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

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    Ukraine's army on Monday seized control of part of the vast site where Malaysian airliner MH17 crashed, insurgents said, as the United Nations announced the downing of the plane could constitute a war crime. Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

    Ukraine’s army on Monday seized control of part of the vast site where Malaysian airliner MH17 crashed, insurgents said, as the United Nations announced the downing of the plane could constitute a war crime. Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s foreign minister said Monday that pro-Russian separatists are continuing to try to manipulate the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner that the United States and others have accused the rebels of shooting down.

    In an interview with The Associated Press, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said new fighting that prevented an international police team from getting to the site earlier Monday was the fault the separatists who are trying to cover up their involvement. He said a ceasefire in the area of the crash site remains a priority for authorities in Kiev.

    “For us it was an extremely important prerequisite, how to ensure the access to the crash site and how to carry out effective and transparent investigation,” he said. “But of course, it’s about the separatist activities from yesterday but also today. There is no heavy fighting as I understand but they have been trying to wipe out any sort of traces.”

    Earlier fighting raged around the debris field, once again preventing an international police team charged with securing the site from getting there. Government troops have stepped up their push to win back territory from the separatists in fighting that the United Nations said Monday has killed more than 1,100 people in four months. The delegation of Australian and Dutch police and forensic experts were stopped in Shakhtarsk, a town around 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the fields where the Boeing 777 was brought down.

    Klimkin, who is in Washington for meetings with senior officials from the Obama administration and international financial organizations, said “the critical point is firstly to ensure bilateral cease fire in the 40-kilometer radius zone around the crash site.”

    “Secondly, it’s critical to ensure that the civil police component from our partners in France, like Dutch, like Australians is there and the third point is it’s also critical that we are able to ensure the safety and security around site, not just in the 40 kilometer zone,” he said.

    However, he stressed that the government’s job was made harder because it had to deal with a constant inflow from Russia of fighters, money and weapons that are aimed at destabilizing Ukraine because of its Western leanings.

    “We are punished for our European choice,” he said, adding that the conflict would not be happening at all without Russian support.

    “It’s all going on and dragging on because of the influence of outside, because of the inflow of mercenaries, money, heavy weaponry, crossing the border,” Klimkin said. “It’s because mainly the so-called terrorists are actually Russian citizens, a number of them with special links to the Russian security services.”

    Russia has denied that it is supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry and has sought to refute Ukrainian and U.S. allegations that its forces have been shelling Ukraine from Russian territory. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry bluntly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a phone call that he did not believe Moscow’s denials, according to a State Department readout of the conversation.

    Ukraine has been accused of targeting civilians in what it says is a counter-terrorism operation in separatist areas, but Klimkin said the government is making every effort to mitigate collateral damage. And, he blamed the separatists for hiding and placing weaponry in civilian areas.

    “They normally place heavy weaponry, like tanks, like rocket-propelled grenades in the center of living blocks in order to … shell not just our troops but also civilian targets from there,” he said.

    Klimkin said he would be seeking additional support from Washington during his visit, including unspecified military equipment, but added that U.S. soldiers on the ground are not needed.

    The post Rebels still manipulating MH17 crash site, Ukraine says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user John Bezosky Jr.

    Photo by Flickr user John Bezosky Jr.

    WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it is proposing a $12 million civil fine against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply in three separate cases with safety regulations related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners.

    Beginning in 2006, Southwest made “extreme makeover” alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners, the FAA said. An FAA investigation determined that Southwest’s contractor, Aviation Technical Services Inc. of Everett, Washington, failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage as well as other work on the planes, the agency said. All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest, which was responsible for seeing that it was done properly, the FAA said.

    Southwest then returned the planes to service in 2009 and began flying them even after the FAA “put the airline on notice that these aircraft were not in compliance” with safety regulations, the agency said.

    Southwest Airlines has 30 days to respond to the proposed fine. Usually FAA officials negotiate extensively with an airline in cases of large fines before settling upon an amount. However, regulators and airline officials sometimes are unable to reach an agreement and the airline contests the fine.

    Southwest officials didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

    The post FAA proposes to fine Southwest Airlines $12 million appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Muslim women prepare for their morning prayers ahead of an Eid celebration in Burgess Park on July 28 in London, England. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

    Muslim women prepare for their morning prayers ahead of an Eid celebration in Burgess Park on July 28 in London, England. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

    Last year saw the largest displacement of religious communities from their homes in recent memory, according to a new U.S. government report assessing countries’ religious freedoms in 2013.

    The annual report issued by the State Department says, in some cases, entire neighborhoods are emptying because people feel threatened over their religious beliefs.

    Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski said differences in religious beliefs don’t tend to flare up naturally among citizens. Rather, it’s political forces seeking to maintain power who try to exploit the countries’ religious differences for their own ends.

    Some of the report’s findings show:

    The report “makes some countries, even some of our friends, uncomfortable,” said Secretary of State John Kerry at Monday’s press briefing.

    Problems in Pakistan include blasphemy laws that punish certain Muslim sects. While religious practices in Saudi Arabia are “severely restricted,” and its citizens have reported incidents of harassment and discrimination, according to the State Department’s report.

    In Iraq, extremist groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, are punishing people for not adhering to their strict version of Sharia law.

    Malinowski said even when dealing with non-state actors, such as extremist groups, the United States still holds the governments of their host countries to a “high degree of responsibility.” “Often governments through repressive practices enable the non-state groups to arise and flourish,” he said.

    Freedom of religion is at the core of what it means to be American, said Secretary Kerry, but the U.S. isn’t trying to impose its views on other countries. “We’re asking for the universal value of tolerance.”

    At the beginning of his remarks, Kerry gave an update on his efforts to broker a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said those efforts are continuing despite previous ceasefires falling apart, mostly due to confusion over how long they were supposed to last: four, 12 or 24 hours. Now, the U.S. government is working with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian factions, and other involved countries on clarifying the length of the ceasefire to give enough time for negotiations.

    Also on Monday, President Obama nominated Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein as ambassador at large for international religious freedom. He is currently director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.

    In his new post, which requires Senate confirmation, Saperstein would head the Office of International Religious Freedom, which issues the annual report.

    The post Report: Many forced from their homes due to religious beliefs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user Molly Des Jardins.

    Billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, whose family owns a pillow company, says there’s a limit to how much his wealth can buy. “I may earn a thousand times the median wage, but I don’t sleep on a thousand pillows,” he tells Paul Solman. Photo by Flickr user Molly Des Jardins.

    Editor’s Note: Nick Hanauer is a billionaire venture capitalist, who made his fortune first as one of the original investors in Amazon, and later in a web ad firm. He’s also been a strong supporter of the increased minimum wage in Seattle, which is where Making Sen$e met up with him this year reporting on his city’s fight to adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage.

    But as Hanauer has argued in a popular 2012 TED Talk, and most recently in a Politico Magazine essay, addressing income inequality, through measures like a higher minimum wage, is not simply a moral issue; it’s an economic issue because prosperity originates from having a strong middle class.

    His brand of “middle-out economics” is the subject of Paul Solman’s broadcast report on Monday’s NewsHour. In the transcript of Hanauer’s extended conversation with Paul below, the billionaire explains how we’ve misunderstood prosperity and capitalism and why the rich are reluctant to see that change.

    – Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    So what is ‘middle-out’ economics?

    So middle out economics is essentially a 21st century way of understanding how an economy works – not as this linear mechanistic system — but as an ecosystem, with the same kinds of feedback loops. The fundamental law of capitalism is if workers don’t have any money, businesses don’t have any customers; that prosperity in a capitalist economy is a consequence of a circle of feedback loops between customers and businesses, which means that a thriving middle class isn’t a consequence of prosperity. A thriving middle class is the source of prosperity in capitalist economies, which is why a policy focused on the middle class is and has always been the thing that drives prosperity and growth — not pouring money into rich people, which simply makes rich people richer.

    And so middle-out economics is the idea that if you make a policy focused on the middle class and generate demand from the middle class, you’ll both create more entrepreneurs to drive innovation, and essentially, a sale cycle and a hiring cycle for business that generates a virtuous cycle of increasing returns that benefits everybody.

    But trickledown economics is true, to some extent, right? I mean, rich people get money and then they’ve got to either spend it or, ultimately like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates here in Seattle, give it away.

    Yeah. So it is true that rich people can spend more money than middle class people, but there’s this upper limit on what we can spend. I drive a very nice car, but it’s only one car. I don’t own a thousand, even though I earn a thousand times the median wage. I have a few jackets, not a few thousand. My family can afford to go out to eat more than most American families, but not more than three times a day. We can’t go out 3,000 times a day.

    So if you concentrate wealth in the hands of a very few people, you break down this feedback loop between customers and businesses. My family, among other businesses, owns a pillow company, and the pillow business is tough because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy pillows. Again, I may earn a thousand times the median wage, but I don’t sleep on a thousand pillows.

    You need everyone to be able to afford a pillow every year in order to have a successful pillow business, and concentrating wealth at the top essentially creates a death spiral of falling demand.

    “Concentrating wealth at the top essentially creates a death spiral of falling demand.”

    The thing about a real economy is that it actually is like the game of Monopoly in the sense that when one person has all the money, the game is over. And in a game of Monopoly, of course, that’s quite charming, but in a real economy it’s much more problematic.

    What Separates Wealthy Societies from Poor Ones?

    But why can’t it be that the top 1 percent, 10 percent, 20 percent, who’ve done well in the last 20, 30 years simply trade with one another?

    Well, of course you could have an economy like that, and indeed around the world, there are many examples of economies like that. There are many countries in Africa and South America where essentially that’s what you have, but they’re horrible places to live and dangerous places to live.

    If you want to have a sustainable democracy which is prosperous, secure and enjoyable to live in, impoverishing the many to benefit the few is hardly the path to go on. If history is any lesson, at the end of the day, an economy that doesn’t work for everyone eventually will work for no-one.

    But is that necessarily true? Think of the Roman Empire — “bread and circuses.” The emperors would give bread to the people, entertain them, and they kept that game going for a very long time.

    So I allow for the possibility that the other 99 percent of American people would prefer to live in a society where 1 percent of us do very well and most people don’t, but my instinct is that that’s not really what they prefer, and I can tell you for a fact, an economic fact, that if you want prosperity and growth, the more people you include, the more prosperity and growth you have.

    It’s not by accident, for instance, that the south, which employed a slave economy, was then and continues to be much poorer than the north, which included as many people as possible, and that’s because an economy that’s inclusive is dynamic and fast growing, and an economy that is exclusive is always destined for poverty.

    And in fact, in 1776, Adam Smith wrote that the more people who participate in an economy worldwide, the more people will specialize, the more people will come up with new technology, better ways of doing things and we’ll all be better off.

    “Most people believe, mistakenly, that wealth in a human society has something to do with money, but that’s not true.”

    And indeed that’s the case. Most people believe, mistakenly, that wealth in a human society has something to do with money, but that’s not true. Money is simply a medium of exchange. Prosperity in a human society is the accumulation of solutions to human problems that we create for ourselves.

    The difference between a poor society and a wealthy one is largely the difference in the number of solutions to human problems we have available to us. And it is simply a fact that the more people you have trying to solve human problems, the more problems you are likely to solve. That’s why an inclusive economy is always more prosperous than an exclusive economy.

    Capitalism really has nothing to do with supply and demand. That’s just a mistaken idea. Capitalism works by being essentially an evolutionary solution-finding algorithm. The genius of capitalism is that it both permits and rewards people for solving other people’s problems.

    But the problem is we have structured our economy in this sort of death spirally way, where huge profitable organizations like Wal-Mart pay poverty wages to a million workers, and then taxpayers make up the difference in social services programs like food stamps and Medicaid and rent assistance, and so on and so forth. It’s as morally repugnant as it is economically inefficient.

    It’s a fact that Wal-Mart earned $27 billion in profit last year. They could afford to pay their bottom million workers $10,000 more a year, raise all of those people out of poverty, save tax payers billions of dollars, and still earn $17 billion in profit, right.

    It’s simply nuts that we have allowed this to happen. And the only way you can change things is to raise the minimum wage. Certainly the people that run Wal-Mart will not do this on their own.

    The idea that businesses will go out of business if they pay workers more is just not true, even though I understand the sort of visceral fear that some of them feel about this change.

    But you’re talking as if it’s self-evident that this is a stupid system. But these rich people, these are not stupid people, they are your friends. Why don’t they see it the same way you do?

    That’s a terrific question. Some of them do, to be clear. And my sense is that more and more wealthy people are beginning to see the economy in this different way, and they recognize that we have taken a bunch of these terrible ideas way too far, and that eventually it’s going to be bad for everybody. Of course, in a group of 100 people, there will be some people who do not care about other people, and simply are aimed at maximizing their near-term self-interest at the expense of others.

    But the truth is, and I think this is a very important point, you can’t change a society with the kindness of strangers. It takes more than a few do-gooders to create a society that systemically benefits everybody.

    Highway signs, speed limit signs are not suggestions – they are rules. If they were suggestions, it would be much more dangerous to drive, and we need to have essentially the same kind of thing in our labor markets to make sure that the most sociopathic employers are not allowed to lead a race to the bottom, that we push up the bottom in a way that benefits everybody.

    Why Rich People Balk at Changing the System

    But if it’s so clear to you that this is dysfunctional, and will hurt everybody in the end, why don’t more rich smart people agree with you?

    The facts are that this change threatens both the pocket books, but more particularly, the status of rich people. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned about litigating these issues is how emotional people can get around seeing themselves, for instance, as job creators.

    If you are a job creator, you’re very much at the center of the economic universe and everything orbits around you. And if you’re a job creator, a 15 percent tax rate on capital gains, a 15 percent tax rate on carried interest – all these things are the righteous instantiations of sensible economics. But if the middle class is the true job creator in the capitalist economy, all of those advantages and all of that status are essentially a con job.

    And a 15 percent tax on carried interest is a tax break for money managers on money that’s supposedly at risk.

    Right, yes. This is just one of the somewhat obscure elements of our tax code that massively advantages people like me. Working people pay 39 percent, investors pay 15 percent. And that differential is essentially explained away and justified by this idea that the more money people like me have, the better off you will be.

    “You have to remember people like me care a lot about status. That’s why we are where we are.”

