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

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    Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina is in a tight race with state House speaker Thom Tillis, one of four Senate races that could determine control of Congress next year, according to a New York Times poll. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

    Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina is in a tight race with state House speaker Thom Tillis. As elections approach, Democrats are increasingly trying to steer attention away form Washington. Credit: Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

    RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has her Republican opponent right where she wants him geographically – and, therefore, politically.

    Thom Tillis is stuck at the state capitol trying to resolve a budget quarrel as speaker of the North Carolina House. It’s a spot that helps Hagan emphasize Tillis’ role leading a Republican-controlled state government that Democrats contend has gone overboard with conservative zeal by restricting access to abortion and the voting booth while cutting corporate taxes and slashing spending on schools.

    If Tillis is worried by Hagan’s portrayal, he doesn’t show it. Drinking coffee this past week from a hand-grenade-shaped mug in his no-frills legislative office, he’s got his own message in his campaign to take Hagan’s Senate seat. “Obamacare,” he said, “continues to be a big problem.”

    Similar themes are playing out in other crucial Senate races, as voters have four months to decide which party will control the chamber in the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. For Republicans, it’s all about tying Democrats to Obama – especially to a health care law that remains unpopular with many Americans. And for Democrats, the election is about just about anything else, especially if they can steer attention away from Washington and federal matters.

    It’s a political strategy that sometimes gives the campaigns an inside-out feel, with veteran senators running as if they were first-timers without a Washington resume to defend or tout.

    Democrat Mark Pryor has represented Arkansas in the Senate for two terms, yet one of his TV ads begins with a man saying, “I remember when Pryor was attorney general.” A woman adds that he pursued “scam artists that were ripping off seniors.”

    Pryor was state attorney general more than a decade ago, and for just four years, compared to his nearly dozen in the Senate. His harkening back to that time points to his desire to make the election a choice between a famous name in Arkansas state politics and first-term Rep. Tom Cotton, a Republican whom many view as less personable and engaging than Pryor.

    The GOP strategy, in return, is straightforward. One TV ad has a young girl spelling Pryor’s name as O-B-A-M-A.

    Traditionally emphasized by first-time campaigners, personal biographies are central to several other Democrats’ re-election campaigns. Alaska Sen. Mark Begich has aired a TV ad with footage of him as a boy of about 10, when his father, Rep. Nick Begich, died in a plane crash. “Mark is clearly his father’s son,” says the narrator, Begich’s wife, Deborah Bonito.

    And after 18 years in the Senate, Democrat Mary Landrieu is arguably the most accomplished member of her famous Louisiana political family. Still, she has aired an ad in which her father – former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu – says affectionately: “When you have nine children, you’re bound to have one who’s hard-headed.”

    Some Democrats might say the same about the GOP’s strategy of bashing “Obamacare” now that the Affordable Care Act is 4 years old. Not Tillis, who says Obama and Hagan exaggerated the extent to which people could keep their doctors and insurance plans. He calls it “the greatest example of a promise not kept.”

    He’s getting help with the message from Crossroads GPS, the political group run in part by Republican strategist Karl Rove, which is spending more than $3.5 million on television ads in North Carolina this summer. The group’s latest ad attacking Hagan asks whether voters know she “cast the deciding vote for Obamacare.”

    “The idea that this will be anything less than a referendum on Obamacare is wishful thinking,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.

    The amount spent on the Hagan-Tillis race – about $17 million and climbing – is among the nation’s highest. It comes in a state that few can rival for political change in recent years, as Republicans ended a century of frustration by winning control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in 2012.

    What came next is a “conservative revolution” that Tillis said he’s proud of leading. Hagan and her fellow Democrats argue the Republicans went too far in a state so closely divided politically that Obama carried it in 2008 and lost it four years later. They believe a bump in teacher pay that Tillis promises lawmakers will enact this summer won’t erase North Carolinians’ memories of the deep cuts to education that Republicans passed last year.

    That approach, said Rep. David Price, D-N.C., is Hagan’s best chance to focus November voters’ attention on something other than Obama. Her strategy “is exactly what she should do,” Price said, because Tillis “has got that hung right around his neck.”

    Hagan, meanwhile, points to achievements close to home. They include her push to provide medical care to military families exposed to tainted water for decades at Camp Lejeune, the giant Marine Corps base in eastern North Carolina.

    “Kay Hagan,” said veteran North Carolina GOP strategist Paul Shumaker, “is hoping the sins of Raleigh are much bigger than the sins of Washington.

    The post Democrats up for election try to steer attention away from Washington appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rainforest clearing for slash and burn agriculture, central Sulawesi, Indonesia

    Rainforest clearing for slash and burn agriculture in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The country has the highest deforestation rate in the world, according to a study published in “Nature Climate Change” in June. Credit: Kevin Schafer via Getty Images

    Indonesia has the highest deforestation rate in the world, according to a study published in the journal “Nature Climate Change” in June.

    Researchers at the University of Maryland said the country lost 15 million acres of forest — a common source of lumber for developers — between 2000 and 2012.

    The study also found that the country’s recent rate of forest loss is twice as devastating as the government claimed.

    According to the conservation news journal Monga Bay, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the country’s 2011 temporary ban on deforestation, or “forest moratorium,” was a success. Yudhoyono said the ban required developers to get permits and protected “more than 63 million hectares of primary forests and peat lands.”

    Since 2000, increased deforestation has made the country’s lowland forests scarcer and has lead developers to look elsewhere in the country.

    In an interview with Scientific American, Glenn Hurowitz, a managing director at Climate Advisers, said developers are moving into Indonesia’s wetlands, including the country’s peatland rainforests.

    “Tropical rainforests are one of the world’s richest carbon sinks, and peatlands are many times more powerful carbon sinks,” he said. “It’s the height of insanity, desperation or greed to destroy a peatland rainforest.”

    Indonesia’s carbon emissions are projected to get even higher this year, as El Niño, expected to hit in 2014, will make forests dry and susceptible to fires. This could steer the country away from its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

    According to the World Resources Institute, fires in Indonesia’s forests and peat lands increased in March and were concentrated in areas managed by pulpwood, palm oil and logging companies.

    The post Indonesia reaches highest deforestation rate in the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Israeli security block the entrance to the Petah Tikva Justice court where suspects in the brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager who was burned to death in a suspected revenge killing. are held for a hearing, on July 6, 2014 in the central city of Petah Tikva. Israeli police have arrested a group of Jewish extremists in connection with the kidnap and murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

    Israeli security block the entrance to the Petah Tikva Justice court where suspects in the murder of a Palestinian teenager are held for a hearing on July 6. Credit: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

    Israeli authorities have arrested a group of suspects in connection to the murder of a Palestinian teenager, whose burned body was found in a forest on Wednesday.

    Josef Federman of the Associated Press told NewsHour Weekend that officials said six men are in custody. Federman said the suspects are described as young, Jewish men from the Jerusalem area.

    Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted from his home, beaten and reportedly burned to death in a case that has spawned violent protests in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and northern Israel.

    Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha, told the AP the arrests brought her no relief.

    “I don’t have any peace in my heart, even if they captured who they say killed my son,” she said. “They’re only going to ask them questions and then release them. What’s the point?”

    Israeli officials believe Abu Khdeir’s killers acted out of “nationalistic” motives, likely as retribution for the murders of three Israeli teenagers, who were kidnapped on June 12 and shot to death.

    The three teens, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, were abducted in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Their bodies were found 18 days later in an open field, about 15 miles from where they were last seen.

    After the youths were found dead, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas was responsible for the murders and would pay.

    The post Israeli authorities announce arrests in killing of Arab teen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    kenya

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    JOHN LARSON: Terrorists have struck again in East Africa. Authorities in Kenya say at least 29 people were killed in a series of attacks that Islamic Al-Shabab extremists from neighboring Somalia claimed they were behind.

    One Kenyan official said later, they went around shooting at people and villages indiscriminately.

    For more we’re joined now via Skype from Nairobi Kenya by Heidi Vogt of the Wall Street Journal.

    Heidi, thanks so much for joining us. What more do we know about this particular incident?

    HEIDI VOGT: Well, this was sort of twin attacks in two areas about ninety kilometers apart. We had gunmen go into these villages. We do have some witnesses saying that they were targeting Christian men, which is something we saw in attacks a few weeks ago, but we also have reports that they may have been trying to free prisoners or just going in as you were saying, shooting.

    JOHN LARSON: Now this is the latest in a series of attacks. I mean we’re familiar with the horrible attacks in the shopping center in Nairobi, but there’s been a series now.

    HEIDI VOGT: Yeah the most recent attack like this that drew a lot of attention to this Eastern region of Kenya was just about three weeks ago around Mpeketoni where we had some sixty people killed, slaughtered really at night as attackers went door to door asking if people were Muslim or Christian. So it really is showing these aren’t isolated incidents.

    JOHN LARSON: We’ve always heard about Kenya being this shining hope of Democracy we’ve seen Western businesses, lots of tourism in the area. What effects have these attacks had on those areas?

    HEIDI VOGT: You know Kenya’s not just this shining hope, it’s really been the stabilizing factor for this whole region.

    I mean when you look at its neighbors you have Somalia and South Sudan and Kenya’s been a country that’s gone in to negotiate that’s sent troops in in some cases and that Western powers have used as a partner to try to combat the terrorist threat across East Africa.

    So if Kenya is suddenly a place that is unsafe and uncertain it raises a lot more questions for what that means for the entire East African region.

    JOHN LARSON: Now how great a threat is Al Shabab and what are its ties to other Islamic extremist groups around the world?

    HEIDI VOGT: Well Al-Shab is affiliated with Al Qaeda and it’s been a major destabilizing force in the region. They’ve been working against the Somali government of course for years. Now a lot of these attacks in Kenya they say are in retaliation for Kenyan forces going in and trying to help put down that insurgency in Somalia, so it’s really had an effect throughout a lot of Kenya as well.

    JOHN LARSON: Heidi Vogt of the Wall Street Journal, thanks so much for joining us.

    The post Al-Shabab extremists wage violent attack in Kenya appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    federman

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    JOHN LARSON: We begin tonight in Israel, where authorities today arrested six men they believe are responsible for the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager. The 16-year-old was beaten and burned alive.

    The incident apparently sparked by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. The arrest were one of several important developments in Israel today. For more we are once again joined via Skype in Jerusalem by Josef Federman of the Associated Press.

    Joe thanks again for joining us. What do we know about the arrest today?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well Israeli authorities have just announced that they arrested several suspects. They haven’t given the official number, but officials are saying that they have six people in custody.

