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

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    A worker who survived a fire that swept through a small garment factory in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, on Jan. 26, 2013. Photo by Munir uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

    A worker who survived a fire that swept through a small garment factory in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, on Jan. 26, 2013. Photo by Munir uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

    Bangladesh might be better known for natural disasters and human suffering, but for years this south Asian nation has been a kind of Silicon Valley in the field of social entrepreneurship and anti-poverty programs.

    It is the birthplace of BRAC, the world’s largest non-government organization that’s helping survivors of the 2013 Bangladesh factory collapse, and Grameen Bank, better known in the West since winning the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

    However, the success of Grameen and BRAC is still dwarfed by the sheer scale the economic and environmental problems faced by this crowded, low-lying nation of 150 million. So the challenge for behemoths and start ups alike is to scale up — not just to have a wider social impact but also to sustain the enterprise so it depends less on charity.

    That’s a key impetus for JITA, a partnership between CARE, a global blue chip charity, and multinational corporations such as Danone and Unilever, owners of household brands like Danon, Dove and Vaseline.

    The symbiosis seems fairly straightforward: The corporations bring pockets far deeper than anything available in the nonprofit world; the charity opens the door to the bottom of the pyramid, the market of people too poor to warrant much attention until now, but at perhaps 4 billion people, a potential green pasture in today’s global economy.

    The partnership is an uneasy one, revealing the complex social issues that underlie poverty and compromises anti-poverty activists must make to achieve scale.

    “We saw them as an evil to society,” JITA CEO Saif Rashid, a former CARE veteran, recently said of his private sector partners.

    Cameraman Rakesh Nagar films women in a Bangladeshi village. Photo by Fred de Sam Lazaro/PBS NewsHour

    Cameraman Rakesh Nagar films women in a Bangladeshi village. Photo by Fred de Sam Lazaro/PBS NewsHour

    Today, some 7,000 CARE-trained women walk or pedal through their villages in “Avon lady” fashion with a basket of Unilever products. CARE is a 51 percent partner in JITA, a tilt deliberately intended to insure that development objectives trump the profit motive and to control the products placed in the basket. Soap and shampoo are no brainers, as are other desirable health and hygiene products, like sanitary pads.

    Some things are unacceptable, even though they’d likely sell well, like cigarettes. In between are items dubbed “acceptable” because they sell well and the saleswomen could not make a viable profit without them.

    Most controversial — and profitable — in this necessary-evil category is Fair and Lovely, a skin whitening cream that’s a blockbuster seller in Bangladesh and across several parts of Asia.

    JITA has pledged to replace Fair and Lovely with a non-whitening skin cream by 2015. It sometime feels like a Jekyll and Hyde undertaking, admits Saif Islam, a board member. The project is creating a class of consumers yet trying to dictate what they should and should not consume, he said.

    “Who are we to judge?” Islam asked. At the same time, he said given the level of poverty among this class of consumers, it’s hard to escape the fact that the money spent on skin whiteners would be better put toward other things.

    JITA also draws criticism from women’s rights activist Firdous Azim for reinforcing age-old mores in rural Bangladesh that dictate that women not leave their homes unless accompanied by their husbands. One of JITA’s key marketing pitches is that women don’t need to go to town to buy their daily essentials, the products come to them.

    As for the modest improvement in the lives of many of the JITA saleswomen, Azim would much rather that women be offered more “transformative” options that improve both their economic and social position. For all its myriad flaws, she said Bangladesh’s garment industry has provided new mobility and options for millions of women. One bright spot from the Rana Plaza building collapse, she said, is that it publicized the hefty contribution women make to the country’s economy.

    For their part, JITA officials say the project was never intended to be an alternative to the garment industry. JITA jobs are part time, for example, intended mostly to supplement the saleswomen’s family income. But they say it is helping stem the urbanization tsunami caused in significant part by the burgeoning apparel industry located mostly in and around the capital, Dhaka. The city is now home to more than 15 million. Barely a half of them have access to an improved toilet.

    Watch for Fred de Sam Lazaro’s upcoming broadcast report from Bangladesh on JITA.

    The post Uneasy alliance in Bangladesh reveals complex social issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Illustration by Getty Images

    Illustration by Getty Images

    Chances are good that you’ll be munching on a hot dog this Fourth of July weekend. Last week at the PBS NewsHour offices, there was heated debate over whether or not ketchup belongs on a hot dog. Factions formed in the newsroom on both sides of the issue. (Editor’s note: In true PBS NewsHour style, the debate was evenly balanced.) Is it unpatriotic to put ketchup on a dog? Help us put this debate to rest.

    What will you put on your hot dog this weekend? Ketchup? Mustard? Or both? Vote below and tell us why in the comments. Help us settle the argument, once and for all.

    The post Fourth of July poll: Does ketchup belong on hot dogs? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JOBS REPORT_Monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The unemployment rate in the U.S. dropped to 6.1 percent in June, its lowest point since just before the financial crisis of 2008. That news came along with a strong hiring report, 288,000 more jobs last month, well above most expectations, and stirring hopes, yet again, that the momentum in the jobs market is here to stay for a while.

    The NewsHour’s economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has the story, part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Whopping job gains, upping the average of the last five months to more than 200,000, a record last seen in the tech boom of the late ’90s. On a visit to a tech startup hub in Washington, President Obama accentuated the positive.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It should be a useful reminder to people all across the country that, given where we started back in 2008, we have made enormous strides, thanks to the incredible hard work of the American people and American businesses.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Economists like Boston College’s Matthew Rutledge were taken by surprise.

    MATTHEW RUTLEDGE, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College: A lot more positive than I would have figured. You know, we’re expecting our usual 200,000 extra jobs, and it actually came out more like 300,000 extra jobs. And this is great news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But the latest report on the economy as a whole, on GDP, is that GDP actually shrank.

    MATTHEW RUTLEDGE: This is the exact opposite of what we were getting earlier in the recovery, where we were getting GDP growth, but no job growth. Now we’re getting job growth, but it’s not exactly clear why.

    It doesn’t seem like people are producing anymore. Maybe they’re just finally getting around to hiring people back.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Indeed, the employment picture seemed bright right across the board, more jobs at restaurants and bars, in business services, manufacturing, health care, architecture.

    Our own inclusive U-7 un- and under-employment number was the lowest since we began calculating it at the start of 2011. Any clouds? Well, most of the new jobs seemed to be part-time. And the percentage of the population officially in the work force remained at a low 60 percent for the third straight month.

    Particularly striking to me reading this morning’s numbers was that the population grew the usual 200,000 per month, but the civilian labor force didn’t grow at all.

    MATTHEW RUTLEDGE: Well, we know that the baby boom is just reaching that magic retirement age, 62, 65, 66. And so we’re seeing some of those people drop out. We’re seeing them retire on schedule. But a lot of people have not really been able to afford to retire. Some of them are finding jobs. Some of them are sticking with their job search longer than they would have in the past.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How did age affect job growth in last month’s report?

    MATTHEW RUTLEDGE: So we saw huge job growth among younger workers; 25-54 went up to something like 500,000 to 600,000 extra jobs. Among people that are 55 and older, it barely went up, less than 100,000 new jobs. And the unemployment rate for men 55 and older actually went up a little bit.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That rate went up to 4.9 percent in June, while the number of unemployed men over 55 rose to nearly 900,000.

    MATTHEW RUTLEDGE: What that could reflect is that people with the best job prospects, they have been able to take that financial portfolio, they have been able to take their more valuable house, they have been able to take that pension coverage, and walk away, whereas the people that are left, the people that are still looking for a job 55 and older, are the people that have to continue to look because they don’t have the option to drop out.

    And so that’s why the unemployment rate is a little higher than it would have been otherwise.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Research by Professor Rutledge and others has shown that unemployed older workers remain jobless for longer than their younger counterparts, scarred by having been laid off at a later age. As a result, when they do find work, it tends to be for a lot less money.

    MATTHEW RUTLEDGE: They’re going to be especially worse off relative to younger workers, who are able to bounce back a little bit better. So not only are older workers looking for a job for longer. They have more difficulty even finding that job. The job they find won’t necessarily be as good as the one they just left.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why?

    MATTHEW RUTLEDGE: It might just be that there’s a lot of people out there. You don’t have to hire an older worker if there’s a younger worker that’s cheaper and maybe at least you can perceive to be more adjustable, more trainable.

    PAUL SOLMAN: If the economy continues to add more jobs at this pace, though, the so-called reserve army of the unemployed will continue to thin, providing hope even for those most scarred by the great recession.

    The post What’s driving the good jobs news for the month of June? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today’s robust jobs report provided a big jolt to the financial markets. The Dow Jones industrial average passed a new milestone, closing above 17,000 for the first time. It gained 92 points in a shortened trading day ahead of July 4 to finish at 17,068. The Nasdaq rose 28 points to close near 4,486. And the S&P 500 added more than 10 points, to 1985.

    Hurricane Arthur powered up today as it headed toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. By late this afternoon, the storm had winds of 90 miles an hour and was closing on Cape Hatteras. Its approach prompted evacuations and canceled Fourth of July plans for some. Others stayed put, amid indications the storm would brush past Hatteras without making a direct hit.

