — they received an exemption when this monument was created under President Bush — just because they don’t like the precedent of prohibiting sports fishing in any area.
And so they will be looking to keep that exemption and they are a little concerned about it. What’s interesting, the tuna industry, which operates in this region, hasn’t been public about where — how they will weigh in, but I’m quite confident they will express their concerns about this to the administration.
JEFFREY BROWN: What about how this plays out with other countries? How does it jibe or not jibe with what other countries are doing? Would there be questions about the U.S.’ rights in an area like this to take an action like that?
JOSHUA REICHERT: This is all within the jurisdiction of the United States, so there won’t be questions like that.
I think that what we’re seeing and what we have been seeing over the course of the past decade or two is a growing recognition of the value of the world’s oceans to people and the fact that they’re in trouble, and so that there has been more effort made over the course of the past several decades to protect areas of the ocean than has ever been made before.
The decision by a sitting president to designate an area as a national monument requires the balancing of different kinds of interests, economic, biological, cultural, aesthetic. And, clearly, in this case, two presidents have made a determination that the value of these areas far transcends the amount of profit that can be eked out of them every year by commercial fishing.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think that — to Juliet — that there might be more to come here in terms of more actions like this, specifically in the oceans? You were talking about actions that affect…
JULIET EILPERIN: Right.
I think that’s actually an intriguing part of what President Obama said in his video today. He talked about the idea that he would use this authority in the future. And so I think we could expect that there would be further action.
And it also was interesting that, whether you’re talking about the president or his deputies, they were emphasizing the economic value of the ocean and arguing that there is in fact more economic benefit by putting part of it off-limits. And so I think we will see them making that case and using that in selected instances.
JEFFREY BROWN: Are you expecting to see more?
JOSHUA REICHERT: We are.
JEFFREY BROWN: You are.
JOSHUA REICHERT: And, in fact, we have been trying to over the course of the past five or six years to encourage the governments, various governments, the United States and others, to begin to construct the first generation of the world’s great marine parks similar to what was done on land.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, meantime, Juliet, briefly, there is this comment period coming, so anybody in industry or outside may weigh in, hijack this may change a bit.
JULIET EILPERIN: Absolutely.
So, that’s one of the interesting things, that the Commerce Department and the Interior Departments will be presumably holding some hearings, hearing from folks, and they will ultimately decide. They could go out to 200 miles from shore or they could pare it back. And so that’s what we will be watching in the weeks and months to come.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Juliet Eilperin and Joshua Reichert, thank you both very much.
JULIET EILPERIN: Thank you.
JOSHUA REICHERT: Thank you.
The post Can Obama’s Pacific Ocean sanctuary plan balance environmental and economic interests? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
For the second year in a row, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has given failing grades to many programs preparing future teachers to enter the classroom.
The report, out Tuesday, reviews more than 1,600 programs at more than 830 institutions. The Council used standards it developed in areas like selectivity, instruction in grade-level content and teaching methods, the amount of student teaching required and whether the programs were held accountable based on their graduates’ future students’ performance.
About 13 percent of the reviewed programs received top marks. According to the report, only 18 percent of programs required students have a 3.0 GPA to qualify for admissions, 5 percent of programs provided what NCTQ considers adequate support and feedback for student teaching placements and 12 percent of programs for future elementary school teachers sufficiently prepared them to teach the content required in their state’s elementary curriculum.
The rankings have drawn praise from some corners and ire from others. Whether the standards that NCTQ holds programs to could result in more effective teachers remains to be seen, but this year’s report shows some states are getting on board with changes the organization supports.
Between 2011 and 2013, 33 states adopted new laws making notable changes to how teacher prep programs are overseen or evaluated and eight states added a requirement for academic proficiency testing to get into a teacher prep program. Two more raised the bar on GPA or test score cut-offs for applicants and more than a dozen states added subject matter tests to elementary teacher licensing requirements, others added tests covering teaching methods.
PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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GWEN IFILL: It’s high school graduation season, and one of the country’s largest school districts is celebrating the accomplishments of dozens of students who’ve had a particularly difficult time earning a diploma.
They have all been homeless, which drastically increases the likelihood of their dropping out.
But as David Nazar of PBS SoCal explains, a concerted effort to help those students graduate has been paying off.It’s the latest report for our American Graduate project, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
DAVID NAZAR, PBS SoCal: Nora Perez just graduated from Roybal learning center, a high school in Los Angeles. Those four years can be an uphill battle for many students. However, Nora faced a mountain of challenges. This is what she called home during high school, the back of a car, parked on a city street. It’s where Nora spent part of the night and studied after school.
NORA PEREZ: You don’t have your own room. You don’t have your own bed. You don’t even know where to shower. And it was really difficult. It was really difficult.
And it brings tears to my eye, because going through all this pain, going through all those moments, all those cold nights that I looked at my parents and saw the pain in their face.
DAVID NAZAR: The difficult road for Nora began during her freshman year. Her father lost his job, and then the family lost its house.
NORA PEREZ: At that point, I thought everything was falling apart completely. I was losing everything that I had. It was just too much pain at that point, and I felt like giving up.
