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

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    US. presidential candidate Walter Mondale and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro campaigning in 1984. Ferraro was the first woman to be placed on a major party's national ticket. Photo via the Library of Congress

    US. presidential candidate Walter Mondale and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro campaigning in 1984. Ferraro was the first woman to be placed on a major party’s national ticket. Photo via the Library of Congress

    Thirty years ago this week, Geraldine Ferraro was chosen by Walter Mondale as his running mate on the 1984 Democratic ticket, making history as the first woman to become a major party’s national nominee for office.

    According to Rutger’s Center for American Women and Politics, women account for only 18.5 percent of seats in Congress. A women has yet to serve as vice president, let alone occupy the nation’s highest office. Where do women stand in politics today? What was the impact of Ferraro’s nomination, and what is its legacy? How do factors such as media coverage affect women’s bids for office, and the work they do once elected?

    @NewsHour invited you to participate in a Twitter chat on the subject of women in politics. We were joined by Ms. Ferraro’s daughter, Donna Zaccaro (@DonnaZaccaro), the filmmaker behind ‘Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way.’ Read the full conversation below.

    Editor’s note: This post originally reported that women accounted for 13.4% of Congressional seats in 1984. Women accounted for 13.4% of seats in state legislatures in that year.

    The post Twitter Chat: Women in Politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Obama Delivers Statement On Situation In Iraq

    President Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Iran. Obama has said repeatedly that a world in turmoil demands American leadership, but a burst of new international challenges this week is showing the limits of that leadership.

    Surveying a dizzying array of international crises, President Barack Obama stated the obvious: “We live in a complex world and at a challenging time.”

    And then suddenly, only a day later, the world had grown much more troubling, the challenges even more confounding.

    The downing Thursday of a passenger plane carrying nearly 300 people spread the impact of the standoff between Ukraine and Russia far around the globe. The prospect of more Mideast casualties was assured when Israeli launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip after efforts to arrange a cease-fire between the Israelis and Palestinians.

    Yet there was a ray of hope elsewhere at week’s end with the announcement that the U.S. and its negotiating partners had agreed to extend nuclear negotiations with Iran for four months rather than allowing the talks to collapse as a Sunday deadline neared.

    Still, there’s no guarantee of overcoming stubborn differences with Iran and reaching a final agreement. Obama also will have to find a way to stave off pressure from members of Congress, including some fellow Democrats, who see the extension as a stalling tactic by Iran and are anxious to further penalize Tehran.

    “Increased economic pressure would strengthen our hand, but the administration opposes it,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It should welcome congressional efforts to ratchet up the economic pressure on Iran.”

    The cascade of overseas developments comes as the American public’s views about Obama’s foreign policy have soured, turning what was once seen as his strength into a potential liability. For a second-term president already hamstrung on the domestic front, the world stage hardly looks like the refuge it sometimes has offered leaders in their final White House years.

    Obama has said repeatedly that a world in turmoil demands American leadership, but this burst of new challenges is showing the limits of that leadership.

    Fresh American economic sanctions on Russia couldn’t stop the missile attack on the Malaysian Airlines plane, which U.S. officials believe was carried out by pro-Kremlin separatists aided by Moscow. Obama was also unable to persuade the European Union to join him in penalties aimed at Russia’s most powerful economic sectors, settling instead for more tepid EU actions that strained efforts to portray a united Western front against Vladimir Putin’s government.

    In the Middle East, Israel began its assault in Gaza despite objections by the U.S. and the prospect of mounting civilian casualties.

    The urgent international issues add to the pile of foreign policy challenges already causing headaches for the White House: Syria’s persistent civil war, the rise of Sunni extremists in Iraq, China’s increased aggression in territorial disputes in Asia.

    The White House insists the U.S. is better off under Obama’s foreign policy leadership, citing as one example his commitment to ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he inherited from President George W. Bush.

    “I think that there have been a number of situations in which you’ve seen this administration intervene in a meaningful way that has substantially furthered American interests and substantially improved the tranquility of the global community,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

    Obama and his advisers have tried to project a measured approach to dealing with the deepening instability. Obama stuck to plans to hold fundraisers in New York and a transportation event in Delaware on Thursday, after the plane was downed and Israel began military operations. Obama also carried on with plans to spend the weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.

    The strategy reflects the view of the White House that there is a danger in presidents believing they are presiding over circumstances or events that dwarf the challenges faced by their predecessors. Such thinking, Obama’s aides say, can lead to overreach as presidents think that extraordinary measures are required and that their decisions can bypass the normal checks and balances.

    To Obama’s critics, that approach smacks of timidity and restraint that have left both foes and friends more willing to dismiss his warnings as empty threats.

    For a brief moment over the past few days, it appeared the White House was on offensive, not just reacting to world events.

    Obama’s remarks Wednesday on the world’s complexity and challenges came as he announced the most stringent American economic sanctions yet against Russia for its threatening moves in Ukraine. The package of penalties took aim at some of Russia’s most powerful banks, energy entities and defense companies, and received grudging praise from Republicans.

    But within 24 hours, the landscape shifted on Obama again, as reports of the downed plane surfaced.

    There is some hope among Obama aides that if a Russian role in the tragedy is proved, it may push European leaders to take the tough action against Moscow they have resisted. But presidential advisers also know that the questions of additional costs and consequences will be pointed back at Obama as well.

    The post Obama’s foreign policy under pressure as world crises pile up appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In many cities throughout the U.S. it is now a crime to beg, loiter or sleep in public.   By Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA (Helping the homeless  Uploaded by Gary Dee) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    In many cities throughout the U.S. it is now a crime to beg, loiter or sleep in public.

    It’s now harder than ever to be homeless in America. 

    Increasingly, laws that criminalize homelessness are cropping up in cities throughout the country, while simultaneously, a national shortage of shelter beds and housing options is roiling the system.

    Since 2001, the U.S. has lost nearly 13 percent of its low-income housing according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that surveyed 187 cities.

    The advocacy group’s report found that laws placing restrictions on loitering, begging, sitting and lying down in public have increased nationwide since 2009. Eighteen percent of cities now ban sleeping in public and 42% of cities ban sleeping in vehicles.

    And that’s a problem, NLCHP Executive Director Mary Foscarinis told NPR, because it makes it difficult for individuals to get back on their feet. 

