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

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    Watch an excerpt of an interview with Kurdish Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir. The full interview will air on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    Kurdish Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir said Wednesday that the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq is “determined to go ahead with the referendum” for independence because Iraq has failed politically.

    “We don’t want to stay within an Iraq that has failed,” he told PBS NewsHour chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner in an interview airing in full on Wednesday’s broadcast. “Baghdad does not accept us. Baghdad does not want us as partners. Baghdad does not want to share the power and wealth, and it’s not enough for us.”

    Bakir said Kurdistan is known as a “land of stability,” and it has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and Iraqis fleeing the violence when militants under the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took over cities and towns in northern Iraq last month.

    “We have suffered a lot. We have had a tragic past. We deserve a better future,” he said in defense of the referendum vote.

    He called upon the international community to accept the upcoming Kurdish vote, but even if the U.S. administration says “no,” he said, the vote will still proceed.

    “With all due respect, it’s the people of Kurdistan who decide, and yes, we will go ahead.”

    The post Kurdish official: ‘We don’t want to stay within an Iraq that has failed’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Scientists at the NIH are mapping the activity of thousands of individual neurons inside the brain of a zebrafish as the animal hunts for food.

    In a small, windowless room that houses two powerful electron microscopes, a scientist is searching for the perfect fish brain.

    As the massive machines hum nearby, two gigantic fish eyes loom large, taking up most of a computer screen. The magnified perspective is misleading. The zebrafish is a larva, a newborn, just one week old, and barely six millimeters long. On the screen, it looks grumpy, like it’s frowning.

    Chris Harris, a postdoctoral researcher at the lab, is scrolling through the image. As he zooms in, the eyes become even larger and then disappear altogether, replaced by a glimpse of what lies within and behind them in its brain: a jungle of axons and dendrites and cell bodies — all the stuff that makes up individual neurons.

    He traces the outer edge of one of the cells with a gloved finger. “This layer is the nuclear membrane,” he says. “And just outside of that is the cell body membrane itself.” He points out the mitochondria, the individual axons, which send nerve impulses from one neuron to the next; the branching dendrites, which receive signals; and thick black dots that represent synaptic vesicles — pouches that hold neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals.

    “What I’m looking at is the quality of the tissue,” Harris says. “Are the cell walls distinct? Can I see synaptic vesicles? Can I see myelin?”

    Post-doctoral researcher Chris Harris points the cursor at vesicles, the tiny black bubbles carrying neurotransmitters between brain cells. The heavy black line just below the cursor shows a synapse, a connection between neurons. Those synapses help determine how well a fish captures food. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Postdoctoral researcher Chris Harris points the cursor at vesicles, the tiny black bubbles carrying neurotransmitters between brain cells. The heavy black line just below the cursor shows a synapse, where information flows from one neuron to the next.Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Harris and his team, led by Kevin Briggman at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, are recording the activity of tens of thousands of individual neurons and preparing to create a sort of wiring diagram, a map that shows each cellular connection at the synapse. Such a map is known as a connectome. The goal is to ultimately create a comprehensive atlas of the fish brain — in unprecedented detail. This requires a full reconstruction of every synapse and every vesicle of every individual neuron, along with a recording of the brain’s activity as the fish hunts for food.


    In February 2013, news hummed with the announcement that the Obama administration was planning a decade-long effort to map the human brain. Originally priced at $100 million, the cost estimate was recently revised upward to $4.5 billion by the National Institutes of Health. The ambitious effort has been compared to the Human Genome Project. And also to walking on the moon.

    But in labs across America dizzyingly complex efforts were already underway to map the brains of animals. Briggman’s is one such lab.

    In 1986, a map of a brain of the first living organism was completed – the C. elegans, a tiny, millimeter long roundworm that feeds on bacteria that thrives in rotting fruit, flowers and animals. The effort took more than a decade and required studying 20,000 electron microscope cross sections of the worm. The C. elegans brain contains about 300 neurons.

    The fish brain, on the other hand, has 100,000 neurons. For perspective, the mouse brain is made up of roughly 100 million neurons, and the human brain likely ranges from 86 billion to 100 billion neurons.

    “We try to basically fake out the fish, to trick the fish into thinking it’s looking at a tiny paramecium moving in front of it.”
    Kevin Briggman heads a lab at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke that is trying to map the brain's circuitry. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Kevin Briggman heads a lab at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke that is trying to map the brain’s circuitry. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    “We’re trying to take a similar approach, but to scale it up to vertebrate organisms,” says Briggman, one of 22 researchers to be named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences last week. He adds that they would be the first team to reconstruct a full vertebrate brain at this scale. An organism, in other words, with a spinal cord and the same basic brain architecture, Briggman says, as that of a human.

    It’s hard to believe that a fish brain could be anything like the brains of thinking people who ride bicycles and balance checkbooks and invent driverless cars. But compared to a worm or a snail, they share many of our brain regions. Fish also have a brain stem that controls movement, a cerebellum that modulates those movements, a big olfactory bulb and a forebrain. “Some argue that they even have a hippocampus, which has a role in memory formation and fear,” Harris says. “Everything is there.”

    These brain regions are sized differently in fish. The fish brain is dominated by the visual areas, because vision is so important for hunting food. The olfactory bulb is well developed too, allowing fish to smell chemicals dissolved in water. What fish lack is a developed cerebral cortex, where higher-order thinking takes place in primates and humans.

    Yet while a fish darting after a dot of light may seem to be little more than instinct, the connections underlying the behavior are fairly complex, requiring the use of dozens of brain regions. Briggman describes it this way:

    “It sees a goal, and adapts its behavior. It turns a certain direction, rotates its eyes so its eyes converge on a target, and eventually has to make a decision of whether it’s going to eat this thing or not. There’s some degree of decision-making going on in this behavior.”

    Also, the larva are transparent, which means scientists can see clearly through the young fish skin and into the brain tissue without having to dissect it.

    Of particular importance to Briggman’s team is how these neurons are organized into circuits.

    “A circuit would be just like an electrical circuit,” Briggmann says. “It’s a cluster of neurons that are connected to each other, and the circuits in the brain, in our brains or in the brain of fish, perform certain computations.”

    Chris Harris, a postdoctoral researcher, closes a fish larva into a box as he prepares to view his brain respond to a plankton-like stimulus. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Chris Harris, a postdoctoral researcher, closes a fish larva into a box as he prepares to view its brain as it responds to a plankton-like stimulus. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Harris, 30, is tall with a Swedish accent and a close-cut beard, and he chooses his words thoughtfully when talking about his research. On a recent afternoon in the team’s “wet lab,” he is preparing another week-old zebrafish fish for examination. He adjusts it with tweezers on a small tray and closes it into a black cardboard box, hewn together with duct tape.

    To study the zebrafish brain in action, Harris explains, they must first immobilize it by affixing a light gelatin substance to its neck. That stabilizes the head, but allows the eyes and tail to dart back and forth.

    Later, he will secure it onto a Lego-sized plastic mount, which was built by threading spools of plastic onto a heated nozzle in a 3-D printer that sits on Briggman’s desk. Then he will slide it under a two-photon microscope where he’ll project a stimulus, in this case an L.E.D. micro-projector light that simulates the movement of fish prey like plankton. The neurons in Briggman’s fish have been genetically engineered to glow green each time they fire. So in real time, they can watch the brain networks at work as the fish turns left, turns right and approaches the light. They can watch as it makes the decision to lunge at something and try to capture it.

    Normally, the eyes of the fish lie parallel against the head, but while hunting, they bend forward, endowing the animal with binocular vision. Each flick of the tail brings it closer to its prey.

    “We try to basically fake out the fish, to trick the fish into thinking it’s looking at a tiny paramecium moving in front of it,” Briggman says.

    In this way, they are effectively watching the fish brain make a decision and studying the neural mechanisms at work as it does so.

    “When the light turns on, you see a pulse of activity — neurons lighting up on the screen,” Harris says.

    On a computer screen near the microscope, some nerve cells light up alone against a black backdrop. Others appear tangled in a mess of axons and dendrites. Using a computer program, the team will go on to identify each neuron and circuit that responds to the light.