DAVID NAZAR: That pain motivated Nora to look for help, and she found it in the district’s Homeless Education Program, designed to provide assistance to students and their families who don’t have a place to live.
One of the first things the program targets: the essentials students may have had to do without.
DEBRA DUARDO, Executive Director, Student Health and Human Services, Los Angeles Unified School District: Homeless students and families have a lot of instability in their lives, and it’s very difficult for them to access services that they need.
DAVID NAZAR: Debra Duardo is the executive director of the district’s Student Health and Human Services Department. Duardo helps oversee 14 wellness centers built over the past five years with about $40 million in voter-approved bond money. Officials have also raised another $50 million to build even more, something they say no other district in the country has been able to do.
DEBRA DUARDO: Many of our students that become homeless or families become homeless as a result of mental illness, domestic violence, coming back from war, substance abuse.
So when you’re children — when you’re a child and you’re dealing with some of these issues in your family, oftentimes, you’re going to have symptoms of anxiety, depression, haven’t been taken to a doctor for regular care, lacking dental services.
DAVID NAZAR: While the centers help all the district’s most at-risk kids, a lot of the effort is spent on those who are homeless, and there are many of them.
California’s homeless population is the highest in the country by far. Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated there were about 137,000 homeless people living here. The Los Angeles Unified School District alone has identified 15,000 children within its boundaries who don’t have a proper place to stay, and school officials say there could be hundreds, possibly thousands more, who haven’t told the district they’re homeless.
And it can be very difficult to simply get them in the door.
DEBRA DUARDO: We don’t always know which of our students are homeless because they aren’t always forthcoming with that information. There’s a big stigma. They’re embarrassed. They feel humiliated. And so even if they need services or there’s access to services, sometimes, we don’t know about it if they’re not willing to share that information.
DAVID NAZAR: In addition to the stigma of homelessness, many students fear the intake process because of their immigration status. The district is nearly 80 percent Hispanic, and the school system says it has the highest percentage of immigrant families and undocumented students in the country.
Nora was one of them.
NORA PEREZ: I am undocumented. I wasn’t born here. I was born in Mexico. And I was born and raised until I was 8, and then I came here.
DAVID NAZAR: Another complication in this effort is the sheer size of the district. It covers more than 200 square miles of the Los Angeles metro area, with students scattered from the San Fernando Valley to the north to San Pedro in the south and from downtown’s Skid Row to the Pacific Ocean.
That’s why a big part of the Homeless Education Program’s philosophy is to reach the kids where they are.
Nancy Gutierrez, the program’s coordinator, spends a lot of time on Skid Row.
NANCY GUTIERREZ, Coordinator, Homeless Education Program, Los Angeles Unified School District: We want to empower them with the same opportunities as any other student to be able to break the cycle of extreme poverty that they’re facing.
DAVID NAZAR: Gutierrez’s program, like all those nationwide, does receive federal funding under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to deal with pervasive issues homeless students face, like enrollment delays due to a lack of documentation. But it’s not nearly enough.
NANCY GUTIERREZ: Some of the barriers that our students experience range from the minimal, the basic needs that these students don’t have. They sometimes don’t have a toothbrush, toothpaste, a washcloth to wash themselves.
DAVID NAZAR: All those things can get expensive, and that’s why the program has many partners.
NANCY GUTIERREZ: We work with independent organizations, even banks and individuals in the community, to have grants and sponsorships, also private funds, so that we can provide all of the services necessary, because, as you can just imagine, even providing a backpack to 15,000 students is a huge cost.
DAVID NAZAR: One of the organizations the district works with, is School on Wheels, a nonprofit learning center in downtown L.A., which provides tutoring and mentoring to kids in kindergarten through 12th grade.
MATT RAAB, Program Director, School on Wheels: Our goal is to find the gaps in the education of homeless students and fill in those gaps, help those students catch up.
DAVID NAZAR: Matt Raab is the group’s program director. He says School on Wheels has nearly 2,000 volunteers who crisscross some of the city’s worst neighborhoods to find children living in motels, shelters, or on the street. They either teach the kids there, or bring them back here, to the Skid Row center.
MATT RAAB: It’s difficult because every time there’s a new student that we match up with a volunteer tutor, and we see what we can do for those students, and we see them succeed in school, there’s another family right behind them that needs our help.
And that’s what we have been seeing over the years. It’s just a constant steady increase in the number of homeless families, and that makes our work that much more challenging.
DAVID NAZAR: Another challenge the district faces is helping homeless students pay for the public transportation they may need just to get to school. The district gets some money under the McKinney-Vento act, and uses some its own money to pay for city bus passes, and many of its own employees also pitch in.
Services like that have helped 100 homeless students, including Nora, earn a diploma this year. And the district officials say they’re proud to have one of the highest homeless student graduation rates in the country.
DEBRA DUARDO: We see many of our students that are going on to college, four-year universities, getting scholarships, because of the services that they are getting early on.
DAVID NAZAR: And even though Nora Perez isn’t able to enroll in college right now, she is determined to eventually earn a university diploma and one day become an FBI agent.