    “It’s really hard to get a job when you’re homeless anyway, or to get housing,” Foscarinis said. ”You have no place to bathe, no place to dress, no money for transportation. But then if you also have an arrest record, it’s even more challenging,” she said.

    In May, city officials in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., passed a series of ordinances cracking down on public drunkenness, urination and sleeping on sidewalks — all in an effort to help the homeless and preserve the city’s quality of life, city spokesman Matt Little told USA Today.

    “The city of Fort Lauderdale has a distinguished history of compassion toward those in need,” Little said. “Protecting our quality of life and business environment ensures continued funding for humanitarian needs.”

    NLCHP says an overwhelming increase in urban homelessness after the recession and a widespread initiative to revitalize cities’ downtown areas incited the crackdown on the homeless.

    There are some cities, however, that instead of criminalizing the homeless, pool resources to provide housing and other services, the report said.

    Miami-Dade County, Fla., raises money for the homeless through its Homeless and Domestic Violence Tax.

    The group also urged the federal government to provide the National Housing Trust Fund with $3.5 billion dollars each year to increase affordable housing and prevent people from living on the streets.

    “The federal government should play a leadership role in combating the criminalization of homelessness by local governments and promote constructive alternatives,” the report said.

    The post Homelessness now a crime in cities throughout the U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening thanks for joining us. Ukraine today, accused Russia and pro-Russian separatists of destroying evidence that could offer clues about the downing of that Malaysia Airlines plane, carrying 298 people. The plane went down Thursday in an area of eastern Ukraine where the separatists have been battling Ukrainian government forces.

    For more about all of this we are joined now via Skype from Ukraine by Paul Sonne. He is the Moscow correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. Earlier today, he visited the disaster scene and posted these pictures on Twitter. So Paul, is the site secure and who is in control of it?

    PAUL SONNE: It depends what you mean by secure. The rebels are in control of the site. It is in a territory that’s about an hour and a half northeast of the city of Donetsk. That is, it is in possession of the separatists. And they are sort of on site, so they have been standing with guns in the middle of the road that goes right through the field where most of the debris has fallen when I saw them. But from what I could ascertain there was no perimeter around the actual site.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Did you see any indications of an investigation taking place is there evidence being gathered? Do we know anything about the black boxes?

    PAUL SONNE: We do not know where the black boxes are. There has been lots of rumors about that. Initially some separatists told Russian news sources that some of them had been recovered. The separatists leader in Donetsk today, Alexander Borodai, said that they had not recovered them. So in terms of the investigation, I didn’t see any suggestion that any sort of investigation was going on today. The only thing that happened today that was new was that they did start retrieving some of the bodies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So Ukrainian intelligence officials said today that they have pictures of some of these anti-aircraft missile launchers on trucks moving back into Russia and that’s just ten hours after the planes went down. They say that that is the direct link that Russia was supplying these missiles in the first place. Has Russia responded to any of this?

    PAUL SONNE: Russia has said that they want a full, impartial, objective investigation into what has happened. Though Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukraine for the accident, but he hasn’t blamed Ukraine for shooting down the plane. It’s a very careful difference there. What he said is, you know, Ukraine created the situation essentially where something like this could happen by invading the eastern part of their own country to put down the separatist rebellion, and he said, you know, by deciding to use force and deploy troops inside their own country, that they’ve created a situation wherein this could happen. So that’s basically the Russian line at this point.

    In terms of the pictures that the Ukrainian Security Services have put out, I think the line, not just from Russia but from a lot of countries, is that they want an international, objective investigation into that, not sort of people posting photos on a website.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what does the Ukrainian government say is evidence that Russia or the pro-Russian separatists have destroyed?

    PAUL SONNE: You know, they didn’t specify, as far as I know, exactly what evidence. They just said that they seem to know that the evidence had been destroyed. You know, when I was there I didn’t see any signs of looting of evidence. Obviously, I was not there for the whole time, I didn’t see the whole perimeter, so it’s obviously very hard to tell. But you know certainly the evidence would have been damaged regardless because of the fact that it has been left without a secure perimeter for so long, in the heat.

    It does seem like some of the evidence has been moved. When I was there, there were a lot of personal effects in two different piles. So it does seem like some stuff has been moved already at the scene. And certainly they’re moving stuff in order to take out the bodies. And the investigation doesn’t seem to be already occurring simultaneous to them taking out the bodies. So in terms of already this site being jeopardized for an investigation and the evidence being spoiled, regardless of whether it’s actually physically been taken, that probably already is the case.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Paul Sonne of the Wall Street Journal joining us via Skype from Ukraine, thanks so much.

    PAUL SONNE: Thanks for having me.

    The post Did Russia destroy key evidence from the MH17 crash site in Ukraine? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Turning now to the other major international story dominating the headlines—the invasion of Gaza. An offensive, Israel says, is designed to locate tunnels and designed to stop rockets from being fired from Gaza into Israel.

    Palestinian authorities say more than 330 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed during the past two weeks. Israel says militants have fired more than 1,600 rockets into Israel during that time.

    For more, we are joined now via Skype from Jerusalem by Jodi Rudoren. She is The New York Times bureau chief there.

    So, what’s the latest on the ground offensive that’s been happening there over the past couple of days?

    JODI RUDOREN: Well, the latest thing that happened was this morning Palestinian militants again invaded Israel through a tunnel, and they engaged with soldiers on the ground there who were on patrol and killed two Israeli soldiers and one of the militants was killed as well in a gunfight. This is the second time in three days that militants have come through tunnels into Israel, and that was the basic reason that the ground operation was begun.

    So, the Israeli military and political leaders have warned of this threat and said that they are determined to destroy all the tunnels that are in Gaza that lead into Israel to avoid future invasions. They talk about that if Gazans got through they could kidnap Israeli civilians from the kibbutzim that are located there go, or go on a killing spree.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We’ve also heard that the ground offensive and the air offensive have created a refugee situation, that there’s some 47,000 refugees heading to different UN shelters in the area.  

    JODI RUDOREN: Yeah, I think it’s gone up even more today to over 50,000. And as my colleague Ann Bernard, who’s in Gaza reported, it’s really much higher than that because so many people there are not going to the shelters. They’re just fleeing their homes and going to relatives’ houses or friends. So there’s any number—maybe 100,000 people who are displaced, who knows?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Any update on the diplomatic front? Any efforts towards a ceasefire?