    Either way, Governor Pat McCrory urged people to leave, and he promised emergency crews would be ready.

    GOV. PAT MCCRORY, R, N.C.: We’re already taking action in preparation to have a very quick recovery and ensuring that we can get back online as quick as possible regarding utility service, water services, roads, transportation, and anything else that needs to be repaired or fixed within a very short period of time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The hurricane also roiled holiday weekend plans farther north. The Fourth of July Boston Pops concert and fireworks were moved up to tonight. And tropical storm warnings were posted for Nantucket Island and Cape Cod.

    The top U.S. military commander played down prospects today for major American action in Iraq. Several hundred U.S. advisers have deployed to help Iraqi forces fight Sunni militants of the Islamic State, or ISIL. But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, says he doesn’t see the need for an industrial-strength force for now.

    GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman: Assessing, advising and enabling are very different words than attacking, defeating and disrupting. We may get to that point, if our national interests drive us there, if ISIL becomes such a threat to the homeland that the president of the United States, with our advice, decides that we have to take direct action. I’m just suggesting to you we’re not there yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ISIL has declared an Islamic caliphate, and, today, its fighters extended their grip on Eastern Syria. They seized more towns, plus the country’s largest oil field after winning the allegiance of local tribes. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia deployed 30,000 of its troops to its border with Iraq amid reports that Iraqi forces had withdrawn. Baghdad denied it.

    The United Nations warned today that the Syrian refugee crisis may destabilize the entire region. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees appealed for donor nations to make good on promised aid. He estimated that at least 2.9 million Syrians are now in neighboring states and 100,000 more are joining them each month.

    Tensions were on the rise along the Israeli border with Gaza today, after a night of rocket fire and airstrikes. It follows the deaths of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen. Israel bolstered its forces and moved more equipment near Gaza, while street clashes intensified in Jerusalem between police and Palestinian youths. Each side criticized the other.

    PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES, Israel: Time now to do only two things, to respect the law and to avoid incitement.

    SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas Spokesperson (through interpreter): The Israeli occupation is responsible for this escalation. The Palestinian people are acting in self-defense.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to calm the situation today, vowing to find the attackers responsible for the Palestinian teen’s death. Earlier in the week, he pledged to make Hamas pay.

    The latest major auto safety recall came today from Subaru. The company announced it’s calling in more than 600,000 cars and SUVs with brake lines that may be prone to rust. The recall affects certain model years of the Legacy, Outback, Impreza, and Forester. It’s mainly for cars sold in cold weather states, where salt is used to treat roads in winter.

    The post News Wrap: Gen. Dempsey plays down prospects for major U.S. action in Iraq appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    commoncore

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now that we’re into July, most students and teachers in the U.S. are enjoying their summer vacation from the classroom. But that hasn’t stopped the red-hot debate over the so called Common Core public education standards for K-12 and new tests that go along with them.

    The battle is picking up momentum on several fronts, as Jeffrey Brown reports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One major battleground, a growing list of states that are dropping the Common Core standards. Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have done so. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has issued an order for his state to join them.

    But now even places committed to keeping the guidelines are deciding to slow things down. At least seven states and Washington, D.C., have postponed tying teacher and school evaluations to student scores on Common Core-based tests.

    For a breakdown of what’s going on, we check in with Carmel Martin, executive vice president of the Center for American Progress and former assistant secretary of education, and Rick Hess, director of education policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute.

    And welcome to both of you.

    CARMEL MARTIN, Center for American Progress: Thanks for having us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Carmel Martin, you backed the Common Core idea. Remind us what the essence of it is and why it would be a useful move.

    CARMEL MARTIN: Well, the essence is, a group of state actors got together, a bunch of governors and chief state school officers, on a bipartisan basis, got around — got together and said our current system of patchwork of standards isn’t working. We have one in four students going to college and they are showing up there not ready for college-level work.

    Only a third of our eighth graders are proficient in math or reading. So these state leaders said, we should fix this problem. And one of the things we need to do to fix the problem is to have a new set of standards that are aligned to what the core set of content and skills that students need to be successful in college and in career.

    And they got together and developed the Common Core. And we believe very strongly that that’s a very important foundation upon which to build our education system.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Rick Hess, states were backing it, but now some are not. What’s downsides? What are the concerns?

    RICK HESS, American Enterprise Institute: There’s really three things.

    One, we talk a lot about the Common Core standards. Standards are a lot like that mission statement you see in McDonald’s when you walk in. You would like the service to be quick and prompt and good. Doesn’t actually mean very much.

    The reality is, the significance of the Common Core has been dramatically overblown by both sides. Second is, Common Core is two things. It’s standards and it’s tests. The standards don’t actually matter very much. What matters is the tests, and that’s the part that’s fallen — that’s the thing that’s falling apart.

    And, third, you — if it had truly been a bipartisan group of governors doing this, without a lot of federal intervention, I don’t think you would be seeing this blowback. The reality as it has played out, there has been dramatic intervention by the Obama administration, and that has politicized an issue that didn’t need to be politicized.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Address the blowback from the states that I referred to that are pushing back and dropping it, because of what — they’re basically saying it’s a local issue and the federal government should be out of this.

    CARMEL MARTIN: Well, it is a local issue, and it was developed — these standards were developed by local and state leaders. They brought in experts from around the country. They brought in teachers to come in and ask their opinion. They brought people from the business sector, the military, the post-secondary sector.

    And it was a locally driven thing. What the Obama administration did was, they backed the play of a lot of state and local leaders. And I don’t think that was inappropriate for them to do so. I mean, we have seen efforts in the past where the federal government tried to develop a national set of standards.

    That’s not what this is. And I think it’s appropriate — an appropriate act of federalism for the president and the secretary of education to say, you have got a great idea here, we think it offers a tremendous amount of prospects for our children, we’re going to support you in what you’re doing.

    And I think that’s the opposite of federal overreach. I think what’s happening in a lot of the states that are backing off is there are some folks on the right who are using this as a political football. We see within the Republican Party, there’s an extreme wing that’s pushing their leaders to take what I think are nonsensical stances.

    You see — Governor Jindal is a good example. He supported the Common Core, but he got attacked politically and he backed away. And I think what we need to do is to say to these state leaders, they need to — if they want to turn away from the Common Core, they should do it because, substantively, they don’t think the standards are good. They should not do it for political reasons.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, a political football. It clearly has gone into the political realm, but is that what is driving the opposition?

    RICK HESS: Well, we often reminds ourselves that public schools spend $600 billion a year in public funds. They serve 50 million of the public’s children.

    The way that we make decisions in America is through the political process, so this should be a political conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Should be. So, there’s nothing wrong with it?

    RICK HESS: Nothing wrong with it.

    In fact, the fact that 40-odd states signed on to the Common Core essentially in the dark of night in ’09 and 2010 with little discussion and little media coverage actually should give us pause. We’re supposed to debate these kinds of things in America.

    Look, the reality is President Obama and Secretary Duncan rewarded states for adopting Common Core through the Race to the Top program. They have encouraged states to adopt them through their Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers. They put 350 million federal dollars into the tests.

    The 2012 Democratic national platform credited President Obama with getting states to adopt the Common Core. Unfortunately, the Obama administration, for whatever reason, has decided that it wants to be driving this train. And I think it’s unsurprising that Republican governors worried about state prerogatives are pushing back.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about some of the moves to slow things down even from proponents?

    CARMEL MARTIN: Well, first, I just want to point out…

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

    CARMEL MARTIN: … these standards, instead of — these standards were under development before President Obama was President Obama. It didn’t happen overnight.

    They took years. The group of state leaders that developed these standards, Democrats and Republicans, took years. They built stakeholder support, and they also built a process that brought in a tremendous amount of stakeholder input, including hundreds of teachers.

    I think the cause for the pause is because — on the implementation side. I mean, I think one thing that Rick and I can agree about is that standards don’t have a lot of meaning if you don’t do the hard work translating those standards into good teaching.

    And that takes work, it takes resources. And I think there’s been some concerns about the implementation effort — efforts being uneven. So, I think, in terms of the pause, we can’t pause. Kids can’t wait. They only have one chance at an education, so we can’t pause in terms of implementing the standards and modifying teaching to meet those standards, because all our kids deserve high expectations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are you afraid a pause might lose even more momentum to the Common Core goal?

    CARMEL MARTIN: Well, I think we need to be careful to distinguish between a pause with respect to implementing the standards and moving forward with developing and implementing high-quality assessments aligned to those standards, as well as textbooks and curriculum, and having a pause on how test results are used.

    I think it is fair to teachers and to schools and to students to say, it’s a whole new set of standards, it’s a brand-new test. We’re going to give you an opportunity to adjust to those things before we hold you to high stakes attached to just a test score.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And a last word, Rick Hess. Where do you see this — do you see the opposition continuing to grow?

    RICK HESS: I think so.

    What’s important to keep in mind is, we had a pretty healthy bipartisan agreement on school reform in this country for about a four- or five-year stretch. One of the unfortunate things is, by pushing Common Core in this way, you have seen a fragmentation of what that was, that strong bipartisan push around teacher evaluation, around efforts to reward great teachers.

    And because — Common Core is a lot like the plumbing in your house. It’s designed to touch everything. It’s the standards teachers are teaching to, the tests that schools and teachers are being judged on.

