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

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    Photo by Flickr user donielle

    Photo by Flickr user donielle

    Timothy Draper, a billionaire venture capitalist who has invested in the likes of Twitter and Skype, is pushing to have his proposal to divide California into six separate states added to the state ballot in 2016.

    Reuters reported Monday that Draper’s campaign had gathered more than enough signatures to have the proposal added to the ballot. Draper’s “Six Californias” campaign announced via Twitter that it plans to submit the signatures to California’s secretary of state today.

    Spokesman Roger Salazar told Reuters that the goal is to create more “responsive local governments…that are more representative and accountable to their constituents.”

    The proposal has met with objections from both sides of the aisle. Opponents are quick to point out that even if the measure is passed by California voters, it is unlikely to gain Congress’ approval, which it would need if it were ever to become law.

    The post These fifty-six United States? Proposal to divide California could make the 2016 ballot appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif holds a bilateral meeting with U.S .Secretary of State John Kerry on the second straight day of talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Vienna, on July 14, 2014.  Photo by Jim Bourg/AFP/Getty Images

    Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif holds a bilateral meeting with U.S .Secretary of State John Kerry on the second straight day of talks over Tehran’s nuclear program in Vienna, on July 14, 2014. Photo by Jim Bourg/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — World powers and Iran still face significant gaps in their negotiations to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, foreign ministers said Tuesday while forging ahead with efforts to secure a deal that could finally bridge a decades-long diplomatic chasm between the Islamic republic and the West.

    Sunday’s deadline for an agreement could be extended, but that issue is controversial, too. And without an accord on the nuclear talks, the U.S. risks losing opportunities to negotiate with Iran on other pressing regional issues, including sectarian fighting in Syria and Iraq that is threatening to rip apart the Mideast.

    Aside from persuading Iran, President Barack Obama, seeking an elusive foreign policy victory, must also convince a suspicious Congress and reluctant Arab allies of the long-term benefits of securing a deal.

    “It is clear that we still have more work to do,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday, shortly before leaving Vienna, where negotiators had been holed up for weeks working on a plan to prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb but still let it develop a peaceful nuclear energy program.

    He cited “tangible progress” on important issues in the talks and stated his belief “that there is a way forward,” but he added that “there are also very real gaps on other key issues.”

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif suggested it was likely that the talks would continue beyond a Sunday deadline and into a six-month extension.

    “This is a process which is worth continuing,” Zarif said in Vienna, speaking separately from Kerry and diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, who also attended the talks.

    “We are prepared to show the necessary maneuvering room for our friends to convince themselves that Iran’s program is always peaceful,” Zarif said.

    The negotiations over Iran’s nuclear efforts have endured on-and-off since 2003. New hope for an agreement soared after last year’s election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate leader. He won office by promising to bolster his country’s crumbling economy, in part by securing relief from bruising Western trade sanctions that punish Tehran for its nuclear ambitions.

    But there are skeptics on all sides. Hard-liners in Iran fear the talks will result in a scaling back of their country’s nuclear capacity, and some in Congress fear they won’t.

    Tehran says it needs nuclear capacity for energy and medical purposes. Many lawmakers in Congress are deeply concerned about the Iranians’ intentions — and whether they can be trusted to maintain a legitimate nuclear program. And American allies in the Mideast — including Israel and Saudi Arabia — are bitterly opposed to any deal they say could let Iran build an atomic weapon.

    Congress is already gearing up to impose more sanctions against Iran as a way of forcing its hand, and it’s unclear whether the White House can hold lawmakers off.

    An extension of the international negotiations would also open Obama to criticism that he’s allowing Iran to stall and seek sanctions relief while moving forward on its nuclear program. Last week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran intends to expand its uranium enrichment capacity far beyond what most of the rest of the world would permit.

    Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez said that would scuttle any deal.

    “I could not imagine that the United States and the (other world powers) would accept a deal under those standards,” Menendez, D-N.J., said Tuesday. “We’ll just have to wait to see first and then we’ll act accordingly.”

    Noting Kerry’s comments about gaps in the negotiations, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said the administration should begin talking now to Congress about new sanctions.

    Obama has invested significant political capital in the nuclear talks, authorizing high-risk secret negotiations with Iranian officials and persuading Congress to delay sanctions.

    An agreement would mark one of the most significant achievements of Obama’s presidency and vindicate his longstanding preference for diplomacy over military action. But failure would be a stinging defeat for a president who is already under heavy criticism from opponents over his approach to the Middle East and Russia.

    The negotiations seem likely to be extended for at least several more months, although the onus will be on Obama to explain why he believes just a little more time will clinch a deal. An agreement presumably would force the West to trust Tehran — at least to some extent — to abide by limits for uranium enrichment and give more access to international weapons inspectors.

    Success would not provide immediate relief to Iran from sanctions that have become so layered and intertwined that their effects could not be lifted at once. And some critics of Iran in the region want the punishing sanctions to remain. But in nearly all of the world’s major battle zones — from Syria to Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza — Iran could hold major sway in pushing peaceful efforts, and if the nuclear talks fail now, there’s little or no reason for Tehran to listen to the West in trying to resolve such crises.

    “The nuclear negotiations are no longer just a means in themselves — they’re also a means into opening a gateway for regional dialogue with Iran that’s really necessary,” said European Council on Foreign Relations policy fellow Ellie Geranmayeh, who talks regularly with the nuclear negotiators. “If the negotiations completely fail, then the West is put in a very difficult position in trying to engage Iran to be more constructive in the region to Western interests. And from the Iranians’ side, there is zero incentive, really, for them to engage in regional dialogue.”

    “All sides have just too much to lose if they walk away at this stage,” Geranmayeh said.

    Jahn reported from Vienna. Associated Press Writers Bradley Klapper, Donna Cassata and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

    The post Kerry on Iran negotiations: ‘Still have more work to do’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HAMAS monitor

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    MARGARET WARNER: Mark Perry is a writer and foreign policy analyst who’s covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for over two decades. In 2005, he led an effort to introduce retired senior U.S. officials to Hamas leaders, and has remained in touch with them ever since. I spoke with him today.

    Mark Perry, thank you for joining us.

    Can you explain why Hamas, at least this morning, apparently, refused to accept this Egyptian cease-fire proposal?

    MARK PERRY, Writer: They didn’t get what they wanted. Hamas needs something tangible to show to its people that it has won from Israel as a concession.

    Just an end to the fighting is not enough.

    MARGARET WARNER: But they do want something for it, as opposed to not being interested in a cease-fire at all?

    MARK PERRY: What they want and what they have always wanted, over a period of many years, since 2004 and through two wars now, they have wanted an end to the siege of Gaza.

    And that shows international respect and respect of Israel a concession that they really need to get their economy going, they need an opening to the Rafah border crossing.

    MARGARET WARNER: That’s into Egypt.

    MARK PERRY: Into Egypt.

    And without these, we are going to have this all over again. They want a final resolution of this problem. And they want their people to be able to grow economically.

    MARGARET WARNER: Aren’t they also totally isolated now? I mean, even the Arab League was behind this cease-fire proposal.

    MARK PERRY: They are isolated, but they have always been isolated for a long time. And they have always gotten stronger.

    People have said, well, the people of Gaza have turned against them. But the one thing that always makes Palestinians support a Palestinian movement is when it’s attacked by Israel. That is the common ground that they have. We are seeing that again. Hamas’ popularity in Gaza has been growing the more that Israel bombs Gaza.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you think they gain from this current conflict, even though Palestinians are being killed, now close to 200?

    MARK PERRY: I think they believe that they gain politically, but there is also a limit.

    They can’t take a pounding forever, and they know that. And it is going to be very interesting to see how both sides, Hamas and Israel, and the international community, in addition, calibrate what the point is, how — whether Hamas can stay — can prevail in this kind of conflict.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Israelis charge that in fact Hamas is responsible for these Palestinian deaths in that they deliberately put rocket launchers in places where people live and so essentially they’re making their own civilians targets.

    What does Hamas say to that, at least privately?

    MARK PERRY: Hamas privately and publicly says, we’re outgunned, we are outmanned. We have a right to protect ourselves. We put rockets in built-up areas, but that’s been the case throughout all wars in human history.

    I don’t think it’s accurate at all that to say Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. You could make the same claim about Israel. All of its major military installations are in urban areas. No one seems to care.

    MARGARET WARNER: Will there come a point at which Hamas or Islamic Jihad, the militants who are sending these rockets over, actually run out of rockets?

    MARK PERRY: Oh, sure, but we’re not anywhere near that point.

    I think the last operation two years ago, Hamas was in deep trouble. They were about 24 hours away from running out of ammunition.

    MARGARET WARNER: This was in 2012.

    MARK PERRY: In 2012. And they really didn’t want Israel to come in on the ground. They were going to be in trouble if that happened.

    In this case, that is not true. I was talking to Osama Hamdan, the head of the international relations department, three days ago and I said, how are you guys doing? He said, we’re fine.

    And that has been Hamas’ message to the international community ever since. In the three days since, they have said, Israel wants to come in, they can come in, let’s do this. But we have our principles we’re going to stick to.

    The standard theme of these conflicts that we hear in the United States and in Europe is that Hamas is weakened by these attacks, that it becomes increasingly isolated. But that’s never been the case. In fact, over the last six years, I would argue that the opposite is the case, that it’s Israel that’s become isolated, especially in Europe.

    MARGARET WARNER: Does Hamas take seriously the threat of an Israeli ground invasion?

    MARK PERRY: Very much so. And I think that they worry about it.

    And I think that they don’t want it. But they cannot be seen to be compromising with their principles. Lift the siege in Gaza. Open the Rafah crossing and release those Palestinians who have been detained after Israel pledged that they wouldn’t be arrested.

    If those conditions are met — and they’re easy to meet — then Hamas will say, fine, we will have a cease-fire and we can go forward and build a relationship on the basis of the cease-fire. But without those principles being maintained and upheld, I think that they are in this for the long haul.

    MARGARET WARNER: But now you have got a government in Egypt that doesn’t really want to open these crossings. You have got a government in Egypt that is hostile to Hamas. What are the prospects that in fact Egypt would even want to do that?

    MARK PERRY: Well, you’re right. This government in Egypt, the government of General Sisi, is hostile to Hamas.

    But General Sisi has to listen to his street. And what we have seen over the last 24 to 48 hours is that the Egyptian press and the Egyptian people are turning again towards the Palestinians and support of Hamas and Sisi has to be aware of this.

    You are not going to see demonstrations in downtown Cairo in favor Israel. You’re going to see demonstrations in downtown Cairo in favor of Hamas and the Palestinians. And Sisi knows he has to placate that part of country.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, when Secretary Kerry said today in Vienna that he wanted to give the Egyptian plan more time to work before the U.S. tried to step in, do you think this plan still has another chapter, that it still has legs, or is it dead?