    JODI RUDOREN: Not really. There doesn’t seem to be much progress. The Israelis keep saying if Hamas accepts the Egyptian proposal, they’re ready for it. But it’s unclear where things stand. John Kerry was again rumored to be coming to Cairo and has not shown up. I believe Ban Ki-moon is supposed to be coming today. I haven’t heard anything about whether that’s actually happening or what he’s doing here. So, there’s no public progress. We don’t know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s this doing to U.S. leverage in the region?

    JODI RUDOREN: Well, I think the U.S. has lost a lot of its leverage in the region, a lot of its credibility here, starting really with what happened with Syria when President Obama said he was going to attack, and then said he was going to ask Congress, and then ended up with a negotiated solution. A lot of people here thought that was a sign of real change, the resolve of Washington to observe its own red lines. And just throughout the Arab world, it has changed America’s role. The other thing, of course, is that the United States has a lot of other things on its plate. And now we’ve got this huge crisis in Ukraine that’s diverting attention. Of course, there’s still the Iran negotiations. So, I think people here are not relying on the U.S. in the way that they have before.  

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Jodi Rudoren of The New York Times, thanks so much.

    JODI RUDOREN: Thank you.

    The post What’s the latest on Israel’s ground offensive into Gaza? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    KARLA MURTHY: Like many Americans, Barbara Nordin, a freelance editor and writer in Charlottesville, Virginia often procrastinates.

    BARBARA NORDIN: I knew that professionally I needed a website. And I, had the domain name, I, you know, made lists of what I put on it for eons…

    KARLA MURTHY: But in 2012, she learned about an online program that would push her to get the project done – or else she would lose $50 dollars. It’s an example of behavioral economics at work, according to Dean Karlan, a Yale University economist.

    DEAN KARLAN: It’s about realizing that you’re going to respond to incentives. If you don’t like the way you’re going to respond, you can change those incentives. You can change the price of things by being a bit self-aware and thinking ahead.

    KARLA MURTHY: Understanding how people respond to incentives is central to behavioral economics, a field which looks at the psychology behind economic decisions. This new science is being used to help people – nudge them – on everything from making better healthcare decisions to maximizing energy efficiency.

    But one of its biggest uses is in improving people’s financial choices. An area in which many Americans don’t excel. The personal savings rate is less than half of what it was a generation ago. And an estimated 56 million Americans have virtually no retirement savings.

    JOSH WRIGHT: Financial education has actually had not great results in terms of getting people to change behavior.

    KARLA MURTHY: Josh Wright is the executive director of Ideas42, a nonprofit that works with companies, foundations, and governments to apply lessons from behavioral economics. He points to a study that showed how committing to save more, not even today, but in the future, dramatically increased retirement savings.

    JOSH WRIGHT: One of the interesting things about people’s financial lives is, they usually know what they wanna do or they have an intention to save more or spend less– get greater control over their finances. And a lot of it has to do with following through on those desires and intentions. And there’s a lot that behavioral science can do along with technology to help us help people help themselves, really, to do what they wanna do.

    KARLA MURTHY: And new businesses have taken some of these insights to heart. Washington D.C.-based HelloWallet provides financial computer software, including budgeting and retirement tools for employees of big companies across the country.

    STEVE WENDEL: So we serve manufacturers and we serve who are putting ketchup in the Heinz bottles, as well as we serve investment bankers. And quite the range in between.

    KARLA MURTHY: Steve Wendel is a behavioral researcher and principal scientist at HelloWallet. He got his PhD in political science studying voter behavior and he’s written a book about using behavioral economics to create products that appeal to consumers.

    KARLA MURTHY: What is a scientist doing at a personal finance software company?

    STEVE WENDEL: So I help identify, “what are the behavioral obstacles that people face?” Come up with ideas on how to help them identify those obstacles. And then, I test them. Test and see, “Does this actually help? Does this actually put more money in the bank account over time? So bottom line… are we helping people?

    KARLA MURTHY: One test Wendel devised looked at the effect of competition on financial behavior by creating peer comparisons.

    STEVE WENDEL: We said, “Okay. We’ll have one version where all you get is your current score, one version where you get nothing, and another version where you get this peer comparison.” So you see not only your score, but you see how other people like you are doing.

    KARLA MURTHY: It turns out that people who were shown the peer comparison saved hundreds more in a one month test. So, does knowing that score or what your neighbor’s score is help everyone–

    STEVE WENDEL: No. No, there really– there is no silver bullet in the behavioral world. Thing we always remember is that people are different. Our experiences are different. And so our goal with HelloWallet is to adapt to the individual, meet them where they are.

    KARLA MURTHY: But it’s not all about providing positive incentives – or carrots – when it comes to helping people make better decisions. StickK.com is an internet company co-founded by economist Dean Karlan in 2007. And provides a stick or negative incentive to influence behavior.

    It’s one of a handful of companies, including Beeminder and HealthyWage that provide an online platform to turn goals into what are known as commitment contracts.

    With StickK, users put money on the line for any goal, from trying to lose weight to saving more money each week. And can designate a referee to oversee their progress.

    JORDAN GOLDBERG: Basically what the research showed is, hey, money talks. And when you’ve got your money on the line and you put your money where your mouth is you’re much more likely to achieve your goal.

    KARLA MURTHY: Jordan Goldberg co-founded StickK with Karlan and another professor when he was an MBA student at Yale. He says the financial stick makes long-term goals easier to reach.

    JORDAN GOLDBERG: So we are literally raising the price of your vice (your poor behavior) raising the price of failure so that you’ll make the right decision today.

    KARLA MURTHY: If you fail to meet your goal, you lose the money. It goes to someone you’ve designated, an anonymous charity, or you can choose an anti-charity… a cause that you don’t believe in.

    JORDAN GOLDBERG: So for instance if you’re pro-gun control and you don’t succeed we send your money to the NRA and vice versa.

    KARLA MURTHY: Barbara Nordin chose an anti-charity when she used StickK to motivate her to build her own website. Her choice: a political PAC she doesn’t support.

    BARBARA NORDIN: Stickk.com has helped me over and over again just thinking, I do not want so and so to get my $50 dollars.

    KARLA MURTHY: Nordin has become an avid StickK user – creating goals for everything from keeping up with chores to writing more each day.

    KARLA MURTHY: Why couldn’t you do that on your own, what was stopping you from doing that, and how did Stickk really make you do it?