    Unfortunately, once you start tinkering with that plumbing, if you don’t get it just right, you are going to get a lot of leaks and it’s going to get touch a lot of rooms, and that’s where we are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, we will continue to follow this.

    Rick Hess and Carmel Martin, thank you both very much.

    RICK HESS: Thank you.

    CARMEL MARTIN: Thanks for having us.

    The post Why more states are backing off Common Core appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    airportsecurity1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: New worries over terrorist threats are prompting American officials to take additional safety measures at a number of airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa that have flights directly to the U.S.

    Airports on both sides of the Atlantic ramped up security after American officials warned of potential plots to smuggle bombs on flights to the U.S. They said al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen and Syria are trying to make bombs that current security measures won’t detect.

    The secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, appeared last night on MSNBC.

    JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: People shouldn’t overreact to it or overspeculate about what’s going on. But there clearly are concerns centered around aviation security that we need to be vigilant about. There is a terrorist threat to this country that remains.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Al-Qaida’s Yemen branch, known as AQAP, was behind the so-called underwear bomber on Christmas Day 2009. A Nigerian man tried and failed to set off plastic explosives inside his underwear on a flight to Detroit.

    The following year, AQAP tried again, placing bombs in printer cartridges on cargo planes bound for the U.S. They were intercepted and disarmed. Now the Department of Homeland Security is asking for expanded passenger screening, with special emphasis on smartphones and shoes.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged his support today.

    DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: This is something we have discussed with the Americans, and what we have done is put in place some extra precautions and extra checks. The safety of the traveling public must come first.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda warned of a threat to attack Entebbe International Airport tonight. U.S. officials said the information came from Ugandan police.

    The post Homeland Security calls for tighter airport security amid potential bomb threats appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bangladesh_consumerism

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: bringing cosmetics, consumerism, and a little controversy to women in rural Bangladesh.

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has this report as part of his series Agents for Change.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In the conservative rural areas of Bangladesh, Shireen Akhtar is a pioneer. Traditionally, women here don’t stray far from home unless accompanied by their husbands. An actual paying job outside the home was unheard of until recently.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I will take the shampoo and soap.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Shireen Akhtar and about 7,000 other women are part of an unusual idea to fight poverty: selling products in a new consumer culture among some of the world’s poorest people.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Our husbands are not always around, so it is difficult to go to the market.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): It’s much easier to way. We can get our daily necessities, like soap and shampoo here.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s a partnership between JITA, a social business set up by the charity CARE, and some large multinational and national companies.

    Most commercial products don’t reach rural communities. They’re too isolated or poor to be part of the normal distribution and sales network. Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch multinational that sells everything from Dove soap to Lipton tea, claims two billion people use its products every day, but the company struggles to reach people in these remote parts of South Asia, says spokesman Sheikh Mainul Islam

    SHEIKH MAINUL ISLAM, Unilever: There is a metric, exclusivity and profitably. So, there are a number areas, geographies (INAUDIBLE) It’s very difficult to access. Through this, partnering with this particular organization, we can reach to our rural houses directly.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: While saleswomen go village to village or door to door, outreach workers trained by CARE, better known for family planning or immunization, now also promote disposable razors and feminine pads.

    JITA’s CEO, Saif Rashid, admits it was a major shift in mind-set for the development agency.

    SAIF RASHID, CEO, JITA: We tried to solve the problem by ourselves. Sometimes, we included government, but never private sector. We never talked about private sector. We see them as an evil to the society.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Evil?

    SAIF RASHID: Evil to the society.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But he says the thinking has shifted to promoting entrepreneurship. What if they could create an Avon Lady-type force targeting other consumers in their homes, women often prevented from going to market themselves because of cultural prohibitions?

    The saleswomen would earn money and the buyers would have access to soap and other hygienic products. But just what products should be sold alongside necessities like soap has been controversial.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Thank you all for coming to this training today. I know you have all traveled a long way to get here.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The saleswomen here are being briefed and trained in on a new product they will soon be able to add to their basket, a prepaid cell phone card. In that basket, one of the hottest sellers so far has been Fair & Lovely. That’s a skin whitening cream. It’s widely advertised across this region and very profitable for the Unilever corporation.

    FIRDOUS AZIM, BRAC University: Beauty is created with fair skin, and this has had a terrible impact on young girls.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Professor Firdous Azim writes about women’s issues. She and others have protested the sale of skin lighteners, saying it reinforces age-old biases.

    FIRDOUS AZIM: I am a teacher and so I that know girls really suffer if they are dark. Traditionally, they suffered because they weren’t considered very eligible in the marriage market. Today, they’re not considered beautiful. And people do all kinds of things to their skin to become fairer. To push this and for a development organization to endorse this is something that I would be very critical of.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There’s also the concern about the spread of consumerism.

    SAIF ISLAM, CARE International: The profit motive and the social motive need to walk hand in hand together.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Saif Islam is with CARE and help set up the JITA program. In all cases, he says JITA must walk a fine line between protecting the interests of the women they women they want to help and paternalism.

    SAIF ISLAM: Who are we to judge? It is up to the discretion of the girl who thinks that using Fair & Lovely is giving her this aspiration, the self-confidence. Then it — I don’t see as to why we should throw it away immediately.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One thing seems certain: The product, long and widely advertised, is very popular.

    How many of this group use Fair & Lovely?

    WOMAN (through interpreter): All of us.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I use it to make my skin fairer and for pimples.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I have used it for years to treat pimples and also to remove dark spots.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For their part, cosmetic companies say they’re only meeting consumer demand. When I asked Unilever’s Islam if his company creates that demand with its ads, he said the question was above his pay grade. He said only that Fair & Lovely works.

    SHEIKH MAINUL ISLAM: It really creates fairness.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It creates fairness? OK.

    SHEIKH MAINUL ISLAM: Of course.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, it does what it promises to do?

    SHEIKH MAINUL ISLAM: Yes, of course.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The JITA program has three categories of product, undesirable. The women don’t carry cigarettes, for example. There are the desirable, seeds for planting, solar lamps, or health and hygiene items, which they’re now promoting among adolescent girls in school.

    In the middle are items called acceptable. That’s where Fair & Lovely fits.

    SAIF RASHID: The woman cannot have enough outcome without selling fast-moving consumer goods.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Fast-moving consumer goods, and especially the skin cream, have the highest profit margins, though JITA’s Rashid says there are plans to make a change by next year.

    SAIF RASHID: We’re looking to develop alternatives, which can be really — which will not promote fairness, but which will promote the need of the customer in terms of her skin care.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, by 2015, you will have replaced Fair & Lovely with an alternative product…

    SAIF RASHID: Alternative product, yes.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: … that will hopefully not diminish the women’s income?

    SAIF RASHID: Income.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But retaining women has been a challenge: About one in five drops out; they don’t feel cut out for sales or migrate to urban areas in search of more income.

    The sales jobs pay anywhere from $12.50 for those starting out to $46 a month for experienced sellers, not much even by Bangladesh’s low wage standards.

    But JITA says these sales jobs are part time aimed at married women they and provide critical supplemental income. They say it can mean a better diet or children’s education, for example.

    SHIREEN AKHTAR, Saleswoman (through interpreter): I’m poor. I have not been able to dream a lot.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For her part, Shireen Akhtar, whose husband works in Bangladesh’s capital as a laborer, says her job has brought improvements, a larger home, a tube well that has brings safe water into it, and a chance to dream for her 11-year-old son.

    SHIREEN AKHTAR (through interpreter): I want him to grow from a boy into an important man. After seventh grade, I want him to go to cadet school. After that, he will be able to do anything he wants.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: JITA officials say the program is expected to grow to 12,000 women by 2015. It’s one of several attempts to attack poverty entrenched in some of the most difficult-to-reach and remote areas, and a trial run they hope for more alliances that link aid charities with consumer-oriented businesses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

    The post Consumerism stirs age-old beauty biases in rural Bangladesh appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    hornetsnest

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A number of journalists over the past decade have covered the war in Afghanistan. But, as far as we know, there has been only one father-and-son reporting team.

    ABC News producer and veteran war correspondent Mike Boettcher and his son Carlos spent over the course of two years with various Army and Marine Corps units as they went out on patrol and fought the Taliban. Besides producing regular news reports, they also made a feature-length documentary film, “The Hornet’s Nest,” which was recently released in selected theaters.

    And Mike Boettcher joins me now.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    Mike, at the beginning of this film, you say that the idea for this grew out of your long, many years you spent on the road covering wars as a foreign correspondent. Tell our audience where the idea came from.

    MIKE BOETTCHER, Producer, “The Hornet’s Nest”: Well, Judy, as you know, I have been kicking around doing this a long time, over three decades.

    And for me, this was a line in the sand. No longer would I parachute into somewhere and be there for a few days, try to tell the stories of these soldiers and Marines. I felt that we had to go to old traditions, traditions of my hero, Ernie Pyle, the famous World War II correspondent.

    And if we as a nation are going to commit soldiers in for 13 years, then we better doggone well be there to tell their stories day in and day out, and you just can’t send them off and forget about it. And I felt that that is what we needed to do.

    We needed to be there every day, so that I could be there telling their stories, what they were enduring over long periods of time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And your son said, I’m coming with you, and you originally didn’t think it was a great idea.