    MARK PERRY: Well, we don’t really know what the Egyptian plan is.

    But I trust Secretary Kerry’s intuitions on this. The plan has to be built on. We need to give it a chance to work. Let’s see if it works. Maybe it can be added to. He has said he doesn’t need to go to Cairo, that this can be in the hand of the Egyptians. They have done this before.

    They have mediated between Israel and the Palestinians and Hamas very successfully. Certainly, they’re capable of doing it again. I think we’re at the beginning of a process on the cease-fire, not the end of it. And if we give it a few more days, maybe something substantive can come out of it. I think Kerry is right on this.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mark Perry, thank you.

    MARK PERRY: My pleasure.

    GWEN IFILL: That interview is part of a series of conversations Margaret is having about the Israeli-Hamas conflict. Yesterday, she spoke to former U.S. envoy for Israeli Palestinian negotiations Martin Indyk. Tomorrow, she will speak with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.

    The post Why Hamas rejected an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Geoff Manasse via Getty Images

    Photo by Geoff Manasse via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Pregnant women have new protections against on-the-job discrimination.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated 30-year-old guidelines to make clear that any form of workplace discrimination or harassment against pregnant workers by employers is a form of sex discrimination and illegal.

    “Despite much progress, we continue to see a significant number of charges alleging pregnancy discrimination, and our investigations have revealed the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices,” EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline A. Berrien said in a statement.

    The guidelines prohibit employers from forcing pregnant workers to take leave and acknowledge that “employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers.” After childbirth, lactation is now covered as a pregnancy-related medical condition.

    It’s not just women who will benefit.

    The guidelines say that when it comes to parental leave, “similarly situated” men and women must be treated on the same terms.

    The update comes two weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to consider a case involving the EEOC’s duty to try to settle charges of job discrimination before filing lawsuits against employers.

    The issue has gained increasing attention and has vexed business groups as the Obama administration ratchets up its enforcement of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.

    The latest EEOC data shows a 46 percent increase in pregnancy-related complaints to the EEOC from 1997 to 2011.

    In its report, the agency cites specific, real-life examples of what it considers illegal discrimination. It used only first names and did not reveal locations, occupations or employers. Among them:

    — Three months after “Maria” told her supervisor that she was pregnant, she was absent a few days due to an illness unrelated to her pregnancy. When she returned to work, “her supervisor said her body was trying to tell her something” and she was let go.

    — Shortly after Teresa informed her supervisor of her pregnancy, “he met with her to discussed alleged performance problems.” Even though Teresa had consistently received outstanding performance reviews during her eight years of employment with the company, she was discharged.

    — Birah, a woman from Nigeria, claimed that when she was visibly pregnant with her second child, “her supervisors increased her workload and shortened her deadlines so she could not complete her assignments , ostracized her, repeatedly excluded her from meetings to which she should have been invited, reprimanded here for failing to show up for work due to snow when others were not reprimanded, and subjected her to profanity.”

    The guidelines, which had last been updated in 1983, spell out for the first time how the Americans With Disabilities Act might apply to pregnant workers. And it emphasizes that any discrimination against female workers based on past or prospective future pregnancies is also illegal.

    Protections for pregnant women vary widely around the globe — as does enforcement. Sweden bans discrimination because of pregnancy and requires companies employing more than 25 people to help both men and women combine work and parenting. Egyptian laws give pregnant women the right to work fewer hours and three months’ paid leave after birth — requirements women’s rights groups say prompt employers to hire men. And in Mexico, laws prohibit discrimination against pregnant women, but there is little enforcement by the government.

    The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the updated U.S. guidelines, which were approved Monday on a 3-2 partisan-line vote by the Democratic-led commission.

    “Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform, and it cannot be a basis for denying employment or treating women less favorably than co-workers,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.

    Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, called the new guidelines “a powerful tool in the effort to eradicate the unlawful and unequal treatment of pregnant women in the workplace.”

    Joan C. Williams, a law professor at the University of California’s Hastings School of Law in San Francisco who testified before the EEOC on pregnancy discrimination, said it is difficult to quantify how many women would be helped by the agency’s stronger stance. “I think it will make a really big difference,” she said. “This is also the direction the courts have begun to go in, and that’s why the EEOC said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’”

    Williams, who co-authored a 2011 study called “Pregnant, Poor and Fired,” said the main impact may by erecting “very, very, simple and very, very common-sense” guideposts for EEOC investigators, as well as providing strong ammunition for employment lawyers whose clients are victims of such discrimination.

    Commissioners Constance Barker and Victoria Lipnic dissented from the decision, saying the commission was overstepping its authority. Both were first appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been critical of EEOC decisions during the Obama years, and the EEOC matter was no exception. Randel Johnson, the chamber’s vice president for labor issues, called it “an agency which often advances questionable enforcement tactics and legal theories.”

    The Senate is considering a closely related issue: a Democratic-sponsored bill aiming to circumvent the Supreme Court’s June 30 “Hobby Lobby” decision to allow private companies to opt out of covering certain kinds of birth control. An attempt by sponsors to force the measure to a vote is expected Wednesday. However, it seems unlikely to draw the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation.

    Democrats are seeking to turn the battle into a women’s rights issue that can help them at the ballot box in November.

    The post Updated guidelines give new protections for pregnant women appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: It’s a tricky time to be in charge of the nation’s Central Bank. The Federal Reserve is winding down an unprecedented and potentially risky bond-buying strategy designed to set the economy back on course.

    But every sign that the nation’s prospects have finally turned the corner are offset by mitigating economic numbers. That was the backdrop for the Fed chair’s semiannual trip to Capitol Hill today.

    JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve: Although the economy continues to improve, the recovery is not yet complete.

    GWEN IFILL: After just five months on the job, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen was measured in her semiannual assessment.

    JANET YELLEN: Important progress has been made in restoring the economy to health and in strengthening the financial system. Yet too many Americans remain unemployed, inflation remains below our longer-run objective, and not all of the necessary financial reform initiatives have been completed.

    GWEN IFILL: Yellen told a Senate hearing the Fed remains on course to end a stimulus program of monthly bond purchases in October. But she gave no indication of when the Central Bank might begin raising a key short-term interest rate. It’s been near zero since December of 2008.

    JANET YELLEN: We have in the past seen sort of false dawns, periods in which we thought growth would speed, pick up and the labor market would improve more quickly. And later events have proven those hopes to be — to be, unfortunately, overoptimistic. We need to be careful to make sure that the economy is on a solid trajectory before we consider raising interest rates.

    GWEN IFILL: Underscoring that point, the economy has been sending mixed signals lately. The National Association for Business Economics now estimates growth will be just 1.6 percent for 2014, down sharply from earlier estimates. On the other hand, unemployment dropped to 6.1 percent last month, beating expectations.

    Yellen played down any fears of a surge in inflation today. And she said Fed leaders are watching for any bubbles in real estate or stock and bond prices. But she said, so far, prices remain in line with historic norms. Yellen is scheduled to testify to a House committee tomorrow.

    We get a closer read now on Janet Yellen’s remarks and the broader economic climate with from about Diane Swonk, senior managing director and chief economist for Mesirow Financial, a diversified financial services firm based in Chicago, and Greg Ip, U.S. economics editor of “The Economist.”

    Greg, what did you read into Janet Yellen’s overall comments today?

    GREG IP, The Economist: Well, she is obviously somewhat optimistic about how the economy is making progress, but not so optimistic to think that the time is right to start raising interest rates.

    She pointed out that the unemployment rate is still too high relative to what they think it should be, at around 6 percent. They would prefer it to be around 5 percent. And inflation, even though it’s begun to move up, is still too low. They would like it to be around 2 percent. It’s below 2 percent.

    So, a she looks at the balance of forces out there, it seems that most of them still suggest that they should be keeping interest rates near zero. That said, things are getting better quickly enough that they can retire their more controversial program of stimulating the economy by buying bonds. That program, which we call quantitative easing, will be over by October.

    GWEN IFILL: Diane Swonk, did you hear the “yes, but” in Janet Yellen’s remarks today?

    DIANE SWONK, Mesirow Financial: Absolutely. Good, but not good enough.

    And you really saw what Chair Yellen does, unlike other Fed chairs have done, is really put — not does she appeal to financial markets and try to explain to them what she’s doing, but also to the masses. And I think that’s really important. She puts a human face on unemployment. She talks about the people she’s talked to who are unemployed, people in her family.

    She’s talked about what it means to have the collateral damage of long-term unemployment and how the Fed has a long way to go and the economy has a long way to go to sort of heal enough to reengage those people, particularly what she calls the prime age earners, those 35-44-year-olds who have dropped out, to reengage in the labor force.

    And I think those are very important things to her, that she really brings to this the reality that most Americans feel, and that is that, yes, economy has improved since the worst days of the great recession. Even over the last year, it has improved, but too many are still left behind. And it’s improved a lot for a small number of people, but not enough for a large number of people.

    GWEN IFILL: Greg, here are the red flags I heard today. She worried a little bit about wage growth, wage stagnation. She talked about the first-quarter weakness of this year. At least a lot of people have talked about that.

    GREG IP: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: And also concerns about inflation, which never go away.

    GREG IP: Sure.

    I think one of the things that she and her staff are puzzling over is the fact that the economy, as you said, looked quite weak in the first quarter. It actually contracted. And yet the job market seems to be doing quite well. In June, we had the best job growth in quite a while. The unemployment rate is down at 6 percent, which is a six-year low. And we have seen job vacancies go up.

    What could explain the fact that we have a lousy economy and good job growth?  Well, it might be that the productivity of our workers isn’t what it used to be. It may be that unemployment is coming down quickly because the economy is running out of spare workers. A lot of people who have lost their jobs are gone forever. They have retired, they have gone on disability benefits.

    If this is true, then one thing she has to be careful about is the possibility that the economy has less slack in it than she thought, which might mean inflation could be a problem before she had expected.

    But the reason she brought up the issue of wages is that she thinks that if there really were a problem with economy running out of workers, to the extent that it was an inflation problem, we ought to see wages being bid up. And that is just not happening. Between those rather conflicting signals, for now, she is siding with the weaker wage growth and saying that is reason enough not to raise rates now.

    GWEN IFILL: And would it be fair to expect interest rates at some point to begin to be allowed to rise again, Diane?

    DIANE SWONK: Yes, exactly, is what she would like to actually be is in a strong enough economy to allow interest rates to rise again.

    I think it’s important to point out this productive issue as well, because she also brought it up in another context. And that was that lower productivity rates means actually lower long-term interest rates as well, and lower interest rates for longer. And that’s something else she stressed out there, is that when the Fed does begin raising interest rates, if we don’t see a real pickup in productivity growth, which we really need out there, that the Fed won’t be raising rates as quickly and to as high a level as we once were used to.