    Of course, if it’s the other way round, that tax break makes no sense whatsoever. But these arguments don’t just threaten pocket books – they threaten status. And you have to remember people like me care a lot about status. That’s why we are where we are. And so when you mess with status, when you mess with the status of people who care about almost nothing but status…

    Because you have enough money already…

    Right, well, what’s money, other than status? And so it’s not by accident that the people with the most money and power want status and power more than other people, and so when you mess with that, people get very angry and emotional.

    You’ve used the term “sociopath” talking about, essentially, people you know or who are in your economic class. What do you mean? You don’t really mean “sociopath,” do you?

    No, well, a sociopath is a person who doesn’t care about other people. In any normal distribution of people, there will be people who don’t care about other people. And those people will often adopt a politics that justifies that behavior.

    But this idea that the more greedy we are as individuals, the better off the society is, in general, is a lie.

    If you live in a society where most people are cooperating and taking care of one another, but you don’t and no one punishes you for that, that is very advantageous, and indeed there are people in our society that do take advantage of that.

    I don’t mean to say or imply that I am somehow morally superior and that if everybody was like me we’d be better off. I reject that idea. People like me need to be forced to do the right thing.

    When you talk about a non-virtuous circle, you’re talking about people who do disproportionately well economically as a result of economic growth, and therefore start feeling that there’s a justification to what they do, and it’s self-reinforcing, and they become more sociopathic, or less cooperative?

    There’s a lot of research emerging that shows people who are wealthier have less empathy, and that’s not surprising, when you don’t experience what other people experience, the difficulties in other people’s lives. It gets harder and harder to relate to them.

    The thing I’ve learned most about poverty is how expensive it is to be poor. It’s super easy to pay rent every month if you earn enough to pay rent and have a decent job. It’s super hard to pay rent if you need a coupon from the state and then need to go find an apartment that will accept that coupon, and only that coupon. There’s a much smaller group of apartments available, and it’s just hard to do, and if you don’t have a good car to get you to and from work, then you inevitably won’t get to work, which means you’ll get fired, and then you need another job, but you won’t be able to get the new job because you got fired from the last job, and so on and so forth.

    This is a terrible, terrible problem in our society, where people like me live increasingly isolated lives; we fly in our own airplanes; we go to our own schools; we live in neighborhoods that are gated and guarded; we have our own police forces. And we live lives which are detached from the lived experience of ordinary people and we forget what the challenges are.

    The post Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Marianne Boruch

    When poet Marianne Boruch took a gross anatomy class at Purdue University, she found she had a favorite cadaver — a female who had been nearly 100 years old — of the four that were in the lab.

    “She was very moving to me, she reminded me of my grandmother. She physically was very similar and there was something about her that I felt connected to in some way… I stepped aside and let her be the speaker and it just totally opened up for me.”

    Boruch had received a fellowship that offers faculty members the chance to take a class in a discipline different but complimentary to their own. “I wanted to put myself in a weird situation to see how I would respond, something that I had absolutely no agenda for or expectations for,” said Boruch. “I took endless notes. It was pretty overwhelming, especially the cadaver lab, as people call it, the dissection lab.”

    Armed only with the cadaver’s age and gender, Boruch began inventing. She created a personality and a past for this character, who turned into the central figure of a long poem with 32 sections in her newest collection, “Cadaver, Speak”.

    “For some reason, this figure, my favorite cadaver, just pushed me aside and wanted to be the speaker,” Boruch told Art Beat.

    “I wanted to put her in that hovering state between life and death and in that transition period somehow. She’s not sentimental, she’s pretty tough-minded, she’s kind of a smart ass, she’s kind of wily, but she has other sides to her, too. I wanted to develop really a full human being if I could.”

    Listen to Marianne Boruch read sections 6 and 8 from her title poem “Cadaver, Speak.”


    What to hate most: this mummy way they’ve wrapped our heads, thick wet towels
    close, in orbit. Or the distant shock of it

    I half love. The pretense that
    they’ve blinded us. So they can work, of course,
    without our staring back. Work
    first taking down and out what’s left of us,
    gristle by gristle, siphon to sprocket, their silver probes
    in those empty bits, all new words–myfossa
    is it fossi?–where the edge of bony things once fit. Only they see
    what’s pooled there.

    But it galls me–that even my dismemberment’s
    so predictable: my back where they little-windowed out
    my spinal cord, when the slapstick flip right-side up to shoulder, arm,
    hand, on to plot my middle kingdom: liver, spleen,
    down to possible, my mother might have said,
    shooting me that look.

    Nearly a century on Earth gives a person
    permission to be crabby
    but not an idiot. When people write, I like
    sentences that turn sudden,
    unexpected. But that
    didn’t happen to me. I gave away
    then wore out my ending.

    When my family talks, the usual blah blah goes on:
    Generous. And such a good long run!
    But I never ran,
    not ever.


    I did go to college. Nothing fancy,
    one of those normal schools. I was proud
    of that smart enough, up
    from the one-room schoolhouse, the old story–
    a girl off the farm
                                              sort of a rarity. It wasn’t exactly.

    I liked words. I liked
    to read–Aesop’s Fables, Housman. Frost by heart,
    the story ones especially. I loved metaphor
    though nothing’s really like anything else. I loved Trollope
    and Dickens. Not Jane Austin–
                                                                                she lied. Things don’t

    mainly end up best though there’s a chance
    with better. I taught school some. Didn’t care for that, no.
    You have to be bossy. You have to be
    certain about stars and how words rhyme, how
    dollars cartwheel up and over and again
                                                                                                to make Johnny rich.

    I just kept reading.
    So what’s this fellow got to say all the time? my husband said,
    holding my Frost to his ear, shaking it
    like a box a voice might fall out of. You should
    write your secrets too!
                                                      No secrets
    , I said. But I

    thought about things alone
    and eyed my girls like scientists as they grew–
    if too much sleep would make them
    stupid, if their quarrels were tied to weather, a beautiful day
    and its boredom until
                                                        the spark and flash

    of one simple meanness
    bloomed sharp between them, for a change.
    Change means: what happens
    in secret. I happened, they happened, she he it happens,
    a day, then a next day.
                                                         Oh to write, the way people do.

    The 99-year-old cadaver might have been the poet’s favorite in class, but when Boruch turned her into a character, their relationship changed.

    “I began to understand how fiction writers fall in love with their characters and just want to hang out with them. And never want to go eat dinner even — they want to just stay there and keep writing and be in the company of their character.”

    During the writing process, Boruch was also surrounded by her class notes and a textbook about dissecting that she claims is similar to the one John Keats used in the 1820s — dissection practices haven’t changed all that much.

    That information is apparent in the poem, where she brings in anecdotes from her notes, medical information and quotes from the students. She also brings herself into the piece, referring to herself as “the quiet one.”

    “My cadaver likes everyone in the lab but me. She thinks I’m kind of a pain in the ass and sort of too arty and making all these comments all the time.”

    Boruch ended up learning a lot about the body, but she also learned a lot about her craft.

    “(The faces) were beautiful because they all looked like renaissance drawings, as my ‘quiet one’ says in the piece. Then, (the students) started skinning the faces because they had to do that and working on the head in this way to see the muscle structure and the nerves in the face and so on,” said Boruch.