    Post-doctoral researcher Chris Harris at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke opens the electron microscope, which he uses to examine each neuron in the brain in high resolution. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Post-doctoral researcher Chris Harris at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke opens the electron microscope, which he uses to examine each neuron in the brain in high resolution. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    For these fish, the final destination is the electron microscope, where scientists plunge into a dense, three-dimensional model of the brain. Since axons can be as small as 50 nanometers — that’s 2,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair — imaging them requires a higher resolution than any optical microscope can provide. But a living brain can’t withstand the power of an electron beam, so the fish must be killed and its brain preserved in formaldehyde, embedded in plastic for structural stability, stained with heavy metals and then sliced into tens of thousands of sections with a sharp-edged diamond knife and a device not unlike a miniature deli slicer.

    The heavy metals stain the fatty tissues, which provide enough contrast to see details, while protecting the brain from the powerful blast of high voltage electron beams. “You need conductive material so the electrons don’t get stuck in the plastic surrounding the brain,” Harris says.

    “There’s still a whole class of genes we don’t know,” Emmons said. “Those are genes that determine connections in the nervous system. That’s a major outstanding problem in all of neuroscience.”

    The zebrafish is a good model for studying the vast depths of a brain and how it’s wired, said Scott Emmons, a professor of molecular genetics and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine who is not involved in the research. Emmons and his team recently published a more complete reconstruction of the C. elegans nervous system.

    “The zebrafish is the right size in the sense that it’s really small, but it’s still big in terms of connectomics,” Emmons said. “It’s one of the biggest ones you can reach.”

    And it could help unlock an outstanding mystery in genetics, Emmons said: how brain connections are coded in the genes.

    “There’s still a whole class of genes we don’t know,” Emmons said. “Those are genes that determine connections in the nervous system. That’s a major outstanding problem in all of neuroscience.”

    Once Briggman’s team finds the perfect fish brain — a healthy brain with strong contrast for visualizing the neurons and their networks — they will prepare it for the electron microscope, where it will spend as long as six months collecting 10 terabytes of structural data.

    And then there’s the analysis, which requires following each neuron three-dimensionally through a maze of other neurons.

    “When you’re moving through a data set, you have the perception that you’re flying through this data,” Briggman said.

    Zebrafish and their transparent brains aren’t only useful for mapping. They are increasingly being used as models for certain neurological disorders. Believe it or not, fish can be used to model depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

    “That becomes very relevant to human disease,” Briggman said. “If we see part of the brain wired in a different way in a depressed fish, in a fish that doesn’t eat, or one that overeats or that likes alcohol in the water too much, that gives us something that can be tested in humans.”

    Briggman’s main question is how circuits work within the brain to perform certain computations. For example, to detect motion or encode memories.

    “When you’re moving through a data set, you have the perception that you’re flying through this data,”

    “All of those happen at the level of individual neurons and individual synapses,” he said. “What I hope is that we can learn the general principles of how circuits in the brain do these things. And then test the ideas in higher-order vertebrates and mammals.”

    For Harris, the value of the research also extends beyond the basic mechanics of the fish brain. The fish is a means to understanding something much more conceptual: how the brain can “want” something, he says. As the fish flicks his tail on a screen behind him, he launches into an explanation about dopamine, a natural neurotransmitter involved in the basic experience of pleasure. Chocolate, sex, gambling and nicotine all cause a rush of dopamine in the brain’s reward center.

    “A friend of mine once came to me who was trying to quit smoking, and he just said that he didn’t understand why he kept doing it, because every time he smoked afterwards he felt miserable,” Harris says. “And I told him about dopamine — the fact that dopamine tends to be released before and just when you’re about to get what you want and then for a few moments when you’re getting what you want, but then it drops.”

    It explains, he says, why people chase that initial rush, even though it doesn’t match the lousy feeling that results. Knowing how the brain and its chemicals work might help people tackle self-destructive behavior, for example.

    “Understanding why we fail to follow through on our long-term goals, that’s really a huge thing for me,” he says.

    So what does that have to do with the fish?

    “The machinery that allows us to identify something in the world as important and pursue it…,” Harris says. “All that is there in the fish, and it’s working perfectly.”

    Video edited by Rebecca Jacobson.

    The post Watch ideas light up a fish’s brain appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Following a campaign by gun-control groups, retailing giant Target changed its position on letting armed customers into its stores. In a statement today, interim CEO John Mulligan wrote that Target will now “…respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target — even in communities where it is permitted by law.”

    Target was drawn into the gun debate when “open-carry” gun-rights supporters had visited several Target stores across the country with firearms legally on display. Following these visits, Target said it would continue to abide by local laws, which meant that in many “open-carry” states, shoppers carrying loaded handguns, shotguns and semi-automatic weapons were within their rights.

    Even though Target’s announcement doesn’t explicitly ban customers from bringing weapons into stores, the move was cheered by gun-control groups.

    “Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys,” wrote Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — the gun-control group largely responsible for the public pressure on Target. “Like Chipotle, Starbucks, Facebook, Jack in the Box, Sonic and Chili’s, Target recognized that moms are a powerful customer base and political force – and you can respect the 2nd Amendment and the safety of customers at the same time.”

    Gun rights supporters weren’t so pleased with the annoncement. In the comments section on Target’s website just below today’s statement, pro-gun supporters came out in force, criticizing Target’s move and arguing that by asking citizens to leave their guns at home, Target stores will be more dangerous, not less. Many also vowed to reject the company’s request. Facebook commenter Christoper Ellis wrote, “Request all you want. I carry pretty much everywhere FOR MY PROTECTION and will continue to do so.”

    The post Target tells customers to leave their guns at home appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tropical Storm Arthur neared hurricane strength in the Atlantic Ocean today. By late in the day, it was centered roughly 200 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina. It could skim the Outer Banks of North Carolina tomorrow. A swathe of about 200 miles of North Carolina coast is now under a hurricane warning on this week that brings Fourth of July vacationers. Arthur is the first named storm of the Atlantic season.

    A bipartisan government panel reported today that the National Security Agency’s Internet surveillance is an effective tool against terrorism. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a group appointed by the president, said the so-called PRISM program, under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Section 702, is constitutional.

    David Medine chairs the board.

    DAVID MEDINE, Chair, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: Overall, the board has found that the information the program collects has been valuable and effective in protecting the national security and producing valuable foreign intelligence information.

    Outside of this fundamental core, certain aspects of the Section 702 program do raise privacy concerns and push the program close to the line of constitutional reasonableness.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The panel’s report on Internet surveillance contrasted sharply with its earlier finding on phone data collection. It said that effort lacked a viable legal foundation and should be shut down.

    The federal Department of Homeland Security is moving to increase security at overseas airports with direct flights to the United States. News accounts today said U.S. officials are concerned that al-Qaida operatives in Syria and Yemen are trying to create bombs to smuggle on to planes. The new security measures will take effect in the next few days. Officials didn’t specify which airports are affected.

    Israeli police and Palestinian youths fought street battles in Jerusalem today, as a new cycle of violence loomed. The clashes were triggered by the murder overnight of a Palestinian teenager.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports from Jerusalem.

    LINDSEY HILSUM, ITN: The clashes began this morning after a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was allegedly kidnapped by Israeli youths in a van and his burnt body dumped in a forest in Jewish West Jerusalem.

    The air is acrid from the smoke of tires that the Palestinian youths are burning as they throw stones at the Israeli security forces. This seems to have been what some Israelis call price tag, a revenge killing, extreme Israelis, possibly settlers, taking revenge for the killing of the three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank.

    Mohammad Abu Khdeir was outside the mosque when he was seized. The police have CCTV footage from a next-door shop that apparently shows what happened.

    Inside the family home, his relatives sit in shock.

    SUBA ABU KHDEIR (through interpreter): For three people, they turned the world upside down. But nobody cares about my son.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Last night, a crowd of extremist Israelis rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem shouting, “Death to the Arabs.”  They attacked five Arab men, two of whom ended up in hospital. This morning, Jewish settlers reportedly burnt a barn on a Palestinian farm near Nablus. The graffiti in Hebrew reads: “Price tag, Jewish revenge.”

    This afternoon, they held the funeral of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian boy in the wrong place at the wrong time. The danger now is that someone will exact vengeance for his killing and the cycle of revenge will never end.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, the White House called the killing of the Palestinian teenager a despicable act. It urged both sides to tamp down calls for revenge.