    So, there’s been a lot of multiple messages, that, one, the Fed will be very cautious before they raise rates. They would love to be able to do it because the economy is too strong. We would all love that. They can raise rates. When they do raise them, though, they are going to go very gradually and they’re going to be very cautious how quickly they do it, because they don’t know where we are in that spectrum that Greg noted between stagnant wage growth, stagnant productivity growth.

    And is too much money accumulating to capital?  And she actually brought that issue up. She brought up the secular stagnation argument that Larry Summers has brought up, which is kind of ironic that Larry Summers, who was once considered as a contender for chair of the Federal Reserve, is now having so much influence over the debate within the Federal Reserve as well.

    GWEN IFILL: I was struck, Greg, by a term I heard her use in her testimony. She talked about false dawns. Explain what she was talking about with that.


    GREG IP: Well, one of the things, this has been a disappointing recovery, Gwen.

    It’s been growing around 2 percent per year for the last four or five years. Every year, we will think it will accelerate to around 3 percent. It never happens. And each — at the start of each year, we will often get a burst of strong job growth and then, for some strange reason, it peters out.

    And I think what you hear from her is kind of the experience of those disappointments. It’s very important for the Fed not to overreact to a few months of very good news, because it could fade away. And, in fact, I think that one of the strategies the Fed will pursue in the coming year is to essentially take a risk of moving too late to raise interest rates, rather than moving too early.

    If they move too early, the risk is that they push the economy back into recession, and they don’t have any tools to get us back out, whereas if they move too late, they might have an inflation problem, but they know how to deal with that. They have seen it before. They know how to deal with inflation.

    GWEN IFILL: Diane, does the Fed have a different role now than it did pre-recession?

    DIANE SWONK: It does have some different roles.

    The financial stability role is always a role the Fed has had. That’s one of its jobs. That’s one of the reasons it was created. That said, the emphasis on financial stability is very important, because it is now very much a part of the fed’s job and overseeing the overall financial markets, financial stability board that the Fed is on.

    So, the Fed is in a very different place than it once was in the size of its balance sheet alone, which will be well over $4 trillion by the time they’re done with this current asset purchase program. It puts them in a very different position than they once were.

    And I agree 10 percent with Greg that they are more willing to err on not knocking the economy back into recession than allowing the economy to overheat a little bit. A little bit of heat is a lot easier to deal with than a frigid cold. And after the winter we had here in Chicago, I can tell you that is absolutely the case.

    GWEN IFILL: Nobody wants winter again.

    Diane Swonk of Mesirow Financial and Greg Ip of “The Economist,” thank you both very much.

    GREG IP: Thank you, Gwen.

    The post Yellen cautions against being overly-optimistic before raising interest rates appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Gwen has just given us a good overview of how the overall U.S. economy is faring.

    Let’s take a look now at a much smaller sector of it. It involves that ever-increasing number of small businesses, shops and start-ups around the country that are a bit hipper, more skilled, locally based and creative in their approaches.

    But, as popular as they may be, are they generating more jobs? And are they well-paying ones?

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, explores those questions and others, part of his reporting on Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Brooklyn, New York, it’s gone from backwater borough to capital of cutting-edge cool and to a supposedly new breed of jobs, signified in part by hipsters in the business of handcrafting, single-source chocolate bars sprinkled with sea salt from the coast of Maine, spicy pickles based on Grandma Lala’s secret recipe. All natural, all handmade.

    Helping house this corner of the new so-called artisan economy, the old Pfizer factory in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Vacated by the big pharma giant in 2008, it’s now a small business incubator, home to dozens of start-ups.

    On the floor that local legend has it Viagra was once concocted, some claim at this very lab bench, Kombucha Brooklyn, co-founded by a microbiology major, is brewing a different kind of pick-me-up, tea-based probiotic drinks and kits were making them at home.

    DAVID CARRELL, People’s Pops: Ready for a Popsicle?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes. Yes.

    Just down the hall, David Carrell of People’s Pops.

    DAVID CARRELL: Here’s what we do, fresh green markets transformed into summer on a stick.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Carrell, 31, majored in communications at Florida State University, made it to the mainstream media.

    DAVID CARRELL: I was a researcher for Diane Sawyer.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And why did you leave?

    DAVID CARRELL: It was 2008. So, covering the news, you knew what was coming.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The crash of ’08, he means and the jobs it took with him.

    Luckily for Carrell, he and two friends had been tinkering with an artisanal alternative, monetizing their Popsicle passion. The partners now employ 45 people making up to 20,000 pops a week.

    Rhode Island School of Design grad Bethany Obrecht crafted her commitment to animal rescue into a leash and collar business with a message.

    BETHANY OBRECHT, Found My Animal: If you see a dog that is walking down the street and the dog is using a Found My Animal a leash, you know that that dog was adopted. And you know that its owner supports animal adoption.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Found My Animal now employs 10, though Obrecht herself is still struggling.

    BETHANY OBRECHT: I still work a second job, but everyone here is making a living.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, these days, start-ups expect a decent incubator to sport a ping-pong table. I learned how far my game has fallen by sparring with the man who helped buy and transform the Pfizer plant, Ashish Dua.

    ASHISH DUA, Acumen Capital Partners: We have over 60 artisanal manufacturers that have moved here in the last two years. I would say over a dozen of them have already expanded their business. Now, you are talking about a lot of college-educated people who have thought through this problem and made a financial decision to take care of their own future by building a business that they are passionate about.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what’s the problem with their future?

    LAWRENCE KATZ, Harvard University: The basic problem is the decline of what have been the traditional middle-class jobs, the hollowing out of the middle of our economy, and trying to find a new way to provide upward mobility for the typical American.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s not just blue-collar jobs, says economist Larry Katz, who has given the new artisan economy its name.

    LAWRENCE KATZ: The bottom half of jobs of college graduates has been just as effective as the top half of jobs of non-college graduates. They were the middle management jobs, sales jobs. A lot of those are exactly what new information technology is very good at replacing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But the artisan economy offers other options, not just in small-scale production, but also in services.

    So if we had bedbugs, this would get rid of them.

    COLIN HICKEY, Green Planet Pest Control: This would kill all the stages of bedbugs.

    Meet my artisanal exterminators, Colin Hickey and Todd McNamara, proprietors of Green Planet Pest Control. Both college grads, neither one ever imagined a career in extermination, even if it environmentally friendly.

    COLIN HICKEY: I went to college for a biology degree. And then when I finished my undergraduate, basically, I didn’t really have a plan of what I wanted to do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Todd McNamara was a business major, tried his hand at selling stocks.

    TODD MCNAMARA, Green Planet Pest Control: But I just didn’t like the idea of sitting in front of a computer all day watching numbers bounce around, and calling clients and pretending like I liked them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Instead, the would-be biologist and businessman are content turning couches into killing fields and growing their two-man operation. But did they need college for that?

    COLIN HICKEY: I couldn’t do what I do now if I didn’t go to college.

    TODD MCNAMARA: Controlling the pest is the easy part. But doing the marketing, the business strategy, managing all the accounts, the day-to-day operation…

    LAWRENCE KATZ: I actually think it may be that a really strong liberal arts education is going to be more valuable in the future. How well do you deal with unstructured problems and how well do you deal with new situations, that’s what is really key.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Kerry Mills got so creative with her career, she created a new profession. After studying business at Arizona State and returning home to New York, she felt a religious calling to work with older people in nursing homes, but was bummed by what she saw.

    KERRY MILLS, Engaging Alzheimer’s: There’s no enthusiasm. There’s no encouragement to go live your life. Still be who you are.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So Mills enthusiastically transformed herself into what she called a dementia coach, training both staff and private clients on how to care for people like 93-year-old Grace Caffrey who have Alzheimer’s or related disabilities. Caffrey’s devoted niece, Mary Lou Casey, visits nearly every day.

    KERRY MILLS: What are some of Grace’s challenges now?

    WOMAN: I think the biggest issue is when they have to touch her, whether it’s the shower, the toileting, or anything in there. That’s where the problems are.

    KERRY MILLS: Most people react when somebody goes to touch them. It is actually a defense mechanism. So, we also have to look in the situation to say, where can I give her a little bit more space so that she can be more independent?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Kerry Mills has dozens of tips that I very much wish I had heard when I cared for my parents, which suggests the job possibilities in an aging and therefore fraying population.

    KERRY MILLS: Astronomical. There’s a ton of jobs out there that you just have to go figure it out. You have to kind of craft it in your community.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But can the average college grad carve out his and her career?

    LAWRENCE KATZ: I think every human being for the most part has that capability.

    The key is having a foundational set of skills, some of them interpersonal, some of them analytical, and finding what turns you on.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But you hear people more and more now saying to college graduates don’t follow your bliss, don’t do what you love because that’s impractical.

    LAWRENCE KATZ: There’s different levels of do what you love. You don’t want to just do something because it looks like today there’s a safe job in it.

    You want do something that you wake up every morning and feel passionate about. And that doesn’t guarantee there will be a market for it. But it’s — in many cases, it gives you a good shot.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And speaking of good shots, one last example of artisanship.

    Yes, it’s just delicious.

    Lawyers Zack Silverman and Alex Rein work for the same firm, bonded over their childhood love of frozen slushies.

    ZACK SILVERMAN, Kelvin Natural Slush Co.: They’re not as socially acceptable for a law firm, so we sort of joked, why isn’t there a good frozen slushie that we could bring to the office?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Rein bought a machine for his home, started developing flavors, citrus, ginger, tea. When he got laid off in 2009, Kelvin Slushie was born, starting with a food truck.

    ZACK SILVERMAN: People get coming to the truck and bringing their own booze. And they would spike the slushies.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Your eureka was adult slushies, wait a second, that would be alcohol.

    ZACK SILVERMAN: Exactly.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Silverman has since quit the law firm, joining Rein full-time. Regrets? They have had few.

    ALEX REIN, Kelvin Natural Slush Co.: I love what I do. I’m much more passionate about what I’m doing day in and day out.

    ZACK SILVERMAN: We hope that we’re building equity in a company that will be worth hopefully more in the future.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But will they ever earn lawyer money? And more importantly for this story, will artisanal businesses create enough jobs to rebuild America’s middle class?

    We note that, at its peak, the Pfizer plant employed some 2,500 people, its artisan replacements just 1,000 jobs so far. On the other hand, the space is still only 40 percent leased. If it hits its full occupancy, there just might be 2,500 people working here once again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, why should young people today want a liberal arts education? You can read more of Paul’s interview with the man who coined the term artisan economy. That’s on Making Sense.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Eastern Afghanistan, at least 89 people died in a suicide car bombing today. Scores more were wounded. The powerful blast rocked a crowded market in Paktika Province near the Pakistani border. More than 20 shops and dozens of nearby vehicles were destroyed. No one claimed responsibility. The Taliban put out a statement denying any involvement.

