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

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    mideast1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle between Israel and Hamas entered its 17th day. So far, at least 788 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus two Israeli citizens and an immigration worker, have been killed.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continued his efforts to broker a cease-fire.

    Emergency workers rushed victim after victim to this hospital after a U.N. school compound was hit in northern Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent and Hamas blamed Israeli tank fire.

    IHAB MOHSEN, Hamas Spokesman: It was a shelter for the people and they thought that it’s a safe place to stay in it, and that Israel strike them and there is until now more than 20 killed people and many injuries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Israelis said they’re investigating. But they said it may have been Hamas rocket fire that hit the school. The U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees has confirmed finding rockets stashed in two vacant U.N. schools in recent days.

    And in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again condemned Hamas tactics after meeting with the British foreign secretary.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: This use of human shields is extraordinarily cynical, it’s grotesque, it’s inhuman, but what is equally grotesque is that Israel was condemned in the Human Rights Council. It’s a travesty of justice. It’s a travesty of fairness. It’s a travesty of common sense. It’s a travesty of truth.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday, the U.N. Human Rights Council had criticized Israel for the heavy civilian toll it’s taking, while warning both sides over possible war crimes.

    And, today, Valerie Amos, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official, issued a fresh appeal to stop the violence.

    VALERIE AMOS, UN Humanitarian Chief: We have over 118,000 people now who are sheltering in U.N. schools. We have schools that are now unable to be used for education. People are running out of food. Water is also a serious concern.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the ferocity of the fighting continued unabated. Israeli fighter jets pounded neighborhoods in Jabalia, north of Gaza City, in the early hours. And more tanks and troops crossed into Gaza. Hamas, meanwhile, claimed it fired more rockets in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport at Tel Aviv, but no warning sirens sounded.

    Last night, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lifted its suspension on U.S. flights in and out of Ben Gurion. And Europe’s aviation agency followed suit today. On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Cairo, in a bid to get a cease-fire. Egyptian officials talked of negotiating a humanitarian truce by next week, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

    Hamas’ leader has voiced support for the idea, but only if Israel ends its economic blockade of Gaza. Israeli officials suggested a truce is not imminent, and said the army might need two more weeks to finish destroying the Hamas tunnel network.

    The post UN school compound in Gaza hit by deadly strike appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Adjunct activists are petitioning the Department of Labor about their working conditions. Photo by Flickr user Bill Selak.

    Adjunct activists are petitioning the Department of Labor about their working conditions. Photo by Flickr user Bill Selak.

    Editor’s Note: Adjuncts now make up more than 70 percent of all college and university faculty, often juggling a course load at multiple universities, earning an average of $2,500 per course. And now they want the Department of Labor to know.

    Joseph Fruscione is familiar with that lifestyle. After 15 years as an adjunct at three Washington, DC-area universities, he left academia this past semester to pursue a career as a freelance writer and editor – and activist. He’s part of the adjunct movement that is petitioning the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division about what they say amounts to “wage theft” when they are only paid for the hours they spend in the classroom and not for the research, prep and student-counseling that go into being a good professor.

    Fruscione appears in Making Sen$e’s story about older college professors squeezing younger ones out of tenure-track positions, and we caught up with him again in 2014 for our story on “adjunctivitis.” One of the adjuncts in that story, Loyola Marymount’s Arik Greenberg shared his story with Making Sen$e readers (“How one professor’s American dream turned into the American nightmare”), as did another former adjunct, now race car driver, Ingrid Steffensen (“Two loves: An adjunct’s journey from the classroom to the racetrack”). And the protests of homeless adjunct Mary-Faith Cerasoli this spring sparked a social media movement that we documented on this page.

    In the column below, adapted and expanded from his own blog, Fruscione updates readers on the adjunct movement and explains why students, parents, alumnus, and anyone concerned with America’s future, should be listening to adjuncts’ concerns about the state of higher education.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    Soon, American college students will be returning to campus — or perhaps arriving at one for the first time. Students and their parents may not know, however, that they’re arriving on what a New York Times headline from February called “the new college campus.” Virtually gone are the days when a majority of professors were full-time and tenured (or at least tenure-eligible), which gave students a remarkable amount of stability, educational continuity and mentorship opportunities. Nowadays, such professors are the minority of college educators.

    In their place are ever-increasing ranks of adjunct professors — some part-time, some full-time, all effectively impermanent. This true new faculty majority comprises almost 75 percent of professors at both private and public institutions. Adjuncts’ contingent, precarious situation is directly linked to the ever-rising cost of tuition that students and their parents will be paying off — perhaps for decades. To be an adjunct professor means several troubling things:

    • Most are not paid a living wage (the national average is $2,500 per course)
    • Some lack office space and access to computer and library services
    • Many have contracts lasting only one semester
    • Many have to teach at multiple schools and/or hold part-time jobs
    • Many lack basic faculty rights and freedoms (such as the ability to protest unfair working conditions)
    • Many have no voice in their colleges’ governance committees
    • Most have no means of promotion or advancement
    • All are non–tenure track, meaning that they lack the job security, stability, academic freedom, and other rights that define tenured and tenure-track faculty status

    Since contingent faculty deserve a more secure, fair employment status, university policies must be revised to allow the majority of professors to participate more robustly in student support and learning. Then, and only then, will students be able to learn from and engage with their professors most effectively.

    American higher education has changed — rapidly, dramatically and problematically. A recent report from the American Association of University Professors provides (among other things) three very troubling statistics. From the mid-1970s to 2011, hiring of full-time tenure-track faculty rose 23 percent; of part-time faculty, 286 percent; of full-time non-faculty professionals, 369 percent.

    “Full-time part-timing has become the norm on this ‘new’ — but not better — campus.”

    Out of context, a 286 percent bump in hiring university teachers would hit the sweet spot. Regardless of grade level, students need plenty of experienced, accessible teachers. In context, though, 286 percent hits a sour note. In roughly 40 years, the two biggest jumps in university hiring have been the ones that help students least: adjunct faculty and (even more nettlesome) senior administrators in the form of provosts, vice-provosts, deans, associate deans, and many others who don’t teach. The drastic increase in adjunct faculty means fewer office hours available for student counseling and mentoring relationships, as well as less job stability for these contingent professors. Most adjuncts have no health, retirement, or other benefits and cannot afford to “retire” from teaching. (Ever.) Full-time part-timing has become the norm on this “new” — but not better — campus.

    That’s why we — a group of 10 current and former professors — are sending a petition to David Weil, the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor, to investigate faculty working conditions, mistreatment of adjunct professors and student learning conditions in higher education. So far, the over 2,300 (and counting) people who’ve signed our petition hope things will change. Anyone can sign and share this petition — you don’t have to be a current or former professor, student, tuition-paying parent, or university employee. You simply have to care about the state of the American college and university.

    “Students and parents, especially, should know more about how the colleges they’re attending or paying for their child(ren) to attend really work.”

    Given Weil’s background as a professor and his expertise in labor and economics, we know this petition will resonate with him — and hopefully spur meaningful change. A fellow activist, Ann Kottner, came up with the idea and wrote the first draft. (Ann recently blogged about the petition for Scientific American.) From there, strong collaboration among current adjuncts, a tenured professor, a dean, and others was key to getting the petition out quickly, clearly and effectively.

    But we aren’t the only ones willing and able to speak about how much higher education has changed; there are many voices in many different movements around education, labor, academic freedom, and related issues. Students and parents, especially, should know more about how the colleges they’re attending or paying for their child(ren) to attend really work.

    We’re thrilled that the petition is going strong. We exceeded 2,000 signatures faster than any of us thought possible a week ago — helped along, in part, by those who’ve tirelessly shared (and reshared) it on social media. But we don’t want this petition to be one of those things you sign, share, and wonder about later.

    So what’s next? Why do all these signatures matter?

    Ultimately, we want the petition to initiate an investigation into what many of us know: American higher education is broken, and students are being hurt by it, almost irreparably so. We don’t need another overpaid provost or (as some tweeters have termed it) “deanlet” to talk about a “strategic plan,” “vision for the 21st century,” or “flipped classrooms” while never teaching a class. As one of my petition co-writers noted earlier this year, we need fairly paid, fairly treated professors for our students. We also need equitable, stable working conditions for university faculty and staff. We need strong, stable learning conditions for university students.

    Adjunct faculty make on average $25,000 a year, according to recent data, while dealing with job instability, poor office conditions, assaults on free speech, unfair dismissals, and other issues that ultimately hamper student learning. As we stress in the petition:

    Unlike full-time tenured faculty, the meager pay of contingent faculty often covers only eight months of the year. Summer contracts are hard to come by, generally being the privilege of tenured faculty to earn extra compensation, and the pay periods for those contracts too frequently leave contingent faculty teaching for a month or more with no pay check at all.

    In the shorter term, our plan is to hand-deliver the petition to Weil (and, if we’re fortunate, get the attention of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions). Adjunct professors, students and parents need the might and resources of a government department on our side. The movement has had an ally in Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and other Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, whose report on adjunct labor conditions provided what Miller called “an alarming snapshot” of the issue. But we’re already familiar with those conditions; we now need action.

    Let’s be clear: this is not a group of current and former academics asking for more money to do less work, for universal tenure, or for anything else to evade teaching responsibilities. A professor’s job, first and foremost, is to teach. This is ultimately about improving student learning conditions in the 21st century by, in part, improving and stabilizing faculty working conditions. In asking the Department of Labor to investigate the troubling state of American higher education, we want Weil and others to help improve the environment for all faculty, students and staff on our campuses.

    University administrations need to know that all is not well in their kingdoms, and education — not additional bureaucracy or corporatization — needs to be the primary mission of our schools.

    “University administrations need to know that all is not well in their kingdoms, and education — not additional bureaucracy or corporatization — needs to be the primary mission of our schools.”

    Think, for a moment, about a few things:

    Colleges pay enormous salaries to their upper-level administrators while cutting faculty salaries by dismantling tenure and moving faculty to piecemeal adjunct positions — all while citing “pending cuts” and “budgetary realities” that somehow only affect faculty and students.

    Colleges keep treating their students like customers, their faculty like cheap and renewable labor, and their leaders like CEOs — none of which propel student learning nearly as much as necessary in the 21st century.

    Such fracturing (or “adjunctification”) of college teachers keeps hurting students because professors have limited time to hold office hours, often have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and must further subdivide their attention between additional students, campuses and income streams.

    So whether you’re a student, parent, professor, alumnus, or anyone else connected to a university, you should be troubled by these developments. When more and more universities spend time and resources hiring senior administrators and raising tuition, they devalue teaching and teachers, as well as create strained learning conditions for the most important demographic of any school: students. Such massive financial disparities and casualization of educational labor do a lot of things, but helping students be the writers, thinkers and researchers we need them to be in the 21st century isn’t one of them.