    In Eastern Ukraine, government forces say they carried out more than 100 attacks on pro-Russian rebels. The offensive began yesterday after the country’s leader let a cease-fire lapse. Meanwhile, foreign ministers from France, Ukraine, Germany and Russia met in Berlin.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Moscow may face additional sanctions.

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): Regarding sanctions against Russia, we have so far reached level two and we cannot rule out having to go further. We discussed this as well with the Ukrainian president and many issues will be further discussed in connection with this issue. But no decision has been made yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, the ministers agreed on a series of steps leading toward a possible resumption of the cease-fire.

    Police in Hong Kong forcibly removed hundreds of sit-in protesters in the city’s financial district today. Officers moved in around 3:00 a.m. after issuing a series of warnings to demonstrators who locked arms with each other. More than 500 were arrested. The protesters had staged an overnight sit-in, following yesterday’s mass march, demanding elections free from mainland China’s control.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 20 points to close at another record high, 16,976. The S&P 500 added one point to finish at 1,974, also a new high. But the Nasdaq fell about a point to 4,457.

    The post News Wrap: Israeli police clash with Palestinians over murder of teenager appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The militia leader accused of involvement in the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, had his second day in an American federal court today.

    Abu Khattala was captured last month by the U.S. military. This past Saturday, he pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges. The attack resulted in the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

    Here to tell us more about this case and what happened today is New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who was in the court room.

    Michael, welcome to the NewsHour.

    So, tell us, what did you see? What did you hear?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT, The New York Times: Today was fairly uneventful.

    It started with 10 minutes in the courtroom where they couldn’t get the hearing device that Mr. Khattala was supposed to wear to hear his translator to work. It was sort of embarrassing for the court.

    And then, after that, the government came in and laid out their case for why they think he should continue to be held. It was similar to papers they had filed last night, in which they said he continued to plan threats — I mean, plan thoughts against the United States in the past few months.

    And they said that he had nowhere to go in the United States because he has no family here and he was likely to flee. After that, his lawyer came up and said, look, we can’t really question your contention that you want to hold him, but we do have some concerns about the case. You haven’t really provided us with a lot of evidence to back up what you have said about my client.

    And from there, the government came back and said, well, we gave you some stuff and we will be giving you more over next few days. The judge ordered for him to remain in detention, and that was it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, did the government provide any evidence linking Khattala to what happened?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, the government has yet to provide any evidence that he was involved in the killings. That has not happened yet.

    What the government has said is that it has videotape and eyewitness accounts that show that he was at the mission when they went back there after the first fires were set, and then he was with other of his militia members at one of their training camps before they went to the CIA annex and attacked that and killed two more Americans.

    They have not given specific information, though, on his role in any of the violence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re saying that they’re suggesting they have that kind of evidence or not?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Yes, they’re suggesting they have that.

    The thing here is they have not played all their cards yet. They have only indicted him on one count. And that’s a count of conspiring — a terrorist conspiracy charge. They haven’t gone as far as the murder charges yet, because they’re still working on that evidence and they’re looking at what he said and what other stuff that they may have.

    So they — we have not seen everything yet. We have only seen a little.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, and, as you just reported, his lawyer, the publicly appointed — or the government-appointed public defender, challenged them on the evidence. Is this going to be the defense? Or is this just the early, I guess, posturing?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: No, this is still very early. This is sort of posturing.

    The government — I find it hard to bereave the government would have gone all the way over to Libya and used the Defense Department to do that without having a lot of evidence really to base their case on and to bring him all the way back here.

    I think what the lawyer’s trying say, he’s trying to push the government as far as it can to learn as much as she can as possible, because it’s unclear what her client has told her. And there’s only really so much she knows. As she said today, I have to look at press reports to learn about what the government knows.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Schmidt, tell us more how Khattala himself seemed. What did he look like?  How did he behave?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, he’s fairly calm.

    There’s no outbursts or anything like that that have happened. He has — and he’s said very little. The first day that he came in, he wore this black sweatshirt and black sweatpants with — that had a hood. And it wasn’t a typical uniform that would worn by someone in jail.

    Today, he was wearing a green jumpsuit that said “prisoner” on the back in white lettering.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And is very much known about — I’m sorry if you’re having trouble with your earpiece there.

    But is very much known about what happened to him on Navy ship where he was held while they were bringing him to the U.S.?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, what we do know is that he spoke with the interrogators there, and he spoke with them as part of sort of an intelligence-gathering discussion.

    They were trying to question him under a public safety exemption that allowed them to ask him what did he know about planned attacks or about past attacks or about anything that may sort of impact public safety.

    Beyond that, we know that he’s cooperated with them. He’s told them what he knows about — about some of the events that happened on that day, but what we don’t know is whether he’s told them anything about his role in it. We don’t believe he’s incriminated himself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly finally, Michael, what happens next?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, he’s scheduled to appear before a judge next week, in which they will discuss — and this is actually the judge who will be handling the case.

    The first two judges that he’s seen have just been judges that have — that he’s given a plea to and that have discussed his detention. Next week, it’s the judge who is going to have the actual case. Could a judge set a date for a trial? Yes, possibly. But, probably, there will be more discussions about the evidence in the case, about the indictment, about what else the government may have.

    So we really won’t get — we won’t get to sort of that meaty stuff until then.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

    Michael Schmidt with The New York Times, we thank you.


    The post Government still building case against Benghazi suspect appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the crisis in Iraq, where dozens more were killed today.

    Here in Washington, Kurdish leaders are making their case for independence, despite pleas from the Obama administration to keep Iraq intact.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: The city of Tikrit has echoed with gunfire this week, as Iraqi troops battle to regain control from Sunni militants of the Islamic State, or ISIL.

    Today, 100 miles away, in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned Iraq’s neighbors that the fighting there is just a sample of what could face them too.

    NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through interpreter): Whether it’s al-Qaida or ISIL, their transformation to a caliphate is a message to all states in the region that you are inside the red circle now. ISIL talked about the state of Iraq and the Levant and now talks about a caliphate. No one in Iraq or any neighboring country will be safe from these plans.

    MARGARET WARNER: Maliki voiced hope that Iraq’s parliament will agree on a new unity government next week. But the Shiite political leader gave no indication he’d bow to pressure from Sunnis and Kurds to step down.

    Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed autonomy in Northeastern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. Millions of other Kurds live in parts of Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Now Iraq’s Kurds are taking advantage of Baghdad’s battle with the insurgents. On June 12, they took control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a long-running source of dispute with Baghdad.

    At the same time, their Peshmerga militia blocked encroachments by ISIL fighters and fortified new front lines. And Kurdish leaders are now vowing to hold a vote on independence, a move Prime Minister Maliki denounced today.

    NOURI AL-MALIKI (through interpreter): Nobody has the right to take advantage of the current situation or to say, we are going to hold a referendum on establishing an independent Kurdish state. I tell the Kurdish people now that this will hurt you, and it will send the region into a disarray that you will not be able to get out of.

    MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. is also concerned. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Irbil last week with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, urging him to works things out with Baghdad.

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    MARGARET WARNER: Today, in Washington, Kerry received other Kurdish leaders, including Falah Mustafa Bakir, foreign relations chief for Kurdish regional government.

    I spoke with him this morning.

    Prime Minister Bakir, thank you for joining us.

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Kurdistan Regional Government: Thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: We have seen the collapse of the Iraqi army up in the northern part of the country, in the face both the Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and your own Kurdish fighters who seized all this territory up there, including Kirkuk.

    Are we simply seeing the collapse of the Iraqi state?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: Iraq as a state didn’t exist that much.

    Iraq is an artificial state. And what’s built here on wrong foundations will not be able to survive. We as Kurds have suffered a lot. And we pay the price of keeping the balance between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq. Time has come in order to correct that historical mistake.

    And we’re not ready to pay more prices for the instability of that area. The Iraqi army collapsed because it was built or rebuilt on wrong foundations. It wasn’t an army in order to protect the country and the people of the country against external threats.

    It was used against the Kurds when we had political differences with Baghdad. Therefore, we lost hope in the new Iraq. This wasn’t the Iraq that we have contributed so positively, and this wasn’t the Iraq that Americans have sacrificed their lives for.

    MARGARET WARNER: So this additional territory that the Kurds have taken, you’re building fortifications around it now, this is for good?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: We have not taken new territory.