    GWEN IFILL: The parliament in Iraq has finally taken the first step toward forming a unity government, in the face of a Sunni insurgency. Lawmakers today chose a Sunni moderate, Salim al-Jubouri, to be the new speaker. It’s unclear whether Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds can reach a larger deal on naming a new president and prime minister.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Washington for consultations today, claiming tangible progress on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program. But he also acknowledged Iran and six world powers remain far apart on reaching a long-term agreement by a July 20 deadline.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We had extensive conversations, in which we moved on certain things. However, there are also very real gaps on other key issues. And what we are trying to do is to find a way for Iran to have an exclusively peaceful nuclear program, while giving the world all the assurances required to know that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran’s foreign minister suggested his country is open to extending the talks for another six months.

    GWEN IFILL: A fast-moving typhoon hit the northeastern Philippines today, forcing 300,000 people to evacuate. The storm made landfall with sustained winds of 80 miles an hour and a storm surge of 10 feet. Local officials warned thousands of homes may have been damaged or destroyed. Another typhoon, Haiyan, ravaged the Philippines last November, killing at least 6,300 people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Russia, Moscow’s morning rush hour turned deadly when a subway train derailed, killing 21 people. More than 130 others were injured, as three cars ran off their tracks in a tunnel. Investigators initially blamed a power surge, but later said that wasn’t the case. Several officials ruled out terrorism as the cause.

    GWEN IFILL: A bill to shore up the federal highway fund won approval in the House of Representatives today. It would cost $10.8 billion, and keep the fund solvent through next May, while lawmakers work on a longer-term fix. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

    A federal appeals court has ruled again that the University of Texas may continue considering race in undergraduate admissions. A white student who was denied admission, Abigail Fisher, had sued over the practice. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to take another look at the case, which led to today’s ruling. Fisher said she will appeal again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A big merger is in the works in the world of big tobacco. Reynolds American today announced a deal to buy Lorillard for $25 billion. They’d create the second largest tobacco company in the U.S., behind Altria. The deal is subject to approval by federal regulators.

    GWEN IFILL: Wall Street failed to make much headway today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained five points to close at 1,760. But the Nasdaq fell 24 points to close at 4,416. And the S&P was down nearly four points to close at 1,973.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Ebola outbreak in Western Africa has now killed more than 600 people. The World Health Organization reported the new toll today. It said 68 people died in the last week alone in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Health workers also confirmed 85 new cases in that same period.

    GWEN IFILL: More Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia than ever, 5.4 million. But Boston University researchers reported today, the overall incidence of dementia in the population has actually dropped 44 percent in the last 30 years. They credit better education and health care.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author James MacGregor Burns died today at his home in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was active in liberal Democratic politics and wrote biographies of then-Senator John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. His second volume on Roosevelt won the Pulitzer for history. James MacGregor Burns was 95 years old.

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    GWEN IFILL: Hopes of a potential stop to the violence gripping the Middle East were dashed today as aerial bombardment from both sides continued; 197 Palestinians have died during the eight days of violence. The first Israeli casualty came today.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports on why Hamas rejected an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire.

    MARGARET WARNER: Israel resumed airstrikes on Gaza this afternoon after a lull of six hours. It’s cabinet had originally accepted, and honored, an Egyptian cease-fire proposal. But Hamas kept firing rockets, some again intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system.

    With that, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the counteroffensive would resume with greater force.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza doesn’t cease — and that appears to be the case now — we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people. And for this, we expect full support from the responsible members of the international community.

    MARGARET WARNER: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction controls the West Bank, urged Hamas to accept the truce. In April, the two factions formed a unity government, but Hamas runs Gaza.

    A spokesman for the militant group said it rejected the cease-fire because Hamas had not been consulted.

    SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): The idea of declaring cease-fire before meeting the terms of the resistance is unacceptable. We will not stop fighting before reaching an agreement that includes all the terms of the Palestinian resistance.

    MARGARET WARNER: Those terms include releasing Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and reopening border crossings with Egypt.

    In Vienna, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Arab states to bring their influence to bear.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We ask all the members of the Arab community, as they did yesterday at the Arab League meeting in Cairo, to continue to press to try to get Hamas to do the right thing here, which is cease the violence, engage in a legitimate negotiation, and protect the lives of people that they seem all too willing to put to risk.

    MARGARET WARNER: Meanwhile, thousands of Israeli troops remain positioned near the Gaza border. A food delivery man was killed by a mortar blast today, Israel’s first fatality since the fighting began.

    At a Jerusalem news conference, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for an outright takeover of Gaza.

    AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, Foreign Minister, Israel (through interpreter): The answer must be clear. There is a need to lead. There is a need to end this operation when the Israeli army is in control over the whole Gaza Strip.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: bringing new technology to save infant lives in Vietnam.

    Vietnam battles sex trafficking along China’s border

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Hanoi. This story aired on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly,” part of his series Agents for Change.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s not unusual to see two, three, even four newborns crammed into the same crib at this busy hospital in Hanoi. They’re the luckier ones. For those with lungs infected or not fully developed because they were premature, the struggle — quite literally for air — is that much harder. Still, the prognosis for such fragile infants is far better today than it was about a decade ago, says the unit’s supervising doctor, Ngoc Diep Pham.

    NGOC DIEP PHAM, Doctor (through translator): Before 2000, the mortality rate of the neonatal intensive care unit was fifteen percent. Last year it was less than two percent.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Antibiotics have helped as has staff training but a big reason she says is that in recent years they’ve been able to install reliable locally made equipment to help babies breathe called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP.

    DR. PHAM DO NGOC DIEP (through interpreter): Normally, CPAP machines from America would cost us a lot of money, $2,500.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Not only did they have to rely on imported equipment — bought or donated — but it also broke down.

    Right outside the neonatal intensive care unit of this Hanoi hospital, is some sophisticated equipment that lies unused and discarded. It’s imported, its high tech and sophisticated but it’s completely unsuited for settings in which the electricity may not be reliably available and where spare parts aren’t available.

    DR. PHAM DO NGOC DIEP (through interpreter): For the amount that it costs to buy one machine from America we can buy two, maybe three CPAP machines that are made here.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The cheaper, more usable machines are now made in Vietnam, tailored to local conditions. Unlike in The west, hospitals here don’t have oxygen or compressed air piped in, for example, so these machines have a portable pump.

    NGA TRANG: This is an aquarium pump.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: An aquarium pump?

    NGA TRANG: Yes. This is the diaphragm…it has rubber inside, no oil, so the air is very clean.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Nga Trang says the filter was added for especially dusty conditions. Trang and her husband started this company called MTTS with a few engineer friends eleven years ago. Their big break came with a partnership with the California-based East Meets West Foundation, which invests in so called appropriate technology. Spokeswoman Allison Zimmerman says this machine was a promising idea because it was home grown.

    ALLISON ZIMMERMAN, East Meets West Foundation: What needed to happen was an engineering company that was willing to work with hospitals, with doctors and nurses to identify what they needed, as opposed to developing a solution outside, whether it’s in a Western country or whether it’s in a lab somewhere. It took a special type of company that’s willing to create a medical device that is affordable and that doesn’t require consumables and consumables are very expensive.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The big consumable for CPAP machines is tubing — discarded after each patient in the west. Here tubes are disinfected and reused here for as long as a year — for savings in the thousands of dollars. That lower price point has brought the equipment into smaller rural hospitals like this one. Dr. Ngo Minh Chuong says his neonatal unit can now save babies like this one as tiny as 1.6 pounds.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What would happen before you had this equipment here, would that baby not have survived?

    DR. NGO MINH CHUONG (through interpreter): We would have to transfer to a higher-level hospital in 100 percent of these cases.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That meant a two-hour road journey to Hanoi. It was unaffordable for many families in this impoverished region who had to foot the bill And, to an already overcrowded Hanoi hospital — if they got there at all.

    DR. NGO MINH CHUONG (through interpreter): If the road is bumpy it can cause the baby to choke. Or if the ambulance is stuck in a traffic jam it can also lengthen the transfer time, which can also lead to death.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Here too, the mortality rate has come down — by two-thirds since 2009. Life for doctors and patients is far better. Ten-month-old Bao Nam is as healthy as he is fidgety in his mother’s arms — it’s hard to imagine he weighed less than two pounds at birth.

    MOTHER (through interpreter): I was very anxious.

    FATHER (through interpreter): Like anyone else whose baby is not well, we were very worried. At one point I thought I was going to break down. For the first week we couldn’t see the baby at all.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In addition to CPAP, the joint enterprise also makes infant warmers and a portable phototherapy device explained here in training sessions by the partnership’s medical director, Dr. Tranen Chien.

    MAN (through interpreter): Make sure there is as much skin exposed as possible.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: About sixty percent of all babies are born with jaundice, which can lead to severe brain damage. It’s now easily treated with ultraviolet light; in the past babies were exposed to the sun — something that frequently had its own complications, like sunburn. The Vietnam-made so called Firefly not only provides phototherapy indoors but by the mother’s bedside.

    ALLISON ZIMMERMAN: It’s great if you can keep them with their mother and their mother can breast feed, the mother can do kangaroo care when the baby’s not in the phototherapy machine, so it’s designed, so it’s small for that reason. When you have lots of babies lined up in a crib with a phototherapy over it, then that increases risk of infection. By putting just one baby in the Firefly, it decreases risk of infection.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A third party in the venture is the private charity Design That Matters, which also focuses on appropriate technology. In this Hanoi lab, engineers like Mathew Blyde are tweaking the circuit boards of the infant warming device.

    MATHEW BLYDE: We’re just trying to improve the reliability a little bit so we’ve added some extra circuitry to make it more well protected, particularly in environments where the electricity supply might not be so reliable or might have spikes and dips.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: You want it to be able to withstand spikes in electric power?

    MATHEW BLYDE: Exactly.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Besides working to improve their reliability, the partners’ big goal is to make this enterprise financially sustainable. The devices are now being exported to neighboring countries in Asia, with plans to expand to West Africa and, they hope, to Europe, which could significantly boost revenues.

    GWEN IFILL: Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota.

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a master of capturing landscape and meditation in verse.

    Charles Wright was recently named the next poet laureate of the United States.

    In 2011, we traveled to his home for this profile following the publication of his book “Outtakes.”

    CHARLES WRIGHT, Author, “Outtakes”: My name is Charles Wright. And I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I have lived here for 27 years now. And I write poems. That’s my reason for living.

    Most of my poems start with me looking out the window or sitting in the backyard as dusk comes down, and what that sort of translates into — into my thinking at the moment.

    “I used to think the power of words was inexhaustible, that how we said the world was how it was and how it would be. I used to imagine that word-sway and word-thunder would silence the silence and all that, that words were the word, that language could lead us inexplicably to grace, as though it were geographical. I used to think these things when I was young. I still do.”

    As one gets older, one tries to do more with less. I was much more loquacious when I was younger. The most recent things I have done have been quite brief, six-line poems.