    We touch on some of this in the petition:

    At the same time that faculty jobs have become the equivalent of Walmart employment, the numbers, pay, and perks of administrative jobs have increased at nearly twice the rate as full-time, tenure-track faculty hires. For example, the City University of New York, a once tuition-free public system, is currently paying $18,000/month for its new chancellor’s apartment — the annual equivalent of salaries for twelve part-time adjunct faculty. At George Washington University, several senior administrators make over $1 million annually at a school whose tuition is among the highest in the nation, and several other provosts and deans make high six figures as well. Not surprisingly, these kinds of administrator wages often correlate with high student debt and low adjunct faculty wages.

    Read, if you can stomach it, this fine piece by Lawrence Wittner on the growing economic divide on our campuses. For Wittner, “[Administrators’] rapidly-rising income reflects, in part, the fact that the boards of trustees of most higher educational institutions are dominated by businessmen, who, naturally, are accustomed to the outlandish incomes and perks of the corporate world.” Moreover, “The extraordinary growth in the number of administrators can be explained partially by the fact that bureaucrats tend to multiply. Thus, a top administrator, such as the campus president, likes to have subordinate administrators doing his or her work. In turn, the subordinates like to have additional administrators working for them.”

    When we talk about “extraordinary growth” on a college campus, we should be talking about expanded educational resources, learning facilities for students and stable full-time hires for faculty — not yet another upper-level administrator making a corporate-equivalent salary.

    More lower-level administrative hires — such as counselors and advisers — can greatly help students. Hiring another senior vice associate “deanlet” (or whatever titles they’re using now) instead of a full-time teacher, though, seems to help no one — certainly not students and their teachers. When schools run their budgets dry because they’ve added so many senior administrators that “market realities” or “pending budget cuts” only allow hiring adjuncts on semester-by-semester contracts, no one — save perhaps the admins making high six figures — benefits. No one.

    We also address such massive hiring disparities in the petition:

    The momentous but gradual change over the last 30 years in the proportion of full-time, tenured, and tenure-track professors to contingent professors has reversed itself. Now, approximately 76% of college professors are contingent labor, predominantly hired on a semester-by-semester contract and making an average of $2500 per 3-credit course. The average yearly income of an adjunct professor hovers in the same range as minimum-wage fast food and retail workers, with many of the same labor problems: lack of job security, inability to find enough working hours to support themselves, lack of health or retirement benefits, periodic unemployment, and outright wage theft.

    We — former and current professors, undergraduate and graduate students, parents, and all university workers — need to be proactive and vocal on our campuses and social media. We’re not talking about issues affecting a relatively small, privileged, and “low stress” class of professors. We’re talking about a pattern of mistreatment affecting well over a million university faculty — and many more students — on campuses across the country.

    “Let’s not forget that the university labor problem, ultimately, will determine our students’ and our nation’s educational futures.”

    Let’s not forget that the university labor problem, ultimately, will determine our students’ and our nation’s educational futures. If the new norm on campus is contingent professors with short-term contracts, subpar compensation, and minimal job security, the new norm for students will be unsustainable at best, and destructive at worst. None of us is advocating that all professors should be making six figures, driving luxury cars, teaching only occasionally, and otherwise living it up. Most professors are dedicated to the labor-intensive work of teaching, regardless of our fields, levels of experience, and numbers of students.

    Yes, some part-time professors fit the original model for an adjunct professor: an experienced professional who teaches a class in his or her area of expertise. Such work can be fulfilling — a full-time lawyer or journalist (or whatever) can be a useful resource for students. If this true part-time teaching were the rule rather than the exception, we wouldn’t have needed this petition. But since the rule is essentially full-time part-timing for 70-plus percent of professors, less stability for part and full-time faculty, and mounting financial inequalities on our campuses, we are petitioning David Weil and the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate higher education — not for the sake of a chosen few professors, but for the sake of students.

    Watch Paul Solman’s report on adjunctivitis, featuring Fruscione, below:

    The post When a college contracts ‘adjunctivitis,’ it’s the students who lose appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    lgbtqoutfitters

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    RACHEL TUTERA: My gender identity is really based in both my experiences as a woman– and also it’s just deeply rooted in the f– the fact that I’m masculine…

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Rachel Tutera says it wasn’t until she started wearing boy’s clothes as a pre-teen, that she started to feel like the most authentic version of herself. Yet the 29-year-old says shopping for clothes in the men’s department left her feeling insecure and self-conscious. Nothing ever fit her proportions. So she was resigned to thinking that’s just the way it was.

    RACHEL TUTERA: I got used to wearing clothes that hid me. I thought I would just end up being someone who would prefer to be overlooked, or not worth sort of a second glance.

    RACHEL TUTERA: “Typically you show a little bit of cuff …”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: After years of frustration shopping off the rack, Tutera decided to purchase her first tailored men’s suit…and she says the way she felt when she tried it on changed her life.

    RACHEL TUTERA: Having something custom-made for my body basically reintroduced me to my body and I have felt, like, incredibly visible in a way that’s not just causing people to take a second look at me, but I think people see me in a way that may actually be aligned with how I see myself. And that has been the most, like, powerful, mind-blowing thing.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The experience made Tutera want to pass that feeling on to others. So she approached the New York based made-to-order-men’s suit company, “Bindle and Keep” convincing the owner that he was overlooking an under-served market…Not only masculine women, but also transgender men and other gender non-conforming people who want well-fitting, men’s suits. She soon became the company’s LGBTQ liaison, serving hundreds of people all over the country who sometimes spend up to 1,500 dollars for their custom made suit.

    RACHEL TUTERA: This is not just a need that is being recognized in progressive cities.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Has it been emotional for any of your clients?

    RACHEL TUTERA: Yes it has been emotional for sure. Shopping or wearing clothes seems like a really mundane thing. But actually it’s, like, incredibly meaningful and incredibly powerful and it can really, like, make or break an identity.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: There are so many different ways to be gender nonconforming. And there’s an explosion of new vocabularies– to talk about it.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Ann Pellegrini is the Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality at New York University.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: Many gender non-conforming people don’t experience themselves as having been born into the wrong body. But– they might find themselves deeply uncomfortable with the kinds of straightjackets of gender. The ways in which, you know, you’re supposed to sort of present, again, this very narrow notion of femininity if you have a female body, a very narrow notion of masculinity if you have a male body.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: She says recently there’s been an explosion of gender non-conforming people in mainstream media, challenging conventional gender roles.

    KATIE COURIC: This is the first time an openly transgender person has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine…Why now do you think, Laverne?

    LAVERNE COX: Because of the internet and because of social media trans people we our voices now, and we are letting our voice be heard.

    JANET MOCK: I think that we are born and we’re assigned a sex at birth. That is a matter none of us have control over. But we do have control over our destinies and over our identities — and we should be respected.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Professor Ann Pellegrini believes that the growing visibility of gender-non-conforming people and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 19 states, has forced the fashion world to acknowledge the presence and buying power of the LGBTQ community.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: The really short answer would be capitalism. At the end of the day it’s about seeing that there’s a market.

    RACHEL TUTERA: I’ve met a lot of people who say things like they’ve been putting off getting married for ten years because they couldn’t fathom what they would wear.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Pew Research estimates that there have been more than 70,000 same-sex marriages since 2004, when Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize them.

    CRYSTAL GONZALEZ-ALE: So it’s our first full collection where we did shirts blazers pants, bathing suits, we did it all…

    IVETTE FELICIANO: And that has meant new clients for start-up companies like Marimacho, a Brooklyn-based clothing line that designs classic menswear for the “unconventionally masculine.”

    CRYSTAL GONZALEZ-ALE: I think there’s a stereotype of masculine women existing outside of fashion. It– it– sort of– takes them as, you know, perpetual teenagers that are always gonna be awkward and dressed in ill-fitting clothing.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Owners Ivette and Crystal Gonzalez-Ale, who are married, say investors laughed at their business idea at entrepreneurial mixers back in 2010. Yet the overwhelming support from their LGBTQ community allowed them to fund their project entirely without investors.

    IVETTE GONZALEZ-ALE: From the moment we put up our website– folks have been pouring in emails about how important it is for them to have– clothing that’s appropriate for their gender.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: And now many mainstream labels are following suit. In 2012, Ford Models chose female Olympic swimmer and New York artist, Casey Legler, as its newest menswear model. In the same year, Yves Saint Laurent chose a female model as the face of its Spring/Summer menswear collection. And just this year, luxury retailer Barneys New York featured 17 transgender models in its spring campaign.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: None of these designers would be sort of trying to produce clothes that would appeal to masculine women if they didn’t think there were people who could walk in with a wallet and pull out a credit card.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Though mainstream designers are starting to cater to the needs of the LGBTQ community, some shoppers say that sort of acceptance hasn’t trickled down to their stores.

    IVETTE GONZALEZ-ALE: Most of our customers have tried department stores where the dressing rooms are typically gendered and that is a really violent experience– to be removed from a dressing room or to be told that you don’t belong there because of your perceived gender.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: What was surprising to you when just trying to shop at a store– and going into a fitting room?

    RACHEL TUTERA: There’s a weird tendency in people to panic when they can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman, or how you or how you may identify.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Rachel Tutera says discrimination and judgment directed at people like her is often inevitable. That’s why two years ago she started a fashion blog called “The Handsome Butch”. The site hopes to empower readers with a simple message, which is that they too have “the right to be handsome.”

    RACHEL TUTERA: It was almost like a meditation I had for myself when I was first shopping. It was, “I have the right to be here”. I think I just had to say over and over to myself, “you have the right to be handsome. You have the right to be handsome–” until it actually felt like a right instead of, like– like, a meditation I was trying to convince myself was true.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Tutera’s work will be featured in an upcoming documentary produced by Lena Dunham of the hit HBO series “Girls”. She says the one thing she won’t be tailoring in the coming months is her message.

    The post ‘The right to be handsome’: Clothing for gender non-conforming people on the rise appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    garrison

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    JEFFREY BROWN: From the beginning, it’s been an old-fashioned variety show, loved for its music, skits.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.

    And, most of all, the storytelling of Garrison Keillor.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: The 4th of July Best Pie in Town Contest was won by Marlene, the church secretary at Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Keillor’s famous tales of line in Lake Wobegon – this fictional Minnesota town — have captivated listeners by the millions.

    And his work, including writings and recordings, have earned him a National Humanities Medal, a Grammy and a Peabody.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: This is where we want to do ‘A Prairie Home Companion.’

    JEFFREY BROWN: At St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater, home base to “A Prairie Home Companion” since the late 70’s, we talked of fact, fiction, and the enduring power of his creation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Have you ever stopped to think about why it worked so long and why, especially, the medium of radio?

    GARRISON KEILLOR: I think there’s- there’s a lot of power in listening to one person talking to you. And- and- and this should never be underestimated.

    There are movies made, enormous amounts of money invested in them, and- and they’re very diffuse and they’re very artistic and edited and post-produced and jumping from here to there and- and complicated narratives and so on.