    “That was so alarming to me. I just started making metaphors, as is depicted in the poem. I realized that metaphor had a real function; it was a way to get distance from it, to make it seem bearable. No, they’re not skinning him, they’re shaving his face … Metaphor has a real healing function and I never thought about metaphor like that before. It’s not just ornamental, it really is to make the strange and make it familiar.”

    Sections 6 and 8 from “Cadaver, Speak” by Marianne Boruch. Published in 2014 by Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission Copper Canyon Press.

    The post Weekly Poem: Marianne Boruch brings life to her ‘favorite cadaver’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Hague's Permanent Court for Arbitration ruled Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's government had not acted in good faith when it brought massive tax claims against Yukos in 2003. Photo by Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images

    The Hague’s Permanent Court for Arbitration ruled Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government had not acted in good faith when it brought massive tax claims against Yukos in 2003. Photo by Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images

    With more than $50 billion on the line, Russia will appeal an international court ruling that handed down the biggest compensation package to date.

    The Hague’s Permanent Court for Arbitration ruled Monday that Russia owed more than $50 billion to shareholders of former oil giant Yukos for legal manipulations that bankrupted the company.

    The decision stated that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s government had not acted in good faith when it brought the massive tax claims against Yukos in 2003 that eventually led to the imprisonment of its CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the seizure of the company’s main assets by the Kremlin.

    Yukos was the largest oil producer in Russia at the time and the actions of the Russian government were widely considered to be President Putin’s retribution for Khodorkovsky’s funding of opposition parties challenging Putin’s power.

    Shareholders of GML (formerly known as Group Menatep Ltd.) — once the biggest investor in Yukos — brought the suit against the Russian government. Although the award still fell more than $50 billion short of what they were asking for in lost revenue, GML director Tim Osborne called the ruling a “slam dunk.” He also acknowledged that enforcing it may prove difficult.

    Monday’s ruling adds tension to the declining relations between Russia and the West over Russia’s handling of the Ukraine crisis. The Hague’s decision could also put increased pressure on the Russian economy as the United States and Europe debate new sanctions in response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the separatist-controlled region of eastern Ukraine.

    Russian’s main stock index fell about 2 percent. State-owned oil company Rosneft, which bought Yukos’ most important assets after the company declared bankruptcy, saw shares fall by just over 2 percent.

    Russia’s Finance Ministry declared the ruling was “flawed,” “one-sided” and “politically biased,” adding that it believed The Hague did not have the jurisdiction to decide the case.

    Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov promised that his country intended to dispute the court’s ruling. “Authorities who are representing Russia in this trial will use all possible legal means to defend their position,” Lavrov said.

    The post Russia plans to fight $50 billion lawsuit over former oil giant appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Social Security expert Larry Kotlikoff shares his concerns about the Social Security system with the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security on Tuesday, Flickr user kps-photo.com.

    Social Security expert Larry Kotlikoff shares his concerns about the Social Security system with the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security on Tuesday, Flickr user kps-photo.com.

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

    Editor’s Note: Social Security columnist Larry Kotlikoff is testifying before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security on Tuesday, July 29. He wanted to share a portion of his prepared remarks, edited and condensed below, with Making Sen$e readers first.

    Kotlikoff makes the case, as he has on this page many times before, that Social Security is insolvent. They system, which is 32 percent underfunded, is in worse shape than Detroit’s pension system, he says.

    The growth of Social Security’s off-the-books debt burdens future generations of Americans, and Kotlikoff reminds Congress that the fiscal gap, more than the official debt, represents the true hole in our nation’s finances. He wants Social Security benefits to be counted in that official debt to provide a more accurate picture of America’s fiscal burdens.

    The system’s complexities contribute to what Kotlikoff sees as inequities, with Social Security often ripping off poor people. Why can’t the U.S. system be as simple as New Zealand’s, Kotlikoff has asked, although he’d prefer Congress adopt his own Purple Plan to reform Social Security.

    And then there’s the fact that the Social Security Administration can’t be counted on to provide a full picture of individuals’ and couples’ optimal benefit collection strategies, whether that advice is over the phone or online. Too often, Social Security calculators low ball benefit estimates. In short, America’s Social Security system needs to retire, Kotlikoff argues.

    We fast forward past these fiscal concerns and pick up with Kotlikoff’s advice about when to claim benefits and how they’re administered. He touches on the Social Security “gotchas” all Americans and their representatives need to know, including the secret about “deeming,” and he addresses policy questions about the file-and-suspend strategy.

    – Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    The Importance of How and When Someone Chooses to Claim Benefits

    If you get the right Social Security information and make the right decisions, you can get far more benefits than if you don’t. Let me illustrate the dollars at stake in making the right decisions.

    Consider a 62-year-old couple that’s contributed the maximum amount to the system each year they worked. If they do what far too many people do, namely take their retirement benefits at the earliest possible date (age 62), their lifetime benefits will total $1.2 million. But if they wait until 70 to collect and if A) one of the two spouses files for a retirement benefit at full retirement age, but suspends its collection, B) the other spouse files just for a spousal benefit, and C) both spouses take their retirement benefit at 70, the couple’s lifetime benefits total $1.6 million. The $400,000 difference is enormous. It’s also at the upper end of the dollar gain that making smart Social Security decisions can result in. For most households, the increase in lifetime benefits from maximizing Social Security is either smaller or much smaller. But they are generally significant for all households.

    Where are the gains coming from? In the main, the gains are coming from waiting a relatively small number of years to collect much higher benefits for potentially a very long number of years. Social Security will tell you that, on an actuarial basis, when you take your benefits is pretty much a wash. But none of us are insurance companies. We have only one life to live. And we have to plan to live to our maximum ages of life for the simple reason that we might. Because of this longevity risk, Social Security can’t be valued as a standard investment. It’s a longevity insurance policy, and its value to households has to incorporate the value of this insurance.


    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    Economic research on this valuation problem dates back 60 years. This research tells us to value a household’s Social Security benefits using simple discounting — in other words, without applying actuarial factors.

    Valuing insurance products in a special manner is not restricted to longevity insurance. To see this, consider valuing homeowners insurance. No one values homeowners insurance simply as an investment. Were we to do so, we’d apply actuarial/break-even analysis and conclude that buying homeowners insurance doesn’t pay.

    What Factors Does a Worker Need to Consider in Determining When to Claim Social Security Benefits?

    This is another important question. The answer is multifaceted. There are so many different and major factors that come into play that it would take a book to fully respond. Instead, let me illustrate, via examples, three of the many factors workers need to consider.

    The first factor is that workers need to understand the benefits for which they may be eligible. Take my friend Jerry, who is 65 years old and a high earner. His wife recently passed away. When we were having dinner in January, he told me he planned to retire at 70 and take his Social Security at that time. He had no idea that he could collect widower benefits based on his deceased wife’s earnings record, which was quite high. Indeed, he was astounded when I told him that by taking his widows benefit starting at age 66, when the earnings test no longer applies, he would be able to collect roughly $120,000 prior to age 70. Needless to say, he paid for dinner.

    Now why should my friend, who by chance learned about his rights to collect widower benefits, receive an extra $120,000 from the system whereas someone in his same shoes would have, out of ignorance, lost $120,000 for good? This is an example of the capricious and unjust redistribution and inequity arising from Social Security’s terrible complexity.