    BARBARA NORDIN: It was always so easy to just put it off a little longer, whatever the excuse was. Stickk.com raises that kind of accountability to a formal, money on the line kind of level. Of course, you don’t have to put money on the line. But my feeling is like, what’s the real point if there’s not a real stick involved.

    KARLA MURTHY: Stickk co-founder Dean Karlan and a fellow economist know just what she’s talking about. They once agreed to each pay the other half a year’s salary if they regained weight they had previously lost.

    So half the income, that’s like thousands of dollars?

    DEAN KARLAN: Yeah, we wanted to make it so that it was painful. It had to be. Otherwise– otherwise if you fail– there’s no risk that you fail, and you just kinda of strike it up to, kind of, the cost of an expensive dinner or an– or even a vacation. But it had to be enough bite that we knew that we would do it– and that it would be painful. But it couldn’t be so much money that we couldn’t physically write the check.

    KARLA MURTHY: His friend did eventually regain the weight, and paid Karlan $15,000 dollars

    DEAN KARLAN: And it surprised a lot of people, but he, you know– I– I made him pay. And he paid.

    KARLA MURTHY: So is that kind of the key to the way StickK works? I mean, that it has to be painful enough for each individual person?

    DEAN KARLAN: That– that is exactly the idea. The key to– the key to StickK really is one of being self-aware. What is the right amount that is enough that you’ll be honest with yourself if you fail– be able to pay it if you fail, but enough so that it’ll actually motivate you to change?

    KARLA MURTHY: While Karlan is no longer involved with StickK, he still regularly incorporates insights from behavioral economics into his everyday life…

    DEAN KARLAN: When we order dessert, “I just want one bite. You eat the rest. But I want one bite, no more. If I– ask for a second bite, I owe you $100.”

    KARLA MURTHY: Devising ways to motivate change… whether to drop more pounds or to save more money.

    The post Can betting against yourself online help you save money? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Evidence from behavioral economists, researchers who study the psychology behind economic decision making, has been applied before to everything from getting people to become organ donors to helping them reduce water use.

    But now, it’s helping people make better financial decisions and save more money. And increasingly major financial companies are using it to help consumers get a better fiscal foothold.

    Josh Wright, executive director of Ideas42, a nonprofit consulting firm that works with companies to apply research from behavioral science, says that he’s seen a shift in the finance industry with firms putting more emphasis on encouraging smarter financial decisions.

    “A lot of these concepts are now being used by financial institutions to start to think about designing products that are better for people,” Wright said. And this is particularly true for people “on the lower end of the income spectrum.”

    Wright cites American Express as one such company. In 2012, the company partnered with Walmart to launch Bluebird, a prepaid card aimed at consumers who don’t use traditional banks. With Bluebird, users can pay bills, load cash at Walmart and even receive paychecks using direct deposit.

    Notably, though, Bluebird lets users set up a savings account within the card — just one example of a small tweak companies are making to help generate more responsible behavior, Wright said.

    And in the next several months, Ideas42, which has been working with American Express, will be helping conduct studies with the company’s Serve prepaid card to see how it can influence consumer behavior.

    “We’ll actually be able to see if it helps people,” Wright said.

    JP Morgan Chase is also hoping to use behavioral economics to help improve people’s financial behavior.

    In May, the company launched a $30-million initiative with Ideas42 and other nonprofit partners to encourage the development of ideas to help improve low- and moderate-income consumers’ finances.

    The initiative will fund a variety of competitions for social entrepreneurs over the next five years to generate ideas that build upon academic research, including in behavioral economics.

    Increasingly, Wright says this type of research will be applied to technology, including smartphone apps – from both startups and big financial companies – that help track and influence better financial behavior among consumers. And, Wright said, what starts out as a nudge from an app to save money may likely turn into a habit.

    “If you can use technology to trigger a habit, something you do on a regular basis,” Wright said, “there’s some research that’s starting to show that people are actually able to follow through on that habit more effectively.”

    The post Can you be nudged into saving money? Some companies are banking on it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Rescue teams run to carry the dead bodies of Palestinians in Gaza's Shujaya district after Israeli attacks in Gaza City Sunday. Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Rescue teams run to carry the dead bodies of Palestinians in Gaza’s Shujaya district after Israeli attacks in Gaza City Sunday. Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The United States on Sunday sharpened its criticism of Hamas and urged the militant Palestinian group to accept a ceasefire agreement that would halt nearly two weeks of fighting with Israel.

    Calling it an “ugly” situation, Secretary of State John Kerry said Israel has a right to defend itself against frequent rocket attacks by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. He also accused Hamas of attempting to sedate and kidnap Israelis through a network of tunnels that militants have used to stage cross-border raids.

    “No country could sit by and not take steps to try to deal with people who are sending thousands of rockets your way,” Kerry said.

    He said Hamas ‘must step up and show a level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a ceasefire, and then we will certainly discuss all of the issues relevant to the underlying crisis.”

    The nearly two-week conflict has killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis, and appeared to be escalating as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon headed to the region to try to revive ceasefire efforts.

    Kerry said he was planning to meet soon with Ban and was ready to travel to the region immediately if needed.

    The U.S. is pushing a ceasefire proposal that was first offered by Egypt, and which Israel supports. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has rejected the proposal and is relying on governments in Qatar and Turkey to develop an alternative plan.

    Qatar and Turkey have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is also linked to Hamas but banned in Egypt.

    Kerry did not mention the Qatari or Turkish efforts but said any ceasefire agreement must be without conditions or “any rewards for terrorist behavior.”

    The top U.S. diplomat also blamed the latest wave of violence on what he called Israel’s “legitimate” efforts to pursue and punish those who last month kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank.

    Their deaths were followed almost immediately by what authorities believe was a retribution attack on a Palestinian youth who was strangled, beaten and burned to death.

    Tensions between Israel and Palestinian authorities have been simmering for years. They threatened to boil over this spring when Israel shelved nearly nine months of peace negotiations that were being personally shepherded by Kerry after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to create a unity government with Hamas.

    “It’s ugly. War is ugly,” Kerry said. “And bad things are going to happen. But they (Hamas) need to recognize their own responsibility.”

    Kerry spoke Sunday on all five major news network talks shows: NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN’s “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” and “Fox News Sunday.”

    Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at @larajakesap.

    The post U.S. urges ceasefire as fighting in Gaza escalates appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In some of the administration’s harshest criticism of Russia since the crisis in Ukraine began earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the U.S. case that the separatists are to blame for the downing of the aircraft and that Russia was almost certainly complicit.