    It was our territory that was taken by others. So we have waited for 10 years in order to implement a three-stage process of normalization (INAUDIBLE) and referendum. Indeed, we have been betrayed. We didn’t find a partner. So, therefore, today, we moved in to protect the people of these areas, regardless of their national, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

    It our areas, but still we said that it’s the people of these areas. In a referendum, they will decide whether they want to be part of Kurdistan or not. We’re not (INAUDIBLE)

    MARGARET WARNER: So, when your president, Barzani, says there is going to be referendum on independence, that’s for certain, and, if so, how soon?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: We have done everything we could in order to help the political process succeed in Iraq, but it didn’t succeed.

    People are not ready for sharing the power and wealth. People are ready only for monopolization of power, for denying others their power. Therefore, we are determined to go ahead with the referendum. It’s the people of Kurdistan who would determine their own future. And we hope — call upon the international community to understand our position.

    In the last decade or so, we have introduced a successful experience of government. We are a land of stability. We are proud of our cultural tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, is that your message to the administration coming here, that essentially you have not left Iraq, Iraq left you, Baghdad left you, and now the Kurds are going their own way?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: Not only Baghdad left us. Baghdad betrayed us.

    Therefore, we are working on two paths, one path to help the political process in Baghdad if there were any hope for it to succeed. Otherwise, we have to go our own way through a referendum for the people of Kurdistan to determine that.

    And we hope that the U.S. administration understands our position, looks at Kurdistan for what it stands for. We have been the most loyal and faithful friend and ally of the United States. We stand for the same values that you stand for, freedom, democracy, human rights, women’s rights. And we are proud of our history.

    MARGARET WARNER: Is there anything at this point that could keep Kurdistan within Iraq?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: Well, there is no hope for us. We don’t want to stay with an Iraq that has failed. We are not ready to repeat a failed experience.

    Baghdad doesn’t accept us. Baghdad doesn’t want us as partners. Baghdad doesn’t want to share the power and wealth. And it’s enough for us.

    MARGARET WARNER: How has this message that you have already conveyed both publicly and privately been received by the Obama administration?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: Not that positively.

    We hoped that, during our visit, there would be much more reception to that, because we are friends of the United States. And we are for a long-term relationship, but we want it to be a two-way relationship.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, what is the administration saying to you?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: They say, let’s fix Baghdad.

    But we don’t want it to be at the expense of the Kurds. We have suffered a lot. We, the people of Kurdistan, have challenged Saddam Hussein. Chemical gas was used against us. Our people need and deserve a better future, and we hope that the U.S. understands this position.

    MARGARET WARNER: Have you been planning this all along, as many people thought, or has the sudden advance of this Sunni militant group ISIL, ISIL, did it create an opportunity that suddenly the Kurds could exploit?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: Not really.

    All the way through, we have been thinking about that. We wanted to have an independent state of our own. But the reality on the ground was difficult. The neighborhood is a difficult one. And the circumstances internationally was such, but we have never given up on our identity.

    MARGARET WARNER: But then the sudden advance of ISIL essentially upended the chess board, and you think now that the world is more ready to see this situation from the Kurds’ point of view?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: After the events on the 9th of June, when ISIL came and occupied a new territory, we woke up in the morning, and we have got a new neighbor. A new state emerged next to us.

    And we have 1,035 kilometers with that new neighbor, which is the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, only 15 kilometers with the rest of Iraq. So, this is a new reality.

    We’re determined to fight terrorism, and Kurdistan is the only state that has secured part of Iraq. But we need the support of the United States and the international community to strengthen our democratic institutions and to be able to fight the terrorists.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you feel you need a green light from the administration to go forward with this?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: We hope that the U.S. administration and the U.S. public understands, as a friend and ally, as a people who are looking to the West, as a people who want to strengthen our democratic institutions would stand by us.

    MARGARET WARNER: But if the administration said to you, no, now is not the time, would you still go ahead with independence?

    FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR: With all due respect, it’s the people of Kurdistan who decide. And, yes, we will go ahead.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Minister, thank you.


    The post Kurds don’t want to ‘fix Baghdad’ at their expense, says Kurdish foreign chief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by  Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

    Photo by Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg garnered a lot of media attention this week for her scathing dissent on the Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, and it has not all come from the usual sources. Outside the pages of major newspapers and scholarly law reviews, the dissent is fast becoming immortalized within the worlds of social media and popular culture. Songwriter Jonathan Mann set the justice’s words to music (taking some poetic license) in a popular YouTube video that has been picked up by everyone from the Washington Post to People and Buzzfeed.

    NYU Law student Shana Knizhnik was ahead of the curve in predicting Ginsburg’s appeal to a wider Internet audience. She created the Tumblr page Notorious R.B.G. in the summer of 2013, after being inspired by Ginsburg’s strong dissent in the voting rights case, Shelby County v. Holder. An excerpt from that dissent, in Knizhnik’s words “the zinger that started it all,” was the first post on the site. Notorious R.B.G. has since grown to include memes, GIFs, childhood photos, and some truly impressive reader art.

    An assortment of R.B.G. t-shirts are also available through the site. Knizhnik created the first t-shirt the same night she created the Tumblr, and admits they have sold “more than I ever expected.” She often sees NYU Law classmates wearing the shirts around campus, and recently spotted one while out at a bar in D.C., where she is working for the summer.

    Knizhnik is not surprised by the site’s popularity among mainstream Tumblr users. “Ginsburg is a particularly feisty dissenter… she writes with such passion and such force,” she explains, noting the contrast between Ginsburg’s often fiery language and her demure appearance. It is this juxtaposition, Knizhnik feels, that makes the justice a “perfect fit” for the heavily visual Tumblr platform.

    Knizhnik also relates to Ginsburg on a personal level. As a Jewish woman poised to embark on her own legal career, she finds Ginsburg, the second female and first Jewish justice to serve on the Court, “incredibly inspiring.”

    “If she were to see the blog, which I am sure she has at this point, I would want her not to be offended,” Knizhnik declares. In spite of its playful name and nature, Notorious R.B.G. is meant, above all, to be “a celebration of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a public figure.”

    The post Ruth Bader Ginsburg is emerging as an Internet sensation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Belgium v USA: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: America’s exciting run in the World Cup may be over, but these past two weeks have generated a new level of interest in the future of the U.S. team and in the sport itself.

    Almost 22 million people in the United States watched the match against Belgium yesterday, strong numbers, and particularly so on a work day, higher than the average ratings for the NBA finals or the World Series.

    And, today, there’s still plenty of talk about what lies ahead.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From sea to shining sea yesterday, Americans embraced the role of soccer nation.

    CROWD: I believe that we will win!  I believe that we will win!

    CROWD: I believe that we can win!

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even President Obama joined in the fun, taking in the match with a group of White House staffers.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Go, go, go. Whoa, that’s a foul.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. squad forced Belgium into extra time, before falling 2-1, despite the heroics of American goal keeper Tim Howard, who had a World Cup record 16 saves.

    Howard spoke this morning on ABC.

    TIM HOWARD, Goalkeeper, U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team: Our heads are high because we couldn’t have given any more. We played four phenomenal games, and last night everybody — everybody gave everything they had, and sometimes you don’t win, but we’re proud of ourselves.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, speaking just after the match, saw a big upside for American soccer.

    JURGEN KLINSMANN, Head Coach, U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team: We now know that we can play eye to eye with the big nations. The teams that we faced here are pretty much everyone’s favorites to win the World Cup.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As for the fans, the outcome produced a full spectrum of reactions, some serious, some less so.

    MAN: But I feel that we played our hearts out. We did an amazing job. And I look forward to the future. I can’t wait. I cannot wait.

    MAN: I’m boycotting Belgian waffles, chocolates, Stella Artois.

    MAN: Everything Belgian is boycotted in Brooklyn.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. Soccer Federation praised the fans in a message to more than one million Twitter followers. It read: “Thank you for your support, passion and pride the whole World Cup.”

    In the meantime, the competition continues Friday with two matches featuring World Cup powers: Germany v.s. France and Colombia against host nation Brazil.

    And with me now is a woman who knows something about goalkeeping and World Cup madness. Briana Scurry tended goal for the 1999 American team that won the women’s World Cup after she made a crucial save. She’s also a two-time gold medal winner in the Olympics as part of the U.S. team. She retired in 2010 after an illustrious career, but also after suffering a severe head injury.

    And welcome to you.

    BRIANA SCURRY, Former Goalkeeper, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team: Thanks for having me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I had to laugh.