    My second example involves a marvelous doctor, whom I met by shear accident. The example illustrates the need to know how benefits are calculated. The doctor is age 68. One month ago, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He figures he has two years left to live. He’s married, his wife is 64, and she had a very limited earnings history. Upon learning his diagnosis, the doctor went to the local Social Security office where the representative told him he should try to get as much out of the system as possible before he passes away and that he should immediately begin collecting his retirement benefit.

    The doctor followed this advice and signed up for his retirement benefit. It was the wrong advice. In taking his retirement benefit before age 70, the doctor reduced his wife’s future widows benefit by 16 percent. Neither the doctor nor the Social Security representative understood that the delayed retirement credits the doctor would accrue between ages 68 and 70 would extend to the wife in the form of a higher widows benefit. Had I not accidentally met this doctor, who is now suspending his retirement benefit, his wife would have spent, perhaps decades, receiving 16 percent lower widows benefit than would otherwise have been the case.

    A third thing that workers need to know in collecting benefits is that they can’t trust much of anything they read online from Social Security or are told at the local office. I get emails on a daily basis from people who tell me they were misled by Social Security personnel. Here is an email I just received from Donna Strong, a divorcée living in Huntington Beach, California.


    I’m currently 63. My ex is older than me and has earned much more. Over the past year, I tried to determine what benefits I could collect. I spoke with three different Social Security reps. One told me I couldn’t receive divorcée spousal benefits unless my ex applied before 66, and since my ex is quite well off, I knew that wouldn’t happen. This, I discovered, was wrong. All my ex needs to be is over 62 for me to collect a spousal benefit on his work record — provided we are divorced for two years (which we are). So I got that right. But no one told me about deeming. I applied for my retirement benefit five months back thinking I’d be able to collect my full spousal benefit at 66.

    I just learned about deeming and that I was, without my knowledge, forced to take my divorcée spousal benefit early. Had I been made aware that I would be deemed and forced to take a permanently reduced spousal benefit, I would never have applied for an early retirement benefit. People really shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of stress to receive a benefit for their retirement. I do also acknowledge that with Social Security cutting its hours, providing less training and more turnover, the situation is guaranteed to get worse for us all.


    Let me conclude my testimony by answering several questions either raised by subcommittee staff or posed by me.

    How can Social Security’s rules for the file-and-suspend strategy and “deemed” filing affect the benefits someone receives? Do most Americans know about these provisions?

    The file-and-suspend strategy can be used by one spouse to help another spouse file exclusively for a spousal benefit once that other spouse reaches full retirement age. But it can also be used by workers to accrue delayed retirement credits while leaving open the option of taking one’s suspended benefits as a lump sum if there is a sudden need for a large infusion of cash. File-and-suspend is not the only way that a spouse can receive a full spousal benefit at full retirement age while letting his or her own retirement benefit continue to grow via the accumulation of delayed retirement credits. If one’s spouse has filed for, but not suspended his or her retirement benefit, one can collect a full spousal benefit at full retirement age. Also, divorced spouses can collect full divorcée spousal benefits starting at full retirement age without anyone having filed for and suspended a retirement benefit.

    “Deemed” filing can force spouses and divorced spouses to file for their spousal benefits early if they file for their retirement benefits early and force them to file for their retirement benefit early if they file for their spousal benefit early. This provision keeps people who file early from being able to collect one benefit first while letting the other benefit grow.
    Most people appear not to know about these and many other Social Security provisions. But those that do are not necessarily taking advantage of the system. One can argue that all the benefits that people can collect based on their own and their current and former spouses’ contributions to the system were fully paid for by those contributions. In this case, the injustice is not in people claiming all their benefits, but rather in many people not knowing enough about the system to ensure that they get back what they paid for.

    What are common questions workers ask when trying to decide when to apply for benefits?

    It’s common for workers to ask no questions at all. Instead, they figure out when is the earliest date they can take their retirement benefit and apply at that date. They appear to have little or no idea about their eligibility for spousal, widow(er), divorcée spousal and divorced widow(er) benefits, little or no idea about deeming provisions, little or no idea about delayed retirement credits, file-and-suspend options, start-stop-start strategies, family benefit maximums, the adjustment of the reduction factor, which can mitigate the earnings test, and the list goes on.

    Should we eliminate the option to file and suspend?

    Social Security is such a maze of provisions that it is very difficult to claim that one option, like “file and suspend,” is either fair or unfair. It certainly benefits certain households. But those households that benefit can, as indicated above, be viewed simply as being given the same benefit collection opportunities as other households who don’t need to use file and suspend to, for example, get a full spousal benefit or provide their spouse with a full spousal benefit.

    Certainly, restricting “file and suspend” for high-income households, as President Obama proposed in his budget, will save the system money. But the system is so broke and so poorly structured that only a truly radical reform will cure what really ails it.

    Should we eliminate deeming?

    Deeming is a particularly nasty gotcha that differentially harms lower-earning households that can’t afford to wait until full retirement age to collect a full spousal benefit while letting their own retirement benefit accrue delayed retirement credits. Presumably those who thought up deeming had their reasons. But at least to me, deeming is just another crazy Social Security provision that traps unsuspecting workers like Donna and makes the system complex beyond any reasonable person’s belief.

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    WASHINGTON — The United States and European Union plan to impose new sanctions against Russia this week, including penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy, the White House said Monday.

    The show of Western solidarity followed a joint video teleconference between President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy. The West has been moving for several days toward tougher sanctions after the downing of a passenger jet in eastern Ukraine, an attack the U.S. says was carried out by Russian-backed separatists in the region.

    The U.S. and European sanctions are likely to target Russia’s energy, arms and financial sectors. The EU is also weighing the prospect of levying penalties on individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be deepening Russia’s role in destabilizing Ukraine.

    “It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures, and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week,” said Tony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

    Europe, which has a stronger trade relationship with Russia than the U.S., has lagged behind Washington with its earlier sanctions package, in part out of concern from leaders that the penalties could have a negative impact on their own economies. But a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said following Monday’s call that the West agreed that the EU should move a “strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”

    The U.S. penalties are expected to be imposed after Europe finalizes its next moves.

    As the West presses ahead with new sanctions, U.S. officials say Russia is getting more directly involved in the clash between separatists and the Ukrainian government. Blinken said Russia appeared to be using the international attention focused on the downed Malaysia Airlines plane as “cover and distraction” while it moves more heavy weaponry over its border and into Ukraine.

    “We’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peace-keeping intervention in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “So there’s urgency to arresting this.”

    Nearly 300 people were killed when the Malaysian plane was shot down by a missile on July 17. The West blames the separatists for the missile attack and Russia for supplying the rebels with equipment that can take down a plane.

    Other leaders participating in Monday’s call were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The White House said the leaders also discussed the stalled efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the need for Iraq to form a more inclusive government and the uptick in security threats in Libya.

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    GWEN IFILL: A brief pause in violence between Israel and Hamas came to an abrupt end today. A Palestinian park and a hospital were hit by Israeli strikes. Among the dead were nine children. The overall death toll from three weeks of fighting grew to 1,050 Palestinians and on the Israeli side 52 soldiers and three civilians.

    Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV showed a frantic scene outside Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, the wounded from the blast at a nearby park being rushed inside for treatment. Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli airstrike, while an Israeli army spokesman pointed to misfired Hamas rockets from inside Gaza. The park attack occurred just minutes after Shifa’s outpatient clinic was hit, wounding several people.

    In Southern Israel, the Israeli military reported that four of their soldiers were killed in a mortar strike by Hamas and another five were killed in combat in Gaza. At a midnight meeting, the United Nations Security Council called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire.

    This morning in New York, the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, reiterated that, calling for the protection of civilians.

    BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, United Nations: We cannot continue to see many people continuing to be killed like this way. Why these leaders are making their people to be killed by others? It’s not — it’s not responsible, morally wrong.

    GWEN IFILL: Ban added that more than 173,000 Gazans are seeking shelter at U.N. facilities, 10 percent of the total population.

    In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry added to the growing calls for a true cease-fire. Gaza, he said, must be demilitarized.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We also believe that any — any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups. And we will work closely with Israel and regional partners and the international community in support of this goal.

    GWEN IFILL: In a televised address today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country should be — quote — “ready for a prolonged campaign” — unquote — in the Gaza Strip.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): We knew that we would have difficult days. This is a difficult and painful day. Stamina and determination are required in order to continue in the struggle against a murderous terrorist group that aspires to destroy us.

    GWEN IFILL: Speaking with PBS’ Charlie Rose in Doha, Qatar, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Israel must end its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

    KHALED MESHAAL, Hamas Leader (through interpreter): I’m ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and with the Arabs and non-Arabs and with those who agree with my ideas and those who disagree with them.

    However, I do not coexist with the occupiers, with the settlers, and those who…

    CHARLIE ROSE, Host, “The Charlie Rose Show”: It’s one thing to say you want to coexist with the Jews. It’s another thing you want to coexist with the state of Israel. Do you want to coexist with the state of Israel? Do you want to represent — do you want to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

    KHALED MESHAAL (through interpreter): No. I said I do not want to live with a state of occupiers.

    GWEN IFILL: The day’s violence came as Muslims observed the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

    That Charlie Rose interview you just saw a portion of will air in its entirety on most PBS stations later tonight. We will return to the situation in the Middle East after this news summary, with a focus on why there appears to be no diplomatic end in sight.

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    GWEN IFILL: The latest battle between Hamas and Israel has raged for nearly three weeks, as efforts to broker a cease-fire, including Secretary of State Kerry’s whirlwind trips to the region, have fallen short.

    So, why is it difficult — why is it proving to be so difficult to bring a halt to the violence?

    For that, we turn to Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He’s written extensively about the Arab-Israeli peace process. And Mark Perry, a writer and foreign policy analyst who’s covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for over two decades.

    Mark Perry, this renewed conflict seems especially intractable this time. You have been in contact over the years with representatives of Hamas. What are they saying? Why is this so tough?

    MARK PERRY, Writer: Because their request, their demand, their conditions for an end of the conflict have not been met. And they have one condition and one condition only. And that’s an end to the siege of Gaza.

    It’s absolutely out of the question for Israel, Israel says, to do this. It’s what the secretary tried to get Israel to agree to. They wouldn’t. And so tonight, sadly, this conflict continues. I don’t think it’s going to end in the short-term, and I don’t think Hamas is going to give in to Israel’s demands.

    GWEN IFILL: Robert Satloff, what do you think the major sticking points have been?

    ROBERT SATLOFF, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Well, the most significant sticking point is that Hamas continues rocket fire, that Hamas continues to use its underground tunnels and attack civilians in Israel.

    When that ends and when there is an agreement on the path toward disarming Hamas, this will end. The Israelis accepted two cease-fire proposals along the last three weeks. Hamas rejected them. When there’s a cease-fire that brings an end to the actual fire, it’s over.

    GWEN IFILL: I will start with you, but I want you both to answer this question. What does either side have to gain or lose from a prolonged conflict, as this is turning into, starting with you, Mr. Satloff?

    ROBERT SATLOFF: Well, a prolonged conflict is never in Israel’s interest. Israel is a small country surrounded by enemies. It is a civilian army of a people’s army. So it doesn’t want to get into conflict. And I think everybody around the world saw the long hesitation before the decision was made to use ground forces in Gaza.

    Israel, once it went in, and then it discovered not just the rocket fire, but also the tunnels that were coming out into Israeli communities, into villages and…

    GWEN IFILL: They didn’t know about those tunnels before?

    ROBERT SATLOFF: They knew that there were tunnels, but nobody knew the extent, the number, the sophistication and the coordination amongst all the tunnels, that the potential for a dramatic event of many different villages and communities being attacked in kindergartens and schools, not by rockets, but by terrorists coming up from within these buildings.

    The Israelis across-the-board, 90 percent of Israelis urged the government to go in and finish the job. The government actually has been reluctant to send in troops to finish Hamas, because that’s not what their goals. They want to end what Hamas is doing and deny them the means, the rearming — the acquisition of more rockets and more ability to attack further. That’s what their goal is.

    GWEN IFILL: Mark, same question to you. What does Hamas have to gain or lose from allowing this prolonged conflict to continue, not agreeing to a cease-fire?

    MARK PERRY: Their freedom, a state, respect of the international community, a retrenchment of their land in Gaza and the West Bank, a flag, a parliament, self-determination.

    This is what the Palestinians have always wanted and been denied for 60 years. It’s not going to be solved militarily. It’s going to be solved politically. Israel undermined the peace process, derided our secretary of state and continues to do so. There were three Israelis who were killed, sadly, unfortunately, kidnapped. It’s not clear that Hamas did it, but Israel decided to launch this war. And here we are.

    GWEN IFILL: You said Hamas wants to be a state, but it is not a state currently.

    GWEN IFILL: Would it make a difference in this?

    MARK PERRY: Yes, Hamas is one of the political parties that joined a national unity government before the outbreak of these hostilities. There was no Hamas member in the cabinet of that national unity government.

    They were willing to cooperate with Mahmoud Abbas in forming a government. And they have said time and again they’re willing to negotiate. But they won’t negotiate for their rights. And they joined a unity government to prove that. And they have been repudiated by Israel.

    GWEN IFILL: How about how — go ahead.

    ROBERT SATLOFF: Well, look, I think, to be accurate, we should recognize that we are not dispassionately looking at two equal combatants here.

    One is a democratic ally. The other is a terrorist organization. Mark just described the Palestinian Authority as being a negotiating partner. And with John Kerry and the Israelis and the Mahmoud Abbas, there were important, diplomacy — but Hamas opposes that peace.

    It opposes the idea of a solution with any Israel, big, small, any Israel. Their goal is to kill Israeli civilians.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you about the John Kerry piece. You brought it up, Mark Perry. Usually, when a United States secretary of state goes to a region and attempts to broker a peace, he’s seen as a fair and honest broker. That doesn’t appear to be the case right now. Why is that?

    MARK PERRY: Sadly, I think that our relations with Israel are strained. I think that John Kerry was an honest broker attempting to get a cease-fire, worked tirelessly and I think courageously, to do it.

    And you hear now in the Israeli press about how he was on the side of Hamas, how he was with Qatar and Turkey, how he undermined Israel. It’s really painful to see a close friend, an ally of the United States like Israel call names, point fingers at the secretary of state. I think he did his best.