NORA PEREZ: And every time I try to give up, I think about it, and I’m like, you know what, no, I’m not going to give up. Now that I have accomplished so many things, I’m not going to give up.
DAVID NAZAR: And it may soon be a little easier. In just the past few weeks, Nora and her family have finally found an apartment they can call home.
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GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, 40 years after President Nixon left office in disgrace, another look at that tumultuous period and Mr. Nixon’s post-presidential life.
Judy Woodruff recorded this book conversation earlier.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That perspective comes from veteran journalist Elizabeth Drew, the long-time Washington correspondent for “The New Yorker” magazine.
In 1974, she wrote the book “Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall,” which captured the players and the political upheaval of that scandal as it unfolded. The book was re-released this movement to mark the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation.
Elizabeth Drew has written an afterward, which looks at the man and his path to political rehabilitation.
And she joins me now.
Elizabeth Drew, it’s good to see you again.
ELIZABETH DREW, Author, “Washington Journal”: Nice to see you, Judy. Here we are.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So this book, the original book stands as a classic of American political journalism, the story you tell.
ELIZABETH DREW: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why put it out again?
ELIZABETH DREW: It’s not really done for the anniversary. It coincides with, but it was out of print.
And I felt very strongly that this is a book that should be kept alive. My great mentor, John Gardner, advised me when I had this dream assignment William Shawn, the editor of “The New Yorker”…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in the 1970s.
ELIZABETH DREW: And Labor Day, 1973, he said, what are you thinking of writing about? And I said, I think we’re going to change vice presidents and presidents within a year.
Now, this was a way-out thought then. So, we agreed I would keep this journal. And Mr. Gardner said to me, write it so that, 40 years from now, people can say, so that’s what it was like, because you cannot go back and recapture that extraordinary period.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s still — every bit of it captures what happened in those days that last year before the president, President Nixon, resigned.
But you write — the afterward is all about Richard Nixon after he resigned. And he lived another 20 years. And you write about how he was determined to redeem himself.
ELIZABETH DREW: I don’t that very many people would have survived the crushing blow that he suffered.
Here, he had worked all those years to be president. He finally got there, and he ruined it. He kind of knew he did. There’s a wonderful soliloquy in there where he says, you learn early how to be tough and how to fight back. And he was always in combat. He always felt people were looking down on him and he had to show them and you had to fight.
Well, he wasn’t going to give in again. And so he made a plan, a secret plan called “The Wizard,” and it was how he was going to get respectability back.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which was entirely in character for him, you write, to try to do that, to try to make a comeback.
ELIZABETH DREW: He said, a man is never defeated unless he quits. I am not a quitter. And he never was a quitter, and he wasn’t going to be a quitter then.
And that was very innate to him. But he had a long way to go to come back from this great disgrace.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At a couple of points, you write, Elizabeth Drew — you said, “Sometimes, it seemed that Nixon never had a chance. He was trapped in a character that wouldn’t permit him to be content.”
You also write, “One can almost empathize with the man who was a prisoner of his own resentments, suspicions, hatreds.”
Did you almost empathize with him?
ELIZABETH DREW: Yes, because he was — thank you for that quote. That’s a good one to pick.
He was trapped in his own character from a very young age. He didn’t have friends. He felt that the other boys were — they were stronger than he was, and so he went out for football just to show them that he could.
He wasn’t invited into the right clubs. And so he was filled with resentments, and he was a loner. It’s a very strange kind of figure to go into politics, much less succeed at the level that he did, because he didn’t have friends. He didn’t like people particularly, and people didn’t like him, but he just kept striving. And he wasn’t going to quit now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Did he succeed in redeeming himself to any — in any regard in that 20 years?
ELIZABETH DREW: I think, in his own terms, yes, he did. He would have loved his funeral, Judy.
We — he had an acting president. President Ford was there. Four ex-presidents were there, all sorts of statesmen, a lot of senators and congressmen. He would have thought, OK, I won. I showed them. Now, he worked very hard at this several — several years. And there are some very funny stories about the ways that he did work at it and conned people, or blackmailed people, whatever it was that he did.
But, in his own terms, yes, he got it back. Now, is he a national hero now? I don’t think so. He would be amazed to find that he’s a cult figure now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And for those younger generations and even older generations who really don’t remember or don’t know what Watergate was, what was it, finally?
ELIZABETH DREW: This was a constitutional crisis. Was the president accountable to the Congress, to the courts?
Nixon was trying not to be by not obeying a court order to turn over the tapes, by not obeying subpoenas for information from the Congress. And the House Judiciary Committee did draw up three articles of impeachment, which would have passed had there not been another tape found that really incriminated him.
It was very scary. The other thing was — I realized I wrote about it at the time, but I didn’t focus on it as a subject. You have the party in power decide in the White House who they did or didn’t want him to run against — against him in 1972.
And he had — he confused opponents with enemies. He had them tailed. He had them — he had them wiretapped. The break-in of the national committee was just one of many, many things. So there was a very — it was a semi-hilarious, but very scary time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Forty years later, it’s every bit as riveting, “Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall.”
Elizabeth Drew, thank you.
ELIZABETH DREW: Thank you, Judy.
