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

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    rubik

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Rubik’s Cube turns 40 years-old this year and a new exhibit is proving that time is only adding to the mystique of this cultural icon. NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown reports.

    JEFF BROWN: It couldn’t be simpler or, for most of us, more difficult.

    Twenty-six cubes designed to interlock and rotate around an axis that can be shuffled 43-quintillion ways. (That’s 43 with 18-zeros after it.)

    And yet, all Rubik’s Cubes can be solved in 20 or fewer moves. It’s puzzled, pained, delighted and challenged millions — from young children to this robot.

    PAUL HOFFMAN: I mean, it’s industrial strength. It normally paints cars on an assembly line, but it’s been programmed to do a Rubik’s Cube.

    JEFF BROWN: The robot is part of a new exhibit called ‘Beyond Rubik’s Cube,’ that opened in April, at the Liberty Science Center – across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey – to celebrate the 40th birthday of the cube.

    ERNO RUBIK: 40 years is it’s a very long time.

    JEFF BROWN: And in a rare public appearance, inventor Erno Rubik was on hand to meet fans and talk about the impact of his work.

    Rubik was a 29-year-old architecture professor in Budapest when he created the cube in 1974. What began as a teaching tool to demonstrate spatial relations for his students grew into something that, by his own account is, well, less practical.

    ERNŐ RUBIK: And there is no practical use, so it’s something that you–

    JEFF BROWN: There’s no practical use?

    ERNŐ RUBIK: Yes. It’s– it’s– you can do it– very– it depend on just you and– for fun and– to spend some time, if you have some free time. So puzzles are interesting in general.

    JEFF BROWN: Everyone who’s struggled with that object ever since will no doubt be happy to learn that it took the inventor more than a month to solve his own creation for the first time.

    ERNŐ RUBIK: I remember it was really an emotional moment.

    JEFF BROWN: It was an emotional moment–

    ERNŐ RUBIK: Yes. Yes.

    JEFF BROWN: What was the emotion?

    ERNŐ RUBIK: Emotion. If– if you have a very difficult task and you’re able to succeed, to– to– to do it, it’s a very strong feeling. And a good feeling. Yes.

    JEFF BROWN: It’s estimated that more than 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold since the puzzle was launched internationally in 1980, making it the best-selling toy of all time. About one-in-seven people have played with a Rubik’s Cube. In case you’re wondering, Rubik lives comfortably but, having invented the cube originally in then-communist Hungary, never got as rich as he might have.

    PAUL HOFFMAN: What I love about Rubik’s Cube is Erno could have invented it 50 years earlier, okay? It didn’t depend on any scientific or technological advance.

    JEFF BROWN: Paul Hoffman is C.E.O and president of the Liberty Science Center, as well as creative director of the exhibit.

    PAUL HOFFMAN: I think of it as an object that brings so many things together. First of all, it appeals to many of our senses. It’s tactile. It’s fun to play with. You see people playing with it who even have no intention to– of solving it, ’cause it’s pleasing to hold.

    And then, of course, it appeals to our brain. And I think, we look at this object, it comes like this in the box, okay, with no instructions. And yet, you know what to do.

    JEFF BROWN: The exhibit features everything from the original rubber-band and paper-clip prototype that Erno Rubik created in 1974, to a bedazzled cube of rubies, sapphires and diamonds.

    PAUL HOFFMAN: What Rubik’s Cube has done is inspire people in all sorts of fields. Artists all over the world have used thousands of Rubik’s Cubes to make pixel portraits. So in this exhibit, we let our visitors do that.

    JEFF BROWN: In addition to art, the exhibit reminds visitors how much the Rubik’s Cube has become ingrained in popular culture over the last few decades.

    And even at 40 years old, the cube continues to inspire the next generation of curious minds, including competitive “speed cubers” like Michael Shao.

    MICHAEL SHAO: No two solves for me are ever the exact same. Regardless of how you look at it, I’m always turning it in a different way. You always have to think about how to optimize and get faster, ‘cause there’s no perfect way to solve it. Even the world record holders right now will not be world record holders in five years from now. And so it’s always interesting to watch the scene change and watch how to get better and exactly how to iterate further from where you currently are now. And that’s exactly what keeps me interested.

    JEFF BROWN: Shao’s personal best for solving the cube is 14-seconds. Not bad, you think? Well, he has a long way to go: the current world record for solving the Rubik’s cube is 5.55 seconds.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Beyond Rubik’s Cube is currently open at the Liberty Science Center until November, after which it will go on tour around the world for the next seven years.

    The post Rubik’s Cube’s mystique remains 40 years later appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This May, Colorado’s governor signed the nation’s first ”right to try” bill, which allows terminally ill patients to try unapproved — and potentially dangerous — drugs outside of clinical trials and without approval from federal regulators.

    Missouri and Louisiana have passed similar statutes, and Arizona voters will vote on their own version this fall.

     Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News joins NewsHour Weekend for a Google+ hangout on the current status of the debate surrounding “right to try.”

    For the NewsHour Weekend broadcast, we profiled the Missouri State Representative Jim Neely who introduced that state’s bill and his daughter, who is fighting a deadly form of cancer.

    Neely is backed by Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute and by patients and families who have lost relatives to diseases, but the proposed measure is not without controversy. While FDA remains neutral in the legislation debate, there are opponents to these type of laws.

    To get more context about the debate surrounding “right to try,” I spoke with Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News.

    The post Proposed laws on experimental drugs stir debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In 1974 Hungarian architecture professor Ernő Rubik wanted to create a teaching aid that would demonstrate spatial relations for his students.

    Using paperclips and rubber bands, he assembled blocks that could move and rotate around each other. Little did he know his teaching tool would become the world’s bestselling toy — the Rubik’s Cube.

    Rubiks2

    In honor of four decades of the Rubik’s Cube, the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey and Google have paired up to bring a new exhibit called ‘Beyond Rubik’s Cube’ to fans of this timeless puzzle.

    But you don’t have to visit the exhibit in person to experience the way the Rubik’s Cube has evolved over time. Google has created it’s very own “Chrome Lab” where people can play with a variety of virtual Rubik’s Cube games.

    You can even create your own Rubik’s Cube.

    NewsHour’s Jeff Brown recently sat down with inventor Ernő Rubik to talk about the scope of his work and the exhibit:

     

    The post So you want to create your own Rubik’s Cube appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Dec. 1, 2013. Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Dec. 1, 2013. Relations between Iran and the U.S. have been strained for decades, but shared interests in the crisis in Iraq may force the two nations to work together. Credit: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — It’s the fog of diplomacy.

    For years, Iran has been an archenemy of the United States. Now, with alliances blurred in the Mideast, the two countries are talking about how to stop an offensive in Iraq by al-Qaida-inspired insurgents.

    How is it that adversaries that haven’t trusted each other for 35 years could cooperate on Iraq today?

    They are strange bedfellows, to say the least.

    In the Syrian civil war, the U.S. backs the opposition. Iran supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.

    The U.S. for three decades has considered Iran a “state sponsor of terrorism.” The U.S. says Iran bankrolls anti-Israel terrorist groups and other extremists intent on destabilizing the Middle East.

    The U.S. has threatened Iran with military action if Iran approaches the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

    But despite all the differences, the U.S. and Iran are more engaged diplomatically at this moment than in years.

    After a breakthrough interim agreement last year, the U.S., Iran and other nations are hoping to wrap up a deal with the next month that would curb Iran’s nuclear program. Progress on nuclear talks is leading American officials to explore whether Iran can be a useful partner on interests long viewed as shared, such as fighting Sunni extremism and ensuring stability of Iraq.

    Iran, like the Iraqi government, is Shiite. The insurgent group leading the assault in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is Sunni.

    But there is worry that Iran is trying to leverage its helpfulness on Iraq into better terms in the nuclear negotiations.

    “I would be skeptical that cooperating with Iran – particularly sharing sensitive intelligence information – would be in our overall interest,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, told The Associated Press.

    “In fact, it’s hard for me to conceive of any level of Iranian cooperation that doesn’t lead to future demands for concessions on the nuclear program, or foment the return of Shia militias and terrorist groups, which is harmful to resolving the sectarian disputes within Iraq,” McConnell said. “Remember, the Iranians are working aggressively to keep Assad in power in Syria.”

    His concern was highlighted by the comments this past week by Mohammad Nahavandian, chief of staff to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani. The aide suggested nuclear talks and Iraq’s crisis were connected. The State Department rejected any linkage.

    Secretary of State John Kerry, heading to the Mideast this weekend to discuss Iraq’s stability, has fueled talk about U.S.-Iranian cooperation. He said early last week that the Obama administration was open to discussions with Tehran if the Iranians help end the violence in Iraq and restore confidence in the Baghdad government.