    MIKE BOETTCHER: No, no, not really.

    I mean, I was concerned, because, you know, we have lost a lot of friends covering many different wars and this war as well. And I knew what the consequence of that could be. I mean, this is my son. But I started to realize that he was the same age as those young men and women who raised their hand and said, I will go to Afghanistan, I will go to Iraq to serve my nation.

    And this was his way to serve. He was bound and determined to do it, and that’s what he did. And it was — you know, we are so close now because of this. We made it through it. And I really love my son, and I’m glad we came out of there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, that comes through in the film. You did start out saying that you had been away from him a lot when he was growing up, and this was part of an attempt to be close to him.

    I want to show our audience, Mike — and I think you know what excerpt we’re going to show — some of the film. This is a scene in Afghanistan. You’re out on patrol. Just set the scene and the circumstances for us and what we’re going to see.

    MIKE BOETTCHER: Well, this was Operation Strong Eagle III.

    We had landed at 3:00 in the morning on a mountaintop just right on the Pakistan border. There was snow on the ground. And we made our way down. And the mission on this big operation was to really hit the Taliban command-and-control in that part of Afghanistan.

    So as they’re moving down the mountains, they’re finding mortars, they’re finding RPGs. One of the rockets they found was made in China. They found dozens of rifles. And then, all of a sudden, as we moved down the mountain, we were hit from all sides.

    This was supposed to be a three-day mission, but we were surrounded. Every unit that was out there with us — this was the No Slack Battalion of the 101st Airborne — was taking fire from 365 degrees.

    And it was — 360 degrees. It was a horrific experience. And there was no place to run. And the weather was bad and medevacs couldn’t come in.

    So, in this battle, we lost six really brave guys. For example, the medic, Jameson Lindskog, who ran down a mountainside in a hail of gunfire to save his buddies, and then at the end apologized for dying. That — those are the kinds of stories that you can’t tell from the armchair. You have got to be there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let’s — we’re going to show our viewers just a piece of the film right now.

    MAN: Get over here. What is that?

    MAN: RPG.

    MAN: RPG?

    MAN: Oh, my God. That thing is straight out of China, like yesterday.

    MAN: How could it get out of China?

    MAN: That thing is brand-spanking new.

    MAN: I’m down here on objective Richmond, and 1st Platoon can’t get to the first series of buildings. They keep finding more ammunition. They keep finding more pieces. They keep finding more stuff.

    MAN: I don’t know what it is. It’s a rifle, bolt-action of some sort.

    MAN: What does that look like?

    MAN: Six to seven RPGs, probably eight mortars, a couple boxes of fuses.

    MAN: Definitely an indicator that we caught them by surprise.

    MAN: Hey, Z.

    MAN: What’s up?

    MAN: Give me eyes on that ridge at your 11.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mike, there were many more unnerving scenes like this one in the film. Did you change the way you did your reporting because your son was with you?

    MIKE BOETTCHER: No, because I wanted him to learn the way I did things. And it was definitely an apprenticeship. I did try to keep him between the point of gunfire, put myself between that and him, but he wasn’t having any of that.

    And, really, Judy, it turned out that he’s a better storyteller and a better photographer than I ever will be. And I didn’t because that’s the way I learned back in El Salvador in 1980. I was just thrown in there in the early days of CNN, and I learned on my own.

    At least I was with him. And I really think we need a new generation of young journalists who are willing to go out there — and they’re out there — to tell these stories. And it takes great risk and it takes great sacrifice, personal sacrifice. You’re gone constantly. And, you know, that was one of the things, was to — at the end of this, I had finally reconnected with my son, the hard way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does he say that he took away from this experience?  I know he’s written about it.

    MIKE BOETTCHER: Yes, what he took away was, he had no comprehension — like a think of vast majority of the young generations of America, he had no comprehension of the sacrifice that men and women his age give to their nation.

    And, you know, as we approach the Fourth of July tomorrow, that’s something to think about. He said now he knows. He knows what that’s about. It’s not something far off. It’s something very close and personal to him, that people raise their hands and say, send me. And that’s what he learned.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is your son — you continue to be a correspondent or — and a producer. What is your son doing?

    MIKE BOETTCHER: Yes, and as well I’m teaching, as you know, as the University of Oklahoma, my alma mater, at the Gaylord College.

    And Carlos is a staff producer for ABC News in New York and goes out with other correspondents now. He doesn’t need to have his old man with him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s quite a stirring story, and we thank you for sharing with us.

    It’s great to see you again, Mike. Thank you.

    MIKE BOETTCHER: Great to see you.

    And the DVD of this will be out 9/9 in September, right before 9/11.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Terrific.

    Thank you again.

    The post A reporter and his son embed with U.S. troops in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    declarationofindependence

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: a close reading of the document at the heart of tomorrow’s holiday.

    Jeff is back with that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We all celebrate the Declaration of Independence, but how many of us actually read it? And to what extent, over time, has it been in some ways misread?

    A new book, “Our Declaration,” explores the document through a careful look at the words themselves.

    Author Danielle Allen is a political philosopher at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a scholar of democracy and citizenship from ancient Athens to our own time. And for the record, she’s a member of the board of directors of the Mellon Foundation, a NewsHour underwriter.

    And welcome to you.

    DANIELLE ALLEN, Author, “Our Declaration”: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You make this part a personal story. It stems from teaching the Declaration at an elite university by day and to workers or people without jobs or without much education, perhaps, at night.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What were you exploring?

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Well, for 10 years, in Chicago, I did teach a course for low-income adults.

    And one of the key efforts or goals was to give them great material to read, to expand their education, their own capacities. But they were busy people, hardworking people. And so I found myself gravitating towards the Declaration for the pragmatic reason that it’s short.

    And my experience with that was, I was really surprised. None of my students in that night class context had ever read the Declaration. And it really seemed that this was because they didn’t think of it as theirs, didn’t think of it as belonging to them, and nobody had ever tried to make that case to them. Incredibly empowering experience.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, as you write in the book, it develops your own thinking about the Declaration and the thesis that comes through is that we have lost something in our reading of it, that we have — we’re focusing on a tension between two very key words, right, liberty and equality.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: That’s right. Exactly.

    Yes, we tend to think of liberty and equality as in sort of a conflict with each other, that if you pursue equality, it requires putting restraints on liberty. But, actually, equality is the foundation of liberty. We need that egalitarian bond among citizens to build the political institutions that we all use collectively to secure our safety and happiness and protect our liberty.

    So that was one of the things my students and I learned. And they were all people who were stuck in their lives in various ways. And that was what was really so empowering about the text, the way it calls out to people to consider their circumstances, you know, when in the course of human events, and then to ask themselves the question how to set their course in a better direction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And even with all the contradictions that — of the time…

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … slavery, you know, being the most notable one, of this call for equality, this call for liberty, this call for the pursuit of happiness.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: That’s right.

    And that’s what my students really gave me. I think the text had been sort of not given to them, not shared with them partly because there is this idea that since so many of the founders were slave owners, slaveholders, there’s just — there’s sort of a falsehood, there’s a lie in the Declaration.

    But when I read it with these students who were trying so desperately to change their lives and discovered how empowering it was for them to understand their political agency, their ownership claim to our political institutions, I realized it does have a coherent philosophical argument about equality which is worth investigating again.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You are also just making a call for very close reading.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: That’s right. That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And one example — and we have a graphic I want to show, because it kind of goes to your thesis here — is an actual question of typography, in a very famous line, whether what is often seen as a period, we have it here, is actually a comma.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Right. That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, explain why that matters.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Oh, it’s so important.

    That second sentence of the Declaration is probably the most important sentence in the most important document in American history. It’s an incredibly long sentence. It’s a mouthful. We all know the beginning by heart, right? “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

    But that’s then followed by five clauses, each which starts with that, “that all men are created equal, that they’re endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, and that whenever government is destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter and abolish them and institute new government in such form and according to such principles as seems to them most likely to affect their safety and happiness.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: You did that well.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Long sentence.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DANIELLE ALLEN: At this point, it’s sort of burned into my heart, I think.

    But you have got to make that whole circuit from individual rights to what we do collectively, and that period after pursuit of happiness breaks up the arc of the argument.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And so, if it’s a comma, it means that the original idea was to carry through.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: That’s right. Absolutely.

    And all the manuscripts punctuate with semicolons after each of those clauses, so that it’s clear that it goes all the way through to the end. And that’s also true of the manuscript that was written out by Charles Thomson, secretary for Congress, in the official minute book of Congress, the corrected record, it’s called.

    JEFFREY BROWN: To the extent this is an argument for the power of words and the power of understanding of language, you have done this from, as I said, ancient Athens to the study — you come to it from the study of classics, right?

    DANIELLE ALLEN: That’s right. That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Philosophy, history.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How does that apply, that study apply to our own time?

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Well, that’s one of the sort of jokes, I think, is that people have been working on ancient Greek texts for centuries, and we have these sort of special skills called paleography and textual criticism, where you really dig into all the different versions of a text to try to figure out what the original was and then what versions flowed from it.