    The arrest took place this morning and everybody is still being interrogated right now. We don’t know their identifications yet, we don’t have their names, but we know that they are Jewish. We know that they are young men. In fact some of them are below the age of 18. They have been identified as minors and they come from the Jerusalem area.

    JOHN LARSON: You don’t know anything about their affiliation or what might be behind this? But 24 hours ago they weren’t even sure whether or not it was nationalistic in its nature.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Exactly. That’s why this is a significant breakthrough because it really, it points us in the direction that Palestinians certainly have expected and a lot of Israelis have feared — that it was nationalistic. Initially police have been looking into possible criminal motives or personal motives. But now they identified the direction from which it came.

    JOHN LARSON: Joe, I read a description that the Palestinian mother of the Palestinian boy that was killed of her reaction saying that, regardless of who was arrested she didn’t trust what was going to happen. And she said, you know, that maybe they should treat whoever is arrested treat their families like they treat our families burn their houses. It was an angry response.

    To what extent do you think this arrest will, will matter to the Palestinian community?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: I think what the mother expressed is a common sentiment. There is a lot of distrust toward the Israeli authorities. Relations are bad and they have been bad for a long time. That said the situation on the ground seems to be calming today. You see a lot of efforts by the Israeli Prime Minister who went on national TV, just in the past few minutes to urge calm.

    Israel’s president Shimon Peres, the Noble Peace prize winner, also urging calm. And there are attempts by Israeli officials to work with Arab leader in northern Israel where there have been violent protest in the past few days. Also working together to get things back to normal. In addition in east Jerusalem in the neighborhoods that saw the heaviest rioting things are moving back to normal today. We see market places reopening, we see the streets are reopening to traffic and people going back to their routines. So the signs are that things are beginning to calm down.

    JOHN LARSON: What about the investigation into the murder of the three Israeli teens? Where does that stand?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: That continues and I know it’s a high priority for the Israelis. Today we were told that there has been another arrest. It’s possibly a significant arrest because it took place in the same town in Hebron. The city of the West Bank where the suspected killers who were still on the loose, where they come from. So there’s some speculation that today’s arrest was significant. That said, Israel has arrested probably 400 people so far in its ongoing investigation. So no immediate signs of a breakthrough.

    JOHN LARSON: I understand there may be developments in another incident of a beating by Israeli police of and American teenager. The cousin of the Palestinian teen who was killed, any news on that?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Absolutely, he also was in the same neighborhood from his cousin who was killed. He was beaten very bad by Israeli Security troops during one of the demonstrations the other day. He was released from Israeli custody today. He was in pretty bad shape two black eyes, His mouth, his face was all swollen but he’s been released to house arrest. He was ordered to stay with his family while this investigation continues. We spoke to him very briefly and he just said he’s happy to be home.

    JOHN LARSON: Josef Federman of the Associated Press from Jerusalem, once again, we thank you.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Thank you.

    The post Authorities move forward on investigation into Palestinian teen’s death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sir Walter Scott's home, Abbotsford, in the Scottish Borders was built in the Scottish Baronial style.  It's where Scott wrote his world-famous

    Sir Walter Scott’s Scottish Baronial-style home Abbotsford is where the author wrote his world-famous “Waverley” novels. Image by Lorna Baldwin.

    In July 1814, no one knew whose words they were reading exactly, but they read “Waverley” in such volume that the initial printing of 1,000 copies sold out in two days. Set during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the historical novel tells the story of a young English soldier, Edward Waverley, sent north to Scotland to fight with the Redcoat army. Love gets in the way, and Edward’s passion for the feisty Highlander Flora leads him to join the Jacobites’ fight.

    By November of 1814, “Waverley” was in its fourth printing and had become a runaway international success, all without the benefit of an author’s name on the title page.

    Sir Henry Raeburn's portrait of Sir Walter Scott in 1822. Owned by the National Galleries of Scotland.

    Sir Henry Raeburn’s portrait of Sir Walter Scott in 1822, on display at the National Galleries of Scotland.

    The author was widely believed to be Sir Walter Scott, at the time better known for his poetry — of the “Oh, what a tangled web we weave” variety.

    “Waverley” was something new for Scott. He’d started it years earlier, put it away in a drawer and forgotten about it until late 1813. Then, in a three-week burst of creativity, he finished the second and third volumes at his new home in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford.

    The book was received with almost universal acclaim, and nearly every reviewer guessed it was written by Scott. Even some of his readers knew. Jane Austen wrote to her niece Anna in September 1814:

    “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.  – It is not fair.  – He has Fame and Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.  – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but I fear I must.”

    Scott didn’t admit to authoring “Waverley” until 1827, by which time he’d written a slew of other historical novels, largely in a bid to dig himself out of heavy debt from the collapse of his printer and publisher. Many of the novels were set in Scotland. ”Rob Roy”  and ”The Bride of Lammermoor,” among others, helped export the romanticized vision of tartan, castles and heather-covered Highlands that persists to this day.
     

    Scott's study was one of the last rooms at Abbotsford to be finished.  The desk is where he wrote the

    Scott’s study was one of the last rooms at Abbotsford to be finished. The desk is where he wrote the “Waverley” novels. Image by Flickr user Bernard Blanc.

    From his perch in his study at Abbotsford, Scott churned out dozens of works of this new genre in high demand. His books were among the most popular and widely read around the world for over a century. Scott welcomed fellow authors to his home, including the American writer Washington Irving. His library of 9,000 books reflected his global reach.

    Some of the 9,000 books in Sir Walter Scott's library at Abbotsford. Image by Lorna Baldwin.

    Some of the 9,000 books in Sir Walter Scott’s library at Abbotsford. Image by Lorna Baldwin.

    Jason Dyer, director of development at Abbotsford, maintains Scott’s work is still relevant and important. “Through his novels and through his wider legacy, he is often credited as the man who reinvented Scotland as we know it today,” Dyer said.

    “His works romanticized the Scottish landscape and Scottish history and this turned Scotland from being seen as a backward part of the British Empire, into a noble and majestic country. Through his works, tourists began to visit Scotland en masse.”

    After Scott’s death in 1832, Abbotsford became a stop for literary pilgrims devoted to European Romanticism. Queen Victoria visited in 1867, writing in her diary:

    “We went through some passages into two or three rooms where were collected fine specimens of old armour, etc., and where in a glass case are Sir Walter’s last clothes. We ended by going into the dining-room, in which Sir Walter Scott died, where we took tea…”

    Scott spent the final few days of his life in the dining room, where a bed was made up for him in the window alcove overlooking the River Tweed. He'd suffered a series of strokes and died on September 21, 1832 at the age of 61. Image by Lorna Baldwin.

    Scott spent the final few days of his life in the dining room, where a bed was made up for him in the window alcove overlooking the River Tweed. He’d suffered a series of strokes and died on September 21, 1832 at the age of 61. Image by Lorna Baldwin.

    Scott incorporated gargoyles, or grotesques, into Abbotsford because of his interest in the supernatural, and to scare away evil spirits. Image by Lorna Baldwin.

    Scott incorporated gargoyles, or grotesques, into Abbotsford because of his interest in the supernatural, and to scare away evil spirits. Image by Lorna Baldwin.

    Today, 40 percent of overseas visitors to Abbotsford are American. The house was reopened in July 2013, after a two-year, $20 million restoration. As for “Waverley,” to commemorate its 200 years in print, a newly adapted edition has been published by Jenni Calder, 50,000 words shorter than the original in a bid to lure in more modern readers to Scott’s work.

     

    The post The historical novel celebrates 200 years, thanks to Sir Walter Scott appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An appeals court has struck down an executive order from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that denies drivers licenses to some undocumented immigrants. Photo by Flickr user Col Ford and Natasha de Vere

    An appeals court has ruled unconstitutional an executive order from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that denies drivers licenses to some undocumented immigrants. Photo by Flickr user Col Ford and Natasha de Vere

    An appeals court reversed on Monday Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s policy that denies drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants with work permits under an Obama administration program that granted qualifying immigrants deportation deferrals.

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s order violated the immigrants’ equal protection rights. The court added that these young immigrants “had shown a likelihood of irreparable injury” under Arizona’s policy.

    Brewer issued an executive order on Aug. 15, 2012 that denied drivers licenses and other public benefits to young undocumented immigrants in Arizona who would have benefited from President Barack Obama’s program to stop deportations of law-abiding, young immigrants. The order was issued the same day the new policy went into effect.

    The president announced the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals in June 2012, allowing nearly 1.3 million undocumented immigrants age 30 and younger to apply for a temporary reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

    Immigrant rights advocates questioned the constitutionality of Brewer’s policy, calling it discriminatory. The Associated Press reports that Brewer’s administration altered its policy last year to target all immigrants that had received a deportation deferral.

    Despite this change, the appeals court ruled that Brewer’s order is unconstitutional.

    View the court’s opinion below:

    The post Appeals court blocks Arizona’s policy of denying licenses to immigrants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Would you rather have lived in a more violent hunter-gatherer society, where working demands were less and food was more plentiful or pre-industrial England? The hunter-gatherer would have been better, says economic historian Gregory Clark. Photo by Flickr user Jonrawlinson.

    Up until the time of Napoleon, population was limited by the limited resources for keeping humans alive, making a hunter-gatherer society, like the Amazon above, a more comfortable place to live than pre-industrial England. Photo by Flickr user Jonrawlinson.

    A note from Paul Solman: Around the world of economic history, in 80 words: In the beginning, humans were hunter-gatherers and lived a pretty easy life, though only until the age of 35 or so, on average. About 12,000 years ago or less, folks discovered agriculture, and population exploded — but material life actually became harder than before. Then came the Industrial Revolution and at least in the West, sudden and steady economic growth that made us rich: “A Farewell to Alms,” as economic historian Greg Clark put it in his first controversial book seven years ago.

    The controversial part: he claimed that in England, where the Industrial Revolution was born, the takeoff was due, above all, to “the survival of the richest.”

    Clark.A farewell to alms

    I interviewed Clark right after the book came out, but for various reasons, our discussion never made it to air. The interview began with the Pleistocene (circa 2.5 million to 12,000 BCE), well before the agricultural so-called “Neolithic” revolution. But, says Clark, up until the time of Napoleon — 1800 CE — the world as we know it conforms well to a “Malthusian” view of economic history: population limited by the limited resources for keeping humans alive. When Thomas Malthus laid out this vision in 1798, he was dead on about the entire past history of humankind, though the Industrial Revolution was about to prove him wrong about the future.