    But one person sitting and talking to you and, you’re pulled in, in ways that technology and art and all cannot.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: We want to be talked to.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We want to be talked to.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: We do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That was evident at the show’s 40th anniversary, held at Macalester College, where Keillor had recorded the very first one.

    COURTNEY FOSTER: He’s so creative, he’s really a treasure.

    MIKE HALL: It’s live, it’s variety, it’s different, it’s not like everything else you’d see.

    ARNIE HEITHOFF: It’s a constant moment of peace in the week.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Arnie and Katie Heithoff of Omaha listened to the show on their second date more than three decades ago. And they still get emotional talking about it.

    ARNIE HEITHOFF: I will tell her, thank you for 36 years of Saturday night by the radio because that’s what it is, that’s what it is. It’s Saturday night by the radio.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now 71, he was born Gary Edward Keillor. He grew up in the small Minnesota town of Anoka, his mother a nurse, his father a mail clerk and carpenter.

    Keillor wrote about sports for the local paper at age 13, attended the University of Minnesota – then going by the name, “Garrison,” and spent time in New York as a young writer.

    In 1969 he took a job at Minnesota Public Radio.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: 37 degrees in the Twin cities, high today should be 48.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And launched “A Prairie Home Companion” five years later.

    He’d gone home in more ways than one.

    (Powdermilk Biscuit song)

    JEFFREY BROWN: How much did you know about this place, Lake Wobegon, before you made it up?

    GARRISON KEILLOR: It was a mystery because I had, I had run away from it when I went off to the University of Minnesota when I was 18.

    But to do that radio show, I had to go back to my aunts and uncles. And that’s what Lake Wobegon is. It’s a lost world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Maybe, but Keillor gave it life, in many of his more than two dozen books…and in the show that’s been performed all over the country and around the world.

    Director Robert Altman made “A Prairie Home Companion” into a feature film in 2006.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: Do some stops on this …

    JEFFREY BROWN: Keillor’s real-life team includes a full-time staff of around 15, a house band, actors, technicians, and guest musicians who appear regularly.

    The production is financed through corporate sponsorships, radio station fees, and ticket sales. It’s all rehearsed late in the week.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: It’s OK. I think I need something else from you as well. Something with more killer potential.

    JEARLYN STEELE: More killer potential? Oh my goodness, did he say ‘killer potential?’

    JEVETTA STEELE: ‘Hold On, I’m Coming.’

    JEARLYN STEELE: ‘Hold On, I’m Coming.’

    RICH DWORSKY: ‘Hold On, I’m Coming,’ A-Flat.

    (Song – “Hold on I’m Coming”)

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the live performance, there are regular characters, like the mom who calls to nag her son.

    MOM: You give up on things so fast. That’s why you never married, honey.

    DWAYNE: Mom, please, let’s not get into this.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And ads for fake sponsors. All brought to you by Keillor’s fanciful imagination.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: Now, the Deep Valley Bed is the bed that replicates the uterus, which, as you may remember, was not hard, it was very warm, and kind of surrounded you.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Keillor gets help writing parts of the show. But “The News from Lake Wobegon,” his weekly monologue, is all his.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: It was the 40th anniversary of the World’s Largest Pile of Burlap Bags in Lake Wobegon.

    So many people come from all over to see this thing. So many people who write into the web site, World’s Largest Pile dot org.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: You pick up real stories in the course of a week and you find ways to work them in.

    You hear a story about a man who built himself a house around the corner from his mother’s house, so that he could stand in his kitchen window and he could see her in her kitchen window. That’s a real story.

    Now the rest is up to- is up to me. And I need to bring in some other people here.

    I’m going to make his the only house in town that welcomes Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness missionaries.

    In fact, Keillor often writes “The News from Lake Wobegon” on the morning of the show, and then gets up on stage without notes.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: I try to make my way from the beginning to the end.

    Oftentimes forgetting big swatches of it. Which, you know, makes you panic a little bit.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So does the story sometimes just change completely mid-course?

    GARRISON KEILLOR: Yes, yeah. And- and sometimes it ends abruptly. But you have- you’ve got your ending line, you know.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yeah.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: So, you just pause. You know you’re not done, but they don’t know you’re not done.

    And you just pause, and you say, ‘And that’s the news from Lake Wobegon. Where all the women are strong and all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average.’

    JEFFREY BROWN: Keillor’s just released a new collection of his writings over the years, “The Keillor Reader.” And in a biographical essay is candid about how unlikely his success has been.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You describe a young man who was very shy and, I want to quote it, “absurdly self-conscious and timid and eager to please and arrogant, all at the same time.”

    It doesn’t sound like a likely formula for success.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: No, it’s not. I was the least likely person to wind up doing this, because growing up in the Midwest you’re told, ‘Don’t think too much of yourself because you are no better than anybody else.’ This is baked into you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Did you have to develop this character, “Garrison Keillor”?

    GARRISON KEILLOR: I think more or less. But- but- but every adult does this, we redo ourselves. We re-arrange ourselves. I’m also trying to put aside lifelong habits that only get in the way.

    Shyness being one of them. You don’t talk about or give any hint as to your worries and your anxieties.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Those doubts and anxieties have never gone away.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: No. No.

    Keillor says he has no plans to retire, despite suffering a minor stroke in 2009.

    In addition to “A Prairie Home Companion,” he continues to record a daily radio program about poetry and literature.

    GARRISON KEILLOR: And here is ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ for Friday.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Runs a bookstore in St. Paul. And is working on his first full-length play, set to open this fall.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is there a lesson that you’ve taken from the 40 years of Prairie Home Companion about- about life?

    GARRISON KEILLOR: Hurry up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hurry up and…

    GARRISON KEILLOR: Hurry up and do it. Get it done. You’ve got work to do. Don’t put this off. And don’t take the long view, here. You know? Life is today and tomorrow and- and if you’re lucky, next week.

    (Song – “Just a Little While to Stay Here”)

    JEFFREY BROWN: The next season of “A Prairie Home Companion” begins in September.

    The post Inside Garrison Keillor’s fabled world of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama met with Central American leaders Friday to urge them to help slow the stream of unaccompanied children from their countries to the U.S., as House Republicans tried to agree on their own proposed solution to the crisis at the Mexican border.

    GOP lawmakers said they were attempting to unite behind a narrow package of changes including sending National Guard troops to the border, increasing the number of U.S. immigration judges and changing a law so that migrant youths arriving by the tens of thousands could be sent home more quickly. The package would cost less than $1 billion, several lawmakers said, far less than the $3.7 billion Obama requested to deal with the crisis.

    A number of Republicans exiting a special meeting on the issue in the Capitol said they had to act before leaving Washington late next week for their annual August recess.

    “It would be a terrible message; leave town in August without having done anything, knowing that it’s going to create even more of a crisis on the border,” said Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. “Doing nothing in my view means that these children will be sent from the border back to communities like mine.”

    Yet some conservative lawmakers remained skeptical about taking any action. “The acceptable spending level is zero,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.

    And with Senate Democrats opposed to policy changes to return the children quickly without judicial hearings, it looked highly unlikely that a deal could be struck to send a bill to Obama’s desk before August.

    Friday’s White House meeting with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador came as the administration considered creating a pilot program giving refugee status to young people from Honduras. White House officials said the plan would involve screening youths in their home countries to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. The program would be limited and would start in Honduras but could be expanded to include other Central American countries.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the pilot plan would be among the topics Obama discussed with his visitors. But he also said the program was meant to keep more migrants from coming to the border rather than as a way to address the thousands of migrants already in the U.S.

    He said the conversations with the leaders would focus on how to deter Central Americans by convincing them that if they came to the United states “they would not be welcomed with open arms in this country.” He also said the leaders would discuss how to enhance law enforcement cooperation between the U.S. and countries in the region to improve security, and how to ensure that minors who are returned to Central America don’t go back to the violent conditions they were trying to escape.

    At the same time, a senior Obama adviser said Friday that the White House is taking seriously the possibility that House Republicans could initiate impeachment proceedings against Obama if he acts on his own later this year on a broader immigration measure that could defer deportations for immigrants who have been inside the United States illegally for years.

    White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said that House Speaker John Boehner’s effort to sue Obama over his use of executive authority “has opened the door for Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future.”

    “I would not discount that possibility,” he said during a breakfast with reporters. “I think that when the president acts on immigration reform it will certainly up the likelihood that they would contemplate impeachment at some point.”

    Boehner has said he has ruled out impeachment, but conservative commentators, including former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, have called for Obama to be impeached.

    “It is telling and sad that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

    Several House Republicans said there was some discussion in Friday’s meeting of holding a vote, in concert with action on the border, to overturn an earlier Obama directive on immigration that deferred deportation for certain immigrants brought here illegally as children.

    With some critics contending that that Obama directive and other presidential policies triggered the crisis, the president has been eager to demonstrate an aggressive approach to reducing the flow of immigrants and returning those found not to have a legitimate claim to stay here. The U.S. has mounted a communications campaign to inform Central American residents that they won’t be allowed to stay in the U.S., and Obama sent a team to Texas this week to weigh the possibility of dispatching the National Guard to the border.

    More than 57,000 minors have arrived since October, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The trio of nations has become one of the most violent regions in the world in recent years, with swaths of all three countries under the control of drug traffickers and street gangs that rob, rape and extort ordinary citizens with impunity.

    In recent weeks, the number of children being apprehended daily has fallen by roughly half, but White House officials said seasonal patterns or other factors unrelated to the administration’s efforts may be responsible for some of the decline.

    Pfeiffer said Obama supports changes in the 2008 law that would give the administration more authority to turn back Central American migrants at the border. But he said current proposals in Congress, including a bipartisan plan proposed by Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, do not meet White House standards of deterring illegal migration while protecting legitimate claims for asylum from border crossers.

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    Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie will face off Saturday in their first debate for the Virginia Senate seat. Photos by Peter Foley/Bloomberg and Melina Mara/The Washington Post

    Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie will face off Saturday in their first debate for the Virginia Senate seat. Photos by Peter Foley/Bloomberg and Melina Mara/The Washington Post

    Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie will meet Saturday for their first debate, an encounter that could shed light on the GOP’s prospects of putting the seat in play this November.

    The 90-minute session, moderated by PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff, will broadcast live online at 11 a.m. ET from the Virginia Bar Association’s summer meeting at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. You can watch a livestream of the debate here.

    Warner, who is running for a second six-year term, has the early advantage in the polls, and fundraising. A Roanoke College survey released this week showed the Democrat with a 25-point lead over Gillespie. Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who was not invited to participate in the debate, polled at five percent.

    In the money race, Warner hauled in $2.7 million in the quarter that ended June 30, leaving his campaign with nearly $9 million in the bank. Gillespie, meanwhile, raised $1.9 million in the quarter, giving him $3.1 million cash on hand.