    American and Iranian diplomats talked about Iraq on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations in Vienna in recent days. U.S. officials have rejected military cooperation with Iran and thus far, legislative aides said, the understanding in Congress is that no intelligence-sharing mechanism with Tehran has been finalized.

    But the comments had officials and lawmakers in Washington and the Middle East abuzz.

    At a breakfast this past week with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry steered away from questions about how specifically the U.S. might cooperate with Tehran, according to aides, who weren’t authorized to speak about private meetings and demanded anonymity.

    They said the administration has given no impression it will provide anything to Iran revealing intelligence sources or methods. Congress’ intelligence committees also are keeping tabs on what the administration decides to do. So far, the State Department is not reporting any other recent meetings between the U.S. and Iran beyond than the one in Vienna.

    There are reasons both might be interested in continuing the dialogue.

    Iran, as a Shiite powerhouse, has considerable influence over Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who spent years in exile in Iran.

    Iran also is threated by the Sunni extremists who have taken over Syrian and Iraqi territory and are pressing toward Baghdad. Iran has called ISIL “barbaric.”

    But the U.S. doesn’t want to simply side with al-Maliki for fear of seeming to favor Shiite over Sunni.

    President Barack Obama stressed the need for an inclusive government in Iraq, and several lawmakers have called for the Iraqi leader to step down.

    Obama said Thursday that Iran could play a “constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we’re sending, which is that Iraq only holds together if it’s inclusive and that the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurd are all respected.”

    If Iran comes to prop up Shiite domination, he said, “that probably worsens the situation.”

    The notion of intelligence cooperation with Iran, however limited, has prompted a variety of reactions on Capitol Hill, cutting across party lines and traditional splits on foreign policy between hawks and doves.

    Among Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a leading hawk, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a tea party leader, are opposed, though not all for the same reasons.

    McCain describes ISIL among the “gravest” post-Cold War threats. Cruz says the danger from Sunni militants “pales by comparison to a nuclear-armed Iran.”

    But Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a usual partner of McCain, doesn’t see talking to Tehran as such a bad idea.

    “We’re going to probably need their help to hold Baghdad,” Graham said this past week as ISIL insurgents approached Baghdad after taking several northern Iraqi cities and battled for an oil refinery near the capital.

    Democrats also are divided.

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, are among those against reaching out to Iran.

    The two countries have cooperated before, notably when Washington twice invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. They’ve also collaborated on combating drug flows.

    James Dobbins, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says perhaps the most constructive period of U.S.-Iranian diplomacy since the fall of the shah in 1979 occurred right after the Sept. 11 attacks. Then, the U.S. worked with Iran on forming a post-Taliban Afghan government.

    Relations soured when President George W. Bush lumped Iran with Iraq and North Korea in his “axis of evil,” brushing aside Iranian offers to help train a new Afghan army and the possibility of more extensive cooperation in Iraq.

    In 2007, Ryan Crocker, then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq, met his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad in a bid to calm Iraq’s violence. The process quickly bogged down, but U.S. intelligence believed Iran reduced its support for Shiite militias targeting U.S. troops following the contacts.

    Said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council: “With the region roiling as it is, the reality that Iran and the United States might end up on the same side is simply the new normal.”

    The post As alliances blur in Mideast, US and Iran are potential partners appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Based in Brooklyn New York, Samuel Zygmuntowicz has been crafting stringed instruments for about 30 years, working with musical greats such as Yo Yo Ma and Joshua Bell.

    Many consider Zygmuntowicz preeminent in his field, as he works to construct violas, violins, and cellos with decades-old wood.

    3d animation

    “Titian” Stradivari 3D vibration pattern animation at 2994 hertz frequency. In playing one note on a violin, the instrument can create several different vibration patterns simultaneously. By analyzing the patterns of motion at various frequencies, violin makers can focus on the movement of a violin to alter the tone. Credit: Strad 3D

    He has extensively studied the art of violinmaking and looks to the Italian makers of the 17th and 18th century like Antonio Stradivari for guidance.

    But he also increasingly uses modern tools like CT scans and 3D laser vibration scans to hone his craft.

    Coronal View

    CT scan of “Titian” Stradivari. Much like CT scans are used for the human body, these same scans were also used during the Strad 3D project to show the interior and outer parts of the “Titian” violin. The scans help to expose the density and evenness of the wood. With additional calculations, these scans even lend themselves to identifying the weight of different parts of the instrument. Credit: Strad 3D

    Zygmuntowicz spoke with NewsHour Weekend about the evolution of his craft and what he looks for when piecing together a new instrument. View the video above.

    RelatedAuction for 18th century viola starts at $45 million

    The post Violinmaker uses CT scans, 3D lasers to hone craft appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    nhwe_iraq

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    ALISON STEWART: To analyze the latest on the situation in Iraq, we’re joined now by Gideon Rose, he is with the Council of Foreign Relations and the editor of Foreign Affairs Magazine.

    Gideon we got right into this as soon as you came into the studio. Let’s talk about the most recent information, that a border town along Syria — the Syria and Iraqi border — was captured by Sunni Islamists. How important is this power grab?

    GIDEON ROSE: You know the Sunni jihadists the ISIS group they’re taking a lot of territory but the areas they’re taking are ones that are Sunnis,  they’re largely desert and they’re not particularly strategically important. There’s going to be a balance of power in Iraq between the Shia government in the south the Kurds in the Northeast and the Sunnis in their areas.

    ALISON STEWART: Well something’s happening within the Sunni extremists that you predicted that there’s a splintering starting to happen between Saddam Hussein loyalists and between ISIL. Why is this happening and what is the long term significance of it?

    GIDEON ROSE: So the Sunnis are united in not particularly liking the Shiites or the Kurds and wanting their own sort of autonomy but there are different groups within the Sunni community and there are different religious groups that are more or less radical. We shouldn’t forget that ISIS has been disowned by Al Qaeda because of its brutality so these are really bad people. And different Sunnis at some times have fought their own extremists and so the question is will there be enough unity in the Sunni community to build even a coherent Sunni state or are we just going to see chaos in this whole area.

    ALISON STEWART: And then who benefits from that?

    GIDEON ROSE: Well that’s an interesting question nobody really benefits except the groups or the most extreme groups who benefit from chaos because they can thrive by providing protection to their little areas.

    ALISON STEWART: Secretary of State John Kerry is going to spend five days overseas to talking about this going to Jordan. Let’s talk about Jordan’s part in this whole conflict.

    GIDEON ROSE: Jordan wants to stay out and it wants to not be affected–it always gets refugees it always gets the collateral damage and it just really wants not be destabilized further and I think we’ll be able to keep Jordan from being too destabilized. But Kerry’s broader negotiations on an overall policy settlement probably likely to be about as successful as the average of his Ukraine negotiations and his Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

    ALISON STEWART: What’s the best case scenario that could come out of these negotiations. He’s going to go to Paris and talk to Arab Gulf nation leaders.

    GIDEON ROSE: Best case scenario is you get people to agree not to fuel the conflict by backing their local proxies the Sunni governments backing the Sunnis the Iranians backing the Shia and everyone trying to fuel a civil war there. If you can keep a lid on it that would be ok.

    ALISON STEWART: One of the things that you and I were discussing before we started the formal interview was what is Iraq to the United States right now? Is it is what it is? Should we approaching this based on our history? Should we be approaching this based on what we want Iraq to be? What is it right now?

    GIDEON ROSE: It’s a fascinating question because what’s really going on now is the question of defining what America’s core interests are. The president remarkably seems to have no particular interest in sunk costs: either saying I told you so we shouldn’t get back in or saying we have to go in in order to validate our previous commitment. He’s basically saying what’s the current threat and what’s the future threat and how should I assess this and the real question that Americans have to ask themselves is if Iraq does go into chaos how much will this blow back to us and is there really anything we can do about it?

    ALISON STEWART: Gideon Rose from foreign affairs magazine thank you so much.

     GIDEON ROSE: Thank you.

    The post Militants gain ground in Iraq near Syrian border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A flag of the so-called People's Republik of Donetsk waves as pro-Russian militants take the military oath during the ceremony in the centre of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on June 21, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops in central Russia on "full combat alert," the defence minister said on Saturday, a day after the Kremlin confirmed it was beefing up its military presence at the border with Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY        (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)

    Pro-Russian militants take the military oath in front of a flag of the People’s Republic of Donetsk on June 21, 2014. Separatists in launched attacks in the Donetsk oblast and throughout the country on Saturday after a ceasefire was put in place on Friday evening. Credit: KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images

    Less than a day after a temporary cease-fire was put into place to put a stop to all military action in Ukraine, pro-Russian forces attacked army posts in the country near the border with Russia.