    This week, we’re presenting the interview with Clark, never before published, broken into five pieces. It’s as good an overview of economic history as you’re likely ever to get.


    Greg Clark: You start off as a hunter-gatherer and your tribe grows until the animals or nuts and berries start thinning out or you run into another tribe’s turf. You do very well. But you can’t stop the population growing. And so you start off with 100,000 people, but by 1800 you’ve got a world of 700 million people, and it’s the nature of that pre-industrial world that all the time you’re improving technology; what you’re doing is generating more people.

    We get a pretty good idea of what life was like 100,000 years ago just by looking at the kind of surviving remnant hunter-gatherer groups in the Amazonian jungle, and life is actually surprisingly good compared with societies like England even as late as 1800. People get a fairly decent diet. They’re not over-fed. There’s a lot of variety.

    Surprisingly, people actually don’t have to work that long. It seems to be something like five to six hours per day for all work activities that people do, whereas even in affluent, modern America, if you count all of the things that I count as work like home repair and child care, men are doing about nine hours a day in modern America. [Anthropologist Marshall Sahlins once described hunter-gathers as living in “the original affluent society.”]

    Life expectancy wasn’t long, but it was no worse than England in 1800 — about 35 years at birth – and if you made it to age 20, you actually had a decent chance of getting into your sixties. So a hunter-gatherer life was not great, but it wasn’t as bad as people might think.

    The evidence is that they were living as well, or probably better, than most societies around about 1800.

    But a defining feature was that technology changed very, very slowly. What that meant was that the population would expand to the point where the birth rate equalled the death rate. And so the Malthusian world is dominated by this fact: that for every birth, someone has to die, and the way that’s accomplished is by living standards eventually being driven low enough to actually achieve the balance.

    “And so the Malthusian world is dominated by this fact: that for every birth, someone has to die…”

    Every society that we know of before 1800 was constrained in that way. All long- established societies, eventually, expanded to fill every niche.

    If you go to somewhere like England in 1300, it’s all occupied. There’s no extra space. Everything has to be accommodated within that society. Take Japan. Already by 1600 it’s all occupied by people. It takes a surprisingly short time in most of these societies for a population to grow rapidly enough that you’ve basically occupied everything [given the productivity of the land to feed its people].

    The Yangtze Delta, around about 1800, they had very, very high yield from each acre of land, but it takes a huge amount of human labor to get that extra yield. You have to dig out the drainage ditches, get the manure in from the cities, and output per worker becomes very low.

    Image of Thomas Malthus courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Image of Thomas Malthus courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Here’s the interesting thing: if you look at a hunter-gatherer society, it tends to have enormously high output per worker, because they don’t work that much, and so per worker hour, they tended to do very well.

    If you go to England in 1800, even though it’s a much more sophisticated society, the average agricultural worker is only producing about half the number of calories per hour of work as in a typical hunter-gatherer society. And so the problem you run into with a fixed area of land is that you can always expand the amount of output. It’s amazing how much more you can do, and China shows just how dramatic that can be. But the output per worker eventually just keeps on moving down.

    Paul Solman: So the story up until modernity is hunter-gatherers multiplying and filling more and more land, up to the point that they can’t be hunter-gatherers anymore because there are no more nuts and berries?

    Greg Clark: Yes.

    Paul Solman: Or antelope to slay?

    Greg Clark: Hunter-gatherers around 100,000 BC could only catch really slow moving things. There were a lot of snails and mollusks in their diet. They learned to catch bigger things, they increased their population density, but then someone comes along with the idea of well, “What about if we cultivated grains?”

    That’s a great idea at first. You do very well. But you can’t stop the population from growing. And so you start off with 100,000 people, but by 1800, you’ve got a world of 700 million people, and it’s the nature of that pre-industrial world, that all the time you’re improving technology, all you’re doing is generating more people. That’s all the effect of technology in this world — in terms of living conditions — before 1800.

    Paul Solman: And just to be specific, you get more people why and how?

    Greg Clark: Because every time you improve living standards, people produce more children, they’re more fertile, and more of those children live to adulthood.

    ***

    Clark asked me to consider, for example, the South Seas Mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1789, made famous by Hollywood. A handful of mutineers ran off first to Tahiti and then brought a number of native women with them to uninhabited Pitcairn Island, 1357 miles away.

    Greg Clark: Eleven women and 12 men, and that actually led to fighting, trouble. The island is only a mile long and half-a-mile wide, and eventually there was only one man left, but 10 women.

    Within 50 years, in those circumstances, with food and without disease, population just exploded and eventually they had to remove people from the island — a large fraction of the population.

    And so you can see that if living conditions are good in the pre-industrial world, eventually you run into a population constraint, and then it’s got to be disease, poor housing, low material wealth that actually keeps the population down.

    Just read Samuel Pepys’ diary, says Clark, to see how prevalent disease was, even in Restoration England.

    Greg Clark: It’s a wonderful window into English society in the 1660s. Pepys is at the very apex. He is in the major government department, the Navy, running most of their operations. We know from 10 years of his diaries, where he records everything, that in that time his wife seems to have taken one bath, and it’s notable enough that he actually writes it down, and notes that now she pretends to this resolution of being clean, and she won’t let him come to bed with her that night, now that she is clean.

    There’s no record of that bath ever occurring again. This is the upper level of the society.

    The other thing in Pepys’ diary is he’s got problems because of the human effluents kept in the basement of houses in London, emptied every six months. So basically, these people are living above human waste, and your neighbor’s waste runs into your house.

    In contrast, Japan, from the earliest times, was a society of very orderly hygiene, careful separation of toilet facilities and housing. And the bizarre feature of this in the pre-industrial world is that the Japanese then were able to live on kind of stinted material rations, whereas in somewhere like England, you had to be fairly well off if you’re going to actually survive the resulting diseases and other problems.

    “And so a lot about the Malthusian world is the exact opposite of what we expect now. What’s vice now is virtue then. You know, bad hygiene actually makes for good living conditions.”

    And so a lot about the Malthusian world is the exact opposite of what we expect now. What’s vice now is virtue then. You know, bad hygiene actually makes for good living conditions.

    Paul Solman: Because so many people die.

    Greg Clark: Yes. Areas that have bad climate in terms of disease, like sub-Saharan Africa, we believe, were actually wealthy areas in the pre-industrial period because disease helped kill so many people.

    Paul Solman: And therefore, the people who are left can live much better.

    Greg Clark: They can share the bounty. In hunter-gatherer society, one of the reasons that living standards are high is that they tended to have a high degree of violence. There’s a lot of death through violence.

    That’s actually a good thing in a world like this because you’ve got to die some way. It’s better to die at the end of a spear than to die from miserable material living conditions.

    Paul Solman: Now you’re smiling and you’re saying “good thing,” but you mean “good” for the living standards of the people who surive.

    Greg Clark: No, I mean “good” in an absolute sense: that given a choice between living in a society like Japan and living in hunter-gatherer society — one with hygiene and ordor, and the other with violence and mayhem – that in every respect, you’d be better off in hunter-gatherer society. You live just as long as you do in Japan, but you live better, until you finally meet your end. And so I’m smiling because it actually is the case that in this pre-industrial world, if you have a choice, go for the violent society. In every sense you’ll be better off.

    Paul Solman: Because you really would be better off dying at the end of a spear than dying of malnutrition.

    Greg Clark: Yes. In the sense that you’re going to live for the same average length of time, but you live so much better in a society with these larger extraneous sources of death than you would in a society where everything is orderly, everything is neat, and you basically get your bowl of rice every day.

    In hunter-gatherer society, you live just as long, but eat a lot of meat; you don’t work that much. That’s why the bizarre thing is that for most people in the world, things were getting worse, all the way up, until 1800. A lot of other things changed about the world, and if you’re interested in the intellectual life, there’s a lot of difference by 1800. But if you’re just thinking about the material world, the bizarre feature is that hunter-gatherer society is where you want to go.

    Paul Solman: So no growth in all these centuries in Europe? How about the kings, the nobles?

    Greg Clark: Oh, yes. In all of these societies there was a very rich upper stratum, and certainly when you moved to societies in 1800, these new agrarian societies, that stratum could live better than in the hunter-gatherer world. But that’s a tiny fraction of the population, and for some place like England, we can actually calculate in 1800 what was the average calorie ration per day, per person.

    Paul Solman: Including the rich?

    Greg Clark: Including the rich. And it’s something like 2,300 calories. What is it in modern hunter-gatherer or forager societies? It’s about the same, on average.

    And so at the very upper end of the spectrum, certainly these societies offer new possibilities. But for the average person in England who is down at the bottom, nothing has changed. Now you can get some enjoyment from watching the antics of the rich in your society. But hunter-gatherer society was actually much more egalitarian. And since we like equality in the modern world, again, it would seem to be an argument for saying that you should choose hunter-gatherer society if you have the choice.

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    More than 100 leading neuroscientists protested the $1.6 billion Human Brain Project in an open letter Monday. The project, the scientists argued, will waste money and harm the field of neuroscience.

    The Human Brain Project, largely funded by the European Union, launched in 2013 with a 10-year plan to simulate the functioning of the human brain on a supercomputer.

    The collaborators of the Human Brain Project introduce themselves and the venture.

    Even though more than 80 European and international research institutions signed up for the project, several researchers refused to join, the Guardian reports. Some claimed that it’s too premature to simulate the human brain in a computer – which will eventually waste time and money.

    Henry Markram, head of the Human Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne, said the project would include the work of some 100,000 neuroscientists worldwide, and that the protesters didn’t understand the venture.

    E.U. spokesman Ryan Heath said it was too early to decide whether the project is a success and that the organization will closely review the progress each year.

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    Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, on June 18, 2014, in Brownsville,Texas. Brownsville and Nogales, Ariz. have been central to processing  thousands of unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since 2012.  Photo by Eric Gay-Pool/Getty Images

    Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, on June 18, 2014, in Brownsville,Texas. Brownsville and Nogales, Ariz. have been central to processing thousands of unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since 2012. Photo by Eric Gay-Pool/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday that most unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are unlikely to qualify for humanitarian relief that would prevent them from being sent back from their home countries.

    The pointed warning came as the White House finalized a spending request to Congress detailing the additional resources President Barack Obama wants in order to hire more immigration judges and open additional detention facilities to deal with the border crisis. White House officials said they planned to send the more than $2 billion request to lawmakers on Tuesday.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that while the administration will allow the immigration review process to take place, officials so far don’t expect many of the children arriving at the border to be able to stay in the U.S.