    And I have had all that training as a classicist working on ancient Greece, and never thought I would end up using it in our context, but actually we do have these mysteries about our own texts for which those skills are relevant. So, my classicist training has come over and been useful for thinking about U.S. founding.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How has the — what’s the advice on the Fourth to the layperson?

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m thinking about the students you were teaching in those night classes.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What does it suggest that we either do in terms of reading or how we read?

    DANIELLE ALLEN: So I think there are two pieces of advice I would want to offer.

    One of really just go ahead and read the whole thing. It’s only 1,337 words, which is, you know, two op-eds at most, so read the whole thing because it does make a coherent argument. But I think actually, in a funny way, the beset way of seeing that argument is by starting at the end.

    Start with that resolution, when they unanimously declare that they’re free and independent states with the right to make treatises and alliances and so forth, because at the end of the day, the point of the document is a decision. It’s a decision to declare independence, but then to have to justify that decision.

    So, everything that’s come before is that justification. And when one starts at the end that way, what one really gets is this beautiful example of the standard that we should all use whenever we make a decision and then need to explain the justification for it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Start at the end and then go back and you learn how to build an argument.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Start at the end. Exactly. That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As well as, in this case, build a country.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: Exactly. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    The book is “Our Declaration.” Danielle Allen, thank you so much.

    DANIELLE ALLEN: My pleasure. Thank you.

    The post Finding empowerment in the words of our founding fathers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    airportsecurity2

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on these threat warnings, I’m joined now by Richard Barrett. He ran the United Nations al-Qaida monitoring team for nearly a decade, until he stepped down last year. He is a former member of the British Secret Intelligence Service.

    Richard Barrett, we welcome you.

    First of all, do we know exactly what caused authorities to be concerned?

    RICHARD BARRETT, Former Leader, UN Al-Qaida Monitoring Team: No, but there’s a coincidence of things going on here.

    And, first of all, as your report said, there’s al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is quite well known for making these sort of bombs, being in discussions and moving personnel up to Northern Syria, where the al-Qaida affiliate the al-Nusra is also threatening to mount attacks as well.

    And in addition to that, I think al-Qaida feels that its credibility is at stake, to a certain extent, because the Israeli State you mentioned in your report has really taken all the sort of glory, if you like, and it’s got all the sort of dynamism of the current terrorist group at the moment.

    And al-Qaida probably feels that they may need to do something to recapture that lost ground.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, do we know if there was a specific threat or just a general piecing of different threads of information together?

    RICHARD BARRETT: Well, that, I don’t know.

    But, clearly, it is a time when people need to be alert. It’s a holiday period coming up, of course, and many people traveling around. And I guess that there’s no harm in reminding people that these checks are for a purpose, and reminding the people who carry out the checks that their work is very serious and needs to be done properly.

    So there may have been some sort of indications of a possibility of increased threat, but I think, generally speaking, it’s considered a good time just to get people back on their toes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why, Richard Barrett, is al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula a particular concern?

    RICHARD BARRETT: Well, there’s a man called Ibrahim al-Asiri who has been very active in creating these bombs. He’s a Saudi chemist who’s been with al-Qaida for some time and famously sent his brother in 2009 to try and kill Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was then the deputy interior ministry in charge of the al-Qaida account.

    And that guy apparently had a bomb which evaded various detecting mechanisms and almost killed the prince. So, beyond that, when there was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underpants bomber of Christmas 2009, and then the printer bombs the following year, clearly, this guy has certain techniques which are incredibly difficult to detect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how much — is anything publicly known about what kinds of bombs they may be experimenting with? Is the intelligence that good?

    RICHARD BARRETT: Well, the intelligence is not too bad, because the bomb — the Christmas Day’s bomber, of course, was analyzed. Then, again, so, too, were the bombs in the printers.

    And in — more recently, they tried again to blow up an airplane, but they made the mistake of giving the bomb to somebody who was prepared to hand it over to the Saudi authorities. So that bomb has also been examined. So there’s quite a lot of knowledge about what they’re trying to do, but the tendency that they are going towards is bombs which have no metallic content whatsoever and emit very little vapor or anything else that could be detected by some of the current machinery.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the assumption is these folks are working all the time to try to come up with something that can get through security.

    RICHARD BARRETT: Yes. Exactly right.

    And they probably know a certain amount of the capacity of the machines that are being used at airports and, therefore, have a bar that they have to cross, and they know what the bar is. And they only of course have to cross it once to cause everybody a considerable upset.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned earlier al-Qaida feeling that its credibility may be at risk. And there was reporting a few weeks ago — with the advances of ISIL in Iraq, there was reporting about previously the two having been split.

    And now that we see ISIL making these advances, I mean, could that literally be what’s driving al-Qaida to want to do something dramatic, because they see ISIL getting all this attention?

    RICHARD BARRETT: I think so, yes. I think you’re right on that.

    I think that al-Qaida will not want to be driven by other people’s timetables, but, at the same time, they really need to do something, because, really, since the July 2005 bombings in London, they haven’t achieved very much, except giving out statements and threatening people.

    And that only lasts so long, when you have got another group, a sort of rival group, if you will, like ISIL, attracting a lot of recruits and money. So I think that they will want to do something. But they have to balance the downside of doing something which becomes a botched attempt with doing something which actually has an effect and shows that they’re still powerful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Give us a sense of what more can be done, because, I mean, there are times, I think, when many Americans feel there’s already so much security that’s in place. How much more can be done overseas at these airports to ensure that flights are as safe as possible?

    RICHARD BARRETT: Yes, I think you make a very good point there. There’s only so much security that you can impose on people.

    A lot of security really has to come from the people themselves. So those questions that you’re asked, did you pack your bags yourself, did you accept anything from somebody else that you have brought with you in your luggage, those are sensible questions to ask, and they should be taken sensibly and seriously by the people who answer them.

    But, beyond that, I think that the main protection against terrorist attacks is going to be from within the community. And the closer that the authorities can work with communities from which these vulnerable people might be recruited to terrorist activity, then the easier it may be to spot them in advance, rather than trying to screen everybody.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Richard Barrett, we thank you. It’s a time for vigilance. We appreciate it.

    RICHARD BARRETT: Thank you.

    The post Could ISIL’s recent uprisings be an impetus for al-Qaida bomb threats? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    cousteau

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    JOHN LARSON: Now, a visit to one of the world’s only underwater labs, where six scientists recently spent a month off Key Largo in Florida studying the effects of climate change on coral reefs.

    Hari Sreenivasan spoke to the mission leader, Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau.

    FABIEN COUSTEAU: Welcome to the bottom of the sea. We’re at 63 feet in depth. Why are we doing this? Simply because it gives us the luxury of time.

    We’re able to go into this final frontier on our living planet to explore unadulterated and unlimited by time. Which is not something one can say when diving down from a boat.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tell us a little bit about what it is that you’re doing when you’re out there six-eight hours a day.

    FABIEN COUSTEAU: Well, we have a wet lab which you have in that photo right there and also a dry lab inside the habitat, what we’re looking are issues with climate change or more specifically related to climate change and acidification levels as well as pollution. So we’re looking at the baseline of the underwater cities that basically dictates everything that lives in and around these coral cities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Okay, is there anything cool that you’ve seen since you’ve been down there, speaking of the abyss- probably not new life.

    FABIEN COUSTEAU: Lot- yeah, and right now is the slow period, almost middle of the day, so they’re actually resting, and tucked away in nooks and crannies, in the morning and nights you see a lot of activity, as a matter of fact there’s a lot of activity below the habitat, the habitat itself has become a coral reef.

    Its just amazing, we’ve seen so much new behavior that I’ve never seen before.

    Fish sleeping in sponges, a goliath grouper attacking a barracuda, never seen that before, I don’t think anyone has ever caught it on film before. Christmas tree worms, spawning and giving off this milky smoke like stuff off.

    I mean it’s just science fiction, it’s really amazing down here. And that’s why we’re down here, my grandfather used to say, in order to film a fish you must become a fish. So we’re trying to get as close as we can to becoming fish.

    Watch the full interview with Fabien Cousteau here.

    The post Take a tour of mission leader Fabien Cousteau’s underwater lab appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This sow's five pigs developed from cryopreserved and surgically transferred embryos. Photo by Keith Weller.

    Since May of 2013, 100,000 piglets and young hogs have died each week at the hands of the lethal disease, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv. Credit: Keith Weller via Wikimedia Commons.

    Since May of 2013, more than 100,000 piglets and young hogs have died on average each week from the lethal disease, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv.

    The New York Times reports that the number of pigs slaughtered by the pork industry this year is 4.2 percent less than average because of spread of the disease.

    The disease has influenced pork prices across the nation. Bacon now costs 15 percent more than it did last May and the cost of pork chops is up 13 percent.

    Although the disease is being studied, scientists are still unsure about how PEDv spreads, or how it originated. This puts farmers under threat according to Michael Yezzi, who raises hogs in Shushan, NY, and was interviewed for a report by NPR.

    “They don’t know where this disease is coming from,” he told NPR. “Even closed operations that aren’t getting pigs from the outside have gotten this, even with the strictest biosecurity situations. So everybody’s at risk.”

    Beyond the issues the disease has created for farmers and the pork industry, environmentalists are concerned about the body count PEDv  leaves behind.

    In an interview with the Times, Kelly Foster, senior lawyer with the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance, said the number of pigs being buried could be dangerous for humans.