    And the cease-fire proposal that is on the table, that he put on the table by asking Turkey and Qatar what Hamas wanted, an ends to the siege, is — in fact, it was called today in Haaretz — a cease-fire that Israel should and could accept, that it was the best deal that they have seen in 10 years.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Robert Satloff, what is your take on why Secretary Kerry has not been warmly welcomed by an old ally?

    ROBERT SATLOFF: Well, let me quote David Ignatius from tomorrow’s Washington Post. You can read tomorrow’s newspaper these days.

    GWEN IFILL: Just tell me about it now.

    ROBERT SATLOFF: And it is that he says that John Kerry pushed too fast, instead of getting what should be inside this agreement, namely, disarmament.

    Three key elements to an agreement, stopping the rockets, ending the tunnels and a path toward disarmament, if that had all been within the agreement, the deal would have been sown up. Instead, the idea was to kick that down the road. Indeed, in your — in the original quote that we saw in the clip, he talks about an eventual path to disarmament. Put disarmament in the deal now, the deal is done.

    GWEN IFILL: Does a deal get done if disarm is in the deal, from Hamas’ world view?

    MARK PERRY: Well, it’s interesting that we are hearing about disarmament and demilitarization now. Three weeks ago, when Israel started this offensive, we didn’t hear about it.

    And the reason we’re hearing it now from the secretary of state and from Israel is that the disarmament and demilitarization of Gaza Strip, because of Israel’s offensive, has failed. Israel cannot defeat Hamas. This is an intractable quagmire for Israel. They are going to have a hard time extricating themselves from it.

    GWEN IFILL: Who has the leverage, whether it’s the U.S., Qatar or Turkey, somebody in this, to get everybody off the dime?

    ROBERT SATLOFF: The key leverage is Egypt and Israel, because what Hamas wants, only those two parties can provide.

    Hamas wants access. They want to survive. Only the Egyptians and the Israelis control the area around Hamas. Turkey, Qatar, everybody else, essentially irrelevant.

    GWEN IFILL: But Hamas doesn’t trust Egypt.

    MARK PERRY: And Egypt doesn’t trust Hamas. And General Sisi is an enemy of Hamas.

    But Sisi has a street. And the Egyptian street and the Arab street is very clearly here turning against Israel. I think Europe is turning against Israel. This offensive has turned out to be political nightmare for Israel. So, sooner or later…

    GWEN IFILL: But the U.S. is not turning against the Israelis?

    MARK PERRY: No, we’re not. And I don’t think we will.

    But, sooner or later, Sisi is going to come to the table and say, all right, what do we need to do? He doesn’t want to have a conflict on his border. And he’s going — I agree with Robert. It’s going to be Cairo and it’s going to be Sisi and Egypt that really lays out how we get to a cease-fire.

    GWEN IFILL: All right, we will be watching to see who makes the next move.

    Mark Perry, Robert Satloff, thank you both very much.

    ROBERT SATLOFF: Thank you.

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    Veteran Affairs Clinics To Be Audited After Patient Deaths At Phoenix Hospital

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lawmakers did something today that has become rare in this Congress, reach a compromise. House and Senate negotiators found that common ground over reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bipartisan breakthrough to try and improve patient care at the VA came after weeks of tough talks to merge competing proposals passed by the two chambers last month.

    The chairs of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees announced the deal at a joint news conference this afternoon on Capitol Hill.

    Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont:

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I, Vt.: Rather than go through why we didn’t do this a month ago and get it done, the important point is we are here together having done something that happens quite rarely in the United States Congress. So, I’m proud of what we accomplished.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Their total $17 billion proposal would provide $10 billion for veterans to seek out private doctors if they are unable to get an appointment within 30 days or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, provide $5 billion to hire additional doctors and nurses, and another $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics around the country.

    The agreement comes months after allegations first surfaced that the VA manipulated the appointment schedule at facilities in Phoenix and elsewhere to hide long wait times for veterans. The controversy ultimately led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, amid an outcry from lawmakers in both parties.

    The Senate is expected to vote by the end of the week on the nomination of former Procter & Gamble chief executive Robert McDonald to take over the department, which has more than 300,000 employees. Sanders and House Committee Chair Jeff Miller of Florida said they expect both chambers to vote on their plan before lawmakers leave Friday for a five-week recess.

    Here to explain their proposal and provide insight into the problems facing the VA, we are joined by Senator Bernie Sanders. He’s the independent from Vermont and he’s chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. And Representative Jeff Miller, he’s a Republican congressman from Florida and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

    Gentlemen, we welcome you both.

    Congressman Miller, to you first. How did you arrive at these numbers? I ask because the last time the Congressional Budget Office took a look at what Congress was proposing, they came back with an estimate much higher than what you had thought.

    REP. JEFF MILLER, R, Fla.: Well, it was.

    And a lot of that money was dealing with the choice portion of the bill. We feel like CBO was wildly off on their estimate. We asked them to re-estimate. The number came down a little more. We still think that it’s not going to cost as much as they estimate.

    So we are willing to look in a $10 billion number to start with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Sanders, it does appear that this amount of money is less than what you originally proposed, as I understand it, over three years. What makes you believe it’s going to do its job, that it’s going to make the difference that you think needs to be made?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I absolutely don’t think it’s enough money to do the job. But I think it’s a very, very good thought. I think it will give the VA what it needs in its first year, in terms of going out and getting the doctors and the nurses and the medical personnel and the space that they need to provide quality to care to our veterans in a timely manner.

    Frankly, between you and me, I think we are going to be back discussing this next year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Literally that quickly?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think so.

    And I think that the needs of the VA and the needs of the veteran community are very, very significant. Judy, we’re talking about a VA system in which, in the last four years a million-and-a-half more people have come into the system. You’re dealing with 500,000 people have come home from Iraq an Afghanistan with PTSD and TBI.

    You’re dealing with an older veterans population from World War II and Korea who need some difficult medical help. So my hope is and my belief is that what we have done is a really good start. We want to see the VA get its act together. We want to see it be more efficient. We want to see doctors go to where they’re needed. But I have the feeling in a year, in a year-and-a-half, we are going to have to continue this discussion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Representative Miller, do you think you’re going to be back at this next year too?

    REP. JEFF MILLER: Well, I would expect that we may come back, but this is one of the differences between the chairman and myself.

    I think the choice option is critical to give the veteran an opportunity, if they choose to do so, to opt out. We have done that in this particular piece of legislation for those that have been waiting in line, and particularly for those that live 40 miles or more from a VA facility.

    We believe that this is an important first step. But I will tell you, neither one of us believe that you can fix the culture from within by just throwing money and people at the system. There has to be a systemic change within the system. And I hope that the new secretary, once he is confirmed, will begin that process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying this bill will make some difference, but you’re saying bigger changes are going to have to come from somewhere else?

    REP. JEFF MILLER: Well, I think one of the first steps — and I’m glad we were able to reach, again, a bipartisan agreement — is an accountability side.

    People are still shocked to find out that many of the same people that have been involved in really lying about the numbers in regards to wait time are still on the job. What we have done is we have come up with a crafted piece of bipartisanship that will, in fact, give the secretary the ability to fire those that have lied to him with an appeal process built in.