    “It’s unlikely that most of these kids will qualify for humanitarian relief,” Earnest said. “It means they will not have a legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned.”

    Still, it’s unclear how quickly that process will unfold. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged Sunday that such proceedings might be long delayed, and he said that coping with floods of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is a legal and humanitarian dilemma for the United States.

    “Our border is not open to illegal migration, and we are taking a number of steps to address it, including turning people around faster,” Johnson told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” At the same time, he said, the administration is “looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values.”

    Repeatedly pressed to say whether thousands of Central American children will be deported promptly, Johnson said, “We need to find more efficient, effective ways to turn this tide around generally, and we’ve already begun to do that.”

    Most are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where spikes in violence and poverty are prompting parents to send their children on difficult and dangerous journeys north.

    Their numbers have overwhelmed federal agencies. When 140 would-be immigrants — mostly mothers with children — were flown to southern California to ease an overcrowded Texas facility, angry residents of Murrieta, California, greeted the bus as it pulled into town, complaining that they were being saddled with more than their share.

    “This is a failure of diplomacy. It is a failure of leadership from the administration,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who sought the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

    Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said the administration “is one step behind” a major dilemma that was foreseeable. The number of children coming from Central America without adults has been rising dramatically for several years.

    A George W. Bush-era law to address human trafficking prevents the government from returning these children to their home countries without taking them into custody and eventually through a deportation hearing. Minors from Mexico and Canada, by contrast, can be sent back across the border more easily. The administration says it wants more flexibility under the law.

    Johnson said the administration has dramatically sped up the processing of adults who enter the country illegally, and it is opening more detention facilities. He acknowledged that the unaccompanied children from Central America, some 9,700 taken into custody in May alone, pose the most vexing problem.

    Unaccompanied Central American children generally are being released to relatives already in the United States. Mothers with their children often are released with a notice to appear later in immigration court.

    Meanwhile, word of seemingly successful border crossings reaches their home countries, encouraging others to try.

    Johnson said the U.S. government is trying to send the message that all people who enter the country illegally will face deportation proceedings eventually. In Central America, he said, “the criminal smuggling organizations are putting out a lot of disinformation about supposed free passes into this country” that will expire soon. “We’re cracking down on the smuggling organizations by surging law enforcement resources,” Johnson said.

    Johnson and others are warning of the dangers that immigrants, and especially children, face when the try to reach the United States on their own. Johnson is scheduled to meet with Guatemalan officials later this week.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said children entering the country illegally must be sent home. If not, Graham said, “you’re going to incentivize people throughout that part of the world to keep sending their children here.”

    Graham said foreign aid should be cut off to countries that don’t do more to discourage illegal immigration to the United States.

    Perry appeared on ABC’s “This Week”; Cuellar was on CNN’s “State of the Union”; Graham was on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

    The post Child migrant crisis pushes humanitarian and legal boundaries for U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Passengers at some overseas airports that offer U.S.-bound flights will soon be required to power on their electronic devices in order to board their flights — a measure intended to enhance aviation security at a time when intelligence officials are concerned about hidden explosives, a counterterrorism official said.

    American intelligence officials have been concerned about new al-Qaida efforts to produce a bomb that would go undetected through airport security. There is no indication that such a bomb has been created or that there’s a specific threat to the U.S., but intelligence has suggested that al-Qaida and like-minded groups are focused on perfecting an explosive that could be hidden in shoes, electronics or cosmetics, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

    The Transportation Security Administration says it is adding the requirement that passengers coming to the U.S. from some airports must turn on devices such as cellphones before boarding. It says devices that won’t power up won’t be allowed on planes and those travelers may have to undergo additional screening. Turning on an electronic device can show a screener that the laptop or cellphone, for instance, is a working device and that the batteries are used for operating that device and that the device is not hiding explosives.

    The enhanced security measures come as U.S. intelligence officials are concerned about Americans and others from the West who have traveled to Syria to join the fight against the Syrian government. The fear is that a fighter with a U.S. or other Western passport, who therefore may be subject to less stringent security screening, could carry such a bomb onto an American plane.

    TSA will not disclose which airports will be conducting the additional screening. Industry data show that more than 250 foreign airports offer nonstop service to the U.S.

    Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, told passengers that they might not be allowed to take electronic devices onto planes if they could not be switched on.

    It posted a security update on its website telling passengers, “If you are flying to the US please make sure any of your electronic devices are charged before you travel.”

    British Airways also issued an update for passengers flying from Britain to the U.S. “Customers may be asked to turn on any electronic or battery powered devices such as telephones, tablets, e-books and laptops in front of security teams and/or demonstrate the item’s functionality,” the update said. “If, when asked to do so, you are unable to demonstrate that your device has power you will not be allowed to fly on your planned service.”

    American intelligence officials have said that they have picked up indications that bomb makers from Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula have traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there.

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently ordered the TSA to call for extra security measures at some international airports with direct flights to the United States. TSA does not conduct screening abroad, but has the ability to set screening criteria and processes for flights flying to the U.S. from abroad, according to a Homeland Security Department official, who was not allowed to discuss the changes publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    During an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Johnson declined to speculate on whether new security procedures called for overseas will be required at domestic airports in the future.

    “We continue to evaluate things,” he said. “In this instance we felt that it was important to crank it up some at the last point of departure airports and we’ll continually evaluate the situation.”

    Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula long has been fixated on bringing down airplanes with hidden explosives. It was behind failed and thwarted plots involving suicide bombers with explosives designed to be hidden inside underwear and explosives secreted inside printer cartridges shipped on cargo planes.

    The post For safety, some air travelers will be asked to turn on cellphones appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Ed Yourdon.

    When depending on widow(er)s benefits from a late spouse, you’ll want to make sure you timed the collection of your retirement and windows benefits to maximize your total check. Photo by Flickr user Ed Yourdon.

    Larry Kotlikoff’s Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Let us know your Social Security questions. Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version.


    Roseanne — Texas: I am 62 years old and unmarried. My husband died many years ago. I was told I can collect survivor benefits now, but I cannot make more than $18,000 per year otherwise the benefits will be reduced. If I wait until I am 65 and collect my own Social Security benefits, can I also collect my deceased husband’s benefits, or half of his?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Widow(er)s can actually start collecting reduced survivor benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if they are disabled and become disabled before or pretty soon after their spouse died).

    Your precise optimal strategy will depend on your earnings history, your late spouse’s, and also whether he took his retirement benefit early, in which case the RIB-LIM formula applies (read more about that in this column). To sort this out, you’ll need to use very careful software that takes into account the following Social Security provisions: the early widow’s benefit reduction — unless the RIB-LIM formula comes into play, the earnings test, the adjustment of the reduction factor and the delayed retirement credit.

    But the basic point is that you want to take either A) your widows benefit first, while letting your own retirement benefit grow, which it will do through age 70, or B) your retirement benefit first, while letting your widow benefit grow, which it will do through full retirement age or earlier if the RIB-LIM formula applies. The earnings test will be applied to whatever benefit it is that you take prior to reaching full retirement age — if your earnings exceed the exempt amount. Currently, the exempt amount is $15,480 for those below full retirement age. Those who will reach full retirement age this year can earn up to $41,400 in the months prior to reaching full retirement age. On the day they reach full retirement age, the earnings test stops.

    On the Social Security website, you’ll find this statement about the earnings test: “It is important to note that any benefits withheld while you continue to work are not ‘lost.’ Once you reach FRA, your monthly benefit will be increased permanently to account for the months in which benefits were withheld.”

    ​This statement, like so much that Social Security says on its website, is not the full truth. What is true is that whether you lose some or part of your widow’s benefit or your retirement benefit ​or both due to the earnings test prior to full retirement age, you’ll have that benefit or those benefits increased starting at full retirement age under the adjustment of the reduction factor (ARF). But what Social Security isn’t telling you is that once you flip from one benefit to the other, in following the optimal strategy, you’ll lose the ARF on the benefit from which you switch.

    GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?

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    For example, if you take your retirement benefit before full retirement age, have it zapped by the earnings test, and then switch to your widows benefit at full retirement age, your retirement benefit will be higher due to the ARF, but you’ll still receive just your widows benefit since Social Security will give you the larger of either your retirement benefit (reduced, but then adjusted for the reduction factor) or your widows benefit. The failure of the ARF to fully protect you against the earnings test could make a big difference as to whether you should take your retirement or widows benefit first. Indeed, this feature of the ARF will tend to make it better to take your widows benefit first.

    But to make things even more opaque, Social Security will tell you your total check consists of your retirement benefit (reduced, but then adjusted for the reduction factor) plus your excess widow’s benefit. But your excess widow’s benefit is your widow’s benefit less your retirement benefit (reduced, but then adjusted for the reduction factor). If you add these two components to your check together, you’ll see you just get your widows benefit after full retirement age. Effectively, then, you do lose benefits due to the earnings test and never recoup them.

    With all this said, let me address your specific question. If you wait until 65 to collect your own retirement benefit and then apply for your widows benefit at the same time, you’ll get the larger of the two or, in Social Security’s lingo, you’ll get your own retirement benefit plus your excess widows benefit. In other words, you won’t get both benefits. The excess widows benefit can be below or above half your deceased husband’s full retirement benefit depending on the specifics of your earnings histories.


    Jeremy: My wife and I are in our early 40s. We both earn more than the annual contribution/tax limit and expect to receive similar payments in the higher range of whatever payments the government can afford when we retire.

    If we are going to consider Social Security as an important part of our retirement savings, my concern is, if I understand the spousal benefit properly, when one of us dies this will cut our total Social Security income in about half (basically from two checks to one). While the survivor will have less food and medical costs to cover, I wouldn’t expect their expenses to go down that much.

    We are worried about our ability to support ourselves in retirement. I was wondering if there are any annuities or other approaches you recommend people consider to cover this risk.

    For example, I was wondering if we can buy an annuity that would start paying when the first person dies and goes until the second person dies. I know we could buy two longevity annuities, which pay if each person is alive at some age. But I don’t really need it if we are both alive.

    I wonder if I am complicating this since it seems like a common problem many people would have in their planning and I don’t see anything written about it.

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can buy joint survivor annuities that pay the same amount until the last spouse dies. This achieves what I think you want, namely more income per person when one spouse is alive. But, given how much money the Federal Reserve has printed in the last six years, and how much they will be forced to print through time to help pay our bankrupt government’s bills, I wouldn’t buy any annuity that’s not fully indexed against inflation. By fully indexed, I mean that if prices rise by X percent, your annuity payment is increased by X percent. Graded annuities, which start lower, but rise at a fixed rate (e.g., 3 percent) through time, aren’t the same as a fully inflation-indexed annuity. I understand that The Principal Life Insurance Company sells such annuities, and other insurers may as well.