    I once said, if a guy can’t say what he has to say in three lines, he better change his job. Well, I haven’t gotten that far yet, but at least I’m down to six lines.


    CHARLES WRIGHT: And they’re hard. It’s hard to get more into less, but it can be done.

    “Looking out the West-Facing Window.”

    “How is it one comes to terms with life? One never does, I suppose, everything getting narrower, the children drunk and abusive, the sky breaking up, but the clouds not moving.”

    “Our lives are such common stories, fallen leaves on a long path. We wait it out, I guess, counting our sins and our have-not-dones. Immortality is for others, always for others.”

    The subject matter will change, what I’m looking at and what I’m thinking about and so on and so forth. But the content, which is language, landscape, and the idea of God, particularly the last one, is unchanging, unvarying. And it’s behind all of my poems, even the ones that may not look like it.

    That’s how poetry has always been for me. It’s been a way of sustaining my questions about life and mortality and all those things that we don’t like to talk about, but they’re always there, you know, knocking on the window.

    “I think I’m going to take my time. Life is too short for immortality and its attendant disregards. I have enough memories now for any weather, either here or there. I will take my time. Tomorrow is not what I’m looking forward to, or the next day. My home isn’t here, but I doubt that it’s there either. Empty and full have the same glass, though neither shows you the way.”

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, a look back at a different era of government surveillance, well before e-mail or Edward Snowden.

    Jeffrey Brown has our book conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On March 8, 1971, a group of burglars entered a small FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. In the files they took away, they found evidence of wide-scale surveillance of U.S. citizens, particularly of anti-war and black civil rights activists.

    It opened a window on the FBI that eventually led to the downfall of its leader, J. Edgar Hoover, and to major reforms of the bureau. The perpetrators were never caught, but their identities and story are now told in the new book “The Burglary.”

    Author Betty Medsger was one of the original journalists to receive and publish the information that came from the stolen files and she joins us now.

    And welcome to you.

    BETTY MEDSGER, Author, “The Burglary”: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This was an audacious plan carried out by an unlikely group of activists, academics. Tell us a little bit. How did it happen?

    BETTY MEDSGER: There was a sense in the anti-war movement that it was being infiltrated by spies, by informers.

    But there was no evidence. And William Davidon, the leader of the Media burglars, finally concluded, after being skeptical, that it probably was true and that it was so important, if dissent was being officially suppressed, that something needed to be done about it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Davidon himself was a Haverford physics professor. There was a Temple University religion professor. Tell us a little bit more about this group of people.

    BETTY MEDSGER: Well, as you said, a physicist, religion professional, John Raines and his wife, Bonnie Raines. And also somebody who was very important to the group was Keith Forsyth, who dropped out of college to protest the war, was working as a cab driver, and became a lock picker for the occasion, took a correspondence course for lock-picking.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They picked a night of a legendary fight, right, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Everyone was paying attention to that.

    BETTY MEDSGER: Still considered the fight of the century.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. And they got away with it. They got in and they took the files.

    BETTY MEDSGER: They did.

    They spent a few months casing. They were very careful about what they were doing, but at the same time there were obstacles they couldn’t overcome, such as a guard 24 hours a day at the courthouse door across the door looking at precisely where they would enter and leave the building.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And they found the surveillance campaign, what later became known as the counterintelligence program.

    They saw references in these files to — and you quote these words — enhance the paranoia that the FBI was trying to do to make people feel that there’s an FBI agent behind every mailbox.

    BETTY MEDSGER: There were many files that were important in the thousands that they took out of the office that night in the dark. But that file that you just mentioned sent a lot of chills through people at the time.

    And for the first time, people in Congress called for an investigation of the FBI and also newspaper editorials. And that was really quite striking, because Hoover was an idol. Hoover was an icon.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Untouchable.

    BETTY MEDSGER: Untouchable, truly untouchable.

    And that’s what drove Davidon to think of this, because he felt sure that, if surveillance, political surveillance was going on, and actually much worse was going on, that there was no possible way that this would be found by government officials, that Hoover was so immune to any kind of investigation.

    And that turned out to be true.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the amazing facts of the perpetrators, as I said, they never were caught. They agreed never to even met again. What, they just lived their — went back to living their lives?

    BETTY MEDSGER: They went back to living their lives. And for those who were middle-aged, that meant continuing with their work as professors and raising their children.

    And for the ones who were younger, it actually turned out to be more difficult, because they had dropped out of school to work so strongly to stop the war. It was more difficult. And they had to rebuild their lives.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Things didn’t happen fast, right? All these kind of changes that I mentioned, what happened to J. Edgar Hoover, they unfolded over time. And of course Watergate happened as well.

    BETTY MEDSGER: In the background, during all of those things, there was an impact.

    And one of the most important things is Carl Stern, an NBC reporter at the time covering the Justice Department, noticed that one of the Media files had this word on top, “COINTELPRO.” The file itself was just a routing slip on top of a story that Hoover wanted released to presidents of universities.

    But Carl noticed that, at the bottom, it said, send this with — give it to friendly administrators and give it anonymously to unfriendly college administrators. It was about how to control student protesters.

    And he thought, this is a strange thing for an FBI to be doing. And also what is COINTELPRO? And if it hadn’t been for his persistence, we never would have discovered what in the end what one of the most important findings from the Media files.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As you finished your book telling this history, and the survivors came forward, new revelations, right, from Edward Snowden. Do you end up feeling that, what, things haven’t changed so much? How did you see that?

    BETTY MEDSGER: One of the things that I ended up feeling was that despite the oversight that was officially established as a result of the Media burglary and then the congressional investigations that took place, that oversight really hasn’t been functioning so well in recent years.

    And 40 years later, we’re also learning information that seems to be pretty important for the public to know from another burglar, this one from inside an agency.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    The new book is “The Burglary.”

    Betty Medsger, thank you so much.

    BETTY MEDSGER: Thank you.

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    Six-year-old Jacob Portillo says he likes eating his broccoli at summer camp at Park View Recreation Center in downtown Washington. The camp offers free lunches to all the participants and to children in the community. The USDA pays for the summer meals. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    Six-year-old Jacob Portillo says he likes eating his broccoli at summer camp at Park View Recreation Center in Washington, D.C. The camp offers free lunches — funded by the USDA — to all participants and children in the community. For some, the meal fills a nutritional gap that’s crucial during the summer months when kids are out of school. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — Now that Isaac Mejia has graduated first grade, he knows a little something about the grading scale. And he’s developed his own set of evaluations for the summer camp he attends here in D.C.

    For example, watching movies: super fun. Swim time: pretty good. Eating broccoli at lunch: worst “by far.”

    “Sometimes I just spit it out in the trash can,” he said. “But sometimes I’ll swallow it.”

    That’s better than never, his camp counselors at Park View Recreation Center say. Even Isaac’s small bites of healthy food are more than many of his neighbors eat in the summertime. Because when school ends each year, so do the free and reduced-price meals that most low-income D.C. families rely upon for basic nutrition.

    “Summer is a time of great risk for many children in terms of hunger,” said Kevin Concannon, under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the United States Department of Agriculture. “I hear from school teachers and principals that when school starts up again in late August or September, they can almost always tell which kids have had a summer of reliable, healthy eating versus a summer of uncertainty.”

    This year, the problem is expected to be particularly severe after recent reductions in the Food Stamp program in late 2013 left many families skipping meals or buying low-cost junk food at the grocery store to make up the difference. And while official numbers won’t be available for a few weeks, “feeding sites” like Park View Rec Center that offer free, healthy meals between June and August say the crowds have been bigger than usual this summer.

    The Park View Recreation Center offers free lunches for all children in this low-income area of Washington. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    The Park View Rec Center offers free lunches for all children in this low-income area of Washington. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    The neighborhoods surrounding the U.S. Capitol building face some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation. During the academic year, 76 percent of children in D.C. Public Schools receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch. East of the Anacostia River — in the poorest parts of town — it’s closer to 99 percent.

    The number of D.C. families considered “food insecure” — the government’s definition for those who don’t always know where their next meal is coming from — is so high that officials here are often more apprehensive to close schools on a Monday when it snows. For families without enough food in the refrigerator, an extra day of weekend often mean an extra day of hunger, said Alexandra Ashbrook, director of the nonprofit D.C. Hunger Solutions.

    “So you can imagine, when schools close for the summer and we have eight or so weeks where there are no school meals, that it’s a crucial time to intervene to make sure kids can get the nutrition they need to grow,” she said.

    To fill the gap, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation manages more than 200 feeding sites throughout the city. Elsewhere in the District, churches, libraries, schools and local nonprofits open their doors daily for free activities and food.

    Rec Specialist Michelle DeVille prepares the free boxed lunches at Park View Rec Center. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    Rec Specialist Michelle DeVille prepares the free boxed lunches at Park View Rec Center. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    The USDA pays for the summer meals, but nationwide, only about 3.5 million children eat them. That’s compared to 21 million kids who receive free and reduced-cost lunch during the school year, leaving a gap of more than 16 million kids throughout the nation who likely don’t have access to healthy food on a regular basis.

    Much of it comes down to a numbers game, Concannon said. While there are 99,000 schools in the U.S. that serve free and reduced-price meals during the school year — many feeding around 400 kids — only 42,000 sites offer summer meals. And those sites typically have a capacity for 40 to 50 children.

    Added, of course, are the logistical challenges: “In rural areas, those yellow school buses just aren’t running in the summer,” Concannon said. “And in some cities, where gang problems or violence are big issues, parents are fearful of letting their kids leave the house during the day.”

    The USDA funds the summer meals program across the nation. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    The USDA funds the summer meals program across the nation. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    By far, D.C. reaches the largest percentage of kids with this programming, Ashbrook said. For every 100 students who eat free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, 58 of them come for the free summer food.

    City officials and nonprofit groups made a concerted push in recent years to drive up the number of families who know about these programs. They sent flyers home in backpacks, stuffed them into church bulletins and mailed them directly to parents. They convinced more nonprofit groups to open feeding sites in under-served areas, and they developed new communications systems to make it easier for families to find the program closest to home and sign up.

    Most sites in the city, including all Parks and Recreation facilities, are considered “open,” meaning that even if a child isn’t enrolled in programming, they can still stop by during mealtimes for the free food.

    Eight-year-old Chalyn Wright attends summer camp at the rec center in D.C. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    Eight-year-old Chalyn Wright enjoys lunch with her friends at Park View Rec Center. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    As junk food consumption rises, children gain weight three times faster during the summer months, often putting on as many pounds during the three months of summer as they do during the entire school year, research shows. Skipping meals is common too.

    “That’s why we see both hunger and obesity spiking at the same time,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. “Hunger because the kids aren’t getting school meals, obesity because the kids aren’t getting the healthier food that they get from those meals.”

    Summer food programs try to temper the weight gain by providing meals filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

    Mark McCain, the chief program manager for the parks department’s food nutrition division, says it’s one of the reasons he enjoys the summer program so much; it’s a chance to expose children to food they wouldn’t otherwise try at home.