    Tim Howard told an interviewer, with so many shots coming at him, he said, it began to feel like the clock was broken.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you know the feeling?

    BRIANA SCURRY: Yes. I’m sure his minutes seemed like an eternity.

    Tim had a fantastic game yesterday. You couldn’t have asked more from him. And being a goalkeeper myself, I understand what it feels like, can we get to the end of the game already, because you’re playing a great game, which he did do, and he just wanted his team to be able to move forward in the tournament. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to do that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m sure this is different for everyone, but I wonder your experience, in watching him — when you’re in goal like that and the shots just keep coming…


    JEFFREY BROWN: … are you thinking, oh, my goodness, it’s one of those days, they just won’t stop, or are you just laser-focused, like, you’re not even aware of how many shots you have saved?

    BRIANA SCURRY: Well, it was interesting, because Belgium was coming at him wave after wave after wave.

    But in watching the game, watching how Tim’s positioning was, he was dialed in. He was a warrior.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When you say positioning, explain what you mean.

    BRIANA SCURRY: OK. By positioning, I mean his angle in the goal as compared to where the person is with the ball.

    And so, as you saw, most of the time, you couldn’t get the ball past him because his angle play was so spectacular. And that’s because he was focused on this game, and he knew that he might have to take the weight of the team on his shoulders. And at this point in the tournament, when it’s round-robin, it’s one thing, but when it’s the knockout phase, sometimes, a goalkeeper can carry team through a situation.

    And he definitely did that yesterday.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that’s the key to goaltending, is the positioning?

    BRIANA SCURRY: It is. It’s always been the key. The positioning…

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s always about the angles?

    BRIANA SCURRY: Yes. It doesn’t necessarily matter how it looks, just as long as it’s effective. And he was definitely more than effective yesterday.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so it was a loss, but it’s being seen as a great — this whole experience is being seen as great victory for American soccer. Now, what has to happen to maintain that, you know, to make it more than just a once-every-four-years experience?


    This World Cup was one of the first that had social media just all over it. And I think that was the one thing that got people more involved, feeling like they were part of team USA, was the social media. The players were very blue-collar, very American, very much roll up your sleeves and get it done.

    They may not have been the best team on the pitch, but they sure worked hard. And I think a lot of Americans could relate to that. And so I think now, moving forward, we have got a new fan base bubbling up. And so now U.S. soccer and all its entities need to take that momentum forward and grow the game.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that can happen through the professional game here, through young people? You think that can be maintained?

    BRIANA SCURRY: I definitely think it can be maintained. We have got a great momentum right now. If anything in soccer works, it works for everybody, so whether it’s the men’s team doing well or the women’s team doing well.

    And this event really put soccer into the mainstream. And so we need to grab on to that momentum and keep going forward with it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, now, even while celebrating what’s happened, you’re also trying to raise awareness of a problem in this sport, which is head injuries, not just for this sport, but, as we have discussed on this program, for many sports.


    JEFFREY BROWN: And it’s something you experienced firsthand. First, how big a problem is it for the sport? What should people know?

    BRIANA SCURRY: Well, what people should know is that concussion in female soccer is the second highest rate of concussions.

    So it’s alarming. It’s alarming. Our youth players, females in particular, are having more concussions reported than just about any other sport. And now, with the World Cup being as successful as it’s been there, there are going to be more kids playing. So, actually, youth safety with concussions is even more important now than before, because you’re going to have more youth wanting to play, and we need to keep our kids safe.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Your own experience came in 2010. Right? It wasn’t what we think of — the headers is where we think probably a lot of concussions, head-to-head injuries.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Yours was a — what, a knee to your head?


    I was playing goal for my team, the Washington Freedom. We were playing Philadelphia. And I was coming out for a routine low ball, bending over to pick it up. And their forward came in and tried to get in front of me and she ended up crashing her knee into the right side of my head.

    And, unfortunately, with concussions, it’s oftentimes not head to ball. It’s head to head, head to knee, head to post, these kinds of things, where the side impacts are the worst impacts. And, unfortunately, in April, that’s what happened to me, 2010. And it changed my life. And it hasn’t been the same since.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How much awareness of it is there even to this day? In the World Cup, there was at least one incident that got a lot of attention. A player from Uruguay was knocked cold. And then he came back and played.

    BRIANA SCURRY: Right. Yes. That was unfortunate a situation.

    FIFA didn’t handle that properly. That Uruguayan player was knocked out for at least, like you said, 10 to 15 minutes, and they actually let him decide whether or not he should continue play. At that point, you want to take that decision out of the player’s hands.

    And clear to the medical staff and the officials, it should have been, at least, in my opinion, that that player should have been done for the rest of that game, because there is no reason to risk it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So when that happens, how — well, how did it change your life?

    BRIANA SCURRY: I have many different symptoms that I suffer through, and I continue to deal with.

    One was really very difficult headaches, intense headaches. I have balance issues. I had problems with memory, concentration, learning, retrieving information. I had a basket of symptoms. And it took me three years to even get to the right doctor to be able to diagnose what I had going on and to be able to get me on the road to recovery.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you briefly, for now, because we will continue our conversation online, but what do you think should be done? Is it an equipment problem?  Is it stopping headers, for example? Is it a training issue? What should be done?

    BRIANA SCURRY: The solution with concussion awareness is multifaceted.

    There are things that can be done on the prevention side. One of those things that I am in favor of is not teaching kids how to head until they’re 13, 14 years old. There is no need for an 8-year-old to be heading the ball.

    We know that is true. And then, after the concussion happens, knowing what to look for as a player, as a coach, as a parent, understanding the differences in your child, in your player, and knowing that, you know what, we might need to take this player out and be safe and get them back in when they’re ready.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right. We will continue this conversation. I’m going to invite our audience to join us later online.

    But, for now, Briana Scurry, thank you so much.

    BRIANA SCURRY: Thank you for having me.

    The post World Cup is a win for American soccer despite U.S. loss appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    50 years on  CIVIL RIGHTS monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today marks 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act into law, outlawing discrimination based on race, ethnicity and sex.

    Gwen talked recently with author Todd Purdum on Capitol Hill to discuss his new book, “An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” a detailed backstory of how the legislation came to be.

    GWEN IFILL: Todd Purdum, author of “An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” thank you so much.

    One of the interesting things about this book I find is that, as we sit here on Capitol Hill, there are so many people who most folks have never heard of who really were the force behind the Civil Rights Act.

    TODD PURDUM, Author, “An Idea Whose Time Has Come”: No, absolutely.

    I mean, one of them worked here in this building in the Judiciary Committee Hearing Room, Congressman Bill McCulloch from Ohio. He was the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, rock-ribbed conservative from West Central Ohio. His district is represented today by John Boehner.

    And he was just as conservative as John Boehner in most ways, but he was a fierce supporter of civil rights. His ancestors had been abolitionists before the Civil War, and as a young man out of law school at Ohio State, he’d gone to practice down in Jacksonville, Florida, and was appalled by Jim Crow segregation, and made it his business to become a strong supporter of federal civil rights legislation.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s easy to look at the way things happen on Capitol Hill now and the way they happened then, and you have to think to yourself, where does a Bill McCulloch get the room to run, to be that kind of advocate?

    TODD PURDUM: Yes, I mean, he had a population in his district that was 2.7 percent black, but he had something else, which was, the Republican Party in those days still took very seriously its legacy as the party of Lincoln and the party of civil rights.

    And remember that, for most of the 20th century, to the degree that either party was paying attention to civil rights, it really was the Republicans. Most black people in the South were Republicans. So McCulloch made a deal with the Kennedy administration when they proposed the bill.

    He said, if you promise not to water this down in the Senate, as had been the usual practice, and if you promise to give us Republicans equal credit going into next year’s presidential election, I will bring along my Republican Caucus. And that’s just what happened.

    But could you imagine that happening today, one party removing the single most contentious domestic issue, as a political issue, and working cooperatively?

    GWEN IFILL: A greater percentage of Republicans in the Senate in the end voted for it than Democrats.

    TODD PURDUM: By far, because the Senate Democrats were totally divided on the question of civil rights, the Southerners, 18 Southerners lockstep in unison against any change.

    And if it weren’t for the Republican leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois and his colleagues, they could never have achieved cloture and passed the bill.

    GWEN IFILL: Bill McCulloch’s partner in all of this was a Democrat who was very much unlike him. He was from an urban area, Emanuel Celler from New York.