    Elizabeth — Massachusetts: I am 62. My husband died on his 58th birthday. I continue to work full time. I was advised by Social Security that I should wait until age 66 to take my widows benefit and to take my own retirement benefit at age 70 if I continue working. Is that correct?

    Larry Kotlikoff: This may well be the right thing to do. I would confirm this using careful software.


    Nancy — Mississippi: I married four years ago and have worked through 2013. My husband and I are officially self-employed, but we declare him now as head of household and our income goes in his name. I am 62 and my husband is 61. We hope to work for five more years. I am wondering if I take my benefits early if they will be better tied to my income? We are currently working in Africa and are not sure that the extra income would hurt us in taxes.

    Larry Kotliloff: Small family businesses like yours that are jointly operated by spouses can ​easily reallocate company income to one or the other spouse. If you’ve had the shorter work history and your husband the longer one, putting more earnings in your name could, in theory, raise your family’s total lifetime benefits. But you can’t do this without breaking the law. So to be honest, you need to allocate earnings within your firm to the two of you based on your actual contributions to the company.


    Donna — Massachusetts: My second husband was on Social Security Disability when he died in 2011 at the age of 58. We had been married for a little over two years. My first marriage ended in 1991 after 16 years. I am currently 61 (will be 62 in September) and working full-time. My company has layoffs every year, each year asking for volunteers. There is always a package that would give me approximately 25 weeks severance. If I were to accept a voluntary layoff, would I be able to collect from my second husband’s disability? I thought I read that if possible, it would be to my benefit to collect from my deceased (or former) husband’s Social Security until age 70, then to collect on my own Social Security as it would be higher.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Yes, you have this straight. But you can also collect divorcée spousal benefits on your ex’s earnings record as a divorced spouse, then switch to your widows benefit on your second spouse, and then switch to your own retirement benefit at 70. What’s best will depend on your precise earnings history and that of your deceased and ex-husbands.

    The post Deciding when to take Social Security widows benefits can’t get more complicated appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    While many associate the Fourth of July weekend with fireworks and barbecues, residents of Chicago will remember this past holiday weekend with something far more unfortunate: a stark rise in gun violence.

    According to The Chicago Tribune, there were at least 82 shootings in the Second City during an 84-hour stretch between Thursday afternoon and Monday morning, 14 of which were fatal. Of the 14 fatal shootings, five people were shot by cops over a 36-hour period from Friday to Saturday.

    The news is the latest instance that highlights Chicago’s continued struggle with gun violence. The city leads the nation in homicides. The FBI recorded 500 murders in 2012, earning it the unwanted title of the murder capital of the United States.

    The deadliest stretch during the holiday weekend occurred over a 13-hour period between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning when four people were killed and at least another 26 were injured — many of whom are currently in critical condition. The victims ranged in age, from a 14-year-old boy shot by the police for refusing to drop his handgun, to a 66-year-old woman grazed in the head by a bullet while walking up the steps of her front porch in Far South Side.

    Chicago’s continued struggles with gun violence has prompted mayor Rahm Emanuel to propose drastic limits on gun sales within the city.

    The post 82 shot, 14 killed in Chicago over July 4th weekend appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebels in Ukraine tried to regroup today after major setbacks over the weekend.  The pro-Russian fighters lost their former stronghold in Slavyansk and fell back to Donetsk, vowing to keep fighting government forces.

    Along the way, three bridges leading into Donetsk were blown up today. One was a railway bridge that was bombed as a cargo train passed over. Amid the fighting, Russia pressed again today for a new cease-fire in Ukraine.

    The political stalemate in Iraq will go on, as the government battles Islamist militants who’ve seized a large portion of the country. The new parliament today delayed its next session for five weeks, until mid-August. Leaders are at an impasse over choosing a prime minister, president and speaker of parliament. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to step aside.

    The White House isn’t confirming that a German intelligence worker spied for the U.S. A spokesman said today he cannot comment on the matter. A 31-year-old German man was arrested last week, and there have been reports he admitted to passing documents to a U.S. contact.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the matter today during a visit to China.

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): We have already opened an investigation. If the reports are correct, it would be a serious case. If the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear contradiction to what I consider to be a trustful cooperation between agencies and partners.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S.-German relations have been strained since last year, after revelations of large-scale snooping by the National Security Agency on Germany.

    Pope Francis met with victims of sexual abuse by priests for the first time today and he apologized. The pontiff celebrated mass at his Vatican hotel with six victims who recounted their personal stories of abuse.

    POPE FRANCIS, Leader of Catholic Church (through interpreter): Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who didn’t respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The pope also vowed to hold bishops accountable for the protection of minors, but he didn’t give details on how he would do that.

    In Kenya, anti-government protests in Nairobi turned violent today. Police and demonstrators battled with tear gas and stones as a rally in a nearby park spilled over into the streets. The crowds had gathered to demand talks with the government over economic inequality and other grievances.

    And, in Nigeria, officials in the northeast report that 63 girls who were kidnapped last month have escaped. They apparently got away as their captors in the Boko Haram militant group were battling Nigerian soldiers.

    Meanwhile, a government spokesman reports progress in the investigation of April’s abduction of 200 other schoolgirls.

    MIKE OMERI, Government Spokesman, Nigeria: We are moving closer to finding them. At least we have identified a number of leads. We have identified in the course of this exercise. And that was what even led to the arrest of the intelligence — chief of intelligence of Boko Haram.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nigeria’s government and military have faced international criticism for failing to rescue the kidnap victims.

    One of the last foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, Eduard Shevardnadze, died today. In the late 1980s, under Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, he signed major arms control deals and helped Eastern Europe regain its freedom. After the Soviet collapse, he became president of Georgia, and survived two assassination attempts. He eventually resigned. Eduard Shevardnadze was 86 years old.

    A federal judge in Philadelphia has given initial approval to a landmark concussion settlement between the National Football League and former players. That came today after the league removed a cap of $675 million on claims for medical damages. The judge had questioned whether that amount would be enough to pay all claims. The settlement involves more than 4,500 former players who have sued the NFL.

    Wall Street came back from the holiday weekend in a cautious mood. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 44 points to close at 17,024. The Nasdaq fell 34 points to close at 4,451. And the S&P 500 dropped seven to finish at 1,977.

    The post News Wrap: Iraqi parliament delays session amid political impasse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the Middle East, where there has been a major escalation of tensions just in the last few hours. It follows days of unrest sparked by the deaths of three Israeli teens and a Palestinian teenager. Three Israeli suspects in the killing of the Palestinian teen confessed to the crime today.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned the teen’s father and vowed the killers would be brought to justice. Tonight, Hamas fired dozens of rockets into Israel, claiming revenge for Israeli airstrikes overnight which they say killed six of its members.

    A short time ago, I spoke to Josef Federman, whose story covering — who has been covering a story for the Associated Press.

    Josef, thank you for talking with us.

    Bring us up to date on what is going on. What is each side doing?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN, The Associated Press: Well, it’s been a pretty busy day here.

    Things are heating up in Southern Israel along the Gaza border. Gaza militants have fired about 100 rockets today into Israel or at Israel. Israel has responded with some limited airstrikes earlier in the day. Now, the rocket fire heated up, really intensified this evening. There was a barrage of nearly 50 rockets after nightfall.

    Some of them flew — or they set off alarms deep inside of Israel, about 50 miles away from the border, reaching almost the outskirts of Tel Aviv. So this is seen as a bit of an escalation. Israel hasn’t responded yet to this latest barrage, but we’re expecting a pretty long night.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How is this different from what normally has been taking place there?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well, most of the time, the rocket fire is pretty limited to — when there are attacks — and there are periods when it’s quiet altogether — but usually it’s limited to one or two or a handful of rockets that are fired at very short distances into open areas.

    Now we are seeing just an intensity that we haven’t seen for several years, where it’s dozens and dozens each day. The distance that they’re flying is a lot further and many of them are reaching populated areas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And tell us more about Israel’s response. We know — you mentioned the airstrikes. They’re calling up reservists as well, right?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yes, what we have seen is, Israel is moving forces down toward the border. We had AP people along the border today.

    We saw pictures of rows and rows of tanks and buses filled with soldiers, people kind of milling around the border area. Even this evening, the roads are empty down there because most people are staying inside bomb shelters with all the rockets flying. The only traffic you see on the roads basically are military vehicles bringing tanks, armored vehicles and so forth.

    So Israel seems to be bracing. The consensus, the speculation is that Israel will begin by limiting its activity to aerial bombardments. I don’t think they are going to send in ground troops, at least at this stage, but what we’re expecting is a much more intense, a heavier response than what you have been seeing earlier.

    For the most part, Israel has been going after military Hamas training bases and fields and launching sites. What you may see are sort of higher-value targets, places where maybe there are forces. You may see more casualties and so forth. So that’s the type of thing I’m expecting to see in the next few hours.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We also know that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has been speaking out. What is he saying? What is he trying to do?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: He’s actually been pretty quiet on the situation in Gaza. He always speaks out against violence. Any time there’s loss of Palestinian life — and there were eight Palestinian militants killed today — he always condemns that.

    But his focus has actually been on the situation in Jerusalem and in the West Bank. As you probably know, things are also heating up in Israel following the death of a Palestinian teenager last week. Israel has arrested some Jewish Israelis as suspects, and the Palestinians are very upset about this incident. And that’s something where President Abbas has been focusing his attention.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is the reaction in Israel? We reported that some of the suspects who were arrested, the Israeli suspects, have now confessed to the killing of the Palestinian teenager. How is that being received?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yes, the arrests — and we still don’t have the identities. A lot of the information on this case is being kept under wraps right now as the investigation continues.

    You what little we do know is that the suspects are Jewish. Authorities say that three people confessed today. And it has really set off some soul-searching in Israel. I think there’s just a lot of shock because of the brutality and how grisly this killing was, where they burned somebody alive.

    So people are having a hard time coming to terms with this. And even the nation’s top leaders, Shimon Peres, the president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, called the family, the boy’s parents, today to express his condolences and just told them how shocked he was and how ashamed. And you hear that word a lot, the word shame. You see it in newspaper columns, among politicians.

    Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also reached out and called the family today. And you don’t normally see Israeli leaders reaching across the aisle toward Palestinians.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, to sum up, Josef Federman, you said, Israel, both sides are bracing for something worse?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: I think so.