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Sunday turned up the heat on Russia for its support of Ukrainian separatists accused by the United States and others of shooting down a Malaysian passenger plane.

    In some of the administration’s harshest criticism of Russia since the crisis in Ukraine began earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the U.S. case that the separatists are to blame for the downing of the aircraft and that Russia was almost certainly complicit. He demanded that Russia act immediately to rein in the rebels and to actively support a transparent investigation into what happened to the plane.

    “This is the moment of truth for Russia,” Kerry said. “Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists, and Russia has not yet done the things necessary in order to try to bring them under control.”

    In addition, he said the administration was hopeful that the shoot-down would galvanize support in Europe for increasing sanctions on Russia over its overall actions in Ukraine.

    “We hope this is a wake-up call for some countries in Europe that have been reluctant to move,” Kerry said, recalling that President Barack Obama had signed off on a new round of sanctions on Russia the day before the plane went down Thursday.

    In a round of television interviews, Kerry cited a mix of U.S. intelligence and social media reports that he said “obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists” for firing a Russian-provided SA-11 surface-to-air missile that brought the plane down, killing nearly 300 passengers and crew.

    “It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists,” he said.

    Video of an SA-11 launcher, with one of its missiles missing and leaving the likely launch site, has been authenticated, he said.

    An Associated Press journalist saw a missile launcher in rebel-held territory close to the crash site just hours before the plane was brought down.

    Kerry added that separatists had shot down about 12 aircraft over the past month, and had bragged in the phone intercepts about Thursday’s attack until they realized it was a commercial jet.

    Kerry said Russian President Vladimir Putin must live up to his commitment to press for a full and independent international investigation into the jet’s downing and use his influence with the separatists who have taken the plane’s black box flight recorders, removed the victims’ bodies and “seriously compromised” the crash site. “This is an insult to everybody,” he said.

    “This is a fundamental moment of truth for Russia, for Mr. Putin,” Kerry said. “They need to exert all of the influences they have in order to protect the full integrity of this investigation.”

    The U.S. and Ukrainian authorities have been at the forefront of accusations that the separatists, aided by Russia, are responsible although other countries, including Australia and Britain have offered similar, if less definitive, assessments. On Sunday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said in an unusual front-page piece in the Sunday Times that there is growing evidence that separatist rebels, backed by Russia, shot down the aircraft.

    “If President Putin does not change his approach to Ukraine, then Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia,” Cameron wrote.

    Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded that Putin force separatists controlling the site to “finally allow rescuers and investigators to have free and total access to the zone.” If Russia fails “to immediately take the needed measures, consequence will be drawn” at an EU foreign ministers meeting set for Tuesday, a statement from Hollande’s office said.

    In his interviews, Kerry accused Russia of “playing” a dual-track policy in Ukraine of saying one thing and doing another. That, he said, “is really threatening both the larger interests as well as that region and threatening Ukraine itself.”

    He lamented that the level of trust between Washington and Moscow is now at a low ebb, saying it “would be ridiculous at this point in time to be trusting” of what the Kremlin says.

    Putin and other Russian officials have blamed the government in Ukraine for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed, but have yet to directly address the allegations that the separatists were responsible or were operating with technical assistance from Moscow.

    Kerry made his comments in appearance on five talk shows: CNN’s “State of the Union,” “Fox News Sunday,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and ABC’s “This Week.”

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    James Garner, star of the hit 1950s. western series, "Maverick," died yesterday at 86.

    James Garner, star of the hit 1950s. western series, “Maverick,” died yesterday at 86.

    Award-winning actor and Hollywood staple, James Garner, famous for his work on both the big and small screen, died Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 86 years old. 

    The actor underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery in 1988 and suffered a stroke in 2008, but the cause of his death was not immediately know, the Associated Press reported.

    Garner’s star turn came in 1954 when he appeared as a quick-witted, gunslinging gambler in the hit TV western series, “Maverick.”

    In the 1960’s, he appeared in several films including the war drama “36 Hours” in 1965 and as a private eye in the 1969 neo-noir “Marlowe.”

    Garner’s performance in “Marlowe” set the stage for his role as the detective and antihero Jim Rockford in the NBC series, “The Rockford Files” from 1974 to 1980. His performance on the show earned him an Emmy award in 1977.

    Garner last appeared on film in “The Notebook” in 2004, playing Duke, an elderly man whose love story frames the narrative of the film. 

    Garner’s take on acting was simple: “Be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth.”

    He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actor’s Guild in 2005.

    Although he was highly decorated throughout his career, which spanned more than five decades, Garner said he never sought fame as an actor.

    “I got into the business to put a roof over my head,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for star status. I just wanted to keep working.”

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    Photo by Flickr user Coleen Whitfield

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: This week, the District of Columbia became the latest jurisdiction to decriminalize possession of marijuana. It’s part of a growing national trend. For the latest about all this, we’re joined by Melanie Eversley, a reporter for USA Today.

    So, what’s the new rule specifically in D.C., you can’t just walk down the National Mall smoking marijuana now, right?

    MELANIE EVERSLEY: Right, right. Essentially, this law took effect on Thursday. It basically decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. So what that means is if you are caught with that on your person, instead of being subject to criminal penalties, what you would get is a $25 ticket, which is less than the cost of a parking ticket here in New York City.

    It also changes a couple of other things. If police smell marijuana while they’re on their beat or whatever, they can no longer search a person for it. If they also find up to an ounce of marijuana on a person, they can no longer automatically search them, so it drastically changes things.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But federal land in D.C. is exempt from this?

    MELANIE EVERSLEY: That’s right. That’s right. It only affects non-federal land. Federal land is still subject to the more strict marijuana laws.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So just across the river in Brooklyn, the DA here has sort of decriminalized it as well. He points it out for kind of a different reason.

    MELANIE EVERSLEY: Yeah, well that’s the interesting thing. This whole issue is opening up a debate that’s kind of reminiscent of the crack cocaine debates from the 1980s and 1990s. The Brooklyn DA pointed out that the people who tend to be affected by low-level drug offenses are young, minority men. And he declared that he was no longer going to prosecute such cases because he felt that it just wasn’t worth taking up his people’s time when there are a lot more harsh crimes that they could be focusing on. And also, he took issue with the fact that when people are convicted of these crimes, it affects the rest of their lives, in terms of finding housing, in terms of getting scholarships, you know, all sorts of things in their lives.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this a sign of a kind of changing attitude across the nation about this issue? Obviously, we’ve had stories about Colorado and Washington legalizing sales for recreational use now, and this is obviously the nation’s capital.