    The ceasefire began was initiated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday night and was expected to last one week. Separatists launched their attack on the posts with mortars and sniper fire, according to a government spokesperson.

    Attacks by pro-Russian forces also occurred elsewhere Ukraine on Saturday. Separatists in Slovyansk used mortars and grenade-launchers against Ukrainian forces. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian airbase in the Donetsk town of Avdiyivka was attacked by an estimated 50 armed militants.

    NewsHour Weekend’s Alison Stewart spoke with Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, to discuss the impact of the attack and possible responses from western nations.

    The post Pro-Russian separatists launch attack in Ukraine amid ceasefire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In this photo illustration a woman smokes an electronic cigarette on July 5, 2012 in Knutsford, United Kingdom. Electronic cigarettes are the latest health device for smokers hoping to quit nicotine addiction. Earlier today a major security operation took place in Staffordshire, England, after a passenger on a coach used an electronic cigarette which was mistaken for something more sinister and a full scale security alert was instigated. The 48 passengers were later allowed to carry on with their journey.Photo by Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

    A woman is seen here smoking an electronic cigarette. A report released this week found the number of e-cigarette companies has increased rapidly to more than 460 brands as of January 2014. Photo by Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

    A new study released in the journal Tobacco Control found that the number of electronic cigarette companies has increased and marketing tactics have shifted since 2012.

    As of January of this year, there were more than 460 e-cigarette brands available for purchase online, and around 7,700 flavors, including Swedish fish, roasted marshmallow and vanilla cupcake.

    Since the study began in 2012, an average of 10.5 brands and 242 new flavors were introduced each month.

    This “explosion of flavors” is new and has some lawmakers concerned about marketing tactics aimed at children and teenagers.

    A 2013 study released by the Centers for Disease Control said e-cigarette use is increasing among middle and high school students.

    California Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced legislation on Friday to regulate e-cigarettes.

    “With cotton candy and gummy bear flavors and the ability to purchase e-cigarettes online, our children are still very much at risk even with the FDA’s move to regulate,” Representative Speier said in a press release.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration extended its public comment period on its proposed rule to regulate e-cigarettes through early August. If the rule is finalized, the FDA will be able to implement age restrictions on e-cigarettes and examine claims that the product reduces tobacco-related diseases.

    The post Lawmakers concerned chocolate e-cigarettes may lure teens appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Getting a loan to start or grow a small business can be a daunting process, and banks are less likely to give money to entrepreneurs who don’t have long histories as business owners, or have credit histories that are less than perfect.

    Enter Accion: a non-profit microlender that makes commercial loans of up to $50,000 to small business owners when banks aren’t an option.

    Accion is the largest microlender in the US and operates in states like Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. The Boston-based organization currently operates in 32 different countries.

    NewsHour Weekend’s Stacey Tisdale spoke with Gina Harman, CEO of Accion USA, and with some of the microlender’s clients to learn more about borrowing and lending in the non-bank world.

    The post International microlender brings small business lending to U.S. merchants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    altcredit

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    STACEY TISDALE: Soon after opening DJ’s Delights, a deli in the New Jersey shore town of Asbury Park, co-owners Ron Wendolowski and DJ Presto realized they needed to upgrade kitchen equipment. And they figured they could easily get a small business loan of about $6,000 dollars to do that.

    But when Wendolowski – who manages the books – tried going to a bank in 2010, he quickly found out it was going to be anything but easy.

    RON WENDOLOWSKI: It’s aggravating– you don’t have two months to wait to get that loan from the bank, when you– when you need the money now. So you– you know, it’s kind of like getting the door shut in your face.

    STACEY TISDALE: So Wendolowski started searching for alternatives online and stumbled across a lender called OnDeck. He did a little research, then applied for a loan. The entire process taking place online.

    RON WENDOLOWSKI: I mean, it took literally, like, 10 minutes.  It wasn’t anything, you know, that– that took away a lot of my time from running the business, or having to gather, you know, 50 different documents, or tax statements, or anything like that.  So it was– it was a very easy process. And in three days, we had the money we needed.

    STACEY TISDALE: Since the financial crisis, small business lending by banks has declined substantially according to federal data. The value of loans of less than $100 thousand dollars is down by more than 18% since 2008.

    But while banks have pulled back, new types of sparsely regulated nonbank lenders have stepped in as alternatives, hoping to disrupt traditional small business lending.

    Online companies like Kabbage, CAN Capital, Swift Capital, PayPal, and Wendolowski’s lender, OnDeck, are using technology to make fast decisions about relatively small loans, but with interest rates that can be several times that of a bank loan.

    NOAH BRESLOW: Banks have not been natural lenders to this segment of the market.

    STACEY TISDALE: Noah Breslow is the CEO of OnDeck and a former software engineer. OnDeck typically lends to small businesses with less than 10 employees – and its average loan is for $40,000 with a term of one year. It’s a type of loan that Breslow says is very difficult for a traditional bank to make profitable.

    NOAH BRESLOW: But what our technology lets you do is make that $40,000 loan in– in– in seconds, but using the same kind of analytical breadth that you’d want to bear, speeding up a process that was much less efficient– before.

    ONDECK PROMOTIONAL VIDEO: Our platform can yes to more small businesses.

    STACEY TISDALE: When a business applies for a loan, OnDeck says it quickly analyzes more than 2,000 data points, both big and small. It crunches traditional metrics like cash flow and the business’s credit profile. But it also looks at social data. Which means if you’re a restaurant like DJ’s Delights, it’ll also be checking what customers are saying on review sites like Yelp.

    STACEY TISDALE: What can Yelp tell you about someone’s credit worthiness?

    NOAH BRESLOW: It’s– you have to be careful. So what you don’t wanna do is make a decision about a loan because someone didn’t like the chicken– last night in a restaurant.  But what you can start to do is build patterns and models that statistically tell you a restaurant that’s doing $2 million in revenue– might have this number of Yelp reviews or this frequency of Yelp reviews.

    STACEY TISDALE: New York-based OnDeck has extended more than $1 billion dollars in credit since launching in 2007 and has raised money from high profile investors.

    Unlike banks, OnDeck’s loans are not backed by collateral.  And while OnDeck doesn’t disclose detailed data on defaults, it says the rate is in the quote “single digits” for its loans.

    STACEY TISDALE: For Ron Wendolowski, OnDeck has become a consistent source of credit. The business is on its fourth loan and it’s used the money to stock supplies after Superstorm Sandy, and to expand from just a deli to a sit-down restaurant and a small market.

    RON WENDOLOWSKI: We definitely would not be what we are today without their help.

    STACEY TISDALE: The business’s current loan is for just over $40,000 over 12 months, but the money isn’t cheap. The annual interest rate on its loan is about 30% – almost six times what a small business loan from a bank could be.

    STACEY TISDALE: Was getting that money at that time, even at that high rate, worth it?

    RON WENDOLOWSKI: It was worth it. It’s higher interest, of course.  But when you’re a business owner and you need the money and your business depends on it, you’re gonna, you know, accept that.

    STACEY TISDALE: While an alternative loan worked for Wendolowski, there have been reports of small businesses running into serious trouble with high interest loans taken out from other online lenders.

    And while Noah Breslow of OnDeck thinks the cost of alternative loans like its will come down, the average annual interest rate is about 50%.

    STACEY TISDALE: The rates aren’t cheap.  How do you justify that higher rate to clients?

    NOAH BRESLOW: Well, I think you’re paying for speed and convenience. I think merchants would much rather have the choice of taking a loan than not have that option at all. And I– I think for the value we provide, we’re priced fairly.

    STACEY TISDALE: But alternative lenders like OnDeck have been criticized for potentially taking advantage of desperate small business owners.

    NOAH BRESLOW: You know, I think people sometimes think, “Oh, small business owners are unsophisticated.”  Our business– customer has been un– in business, on average, ten years.  Right?  Multiple economic cycles. It’s not like we’re taking folks, you know, who don’t understand what they’re doing.

    STACEY TISDALE: but alternative lenders are still very much alternatives.

    While OnDeck and others have been growing rapidly, lending an estimated $3 billion dollars in total last year. That amount is just a tiny fraction of small business loans given by banks: in total, more than $125 billion dollars in 2013.

    PAUL MERSKI: Community Banks have been innovating for decades and they do the vast majority of small business lending, they do the vast majority of lower dollar lending to small businesses.

    STACEY TISDALE: Paul Merski is the chief economist for the Independent Community Bankers of America. Together, community banks are responsible for 60% of small business loans, despite being just 15% of the total banking market. And industry surveys show that they approve about half of all small business applicants. That’s less than alternatives lenders on the whole. But more than OnDeck. And more than big banks, which approve about 20 percent of applicants.