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WASHINGTON — The capture of an alleged leader of the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, gave U.S. officials a rare moment of good news. Now, they are preparing to try the captured Libyan in the U.S. court system and pledging to double down on catching others responsible for the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in the attacks.
U.S. officials said Ahmed Abu Khattala was being held on the USS New York, a Navy amphibious transport dock ship in the Mediterranean Sea. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the Libyan’s whereabouts publicly by name.
Abu Khattala, who was captured Sunday on the outskirts of Benghazi by U.S. special forces, was headed to the United States to face what President Barack Obama called “the full weight of the American justice system.”
The Benghazi attacks, and the Obama administration’s conduct in the aftermath, have long been a source of festering political discord. And some Republicans on Capitol Hill were quick to voice skepticism about the administration’s plans to try Abu Khattala like a civilian.
They urged the administration to get as much intelligence out of him as possible before anyone reads him his rights to remain silent, supplies him with a lawyer and prepares him for trial in a U.S. courtroom. In fact, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said interrogation of the Libyan already was underway and “we hope to find out some positive things.”
Some Republicans said Obama should be sending Abu Khattala to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, instead of U.S. soil, so that he could be interrogated at length.
“The president is more focused on his legacy of closing Guantanamo Bay than preventing future terrorist attacks like what happened in Benghazi,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., countered that Abu Khattala can be brought to justice in U.S. courts “just as we have successfully tried more than 500 terrorism suspects since 9/11.” He said sending the Libyan to Guantanamo would be taking “the easy way out.”
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email statement: “We have not added a single person to the GTMO (Guantanamo) population since President Obama took office, and we have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system.”
Meanwhile, the Libyan government denied that it had prior knowledge of the U.S. capture of Abu Khattala and demanded his return. It condemned the seizure in a statement read on television Wednesday. The statement said: “The government stresses its right to try Abu Khattala on its territories and according to its laws.”
Abu Khattala is charged with terror-related crimes in U.S. District Court in Washington. The Obama administration’s policy is to treat terror suspects as criminals when possible and not send them to Guantanamo, like hundreds of terror suspects captured during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the U.S. should skip the legal niceties and focus on interrogation.
“The most valuable thing we can get from this terrorist is information about who else was involved in this,” McConnell told reporters. “We’ll be watching closely to see how much information they glean from him and how they’re handling it.”
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi declined to comment on whether Abu Khattala had been read his “Miranda rights” or when that might happen.
“As a general rule, the government will always seek to elicit all actionable intelligence and information we can from terrorist suspects in our custody,” Raimondi said in an email.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday, Abu Khattala is charged with killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility and conspiring to do so; providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists that resulted in death; and discharging, brandishing, using, carrying and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. Officials said he could face the death penalty if convicted of the first charge.
His arrest may not be the last.
FBI Director James Comey, speaking in Minnesota, said Abu Khattala’s arrest sends a message to others who need to be held accountable for the Benghazi attacks.
“We will shrink the world to find you. We will shrink the world to bring you to justice,” said Comey, whose agents were involved in the operation.
A witness interviewed by The Associated Press following the attack said Abu Khattala was present at the building when it came under attack nearly two years ago, directing fighters. Abu Khattala acknowledged being there but said he was helping rescue trapped people. The Libyan was the commander of a militant group called the Abu Obaida bin Jarrah Brigade and is accused of being a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of Ansar al-Shariah in Libya, which the U.S. has designated a terror group.
As recently as last August, Abu Khattala told the AP that he was not in hiding nor had he been questioned by Libyan authorities about the attack at the diplomatic compound. He denied involvement and said he had abandoned the militia. Administration officials said Tuesday that despite his media interviews, he “evaded capture” until the weekend, when military special forces, including members of the Army’s elite Delta Force, nabbed him.
The Pentagon press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said that regardless of how openly the Libyan was said to have been living, the important point was that he now is in custody.
People should not think this was a situation where “he was going to McDonald’s for milkshakes every Friday night and we could have just picked him up in a taxi cab,” Kirby said. “These people deliberately try to evade capture.”
The Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, on the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty in more than 30 years. In the immediate aftermath, political reaction formed along sharply drawn lines that hold fast to this day.
With the presidential election near, Republicans accused the White House of intentionally misleading voters about what sparked the attack by portraying it as one of the many protests over an anti-Muslim video made in America, instead of a calculated terrorist attack on the president’s watch. Obama, for his part, accused the Republicans of politicizing a national tragedy.
After 13 public hearings, the release of 25,000 pages of documents and 50 separate briefings, more congressional hearings are yet to come. One element in the ongoing political situation: The attacks unfolded while Hillary Rodham Clinton, now considered a likely Democratic presidential candidate, was secretary of state. Republicans have faulted her words and actions in many respects.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Julie Pace, Donna Cassata and Eric Tucker in Washington, Maggie Michael and Sarah El Deeb in Cairo and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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Not everyone who’s a caregiver does so for a living. Many people in the U.S. are long-term caregivers for ailing family members, spending, on average, 20 hours a week caring for loved ones.