    MELANIE EVERSLEY: Yeah, yeah, you know, not to say that social media is a measure of what the general population is doing, but what I’ve seen is that people overwhelmingly on social medial, at least, are responding in a way that suggests that they feel that maybe it is time to consider a decriminalization in a lot of places. You have not only the low-level drug laws, but also just in terms of medical marijuana, there’s increased knowledge of the health benefits of it as well. So I think that people across the country are beginning to question whether it’s worth police time to prosecute these things.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Besides what you hear on social media, there are other people, there are other legislators in different states around the country that are pushing back that don’t agree with this.

    MELANIE EVERSLEY: Right. I would say that the strongest argument against is that there are studies that have shown that when one uses marijuana, it produces changes in the brain that makes one want to seek out stronger drugs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, Melanie Eversley from USA TODAY, thanks so much.

    MELANIE EVERSLEY: Thank you.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening, thanks for joining us. A pro-Russian separatist leader said today that critical evidence has been recovered from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that evidently was shot down Thursday near the Ukrainian-Russian border. Two hundred and ninety-eight people died.

    ALEKSANDER BORODAI: “I can tell you that as of today, we have found some of the technical details of this plane, which we suppose can be those so-called black boxes.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the United States has what he called an enormous amount of evidence that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile.

    SECRETARY KERRY: “We have intercepted voices that have been documented by our people through intelligence as being separatists who are talking to each other about the shoot-down and we know that we have a video now of a transporter removing and SA-11 system back into Russia and it shows a missing missile or so. So there’s enormous amount of evidence.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more, we are joined now via Skype from Ukraine by Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. So the evidence that Secretary Kerry is pointing to, is this the same as what the Ukrainian intelligence officials have been talking about?

    SABRINA TAVERNISE: No, it appears to be the same evidence that we’ve been hearing from the Ukrainians. There’s been a lot of, there have been YouTube clips, there have been photographs, there have been a number of things that the Americans and the Ukrainians point to as sort of evidence of who actually shot this thing down.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So there are also lots of people interested in the black box. Who has it now? The black box flight recorders, where does it go?

    SABRINA TAVERNISE: So, yes there’s been a lot of discussion about the black box. Honestly, the scene of the crash is at this point kind of an incredible place. I mean, it’s very chaotic, it has sort of different groups of volunteers and kind of motley local citizens and essentially they have no, they just don’t have enough manpower or expertise or people to sort of do it. So it’s been very slow and quite incompetent and the fact that they haven’t found the black boxes or I suppose now that they’re sort of saying that they have found them – it’s all very chaotic and unclear – but it isn’t particularly surprising, given the absolute feeble recovery effort.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So the Dutch prime minister was making a statement saying that he shocked and he’s disgusted by how the bodies have been treated. You went to one of the areas where a lot of these bodies are stored now in refrigerated rail cars. Where are those bodies going to go, and who’s going to look after them?

    SABRINA TAVERNISE: You know, there in these train cars in this sort of very gritty, fly-blown city called Torez, it’s a coal-mining town. What the Kiev government says is that the rebels have actually blocked their exits, so that the rebels aren’t letting the train that they’re on leave. And what the rebels say is that they want to release the bodies to international representatives who would claim them. They’re telling all of the journalists who call the international representatives to Donetsk so they can claim the bodies. Very unclear to what extent both sides are being disingenuous in this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What sort of access do the international observers have today?

    SABRINA TAVERNISE: The international observers spent quite a bit of time at the crash site today. They were taking pictures, walking the perimeter. They had a large security detail. There were also four representatives from Kiev. Ukrainian government representatives taking photographs and walking around in the site of the wreckage, so there was quite a big sort of foreign, if you will, presence at the crash site that didn’t appear to be hindered.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. Thanks so much.


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    Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Turning now to the conflict in the Middle East, Secretary of State Kerry today also offered a robust defense of Israel’s military operations to end rocketfire from Gaza and to destroy hidden tunnels there. Kerry called on Hamas to negotiate.

    SECRETARY KERRY: “We defend Israel’s right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels. Israel has accepted a unilateral ceasefire. It has accepted the Egyptian plan, which we also support. And it is important for Hamas to now step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept a ceasefire, you save lives, and that’s the way that we can proceed to have a discussion about all the underlying issues, which President Obama has clearly indicated a willingness to do.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced regret about civilian casualties in Gaza but said the Israeli military will press on.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I support taking whatever action is necessary to stop this insane situation. Just imagine, imagine what Israel is going through. Imagine that 75 percent of the U.S. population is under rocket fire and they have to be in bomb shelters within 60 to 90 seconds. So I’m not just talking about New York. New York, Washington, Chigago, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami, you name it. That’s impossible. You can’t live like that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about of all this we’re joined once again tonight by Jodi Rudoren. She is the New York Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem. We just heard Benjamin Netanyahu saying pretty much any means necessary, what else is left?

    JODI RUDOREN: Well,  I mean you know, it can always escalate in Gaza. It was a very ugly day there with a very intense battle Shuja’iyeh in East Gaza City. The deadliest day of the conflict so far, more than 60 Palestinians and now we know 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in that battle. But there could be more and more urban warfare there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is the most serious setback that Israel’s faced in this most recent conflict, 13 soldiers at once.

    JODI RUDOREN: Yeah, that was the entire casualty amount from the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead. I think this is the deadliest day for Israel in quite a while.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So are soldiers being evacuated? Are there more soldiers on the borders?

    JODI RUDOREN: There are dozens of soldiers to have been taken to Israeli hospitals and are being treated, including a very senior commander of the Golani brigade — that was where all the 13 belonged to. I don’t know whether soldiers are retreating or how they’re regrouping.  There was a brief and sort of not fully exercised halt in hostilities this afternoon to let some humanitarian help get into the Shuja’iyeh neighborhoods, some ambulances and other things. But I believe the fighting has resumed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, yesterday we referenced that Ban-Ki Moon of the United Nations was supposed to come to the region. Now, we hear that he’s in Qatar. Any update on any ceasefire negotiations or any conversations of that sort?