    PAUL MERSKI: Community banks specialize in small business lending. And that’s because it’s a relationship lending, where the community bank knows the local market, knows the customer, knows the small business owner personally many times. And that really helps with the lending decision and makes a better lending decision than a transaction that’s been done online or a thousand miles away.

    STACEY TISDALE: And when it comes to cost, banks can offer a much cheaper option for small businesses that can qualify. On average, just under 5% annual interest for a loan under 100,000 dollars.

    PAUL MERSKI: Many of these new startups are a simple formula, high rates. And it may be simple and quick to get your loan, but the rates and the terms are not going to serve the small business owner and not going to serve the best interest of that business.

    STACEY TISDALE: But Noah Breslow is convinced technology is ushering in huge changes in small business lending.

    STACEY TISDALE: Where do you see this alternative lending industry in ten, 20 years?

    NOAH BRESLOW: You know, I think it loses the designation of alternative. I think just like today I buy a plane ticket online with Priceline.com.  Maybe 20 years ago I would have talked to a travel agent.  You know– we are going through that entire cycle.  We’re probably in year five of a 20-year journey in terms of lending.

    STACEY TISDALE: Since taking out loans with OnDeck, Wendolowski thinks he could probably now get a loan from a traditional bank. Not that he wants one. After paying back their current loan, Wendolowski and partner DJ Presto are hoping to be able to run the restaurant without any loans – traditional or alternative.

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    MOSUL, IRAQ - JUNE 12:  Militants of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant damage the patrol car of Iraq army in Mosul, Iraq on 12 June, 2014. (Photo by Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    Militants of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant damage the patrol car of Iraq army in Mosul, Iraq on June 12. President Barack Obama said Sunday that the Al-Qaida-inspired militants who have seized territory in Iraq threaten the stability of the region. Credit: Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Al-Qaida-inspired militants who have violently seized territory in Iraq could grow in power and destabilize other countries in the region, President Barack Obama said.

    The Iraqi public will ultimately reject the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the extremist Sunni group threatening Iraq’s government, but the group still represents a medium- and long-term threat to the United States, Obama said.

    “We’re going to have to be vigilant generally. Right now the problem with ISIS is the fact that they’re destabilizing the country,” Obama said, using a common acronym for the group. “That could spill over into some of our allies like Jordan.”

    The Sunni insurgency in Iraq and neighboring Syria is just one of an array of threats the U.S. must guard against, Obama said in an interview recorded Friday and airing Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

    He pointed to the group Boko Haram in north Africa and al-Qaida groups in Yemen that he said also demand the attention of the U.S. and its partners.

    “What we can’t do is think that we’re just going to play whack-a-mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to have a more focused, more targeted strategy and we’re going to have to partner and train local law enforcement and military to do their jobs as well.”

    Obama’s comments came as U.S. lawmakers and officials within his own administration are grappling with the best way to address the growing insurgency in Iraq just years after American troops pulled out. As bloody sectarian violence breaks out once again in Iraq, a president who opposed the Iraq war and vowed to end it is finding the U.S. being lured back into the conflict by the deteriorating security situation.

    Obama has announced plans to send 300 special operations forces into Iraq to train its military, but insists the U.S. military can’t effectively quell the conflict unless Iraq’s own Shiite-led government pursues a more inclusive approach that doesn’t shun the Sunni minority.

    The issue has divided Congress, with some lawmakers criticizing Obama for doing too little and others warning the return of armed troops to Iraq could be the first step toward pulling the U.S. back into the conflict.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the unwillingness of Iraq’s military to defend the city of Mosul begs the question of why the United State should.

    “I’m not willing to send my son to defend that mess,” Paul said Sunday on CNN.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she believes the U.S. needs to be talking to Iran because it can play a major role in helping to prevent a major war between Sunnis and Shiites. She also voiced concerns about the need to build up intelligence to help track recruits from Europe and the United States who have gone to the Middle East to participate in the wars there.

    “There will be plots to kill Americans,” she told CNN.

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    White_shark

    A great white shark is shown in Mexico in 2006. Two studies on sharks released this month reveal the populations of great whites in the Atlantic and Pacific are on the rise. Credit: Terry Goss via Wikimedia Commons

    Two studies on sharks released this month reveal the populations of great whites in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are on the rise after a period of harsh decline.

    The reports, published in the journal PLOS ONE, indicate the number of great white sharks has rebounded since the population was decimated by overfishing in the 1970s and 80s.

    “The good news is that white sharks are returning to levels of abundance,” George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research who led a study about great white populations in the Pacific, told the Christian Science Monitor.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted its study on the great white population along the western North Atlantic, and credits the United States’ 1997 ban on hunting the shark species for allowing the population to replenish.

    In the 1980s, the number of great whites in the Atlantic was estimated to be only 27 percent of what it was in 1961. Now, according to NOAA, that number is back up to 69 percent of the species’ mid-century stock size.

    Scientists believe there are between 3,000 and 5,000 great whites currently swimming along the East Coast of the U.S. The study published by the Florida Program for Shark Research estimates there are 2000 swimming off the coast of central California.

    Although there are now more great whites swimming in U.S. waters, they are still rarely spotted by humans. There have been only 649 confirmed sightings of the great white between 1800 and 2010.

    In the Atlantic, the great white is most frequently seen between Massachusetts and New Jersey during summer months. The fish is more commonly seen in Florida during the winter, depending on the location of its prey — seals and whale carcasses.

    RelatedThe great white shark Lydia and her historic journey across the Atlantic 

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    picasso

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: Technology has changed the way we communicate, the way we do business and now the way we see art. Thanks to some scientific wizardry, a once rumored secret work by Pablo Picasso has proven to be the real thing.

    For more than a century now, art lovers have studied Picasso’s blue period, which was set in motion by this work, “The Blue Room.”

    But for decades, something of a mystery has surrounded the work. As early as the 1950s, those in the know wondered about the uneven brush strokes in the painting. In the 1970s, x-rays discovered some sort of murky image behind the bathing blonde woman.

    It wasn’t until 21st century infrared technology that the truth was revealed and confirmed by the Philips Collection experts: When creating “The Blue Room,” Picasso painted over another work — a portrait of a bearded man wearing a bow tie.

    PATRICIA FAVERO: Picasso was known to paint over his own pictures. There are other examples, where there’s documentation, there’s drawing, there’s other types of documentation where it confirms the painting underneath the painting is by Picasso.

    ALISON STEWART: One explanation for why Picasso would do such a thing has less to do with art and more to do with money. Or the lack of it. At the time, the 20-year-old Spaniard living in Paris was just one more struggling artist, and to preserve what little he had, he sometimes reused canvasses.

    SUSAN FRANK: What we’re trying to understand by identifying this person is something about the circle of individuals that Picasso was interacting with at this very important moment early in his career when he was just really beginning to make his name known.

    ALISON STEWART: For now, we can all still marvel at a new view of “The Blue Room.”

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    New sanctions on Russia are targeting some of Putin's closest allies. Photo by Alexi Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: In Moscow today Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for a cease fire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist in Eastern Ukraine. Putin conferred by phone today with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande about the lingering crisis.

    For more about the situation in Ukraine were joined now via Skype by Andrew Roth of the New York Times. He’s reporting tonight form Donetsk. Andrew let me ask you, what is life like in Donetsk now that now that we have you here, is it seem like a city in the heart of a crisis?

    ANDREW ROTH: You know Alison, this has been happening for a little while now, I think that there are towns that a more at the epicenter of the fighting and in places like Slovyansk sort of a rebel stronghold not far from here.

    Life has changed a lot, there are serious problems with water, lack of electricity and you know more than 200, more than 300 people would have been injured in the fighting so far.

    Donetsk just feels very empty, quiet a lot of closed shops and a lot of people who found a way to get out of the city for the summer.

    ALISON STEWART: It’s interesting that you would mention that because I was surfing the Moscow Times website and there’s a huge article there where the headline says ‘In parts of East Ukraine, a daily struggle to survive’ in the town that you mentioned.

    In terms of the humanitarian crisis, who is that going to put pressure on and cynically who can use it to their advantage?

    ANDREW ROTH: Well I think that the humanitarian crisis of course is going to put the most pressure on Petro Poroshenko on Ukrainian government to really avoid being tainted by sort of a really bad humanitarian crisis taking place in the east of the country.

    So that would put more pressure on them to stop what they call the anti-terrorist operation here in the east, but it also put some pressure on Moscow too, because a lot of the separatist leaders here have said that they want Moscow to bring in humanitarian aid, or  they want Moscow to bring in peace keeping troops and so far Moscow has demurred on any sort of response to those request.