    Hamas, this morning, after it suffered casualties — like I said, eight militants were killed overnight last night — and that was the heaviest death toll that we have seen so far. They immediately vowed revenge. And then we see 100 rockets flying throughout the course of the day.

    So I think the militant groups in Gaza are expecting something, and Israel almost always responds, and especially after a barrage of this intensity. It’s really impossible for Israel to sit back and not do anything. There is just so much public pressure to do something. So it really almost seems inevitable that you’re going to see more fighting in the coming hours.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Josef Federman of the Associated Press, we thank you.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And joining me now to help us understand these latest developments are Dennis Ross, a longtime U.S. diplomat and Middle East envoy serving in the George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations. He’s now a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And Shibley Telhami, he’s the Anwar Sadat professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of the book “The World Through Arab Eyes.”

    And we thank you both. Women come back to the NewsHour.

    Dennis Ross, to you first.

    Any question about what has set off this latest round of violence?

    DENNIS ROSS, Former U.S. Envoy to Middle East: Well, I do think it was connected to the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers.

    The Israelis held Hamas responsible for that. And you began to see the beginnings of what was this process of tit for tat after that. Now you have the revenge killing, which, as we heard from the report, has created a shock wave within Israel. But it takes place against the backdrop of increasing tension with Hamas and Gaza.

    And you have each side, it seems to me, in a position where they really don’t want to be looking like they’re backing down. Hamas now vows revenge because, you know, eight of their — eight of their operatives were killed last night, and they sense that there’s a hesitancy on the part of Israelis to come in on the ground.

    And it’s almost as if they’re testing to see how far the Israelis will go, but even they don’t want to go too far because if they really provoke the Israelis to coming in on the ground, they don’t know what the result of that is going to be, and the Israelis, even though the price to Israel might be high, the price to Hamas could be even greater.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Shibley Telhami, how do you read what is going on and how the Palestinian leadership is reading it?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI, University of Maryland: Well, I think there is what Dennis said, but I think it’s much deeper than that.

    I happened to be there in Jerusalem and Ramallah when the Israelis were kidnapped. And my sense, my feel, particularly in Ramallah right after, was that it felt like 1987 again. 1987 was the start of the first Palestinian intifada.

    And there were some things that were so similar, Palestinian despair over the distraction in the Arab world by other problems, what’s happening in Iraq, and Egypt, and Syria. In the 1980s, Palestinian were frustrated that attention was going to Iraq and the Iraq-Iran War and people weren’t paying attention to their issues.

    There was frustration with the leadership that was detached from the population. The PLO had been exiled in Tunis after 1982. And there was a sense that the people had to do something on their own. There is that sense of alienation.

    In fact, both Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas risk being irrelevant, which is one reason why they came together, to be more relevant in the national unity government. So you have the combination that is combustible. And then when you have a — on top of that, the failure of American diplomacy and a sense of resignation that maybe there won’t be a two-state solution, it was a disaster waiting for a spark. And we have the spark.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it clear — I gather from both of your answers, Dennis Ross, that it’s not really clear what the leadership on each side is prepared to do, how far they’re prepared to take this.

    DENNIS ROSS: Well, I think that’s exactly right.

    And I do think there is a combustible mix right now. But we have also two different realities taking place. We have the reality in Jerusalem, which may or may not be containable. We have the reality in Gaza, which also confronts each side, meaning Hamas and the Israeli leadership, with some hard choices.

    Now, at this point, where is the leadership? In the case of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, you can see that on the one hand, he wants to make it clear to Hamas there’s a terrible price to be paid if they continue to try to provoke Israel. On the other hand, he himself is saying this is not a time for hasty decisions, this is not a time for emotional decisions. This is a time for judicious behavior.

    And also the fact that he reaches out to the parents of the Palestinian teen who was killed is also a signal that says, look, we are going to act against our excesses. What happened was shameful and we’re a country that is ruled by law, and we’re going to act.

    And that’s also both a reflection of I think a deep-seated feeling, but also a desire to send a signal that the last thing we want to see is an explosion with the Palestinians.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Shibley Telhami, pick up on that, and talk about the forces that are pushing each side to take this farther and the forces that are saying, no, let’s pull back.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Well, my own sense is that Hamas leadership, the political leadership in Hamas, and the prime minister of Israel really don’t want an escalation at this time. It’s too costly for them. It’s disrupts their priorities. They are not ready for it. But they may be dragged in that direction.

    Why? Because look at the divisions, first of all, within Israel. It’s not just public opinion. Public opinion is one set of problems. But look at — when the prime minister of Israel starts sounding like he’s the moderate in his own government, you can tell that you have got a problem on your hand.

    In Hamas, they have two problems. One problem is they, just like Israelis, want to — they learned from Hezbollah that when they feel under attack or they will lose, they have to retaliate, just like the Israelis feel that pressure. There is that dynamic.

    There are groups within Gaza that they can’t fully control. They have been firing some of the missiles, the rockets across the Israeli borders. And we don’t know how divided they are. The deal to have a national unity government and proceed with a political process was somewhat controversial within Hamas.

    And so we don’t know what forces are at play. When you have a political environment and a public that is mobilized and angry, people are going to play to that public.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how much is the public on both sides, Dennis Ross, pushing this to more of a crisis point than it already is?

    DENNIS ROSS: I don’t think the public on each side is actually pushing this to a crisis point.

    I do think there’s a level of despair on the Palestinian side. I think there’s a level of anger on the Israeli side. But I think you have, in a sense, certain constituencies that may be in the forefront of pushing. Shibley made reference to the pressures under Prime Minister Netanyahu.

    We see it in terms of Former Minister Lieberman now splitting off from the — not leaving the government, but splitting from the coalition with the party.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … government.

    DENNIS ROSS: That’s right.

    We see it in terms of what I will call the military wing of Hamas. I mean, they’re the ones who launched the rockets today. Up until now, they have not been the ones who have been launching the rockets. So, you can see segments on each side who see an emotional moment and are reacting to that.

    Now, the question is, is there sufficient control of leaders to be able to do that? I think, on the Israeli side, there is. I think, on the Palestinian side, it’s much more of an open question.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How would you answer that?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Well, I think, on both sides, it’s an open question, I think in part because this Israeli government has got a lot of people on the right who want to take — who are running for the next prime minister position in the Israeli election.

    And they’re exploiting this, just like there are people on the Palestinian side who want to go toward militancy. So, I think even though neither side really want a full escalation, they could very well go there. And it takes — we saw what it took, killing of several individuals, horrible killing, that dragged people into a situational confrontation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

    Well, a lot of questions coming out of this. And we thank you both for coming in to talk to us tonight, Shibley Telhami, Dennis Ross. Thank you.

    DENNIS ROSS: Pleasure.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

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    afghansetup

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Afghanistan, election officials today announced interim results in the recent presidential elections, but they also said no winner can be declared yet because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The preliminary results came nearly a month after Afghan voters went to the polls in the presidential runoff. The national election commission announced former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani won 56 percent of the vote. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah trailed with 43 percent, a reversal of the double-digit lead he’d held after the first round.

    AHMAD YOUSUF NOURISTANI, Chairman, Independent Election Commission (through translator): I want to emphasize that the preliminary result announcement is not the announcement of the winner of the election. There is the possibility of changing the results after auditing the votes and reviewing the complaints and objections.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, the commission acknowledged there had been fraud, and announced it will audit ballots from nearly 7,000 of 23,000 polling stations.

    Ghani’s followers celebrated, but Abdullah has refused to accept any results until a full investigation is completed. He spoke yesterday in Kabul.

    ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Presidential Candidate, Afghanistan (through interpreter): We will not accept those results until clean votes are separated from unclean votes. Nobody doubts that there was fraud in Afghanistan’s elections. There was a mass and organized fraud, a fraud that the independent election commission was involved in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Abdullah also accuses current President Hamid Karzai, who is term-limited, of trying to rig the outcome in Ghani’s favor.

    The claims are reminiscent of widespread fraud in the 2009 election, when Karzai defeated Abdullah.

    In Washington today, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki agreed it’s vital to investigate the current results.

    JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: Right now, our focus is on encouraging a full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities. We think that’s essential to ensuring that the Afghan people have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Resolving the election dispute is also essential to getting a bilateral agreement that keeps a small American force in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

    About 33,000 U.S. troops are still there. Most will leave at the end of this year, but some 9,800 would stay on to train Afghans, if there’s an agreement governing their presence.

    Karzai has refused to sign the pact, but both Ghani and Abdullah have said they would sign it. The final election results are due July 22.

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    afghandiscussion2

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    JEFFREY BROWN: What’s at stake between now and then?

    For that, we’re joined by Andrew Wilder, vice president of South and Central Asia programs at the United States Institute of Peace. He just returned from Afghanistan last week. And Nazif Shahrani is an Afghan-American who’s a professor of anthropology at Indiana University.

    Nazif Shahrani, let me start with you.

    How serious a situation is this? And is there potential for a drawn-out, major problem?

    NAZIF SHAHRANI, Indiana University: Yes, unfortunately, it is.

    The people of Afghanistan have been waiting for the results of the election for some time. And given the environment in which the two candidates, especially Abdullah Abdullah, at this point that is threatening not to accept the results and also some of his supporters in the provinces, as well as one of his vice presidents, are saying that if their demands are not met, they may create a parallel government, which obviously wouldn’t be to the advantage of the country, and people are seriously concerned about it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Andrew Wilder, you were just there. What did you see in terms of the electioneering or anything that helps us understand the voting, the potential for fraud?

    ANDREW WILDER, United States Institute of Peace: Well, I was actually in Afghanistan for the first round of the election, which went remarkably well. And there were problems then, too, but the results were accepted as legitimate. And I think the second round, clearly, there were problems, I think, serious problems, which now need to be investigated.

    And this is where I think it’s really important for the two campaigns to — you know, together with the electoral institutions, to agree now on the process moving forward on how to verify the various charges of fraud that have been made actually by both camps, so that we can get this process moving forward, because, as much as there are flaws, the electoral process is all we have right now to actually determine an outcome.

    And, ultimately, elections end up with a winner and a loser, and we need to get — it’s very urgent that we get that process moving forward.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let’s talk about why it’s important.

    Nazif Shahrani, you first. Help us — remind us here of the stakes. What does it matter between these two candidates and what is resting on the outcome of a good outcome here?

    NAZIF SHAHRANI: Well, what is, I think, I hoped for is a peaceful transition of power for the first time in the history of Afghanistan from one elected president, again, fraudulent as it was in 2009, to another president who would have the confidence of the nation.