    JODI RUDOREN: Nothing concrete or significant but President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian authority, I believe is also in Qatar today and may be meeting today with Khaled Meshal the political chief of Hamas, which is a significant step, a significant meeting and could yield something .There’s increasing calls from the Americans and the Israelis to let President Abbas kind of fix this and get a better grip on Gaza, which is an interesting turn around from Israel’s position when Abbas and Hamas signed a reconciliation pact in April and basically, Israel has been calling on President Abbas to cancel that pact ever since. But now maybe is going to give him some berth to help resolve this crisis.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times joining us via Skype, thanks so much.

    JODI RUDOREN: Thank you.

    The post No sign of violence letting up in Gaza after conflict logs deadliest day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Violence increased in Gaza today in what was the bloodiest day of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As you just heard, there’s been a sharp escalation of fighting in Gaza with those 13 Israeli soldiers and approximately 100 Palestinians killed in clashes earlier today. Since the conflict began, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed. The White House said today Secretary Kerry is heading to Egypt to try to broker a ceasefire. President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu to express serious concern about the growing number of casualties. Today, a top U.N. relief agency official said at least a thousand homes in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair and medical supplies are running low.  He also said there’s been a surge in the number of Palestinians seeking refuge in U.N. shelters.

    ROBERT TURNER: ”We’ve had massive displacement, we’ve had a tripling in the number displaced in the schools that we run here in Gaza over course the last couple of days. Just received figures we’re now at 70,000 displaced moved in to 57 of our schools.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about the situation on the ground there, we are joined on the phone by Noah Browning of Reuters. He is in Gaza City. Noah, you’re just a short, a very short distance away from this neighborhood that we’ve been hearing about all day called Shijaiyah, tell us about what happened there.

    NOAH BROWNING: Well, Hari, I would say that this is by far the bloodiest day of the current 13 day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants, and it’s one of the bloodiest days in the modern history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the early hours of this morning, in this border town east of Gaza City called Shijaiyah, heavy Israeli shelling started raining down in the early hours, causing severe damage and approaching the scene early hours of this morning, it was a really pitiful sight of thousands of people pouring out, pouring inland westward. Whole families, barefoot children, very worried people. This just puts the general mood in the Gaza Strip in a very stressful, anxious state of mind.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the hospitals in the area. How are they coping with the injured?

    NOAH BROWNING: The hospitals here are overwhelmed. Reuters colleagues visiting the area said that there were just ghastly scenes of dead and wounded coming in. Headless children, burned women. People had to be treated on the floor of the hospital for lack of space. And unfortunately, the shelling continued most of the day in this affected area so the paramedics could not reach the scene. Actually, one Palestinian paramedic and a local journalist were killed in the morning trying to approach the area.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the border with Egypt, we are hearing that Egypt turned back a group of doctors who were trying to come in today. What about the people from Gaza trying to flee in that direction?

    NOAH BROWNING: It’s a very difficult situation for local people trying to escape this violence. As you know Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on the face of the earth and it faces a blockade on all of its borders. The north and east with Israel and the west is the Mediterranean and the south is Egypt. Egypt has not allowed a free flow of goods and people through its border crossing of Gaza since last year when there was a military takeover from Islamists who had been sympathetic to Hamas. So you tend to think that the new leadership of Egypt is not terribly concerned with the humanitarian or political situation going on in Gaza right now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Noah Browning of Reuters, thanks so much.

    NOAH BROWNING: Thank you.

    The post Locals struggle to escape violence in Gaza after the conflict’s bloodiest day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Elaine Thompson/AP

    A series of wildfires that began last week continued to rage in Washington state, as thousands of firefighters were deployed throughout the region. Photo by Elaine Thompson/AP

    Wildfires in Washington state continued to rage Sunday, burning more than 360 square miles of land so far and destroying homes and power lines in their path.

    High temperatures combined with dry conditions and wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour fueled the wildfires over the weekend. Yesterday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said that fifty separate blazes were burning in the state, including in the Methow Valley where at least 100 homes have been damaged beyond repair.

    Residents in that area have been without power for days, as crews attempt to clear roads in the area — a feat officials estimate will take at least three more days.

    More than 2,000 firefighters from Washington, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming have been deployed throughout the region, as wildfires threaten to spread even further, Chuck Turey, a Washington fire spokesman told the Associated Press. 

    “We’re seeing some wind shifts so that the fire is going to be pushed in some directions it hasn’t been pushed to date,” Turey said.

    The series of wildfires began last week, when lightning strikes ignited four small fires, the AP reported. Since then, fires have combined and expanded.

    Weather reports for the region call for cooler temperatures and lighter winds at the beginning of next week, which officials hope will help contain the blaze.


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    Forty-five years ago today, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, Neil Armstrong took the most famous step of the 20th century. With more than half a billion people watching, the commander of the Apollo 11 climbed down the spacecraft’s ladder and on to the surface of the moon and proclaimed the unforgettable words: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

    To commemorate this anniversary, NASA has released a restored version of the television broadcast of the Apollo 11 moon landing. (If you just can’t wait to hear those famous words, fast forward to three minutes, 30 seconds in.) In this three-hour video, you can hear NASA public affairs commentary and communications between Mission Control in Houston and the astronauts: Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, who joins Armstrong on the lunar walk, and and Michael Collins, who orbits in the command module Columbia.

    Besides Armstrong’s first steps, other highlights include the planting of the U.S. flag (around 47 minute in), a telephone call with President Richard Nixon (Around 56 minute in: “This certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made,” Nixon says) and the general back and forth between the astronauts and Mission Control. As Armstrong descends the ladder, you can hear his very first observations about what the lunar surface is like. He describes it as a very fine grain, “like powdered charcoal.”

    At around 48 minutes in, Collins is teased for being about the only person who isn’t watching TV coverage of the event. He says to Houston: “How is the quality of the TV?” Houston replies: “It’s beautiful Mike, it really is.” And it is, even for 2014.

    On Monday NASA will rename a building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in memory of Neil Armstrong, who died in 2012. Aldrin and Collins will be in attendance and NASA TV will air live coverage of the event.

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    The Human Rights Foundation will host a two-day event in August, bringing together experts from the tech industry with North Korean activists and defectors. The goal — to brainstorm new ways of smuggling information into one of the world’s most walled-off countries.

    The so-called “hackathon” will be held in San Francisco, beginning August 2. According to organizers, participants will first examine the ways information is currently brought into the country, before coming up with their own ideas on how to do so more effectively.