    ALISON STEWART: Andrew, in a Times piece about the proposed cease fire, it was described as Putin’s reaction was a carrot and a stick. What’s the carrot?  What’s the stick?

    ANDREW ROTH: So I think that the carrot in this case is that Russia would really be on board for some sort of peace plan, and that they can call and would call for the Russian separatist, the pro-Russian separatist in the east of the country  to put down their arms and that’s the carrot here.

    The stick of course is always, is the possibility of the militarization of the border, more build up and as you know, Russia has put 65,000 troops on combat alert, and is holding drills right now. I don’t think we’re quite at the place where we were in April when many of those troops were on the border.

    NATO say as many as 40,000 but there is still this question of, there is always a possibility of a Russian intervention too, and it’s very possible that a decision to put those troops on combat alert was an indication of that.

    ALISON STEWART:  Andrew Roth of the New York Times reporting form Donetsk thank you so much for sharing your reporting.

    ANDREW ROTH: Thank you.

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    NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 18:  Boys await medical appointments in a holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona.  Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct. 1. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images)

    Boys await medical care in a holding area where hundreds of Central American immigrant children are waiting to be processed on June 18, 2014, in Nogales, Arizona. A new Associated Press investigation finds Central American child immigrants do not face immediate consequences for crossing the border without documentation. Credit: Ross D. Franklin-Pool/Getty Images

    Children from Central America who cross the border into the United States alone are able to live, attend public schools and even work without facing immediate consequences, according to an Associated Press investigation.

    The AP report cites flawed immigration courts and a child welfare protection law from 2002 as the main factors for this issue.

    Additionally, this perceived lack of consequence is part of the driving factor to the surge in undocumented immigrant children entering the U.S. from countries like Guatemala and El Salvador.

    While their journey is notoriously dangerous, with the risk of being sent back and having to pay high fees to traffickers, knowing that they will likely not be deported acts as an incentive.

    Annually the U.S. government says it will apprehend about 90,000 children — unaccompanied by their parents — crossing into the U.S. by September. That would be a dramatic increase from the 24,668 in 2013 and the 13,625 children that came in 2012. In 2013, fewer than 2,000 of those caught were actually returned to their country of origin.

    “They almost never go home,” Gary Mead, the former director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, which handles the process of finding and deporting immigrants in the U.S., told the AP. “It’s not a process that ultimately ends in easy resolutions or clear-cut resolutions.”

    The Obama Administration has petitioned for Congress to allocate $2 billion to address the child immigration issue that has been making headlines over the last few weeks as numbers hit record highs.

    Hundreds of children nabbed at the border are being held in processing facilities in Arizona that are running low on resources in what is being viewed as a growing humanitarian crisis.

    On a last minute trip to Guatemala on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden met with regional leaders and discussed the dangers of the border crossing. He also said the U.S. will start to detain families at the borders.

    Earlier this week PBS NewsHour looked at why so many migrant children are braving the journey across the U.S. border by themselves.

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    groundbreaking ceremony

    An explosion was executed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile on Thursday in the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the world’s largest telescope. Credit: ESO

    A massive blast in the desert of Chile this week rocked the summit of Cerro Armazones, a mountain of over ten thousand feet.

    The explosion, organized by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), was executed with peaceful intent. It marked the first step in the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will be about four times the size of any existing telescope.

    The blast dislodged a small portion of the estimated 220,000 cubic meters of rock that must be removed in order to create a plateau capable of accommodating the telescope platform, according to a press release from the ESO.

    The E-ELT will produce images 15 times sharper than those of the Hubble Telescope and collect light faster than any other optical or infrared telescope.

    The telescope will reportedly enable astronomers to collect images from further back in both space and time than any others currently out there. These capabilities will even allow scientists to see images of the formation of the stars and galaxies in the universe.

    Researchers hope to use the E-ELT to search for Earth-like planets in other solar systems and further investigate phenomena like dark matter and dark energy.

    The ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT)

    The ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in action. Credit: ESO

    The observatory site is located nearly 20 kilometers from the ESO’s last ambitious project, the Very Large Telescope, which is made up of four separate telescopes.

    The Chilean government donated much of the land — limiting mining and light-polluting activities around the area — in exchange for access to the telescope for its researchers and scientific community.

    The project is expected to be completed in 2024.

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    More than 750 U.S. hospitals face penalties in Medicare's crackdown on patient infections and injuries. Photo by Flickr user Azat Akhyarov

    More than 750 U.S. hospitals face penalties in Medicare’s crackdown on patient infections and injuries. Photo by Flickr user Azat Akhyarov

    During a hernia operation, Dorothea Handron’s surgeon unknowingly pierced her bowel. It took five days for doctors to determine she had an infection. By the time they operated on her again, she was so weakened that she was placed in a medically induced coma at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina.

    Comatose and on a respirator for six weeks, she contracted pneumonia. “When they stopped the sedation and I woke up, I had no idea what had happened to me,” said Handron, 60. “I kind of felt like Rip Van Winkle.”

    Because of complications like Handron’s, Vidant, an academic medical center in eastern North Carolina, is likely to have its Medicare payments docked this fall through the government’s toughest effort yet to crack down on infections and other patient injuries, federal records show.

    A quarter of the nation’s hospitals – those with the worst rates – will lose 1 percent of every Medicare payment for a year starting in October. In April, federal officials released a preliminary analysis of which hospitals would be assessed, identifying 761. When Medicare sets final penalties later this year, that list may change because the government will be looking at performance over a longer period than it used to calculate the draft penalties. Vidant, for instance, says it lowered patient injury rates over the course of 2013, and Handron praises their efforts.

    The sanctions, estimated to total $330 million over a year, kick in at a time when most infections measured in hospitals are on the decline, but still too common. In 2012, one out of every eight patients nationally suffered a potentially avoidable complication during a hospital stay, the government estimates. Even infections that are waning are not decreasing fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Meanwhile new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are making infections much harder to cure.

    Dr. Clifford McDonald, a senior adviser at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the worst performers “still have a lot of room to move in a positive direction.”

    Are The Metrics Right?

    Medicare’s penalties are going to hit some types of hospitals harder than others, according to an analysis of the preliminary penalties conducted for Kaiser Health News by Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Publicly owned hospitals and those that treat large portions of low-income patients are more likely to be assessed penalties. So are large hospitals, hospitals in cities and those in the West and Northeast. Preliminary penalties were assigned to more than a third of hospitals in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, Medicare records show.

    “We want hospitals focused on patient safety and we want them laser-focused on eliminating patient harm,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

    The biggest impact may be on the nation’s major teaching hospitals: 54 percent were marked for preliminary penalties, Jha found. The reasons for such high rates of complications in these elite hospitals are being intensely debated. Leah Binder, CEO of The Leapfrog Group, a patient safety organization, said academic medical centers have such a diverse mix of specialists and competing priorities of research and training residents that safety is not always at the forefront. Nearly half of the teaching hospitals — 123 out of 266 in Jha’s analysis —had low enough rates to avoid penalties.

    The government takes into account the size of hospital, the location where the patient was treated and whether it is affiliated with a medical school when calculating infection rates. But the Association of American Medical Colleges and some experts question whether those measures are precise enough. “Do we really believe that large academic medical centers are providing such drastically worse care, or is it that we just haven’t gotten our metrics right?” Jha said. “I suspect it’s the latter.”

    Medicare assigned a preliminary penalty to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, for instance, but Dr. Gary Noskin, the chief medical officer, said hospitals that are more vigilant in catching problems end up looking worse. “If you don’t look for the clot, you’re never going to find it,” he said.

    Another concern is there may be little difference in the performance between hospitals that narrowly draw penalties and those that barely escape them. That is because the health law requires Medicare to punish the worst-performing quarter of the nation’s hospitals each year, even if they have been improving.

    “Hospitals that have been working hard to reduce infections may end up in the penalty box,” said Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and public safety at the American Hospital Association.

    Third Leg Of Medicare’s Pay-For-Performance

    The Hospital-Acquired Condition (HAC) Reduction Program, created by the 2010 health law, is the third of the federal health law’s major mandatory pay-for-performance programs for hospitals. The first levies penalties against hospitals with high readmission rates and the second awards bonuses or penalties based on two dozen quality measures. Both are in their second year. When all three programs are in place this fall, hospitals will be at risk of losing up to 5.4 percent of their Medicare payments.

    In the first year of the HAC penalties, Medicare will look at three measures. One is the frequency of bloodstream infections in patients with catheters inserted into a major vein to deliver antibiotics, nutrients, chemotherapy or other treatments. The second is the rates of infections from catheters inserted into the bladder to drain urine. Both those assessments will be based on infections during 2012 and 2013.