    Gillespie, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and past chairman of the Republican National Committee, gave the GOP a top recruit when he announced in January that he would challenge Warner, a popular former governor and co-founder of the company that became Nextel.

    Warner’s campaign has stressed the Democrat’s bipartisan image, which includes work with Republicans on a “grand bargain” deficit reduction proposal. The strategy by the Gillespie campaign is to undercut Warner’s centrist message by characterizing the Democrat as a “blank check” for President Obama, including support for the health care law.

    While Warner holds a commanding lead, he appears to be taking no chances, especially with 53 percent of Virginia voters in the Roanoke College poll disapproving of the president’s job performance. On Wednesday, he called on the Obama administration to ease health care regulations on employers or delay the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act for another year.

    For the moment, the Virginia Senate race remains an uphill climb for Republicans. The GOP would either need Warner to stumble badly or for a wave to come the party’s way in the next four months in order to really put the seat in play.

    The post Warner, Gillespie meet Saturday for first Virginia Senate debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.

    The bill would gradually boost the amount of the $1,000-per-child tax credit by tying it to inflation, so it would go up as consumer prices rise. It also aims to make a dent in illegal immigration by prohibiting people without Social Security numbers from claiming a portion of the credit reserved for low-income families.

    With nearly all Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats opposed, the bill cleared the House by a vote of 237-173. The White House threatened to veto the bill, though the Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to pass it.

    About 37 million taxpayers claimed the credit in 2012, reducing their tax bills by nearly $57 billion.

    House Republicans say the bill would strengthen the tax credit by increasing it as inflation rises, and by making it available to even more middle-income families. “It is time we make some simple improvements to the child tax credit, so it keeps up with the cost of raising children,” said Rep. Dave Camp R-Mich., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

    The White House said the bill favors high-income taxpayers over the poor, while adding $90 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade.

    Five million of the poorest low-income families would lose the credit in 2018, the White House said. An additional 6 million low-income families would see the amount of their tax credits reduced.

    “The new Republican rhetoric on poverty is no match for the deeply troubling actions they have repeatedly taken, and continue to take, with this legislation today,” said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “This bill leads to harm for millions of low- and middle-income families and their children.”

    House Republicans dispute the Democrats’ argument, saying the bill is silent on low-income families. Current law calls for Obama’s enhancement for low-income income families to expire. The bill simply lets it happen. “The opponents make a false claim, that somehow this bill eliminates benefits for millions of low-income families,” Camp said. “That’s just wrong.”

    Under current law, the child tax credit is gradually reduced and phased out for individuals making more than $75,000 a year and married couples making more than $110,000 a year.

    House Republicans say the income limit for married couples amounts to a marriage penalty because it’s less than double the limit for single tax filers.

    The bill would increase the income threshold for married couples to $150,000, allowing more families with higher incomes to claim it. The bill would index the income limits to inflation, meaning they would increase over time as consumer prices rise.

    The amount of the credit would also increase with inflation, rising above $1,000 as consumer prices go up.

    These changes would increase savings for taxpayers by $115 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which analyzes tax bills for Congress.

    At the other end of the income spectrum, the child tax credit is also available to families that don’t make enough money to pay any federal income taxes. These families get payments similar to tax refunds when they file their tax returns.

    In 2009, Obama signed a law that made the payments available to more low-income families — the poorest of the working poor. That provision, which has since been extended, is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.

    Democrats see these types of payments as an important tool to fight poverty — and as a way for low-income families to benefit from the tax code.

    Some Republicans say these provisions are simply government expenditures disguised as tax breaks. “This is basically a benefit check handed out by the IRS,” said Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas.

    The bill would require taxpayers claiming these payments to provide a Social Security number, making it harder for immigrants to claim them, whether they are in the country legally or not. Noting the recent flood of unaccompanied minors showing up at the southern border, House Republicans said the provision would reduce the incentive for people to enter the U.S. illegally.

    The requirement would save the Treasury $24.5 billion over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

    In general, noncitizens must be authorized to work in the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security in order to get a Social Security number. However, many immigrants can still file a tax return using a tax identification number provided by the IRS.

    In 2010, 2.3 million filers used tax identification numbers to claim a total of $4.2 billion in payments under the child tax credit, according to a 2011 report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

    “The last thing we need is to continue to encourage folks from Central America to make the dangerous and life-threatening trek to Texas,” said Johnson, who sponsored the provision.

    The post House votes to boost child tax credit for more higher income families appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke with Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac,” about the American Public Media host’s relationship to poetry.

    In college, Garrison Keillor studied poetry as an English major. But when the host of “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac” returned to poetry decades later, his interest was “entirely different,” he said. His relationship to it had evolved.

    “You come to love poetry as a clear statement,” Keillor told NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown. “Somebody who is telling you straight from my heart to your heart about something that is real.”

    On “The Writer’s Almanac,” Garrison recites a poem during each program.

    “If I edited poetry for print, it might be different. But I don’t. I am choosing poems that I can read to someone who is busy doing other things and they can – even listening with one ear – they can get it.”

    His new book, “The Keillor Reader,” features some of his own poetry alongside a compilation of his works for A Prairie Home Companion, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, novels and newspaper columns.

    Keillor writes rhyming sonnets, triple limericks and other poems for special occasions – as gifts to friends and family members.

    “When you write a poem (for somebody)… you’ve made something for them that nobody else is gonna make.”

    Occasionally, he also writes erotic sonnets.

    “That’s the beauty of getting older. You really have a lot more freedom than you had when you were in your 30s,” Keillor said. “When you’re in your 30s, you’re imprisoned in your own sensibility, and you really loosen up when you get older. I hope. I hope you do.”

    Tune in to Saturday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour Weekend to hear more from senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with Garrison Keillor. You can also watch the video below:

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    WASHINGTON — A day after offering competing plans to improve veterans’ health care, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees are again attempting to find a compromise.

    Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House veterans panel, and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., had a public spat Thursday that appeared to jeopardize efforts to agree on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    Miller said Friday he spoke with Sanders on Thursday night and planned to speak with him again later Friday.

    “We’re working,” Miller told reporters, adding that he was “here if necessary.”

    A spokesman for Sanders called the discussion “productive” and said Sanders stands ready to return to Washington if needed to advance the negotiations. He traveled to Philadelphia for a conference and was also planning to go home to Vermont.

    The House and Senate are set to adjourn next week until early September, and lawmakers from both parties have said completing a bill on veterans’ health care is a top priority.

    Sanders announced a proposal on Thursday that would cost about $25 billion over three years to lease new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

    Miller’s proposal would require only $10 billion in emergency spending, with a promise of more spending in future years under the normal congressional budget process. His bill would keep most of the provisions in the Senate-passed bill and also would authorize about $100 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs to address shortfalls in the current budget year.

    Both bills cost significantly less than bills approved last month by the House and Senate.

    Meanwhile, the House adopted a nonbinding resolution Friday that endorses a Senate-passed provision aimed at improving VA care for survivors of military sexual assault.

    The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., who said the 213-193 vote sent a “strong message” that the House supports improving care for veterans who are victims of sexual assault. Twenty-two Republicans joined 191 Democrats in supporting the motion to accept the Senate language as part of the final bill.

    A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said House negotiators, led by Miller, “are continuing to work to find common ground on bipartisan, bicameral legislation to begin to address the scandalous treatment of our veterans.”

    The post House and Senate try to find compromise on VA health care plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama appealed to Central American leaders today to help stem the flow of migrant children from their countries into the U.S. It came amid talk of a pilot program to give refugee status to youths from Honduras.

    The president met at the White House with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have to deter a continuing influx of children putting themselves at great risk and families who are putting their children at great risk. And so I emphasize that, within a legal framework and a humanitarian framework and proper due process, children who do not have proper claims and families with children who do not have proper claims at some point will be subject to repatriation to their home countries.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president has asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funding. House Republicans want to spend less than $1 billion, send National Guard troops to the border, and speed up deportations. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats favor spending $2.7 billion, but oppose changing the law on deportations. We will return to immigration later, with a focus on conditions in Central America.

    French soldiers have found one of the black box recorders in the wreckage of the Air Algerie plane that went down yesterday in Northern Mali. All 118 people on board were killed. About half were French. The crash site is in a remote area near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso. The plane was bound for Algiers when it went down in stormy weather.

    A small group of international investigators arrived today at the scene where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in Eastern Ukraine.

    Neil Connery of Independent Television News has this report.

    NEIL CONNERY, ITN: Hidden in the trees, the largest piece of wreckage from Flight MH17 sound so far. It’s laid here undisturbed for a week. This used to be part of economy class, nearby, the passports and belongings of some of those on board.

    MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, Spokesperson, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe: Experts figure it must have come straight down, because there weren’t that many broken branches.

    I just counted about 16 windows that are pretty much intact there, and it looks like the economy class section, around 22 or so extending from there onwards.

    NEIL CONNERY: In the fields nearby, international forensic experts found more human remains today. A handful of investigators are now here from the Netherlands and Australia. The wreckage is spread over several miles and the challenge facing them is immense.

    Eight days on from the downing of Flight MH17, the wreckage remains where it fell, but none of this has been secured, raising questions over the ability of any investigation here to establish exactly what happened.

    The international effort to get more experts here continues, but this is a crash site in a war zone. While the world grapples with the complexities, far from here, families mourn. So many hopes and dreams ended in the skies above this troubled land.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In other developments, the Pentagon charged Russia is set to transfer heavy-caliber multiple-launch rockets to the rebels. And the U.S. ambassador to NATO reported 15,000 Russian troops have massed along the border, up sharply from earlier figures.

    Stock markets on Wall Street today ended the week on a disappointing note, with weak reports from Amazon and Visa. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 123 points to close above 16,960. The Nasdaq fell more than 22 points to close above 4,449. The S&P 500 dropped more than nine points to close at 1,978. For the week, the Dow lost nearly 1 percent. The Nasdaq rose nearly half-a-percent and the S&P was flat.

    The post News Wrap: Investigators gain access to MH17 site appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    mideast1

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Diplomatic efforts to bring a cease-fire to the conflict between Israel and Hamas appeared to come up empty-handed again. But, late today, it was reported Israel’s prime minister told U.S. Secretary of State Kerry they would start a 12-hour pause beginning tomorrow morning.

    For now, the violence continues. All told, more than 820 Palestinians have been killed. In Israel, 38 people have been killed. And the government rejected a U.S. plan for a seven-day halt to the bloodshed.

    The word came after another day of near constant explosions across Gaza City. Israeli news reports said the security cabinet rejected the cease-fire proposal, giving the army more time to destroy Hamas tunnels. A government spokesman argued earlier that the burden is on the militants.