    “Listen, we’re giving the kids chicken caesar salads,” he said. “A lot of these kids have never had chicken caesar salad. And honestly, they come in and they’re not sure what to expect. So it’s a pleasure to expose them and open up their minds — the same way we do with the programming — to things that can be good, things that can be fun.”

    School Resource Officer Michelle Rose with Washington's Metropolitan Police Department visits with some of her students over the summer who are attending summer camp at Park View Recreation Center. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    School Resource Officer Michelle Rose visits with some of her students who are attending summer camp at Park View Rec Center. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    Law enforcement officials say the impact of these programs go beyond nutrition. Officer Michelle Rose spends most of the year patrolling D.C. Public Schools, but in the summertime, she transitions to the “rec centers and other places where the kids tend to migrate.”

    Before the push to open more summer feeding sites in D.C., she says police officers dealt with a lot more crime when school let out — mostly petty theft of things like cell phones and other small valuables.

    “People don’t realize that they’re actually pawning the cell phones and getting money. And when the kids are arrested and debriefed, they’ll say, ‘I was hungry. I wanted to get something to eat,’’” she said. “So these programs actually help cut down on crime because they don’t have to opt to taking things from other people.”

    Having good food readily available helps kids worry less, she says — it helps kids be kids.

    Children who attend summer camp at Park View Recreation Center in downtown Washington enjoy playtime after lunch. Six-year-old Jacob Portillo shows off his leaping skills for the camera and friends. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    Children who attend summer camp at Park View Rec Center in Washington get their exercise, too. Six-year-old Jacob Portillo shows off his leaping skills for the camera and friends. Photo by Margaret Myers/NewsHour

    For his part, Isaac Mejia still isn’t sure he would call the food at camp “good.” “I only like some of it,” he said. “I’d rather have chicken nuggets, fries or pancakes. And I’d much, much rather have pizza.”

    But he’s heard that the fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread might make him taller and smarter. So he’s willing to keep giving it a shot.

    This article was produced with the support of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism and the National Health Journalism Fellowship, programs of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism’s California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.

    The post Why summer is the hungriest season for some U.S. kids appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Social status is just as heritable as height, argues Gregory Clark in his 2014 book, "The Son Also Rises." 1885 photo from the Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives from Flickr user Greene Connections.

    Social status is just as heritable as height, argues Gregory Clark in his 2014 book, “The Son Also Rises.” 1885 photo from the Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives from Flickr user Greene Connections.

    Editor’s Note: If you think you’re too short, you should have chosen taller parents. Thankfully, inherited physical traits, like height or eye color, aren’t often considered predictors of future socioeconomic success. In America, we’re taught that your social status, unlike your stature, can rise; it’s not pre-determined.

    But what if social status is inherited, just like stature? In that world, surnames would be a pretty good indicator at birth of future social mobility. That is our world, says economic historian Gregory Clark. He makes that case in one of the most provocative economics books of the year, “The Son Also Rises,” using surname-based intergenerational inequality correlations.

    Son Also Rises

    Over the past week, Making Sen$e has featured Paul Solman’s never-before-published conversation with Clark about his 2007 book, “A Farewell to Alms,” broken into five parts. Clark traces economic history, beginning with hunter-gatherers, and argues that in England, where the Industrial Revolution was born, the takeoff was due, above all, to “the survival of the richest.”

    That argument, like the one we present today, strikes at the heart of the belief in equal opportunity for economic growth and social mobility. “We can predict the majority of status variation among people at birth just from their lineage,” Clark writes. In other words, our society’s divergence of fortunes — which as Clark points out, isn’t just about income, but also social status – is relatively fixed. That’s something no one ever wants to talk about.

    Clark is here to talk about it, and to explain the implications for public policy of a world where, he thinks, social mobility is, and is likely to remain, slow.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    Everything we thought we knew about social mobility is wrong. And the evidence is hiding in plain sight. Just look at our surnames. Surname evidence suggests social mobility rates are slow, and impervious to social policy. Practically speaking, this means the poor will be much better served by policies to reduce the inequality of social outcomes than by those designed to speed up social mobility.

    What we thought we knew was that high rates of social mobility were possible, but only achieved by some societies; that nurture mattered more than nature in social outcomes; that the right social policies could generate near equality of opportunity; that the U.S. was a laggard when it came to such policies; and that the right policies would eliminate in the U.S. the legacies of past disadvantage within two to three generations.

    A study of the changing social status of surnames across many societies and epochs, however, dashes all such fond hopes. There is, everywhere, social mobility. All elites eventually get replaced. All underclasses eventually rise. Unfortunately, the process happens over a very long timeframe: many generations, in fact. The study of surnames shows that in the near term, social mobility rates are everywhere low and utterly unaffected by social policy; the pattern of mobility is consistent with nature rather than nurture being the main determinant of social status.

    “The hard truth is that underlying social status is inherited from parents as strongly and mechanically as height.”

    The hard truth is that underlying social status is inherited from parents as strongly and mechanically as height. This iron law of status means there is no way that a merit or incentive system can be used to justify a winner-take-all society.

    Social mobility rates can be summarized by one number: the degree to which the social outcomes of children – earnings, education, wealth and health – correlate with that of their parents. The closer that correlation is to zero, the less family, lineage, race and ethnicity matter to the next generation. All is possible at birth. The closer that number is to one (in essence, 100 percent) the more status is predictable from family circumstances alone. Birth is fate.

    The figure below, adapted from egalitarian economist Miles Corak, summarizes the conventional wisdom, as seen in estimates of the correlation between income inequality within families and in the economy as a whole across various countries. The correlation varies greatly. But where the income distribution is more unequal, the correlation between the economic status of children and their parents is higher. The correlation is low in prosperous, egalitarian Nordic economies, but high in in-egalitarian and poor Latin America. At the extreme, outcomes in countries like Sweden seem largely unpredictable at birth. There seems to be near equality of opportunity. (The U.S. lies in the middle both in terms of social mobility and in inequality.)

    Greg Clark -- Intergenerational Income Correlations/ Great Gatsby Curve

    The varying strength of conventional status inheritance across countries suggests that institutions control social mobility rates, and that many societies have suboptimal social mobility rates. By this argument, nurture, not nature, determines social success and social policy is the answer. In particular in the U.S., many children of talent are denied their potential by the circumstances of their families, according to this story. The U.S. is failing children from disadvantaged families. So, in general, is any society with high inequality. But as it turns out, that’s far from the whole story.

    Conventional social mobility estimates look at only the inheritance of individual aspects of social status, such as income, across single generations.

    How your income correlates with your parents’ income turns out to be a very imperfect measure of how your underlying social status correlates with theirs. The most famous philosopher of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, maintained high social status despite giving away all the money left to him by his father, the steel magnate Karl. The crucial point is that a lot of what is conventionally estimated as social mobility is just the froth around much more slowly changing underlying social status.

    The key to why the correlations are misleading is not that they are based on income, but that the current measures mainly capture random transitory fluctuations in income and wealth at the individual level. But for elite groups as a whole, the systematic downwards movement of income or wealth or education is much lower.

    Gregory Clark, author of "The Son Also Rises," argues that social mobility is slow, and your status will often mirror your parents.' Photo by Flickr user Goombay.

    Gregory Clark, author of “The Son Also Rises,” argues that because social mobility is slow, your social status will often mirror your parents’. Photo by Flickr user Goombay.

    A different approach is to use the average status of surnames distinctive enough to track families across generations. Using surnames, we can measure the inheritance of that underlying status between single generations, and also over multiple generations.

    Take supposedly mobile Sweden, for example. Conventional estimates imply that social mobility among Swedes should wipe out all past advantages and disadvantages within three generations, reminiscent of the 19th century English adage, “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” But consider the name Leijonhufvud, for example. It is a Swedish name created for a family ennobled more than 300 years ago, 10 generations in the past. According to the conventional notion of Swedish social mobility, Leijonhufvuds today should be no more distinguished than Swedes bearing surnames of low-class origin such as Andersson.

    But Leijonhufvuds remain significantly wealthier and more educated. They live in fancier suburbs. Their social status has survived for three centuries. Measured through surname status, contemporary Sweden has rates of underlying social mobility that are extremely slow, and no higher than in pre-industrial Sweden or medieval England.

    The result of my research is that this same strong conservation across generations of surname status is seen everywhere: in Thatcher’s England, in Tony Blair’s England, in medieval England, in Industrial Revolution England, in the huddled masses of the U.S., in Communist China, in capitalist Taiwan, in socially homogenous Japan, in the Chile of Pinochet and the Chile of Allende. Indeed there seems to be a universal constant rate of social mobility, with the few exceptions being even more immobile societies such as India. This rate is so slow that it implies that we can predict the majority of status variation among people at birth just from their lineage. The figure below shows this pattern.

    Gregory Clark Surname-based integenerational correlations

    In the U.S., for example, high status surnames of Ashkenazi Jewish origin such as Katz are converging so slowly on low status surnames mainly held by black Americans such as Washington that if current trends hold, it will be hundreds of years before they achieve equality.

    The fact that Katz and Washington are ethnic surnames might suggest this immobility is a peculiar function of ethnic differences. But exactly the same slow mobility in the U.S. is observed for overwhelmingly white surnames of unusually high or low status. Thus the surnames of the New France settlers of North America – Hebert, Cote, Gagnon — are all now of low social status, 300 years after most of these settlers arrived in the New World. And they are converging on mean status no faster than black surnames.

    The reason conventional estimates show much more social mobility in egalitarian societies such as Sweden is that partial aspects of status, such as income and wealth in that country, are not as strong indicators of underlying status as they are in more unequal societies. Since architects in Sweden earn little more than bus drivers, for example, you cannot infer much about underlying social status from income.

    The correlations in the second figure imply that the descendants of the current high- and low-status families will all eventually have an expected average status. But this will take many, many generations. When we look at social mobility at the group level – where the group is defined by race, ethnicity or by a shared surname – we observe for such groups the slow underlying rate of social mobility. This is why the American Jewish population has seemed surprisingly impervious to expected downwards social mobility, and the black population surprisingly bereft of expected upwards mobility. These groups are not exceptions to a general rule of fast social mobility, created by a unique cultural inheritance or by racial prejudice. They are illustrations of the general rule that social mobility is everywhere slow.

    Since social democratic Sweden, with publicly provided education from kindergarten to college, and with universal health care pre-natal to grave, has underlying social mobility rates not perceptibly greater than those of the more laissez-faire U.S. or the English feudal era, social status seems to be inherited within families functionally in the same way as genetic traits such as height. In practical terms, nature dominates nurture. The only way to attain better social outcomes is to have chosen different parents.

    “Unlike social mobility, the degree of inequality is something that societies do have significant ability to change through the tax and expenditure systems.”