    Unfortunately, the dispute right now in the — particularly in the counting, as well as perhaps the accusation of stuffing of ballot boxes by Abdullah Abdullah against President Karzai and his government in favor of Ashraf Ghani, is making the possibility of outcome rather problematic and very serious for the country, and also for the region and ultimately for the United States and the international community, who have worked so hard in the last 13 years to stabilize the country.

    And they all hope, just as the people of Afghanistan hope, that there will be a peaceful transition. And it doesn’t look like it might be.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Andrew Wilder, for the United States, there is the agreement, there is the withdrawal. How does this potentially impact that?

    ANDREW WILDER: Well, I think, if it gets too drawn out, I think it could further delay the signing of the bilateral security agreement.

    And, currently, the scheduled inauguration date, let’s not forget, is August 2, and so there’s not a whole lot of time to resolve this…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pretty soon.

    ANDREW WILDER: … before President Karzai says he’s stepping down and even saying, if there’s no one else, I’m going to turn over power to my vice president at that point.

    And I think for the — we have a political crisis, a security crisis already in Afghanistan. We have an economic crisis that’s really brewing, and it’s really imperative that this political crisis get resolved swiftly so that we can start focusing on the other serious issues confronting Afghanistan.

    And there’s a major international agenda coming up too, that the new president is scheduled to go to China in late August for an important regional conference. And there’s the — a NATO summit in early September and the U.N. General Assembly. And it’s very important for Afghanistan to have a legitimate successor to Karzai being able to represent the country in these international fora and regain some of the support for Afghanistan that President Karzai has squandered.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Speaking — Nazif Shahrani, speaking of President Karzai, what is his role right now? Is he playing a role in this election and the outcome, good or bad?

    NAZIF SHAHRANI: Well, according — according to his own brother, Mahmud Karzai, he has been a spoiler. He has been trying to, according to Mahmud, stay in power, and that he has created this crisis and manufactured it in a way that would perhaps make it possible for him to continue to stay in power, especially if these two candidates cannot reach an agreement and resolve the problem as it stands right now.

    So, there is a threat still that Karzai may be manufacturing this particular crisis and may try to take advantage of that in the long run. One hopes that that wouldn’t be the case, but, if it is, it obviously is — he’s going to be responsible for dragging the country back into a very serious crisis.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Andrew Wilder, do you see Karzai playing any role like that, potentially negative role?

    ANDREW WILDER: I think he’s played a very negative role in the past.

    Actually, I rarely disagree with Dr. Shahrani, but on this point, I actually think President Karzai lost control of this process.

    I think the palace is actually politically very fragmented. I think the electoral institutions are fragmented. The Afghan national security forces in some ways are politically fragmented. So the idea that President Karzai could mastermind this entire rigging in one direction or another, I actually don’t think he’s powerful enough anymore to do that, because many of the political elites are now looking beyond Karzai for patronage, not looking to Karzai and listening to him anymore.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and on that point, you again, just having come from there, what was the sense of the atmosphere among people that you talked to? Are they eager to get this behind them and move on or…

    ANDREW WILDER: Very much so.

    I think the people are getting frustrated and want a result and an outcome, you know, because they realize Afghanistan’s future depends on this. And this is why I think we saw so many voters come out to turn out to vote both in the first and second round.

    JEFFREY BROWN: More than people expected, I think, right?

    ANDREW WILDER: Absolutely.

    And so, certainly, some of that, we can attribute to fraud. But I saw it with my eyes the long lines of people turning out to vote on Election Day and throughout the country, the number of voters turning out to vote was higher than I think anticipated.

    And I think that was because they were voting for a peaceful future, wanting, you know — and I think that’s why the urgency I wanted to emphasize of getting this process resolved, so we can get a legitimate successor to Karzai in the palace.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Andrew Wilder, Nazif Shahrani, thank you both very much.

    ANDREW WILDER: Thank you.

    NAZIF SHAHRANI: Most welcome. Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: how funds from the federal G.I. Bill are flowing to for-profit schools, even though, all too frequently, veterans’ prospects are not appreciably better after attending them.

    The for-profit college sector is under the microscope. The U.S. Department of Education is expected to cut federal aid to schools with high default rates. The federal government and state attorneys general also are investigating marketing and lending practices of some schools. More than $10 billion was spent on the G.I. Bill for veterans’ education last year.

    Until now, for-profits have netted a growing amount of money from a new generation of vets. In California, nearly two of every three G.I. Bill dollars is spent on for-profit schools.

    Aaron Glantz has the story from our partners at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

    AARON GLANTZ, The Center for Investigative Reporting: The World War II G.I. Bill, it’s one of the most cherished programs in American history. It paid the full cost of an education at any four-year college or university.

    MAN: You mean, he can get any kind of education he wants? Now you’re getting the idea.

    AARON GLANTZ: The G.I. Bill was weakened in the decades after World War II, until Congress passed a new law in 2008 to help veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    And so, for the first time since World War II, veterans can receive the full cost of a college education, paid for by taxpayers, up to $19,000 a year. But G.I. Bill money is not going where Congress expected. For-profit schools like the University of Phoenix and Ashford University are among the largest recipients.

    MAN: Ashford has given me all the tools I need to be successful.

    AARON GLANTZ: These schools are set up to make money.

    Kate O’Gorman is political director at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

    KATE O’GORMAN, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: Many veterans simply are being aggressively and deceptively recruited by some bad actors in the for-profit school sector.

    AARON GLANTZ: She says thousands of veterans are being left with worthless degrees and few job prospects.

    KATE O’GORMAN: We’re not getting the investment that we wanted when we sent these men and women to school.

    AARON GLANTZ: In California alone, the Center for Investigative Reporting found nearly 300 schools banned from receiving state financial aid that still got G.I. Bill money, even schools with no academic accreditation at all, beauty schools, auto repair programs, and dog training academies, together, more than $600 million.

    The biggest beneficiary is the for-profit University of Phoenix, which fails to graduate most of its students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

    Nationally, it took in nearly a billion dollars from the G.I. Bill over the last five years. The University of Phoenix has been especially successful at attracting veterans in San Diego, a port city with a high concentration of veterans.

    Every year, soldiers and sailors here retire from active duty and turn to the G.I. Bill as they transition to civilian life, among them, David Pace, who served 20 years in the Navy. Pace dreamed of a career in the business world and enrolled in a bachelor’s program at the University of Phoenix.

    DAVID PACE, Veteran: I figured that, with that college degree, I would get a better job and move on.

    AARON GLANTZ: He told me a recruiter from the University of Phoenix said he could turn his military experience into academic credit and graduate in just 18 months, leaving him with enough G.I. Bill money to pursue a master’s degree.

    DAVID PACE: But that ain’t how it worked.

    AARON GLANTZ: A year into that degree plan, Pace says he was told he would need to take 10 additional classes to graduate. He feels he was tricked.

    DAVID PACE: I didn’t know that. I really didn’t know. I was going by what they told me.

     

    AARON GLANTZ: It took Pace three years to graduate. By then, he had exhausted his entire education benefit. Pace attended this University of Phoenix campus in San Diego. It has received more G.I. Bill money than any brick-and-mortar campus in America, $95 million over the last five years.

    That’s almost seven times what the University of California, San Diego, got. In fact, the Center for Investigative Reporting found, the University of Phoenix’s San Diego campus received more G.I. Bill money than the entire 10-campus U.C. System.

    Last June, the school’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, put the University of Phoenix on notice, saying the school didn’t support student learning and effective teaching.

    Students at the University of Phoenix often have trouble repaying their loans. More than a quarter default within three years of leaving school. And, at this campus, fewer than 15 percent of students graduate, according to the Department of Education.

    I met with retired U.S. Army Colonel Garland Williams. He oversees military programs for all University of Phoenix campuses nationwide.

    Do you feel like this almost billion dollars of taxpayer money to the University of Phoenix is a good investment for the taxpayers?

    GARLAND WILLIAMS, Vice President, University of Phoenix: The veterans have chosen us because of the programs that we offer. We have over a hundred programs that we offer. And they have found the higher education goal that they have sought. And they have — we — those programs lead to careers that they want to aspire to. So, they have chosen us.

    AARON GLANTZ: Do you have any evidence that it’s actually leading to careers for these veterans?

    GARLAND WILLIAMS: The veterans have chosen us. They have chosen to use their entitlement at the University of Phoenix.

    AARON GLANTZ: Getting an associate’s degree at the University of Phoenix costs nearly 10 times what a community college would charge. Nevertheless, the University of Phoenix says it’s working with the government to ensure that veterans’ needs are met.

    To prove this point, the company allowed us to observe as a team of auditors arrived from the California Department of Veterans Affairs. University of Phoenix staff gathered the veterans’ transcripts and financial information as they prepared for inspection. The auditors will check these documents to ensure compliance with G.I. Bill requirements.

    Their goal: to make sure the school isn’t billing the government for students who don’t exist.

    But the inspectors don’t look at anything else.

    Latanaya Johnson is a member of the audit team.

    Are you looking at whether or not the instruction is good?

    LATANAYA JOHNSON, California Department of Veterans Affairs: No, that’s not a part of the visit, at all.

    AARON GLANTZ: The University of Phoenix has been put on notice by its accrediting agency. Do you look at that?

    LATANAYA JOHNSON: No, that’s not a part of the visit at all.

    AARON GLANTZ: Or any issues they might be having with the faculty not complying with certain regulations, you look at that?

    LATANAYA JOHNSON: No, that’s a different process completely.

    SEN. TOM HARKIN, D, Iowa: This situation is unacceptable.

    AARON GLANTZ: In Washington, lawmakers have tried again and again to strengthen regulations on which schools can receive G.I. Bill money. Democrat Tom Harkin, the chair of the Senate committee that oversees education, has spent years investigating the for-profit education industry.

    SEN. TOM HARKIN: Neither the department of Veterans Affairs nor the Department of Defense has any way to assess whether or not they are getting a good education.

    I might add neither does the Department of Education, nor does any of the entities that accredit these schools. They have no way of assessing what’s happening to these students.

    AARON GLANTZ: Kate O’Gorman of says veterans groups have been trying to change things, but have run up against organized opposition.

    KATE O’GORMAN: We have seen money going into really key committees and campaign contributions. We see for-profit school lobbyists consistently on the Hill. Almost every time the veterans community goes into an office and says, we need these strong reforms and regulations, we see a for-profit school lobbyist walking out.

    AARON GLANTZ: Now the legislative fight is moving to the state level.