    MARK REGEV, Spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister: Israel has shown where it is on these issues. Hamas, unfortunately, has not been willing for a cease-fire, and we heard the leader of Hamas yesterday, Khaled Meshaal, put so many preconditions on a cease-fire as to make it impossible.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Hamas has demanded the end of the economic blockade of Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners. It didn’t publicly respond to this latest cease-fire proposal.

    The U.S., Egypt and the U.N. called for a week-long halt in the fighting, to begin Sunday, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, followed by talks on economic, political and security concerns.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We still have some terminology in the context of the framework to work through. But we are confident we have a fundamental framework that can and will ultimately work.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Secretary of State John Kerry had delayed his departure from Cairo, Egypt, to pursue the peace effort.

    JOHN KERRY: At this moment, we are working towards a brief seven days of peace, seven days of a humanitarian cease-fire in honor of Eid, in order to be able to bring people together to try to work to create a more durable, sustainable cease-fire for the long run.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The conflict, meanwhile, raged on. One airstrike today killed the head of media operations for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad, along with his son.

    And Hamas kept up its rocket fire, some of it again intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. More rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, where warning sirens sent travelers scrambling from the terminal lobby. On the ground, there was heavy fighting in Northern and Central Gaza on the heels of yesterday’s fierce battles. At least 15 of yesterday’s victims died when a U.N. school in Northern Gaza was hit.

    Today, as the two sides blamed each other for that incident, the World Health Organization appealed again for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the wounded.

    JENS LAERKE, Spokesman, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: People are dying at an alarming rate, being injured at a very alarming rate. We are calling for this, if you like, localized cease-fires, whereby the wounded can be evacuated, and we can access people with both health care and other kinds of relief.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Anger over the situation in Gaza boiled over in the West Bank again today. Palestinian officials said five people were killed in clashes with Israeli forces there. There were more anti-Israeli protests worldwide as well.

    In Iran, thousands marched in the streets for the annual Al-Quds Day, a march held on the last Friday of Ramadan to show support for Palestinians. Other rallies took place in Pakistan, Germany, Belgium, and Turkey.

    The post WHO renews call for ‘localized cease-fires’ to evacuate wounded, deliver aid in Gaza appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    John Kerry, Ban Ki-moon,  Nabil al-Araby and Sameh Shukri press conference

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Later, there was word out of Paris that France will host an international meeting tomorrow to try to get a cease-fire agreement in Gaza.

    For more on that effort, and containing the conflict in Ukraine, Susan Rice, the national security adviser to the president, joins us.

    So, Ambassador Rice, I want to ask you first about the late news that we have this afternoon. Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tell Secretary Kerry about a 12-hour pause?  Can you confirm that?

    SUSAN RICE, National Security Adviser: Hari, what you heard out of the press conference in Cairo was that the U.N. secretary-general has called for a 12-hour pause.

    Certainly, that is something that would be a very modest initial step, but something that we would very much welcome. Secretary Kerry has been very much active in the region all throughout the week in consultations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with the Egyptians, with the U.N., as well as with the governments of Qatar and Turkey.

    And in the course of that process, we have been urging the achievement of a 7-day humanitarian cease-fire, during which period there would be an opportunity for the political issues to begin to be addressed, such that we could have a sustainable, permanent cease-fire. So, yes, there’s been discussions back and forth about the length of a cease-fire, the length of a pause.

    I can’t obviously speak for the Israeli government or for any of the other parties in this. They will have to confirm their position publicly themselves.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    At the same time, the defense minister in Israel says that they plan to broaden the ground operation in Gaza significantly, whether there’s a pause or not. Has Israel shared those plans with the United States or in this conversation?

    SUSAN RICE: We have not had a detailed conversation about their operational plans. I think, frankly, they have some very difficult decisions to make.

    We have been very clear that Israel has an undeniable right to self-defense and that the rockets that it has faced coming out of Gaza incessantly, the tunnels that are legion and are being used to infiltrate into Israel are very legitimate security concerns, for which they have an obligation — against which they have an obligation to act.

    At the same time, we have said that these operations need to be conducted in a way that don’t lead to a broader escalation, and that minimize the humanitarian and human toll, which is obviously mounting and about which we’re gravely concerned.

    And so we’re looking for as soon as reasonably possible the achievement of this interim seven-day humanitarian cease-fire and the opportunity to negotiate a permanent peace.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are the sticking points of trying to get a cease-fire on the table?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, the sticking points are many.

    First of all, Hamas has not been willing to agree to the terms of a cease-fire. There have been several offered over the last few weeks. They haven’t accepted them. Obviously, also, as the death toll mounts, and the circumstances on the ground evolve, the parties’ perspectives evolve, and what they feel was necessary to defend themselves has evolved.

    So the Israeli point of view is that they are facing a serious and growing threat, both from the rockets and from the tunnels. They have worked to try to deal decisively with that threat. And we understand the motivation for that. And we are sympathetic and supportive to that.

    But the other reality is, this is coming at a mounting and grave cost on all sides. The Israelis have suffered significant casualties and losses, both military and civilian. Obviously, the toll in Gaza is very disturbing, and so thus the need now, as soon as possible, for a cease-fire.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Does the U.S. think that it is a legitimate request by Gaza or by Hamas to ask for the end of the economic blockade on Gaza?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, these are very compelling issues and concerns, but the problem is, Hamas is using force to try to extort progress on its political objectives.

    And we do not support that. Recall how this started. This started with Hamas firing the rockets into Israel. And if that’s the way that they want to seek an ending of some economic isolation, it’s counterproductive and it’s very unlikely to succeed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And a quick question about our influence in the region. Are you concerned that the U.S. doesn’t seem to be able to have an immediate impact on stopping the violence?

    SUSAN RICE: Hari, quite the contrary.

    If there were a magic wand that anybody could wave in the world, I would like to see it. But the United States has been and remains the critical player in all of this. And that is why the parties so much wanted the United States, in the form of Secretary Kerry, to spend the entire week out in the region at a time when, as you know, there are many other pressing issues in the world.

    The region, the players, the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Egyptians and all of the partners that we have been working with look to the United States as a critical player, the critical player in trying to resolve this. And we will continue to do what we can to achieve this cease-fire.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, one of those other pressing issues in the world, of course, is Ukraine. What specific evidence does the U.S. government have of a more direct involvement by Russia in this fight?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, let me say — recap what we have learned over the last several days since the shoot-down of the Malaysia airliner.

    In the first instance, we have a high degree of confidence in the evidence that there was a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, fired from separatist-held territory inside of Ukraine at this aircraft, and brought it down. We also know that that surface-to-air weapon wasn’t a Ukrainian one. We have ways and means of determining how the Ukrainian model of that weapon was being employed at the time.

    We have ways and means of knowing where the weapon was shot. It was shot from separatist-held territory. It was a weapon that we believe was transferred to the separatists by Russia. It also requires sophisticated training, so that training was provided by Russia or it may be — and we can’t say — that Russia had a more direct hand in this.

    We also know that weapons, heavy weapons continue to flow across the border, as they have for the last many weeks, indeed months, from Russia into Ukraine. And we have now, in recent days, indications that Russians — Russian military units themselves have, on occasion, fired into Ukraine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there a plan for the U.S. to provide military assistance to Ukraine?

    SUSAN RICE: Hari, the United States has already begun to provide various forms of nonlethal military assistance to Ukraine.

    We also have begun to assess with the Ukrainians the scope of their larger security assistance requirements. We have had teams out making that assessment with the Ukrainians. And we have already provided various forms of equipment and support to Ukraine.

    Now, there are those who have argued that now is the time to provide lethal military support. That is not a decision that the United States has taken to date.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, and, finally, does this have the potential, as we increase our military engagement and involvement, to becoming a proxy war with Russia?

    SUSAN RICE: Well, that’s one of the factors that, obviously, we and others take into account as we consider the wisdom of our next steps.

    The Russians are clearly already engaged in a proxy war against the government of Ukraine. And that is something that we and the rest of the world have actively condemned and sanctioned Russia already heavily for, particularly the United States, as we have imposed now meaningful, tough sanctions in critical sectors, including the defense sector, the financial sector, and the energy sector.

    We are working with the Europeans, who have also now in recent days stepped up their own sanctions, to have them join us in imposing sectoral sanctions in a concerted way. And we are coordinating our efforts to try to accomplish that, and so that the economic pressure on Russia will continue to mount.

    Be mindful that the United States really only accounts for about 3 percent of the economic engagement with Russia. Europe is 40 percent, and so Europe’s contribution to this pressure is far more than symbolic. It’s very practical. And that’s one of the many reasons why we have worked hard to remain in close coordination with our European partners.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, National Security Adviser to the president Susan Rice, thanks so much.

    SUSAN RICE: Thank you for having me.

    The post National Security Advisor Rice on sticking points of Mideast cease-fire and Russia proxy-war potential appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bordercrisis

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We turn now to the crisis at the U.S. border, and what’s driving the wave of migrant children to make the dangerous journey.

    As we saw from President Obama’s meeting today with the leaders of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, many of the factors at play stem from violence and instability in those countries.

    To help us better understand the situation in Central America, Anita Isaacs is a professor at Haverford College. She studies U.S.-Latin America relations and regional politics. She also recently returned from Guatemala as part of a State Department study on civil society.

    So, I want to ask, even with these kind of lofty aspirations that the president laid out today, what’s the likelihood that the underlying conditions in these countries changes?

    ANITA ISAACS, Haverford College: Yes, I mean, I think that’s a great question.

    And I think that, you know, the leaders, the president — the Central American leaders came to the United States to request a compassionate response from President Obama and the U.S. Congress and the U.S. people.

    And I think that, to some extent, you know, amid the sea of anti-immigrant diatribe, we have seen some compassionate responses from — both from some members of Congress, Representative Engel in particular, and from sectors of U.S. society.

    I think the real challenge now is whether we are going to see the same compassionate response in Central American countries, where the conditions that are — that fuel migration speak to tremendous inequalities, tremendous poverty and tremendous violence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We have heard more recently about the violence. What are some of the more underlying kind of structural factors at work?

    ANITA ISAACS: Yes.

    I mean, violence — well, there are all different kinds of violence in Central America. There is violence that is connected to drug traffickers. There’s also violence connected to other organized criminal syndicates that are involved in contraband and smuggling and human trafficking.

    And there’s violence that is associated with gangs. And it’s the gang violence that, in many respects, is fueling the migration of children to the United States. The gang violence is really borne out of economic poverty, desperation.

    It’s what children and young people turn to when there are no other opportunities. So it’s really at its source where you see countries that are mired in poverty that have some of the greatest levels of inequality anywhere in the world, and in which children really see no hope in their future.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what can the leaders of these three countries do when they go back home to try to create either a disincentive from going through this process of getting to the United States or an incentive to stay?

    ANITA ISAACS: Well, what’s really incumbent upon these leaders is to show political leadership and compassion at home, to really push forward an agenda that fosters sustainable economic development among — in rural areas and in urban areas that are afflicted by gang violence.