Whether it’s your job, or simply your responsibility, there is no single description for what it means to be a caregiver in America. To better understand what longterm care entails, PBS NewsHour is hosting a Twitter chat on that very topic.
Joining the conversation are members from the ElderCare Workforce Alliance, and AARP’s aging, home and family expert Amy Goyer.
The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to again reduce its stimulus program by $10 billion to $35 billion in July.
Since the financial crisis in 2008, the Federal Reserve has been buying mortgage-backed securities and U.S. Treasuries in a policy known as quantitative easing, or QE. But since January, the Fed has been drawing down – “tapering” – those purchases by $10 billion a month as labor market conditions improve.
The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent since the last time the committee met. What the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls its “U6” measure of the un- and underemployed also fell during that time. The Fed projects the unemployment rate will be between 6 and 6.1 percent at the end of the year.
But during her press conference, Fed Chair Janet Yellen noted that part of the decline in the unemployment rate stems from a decrease in labor force participation — both for demographic reasons (baby boomers retiring) and from what she called a “shadow unemployment” problem of discouraged workers dropping out of the workforce. (To be counted as officially unemployed, people need to have looked for work.)
Real GDP declined in the first quarter, but Yellen said that largely resulted from “transitory factors,” while economic activity seems to be rebounding in the second quarter. There’s enough strength in the economy at this point, Yellen said, to support improvement in labor market.
But, also Wednesday, the Fed predicted that the economy would expand 2.1 to 2.3 percent this year, down from its projections in March of 2.8 to 3 percent growth for the year. Its long-term projections for 2015 and 2016, however, remain high.
Although the Fed takes pains to stress that its monetary policy “is not on a preset course,” it repeated Wednesday the likelihood of reducing asset purchases “in further measured steps” at its next meeting.
But as it has for the last several meetings, the Fed suggested it will be necessary to hold the target federal funds rate near one quarter percent long after it ends its asset purchase program, especially if inflation remains below their target of 2 percent. The federal funds rate is the interest rate for banks to deposit funds at the central bank.
Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer and board member Lael Brainard voted with the committee for the first time since winning Senate confirmation.
For more about how the Fed reaches its policy decisions, watch Paul Solman’s simulation of an FOMC meeting:
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There is something that sets those who are fascinated by snakes apart from other animal lovers. That’s not to say that all snake collectors are odd. But snakes have always been more than just another pet or another creature of the wild. There was a snake in the Garden of Eden. As a symbol of medicine, there’s a snake wrapped around the rod of Asclepius, the Greek god associated with healing. “Snake oil” is usually a potion that claims to have healing powers, but doesn’t. Cleopatra died from the bite of an Asp.
But despite their notoriety, snakes — according to some enthusiasts — aren’t getting the attention they deserve, especially when they bite people, which they do with more frequency than I ever suspected. In the course of preparing a report on snake bites for the PBS NewsHour, I found that the World Health Organization estimates that between 94,000 and 125,000 people die every year from snake bites, to say nothing of 400,000 amputations and other severe health consequences.
You would think that with those casualty figures, snake bites would be high on the list of world health problems. But they aren’t. In the U.S., fewer than 10 people die of snake bites a year; the big numbers are in rural areas of Asia, Africa, India and Central and South America. The WHO considers snake bite a “neglected tropical disease,” though a WHO spokesman says his organizations doesn’t neglect it. For one thing, it distributes anti-venom around the world.
Still, investigators into snakes and their biting habits claim that foundations have all but forgotten about snake bites when it comes to grants, and as a result, there’s not much research in the field. And that’s why an emergency room doctor from the San Francisco Bay Area — a guy who keeps a 12-foot (well-fed) boa constrictor in his house — decided to jump into the fray. Matthew Lewin wanted the world to know that snake bite deaths need more attention. So he wrote an op-ed, which the New York Times published on Sunday, April 12. In it he recalled how a researcher from the California Academy of Sciences was bitten by a venomous krait more than a decade ago, while working in Myanmar, and died because the venom caused him to stop breathing.
Lewin also works at the Academy as the director of the Center for Exploration and Travel Health, and he’s worried about snake danger on research trips to underdeveloped countries, as well as about the local populations. He believes that one reason so many people die from venomous snakes is that they can’t get to a hospital soon enough after a bite, where they can be treated with anti-venom (at $1000 per vial). In the field they could be saved with an inexpensive drug called Neostigmine which temporarily counteracts the neurotoxins — toxins that paralyze — found in the venom of cobras, kraits and other snakes. But that drug is usually unavailable in the wild, partly because it’s dangerous to inject.
Lewin had the idea that the drug could be administered safely and cheaply using a nasal spray, the way anti-seizure medicine is often administered in ambulances and emergency rooms. But how to test his idea? There isn’t much research money around, he reasoned, and the population of people who get bitten by snakes is generally very poor. Not much of a market for a drug maker.