    “We know there is a lot of mortality from this disease, and we’re seeing evidence of burial in areas with shallow groundwater that a lot of people rely on for drinking water and recreation,” she said.

    While humans can’t be infected by the virus, there are concerns that an excess of decomposing pigs underground could give harmful bacteria or pathogens a place to grow and an opportunity to get into water supplies.

    As the disease has spread, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken steps to try to stop PEDv from taking a greater toll on the nation’s pigs and piglets.

    In June, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack began requiring farmers to report new cases of PEDv to the USDA and pledged $26 million to help prevent it.

    Federal dollars are being spent on the development of a new vaccine for the virus, as well as improved biosecurity practices for farms throughout the U.S.

    The post Virus kills 100,000 pigs and piglets each week, drives up pork prices appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A great white shark apparently agitated by a fisher who tried to reel it in, bit a man swimming in Southern California on Saturday.

    White_shark

    A great white shark is shown in Mexico in 2006. Officials said Saturday that a man was attacked by a great white off the coast of California and had suffered “moderate injuries.” Credit: Terry Goss via Wikimedia Commons

    Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Rick Flores told the Associated Press that the man was bitten on the upper right side of his body and had suffered puncture wounds. The victim was taken to the hospital with what were described as “moderate injuries.”

    The 7-foot-long shark attacked the victim, who was in a group of long-distance swimmers, about 300 yards off Manhattan Beach.

    Flores said the shark remained in the area for about 20 minutes after the victim was rescued, and then disappeared.

    While shark attacks are rare, two studies on sharks released in June reveal the populations of great whites in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are on the rise.

    A study published by the Florida Program for Shark Research estimates there are about 2,000 great whites swimming off the coast of central California.

    The post Great white shark attacks swimmer off California coast appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    israeli

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    JOHN LARSON: For more we are joined now from Jerusalem via Skype by Josef Federman of the Associated Press. Joe, thanks so much for joining us.

    I woke up this morning to the first news of this autopsy that came out involving the Palestinian youth killed there this week, what can you tell us about that?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yeah, we’ve received the initial results of the autopsy and they’re pretty disturbing. The signs are that this boy was burned alive. They found signs that he had actually inhaled smoke before he died.

    JOHN LARSON: And where’s the criminal investigation into his death, do we know who did this yet?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: We don’t. The assumption, at least on the Palestinian side, is that Israeli extremists did this in a revenge attack following the deaths of three Israeli teenagers found earlier this week.

    Israel has put maximum effort into the search for the killers but they still don’t know who they are and they still don’t have a firm motive.

    They say they’re exploring all possibilities including nationalistic motives, but also the possibility of criminal activities or some sort of family feud. It’s really too soon to say.

    JOHN LARSON: Joe, I know personally you’ve been reporting out of the region for more than a decade now. What do the events of the last couple weeks seem to you like?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yes, I feel like we’ve entered some uncharted waters here. I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before in a decade of covering the story.

    It began with the kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers three weeks ago that’s what set off this current round of tensions.

    Where you have three civilians, underage, teenagers, being targeted, abducted, and killed. That was sort of a level of cruelty, a type of attack that hasn’t been seen before.

    The reaction in Israel  also was something that I haven’t seen where you have hundreds, outside of my office the following day when the boys were being buried, hundreds of right wing young Israeli march through downtown Jerusalem, calling for revenge screaming ‘death to Arabs’ and so forth. It was a chilling sight to see.

    And then a few hours later, this boy is abducted in East Jerusalem. This Palestinian boy is abducted and his charred body is found in the forest just a few hours later.

    Now we’re not sure who did it, but the timing, the motive, the atmosphere, at least points in that direction as a strong possibility.

    JOHN LARSON: You had also told me earlier in a telephone conversation that you saw the mother of one of the Israelis killed speak out.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yeah she issued a statement, the family issued a statement and this is sort of a glimmer of hope I guess. Saying after the Palestinian boy was found burned to death, she put out a statement saying — murder is wrong it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, it doesn’t matter if you’re Arab, murder is murder.

    And hopefully a voice like that can calm tensions down as we move forward.

    JOHN LARSON: Josef Federman from the Associated Press, thanks so much for joining us.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Thank you.

    The post Tensions escalate between Israelis and Palestinians following teen deaths appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    mosul

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    JOHN LARSON: From Iraq tonight, word of the first public appearance by the man behind the recent offensive by Islamic extremists who have captured towns in northern Iraq and western Iraq and declared a caliphate, or Islamic state.

    For more about that and the counteroffensive by Iraqi government forces, we’re joined now via Skype from Baghdad by Matthew Bradley of The Wall Street Journal. Matt, thanks for joining us. What’s the latest at this hour?

    MATT BRADLEY: The latest news that’s come out in the last couple of hours is the appearance of the Islamic state’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who made his first video appearance just today and just in the last couple of hours. And this was a video that was circulated on social media and supposedly shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi giving a sort of a sermon to a prayer group, to a meeting of Muslims in a mosque in Mosul, the northern city of Iraq yesterday.

    So this is a very big deal because Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—there’s only two known photos of him available. He’s very—notoriously elusive character, and now we’re seeing a lengthy video sequence of him for the first time. And it’s a very, very interesting development. We’re now actually able to put a face to a name of jihadi leader who has really eclipsed al-Qaida, and Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of al-Qaida, in the last couple of months in terms of power and in terms of popularity.

    JOHN LARSON: You know, you’re in Baghdad. What’s the mood on the streets right now in Baghdad? How close are sort of these forces to Baghdad right now?

    MATT BRADLEY: These forces are forming something of a u-shape, a sort of horseshoe around Baghdad. They’re quite close, maybe about 100 miles to the north in the city of Tikrit. They’re in the west, the closest city being Fallujah, which they’ve held since January. And they’re quite close to Baghdad in the south, and there’s been clashes there in the town of Abu Ghraib. If you remember Abu Ghraib as the site of that huge penitentiary where the U.S. forces were seen torturing prisoners and harassing prisoners. That prison has been evacuated a couple of months ago just because how close the militants were coming.

    So they are really pretty close to the city. The thing is, is that Baghdad is not like the other areas of Iraq that the Islamic State, which is formerly known as ISIS, was able to take because Baghdad is quite a large Shiite population. And it’s not really possible for this militia to move in quite as easily into Baghdad as they did into Mosul and some of the cities to the north.

    JOHN LARSON: Matt, we understand there have been some successes by government forces. What’s the reality at least the way it feels there in the streets? You know, will government forces be able to move into any of these major metropolitan areas that they’ve lost?

    MATT BRADLEY: Well, it doesn’t look good. The military has been trying to take Tikrit, which is the city that’s near the birth town/home of Saddam Hussein. And they’ve been doing that for about a week. They’ve been trying to push into this city. There’s been landmines that have really been frustrating their approach. So it doesn’t look good for the Iraqi military. They don’t seem to be able to take the upper hand against a militant group that should be much less prepared, much worse trained, and much worse armed than this U.S-trained and U.S-armed military.

    JOHN LARSON: Matt Bradley of The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much for joining us.

    MATT BRADLEY: Thank you.

    The post Islamic State militant leader makes apparent rare appearance in Iraq appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    UKRAINE-RUSSIA-POLITICS-CRISIS-CEASEFIRE

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    JOHN LARSON: As we said, Hari Sreenivasan has been at the Aspen Ideas Festival. He interviewed the former American Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. Their conversation focused on the crisis in Ukraine and its impact on U.S-Russian relations

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For someone watching right now, what’s happening on the ground there? We’re seeing these pushes from the Ukrainian government to try to quell the unrest. We saw a cease fire, now were seeing the end of that cease fire. What is President Poroshenko trying to do?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: Well the first thing that’s happening there is a giant and needless tragedy and I want to start with that because we sometimes quickly get in. We talk about the conflict and kind of rating the conflict. This is one that didn’t need to happen. Ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians have lived side by side for long a time.

    This was all fabricated by bad leadership and bad decisions and now you have hundreds of people dying in a place that had been peaceful for a long time. That’s frustrating to me for somebody who worked on the effort to try to make Ukraine and Russia better with the United States.

    But where we at now is Poroshenko is also frustrated. He had an overture of a cease fire plan. He then called for a cease fire and he didn’t get the response he wanted. Maybe externally the response was better than the one from the rebels or terrorists inside Ukraine.

    So now he’s decided to go after them and we’ll see where it ends.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about Russia’s support for these rebels or terrorist? The steady stream of people that are coming from Russia into these parts of the Ukraine and obviously military support in the way of ammunition or of some of the weapons that are coming out?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: We don’t have this insurgency without Russia support. It doesn’t mean they control them, doesn’t mean Putin is on the phone every day talking to the commanders. It’s not that kind of control. But particularly the open border and the public support for them as well as the military assistance, the hardware. Those three components are there and if Putin wanted to shut it down he could by disrupting those three components.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are we misunderstanding President Putin’s motivations? Because right now there’s this idea that Crimea was the first and there are going to be other parts of Ukraine and he wants to recapture the glory days of the Russian empire.