    In California, a bill would have required all schools to tell regulators how many veterans graduate and how many find jobs. It was gutted in the face of opposition from for-profit colleges.

    MAN: This is a direct attack at our sector.

    AARON GLANTZ: In a letter to lawmakers, the University of Phoenix’s lobbyist called those requirements cumbersome and of little practical value.

    I asked Garland Williams to explain his company’s position.

    GARLAND WILLIAMS: What I can tell you and your viewers is that the support that we provide our veterans, our active duty, and their family members is personal.

    AARON GLANTZ: But we don’t deserve to know how many of them are actually succeeding?

    GARLAND WILLIAMS: You deserve to know that we provide the utmost care to our military. We think we do it right. We are always a learning organization to get it right, but we think we do it right because veterans choose the University of Phoenix.

    AARON GLANTZ: Veteran David Pace wishes he had never made that choice. After spending an estimated $50,000 in taxpayers’ money to obtain a business degree, he is still doing the same kind of blue-collar, physical labor that he did in the service.

    DAVID PACE: I think that’s the most frustrating part about it, is that I could have just came right out of the Navy and got this job without the time and the headache.

    AARON GLANTZ: He’s a maintenance electrician for a defense contractor at Naval Base San Diego. Pace says employers don’t take his degree seriously.

    DAVID PACE: If you say you got a degree from the University of Phoenix, you immediately get: paper factory or certificate factory. It doesn’t get the same respect.

    AARON GLANTZ: He hopes other veterans think more carefully than he did about where they spend their education benefit.

    But advocates say it’s not realistic to expect veterans like Pace to police the G.I. Bill. They say that’s the job of Congress and regulators. Five years after the new G.I. Bill became law, there are still virtually no restrictions on where that money can be spent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a couple of footnotes.

    For the record, David Pace does work for BAE Systems, which is an underwriter of the NewsHour.

    This past week, one major for-profit education company, Corinthian Colleges, under scrutiny from the government and facing bankruptcy, announced that it would sell or close its 97 U.S. schools.

    This story was part of “Reveal.”  It’s a new investigative radio program from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. It’s airing on public radio stations nationally all this week.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A flood of undocumented immigrant children into the U.S., often risking their lives to escape violence in Central America, has sparked protests and debate around the country on how to handle their arrival.

    It was a scene that launched the Southern California town of Murrieta into the national spotlight. Last Tuesday, dozens of protesters turned back three Homeland Security buses headed for the town’s Border Patrol station.

    Inside the vehicles were 140 undocumented immigrants, mostly women and young children. They’d been flown in from Texas, where detention facilities have reached full capacity.

    MAN: They’re coming here for free food, free housing, free medical.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The protests drew new attention to a growing problem along the nation’s Southern border. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained since October illegally trying to cross into the United States from Mexico. Most hail from three nations, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, places rife with poverty, violence and smugglers offering to deliver the children for a price.

    Once in the U.S., they have been taken to Border Patrol facilities in Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere, but their growing numbers have led to overflow sites, such as Murrieta.

    MAYOR ALAN LONG, Murrieta, California: Murrieta expects our federal government to enforce our laws, including the deportation of illegal immigrants caught crossing our borders, not disperse them into our local communities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There were more protests Friday on both sides of the immigration debate. President Obama has called the surge of unaccompanied minors a humanitarian crisis and says most will not remain in the U.S.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The journey is unbelievably dangerous for these kids. The children who are fortunate enough to survive it will be taken care of while they go through the legal process, but in most cases that process will lead to them being sent back home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it remains unclear just when the children being detained will be deported.

    Sunday, on NBC, the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, referred to the complex process that applies to how they are dealt with.

    JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: There is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children. We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular consistent with our laws and our values.

    DAVID GREGORY, “Meet The Press”: I’m trying to get an answer to, will most of them end up staying, in your judgment?

    JEH JOHNSON: I think we need to find more efficient, effective ways to turn this tide around generally, and we have already begun to do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, outside the White House, immigration advocates criticized the president for not doing enough to help undocumented families. The president is now preparing to ask Congress for more than $2 billion to hire more immigration judges and open additional detention facilities.

    The post Protests spotlight debate over undocumented migrant children appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on what’s causing today’s circumstances, and possible remedies, we turn to Marshall Fitz. He’s director of immigration policy with the Center for American progress. It’s a left-leaning think tank in Washington. And Jessica Vaughan, she’s the director for policy studies at the right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies.

    And we welcome you both to the program.

    Marshall Fitz, let me start with you. I want to ask you both this question. What’s your understanding of why we are seeing this big influx of children, especially from Central America?

    MARSHALL FITZ, Center for American Progress: Well, it’s clear that the major drivers behind this recent influx are the conditions in the sending countries.

    We know this for a fact because they are dispersing throughout the region. It’s a regional crisis. There’s a 712 percent increase in asylum applications in Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica. So, the immigrants are leaving those three countries because of the endemic violence, the weak institutional government, and lack of protections for the civil society there.

    And it’s happening now because that violence is escalating. Honduras is the murder capital of the world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in fact, we have a — I think we have a graphic to show our audience, what is it, 90 — the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people, followed — the third country in that list is El Salvador — or, rather, the fourth is El Salvador and the fifth being Guatemala.

    MARSHALL FITZ: Is Guatemala, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And these are the countries that are sending so many of these children.

    Jessica Vaughan, what is your sense of, your understanding of what is sending most of these children? 

    JESSICA VAUGHAN, Center for Immigration Studies: Well, there certainly is poverty and violence in the three countries that are sending most of the people across the border in South Texas now, but many of them who are coming are not actually coming from the violent areas of those countries.

    They’re coming from all over, rural areas, areas distant from the violence. What we do know from Border Patrol intelligence, from immigration agencies’ assessment, from all of the interviews that the migrant themselves have done with reporters, from their own government officials, is that the main reason that they’re coming is because they know that they will be allowed to stay, for the most part.

    And that’s what’s driving this at this time. They have been told by friends and family who have already come here illegally what they can say and that if they come with kids or if they send their kids, that the chances are almost certain that they will be allowed to stay here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Marshall Fitz, there has been reporting to this effect, that the word has spread among many of these communities.

    MARSHALL FITZ: The most thorough study that we have got on what’s driving these kids to flee their own countries and their own — leave their own families is from the UNHCR. And they interviewed more than 400 kids.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the U.N. international agency.

    MARSHALL FITZ: Sorry. U.N. international agency.

    They spent, though, a couple hours with each of these kids. And only a small handful of them mentioned anything about getting immigration status here in the country. They all talked about the violence that they were fleeing.

    I’m sure that there are misperceptions that are being fomented by smuggling operations. And we are 100 percent supportive of cracking down on those types of operations. But the real reason people are leaving those countries is because of the violence and the conditions that they’re experiencing in their home country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Jessica — excuse me — Jessica Vaughan, you were just saying but some of them or many of them are coming from areas where the violence is not an issue? Is that what I understood you to say?

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: That’s according to information that was released by the Border Patrol, and also the Border Patrol interviews all of these migrants at the time that they surrender to the Border Patrol.

    And what they’re telling the Border Patrol, 95 percent of them have said that they’re coming because they heard that they would be allowed to stay. And, in fact, that’s not a false rumor or a misperception. It is, in fact, what’s been happening.

    Only 3 percent of the Central Americans who have come into contact with the Border Patrol in recent months has actually been sent back. So the vast majority of them are allowed to stay and are allowed to resettle in the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Marshall Fitz, we know there is a different process because of the law for dealing with children or any immigrant coming from Central America. Is that correct? Because of a law that was passed several years ago.

    MARSHALL FITZ: Under President George Bush.

    It’s a law that was designed to ensure that unaccompanied kids or kids who are arriving here without a family member, without a parent, that they are eligible to go through the full screening process to ensure that they are — that they are or are not eligible for protection.

    What Jessica says about them being eligible — allowed to stay is only a function of the fact that our immigration courts are so backlogged. That’s something I think she and I can probably agree on, which is that there is very much a need to infuse resources into the system to ensure that cases can get adjudicated more expeditiously.

    That is something that is a longstanding problem. Congress has starved the immigration courts of resources for decades now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jessica, how much — Jessica Vaughan, how much of a part of the problem is that and this fact, as we mentioned a minute ago, that this law was passed under President Bush saying that children, unaccompanied minors coming in from Central America had to go through a hearing process before they could be deported?

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: Well, the law that we’re talking about here was passed at the initiative of certain Democratic members of Congress who wanted to create a process for children who were being trafficked into the United States.

    And, clearly, that’s not the case with most of the individuals who are a part of this surge. About two-thirds of the people who have surrendered to the Border Patrol are actually entire families, so they are not unaccompanied kids, and the vast majority of the kids who have turned themselves over to the Border Patrol are coming here to join family members who are already here.

    So, it’s — once they rejoin their family members, they are no longer unaccompanied, and I think that it makes sense that they shouldn’t necessarily benefit from a procedure that was set up to handle the most difficult cases of kids who were actually trafficked.

    It’s not trafficking when parents pay a smuggler to bring their children to the United States, and then are — are — get to rejoin with their child with no questions asked either about the smuggling or about their own legal status here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that?

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: And these are things that the president can address without changing the law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you Marshall about that.

    Marshall Fitz, what about that?

    MARSHALL FITZ: Well, I — Jessica is making some assertions that just aren’t grounded in the facts.

    All of the reporting that has been done so far by international — by independent agencies, not by Border Patrol, show that somewhere upwards of 58 percent or 60 percent of the kids are entitled to some form of protection. And we’re seeing that, that many of these kids are getting granted either asylum or special immigrant juvenile protection, or they’re getting T or U visas.

    So the facts are that these kids are eligible for status because they are either fleeing traumatic situations in their home countries or they’re being trafficked along the way, which is, again, another very serious problem.

    The unaccompanied minors should be — we shouldn’t be treating these kids like they’re FedEx packages and trying to just send them back immediately. We have got to treat them humanely. And that’s, I think, what most of us in the advocacy community are looking for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. We’re going to have to leave it there.

    I just want to say, the White House was quoted today as saying most unaccompanied children arriving at this border are unlikely to qualify for humanitarian relief that would prevent them from seeing back — sending them back home. So, that’s just one — one comment that came from the administration today.

    But we want to leave it there. We thank you very much, Jessica Vaughan and Marshall Fitz.

    MARSHALL FITZ: Thanks for having me.

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: Thank you.

    The post Is hope of citizenship or endemic violence driving migrant children to cross the border? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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