    Finally, Medicare will examine a variety of avoidable safety problems in patients that occurred from July 2011 through June 2013, including bedsores, hip fractures, blood clots and accidental lung punctures. Over the next few years, Medicare will also factor in surgical site infections and infection rates from two germs that are resistant to antibiotic treatments: Clostridium difficile, known as C. diff, and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA.

    Vidant is worse than average in catheter-associated urinary tract infections and serious complications from surgery in the latest statistics Medicare published on its Hospital Compare website. But in more recent data the medical center voluntarily reports on its website, the number of catheter and urinary tract infections dropped during 2013. Joan Wynn, Vidant Health’s chief quality and safety officer, said complications rates are dropping this year as well.

    The prospect of penalties is “difficult when you know how much your performance is improved,” said Wynn. She said Vidant has taken many steps to reduce complications, added patients to internal committees and now reveals on its website the number of infections, patient falls, medication errors and bed sores.

    Vidant asked Handron, a retired nursing professor injured in 2009, to tell her experience to the trustees and make a video for the medical staff talking about it. She continues to advise the hospital. “I know they’re going in the very right direction,” Handron said. “I would have absolutely zero concern about myself or a family member going to Vidant for anything now.”

    Nationally, rates of some infections are decreasing. Catheter-related infections, for instance, dropped 44 percent between 2008 and 2012. Still, the CDC estimates that in 2011, about 648,000 patients—1 in 25—picked up an infection while in the hospital, and 75,000 died.

    Rates of urinary tract infections have not dropped despite efforts. These infections are more likely the longer a line is left in, but sometimes they are not removed promptly out of convenience for the nurse or patient or simply institutional lethargy. Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, which has higher urinary catheter infection rates than do most hospitals, has given nurses more authority to remove catheters so long as they follow guidelines for when removal is appropriate, said Dr. Michael Myint, Swedish’s vice president for quality and patient safety. “Historically, they would just wait for the physician’s order to come through,” Myint said.

    Medicare has been pressuring hospitals for several years to lower rates of injuries to patients. In 2008 Medicare started refusing to reimburse hospitals for the extra cost of treating patients for avoidable complications. A subsequent study by Harvard researchers found no evidence that the change led to lower infection rates.

    “With infections, we are moving in the right direction,” said Lisa McGiffert, who directs the patient safety program at Consumers Union, “but I would not say we are anywhere near where we need to be.”

    Patient Advocates Praise Move

    Patient advocates say the financial penalties are long overdue, given how little accountability there has been. Gerald Guske discovered that in 2012 when he went into Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia, for an artificial hip implant. Doctors later had to reopen the incision and wash out Guske’s implant. Guske, a retired electronic technician, was laid up for a month in a rehabilitation facility while strong antibiotics were pumped directly into a vein.

    Martha Jefferson told Guske it had followed proper protocols. “Unfortunately, infection is a known risk of any surgery, and even when everything is performed correctly and conditions are ideal, they can occur,” the hospital wrote him afterward. “Infection does not necessarily indicate that something went wrong.”

    Martha Jefferson Hospital said it could not discuss the case because of patient privacy laws. The hospital’s infection control specialist, Dr. Keri Hall, said infection rates have been dropping and “we are every day doing what we can to hopefully bring our rates down to zero.”

    Guske said he has fully recovered, “other than taking six weeks out of my life,” but he attributes the stress around his complications to a minor stroke his wife suffered. He said state regulators told him they could not take any action because the hospital followed proper procedures. The fear of a financial penalty against a hospital, Guske said, is “the only thing that’s really going to change matters.”

    If you experienced an infection or another mishap while in the hospital, what happened and how did the hospital respond? Your responses may inform future KHN stories. Email: jrau@kff.org


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

     

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    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (R) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Baghdad on June 23, 2014. Kerry was in Baghdad to push for Iraqi unity and stability, as Sunni militants swept through western towns abandoned by the security forces. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (R) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Baghdad on June 23, 2014. Kerry was in Baghdad to push for Iraqi unity and stability, as Sunni militants swept through western towns abandoned by the security forces. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

    BAGHDAD — America’s top diplomat said Monday that leaders of Iraq’s factions must keep their commitments to seat a new parliament next week, before a Sunni insurgency sweeps away hopes for a lasting peace.

    Meeting with all factions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had a dire message to leaders of Iraq’s bitterly divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political coalitions who have lived through more than three decades of dictatorship, sanctions and wars.

    “This is a critical moment for Iraq’s future,” Kerry said at a press conference in Baghdad. “It is a moment of decision for Iraq’s leaders and it’s a moment of great urgency.”

    Sunnis frustrated with being cut out of power are increasingly joining the ISIL, a bloody insurgency that has been emboldened by battlefield successes in neighboring Syria’s civil war and has made rapid and record gains in Iraq over the past two weeks.

    Kerry is seeking to hold the officials to a government transition that the U.S. believes will stave off the threat of a new civil war by giving more power to Iraq’s minorities.

    Kerry offered few details of his closed-door meetings in Baghdad. But he said each of the officials he met with — including Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — committed to seat a new parliament by July 1 as the constitution requires.

    “The very future of Iraq depends on choices that will be made in the next days and weeks, and the future of Iraq depends primarily on the ability of Iraq’s leaders to come together and take a stand united against ISIL,” Kerry said, referring to the insurgency known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “Not next week, not next month, but now.”

    He also said no country — including the U.S. — should try to pick new leadership for Iraq. “That is up to the people of Iraq,” Kerry said.

    Al-Maliki is facing growing calls for his resignation as disgruntled Sunnis say they do not believe he will give them a greater voice in the government.

    After suffering together through more than eight years of war — which killed nearly 4,500 American troops and more than 100,000 Iraqis — Washington and Baghdad are trying to shelve mutual wariness to curb the very real prospect of the Mideast nation falling into a fresh bout of sectarian strife.

    Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq’s top-ranking Sunnis, told Kerry that the insurgents pose “a threat to the entire world.” Al-Nujaifi, is from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city which was overrun earlier this month by militants.

    Of the insurgents, al-Nujaifi said “we have to confront it through direct military operations, political reforms so that we can inject a new hope into our own people so that they can support the political process and the unity of Iraq.”

    Iraqi officials briefed on Kerry’s talks with the Iraqi prime minister said al-Maliki urged the United States to target the militants’ positions in Iraq and neighboring Syria, citing training camps and convoys with airstrikes. The officials said Kerry responded by saying a great deal of care and caution must be taken before attacks are launched to avoid civilian casualties that could create the impression that Americans are attacking Sunnis.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the record.

    President Barack Obama, in a round of television interviews that aired in the U.S., said al-Maliki and the Iraqi leadership face a test as to whether “they are able to set aside their suspicions, their sectarian preferences for the good of the whole.”

    “And we don’t know,” Obama said. “The one thing I do know is that if they fail to do that then no amount of military action by the United States can hold that country together.”

    Kerry arrived in Baghdad just a day after the Sunni militants captured two key border posts, one along the frontier with Jordan and the other with Syria, deepening al-Maliki’s predicament. Their latest victories considerably expanded territory under the militants’ control just two weeks after the al-Qaida breakaway group started swallowing up chunks of northern Iraq, heightening pressure on al-Maliki to step aside.

    Video by Associated Press

    The offensive by ISIL takes the group closer to its dream of carving out an Islamic state straddling both Syria and Iraq. Controlling the borders with Syria will help it supply fellow fighters there with weaponry looted from Iraqi warehouses, boosting its ability to battle beleaguered Syrian government forces.

    On Monday, gunmen ambushed a police convoy transferring prisoners about 85 miles (140 kilometers) south of Baghdad, killing nine policemen and 13 prisoners, according to police officials. The officials said some of the prisoners, some of whom were convicted of terrorism-related charges, were being taken to a high-security prison in the southern city of Nasiriyah 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of Baghdad. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

    The militants’ stunning battlefield successes in the north and the west of Iraq have laid bare the inadequacies of the country’s U.S.-trained forces. In the north, troops fled in the face of advancing militants, abandoning their weapons, vehicles and other equipment. In some cases in the west, they pulled out either when the militants approached or when they heard of other towns falling.

    Sunday’s capture by the militants of crossings bordering Jordan and Syria followed the fall on Friday and Saturday of the towns of Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba, all of which are in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where the militants have since January controlled the city of Fallujah and parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi.

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    Shaquilla Boyce used to use her middle name, Shannon, when applying for jobs. NewsHour still image.

    Shaquilla Boyce used to use her middle name, Shannon, when applying for jobs. NewsHour still image.