    TODD PURDUM: Yes, from Brooklyn. He was an immigration lawyer. He was a staunch defender of liberalism in all its guises.

    He’d been in Congress for already by this point something more than 40 years. And he and McCulloch were polar opposites in many ways, but they were close friends, and they and their wives socialized together. So while McCulloch was trying to work with the Kennedy administration, Manny Celler was having to deal with the civil rights coalition and the advocacy groups who wanted the strongest possible bill.

    And in the fall of 1963, they came to kind of a clash because the administration was afraid that the bill would be so loaded up with a Christmas tree of items that it couldn’t pass, and they had to work to work a compromise.

    GWEN IFILL: In the popular retelling, Lyndon Johnson gets a huge amount of credit, a great deal of which he deserves, in getting this bill through the House and the Senate just by sheer force of will.

    You describe him in the book as a riddle — a sprawling riddle wrapped in an enigma. I love that term. So what was it about Lyndon Johnson that deserved the credit for getting this through, and how much of the credit did he not deserve?

    TODD PURDUM: Well, the credit he deserves is being fiercely in favor of it, and never compromising, never weakening the bill.

    After all, his reputation was as a master wheeler-dealer, who in 1957 and 1960 had watered down the civil rights bills so they could pass the Senate. But, in this case, he said, we’re going to pass the bill the Kennedy administration had. It’s going to be a strong bill. I’m going to sort of make my bona fides on civil rights, and there’s not going to be any doubt about it.

    He never wiggled. But the other thing that I think is quite admirable and against the popular image, he had to restrain himself, he had to hold himself in check. He knew that he couldn’t go in and micromanage the process in the Senate, because his former colleagues would resent him.

    So even though he resisted it and he was champing at the bit at the pace that Hubert Humphrey, the floor leader, and Mike Mansfield, the majority leader, were setting, he let them have their day, and they prevailed.

    GWEN IFILL: You tell a story about — some point during the debate, there was a black man in the gallery who was watching this as a citizen. What happened to him?

    TODD PURDUM: Well, he said, this is crazy. There’s not a single black person on the floor. You’re talking about 10 percent of the population here. How can you be doing this?

    He was taken off to Washington Hospital for mental observation, but it was a very reasonable statement to have made.

    GWEN IFILL: It was a reasonable point. But there were a lot of African-Americans civil rights activists, Clarence Mitchell among them, who were basically in the gallery watching.

    TODD PURDUM: All the time. All the time.

    There were five black members of Congress, but we forget people like Clarence Mitchell, who was the chief NAACP lobbyist in Washington. He was such a constant presence in the corridors of this building and the Capitol that he was known as the 101st senator.

    And he was there day and night; in fact, he and his colleague Joe Rauh, who was with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, when the bill was about ready to pass the House, they were in the gallery, and they got a frantic call from the White House operator that the president’s trying to find them wanting to know what they’re going to do about the Senate, before it’s even passed the House.


    GWEN IFILL: Before it even passed the House.

    It’s interesting because, when you look back on it now, there were all these pressures coming from all these different angles, but in the end, was it a legislative victory, was it a moral victory? What was really driving people to what we — to the outcome?

    TODD PURDUM: Well, that’s a great question.

    And I think at the end of the day, you have to say it was a moral victory, because it wasn’t just the insiders here on Capitol Hill who were doing it. There was a massive grassroots coalition of church groups, interfaith groups of all kinds, not just Dr. King and the SCLC and the marchers on Washington, but people in their communities day after day lobbying their members, knowing that, you know, this person was a Catholic and that person was a Methodist, and you should bring to bear.

    And it was really President Kennedy in his speech proposing the bill who said, we face primarily a moral issue. It’s as old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution. And at the end of the day, even the Southerners said, you couldn’t fight the golden rule. You couldn’t fight do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s the most basic idea of fairness.

    GWEN IFILL: Fifty years later, it’s hard to remember why people objected to what seems to be a given now, equal rights and a level playing field, which is how Johnson put it.

    But, at the time, this was an argument which was familiar to us now, which is an argument against government expansion and government expansion over basic people’s control.

    TODD PURDUM: This was going to be a government takeover. This was going to be a usurpation of private property rights.

    This was going to tell businessmen who they had to serve and who they — it’s so much like the arguments that were made against the Affordable Care Act, that you can’t force people to buy insurance. That’s un-American. That’s — it’s going to destroy the Constitution. It’s going to create an army of snoops from Washington. It’s going to — and it’s very, that part of the argument that was in fact — sounded very familiar to me as I was doing my research.

    And it occurred to me there’s probably not any nasty e-mail that could ever cross President Obama’s desk that would too much surprise John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson in terms of the kind of vituperative mail they got.

    GWEN IFILL: As you were working on this book and you looked back in that 50-year span, did you — and you have spent a lot of time in Washington covering the issues of the day. Do you feel like Washington has grown in that time, or did it stop? Did its ability to do big things end then?

    TODD PURDUM: It seems that the poignant part of this story is that this and the Voting Rights Act are two of the last great achievements Congress managed to do.

    And in some ways, the coalition that brought these bills into being began to splinter as the ’60s wore on, and debates grew up about affirmative action and busing and Vietnam. Dr. King and Lyndon Johnson were essentially estranged at the time of his death because of Vietnam.

    So the paradox for me is that, 50 years ago, the country was every bit as divided as it is now, probably more divided. But the Congress still managed to work together. Now Congress is much more divided than the country as a whole, partly because the districts are redder and redder and bluer and bluer, and people are worried not about losing in November, but getting a primary from the right or the left.

    So I do worry that we have lost something essential that we really — we really depended on 50 years ago. And just as we seem awfully lucky to have had the particular cast of characters we did at the time of the founding, it seems to me that 50 years ago, we were pretty lucky to have that cast of characters too.

    GWEN IFILL: Todd Purdum, the author of “An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” thank you so much.

    TODD PURDUM: Thanks so much for having me.

    The post How the Civil Rights Act changed America appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    DISPUTED ELECTION  monitor afghanistan

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Uncertainty still reigns in Afghanistan over who will be the country’s next leader, weeks after a presidential runoff election.

    Preliminary results had been scheduled to be released today, but were delayed after continued allegations of fraud.

    NPR reporter Sean Carberry has been covering the story from Kabul. And I spoke with him a short time ago.

    Sean, thank you very much for talking with us.

    First of all, fill us in on what’s happened today.

    SEAN CARBERRY, NPR: Well, what actually didn’t happen today was the election commission didn’t release the preliminary results from the runoff election.

    What they did announce is that they’re conducting an audit of about 1,900 ballot boxes, which consist of roughly a million-plus ballots that they’re reviewing. This audit was triggered by a determination that any ballot box containing more than 599 ballots, although the maximum number is 600, will be audited to make sure there was no fraud.

    And this comes as a result of persistent calls by candidate Abdullah Abdullah, who has said from the moment the polls closed in the runoff election that there was widespread fraud against him. And he’s been pushing aggressively for measures such as this to conduct audits and evaluate the vote.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know Abdullah has been calling on this for several days. Why did election officials finally agree to go ahead and have this recount?

    SEAN CARBERRY: He has been. And it got to a point where he’s been releasing supposedly audio evidence, recordings of elections officials, other officials who were allegedly involved in coordinating fraud for the opponent, Ashraf Ghani.

    So there’s been a building pressure from the Abdullah camp. It got to be point that the United Nations has stepped in and has been doing behind-the-scenes negotiations with the campaigns and with the elections commission to try to find a way forward, where Abdullah will eventually accept the results that are determined by the commission, whether or not the results show he won or Ashraf Ghani won.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So is Abdullah satisfied with the procedure at this point?

    SEAN CARBERRY: He’s satisfied with this step. He’s sent a letter to the election commission with a number of demands, with a number of conditions for him to ultimately accept the outcome. So, this is one step. He says it’s a start.

    But he wants to see a number of other audits. He wants to see a number of other measures taken to determine whether there was fraud and to remove fraudulent ballots. But he says, ultimately, if it gets to a point where the fraud has been excised from the vote count, he will accept the outcome.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, who, as you pointed out, had almost a million votes more than Abdullah in the runoff?


    Ashraf Ghani has basically been taking the high road since the vote. He’s been saying they won the election, they ran a better mobilization campaign before the runoff, they turned out more people, they won this fair and square, there is not widespread fraud on his behalf.