    They have the resources. These aren’t poor countries. So, there is the capacity to introduce the reforms that attenuate poverty and create the kinds of opportunities that will want to make people stay. But so far, we haven’t seen much in the way of political leadership, political willingness on the part of both the leaders and wealthy sectors of society to enact those kinds of changes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And how much of the problem comes back to perhaps the political parties that are in power or the leadership that’s already there?

    ANITA ISAACS: Well, it does come back to that.

    It also comes — to a certain extent. I mean, El Salvador is different, where — in El Salvador, there is much more of a commitment to compassionate — to real compassion that is being expressed by the leader at the moment.

    Honduras and Guatemala are different. In the case of Guatemala, which is the country that I know best, what we’re seeing is a legacy really of 36 years of armed conflict, and in which those who basically won the war are those that retain power today, which are traditional, wealthy sectors of society and sectors of the military.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The other question I wanted to ask is also about, when it comes to civil society, how much a role does corruption play in the effectiveness of institutions?

    ANITA ISAACS: Yes.

    The institutions are riddled with corruption. And, so, there’s a lot of talk about the challenges of security. And, for example, in the case of these countries, there’s more private security than there are policemen, for example.

    You know, that’s a real problem, but if you’re going to address those problems, you also need to address the corruption, the institutional corruption that pervades the security forces, so that the security forces can actually guarantee citizens’ security.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there anything this group of countries can agree on to work together on regarding this immigration or migration problem?

    ANITA ISAACS: I think there is a lot they can do.

    I think it’s really a question of political will. I think that they can crack down on the organized criminal gangs that control really the migration, what’s become a migration trade of the smuggling roots.

    So I think that there’s a real capacity to crack down. And there’s a real capacity to enact reforms that are both economic and social and political reforms that would create more transparent, more accountable institutions, and that would enable — would provide genuine economic opportunities for their citizens.

    I don’t think that the challenges are enormous. I think that what is lacking is will.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Anita Isaacs from Haverford College, thanks so much.

    ANITA ISAACS: Thank you for having me.

    The post Can political leadership in Central America reverse conditions fueling migration? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    creativeminds

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Next: the third in our series of stories this week on the science of the brain.

    Tonight, Judy Woodruff explores the connections between creativity and mental illness. It’s a subject that has intrigued researchers for quite a while, and Judy recently traveled to the Midwest to interview a leading scientist in the field.

    Our story was produced in partnership with The Atlantic magazine, which features this topic as its cover story this month.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On any given day, you might find Dr. Nancy Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D, in the MRI lab at the University of Iowa Hospital Center.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN, Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry, University of Iowa: The principle here is that this is what we call the control test.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s here where she has done groundbreaking neuroimaging research, especially on schizophrenia, linking it to physical differences in the brain itself. It’s something she’s been interested in since she received her degree in 1960s.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: I knew I was going to be interested in the brain ultimately, because I knew it was the organ that makes us human.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But she’s also always had a parallel interest in literature, which led to an unusual field of scientific inquiry: Why have so many great writers suffered from mental illness?

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: I knew that, for instance, Bertrand Russell, great philosopher, had a family just loaded with schizophrenia. James Joyce had a daughter with schizophrenia, and Joyce himself was also kind of odd.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the 1960s and ’70s, she took advantage of the University’s nationally renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop to study writers who taught there, like Kurt Vonnegut and John Cheever.

    She wanted to see if there were a higher-than-usual occurrence of mental illness among them or their family members. Her study concluded that a full 80 percent had a form of mood disturbance at some point, compared with 30 percent of a control group.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: That study came as a great surprise to me. I had this working idea that people would have family members with schizophrenia, and what I found instead was that these writers had really high rates of mood disorder, which would be manic depressive illness and just plain depression, that they had a high rate of mood disorder in their first-degree relatives, and that creativity ran in their families as well.

    Noted example is Kurt Vonnegut, who himself, of course, was a writer. His father was a great architect. One son is a writer, and two daughters are — have — work in the arts as well. And a substantial number of them also have mental illness of various kinds.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, Kurt Vonnegut’s son, Mark, now a pediatrician and writer living in Boston, has been very open about his own struggles with mental illness.

    DR. MARK VONNEGUT: In short, like a lot of people, and like it happened to other people in my family, in my early 20s, I became convinced that I didn’t have to eat anymore or sleep anymore. I was hearing voices continuously. They had to put me in a psychiatric hospital.

    I have had four terrible psychotic breaks. And there is nothing romantic about them. Life is discontinuous and horrible. And getting back on your feet is a lot of work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wanting to do something to ease the pain, Andreasen focused her research for the next two decades on neurobiology and neuroimaging. But she never lost her interest in creative genius. Does it run in families? What’s the connection between creativity and mental illness?

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: One of the big questions is, should people who are creative have their psychiatric problems treated and does that diminish their creativity? That’s a hard question because the very things that make people creative make them vulnerable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the last decade, Nancy Andreasen has been conducting her second study of creative minds. She has been working with highly accomplished and recognized individuals, such as the filmmaker George Lucas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley, and mathematician William Thurston.

    She invites them to visit her farm before heading to the university hospital the next morning for a session inside a claustrophobic neuromagnetic imaging scanner. Andreasen observes how answering different questions affects different parts of the brain.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: As I thought about it, what I realized was that people who are creative are better at making connections. What I have to do is figure out how to tap into the association cortex. And then that actually made it very easy, because you just give tasks where people make associations.

    MAN: It will be starting in just a few seconds.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: There are three tests. One is word association, one is picture association, and one is a pattern-detection study. What characterizes the brains of highly creative people that is different from the brains of people who are equally educated and generally quite successful, but just not highly creative?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In these scans, you can literally see the difference between highly creative people and equally educated, intelligent control subjects like this one.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: We’re seeing which brain regions are most active during a specific task.

    What we’re seeing is areas that are relatively more increased during the experimental task, in comparison with a control task. And, in this case, the experimental task is detecting a pattern that is really a very challenging puzzle that they are solving. And the areas of the brain that they use more actively during the pattern detection are shown in red or yellow. And the areas that are more active during the comparison task are shown in blue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Many of Andreasen’s conclusions so far about creative genius stem also from the extensive interviews she’s done. She stresses this is preliminary, but says there are some traits that many of her subjects share.

    They teach themselves from an early age, have many deep interests, rather than just one. And they are very persistent, even in the face of rejection.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: One interesting thing that’s emerged is that so many of these highly creative people are autodidacts. They are people who teach themselves. That makes them almost misfits in the educational system that they get put into. It would be nice if educators were aware of the existence of autodidacts and the need to give them slightly different education experiences, to nurture them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Andreasen believes her research into creative minds has already helped reduce the negative image associated with mental illness.

    Mark Vonnegut also champions research likes hers, if that’s what it takes to achieve public awareness and understanding.

    DR. MARK VONNEGUT: I think, to the degree it helps get rid of the stigma of mental illness and gets people on board, you know, wrestling this beast together, that it’s a good thing.

    So, by all means, let’s not have any more homeless vets, because there might be a Kurt Vonnegut in there. Let’s take care of them. Let’s take care of our people. There might be a Hemingway. There might be a van Gogh. There might — let’s take care of each other.

    DR. NANCY ANDREASEN: You know, some of the stories are just crushing. They’re just crushing.

    But the remarkable thing is that these are hugely successful people. So, you balance the crushing personal histories against the record of extraordinary achievement, and it’s inspiring.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Andreasen says it will take several years to complete the research project on the creative mind, but the results at the midway point were so exciting, she wanted to make them public now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You can find a link to Nancy Andreasen’s cover story for “The Atlantic” on our Web site.

    The post Connecting strength and vulnerability of the creative brain appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey addresses the audience during the Aspen Security Forum, in Aspen, Colorado, July 24, 2014. The forum is held every summer on the campus of the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization. It consists of panel discussions as well as in-depth conversations with leaders involved in security issues across government. DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp, USA

    Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey addresses the audience during the Aspen Security Forum, in Aspen, Colorado. Photo by SSG Sean K. Harp.

    Washington’s accusation yesterday that Russia has fired its artillery across the border at Ukrainian military positions hit this Aspen Security Forum like a thunderbolt.

    It upset assumptions that, in the face of international condemnation over the shooting down of a Malysian airliner last week, Putin would pull in his horns.

    “At a time when some folks could convince themselves that Putin would be looking for a decision to de-escalate, he’s actually taken a decision to escalate,” said Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey in an appearance late in the day.

    This Aspen Security Forum brings together some of the most experienced diplomatic, military, security and counterterrorism minds in the business to talk about America’s security. And while the focus of the panels was heavy on the latest threats to the security of the U.S. homeland, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s upending of the post-Cold War chessboard in Europe has overshadowed many conversations here, on stage and over meals.

    And after two days of conversation, the only conclusion I can reach is, this collection of experienced hands is at a loss on how to respond. Indeed, hours before news broke of the artillery strikes, former CIA acting director John McLaughlin — referring to the inquiry into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 — remarked drily, “all this focus on whodunit tells me we don’t know what to do. We haven’t figured out how we can lead on this, or what to do if we could.”

    The profundity of what is happening was not lost on Gen. Dempsey.

    “You’ve got a Russian government that has made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives. It’s the first time since 1939 or so that that’s been the case.”

    There was some confusion in the audience as to whether he was referring to Joseph Stalin’s invasion of Poland that year or Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. But his larger point couldn’t be missed.

    “They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently, not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main and towards the United States.”

    “For 17 years, we’ve been predicated on the sense that we could form a partnership with Russia,” U.S. ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute said this morning. “That’s no longer the case today. Though it didn’t seem for all those years that it was a faulty premise.”

    What to do? So far, the answers haven’t changed — keep raising the economic costs to Putin, in hopes of persuading that it’s in his self-interest to change course. British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott predicted that Europe, despite the financial pain involved because of its economic interdependence with Russia, would step up to tougher sanctions — some limits to arms sales to Russia, to Russian access to financial capital, sanctions on financial organizations in Russia.

    “What we’re seeing after the shooting of the airplane, is a strong sense of anger,” he said.

    That anger has yet to translate to action, however. And the idea that Putin would be vulnerable to economic pressure, an article of faith until now in the Obama Administration, has yet to be proven true.

    It fell to retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, to put what Putin is doing in even a broader context, one that could force a rethinking of NATO actions and doctrine. Putin’s hybrid covert and overt war in Ukraine is about even more than his desire to keep Ukraine from falling entirely in the European orbit.

    “This is Putin’s war against NATO,” said Clark. “What’s happening in Ukraine is a real threat to the structure,” he said, and if the U.S. is going to hold its own against future challenges like those posed by China, “we have to be able to count on NATO and Europe.”

    Certainly NATO is going to have to have a more coherent response than the European Union has on sanctions. Many here, including Dempsey and Lute, said the NATO summit in September in Wales — originally designed to deal with Afghanistan wind-down — will now also focus on the destabilization of Europe.