So Lewin went out on his own, with a few colleagues — also snake people. Fortunately most of them had ties to the University of California San Francisco — the big medical center. They got official academic permission to try out Lewin’s idea at the med center — on somebody. That somebody turned out to be Lewin himself. He found a drug that was very similar to curare (used in poison darts) and was also very similar to cobra venom, in that it induced paralysis in its victim. So under careful supervision he was injected with the poison, and he developed the symptoms of a neurotoxic toxic snake bite: blurred vision, difficulty in swallowing and paralysis which could have stopped his breathing. Before he was too far gone a fellow doc administered the Neostigmine via a nasal spray, and Lewin came out of his stupor wildly enthusiastic: “It worked,” he roared. A colleague filmed the entire experiment, and the NewsHour used some of it in our report on Wednesday.
Since then, he and others have published papers describing the experiment and others that lead them to the conclusion that a nasal spray — or even an EpiPen, with the right drug — could save many lives in the wild where death is far too common. They say many of those deaths are the result of snakes whose venom contains neurotoxins that affect the brain. But other researchers say bites from only a few species would be affected by the drug, since many venomous snakes inject poisons that cause bleeding and tissue disruption, and don’t affect the brain.
In any case, Lewin is going full speed ahead with his project with or without foundation funding, which he would love to get. He’s hoping to reduce that terrible toll of snake bite deaths that hardly anyone seems aware of in the developed world.
There were only two emails sitting in Henk Ovink’s inbox when he entered his New York City office on July 19, 2013. One was from a concrete company; the other from an artist in Arizona. Both were entries for his design competition to rebuild storm-damaged New York and New Jersey and protect the community from another Hurricane Sandy. But neither fit the contest criteria. He had expected at least 50 to 75 entries in this competition. And that day was the deadline.
But by lunch, there were 24. And they kept pouring in. By 6 p.m., 148 teams of architects, engineers, scientists and designers from around the world had submitted their flood protection plans for the New York City area.
In this report that aired in October 2013, Miles O’Brien reports on high-tech infrastructure adjustments in New York City after Hurricane Sandy.
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hammered the New York and New Jersey coasts with eight-foot storm surges, killing 117 people, destroying whole communities and causing an estimated $71 billion in damage for the two states.
Ovink, a Dutch designer who had worked in the Netherlands building for sea level rise and flooding, is a senior advisor to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery Task Force. Climate change and resulting storms like Hurricane Sandy is forcing engineers, architects and governments to change how we live with water, Ovink said. In the future, flood protection and rebuilding needs to encompass be more than simply putting up a wall, he said.
“It’s a paradigm shift from seeing water as a threat and just wanting to be protected to saying water is part of our life. Living with the water is a better perspective to moving forward,” he said.
He and Donovan collaborated to create Rebuild by Design, a competition that challenged designers to collaborate with communities hit by Hurricane Sandy to develop innovative ideas to protect the New York and New Jersey shoreline. After receiving the applications, they divided the 148 applicants into 10 interdisciplinary teams. Each team was asked to form a coalition with their site’s surrounding community leaders, businessmen and residents to guide their design.
“We didn’t want a design team that goes to the community and says, ‘Here’s a golden egg.’ We wanted a collaboration that had a base in those communities and that could be innovative and come up with sustainable solutions,” Ovink said.
Six winners were announced last week. Each team will be awarded a portion of $920 million from HUD’s Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Recovery for the Sandy region.
Here’s a look at the winners’ plans:
The BIG Team—Lower East Side
Prize: $335 million
The BIG U is a protective series of raised berms and bridges that would stretch along the lower end of Manhattan. The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) took on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, creating a vertical protection system covering ten miles of coast. The berms and bridges are planted with salt tolerant plants, which would keep ocean water out. The design also allowed for flood walls that can be raised in a disaster. But the spaces are also designed for recreation. A raised berm in Battery Park, protecting the city’s financial district, also provides park recreational space for New Yorkers, and a new maritime building along the water provides flood protection and “Reverse Aquarium”, a water-facing ground floor to educate visitors about the marine life.
OMA—Hudson River Region
Prize: $230 million
OMA’s plan for Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City looks at flood prevention and drainage for the towns. Two-thirds of Hoboken lies in a FEMA flood zone, and 94 percent of its surfaces are impermeable, trapping water. Building wetlands along the towns will delay incoming ocean-water, and filter outgoing storm water. Permeable paving, rain gardens, and bioswales allow surface water to drain, and a rainwater storage system will filter rainwater while serving as a public park.
MIT CAU+ZUS+URBANISTEN—Meadowlands Region
Prize: $150 million
The Meadowlands region is New York City’s “staging area”, said Alexander D’Hooghe, head of the MIT team.
“It’s literally the backstage of New York. If you have a financial firm, the furniture is stored in Meadowlands. The people who work in Manhattan, lower and middle income, live in the Meadowlands,” he said. And more importantly, 80% of New York City’s fuel storage is located in the area, D’Hooghe added. The area, including Little Ferry and Moonachie, was hard hit by Sandy.
D’Hooghe’s team designed a floodable marshland park and a 15 to 17-foot high berm with a street on top. The team also proposed redeveloping the area behind the berm, with mixed-use housing and commercial buildings.
“You can’t do protection just for sake of protection. You have to look at all the other layers. Let’s protect but do in way that’s ecologically beneficial and has the opportunity for economic growth,” D’Hooghe said.