    He’s been calling on Abdullah to honor the election commission process and procedure. He’s been critical of Abdullah’s pressure from outside the system and his withdrawal from the system. So he’s basically convinced that the numbers he’s seeing show that he is going to be the winner of this election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So is Ghani accepting this recount process? Will he abide by it?

    SEAN CARBERRY: He is, grudgingly.

    He last night sent out a press release calling on the election commission to release the results today, saying they must honor the time frame and respect the Afghan people by giving them the results. Today, his campaign softened a bit and said they are concerned with the ultimate transparency of the outcome.

    Again, they believe there’s no fraud on their behalf, so they are accepting this, but they’re still continuing to put pressure on Abdullah and the election commission to adhere to the timelines and the procedures set out by Afghan law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Sean, how long is all this supposed to take before we know the results?

    SEAN CARBERRY: The final results are supposed to come out on July 22. After these preliminary results come out, which are now scheduled for Monday, there’s another appeal period, another fraud evaluation period, and final results are scheduled for July 22.

    Afghan officials say that this delay in the preliminary results will not affect the timing of the release of the final results.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: NPR’s Sean Carberry in Kabul, thank you very much.

    SEAN CARBERRY: You’re welcome, Judy.

    The post Alleged fraud halts progress in Afghan presidential election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Tonight on NewsHour, Brianna Scurry, former goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national soccer team praised the record-breaking performance of American goalkeeper Tim Howard in yesterday’s game against Belgium.

    “I’m sure every minute seemed like eternity. Tim had a fantastic game yesterday. You couldn’t have asked more from him. Being a goalkeeper myself, I understand what it feels like – can we get to the end of the game already?” Scurry said.

    She stressed the importance of positioning of the goalkeeper in each play, continually praising Howard’s angle play and focus on the game.

    Tuesday’s World Cup match ended in a loss for the U.S. Men’s team, however, goalkeeper Tim Howard made 16 saves, the most on record in a World Cup match.

    The post Former U.S. goalkeeper: ‘Tim Howard was a warrior’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: the continuing musical saga of the great Willie Nelson.

    Jeff is back with our profile.

    WILLIE NELSON (singing): Tonight, my love is making music with my friends. And I can’t wait to get on the road again.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He’s 81 years old, hair still long, though no longer all red, more legend these days than outlaw, but, yes, still very much on the road.

    WILLIE NELSON: And I can’t wait to get on the road.

    And everybody say it right here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Willie Nelson has just released a new album titled “Band of Brothers,” the first in many years to feature primarily his own original material.

    On his tour bus before a recent concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, I asked him about the burst of songwriting.

    WILLIE NELSON: Well, I know that some days you write and some days you don’t. And you learn to live with that. Roger Miller said one time that the well goes try, and you have to wait until it fills up again.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know what makes a good song after all these years of writing?

    WILLIE NELSON: Oh, I think I do.



    JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, Nelson has been writing songs and hits for five decades.

    WILLIE NELSON (singing): Crazy for feeling so lonely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “Crazy,” made famous by Patsy Cline in 1961, “Always on My Mind” in 1982, and dozens of others from more than 100 albums.

    All the while, he’s performed around the world, long ago becoming one of music’s best known faces and voices.

    WILLIE NELSON (singing): Time just slips away.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All this began in the tiny town of Abbott, Texas, a childhood in which he and his sister, Bobbie, who still performs with him on piano, were raids by their grandparents.

    He wrote about those beginnings in his 2012 memoir titled, in pure Willie fashion, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

    I read in your last memoir, you said that you actually started writing poetry as a kid.

    WILLIE NELSON: As I kid, I had — before I could play guitar, I was writing poems. And then, once I had figured out a couple chords on the guitar, I started putting melodies to my poems. And nobody ever told me I couldn’t, so I went ahead and done it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But were the words first?

    WILLIE NELSON: Usually, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, really?

    WILLIE NELSON: Usually a little line or something that is said, and then the melodies are out there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In that memoir, you write about working in the fields picking cotton in 100-degree-plus weather and thinking that maybe playing the guitar would be a better way of making a living.

    WILLIE NELSON: I would see these Cadillacs drive by on the highway with the air conditioner and all, and I would get a little bit jealous.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes? You remember that feeling?

    WILLIE NELSON: Oh, yes, heck yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are you surprised these years later that it worked , that it worked out?

    WILLIE NELSON: No. I’m a little surprised at the — how well it worked out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You are?


    WILLIE NELSON (singing): We’re a band of brothers, sisters and whatever on a mission to break all the rules.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Not only has it worked out, but it seems to have done so on Nelson’s terms. He had success as a songwriter in Nashville in the ’60s. Then from his new base in Austin, Texas, he helped create a new, more raw sound for country music dubbed outlaw country.

    WILLIE NELSON (singing): Whiskey River, take my mind.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He appeared on the first “Austin City Limits” program on PBS 40 years ago and in the ’80s was part of an all-star collaboration with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson called the Highwaymen.

    Over the years, he’s become known for his activism on behalf of small farmers and for legalizing marijuana and for reaching new audiences with recordings of American standards.

    WILLIE NELSON: I think innately knew that music draws people together and that good music is liked by almost everybody.

    I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like “Stardust,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” or “Crazy Arms” or “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” There are just certain sounds, music, that sort of you know people are going to like it.

    That was me. Oh, you like it. And you try it out on an audience and, sure enough, they like it, too.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You come across in song and here in person as calm, gentle. I was a little surprised that I read in your memoir where you talked about the rage that was — that has been there at times and that drinking somehow pushed that and marijuana later kind of helped it, suppressed it.

    WILLIE NELSON: Well, I think there must be a little bit of truth in high temper and red hair.

    JEFFREY BROWN: High temper and red hair.

    WILLIE NELSON: Yes. Have you heard that?

    JEFFREY BROWN: I have heard of that.

    WILLIE NELSON: Yes. Well, I was sort of living proof of that, I guess, because I had flaming red hair and a high temper.

    And that’s something that I have to control and live with all the time. But at least I know what my problem is.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Whatever you call it, even after all the awards and honors, there’s clearly still a drive to the man that comes out on stage, the guitar playing on a guitar famous in its rights, as well-worn as its owner, named Trigger.

    WILLIE NELSON (singing): I can be moving or I can be still, but still is still moving to me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the unique phrasing, often off the beat, that has made Nelson’s sing so familiar to millions.

    Behind all this, it turns out, is a great deal of attention to keeping in shape. Nelson has a black belt in karate and another in Korean mixed martial arts.

    While on tour, he told me, he rides a bike, works out with a punching bag, takes walks. And that’s how he can do this into his 80s.

    WILLIE NELSON: Really, I think the best exercise that I do is singing for an hour-and-a-half out on the stage, because, yes, I use the lung, the biggest muscle in your body. And I use it continually. And I kind of watch myself and I kind of feel how that singing is helping me as I do it physically.

    JEFFREY BROWN: After a show, you feel better?

    WILLIE NELSON: Oh, I feel much better after a show. And so does my sister, Bobbie, and all of us in the band.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So being out on the road and playing like this all the time you think is keeping you healthier?

    WILLIE NELSON: You have to be a professional athlete to do it.



    A professional athlete maybe, but somewhere in every tour, he says, he decides, at least for the moment, that he’s had enough. He wrote of that on a new song titled “The Wall.”

    WILLIE NELSON (singing): I hit the wall.

    That really happens to you along the way. But I enjoy playing music. Then I get back doing it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. But what happens to you when you’re not playing that for too long?

    WILLIE NELSON: You get bored to be at home, or you’re used to coming out and doing it. It is an addiction. There’s no doubt about it, but it’s one of the good ones, I think.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And not only the performing, but the songwriting continues. Nelson has already announced that another album of new material will come out later this year.

    WILLIE NELSON (singing): You can’t tell me what to do. You can’t tell me what to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That Willie Nelson is an inspiration.

    The post What drives Willie Nelson to keep singing and traveling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Walter Dean Myers spoke with PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown in July 2012 about that role, and his goal to get more children reading.

    Young adult and children’s author Walter Dean Myers has died at age 76.

    Myers wrote over 100 books that include six Newbery Honor Books and three National Book Award finalists. In 2012, he became the first African-American selected as the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador For Young People’s Literature.