    Editor’s Note: Some six million 18 to 24-year-old inner city high school grads are neither employed or in school. A program called Year Up, which Making Sen$e first profiled in 2008, is trying to change those statistics by tackling what they call “the opportunity divide.” Participants receive half a year’s training, during which they’re paid, and then a paid internship for the next six months designed as a gateway to a secure, well-paying job.

    Several years out of the crash of 2008, Making Sen$e wanted to catch up with Year Up to see how their students had fared in one of the toughest job markets. Year Up has doubled in size since our first story, with programs in 12 cities now, and the summer after the crash, they placed all of their students in paid internships.

    For this latest story, Paul Solman sat down with two current Year Up students to hear about their road to the program, where they hope to go and how Year Up is making the difference.

    Daniel Alexandre’s parents came to the United States in the 1980s from Haiti, where his father had been a police officer and his mother a nurse. In America, they became bus drivers. As the last of their six children, there were fewer resources available to Daniel and he couldn’t depend on his struggling parents or his older siblings, newly married, to help him. He currently lives alone. “I still have and still love my family,” he told us. “It’s just that if they can’t help me, they can’t help me. So I’ve got to do the best that I can to help myself.”

    Daniel Alexandre and Shaquilla Boyce speak to Paul Solman. Eye contact is just one of the soft skills that Year Up emphasizes. NewsHour still shot.

    Daniel Alexandre and Shaquilla Boyce speak to Paul Solman. Eye contact is just one of the soft skills that Year Up emphasizes. NewsHour still image.

    Daniel, age 23, wanted to go to college – and was accepted. “I was the most excited person in the world,” he said. But the Berklee College of Music cost more than he thought, and he couldn’t find anyone to co-sign on a loan with him because of his family’s blotched credit history. Daniel’s taken some classes at local community colleges, but it wasn’t what he was passionate about. He’s worked at Shaw’s supermarket, and aside from Year Up, he plays music at churches and side venues to make money. He’s hopeful he’ll find a secure second job after graduating from Year Up.

    As a two-year-old, Shaquilla Boyce came to the United States from Barbados with her mother, who, she said, has worked any job she can. But for her daughter, Shaquilla’s mom stressed the importance of education. “If I’m in school,” Shaquilla said, “I feel better: When I’m learning, I’m doing my part.”

    But at age 21, she’s not in college either. She wanted to take a year off after high school to save for her expenses. But after a year, then two, then three, she couldn’t get a job. She’s now in Year Up, interning at the Boston Federal Reserve in their information technology department. After it ends in July, she’d eventually like to try for dual degrees in artificial intelligence and software engineering

    Both Daniel and Shaquilla have struggled with the vicious cycle of needing to work before they can study, but then not being able to find a good enough job. In a world where an African-American name and a low-income zip code can be enough to turn off some employers, students in Year Up are learning how to make employers value them for who they are: they’re learning the hard skills to get them jobs, but even more importantly, the soft skills to get them in the door: eye contact, a firm handshake and how to address potential employers. In the following extended conversation with Paul Solman, Shaquilla and Daniel speak candidly about the unemployment crisis facing their peers and why their soft skills are what set them apart. For more of their conversation with Paul, tune into Monday night’s Making Sen$e segment.

    – Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    Paul Solman: Why is it that so many people roughly your age are not working?

    Daniel Alexandre: There’s a lot of different factors. I don’t think we really know how to value them as someone who we might need. For example, if I were a company, I might not hire that individual because I don’t see potential there [because] they dropped out, they’ve given up on themselves; so why should I believe in them? That’s what I’m seeing going on.

    Shaquilla Boyce: I think that it starts younger. It’s the support system. If you don’t have it growing up, there’s no reason to continue; there’s no reason to graduate because you don’t know what’s next. It’s educating people and helping people from early on to learn that you do need a diploma to get a job. A lot of people don’t know that.

    Paul Solman: What does it mean to not know that? For those in the audience who took going to school and getting a college degree for granted, it’s hard to imagine what’s going through the mind of somebody who doesn’t see that as the obvious route.

    Daniel Alexandre: From my experience, my parents came here focused on needing to make money to provide for our family. So what was emphasized growing up was always getting a good job and doing the best that you can at that job to provide for your family. That was the mantra, where the job becomes more important to you than going to school.

    Shaquilla Boyce: It’s time versus money. You have the pressure to provide now, and if you spend eight hours in school, there are only, let’s say, five hours left in the day; that’s not enough. It doesn’t make up what you could have made if you did a full eight hours of work instead of school.

    Paul Solman: But most of the people your age from your ethnic background aren’t working.

    Shaquilla Boyce: It’s finding a job. It’s the skills and it’s presenting yourself in a way that someone will say, “I’m gonna take a chance on you,” then finding a company or an organization to do that. A lot of people may have skills — they know things, they’re smart — but there’s no way they can say, “This is what I can do; Give me that chance.” They don’t know how.

    At Year Up, students not only learn hard skills like accounting, but they learn how to make eye contact when they're talking to other people, in this case, their instructors.

    At Year Up, students not only learn hard skills like accounting, but they learn how to make eye contact when they’re talking to other people, in this case, their instructors. NewsHour still image.

    Paul Solman: Do you talk to your friends and say, “Hey, you need to go to school in order to get any kind of decent job”?

    “The standard has been brought down even before you have to meet it.”

    Daniel Alexandre: What’s relevant around you becomes your mindset as well. If you’re not around the type of people who are supporting you and pushing you to go to school, then it’s going to be very hard for you to do so. In certain communities, it’s really important to go to school. It’s just the norm. But when you see so many people before you getting the door to the idea of college shut on them, that doesn’t even make sense to you. The standard has been brought down even before you have to meet it.

    A lot of my friends have role models who are selling drugs or doing whatever else they can to make money. So when I come and say, “Hey, you have to go to school to make a decent amount of money,” their society says, “Not necessarily, there are other ways that you can make money where I don’t have to go to school.” School is this place that is seen to some people as where they’re just going to keep testing me and telling me that I can’t make it. I’m going fail all of these tests. I don’t want to be somewhere that’s constantly telling me that I’m not enough. So I’d rather go to where I’m supported, and often times, you’re supported by the people who shouldn’t be where they are to begin with.

    Shaquilla Boyce: For me it’s a little bit different. I went to a high school where college was really heavily enforced. I’ve had numerous friends who have gone to private four-year schools and then one year in say, “I can’t afford this,” and then go to a junior college. Then they say they have to work and can’t go to school at all. It’s accessibility in a way. It’s not that college is not the norm; it’s just how you get there and how you’re able to maintain it.

    What’s in a name?

    Paul Solman: Shaquilla, you’re 21 — pretty young. So in your limited experience, is the problem of young inner city high school grads not finding jobs and not going to college getting worse?

    Shaquilla Boyce: Yes, I think so. Getting a retail job is the goal now. Before Year Up, I applied to jobs in an office setting, but I don’t have any experience. So then I applied to retail because that’s what’ll take me, but it’s a dead end. The job is not paying you enough to go to school, and then you need to work more, so you can’t go to school.

    I sat jobless for two and half years before I decided, okay, something has to give. I went on probably over 40 interviews — just secretarial jobs, some retail things and a little data entry, but I couldn’t get anything.

    Paul Solman: But you’re obviously an articulate person. It’s not a question of that you couldn’t do the jobs?

    Shaquilla Boyce: It’s the “you only have a high school diploma” reaction. They’re looking for someone who has a degree or is in college. No one was willing to say, I’ll take that chance on you.

    Daniel Alexandre: One of the things that they teach us here at Year Up is how to write a resume to yield a positive result, to maybe even get an interview. They highlight that most employers don’t spend more than 10 to 15 seconds looking at a resume.

    “As an employer, you see Shaquilla from Dorchester who doesn’t have a college degree. That just chopped down my 15 seconds of scanning this resume to zero.”

    So let’s consider Shaquilla. As an employer, you see Shaquilla from Dorchester who doesn’t have a college degree. That just chopped down my 15 seconds of scanning this resume to zero. I’m going to pass it over because society has told me that people with that kind of name from those kinds of areas, from that type of background — they’re not going to do much. They’re probably going to come late to work; there’s just a whole mountain of perceptions that we have to jump over to even be considered in some of these work spaces.

    Shaquilla Boyce: People hear my name before they see me, and they have a pre-conceived notion. So I’ve worked my entire life to get away from that image because I want to make it and I won’t let someone hinder me based on a name.

    Paul Solman: And so the name Shaquilla says African-American, from a family that’s not adopting the usual norms of the society? It’s a real handicap?