The Interboro Team—Nassau County
Prize: $125 million
Nassau County on Long Island is also threatened by rainwater and storm surge. The Interboro Team proposed rebuilding the South Shore’s diminished wetlands, constructing a series of connected marshes and dikes to guide water back to the bay. The expanded wetlands system cleans stormwater runoff and recharges local aquifers, while providing more space for recreation.
SCAPE/Landscape Architecture—Staten Island
Prize: $60 million
The Living Breakwaters project builds out Staten Island’s shoreline, building a marshland system along the shore supported on underwater berms. The berms, made of eco-friendly concrete, serve as a place for wildlife like clams and mussels to build their homes. Their plans involve wetland education centers for islanders, areas for kayak and recreational equipment storage and support for the local fishing community.
Building wetlands lets the water out in the event of a flood, filtering it and cleaning the surrounding bay. A wall would hold water on the island like a bathtub and further disconnect New Yorkers from their marine surroundings.
“Rather than cut off communities from the water, we would embrace the water and its recreational and economic opportunities,” said Kate Orff, project leader from SCAPE. And the $60 million prize covers nearly the entire cost of the project, she said.
Prize: $20 million
The food market at Hunts Point in the South Bronx distributes food for 22 million people in the tri-state area. It’s also a major jobs center, employing more than 20,000 people and generating $5 billion in revenue. The food distribution center narrowly missed being flooded during Hurricane Sandy, but with sea level rise it will be in the floodplain by 2050, said Richard Roark, partner at OLIN.
“You can’t leave your food supply sitting in a floodplain forever. It’s Russian roulette,” he said.
Hunts Point has more problems than flooding, he said. The area has a 19 percent unemployment rate, air and water pollution problems from the local industrial complexes. The PennDesign/OLIN project builds on the South Bronx Greenway, keeping transportation open in a disaster, incorporating floating flood walls to protect the food distribution center. The new “cleanways” provide transportation routes for residents, incorporating eelgrass and other wetland plants to stall rising water and filter storm runoff. Another component of the design is a Levee Lab along the Bronx and East rivers, which acts as a levee and allows engineers and scientists the opportunity to test how seawalls perform under different current conditions.
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Employed adults in a household with children under six spend a full hour less per day on leisure activities than other employed adults. This is according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report, released Wednesday, on how Americans spend their time. On average, employed adults without small children at home spent 4.5 hours daily on leisure activities.
The report also looked at labor divisions, where it found that, on average, employed men spend 53 minutes more a day at work than employed women. The report suggests the number of women working part-time jobs contributed to that gap. The average employed person spent 7.6 hours a day at work and about 36 percent of workers did some work after they got home.
At home parents saw a lot of their time taken up by household activities and primary care giving duties. Eighty-three percent of women and 65 percent of men spent time doing household activities. However, on an average day, if you look just at cleaning and laundry only 19 percent of men did those duties compare to 49 percent of women. Men were more likely to spend their time on lawn care, food preparation, or financial management.
When time for leisure rolls around, TV occupies the most time, on average 2.8 hours a day. Socializing as a leisure activity accounted, on average, for 43 minutes a day. Though, adults age 75 and older enjoyed an average of 7.5 hours spent on leisure activities every day.
GWEN IFILL: The interim government in Libya today demanded the U.S. hand over the newly captured suspect in the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi. Ahmed Abu Khattala is now headed to the U.S. by ship, after he was captured over the weekend by U.S. special forces in Libya. The interim government condemned the raid that seized him, and insisted he should be tried in Libya, under Libyan laws.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The newly elected president of Ukraine offered a cease-fire plan today to end the violence plaguing its eastern border with Russia. Petro Poroshenko discussed the proposal by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who welcomed the move. It includes amnesty for pro-Russian separatists if they lay down their arms.
He unveiled the 14-step plan in Kiev.
PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine (through interpreter): I can say that the period of cease-fire will be rather short. We expect that illegal armed groups will then immediately disarm. Then order will be reached, including joint patrolling against marauders, criminals, and bandits who are destabilizing the situation in the east.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Poroshenko stopped short of announcing precisely when a cease-fire would be declared. But Ukraine’s defense minister said it could begin within days.
GWEN IFILL: One of the candidates in Afghanistan’s presidential runoff demanded officials stop counting ballots today, claiming Saturday’s vote was rigged. Abdullah Abdullah accused his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, of engineering fraud. Abdullah also announced his team was suspending relations with the election commission, accusing it of interfering in the vote as well. The commission refused to stop the count, and said everyone should wait for final results due on July 22.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Japan passed a law to ban most child pornography today, the last of the world’s major industrial nations to make it illegal. The Japanese Parliament’s upper house pushed the legislation through. It amends an earlier law that banned people from creating and distributing child pornography, but not owning it. Under the new law, sexually explicit depictions of children in comics, animation and computer graphics are still permitted.
GWEN IFILL: After almost two months without any executions, three states are resuming lethal injections. Problems with one such injection in Oklahoma in April postponed death penalty enforcement across the country. Overnight, both Georgia and Missouri carried out executions, with no complications reported. A third execution is scheduled in Florida tonight. None of those states will disclose where they obtain their lethal injection drugs or if they have been tested.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Federal Reserve is slowing its bond buying based on its assessment that the economic recovery is on track. The announcement came at the end of the Central Bank’s two-day policy review meeting. But it gave no indication when it will start raising its benchmark short-term interest rate.