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: I don’t think that’s true. I do not think that this is a second phase in a grand strategy. I do believe he went into Crimea because the government fell in Kiev. He was pissed off, it was an emotional, tactical move and he took advantage of weakness in Kiev to do that. Then he experimented in Eastern Ukraine, right. So he didn’t try to stop it, he wanted to see where it went. He gave them some public support for a time, but now I see him as deciding this is not going to lead to popular uprising in Eastern Ukraine to join Russia, and so he’s looking for a way to distance himself from those fighting on the ground. By the way you see it with their own statements from time to time of frustration is that Putin is not doing more from them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what are the options for the United States when it comes to the Ukraine and when it comes to Russia?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: The biggest, obvious point, you know, fork in the road for Ukraine is to end the violence. If Poroshenko or some configuration of international leaders helped end the violence, then Ukraine has a chance as a state as and economy, as a democracy and that should be the first and foremost objective, is to help stabilize the economy and to make the democracy function.

    That’s the way you deter further aggression and further problems in Ukraine — looking forward, but a pre-condition to make that happen is to end the violence in eastern Ukraine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Does the stance that America takes on Ukraine have a ripple effect in other parts of foreign policy between the United States and Russia?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: Yes, I think it does. Particularly in the way that Putin now views us as this sinister agent trying to deter and contain and confront Russia. That’s the way he thinks about it, he says this publicly, very vocally and therefore if you need trust for cooperation with Russia then you’re not going to have it. I think personally trust is over-rated in diplomacy in general. I think people talk about it a lot.

    In fact I didn’t see a lot of it when I was in the government, but more certainly  if that is a requirement for issues on x, y or z, we’re not going to have that as part of the equation. But there’s a lot of things that we can do that doesn’t require trust that just requires our interest to be in alignment.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how does the United States make the case for aligning our interest when it comes to Ukraine?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL:  Well I will just go back to the argument that we made when I was still in government, which was before the violence. We said to Putin and to the rest of his government. Look we do not see this in zero sum terms, right. This is not a game over — is Ukraine going to be in the west or the east. We think that a prosperous Ukraine is good for Russia and good for Europe and good for the United States by the way. And I, in our negotiations would talk about this when I was still ambassador I would say, we have trade arrangements with all kinds of countries. As long as they’re consistent with each other it could be mutually beneficial. Unfortunately that’s not the way Putin saw that particular set of events.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Michael McFaul, thanks so much for your time.

    MICHAEL MCFAUL:  Thanks for having me.

    The post How does the US make the case for its interests in Ukraine? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — How much distance from an immoral act is enough?

    That’s the difficult question behind the next legal dispute over religion, birth control and the health law that is likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

    The issue in more than four dozen lawsuits from faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals that oppose some or all contraception as immoral is how far the Obama administration must go to accommodate them.

    The justices on June 30 relieved businesses with religious objections of their obligation to pay for women’s contraceptives among a range of preventive services the new law calls for in their health plans.

    Religious-oriented nonprofit groups already could opt out of covering the contraceptives. But the organizations say the accommodation provided by the administration does not go far enough because, though they are not on the hook financially, they remain complicit in the provision of government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans.

    “Anything that forces unwilling religious believers to be part of the system is not going to pass the test,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents many of the faith-affiliated nonprofits. Hobby Lobby Inc., winner of its Supreme Court case last month, also is a Becket Fund client.

    The high court will be asked to take on the issue in its term that begins in October. A challenge from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, probably will be the first case to reach the court.

    The Obama administration argues that the accommodation creates a generous moral and financial buffer between religious objectors and funding birth control. The nonprofit groups just have to raise their hands and say that paying for any or all of the 20 devices and methods approved by government regulators would violate their religious beliefs.

    To do so, they must fill out a government document known as Form 700 that enables their insurers or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it. Insurers get reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other parts of the health law.

    Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the requirement to offer birth control.

    The objections by religious nonprofits are rooted in teachings against facilitating sin.

    Roman Catholic bishops and other religious plaintiffs argue that filling out the government form that registers opposition to contraceptives, then sending the document to the insurer or third-party administrator, is akin to signing a permission slip to engage in evil.

    In the Hobby Lobby case, the justices rejected the government argument that there was no violation of conscience because the link between birth control coverage and the outcome the employer considers morally wrong was slight.

    Just hours after the Hobby Lobby decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta granted a temporary reprieve to the Alabama-based Eternal Word Television Network. Judge William H. Pryor Jr. said in a separate opinion in that case that the administration “turns a blind eye to the undisputed evidence that delivering Form 700 would violate the Network’s religious beliefs.”

    But the Supreme Court could draw a distinction between subsidizing birth control and signing a document to deputize a third-party to do so, said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a family law specialist at the University of Illinois College of Law.

    “Think about how thinned down that objection is,” Fretwell Wilson said. “The court might say that is a bridge too far.”

    Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said the document is a reasonable way for objecting organizations to inform the insurer, but that the obligation to cover contraception is in the health law, not the form.

    “Self-certification allows the eligible organization to tell the insurance issuer and third-party administrator, `We’re excused from the new federal obligation relating to contraception,’ and in turn, the government tells those insurance companies, `But you’re not,’” the judge wrote.

    People on both sides of this argument are looking to the Hobby Lobby case for clues about how the justices might come out in this next round.

    In a Supreme Court filing, the Justice Department said the outcome strongly suggested that the court would rule in its favor when considering the nonprofits’ challenge.

    “The decision in Hobby Lobby rested on the premise that these accommodations `achieve all of the Government’s aims’ underlying the preventive-health services coverage requirement `while providing greater respect for religious liberty,’” the Justice Department wrote, quoting from Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion. The legal filing was in opposition to an emergency plea from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, to avoid having to fill out Form 700. Wheaton is one of only a few nonprofits not to have won temporary relief in its court fight.

    Rienzi, who also represents Wheaton, wrote in reply that the government is wrong to assume that the Hobby Lobby decision “blessed the accommodation.” He noted that Alito specifically said the court was not deciding whether the administration’s workaround for nonprofits adequately addressed their concerns.

    On Thursday, the court, with three justices dissenting, allowed Wheaton to avoid using the form while its case remains on appeal. Instead, the college can send written notice of its objections directly to the Health and Human Services Department rather than the insurer or the third-party administrator. At the same time, the government can take steps to ensure that women covered by Wheaton’s health plan can get emergency contraception the college won’t pay for.

    Several legal experts said that perhaps a simple revision to the government document at the center of the dispute could resolve matters.

    “I think the question will come down to does the government really need them to tell the insurance companies or can you reword the form,” said Marc Stern, a religious liberty specialist and general counsel for the American Jewish Committee. The faith-affiliated charities “might win a redrafting of the form. I don’t think they can win an argument that says we can do absolutely nothing,” Stern said.

    Associated Press reporters Mark Sherman and Rachel Zoll wrote this report. Zoll reported from New York.

    Follow Sherman on Twitter. Follow Zoll on Twitter.

    The post SCOTUS to consider contraception at faith-affiliated nonprofits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    holocaust_opera

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    JOHN LARSON: An opera that is opening at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York on Thursday had its U.S. premiere at the Houston Grand Opera in Texas this past January, where our sister station, Houston Public Media, spoke with some of the people involved in the production.

    It’s called “The Passenger,” and it’s based on a radio play and novel of the same name by a concentration camp survivor, Zofia Posmysz. The opera tells the story of two women during the Holocaust.

    OPERA SINGER: Today is my birthday!

    JOHN LARSON: One, a prisoner at Auschwitz, and the other, her SS overseer.

    PATRICK SUMMERS: It’s interesting that Zofia Posmysz, herself, said when she first heard the opera that she didn’t think anyone could ever capture the experience of what, not a day in Auschwitz was like, but what 15 minutes in Auschwitz was like. She said you didn’t try to think about surviving for a day. You tried to think about how to get through the next 15 minutes.

    DAVID POUNTEY: The fact that what you’re witnessing is a human story about two young girls, and these girls should have met in a university canteen and squabbled about a boyfriend and helped one another with their essay, but this university is called Auschwitz and one is on one side of the line and the other’s on the other, even this hell is a human story. It’s a story about human beings.

    OPERA SINGER: I cannot bear this separation. I dream constantly of you.

    PATRICK SUMMERS: It doesn’t ask us to tell each other why or how could this happen. All it asks of us is that we remember that this happened. One question. One—one thing. One demand. Remember.

    The post New opera tells story of Auschwitz prisoner and her SS overseer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    valleyfever

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    VALERIE GOROSPE: It was the very first weekend of May and she woke up from her sleep just not feeling good and then she was just really tired and she had a cough that wouldn’t go away. Finally, there was a doctor that said this isn’t pneumonia. But he knew just by looking at the spot on the X-ray, he recognized it right away that it was Valley Fever.

    EMILY GOROSPE: I kept on asking my mom, why did Valley Fever pick me? And she didn’t know the answer. I guess it just- I breathed in and it just went into my lungs.

    JASON SHOULTZ: 40 percent of people who come down with symptoms are able to keep the fungus in check in their lungs. But for others, the cocci fungus doesn’t stay put. It can spread to other parts of the body causing everything from skin lesions to serious joint pain, or worse.

    FRANCIS COLLINS: And if it spreads, particularly if it spreads to the brain or the meninges that cover around the brain, then that is a disease that is going to have huge consequences for that person for their entire life.