    However, if we think that social status is as much outside the control of the individual as height, then we have to re-evaluate our acceptance of high degrees of inequality in modern America. Unlike social mobility, the degree of inequality is something that societies do have significant ability to change through the tax and expenditure systems. Suppose we had a social system that allocated enormous rewards to tall people and little reward to short people? We would think such a system arbitrary and absurd. But if social status is inherited as strongly within families as height, then shouldn’t we insure those who get a bad draw in the parental lottery against their misfortune?

    Sweden, for example, transfers resources from those of high to those of low social status to minimize inequalities of income, wealth and health. Yet in Sweden, those at the upper ends of the status distribution are as faithfully reproducing their place in the social system as in the U.S. Redistribution has not taxed away enthusiasm for achievement among Swedish elites.

    The U.S., in particular, will face a social landscape of persistent inequalities over many coming generations. There are well known differences in social status among such long-established populations as Native Americans, African-Americans, Jews and Franco-Americans. But restrictive immigration since World War II has led to a highly heterogeneous immigrant influx. Immigrants from countries distant from the U.S. tend to be strongly positively selected from the top of the status and ability distribution. Thus Indian, Iranian, black African and Philippine immigrants to the U.S. are heavily drawn from the elites of these societies. While the average Indian in 2000 had less than five years of education, those in the U.S. had more than 15 years, more even than the native U.S. population.

    In contrast, immigrants from Mexico and other Central American countries are strongly selected from the poor of these societies. Much of this immigration is illegal, and this path is unattractive to those with education.

    The accidents of U.S. history and of recent American immigration policy have thus created a society of unusual divisions of ability and status. The evidence from surname social mobility is that this will magnify the existing ethnic class divisions of the U.S. We need to consider how to mitigate the consequences of these forces. Measures to promote social mobility can help only on the margins. So the main work has to be to create a social system that can accommodate such persistent divergence of fortunes.

    One thing we should be clear on, however, is that the measured low rate of social mobility is in itself not a social tragedy. It crucially depends on what is driving the high correlation of status between parents and children. If that is driven by environmental deprivation, exclusion, nepotism and connections, then it would indeed be a tragedy. But there is considerable evidence that the biological inheritance of talent and drive is what underlies most of the correlation between the social status of parents and children. Whatever the social system — Communist China or Republican Texas — families of greater social competence will navigate themselves to the better social positions. In that case, the strong hereditability of social status revealed by surnames is no more a social tragedy than the strong hereditability of height. What would be tragic would be to not recognize, in light of these social mobility facts, the imperative to limit the rewards from social status.

    The post The cruel key to individual prosperity: choosing the right ancestors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Forty-five years ago today, the historic liftoff of Apollo 11 was broadcast around the country as America sent the first humans to the moon.

    “If all goes well, Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are to lift off from planet 39A out there on the voyage man always dreamed about,” announced Walter Cronkite on CBS News in the live cast of the launch. “Next stop for them: the moon.”

    Apollo 11 launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Space Frontiers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

    Apollo 11 launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Space Frontiers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

    As the world watched rather nervously, the mission sent Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit. Four days later on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed safely on the Moon, soon making Armstrong the first human to ever step onto the lunar surface.

    To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the launch, the Smithsonian National Air and Space launched a Twitter account, @ReliveApollo11 to (basically) relive the event in “real time.”

    The post 45 years ago, Apollo 11 blasted off into space appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been recovering in Germany after being released from the Taliban on May 31.  Undated photo by U.S. Army

    Photo of Bowe Bergdahl by U.S. Army

    Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has hired a well-known lawyer and military justice expert to represent him as the Army investigates how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan five years ago, before being captured by the Taliban.

    The Pentagon says Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, has spoken with the Army officer handling the case, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl.

    Bergdahl has completed his initial reintegration into the Army after his release May 31, when he was turned over to Army special forces in exchange for five Taliban detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center. He is now assigned a desk job at U.S. Army North, at San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

    The Pentagon says Bergdahl has not met with Dahl.

    The post Bowe Bergdahl hires lawyer for military investigation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A technique called photogrammetry created these 3-D images of a baby stegosaurus tracks found near Morrison, Colorado. The track, which is about the size of a quarter, is hard to see in a two-dimensional photograph. With this technique, scientists can send a high resolution 3-D copy of a site around the world with just a few cell phone images. Image courtesy Matthew Mossbrucker, Morrison Natural History Museum

    A technique called photogrammetry was used to create these 3-D images of a baby Stegosaurus track found near Morrison, Colorado. The track, which is about the size of a quarter, is hard to see in a two-dimensional photograph. With this technique, scientists can send a high-resolution 3-D copy of a site around the world with just a few cell-phone images. Image courtesy Matthew Mossbrucker, Morrison Natural History Museum


    It’s a Monday afternoon, and Matthew Mossbrucker is circling a collection of sandstone boulders outside of the Morrison Natural History Museum, tucked in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. His fingers trace over what he calls the “Jurassic jambalaya” of the sandstone — bits of bones, teeth, ripples from ancient streams and dinosaur footprints.

    “This is the original Jurassic Park,” says Mossbrucker, the curator and director of the museum, as he gestures to the surrounding hillsides. The town of Morrison, 17 miles west of Denver, made headlines when famous geologist Arthur Lakes uncovered the first Stegosaurus fossil there in 1877. Bones of other Late Jurassic dinosaurs, like Apatosauruses, Camptosauruses and Allosauruses, have also been unearthed in the area.

    And it was late one afternoon in 2007 when Mossbrucker himself found something extraordinary in the sandstone — the footprint of a baby Stegosaurus dinosaur.

    “The light hit it just right, and I went, ‘Oh, it’s a track!’” he said. The tiny dino wouldn’t have been much larger than a house cat. Based on its size, no bigger than a quarter, it had recently hatched.

    “It could have slept in its mother’s footprint,” he said.

    At first, he wanted to be sure of its origins. He sent photos to colleagues to get their opinions. But those two-dimensional photographs didn’t do the find justice. The finding was soon confirmed as the first baby Stegosaurus footprint ever found.

    But his desire to share and study this fossil outpaced the technology available to him at the time. So he turned to 3-D modeling. Mossbrucker has since become one of a growing number of scientists to use 3-D photogrammetry, technology that turns photographs into three-dimensional models, to study fossils.

    To the untrained eye, baby dinosaur footprints are hard to see. But with 3-D modeling, tracks of once-living dinosaurs can be studied and preserved in a matter of minutes. And it can be done for free with just a few iPhone photos.

    Matthew Mossbrucker, director and chief curator of the Morrison Natural History Museum, points out baby Stegosaurus tracks. Mossbrucker has found these in boulders along the highways in Morrison, Colorado. On his iPad is a 3-D model of the footprint. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Matthew Mossbrucker, director and chief curator of the Morrison Natural History Museum, points out baby Stegosaurus tracks. Mossbrucker has found these in boulders along the highways in Morrison, Colorado. On his iPad is a 3-D model of the footprint. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Recognizing 150 million-year-old tracks requires a sophisticated understanding of dinosaur feet, said Bob Bakker, a well-known paleontologist, author and a volunteer curator for the Morrison museum. Stegosauruses walked like “three ton ballerinas,” he said, “They were big guys with tiny feet.” Their hind feet had three blunt square toes and their forefeet had five short spread-out toes. They are completely unique in the dinosaur world.

    Paleontologists looking for fossils often miss tracks. Originally a “bone guy” himself, Bakker found his own set of adult Stegosaurus tracks in the Morrison hills on a spring evening in 2007, after searching the area for 25 years. He was walking near Quarry 5, where Lakes had found the first Stegosaurus. (Bakker takes off his hat in reverence when he mentions Lakes’ name.) There in the “magic hour” light, he saw adult Stegosaurus tracks.

    “And there they were! Right there!” Bakker exclaimed. “I probably stared at them 100 times. There isn’t anything like a Stegosaurus track on God’s green earth.” It was that discovery that led Mossbrucker to search the area for more footprints, eventually finding the baby tracks.

    Bob Bakker, curator of paleontology for the Morrison Natural History Museum, points out the adult Stegosaurus tracks he found near Morrison, Colorado. They are now on display at the museum alongside the first baby Stegosaurus tracks. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Bob Bakker, curator of paleontology for the Morrison Natural History Museum, points out the adult Stegosaurus tracks he found near Morrison, Colorado. They are now on display at the museum alongside the first baby Stegosaurus tracks. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    When Mossbrucker’s baby Stegosaurus hatched approximately 150 million years ago, there were no Rocky Mountains, Bakker said. Colorado was a flat, hot, dry savannah, where river beds filled with water during flash floods, burying bones and leaving a soft, sandy surface for dinosaur families to walk through. The tracks left behind can give scientists clues to how big the dinosaurs were, and how they hunted, moved and lived together.

    For example, the baby footprints were found among adult and juvenile tracks, which suggests that the Stegosauruses traveled in groups. That means they were social animals, Bakker explained. And social organization may have helped them survive.

    “If you’re a baby Stegosaurus and you’re dumb as a post, and your mom is dumb as a post, how do you survive these meat-eaters that are 20 to 50 times smarter than you?” Bakker asks. “Social organization might be the answer.”

    “Footprints are really special,” said Peter Falkingham, a research fellow at the Royal Veterinary College in London. “They offer something completely different to the bones. They’re something the animal left while it was alive, and they’re the only record we have of locomotion and behavior and environment.”


    But these footprints are also fragile. Dinosaur tracks are exposed to millennia of weather, erosion and even construction, which can destroy the markings. These Stegosaurus footprints were tossed alongside the road in the 1930s, when the Works Progress Administration dynamited the hillsides to build highways. When the highway was expanded seven years ago, Mossbrucker was afraid fossils would again be lost. He hired a local backhoe and had the boulders brought to the museum, where they were stored in the museum’s parking lot until Mossbrucker could study them.

    At the time, Mossbrucker wanted to scan the footprints in 3-D, like the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is doing with the Tyrannosaurus rex. The track is so small that even in the museum’s light it’s hard to discern. But in 2008, the recession hit, and the tiny museum, which operates on a $90,000 annual budget, lacked the money for the technology.

    This year, on a whim, he sent three photos of the footprint from his iPhone to Heinrich Mallison, a vertebrate paleontologist at Museum für Naturkunde in Germany who’s been working to expand the use of 3-D photogrammetry in the field. Mallison emailed him a three-dimensional image 12 minutes later.

    Photogrammetry, a technique that takes still images and creates a 3-D model, is being used in paleontology to capture baby dinosaur tracks. This baby Stegosaurus track was found near Morrison, Colorado. Image courtesy Matthew Mossbrucker, Morrison Museum of Natural History

    Photogrammetry, a technique that takes still images and creates a 3-D model, is being used in paleontology to capture baby dinosaur tracks. This baby Stegosaurus track was found near Morrison, Colorado. Image courtesy Matthew Mossbrucker, Morrison Museum of Natural History

    Now, Mossbrucker pulls up the image on his iPad while standing in front of the fossil. On the display, he can rotate the image, even change the light source, revealing its depths from different angles.