    Shaquilla Boyce: When I applied to jobs — my middle name is Shannon — I would put Shannon instead of Shaquilla and I got more call backs from before.

    Paul Solman: Holy smokes.

    Shaquilla Boyce checks microphones at her internship at the Boston Fed. NewsHour still.

    Shaquilla Boyce checks microphones at her internship at the Boston Fed. NewsHour still image.

    Code switching

    Daniel Alexandre:Well for me, I grew up really having a passion for poetry, so I was always reading. I was always watching poets, and I learned how to use my words to not only say what I want to say, but also make you feel the way I want you to feel with my words. I’ve learned to code switch, which they teach us here at Year Up. I’ve learned how to present myself in a way that would make someone want to talk to me longer or maybe even consider what I have to say.

    Paul Solman: And that comes across, I have to tell you, immediately when you start talking.

    Daniel Alexandre: I appreciate that. You know, it’s something that I didn’t spend much time working on; it just became who I was because I was always reading.

    But when I’m with my friends, and there goes that code switching again, they don’t always have that same affinity with words that I do. They might just want to say, “Hey, let’s hang out, let’s chill,” and that’s totally fine, that’s where they’re comfortable, but they don’t know that that has to be turned off when you go into an interview, when you’re trying to present yourself. A lot of times my friends have the mentality of “take me who I am,” and if you don’t like me then tough luck. But you almost have to make people want to like you before they can really learn to like you. You have to leap over all of those mountains of negative perceptions and then really let them see who you are and see the capabilities that you have.

    Paul Solman: So here at Year Up, they’re showing you the value of professionalism, but just meeting you, I would’ve thought you’re the last guy in the world who needs to polish his self-presentation skills.

    Daniel Alexandre: As it remains, before you meet me, you’re looking at my resume, you’re looking at where I’ve come from and what I’ve accomplished. And what I’ve accomplished is only going to be what my family, what my surrounding, what my support system has pushed me to accomplish.

    Paul Solman: No, I could see how reading your resume I would be distinctly unimpressed, but once I’m meeting you, I’d have to say, wait, this is a serious guy.

    Daniel Alexandre: Because I’ve understood the value of breaking down negative perceptions. I learned it on my own, but here is an organization of people higher than myself pouring that into individuals.

    Daniel Boyce in class at Year Up. NewsHour still.

    Daniel Boyce in class at Year Up. NewsHour still image.

    Paul Solman: And you were just saying before we got on camera, you were learning double entry bookkeeping today.

    Daniel Alexandre: Yeah that’s amazing to me — that’s something that I could’ve never foreseen myself doing before, without Year Up.

    Is Year Up the only hope?

    Paul Solman: So if things are getting worse, is this kind of institution the answer?

    Daniel Alexandre: The problem is unemployment, and that these people don’t have the soft skills or the hard skills to get these kinds of jobs. So what can we do to help them? How about we give them 18 college credits so that they have some sort of education history on their resume. Let’s give them that support system they wouldn’t have had otherwise. I have an adviser, and I’m going to be getting a tutor soon. Now three people are invested in my time and in my life and in my education to push me to be something that I never thought I could be. Where else am I going to find that?

    School isn’t the only answer, but a support system is also an answer because how many people graduate from college and still find themselves unemployed with degrees? You need people who are in positions that you want to be in to invest in you.

    Paul Solman: But is that really going to deliver everyone from the downward spiral of not getting the job, and therefore not getting the education, and therefore not getting the job?

    Shaquilla Boyce: It’ll deliver the people who want it. I have a mentor, I have an adviser, I have a mentor at the Fed and another adviser. My adviser checks on me more than some of my friends do just to say, “How are you, do you need anything, do you need to talk, what’s different, what’s going on?” My mentor sat me down and said, “I’m giving you three weeks to get your college applications in three weeks,” and I said, “Okay, three weeks it is.”

    It takes a lot of faith to look at someone who currently isn’t displaying their full potential and say, “If I invest my time in you, you’re going to become that.” If you also invest your time in yourself, if there’s this two-way relationship, you will become that great thing.

    Paul Solman: What percentage of your friends, if trusted that way and invested in, could become successful members of society?

    Daniel Alexandre: I’d say 100 percent of my friends, if trusted and invested in a way that they’ve never been invested in before.

    Shaquilla Boyce: I agree, I would say 100 percent. It’s about not letting them give up when they feel like they can’t do something. They need someone to say, “Hold on, I’m here, let’s work through it together.”

    Paul Solman: Is there a danger that by picking people who are as articulate and thoughtful as you two guys are that you will be taken out of your communities and the people who remain will be in even worse shape because they don’t have you goading them to achieve more than they have?

    Shaquilla Boyce: I don’t think so. No matter where I go, I can set that stage to say, this is where I came from, this is what I’ve done. It’s really up to me to say that I’m going to keep my hand in the community and inspire other people and help other people and give them the same support that I’ve gotten the whole time.

    The immigrant story

    Paul Solman: Is there something different about immigrants from people of color who were born here? Because it’s striking that you, Shaquilla, are from Barbados and you, Daniel, are from Haiti.

    Shaquilla Boyce:When I got older, I worked at Walgreen’s steady for three years. It just keeps going – you take your books, study, you have to keep, you have to do both. And I think that monetary problems — everyone has them — but I think as an immigrant family you find them more in abundance. But it’s always been that as long as I’m willing to try, there’s someone behind me willing to help. My mom heard about Year Up on the radio on the last day to apply and called me up and said, “Apply right now, go ahead!”

    Immigrant families come with the mentality that you come here to do better. Most of the time you move here as a family, so you really have to internally get together and find a way to do it. A lot of other problems come in when immigrant families don’t know there might be this program you can get your child into — this program that would help them with math, science, English — they don’t know. So it’s kind of always trying to do it on your own.

    Daniel Alexandre: First, it’s the language barrier, and after you finally get over that hump, then there’s the accent that you’ve got to get rid of just so that people can take you at face value and really see who you are.


    Paul Solman talked to inner-city youth last summer about their struggles to find employment.

    The post The soft skills that make Shaquilla just as employable as Shannon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In Mississippi, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran (shown) runs against tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in a Republican runoff election on Tuesday. Photo by Jeffrey Hess

    In Mississippi, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran (shown) runs against tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in a Republican runoff election on Tuesday. Photo by Jeffrey Hess

    Editor’s Note: The most closely watched race Tuesday is the GOP Senate primary runoff in Mississippi, pitting state Sen. Chris McDaniel against six-term Sen. Thad Cochran after neither candidate captured more than 50 percent of the vote June 3. The contest, which has gotten ugly at times, has been cast as a battle between the tea party and the Republican establishment. Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Jeffrey Hess reports on Cochran’s final push for votes Monday, which included an appearance from fellow Navy veteran and longtime colleague Sen. John McCain to play up the incumbent senator’s support for the military. Watch the Rundown for another MPB story on tea-party backed McDaniel later Monday.
    JACKSON, Miss. — Tuesday is a big day for Mississippi voters as they head back to the polls to pick a winner in the Republican Senate primary. Incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel are the only two candidates left in a runoff election. In the final efforts to drive up support for Cochran, the campaign brought out some of its most high-profile supporters.

    “Ladies and gentleman, the United States senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran,” said Governor Phil Bryant as he introduced the incumbent senator to a cheering crowd that gathered at the Mississippi War Memorial Building in Jackson, Miss. on Monday.

    Bryant was just one of a list of high profile politicians who appeared on stage, including Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Rep. Gregg Harper and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

    Surrounded by military veterans, McCain said Cochran’s support of the many military bases in Mississippi is the key reason to support him.

    “You have a friend in Washington, and I have a friend in Washington. A man of distinction, of service, honor and integrity. A man we must send back to Washington,” McCain said.

    Should the Republicans retake the Senate, Cochran is in line to chair the Appropriations Committee, a credential he has repeated throughout his campaign.

    “I think the experience that comes with service on the Defense Appropriation Committee where we analyze the budget request of the president for funding of our Department of Defense and all the related activities coming under their jurisdiction,” Cochran said. “And I think that experience is a very strong asset.”

    Congressman Gregg Harper said the mood of the runoff has changed completely, compared to the primary election that Cochran nearly lost.

    “What I am encouraged by is what I have seen on the ground for Sen. Cochran in the last week to 10 days. It’s a complete change from what I saw before the primary, and the momentum clearly is with Sen. Cochran,” Harper said.

    Cochran’s campaign has tried to broaden its base reaching out to black voters and re-energize apathetic supporters who didn’t vote in the first primary.

    This story was first published on MPB’s website on June 23.

    The post Ahead of GOP runoff election, Thad Cochran makes final campaign push appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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