    JASON SHOULTZ: But Valley Fever in its early stages isn’t always taken seriously. Even in communities in Arizona or California’s San Joaquin Valley where the fungus is found throughout the soil.

    KATHY TERRELL: What they’ve heard is, “Oh it’s just like the flu. And your immune system can fight it unless your immune system is low.” That’s not always the case. There are very healthy people who get it and can’t fight it off.

    JASON SHOULTZ: Kathy Terrell’s brother Max was a healthy, active 56-year- old who contracted Valley Fever. It was misdiagnosed as Tuberculosis and spread throughout his body. He died five months later.

    KATHY TERRELL: I would not wish this disease on anyone.

    CLAUDIA JONAH: For those few people that are going to get severe illness, the faster they get the correct diagnosis, they have the better chance of having a better recovery, rather than a prolonged recovery if it takes two or three months to get the diagnosis.

    JASON SHOULTZ: Misdiagnosis is just one of the challenges of Valley Fever. Because people respond so differently to the disease, and anti-fungal drugs can have negative side-effects, there is actually disagreement on treatment.

    ROYCE JOHNSON: We treat basically almost everyone, whereas in Arizona, they’re more selective: they try and look for people that seem to have risk factors for doing poorly before they initiate therapy. We don’t have data that proves whose approach is actually best.

    GEORGE THOMPSON: We don’t even know if early treatment alters the course. We’ve long speculated that, but it’s never been proven in a randomized trial the way we’ve known bacterial pneumonia responds to antibiotics, patients get better faster. For cocci, some people think that early treatment actually may alter the immune response enough that symptoms are prolonged.

    JERRY GALANG: I’m half Filipino, my dad was born and raised in the Philippines and moved to Chicago, met my mother, they got married and they had me.

    JASON SHOULTZ: One thing Valley Fever experts do know, the disease attacks non-Caucasians, especially Filipinos at a much higher rate.

    JERRY GALANG: I was doing some yard work, with using a Bobcat, moving dirt and so I was covered with dust in Simi Valley California for about two days. And three weeks later I was attending a computer class in Irvine and all of a sudden I was getting stabbing pains in my chest like someone sticking a knife in with every breath I took.

    GEORGE THOMPSON: That’s a preprogrammed immune response and what that preprogram means is it’s not something that you can vaccinate, it’s not something that your body has ever even seen before, but it’s the way your body deals with new exposures.

    JASON SHOULTZ: Today Jerry is in San Diego visiting Robin Smith, also a Valley Fever survivor. .

    ROBIN SMITH: I was in a coma for ten days, not expected to survive. The doctors of course didn’t communicate that directly, but it was later told to us that my odds of survival were one-tenth of one percent.

    JASON SHOULTZ: Cocci Meningitis nearly claimed his life and took away the use of his legs. Today, Robin is the coordinator of disabilities for the San Diego Padres

    ROBIN SMITH: And one of the things that I’ve found, is that can be such an isolating experience to have a diagnosis like Valley Fever. And like Jerry says, it’s almost like you’re bobbing on the ocean. You’re that little speck in the middle of a sea blue that feels very, very isolated.

    JASON SHOULTZ: Attention and research funding given to Valley Fever pales in comparison to other high profile diseases. From 1999 to 2012 there were about 37,000 West Nile Virus cases. But in one year alone, 2011, there were 22,000 reported cases of Valley Fever, almost two-thirds as many. Despite that, the National Institutes of Health funding for Valley Fever research is just four percent of West Nile.

    Because there is no cure, patients who have survived Valley Fever end up regularly taking anti-fungal medications to prevent it from spreading again.

    JACK MILLER: I say it swelled like a watermelon.

    JASON SHOULTZ: The cocci fungus attacked Jack Miller’s ankle in 2004.

    JACK MILLER: I mean it was very large, because a s it set up inside my ankle, it’s just breeding or it’s multiplying or doing whatever it’s doing, but it’s not going anywhere and it’s staying right there.

    JASON SHOULTZ: Jack didn’t even live in the endemic Valley Fever area when he caught the disease. Turns out he breathed in the spores while simply driving through the San Joaquin Valley.

    JACK MILLER: Window, halfway cracked or whatever, you can’t filter out a spore, you know. If it was going to get up in the air and find its way to my nose or nostrils you know.

    JASON SHOULTZ: A decade after that fateful breath in the cab of his truck, Jack now drives 1,700 miles round trip from Idaho to UC Davis Medical Center several times each year for treatment. He’ll take anti-fungal medication for the rest of his life.

    JACK MILLER: I’m fortunate that my employer covers the cost of my medicine– ’cause right now I think it’s about $3,500-4,000 a month. The medicine I’m on to go ahead to keep it squashed

    JASON SHOULTZ: Valley Fever is also running rampant here: inside some of California’s San Joaquin Valley prisons. The disease has been blamed for the deaths of dozens of prisoners and even prison staff. The state spends about $23 million a year caring for prisoners with Valley Fever.

    ROBIN SMITH: If you breathe, you’re susceptible to Valley Fever, is essentially what it comes down to.

    FRANCIS COLLINS: My dream would be that if you walk in the door with pneumonia, or even just with fever for a couple of days, you’re not quite sure what it is, that there’s a simple, inexpensive test that will say, okay, you got Valley Fever, you don’t. We don’t have that right now.

    The post Fungal disease ‘Valley Fever’ proves tricky to diagnose appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Big Data

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Post-Edward Snowdwn has the conversation changed, are more people aware now in the last year of not just NSA and the data that they’re gathering, but all the data of them that exists?

    JULIA ANGWIN: Yeah, I think people are more aware. Although it still surprises me how much people are not aware.

    It’s not just the NSA. All these companies or even when you go to a shopping mall they might be setting up all these kind of wifi sniffers that kind of ping your phone to see who is walking by, right?

    The ubiquity of surveillance is really hard for people to grasp.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the investigations you’ve done there’s tons of research being done about us, and data being generated. What are ways that our data is being used by companies in ways that we don’t know about?

    JULIA ANGWIN: I mean it ranges all the way from totally innocuous to really creepy.

    And one thing I like to point out is that one thing that seems really innocuous like online ad tracking. You know the ads follow you around from site to site, you know, they’re tailored to your interests. Even that can be disturbing in the wrong context.

    So, one story I tell in my book is about a woman who was not out to her colleagues about her sexual orientation but when they saw her looking at her computer screen and every single ad was for gay and lesbian cruises, you know, suddenly she was outted.

    So even the most innocuous of data gathering can have strange impacts that are hard to predict.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Do we as consumers have rights to look at the data that a commercial company might have on us and then dispute that, if that’s wrong?

    JULIA ANGWIN: No, we don’t have that right. So we’re one of the only Western nations that doesn’t have a law that allows us to see the data, that commercial data gatherers have.

    So must countries don’t let you see the data that intelligence agencies have, obviously. But commercial data gatherers in most countries and Canada, and Europe, and the UK. You can go to them and say, show me the information. And if it’s wrong you can correct it, or ask for correction, and there’s sort of a dispute process. But we don’t have that here.

    So I tried to find where my data was. I identified two hundred data brokers, and I was only able to see my files at 13 of them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Of those 13, were they all accurate?

    JULIA ANGWIN: No, so that’s the other thing. Of the 13 there were probably about 5 or 6 that were very accurate. There were addresses of everywhere I’d ever lived. Even one of them had the number of my dorm room in college, which I had forgotten.

    Every phone number and my relatives and all sorts of things. They were very accurate. Then there was another category though of people who basically pegged me because I live in Harlem, in Manhattan as low-income, single mother, with very low education levels. And that’s no true.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And is this data being protected, or is private information about us, being traded all around us.

    JULIA ANGWIN: Oh, our private information is being traded all around us. I mean sadly it’s become a commodity. So the data brokers buy and sell from each other all the time.

    So if one of them maybe has your voting files, but the other has your hunting license, they might buy and trade that information.

    And similarly, the people who track you online on ads that follow you around from site to site, they also trade information about you on actual markets like the New York Stock Exchange.

    They are actual instant millisecond-level transactions. So when you arrive at a website, a little section goes out to the auction, oh this person has arrived, who want’s to bid on him… like a bidding in miliseconds.

    And then you get the ad for the person who bid the most.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what’s our recourse? I mean, with credit reports, if we get a bad one, technically there’s a way for us to challenge it or find the information. But that’s in a very specific silo. You’re talking about information, everything from our healthcare data to our shopping history.

    JULIA ANGWIN: Right. I mean, I don’t know if I have the perfect solution, but I would say that credit reports are a good starting place. Because the two things we are given rights over with our credit reports is we get to see them, and we get to dispute them.

    And that has been the baseline for the privacy laws in the other countries that I was mentioning that give people the right to see the data about them and dispute it. And if that data is being used to make a decision of any significance I feel like the very minimum that I want is to see it and dispute it.

    And so that’s what the FTC and the Obama Administration have both called for, actually legislation, which would allow that. It’s basically, they call it the privacy bill of rights. But there’s been no action in Congress on that. HS: All right, Julia Angwin thanks so much for your time.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Julia Angwin, thanks so much for your time.

    JULIA ANGWIN: Thank you.

    The post What do data brokers really know about us? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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