    Off stage, Lute predicted that NATO is likely to revisit the pledges it made to Russia after the Cold War, as it moved to accept former Warsaw Pact countries and former Soviet republics like the Baltic states into the alliance. NATO may now conduct exercises, pre-position equipment and build base infrastructures in those Easternmost members for possible use in the future.

    “We kept our end of the bargain, which was not to do those things,” Lute said. “But the Russians didn’t keep theirs, which was to protect the sovereignty of the countries on their border.”

    But if Putin is really driven, as former national security Zbigniew Brzezinski puts it, by a kind of “quasi-mystical chauvinism” and a drive to restore Russian greatness in the czarist mold, such measures aren’t likely to change his calculus. NATO will have to revise its post-Cold War assumptions from the ground up. Again, it fell to former CIA man John McLaughlin to sum it up.

    “Putin is more afraid of Ukraine moving west than he is of sanctions. And this is a core interest for him,” he said. “While it’s an interest of ours, we’re not sure how far we are ready to go.”

    Perhaps the only option left to NATO will be a return to a form of Cold War era containment.

    But militarily, with perhaps a little help from its Western “friends,” non-NATO Ukraine will have to fend for itself.

    The post Aspen Security Forum’s top diplo, military brass stumped on how to confront Russian bear in Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    arionpress

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, Gutenberg in the age of the digital tablet.

    Jeffrey Brown has a story about craftsmanship and a great American poet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “I celebrate myself, and what I assume, you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” the famous first lines of a landmark of American literature, Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”

    Whitman was 36 years old when he self-published the first edition in 1855. A trained printer, he personally hand-set some of the lines of type in the book. Now Whitman’s work is being printed again, just as he did it in the 1800s, on movable type printing presses, the setting this time, in an old industrial building in San Francisco’s Presidio National Park, where the Arion Press is one of the country’s last fine book printers, and limited edition, handmade works are crafted from start to finish under one roof.

    ANDREW HOYEM, Publisher, Arion Press: The making of a book is a very, very complicated process.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The man who’s kept it all going for four decades is founder, publisher, and a poet himself, Andrew Hoyem.

    ANDREW HOYEM: We do what we do not to be quaint, but to use these techniques of letterpress printing, printing from metal types, because when the type is pressed into good quality paper, it creates an aesthetic effect you cannot achieve any other way.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From the foundry where molten lead is turned into either individual letters or lines of type on 100-year-old machines, to the press room where the type is hand-set, letter by letter, line by line and individual pages are fed into the presses, to the book bindery, where bindings are hand-sewn and a hammer is a useful tool, the results are works of art.

    They’re not cheap: Books sell from $500 into the thousands. But this is a place where details are everything, and the aesthetic stakes are extraordinarily high.

    ANDREW HOYEM: There’s some artfulness that’s involved in making all the myriad decisions about what type you’re going to use, what size of that type. The margins have to lift your soul.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Lift your soul?

    ANDREW HOYEM: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The margins lift your soul?

    ANDREW HOYEM: Yes, because, otherwise, I mean, if you just center the type on the page, you would have this feeling of, oh, I think I’m sinking.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Poetry has been a special focus for Arion from the beginning, as has the inclusion of artwork commissioned specially for projects from leading artists, such as Wayne Thiebaud, Kara Walker, and Kiki Smith.

    To mark the printing of Arion’s 100th book, and its 40th anniversary, Hoyem wanted something special, and found it in “Leaves of Grass.”  An iconic portrait of a young bearded Walt Whitman greets readers on the opening page, just as it did in the original. Whitman would revise and republish “Leaves” throughout his life. But it was the first edition that changed everything.

    ROBERT HASS, Former U.S. Poet Laureate: I think it is the holy book of American poetry.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Former poet laureate Robert Hass says that Whitman’s language, his directness about democratic ideals, urban life, sexuality, and so much more announced to the world an authentic American voice.

    ROBERT HASS: I think it sits right next to the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence as one of the most powerful documents of American culture.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because?

    ROBERT HASS: Because it brought together so many things in the 19th century around certain ideas of what this country was and could be, that it ought to celebrate and not be afraid of its diversity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For their new edition, Hoyem and his team of 12 craftspeople went all out. Hoyem himself hand-fed every sheet that went in and out of the 1920 platen press, a task he did regularly during Arion’s early years.

    This is manual labor, right?

    ANDREW HOYEM: Sure is.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Handmade cotton rag paper from England was dampened in a time-consuming process to prep it for printing. Twenty-seven-year-old Chris Godek, three years into a four-year paid apprentice program at Arion, spent hours recreating Whitman’s verses.

    What do you tell your friends? I mean, what do they think about it?

    CHRIS GODEK, Apprentice, Arion Press: They think I’m crazy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They think you’re crazy because…

    CHRIS GODEK: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … you’re doing this old-fashioned…

    CHRIS GODEK: Yes, doing it the old-fashioned way. Why not just use a normal printer? Why not…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, and why not? What do you tell them?

    ANDREW HOYEM: It’s an art. It’s a lost form, to see like you using your hands to create every aspect of the book.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A lost form? Well, not yet. And Arion and a number of other presses around the country are a mission to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    Arion raises funds not only for its books, but to preserve the historic equipment, and for the apprenticeship program that’s trained and graduated 20 individuals since 2000. A number have stayed on, including lead bookbinder Sarah Songer, who we watched putting the final touches on the “Leaves of Grass” edition.

    SARAH SONGER, Arion Press: This is the piece of stamped letter. It’s been backed in Japanese paper, and we have taken the ends down so that they’re thin. So this piece of leather gets glued off, and then laid down to line up with this grove.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that’s going to be the spine of a book?

    SARAH SONGER: And that’s the spine of the book.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For his part, Andrew Hoyem says he’s confident this traditional craft will continue into the future.

    Are there enough young people out in the world to keep this craft, art alive?

    ANDREW HOYEM: We hope so. We have people who approach us who are interested in joining us, because they want to do something that is hands-on, produces something physical, tactile, that can be appreciated for the aesthetics of the physical object.

    And, remarkably, we have more and more collectors who are joining us, from, you know, the Silicon Valley, people who are involved in high tech. They want to have books that are physical objects that they can appreciate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In other words, even the masters of the digital age must turn to the old masters for this kind of work. Arion Press is printing just 275 copies of “Leaves of Grass,” with production continuing through the summer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Online, Jeff has an extended conversation with former poet laureate Robert Hass. You will find that on Art Beat.

    The post Letter by letter, turning Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ into a work of art appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shieldsbrooks

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    So, as we wrote about in the “Morning Line” e-mail this morning, when you talk about immigration, there’s policy and there’s politics. So, let’s tackle the policy first.

    There was a — maybe a photo-op here today at the White House, where the president was lined up with three other presidents. He made the point of saying that we are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It seemed like he wanted to sort of thread the needle a bit. Is this the right balance? Can he strike that?

    MARK SHIELDS: I think he did strike it, but I think it’s politically for naught. Nothing is going to happen, in my judgment, even as we — the drive to adjourn for the August recess.

    They’re too far apart. I think the Democrats are not going to support a change in the 2008 law, which does provide different coverage and different treatment of the children and others from Guatemala and El Salvador, Honduras.

    And the Republicans only want to vote for $1 billion. And I don’t think — let’s be very blunt about it. There are the votes — and everybody knows this — in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate comprehensive immigration bill, which passed the Senate a year-and-a-half ago.

    And — but they wouldn’t do it with Republican votes. The speaker doesn’t want to do it with just Democratic votes and not a majority of Republican votes. So I think the chances of anything being done on this are very remote.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, why doesn’t it happen?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, first — first on the president, I thought he did thread the needle, but he leaned a little further on the side of these children have to be sent home than I expected.

    He said, we will do it humanely, within institutions. But he more or less said that, which I think is the proper response, unfortunately, in order to stem the tide. I totally agree with Mark on the politics of it. Everybody wants to be seen to do something.

    And so I think the House will pass something, and — but that doesn’t mean they will all agree to do the same thing. And I agree with Mark that they’re too far apart. The politics — and the Eric Cantor hurt things. And so I just — I guess I just think that the country is — well, the political leadership is terrified of the activists on this one.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But what about the political reality of trying to lure the Hispanic vote, trying to win favor going into an election a year-and-a-half from now?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, this is a problem.

    I mean, this has been an issue, immigration, very bluntly, that’s been a great political advantage for the Democrats. And the president’s handling of the border is — gets a 54 percent disapproval rating from Latinos, which — who are the key.

    Republicans cannot win the president without Latinos. Democrats can’t win without Latinos. I mean, Republicans have to change their ways, at least to get competitive, rather lose better than 3-1 Latino vote, the fastest-growing demographic in the country.

    And I just don’t think that any Democrats are going to vote right at this point to change the 2008 — maybe a handful — to change the 2008 law to make it tougher on kids from — that appears to be in some way tougher on Latinos in particular who are trying to get in the country.

    DAVID BROOKS: I must say, I’m a little mystified by that, because it would more or less equalize kids from different countries.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: And it seems to me more or less fair. It seems to me the law was miswritten in a way that was not anticipated. It seems to me that equalizing, and depending on what — so it doesn’t depend on what country you happen to come from in Latin America, seems to me a fair option.

    But the fact is, Republicans, they are doomed. But you’re a Republican from Mississippi, say. You know, nationally, we have got to get square on immigration, or else people from minority communities will not even listen to us, no matter what else we say.

    But if you’re afraid of what happened to Eric Cantor happening to you, well, the national party can go hang itself. You’re going to look after yourself. And that’s the essential problem.

    MARK SHIELDS: The only country in the world that has a higher murder rate than Honduras right now is Syria. That’s how tough it is. I think that to some degree contributed to the special treatment in that 2008…

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, there was a story last night about possibly increasing the amount of refugee applications in Honduras.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it appropriate to broaden the definition of refugee compared to who does seek asylum today? Is basically living in fear of a street gang and the murder that very legitimately could happen in Honduras the same as, say, someone in Somalia trying to seek asylum?

    DAVID BROOKS: You’re operating under the assumption that people have trust in the institutions of government.

    And I think that would be a good idea. And I think we could handle a more intelligent refugee policy. But if you look at some of the people who are voting against this or opposing this, they simply do not have faith that any law that is passed will be enforced. And they believe that once you broaden the refugee assignment, that will be a loophole to open the borders wide.

    And so this is partly a legacy of just the generalized distrust of immigration. It’s probably, frankly, a legacy of the immigration bill that passed under Ronald Reagan, which is a good bill, but without the border enforcement that undermined trust in all future immigration bills.

    MARK SHIELDS: Alan Simpson and Ron Mazzoli. That’s right, Simpson-Mazzoli. And it was a good bill, but — and it did help.