    North Korea consistently ranks as one of the most insular countries in the world. Freedom of the press is prohibited, and Internet access is restricted for the vast majority of the nearly 25 million people living there. Few outside of the military and government are allowed on the Web.

    As such, getting information to the public has been a challenge and the focus of organizations like the HRC. In the past, the group has attached USB drives — loaded with Korean-language Wikipedia — to balloons and sent them across the border. It’s also dropped hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy leaflets over the country, also attached to balloons.

    At an event in January, HRF president Thor Halvorssen called such efforts the “information lifeline to ordinary North Koreans, who have no means to learn about the world beyond the lies of their government.”

    “The international community often focuses on how little we know about life inside North Korea—but the real story is that North Koreans know little to nothing about the world we live in.”

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    President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts during a White House ceremony Monday.

    In 2008, Pitts fought off enemy fighters in Wanat, Afghanistan, during one of the war’s bloodiest battles.

    Pitts is the ninth living veteran from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive the medal.

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    The world’s heat record was broken for a second consecutive month. With the exception of Antarctica, new temperature highs were recorded on every continent.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released June’s results Monday, revealing an average global temperature of 61.2 degrees for the period. The result is 1.30 degrees higher than the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees, making this June the warmest in more than 130 years.

    The same trend was seen in May, which experienced a 1.33 degree increase from the the average 58.6 degrees. Increases were most prominent in northern South America, Greenland, New Zealand, central Africa and southern Asia.

    Derek Arndt, NOAA climate monitoring chief, attributes the warming to hotter oceans. His colleague, NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, relays the role of a developing El Nino — the warming of Pacific Ocean — to June’s record heat.

    The U.S. was not dramatically warm due to high levels of precipitation. Although it experienced its 33rd warmest June on record, the month was the wettest since 1989.

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    Jennifer Michael Hecht. Photo by Maxwell Hecht-Chaneski

    Jennifer Michael Hecht. Photo by Maxwell Hecht-Chaneski

    In her new collection, “Who Said,” Jennifer Michael Hecht “comments on,” “ventriloquizes,” or “meaningfully transliterates” iconic poems throughout history. She has many terms for her work based off some of her favorite verse.

    “The poems that I chose were guided by poems that I love, but also poems that work, that I was able to get a poem out of that was moving and memorable,” Hecht told Art Beat. “I could open them up as a way of looking around myself and seeing what came out of myself by engaging with these poems that mean so much to me.”

    In her book, Hecht is in conversation with a wide variety of poems, from Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” to the beginning of Dante’s “Inferno” and John Keats’ “Ode to Autumn.” In one poem, Hecht creates a mash-up of the Declaration of Independence and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 (“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes…”). In another, she responds to a Nirvana song.

    “[Emily] Dickinson makes two appearances. I couldn’t keep her out — she just kept singing songs in my head.”

    Her “Lady Look-Alike Lazarized” is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.”

    “We translate poems from other languages every couple of generations just to keep the language fresh, but of course we don’t do that in our own language,” said Hecht. “It’s fun … to liven these things up again.”

    Listen to Jennifer Michael Hecht read “Lady Look-Alike Lazarized” from her new collection, “Who Said.”

    “Lady Look-Alike Lazarized”

    It was any of many years ago
    in this half townhouse, with this tree,
    that a woman who lived whom I don’t know,
    in a photo you can see. She baked bread,
    ate with two fat men,
    and her picture looks like me.

    I was a child and she was a child
    then neither again would be
    she in nineteen thirteen
    me in two-zero one-three.
    And we loved with a love that was more
    than a love, at the heads of our centuries.
    Let me see less than she’ll see
    because I know more than she
    and, even from here, it near blinded me.

    And with virtue and reason, long ago,
    in this picture that looks like me,
    a bug blew out of a cough one night,
    chilling the woman who looks like me;
    so her muscled kinsman came
    and took her away from our tree
    to bake no more bread for fat men
    and escape brutality.
    Yes, a wind blew out of a cloud
    one night chilling and killing
    who looks like me.

    Microbes, heartache, and wars
    give little way to reason nor pause
    at the soaring wrought-iron gate
    of Brooklyn, nor at the doors of state.
    She was here and in time died,
    well before I arrived here or anywhere.

    But our love, she for her men, I for my
    small and tall friends, is stronger by far
    than the love of those younger or richer
    than we, and who would be wiser than we?
    And neither the redbreasts in heaven above
    nor the flounder down under the sea
    can ever quite sever my sight from the sight
    of the woman who looks like me.

    For the moon rarely beams without bringing
    dark dreams of the woman who looks like me;
    and the stars never rise but I feel my tight eyes
    on a dark dream who looks like me. And so,
    all nighttime, I lie down by the side of my
    searching self and my self that hides. With a
    photo from nineteen hundred one-three,
    of a woman who looks a lot like me.

    Even though the Hecht knew by heart the poems she chose, she still had room to grow her relationship to the works.

    “Writing into a poem that you’ve always had certain feelings about, you’re going to get to know it better and in a new way as you are trying to speak to it and really test where it makes its arguments and where it’s going to take you,” Hecht said. “In some poems, what i really learned more is the rhythm of them and the way that rhyme worked and the way that it’s pleasurable when you put it in the vernacular.”

    At the back of the book, the poet included a series of cryptograms. Each cryptogram, when solved, reveals the original verse that Hect is “speaking to” in her poetry. While most people who know poetry will recognize the origins, Hecht wanted to invite people to interact with the text.

    “There’s a way in which poetry is this decipherable system, but it’s always going to be so fantastic. Juxtaposing something that is solvable and that you can unravel and that your knowledge goes in to it — the more you know about these poems, the more you’re going to be expecting poems to show up in the cryptogram answers.”

    Hecht’s variations on iconic poems, which in the end make up about half of “Who Said,” are not meant to offend long-time lovers of the original works. The first poem of the collection, not even listed in the table of contents, is aptly called “Key,” and functions as just that for her readers.

    “‘For people who’ve been around before/I’m offering humbly a little bit more’ — I’m saying I’m not trying to take this over, but I am inviting us to play with it in this way,” said Hecht. “I tell my secrets in the book as I always do with my poetry. There is narrative and there is biography and there is my own particular, personal experiences.”

    The post Weekly Poem: Jennifer Michael Hecht riffs off iconic poems appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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