Chairwoman Janet Yellen said the Fed is taking a wait-and-see approach.
JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve: There is uncertainty about monetary policy. The appropriate path of policy, the timing and pace of interest rate increases ought to and I believe will respond to unfolding economic developments. If those were to prove faster than the committee expects, it would be logical to expect a more rapid increase in the Fed funds rate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Fed also scaled back its economic growth forecast for 2014, citing the damaging effects of the long, harsh winter. Markets on Wall Street reacted positively to the Fed news. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 98 points to close at 16906. The Nasdaq rose 25 points to close above 4362. And the S&P added 15 points to close just under 1957.
GWEN IFILL: The U.S. Patent Office ruled today that six of the Washington Redskins trademark registrations should be canceled. The board said the nickname is disparaging of Native Americans. The decision doesn’t force the team to give up its name, but it will make it harder for them to go after others using the name for commercial gain. The football team quickly announced they will appeal the decision.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A rare 1 cent postage stamp from a 19th century British colony has regained its status as the world’s most valuable. The British Guiana One-Cent Magenta is the only one of its kind known to survive. It sold last night for a record $9.5 million. The New York auction house was packed with interest, but an anonymous telephone bidder won out.
DAVID REDDEN, Chairman of Books & Manuscripts, Sotheby’s: It sets a brand-new world record for a stamp, obviously, so far above any prior price for a stamp. It’s going to be a hard one to beat. And it probably won’t be beaten until this stamp comes up for sale yet again in the future.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For stamp collectors, the auction was a rare chance to see the stamp. It hasn’t been on view publicly since 1986.
GWEN IFILL: In World Cup soccer news, the defending champion, Spain, was eliminated after a stunning loss to Chile. They were shut out 2-0. Spain has been a soccer powerhouse over the past six years, winning the World Cup title in 2010, as well two European championships.
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In an effort to bring the digital currency bitcoin more mainstream, BitPay, an Atlanta-based bitcoin payment processor, signed a deal with ESPN Events to sponsor the former NCAA Beef O’Brady’s Bowl hosted in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“Our goal is to continue to move bitcoin into the mainstream and sponsoring the St.
Petersburg Bowl offers us that opportunity,” said Tony Gallippi, Executive Chairman in a press release.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed but the previous sponsor, Beef O’Brady’s Sports Restaurant, paid over $400,000 a year since 2010.
This is not the first time the currency made its way into sports. The Sacramento Kings announced in January they would accept bitcoin for tickets and gear and Nascar’s Josh Wise was also sponsored by Dogecoin at the Alabama Talladega Superspeedway back in May. The deal cost $55,000 mostly fundraised from bitcoin enthusiasts.
The first Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl will begin December 26, 2014 and will run until 2016. Bitcoin purchases for tickets and merchandise will be available later this year through Ticketmaster.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The crisis in Iraq continued to escalate today, as Sunni militants pushed on towards Baghdad and battled with government forces at the country’s main oil refinery.
We have an on-the-ground report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.
JONATHAN RUGMAN, ITN: To some, it was occupation, no doubt, but, to others, liberation, Islamic extremists cheered by local Sunnis and parading American supply vehicles through Baiji, after seizing Iraq’s biggest oil refinery nearby
The men of ISIS were in the hundreds and mobbed by well-wishers. “May God support you and bring you victory,” this crowd shouted. One jihadist filmed what he claimed was smoke from a downed government helicopter nearby.
“The refinery in the control of revolutionaries,” he declared. But in Baghdad, the army denied it.
GEN. QASSEM ATTA, Army Spokesman, Iraq (through interpreter): Today, we repelled an attempt by ISIS to attack the Baiji refinery, thanks to God. We foiled the attack, killed 40 terrorists, destroying vehicles full of personnel, weapons, equipment, and ammunition.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: Baiji accounts for quarter of Iraq’s domestic refining output. If it can hold onto it, ISIS could provoke an energy crisis, or, by trading fuel, add to the millions it already makes from the oil fields of eastern Syria.
Eyewitnesses said the soldiers defending it suffered heavy losses before surrendering. In Baghdad, though, Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Shia prime minister, tried to sound upbeat about the setbacks of this last extraordinary week, even if he didn’t look it.
NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through translator): We have absorbed momentum of the setback and we have now started our counteroffensive, regaining the initiative and striking back. We will continue dealing heavy blows to militants.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: The prime minister’s fellow Shia are certainly rallying to his call, signing up as volunteers, though the training is lightning quick.
But will this rusty-looking home guard defend Sunni Iraq or just the Shia bit of it? Amid jingoistic scenes like this, Iraq’s army is becoming an ever more sectarian force.
Iraq’s Kurds, too, are fighting for the Kurds, battling to keep ISIS out along the 600-mile border now, not defending Iraq so much as holding on to what they claim is theirs, in a country which still appears to be unraveling, even if its leader won’t admit it.