    I think there is a certain dangerous precedent going into other countries. And we’re going to decide — you going to have a rotating group that go from — I mean, a lot of countries where people are facing both terror and the gangs and worse and precarious futures.

    You know, I just don’t — I don’t know if there’s going to be a pre-clearance group that’s going to down and interview people and make those judgments.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, shifting gears to Israel, Palestine, we just heard from National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    First off, any reaction to how the administration has been handling it this week?

    DAVID BROOKS: I think their posture has been a pretty good one. They have been pretty tough on Hamas, which is the right posture. They have been pretty honest about things. They’re doing what they can.

    You can’t force a peace on the parties when the parties don’t want it. Right now, Israel sees a chance to severely weaken Hamas. They do it with a tacit endorsement of some of the anti-Muslim Brotherhood countries, the regime in Egypt, the regime in Saudi Arabia.

    And so they’re — just in terms of the region, they’re in a reasonably good moment. If they’re going to try to weaken Hamas and get rid of the tunnels, this is probably a moment to do it. So they see some advantage.

    Hamas clearly sees an advantage. They were marginalized. They’re now centralized. They’re very interested in forcing the Egyptian government to allow some of the transport and the communications of the commerce across that border, which the Egyptian regime, which hates the Muslim Brotherhood, hasn’t wanted to do.

    But if they can become a movement across the region, then they could force Egypt to open up those borders. So both parties see some advantages here. And so I suspect this thing is going to go on for a little a while.

    MARK SHIELDS: I’m more hopeful.

    I think each party to this combat right now has a different stake. For Hamas, David’s right. All politics is local. In a bizarre way, what has happened has strengthened Hamas. Hamas was unpopular. It wasn’t seen as able or competent. But what has happened is that, as they have stood up to the invading and occupying army that’s inflicting injury and destruction upon the country, and seem to inflict some damage upon Israel in return, they’re winning the support locally.

    For Israel, the opposite. All politics is global. And just as the Vietnam War, in my judgment, the United States’ war in Vietnam was fought and lost on television in the living rooms of America, I think that Israel has really had a very bad week in social media.

    I think the images of the hospitals, of the schools, of the children, of the lack of electricity and water and sewage, I just think that’s taken a toll on Israel internationally.

    DAVID BROOKS: I guess I disagree on both ends there.

    I agree that Hamas has had a short run. And when you’re in a conflict, the people fighting, and the people that are most militant are going to get a surge. And they have certainly gotten a surge in the Palestinian public. The polls clearly show that.

    But there’s been a clear pattern in the Middle East that, over the long term, Palestinians do not believe that this war fighting, that a regime that doesn’t even acknowledge that Israel has the right to exist, they generally do not believe that’s the way they’re going to get out of the mess they’re in.

    And they have over months of peace drifted away from that policy, which is what Hamas has — which is what Hamas has been pursuing. And so I think over the long term, people will look around and say, are we really going to bomb our way to peace? And they’re not going to want that over the long term.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about his idea that the power of social media affecting perception? Has the political perception about this conflict shifted at all with the onslaught of images that we have all seen, whether it’s from one side or the other?

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    Well, clearly, if you — if you measure things by body counts, then Israel has killed more, and so they look more vicious. And the people who are inclined to think poorly of Israel are hopping on that. I guess I’m more inclined to think positively of Israel. And I would say the moral calculus is not particularly even, that Hamas — and there’s been tons of media reporting on this — has put the site of the origin of the tunnels under hospitals in a dense residential area.

    The missiles are being shot from dense residential areas. They’re inviting civilian casualties by what is clearly an immoral way of waging war, and that they’re — if you take into account, the moral calculus is uneven.

    Is that the calculus that is accepted in the European press? No, of course not. And so Israel has faced this barrage of criticism, not from the American administration and not from some of the surprising people in the region, as I mentioned, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others.

    But, at some point, you can’t govern by popularity. If you have got people mis — bombing you, if you have got all these missiles which cost a million dollars each to build, you have simply got to take care of those tunnels.

    MARK SHIELDS: I just — I really feel that the desire for the end of the suffering and the pain is transcendent and I think it’s on the rise in the country.

    I think there’s — I give Secretary Kerry great credit and Ambassador — former Ambassador Martin Indyk, who was on our show recently, for making the effort. I just — I don’t think you can accept the status quo or the status quo ante that is there.

    We have to get a solution. And it has to be a two-state solution. And it has to be basically encouraged, if not imposed, I think, from without.

    DAVID BROOKS: Just one quick thing.

    I just don’t think the two-state solution is germane to this situation. It is certainly germane to the West Bank, where Fatah is nominally in control. But Hamas does not believe in the two-state solution. So, a two-state solution will not quiet Hamas. It will not quiet the missiles in Hamas.

    There is no occupation of Gaza. There are no settlements in Gaza. To me, this is about the fundamentals, the state of Israel’s right to exist and the rivalries between the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties in the region.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: I think we’re almost out of time, but, Mark Shields, David Brooks, thanks so much.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Obama’s handling of the border crisis, Mideast violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Garrison Keillor performs at Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff, Arizona. Keillor is the star of public radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” which celebrated its 40-year anniversary on the air earlier this month. Credit: A Prairie Home Companion

    On Saturday, PBS NewsHour Weekend will air an exclusive interview with Garrison Keillor, the creator and star of public radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Earlier this month, the iconic show celebrated 40 years on the air.

    Watch our interview with Garrison Keillor of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ fame.

    Keillor’s stories about life in Lake Wobegon, a fictional town in central Minnesota “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average,” have become the stuff of legend, especially in his home state.

    Are you strong, good-looking and/or above-average? Could you make it in Lake Wobegon? Take NewsHour Weekend’s “A Prairie Home Companion” quiz to find out.

    The post How well do you know ‘A Prairie Home Companion’? Take our quiz appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    American personnel at the Tripoli embassy, which had already been operating with limited staffing, left the capital around dawn and traveled by road to neighboring Tunisia, with U.S. fighter jets and other aircraft providing protection, the State Department said. The withdrawal underscored the Obama administration’s concern about the heightened risk to American diplomats abroad, particularly in Libya where memories of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city of Benghazi are still vivid.

    The evacuation was accompanied by a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including anti-aircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.”

    Speaking Saturday in Paris where he was meeting with other diplomats on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry said the U.S. remains committed to the diplomatic process in Libya despite the suspension of embassy activities there. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the evacuated employees will continue to work on Libyan issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.

    “Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf said. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”

    The Pentagon said in statement that F-16 fighter jets and other U.S. aircraft provided security. “The mission was conducted without incident, and the entire operation lasted approximately five hours,” the statement said.

    The State Department said embassy operations will be suspended until a determination is made that the security situation has improved. Tripoli has been embroiled for weeks in inter-militia violence that has killed and wounded dozens on all sides. The fighting has been particularly intense at the city’s airport.

    “We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves,” Harf said.

    Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the House Armed Services Committee chairman, expressed gratitude for the work of the U.S. forces that helped in the evacuation.

    The move marks the second time in a little more than three years that Washington has closed its embassy in Libya. In February 2011, the embassy suspended operations during the uprising that eventually toppled longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. After the formation of a transitional government in July 2011, the embassy reopened in September. Gadhafi was killed in October 2011.

    The Obama administration has been particularly sensitive about security of U.S. government employees in Libya since the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in the country’s second largest city of Benghazi. The attack killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The administration is still fending off criticism from Republicans and others that it did not take the needed steps to enhance security in Benghazi or evacuate the mission due to rising violence in that city in the months prior to the attack.

    The Benghazi mission was abandoned after that attack and never reopened. The embassy In Tripoli has been operating with reduced staff since but has remained open even as the violence intensified.

    On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones appealed for fighting near the embassy to stop. “We have not been attacked but our neighborhood a bit 2 close to the action,” she tweeted. “Diplomatic missions 2 B avoided pls.” Jones had also tweeted about “heavy shelling and other exchanges” of fire in the vicinity of the embassy. Speculation about an evacuation had been rife at the State Department for more than a week.

    Libya is now witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since Gadhafi’s ouster. In Tripoli, the militias are fighting mostly for control of the airport. They are on the government’s payroll because authorities have depended on them to restore order.

    The U.S. is the latest in a number of countries to have closed diplomatic operations in Libya. Turkey on Friday announced that it had shut its embassy and militia clashes in Benghazi have prompted the United Nations, aid groups and foreign envoys to leave.

    In Tripoli, clashes near the international airport have forced residents to evacuate their homes nearby after they were hit by shells. On Friday, the official Libyan news agency LANA reported that explosions were heard early in the day near the airport area and continued into the afternoon.

    The battle in Tripoli began earlier this month when Islamist-led militias – mostly from the western city of Misrata – launched a surprise assault on the airport, under control of rival militias from the western mountain town of Zintan. On Monday, a $113 million Airbus A330 passenger jet for Libya’s state-owned Afriqiyah Airways was destroyed in the fighting.

    The rival militias, made up largely of former anti-Gadhafi rebels, have forced a weeklong closure of gas stations and government offices. In recent days, armed men have attacked vehicles carrying money from the Central Bank to local banks, forcing their closure.

    Libyan government officials and activists have increasingly been targeted in the violence. Gunmen kidnapped two lawmakers in the western suburbs of Tripoli a week ago and on Friday armed men abducted Abdel-Moaz Banoun, a well-known Libyan political activist in Tripoli, according to his father.

    An umbrella group for Islamist militias, called the Operation Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, said in a brief statement on its Facebook page on Friday that “troops arrested Abdel-Moaz over allegations that he served under Gadhafi” and “instigated rallies against” the Islamists.

    The post U.S. evacuates embassy in Libya amid ‘free-wheeling’ violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GRABOVO, UKRAINE - JULY 17:   Debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is shown smouldering in a field  July 17, 2014 in Grabovo, Ukraine near the Russian border. Flight 17, on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and carrying 295 passengers and crew, is believed to have been shot down by a surface-to-air missile, according to U.S. intelligence officials and Ukrainian authorities quoted in published reports. The area is under control of pro-Russian militias.  (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

    Debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is shown in a field on July 17 in Grabovo, Ukraine near the Russian border. A series of unanswered questions that remain about the downing of the flight reveals the limits of U.S. intelligence-gathering, the AP reports. Credit: Pierre Crom/Getty Images

    ASPEN, Colo. — A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence-gathering even when it is intensely focused.

    U.S. intelligence officials have used satellite imagery, intercepted conversations and social media postings to present what they call a solid circumstantial case that the plane was brought down by a Russian-made SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

    But they have not offered proof that the separatists obtained the sophisticated missile system from the Russian government. And they say they have not determined what, if any, involvement Russian operatives may have had in directing or encouraging the attack, which they believe was a mistaken attempt to hit a Ukrainian military aircraft.

    Finding such proof, they say, will take time. Moscow denies involvement.

    The post Unanswered questions about MH17 crash show limits of US intel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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