    HarperCollins Children’s Books said Myers died Tuesday after a brief illness.

    The post Author Walter Dean Myers dies at 76 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    There’s been so much excitement surrounding the World Cup — and it has been an amazing tournament so far — that one almost feels like “Debbie Downer” to talk about some of the problems facing the sport of soccer. But at a time when there’s more attention surrounding concussions, it felt like it was also the right time to sit down with former goalkeeper Briana Scurry. If you watched the 1999 World Cup final with the American women’s team, you’ll remember her as the player who made history with a shoot-out save against China.

    Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

    Briana Scurry had surgery in October to relieve pain and headaches caused by a 2010 concussion. Read the Washington Post’s profile of her career and recovery here. Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

    Scurry’s career was a remarkable one, including earning two gold medals with the U.S. team and becoming one of the first women in the world to participate in a paid professional league. But in 2010, she took a hit that ended her career and changed her life as she dealt with the long and difficult ramifications of concussions. She’s had a long road back (profiled extensively in the Washington Post) and is now speaking out about what needs to be done, including testifying on Capitol Hill this spring. Of particular interest to her: The real dangers for girls who, it’s been shown, are almost twice as likely as boys to get concussions when playing with similar rules and safety equipment.

    Scurry sat down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss the Cup, her work and her own personal experiences and trials, including difficulties with depression, surgery, anxiety and memory. A passionate advocate on this issue, we were so moved when she came by today that we recorded an additional conversation with her about what she went through. “A year ago, I would have had trouble sitting here with you,” Scurry told Jeff. You can watch it above.

    The post Goalie Briana Scurry is on a mission to educate youth soccer players on concussions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    When the British burned down the Capitol — and much of the city of Washington — during the War of 1812, one of the casualties was the burgeoning Library of Congress, then 3,000 volumes large after being established in 1800.

    Thomas Jefferson, in retirement at Monticello, offered his own library as a replacement. It was more than double the size of the previous collection; the former president boasted the largest, private literary stockpile of his time.

    But another fire would claim almost two-thirds of the Jefferson collection nearly four decades later. The second disaster prompted the building of today’s Library of Congress. Today, the remaining Jefferson collection from 1815 is still housed there, and many of the lost books have been replaced with hard-to-find copies.

    What books did young Jefferson bring to Philadelphia during the writing of the Declaration of Independence? Those texts can shed light on that landmark moment. Mark Dimunation, chief of rare books at the Library of Congress, says, “We can see the books that taught him languages as a diplomat, that taught him the art of diplomacy, we can see the science that he was involved in, the correspondence with living 18th century scientists. We have this documentation of not only the 18th century, but when you do the whole sweep of the circle, you realize that Jefferson has documented the Enlightenment, and has brought it to America.”

    Jeffrey Brown explores how Jefferson’s bookshelf can teach us about the very roots of the United States.

    Note: This piece is scheduled to air on the program Friday, July 4.

    The post Rebuilding Thomas Jefferson’s library appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    North Korea's national airline Air Koryo will reopen some of its domestic flights in an attempt to lure more western tourists to the country. Photo by Flickr user Laika ac

    North Korea’s national airline Air Koryo will reopen some of its domestic flights in an attempt to lure more western tourists to the country. Photo by Flickr user Laika ac

    In a bid to boost international tourism, the isolated country of North Korea is planning to reopen domestic flights for the first time in years to western visitors, local officials and business travelers, The Guardian reports.

    “Regular flights like this have not been scheduled before – at least not in the six years we’ve been doing this,” said Troy Collings of Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based company that specializes in taking western tourists to North Korea.

    Previously, the majority of tourists — mostly from China — had to travel from city to city via old Soviet-era planes or by rail, which could take up to two days. Now, Air Koryo, North Korea’s national airline, will start operating the flights again from mid-July.

    Currently, flights are available from Pyongyang to Beijing, Shenyang and Vladivostok, Russia.

    According to The Guardian, travel agencies estimate as many as 6,000 westerners visit North Korea each year. For North Koreans, however, they need to acquire a state-issued travel permit for domestic travel.

    The post In an attempt to lure tourists, North Korea to reopen some domestic flights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pumpjacks extract oil from the Inglewood Oil field, near where two test wells using Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, revealed no threat to groundwater, air quality or added risk of induced seismic activity according to a study by the field's owner, Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP) in greater Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2012. The findings come from a yearlong study by Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP), owner of the Inglewood oil field in the Baldwin Hills section of Los Angeles. The 1,000- acre Inglewood field is surrounded by Culver City, Baldwin Hills and Inglewood, making one of the largest urban oil fields in the U.S. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

    Pumpjacks extract oil from the Inglewood Oil field, near where two test wells using Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, revealed no threat to groundwater, air quality or added risk of induced seismic activity according to a study by the field’s owner, Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP) in greater Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2012. The findings come from a yearlong study by Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP), owner of the Inglewood oil field in the Baldwin Hills section of Los Angeles. The 1,000- acre Inglewood field is surrounded by Culver City, Baldwin Hills and Inglewood, making one of the largest urban oil fields in the U.S. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

    Scientists are increasingly linking hundreds of earthquakes near Jones, Oklahoma to wastewater wells used in fracking operations.

    Research published in Thursday’s edition of the journal, Science, shows that just four of these wells could be responsible for one-fifth of the region’s earthquakes experienced between 2008 and 2013. These are four high-volume wells used in disposal operations near Oklahoma City, researchers at Cornell University found.

    “The pressure of the water in the pore space of rock can reduce the forces keeping a fault locked, and potentially trigger a rupture,” reports Science news.

    This is a possible explanation for the recent surge of earthquakes in the region. Since the start of the year, the state has already seen 240 quakes measuring a magnitude of 3.0 or greater.

    The post Hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma linked to fracking appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Veterans Affairs says it has reached out to nearly 140,000 veterans in the past two months to get them off waiting lists and into clinics for medical appointments.

    Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson revealed the number Thursday as the VA released new audit figures showing improved patient access at 731 VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.

    The audit of patient access information is the third released by the VA in the past month as the agency responds to a national outcry over reports of patient deaths and treatment delays at VA facilities across the country. Audits of 731 VA hospitals and clinics also were released June 9 and June 19.

    As of June 15, about 46,000 veterans waited at least 90 days for their first VA medical appointments, the agency said. That’s down from 57,000 who waited more than 90 days as of May 15.

    An additional 7,000 veterans had never gotten an appointment for VA care, despite seeking one over the past decade, the VA said. That’s down from about 64,000 veterans who did not get appointments as of May 15.

    Despite the improvements, Gibson said veterans in many communities still are waiting too long to receive needed care. The VA provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans.

    “There is more work to be done,” Gibson said Thursday. “We must restore the public’s trust in VA, but more importantly, we must restore the trust of our veterans who depend on us for care.”

    The post VA says patient access to medical care improving appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    PBS NewsHour reported this week on a controversial emotional study conducted by Facebook without users’ consent. The study was conducted back in 2012, but came to light only after the results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America last month. The impact of the study was, in the words of Facebook data scientist and experimenter Adam Kramer, “the minimal amount to statistically detect it.” However, the impact of its discovery has been huge.

    Many NewsHour followers responded to our report, or expressed their views via social media. Some were outraged by the experiment, and said they planned to dial back their use of the site or even delete their accounts. Others were ambivalent, and felt that by agreeing to the site’s Terms of Service they had surrendered their right to object.

    “People don’t read TOS and then get upset when FB does something that TOS allows,” said Carrie Phisher.

    Anthony J. Alfidi went further in saying, “Facebook’s digits — its news feeds, like buttons, and functions — are its corporate property. The company may adjust as it sees fit, with no notice necessary.

    Many disagreed, and said the site’s ToS agreement was too vague to serve as a suitable stand-in for informed consent. NewsHour Facebook follower Deborah Sabo said “I disagree that ToS is consent to be experimented upon. ToS allows them to use data for research—i.e. to collect information from our existing behavior. It doesn’t say they can purposefully manipulate our behavior and emotions in a directed experiment for their marketing or any other ‘research’ purposes without our prior knowledge and consent.”

    We took the conversation to Twitter in this week’s #NewsHourChats. Wall Street Journal reporter Reed Albergotti joined us to discuss the many ethical questions circulating around the study. Read the full conversation below.

    The post Twitter Chat: The ethics of Facebook’s mood manipulation study appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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