    Photogrammetry relies on photographs taken from several angles to create a three-dimensional image. It’s not a new technique, but now computer programs can generate these images much faster, Mallison wrote in an email. Some of these programs, like Visual SFM, are free. The technique gives new life to the ancient tracks that old methods couldn’t capture, he said.

    He lists off the limitations of the old methods.

    “Drawing outlines omits all the information on track depth, which is related to weight distribution in the foot and other things,” he writes. “Also, where exactly to draw the outline is often difficult to say. Also, how do you document fine scratches left by skin scales? How do you document undercuts? How do you document really huge surfaces with lots of prints? Photogrammetry now offers the ability to quickly, cheaply and easily email a high-resolution representation of a fossil around the world.”

    Studying a dinosaur track in detail used to mean traveling to the site. Now scientists have infinitely greater access to faraway fossils.

    “For the past 150 years, since tracks were first described in literature, at best you could get a photograph, but you lose all this information like depth and where the sediment has bulged,” Falkingham said. “Someone in China could produce a digital footprint and I could get all the information out of it that I could if I traveled to China in the first place. If we have a track that’s strange and weird, we can all pitch in and get to conclusions a bit quicker.”

    The post First steps of a baby Stegosaurus, captured in 3-D appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Ukrainian troops stand guard at the headquarters of the Ukrainian army's Anti-Terrorist Operation, ATO, near the eastern Ukrainian city of Izyum, near Donetsk, on June 20, 2014. Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

    File photo of Ukrainian troops the eastern city of Izyum, near Donetsk. Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

    Struggling to defuse the persistent crisis in Ukraine, both the U.S. and European Union imposed new economic sanctions on Russia Wednesday, President Barack Obama declaring that Russian leaders must see that their actions supporting Ukrainian rebels “have consequences.”

    Though the American and European sanctions were coordinated, they nonetheless exposed fissures in what the West has tried to project as a united front in its months-long effort to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The penalties announced by the White House were broad in scope, targeting two major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight arms firms and four individuals. Leaders in Europe, which has a far deeper economic relationship with Russia than the U.S., were more restrained, ordering investment and development banks on the continent to suspend financing agreements with Moscow.

    Even the U.S. penalties stopped short of the most stringent actions the West has threatened, which would entail fully cutting off key sectors of Russia’s economy. But officials said those steps were still on the table if Russia fails to abide by the West’s demands to stop support for pro-Russian insurgents who have destabilized swaths of eastern Ukraine.

    “What we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see once again that its actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening Russian economy and increasing diplomatic isolation,” Obama said as he announced the U.S. penalties from the White House.

    The post Obama says Russian actions ‘have consequences,’ escalates sanctions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Emmy awards are Aug. 25. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA

    The Emmy awards ceremony is Aug. 25. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA

    There’s less than six weeks to binge watch all your favorite television shows before the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences decides which ones take home an Emmy statue. The nominations were announced last week and the ceremony is Aug. 15.

    Whether you prefer dramas like “Game of Thrones” — HBO’s fantasy show that topped the list with a whopping 19 nominations — or dark comedies like “Orange Is the New Black” — the Netflix original series that received 12 nominations — rest assured there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

    And even though premium channels like HBO and the streaming service Netflix have gotten a lot of buzz, the old TV guard is still present — ABC’s “Modern Family,” which has won most outstanding comedy series four years in a row, earned 10 nominations. “House of Cards,” which last year was the first online series to win a major award, again was nominated. That Netflix hit series received 13 nominations.

    So while we await the ceremony, this year hosted by Seth Meyers, we’re asking you to chose.

    You did so well picking the winner’s for this years academy awards, we figured you should have a chance to show your TV-smarts, too. Fill out our poll below and and tell us who should win this year’s Emmy awards.

    Just as with the Oscars results, we will tally up the results. Come back on Aug. 25 to see if your predictions match up to the actual winners.

    The 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast at 8 p.m. EDT Aug. 25 on NBC.

    The post Poll: What are your Emmy predictions? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    AIDS related deaths and HIV infections worldwide are decreasing, a UN agency reported Wednesday, and—with greater funding—it is possible to control the global epidemic by 2030.

    A gap report issued by USAIDS reported new infection of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS have dropped to the lowest levels this century at around 2.1 million. Those rates have fallen by 13 percent in the last three years.

    “If we accelerate all HIV scale-up by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030,” said Michel Sidibe, director of UNAIDS, in a press release. “If not, we risk significantly increasing the time it would take—adding a decade.”

    In every region of the world, says UNAIDS, only three or four countries are driving the epidemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, only three countries—Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda—account for 48 percent of all new HIV infections.

    The post Can we control the global AIDS epidemic by 2030? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Israel agreed late today to a five-hour pause in attacks on Gaza after a U.N. appeal. The halt, for humanitarian purposes, will begin at 3:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow morning. The announcement followed a day of stepped-up strikes that pushed the Palestinian death toll to at least 213.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News filed this report from Gaza.

    JONATHAN MILLER: Ten past 4:00, and there were two almighty explosions. Israeli shells had hit a groin used by Gaza City’s fishermen. Many of their boats have already been targeted and sunk.

    People emptied out onto the previously deserted street and rushed to help. It was then we learned that a third shell had killed four children minutes later just down the beach. Two still grabs from CCTV appear to show the four boys playing football. And then the shell strikes.

    Israel’s pledge had been to hit Hamas hard. At 1:30 a.m., three missiles from an F-16 slammed into the Gaza City home of Hamas super strongman Mahmoud Zahar. In all, four Hamas leaders’ homes were destroyed overnight. None of them was killed, the debris here now a dystopian children’s playground.

    Shortly after dawn, an Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets on three neighborhoods. All were close to the Israeli border. One was in Shaja’ia, a district in the east of Gaza City.

    And here is one of those leaflets. The translation from the Arabic goes: “For your own safety, we request that you vacate your residence immediately. The Israeli Defense Force doesn’t wish to harm you or your family. Those who disregard these instructions endanger their own lives and those of their families.”

    But Hamas got on the local radio straight away and said: Don’t believe it, don’t move, it’s propaganda. The Israelis simply want you to move out so that they can move in.

    The residents of Shaja’ia were not impressed. “Where can we go?” this man asks. “We can’t go. Where are we meant to go?”

    This evening, the four boys killed just down the beach were laid out in the  Abu Hasira Mosque. The imam was agitated. He said, “Our battle with the enemy will never end.”

    GWEN IFILL: Hamas rejected a cease-fire yesterday. Today, the militants fired several dozen more rockets into Israel, but caused no major damage and no casualties.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a third term today, even as a now four-year-long civil war rages on in his country.

    Assad took the oath of office during a large ceremony at the presidential palace in Damascus. He declared victory over those he called terrorists, and he warned countries who’ve backed the rebels.

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria (through interpreter): Soon, we will see that the Arab, regional and Western states that supported terrorism will pay a high price and many people will understand late that the battle in which Syrian people is fighting to defend its country is a battle to defend many other people that will be facing the same terrorism sooner or later.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. and other countries have dismissed Assad’s reelection as a sham.

    GWEN IFILL: In Iraq, government forces pulled back from a bid to retake Tikrit, after meeting heavy resistance from Sunni insurgents. The city was captured by the Islamic State group last month, a stronghold of former Saddam Hussein loyalists.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States is imposing its toughest sanctions yet on Russia for supporting rebels in Ukraine. The Treasury Department announced new penalties this afternoon, targeting key Russian banks, as well as energy and defense companies.

    Later, President Obama said Russia has to understand it will pay a price for its actions.

    These sanctions are significant, but they are also targeted, designed to have the maximum impact on Russia, while limiting any spillover effects on American companies or those of our allies. Now, we are taking these actions in close consultation with our European allies who are meeting in Brussels to agree on their next steps.

    And what we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see once again that its actions in Ukraine have consequences.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pentagon officials reported today that Moscow has beefed up forces on Ukraine’s border to 12,000 troops.

    GWEN IFILL: Senate Democrats failed in their bid today to reverse a Supreme Court ruling on contraception and the health care law. Last month’s decision says family-owned companies and others with religious objections may refuse to cover some forms of birth control. Democrats and Republicans jousted over the bill before a procedural vote.

    SEN. PATTY MURRAY, D, Wash.: Now is the time for our colleagues to answer a few basic questions. Who should be in charge of a woman’s health care decision?  Women should call the shots when it comes to their health care decisions, not their boss, not the government, not anyone else, period.

    SEN. TED CRUZ, R, Texas: The issue before this body is not about access to contraceptives, despite a whole lot of politicking by Senate Democrats to suggest to the contrary. In this body, the number of people who would do anything to restrict access to contraceptives to anybody is zero.

    GWEN IFILL: The measure ultimately fell four votes short of the 60 needed to advance. Republicans said they plan to introduce their own bill later this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The man running the Department of Veterans Affairs, for now, painted a grim picture today. Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson said veterans and the public have lost trust in the VA amid a scandal over treatment delays and falsified records.

    But Gibson told a Senate hearing the VA has a chance to turn things around.

    SLOAN GIBSON, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs: We can turn these challenges into the greatest opportunity for improvement in the history of this department. I believe that in, as little as two years, the conversation can change, that VA can be the trusted provider of choice for health care and for benefits.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The VA says it has already made some progress, such as reducing the number of veterans who’ve waited 90 days or more for a medical appointment.

    GWEN IFILL: AIDS-related deaths worldwide are now the lowest since they peaked nearly a decade ago. A United Nations agency reports 1.5 million people died from the disease last year, 35 million were infected with HIV, virtually unchanged over the last two years.

    The U.N. says, with greater funding, it will be possible to control the global epidemic by 2030 and ultimately end it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A federal district judge in Southern California ruled today that the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional. He said prolonged delays in carrying out executions have made the system too arbitrary, a violation of the constitutional bar against cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling came in the case of a man condemned in 1994 and still on death row.

    GWEN IFILL: General Motors is facing yet more scrutiny about its handling of an ignition switch defect that triggered mass recalls. The New York Times reported today that GM kept quiet for years as regulators asked about the potential causes of fatal crashes. The ignition problem has been linked to at least 13 deaths.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: BMW announced that it’s recalling 1.6 million of its cars worldwide for possibly defective air bags. More than half-a-million of those are in the U.S. They include 3 Series cars from model years 2000 to 2006. A number of other automakers have issued similar recalls for air bags, all made by the same Japanese firm, Takata Corporation.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 77 points to close at 17,138. The Nasdaq rose nine points to close near 4,426. The S&P 500 added eight to finish at 1,981.

    The post News Wrap: Israel agrees to five-hour pause of Gaza strikes after UN appeal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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