    And I think that that will send a clear message to those who want to fudge the numbers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Sanders, do you believe this is going to pass the Congress this week?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I am quite confident it is going to pass the Senate, because I know that virtually every member of the Senate understands we just cannot turn our back on men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend us and who are hurting today.

    It really would be an obscenity to go home in August and not address this issue. So I’m confident it’s going to pass the Senate. And I will let Jeff make the determination as to what happens in the House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Miller, what do you think about the House?  I heard you say at the news conference today that your background as a salesperson is going to come in handy because you’re going to have to do some education I think is the way you put it of some of your fellow Republicans.

    REP. JEFF MILLER: Well, and, Judy, that particularly deals with some of the more conservative members and trying to educate them and describe how we arrived at this particular number to agree upon to bring forth in the conference committee.

    I believe that both sides of the aisle, both Democrat and Republican, will support this in very large numbers. The important thing — and it’s a date that Senator Sanders and I had set out really early on — and that was to finish this conference report, have it voted on by both sides of the Capitol Building and then send it on to the president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you do think you’re going to get it through the House; is that what I hear?

    REP. JEFF MILLER: Oh, I have no expectations of anything less than passage by a wide margin.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Sanders, it’s so unusual to see an agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the Congress.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the secret? Because just a few days ago, the two of you, you and Congressman Miller, were at odds over at least a big part of this.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Look, here’s the problem that we have.

    I mean, it’s no great secret, number one, in my view, and I think the view of most Americans, that Congress itself is pretty dysfunctional. We are not addressing the real needs of the American people. And second of all, philosophically, there is a huge division between the House and the Senate.

    But what I think Congressman Miller and I understood is that failure in this sense wasn’t an option. It would be reprehensible, it really would make me sick to think that we would go home and not address the very serious problems facing the veterans community. And I think Congressman Miller shared that same perspective.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Miller, so do you have a secret you want to share with others seeking consensus on Capitol Hill, or was this just a one-off proposition here?

    REP. JEFF MILLER: No. And I think Senator Sanders and I both can be as partisan as needed during particular debates.

    But in this issue as it relates to the wait times with veterans, partisanship wasn’t appropriate. We worked as hard as we could. Even during the time when the press was making out like this particular conference report was dead, we continued to talk to each other. Our staffs were negotiating back and forth.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So no advice for the others in Congress seeking consensus?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, they should have great personalities as we do. That’s what it is.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will take that. We will take that for an answer.

    Senator Sanders, Congressman Jeff Miller, we appreciate it. Thank you both.

    REP. JEFF MILLER: Thank you.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you.

    The post Lawmakers announce bipartisan breakthrough on VA health care reform appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Tens of thousands of immigrants, many of them minors, have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing a humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    Tens of thousands of immigrants, many of them minors, have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing a humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans have agreed to vote on a slimmed-down bill to address the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border by sending in National Guard troops and speeding unaccompanied migrant youths back to Central America.

    The bill will cost $659 million through the end of this fiscal year, far smaller than the $3.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama and a sharp reduction from the $1.5 billion initially proposed by the House spending committee.

    The cuts were designed to win over skeptical conservatives and give lawmakers something they could pass before leaving Washington at the end of this week for their annual August recess.

    “I think there’s sufficient support in the House to move this bill,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Tuesday after meeting with rank-and-file lawmakers on the issue. “We have a little more work to do though.”

    Boehner said the bill would come to a vote on Thursday.

    Numerous House Republicans have said in recent weeks that they did not want to go back to their districts to face voters without acting to deal with the crisis of tens of thousands of kids and teens showing up at the South Texas border, many fleeing vicious gangs and trying to reunite with family members.

    Lawmakers said Tuesday that the measure appeared to enjoy widespread support, although some conservatives said they remained opposed.

    “Frankly, we need to show that we can act and act thoughtfully, responsibly and quickly,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. “Clean up the mess that the administration has created. I think the worst thing for us would have been to write a blank check which the president wanted us to do.”

    Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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    Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — In the latest effort to sidetrack Obamacare, a federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge by a conservative group that said Congress imposed new taxes unconstitutionally when it created the Affordable Care Act.

    The Pacific Legal Foundation and a small-business owner, Matt Sissel, argued that the Affordable Care Act is a bill for raising revenue and that it violated the Origination Clause of the Constitution because it began in the Senate, not the House. The Constitution requires that legislation to raise revenue must start in the House.

    In a 3-0 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit says that rather than being a revenue-raising device, it is beyond dispute that the paramount aim of Obamacare is to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care.

    “The Supreme Court has held from the early days of this nation that revenue bills are those that levy taxes in the strict sense of the word, and are not bills for other purposes which may incidentally create revenue,” appeals judge Judith Rogers ruled.

    The challengers to the law said it began in the Senate when Majority Leader Harry Reid took an unrelated House bill and inserted language that became the Affordable Care Act. The original measure was designed to help veterans buy homes.

    Appeals judge Judith Rogers, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, wrote the opinion for the court. The other two judges in the case — Cornelia Pillard and Robert Wilkins — are appointees of President Barack Obama.

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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced Tuesday a new round of sanctions on energy, finance and arms sectors of Russia that would leave a bigger impact on the country’s already weak economy.

    The post Obama announces a new round of Russia sanctions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    NASA's Opportunity rover took an image of the 'Lunokhod 2' Crater on Mars. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

    NASA’s Opportunity rover took an image of the ‘Lunokhod 2′ Crater on Mars. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

    NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity has now traversed 25.01 miles on the surface of the Red Planet, setting a new record for off-Earth distance traveled.

    The Exploration Rover rolled 157 feet on Sunday, bringing its odometer reading officially over 25 miles. The previous record for extraterrestrial land travel was set by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover that landed on the moon in 1973 and drove 24.2 miles.

    Opportunity has been on Mars since January, 2004. If it can travel another 1.1 miles, it will reach an exploration point scientists have dubbed “Marathon Valley;” named for the 26.2 mile distance from where the rover landed.

    Opportunity is not the only NASA rover currently exploring the Martian surface. Mars rover Curiosity landed in 2012 and is engaged in analyzing mineral and atmospheric data as well as providing NASA with thousands of photographs for study. Curiosity discovered evidence of ancient stream beds and fresh water deposits on the planet, leading researchers to believe Mars once possessed conditions suitable for life.

    NASA says that the future and ongoing rover missions to Mars are part of gaining information and experience to prepare for a manned expedition to the planet in the 2030s.

    Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

    The post Mars Rover sets extraterrestrial distance record appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    VA secretary nominee Robert McDonald with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on July 17, 2014. Photo by U.S. Senate

    VA secretary nominee Robert McDonald with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on July 17, 2014. Photo by U.S. Senate

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

    McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Eric Shinseki resigned.

    McDonald has pledged to transform the VA and promised that “systematic failures” must be addressed. He said improving patient access to health care is a top priority, along with restoring transparency, accountability and integrity to the VA.

    The 97-0 vote to confirm McDonald comes as Congress appears poised to approve a $17 billion compromise bill to overhaul the VA.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it was important that Congress act on the reform bill as quickly as possible in order “to give Mr. McDonald and his team the resources they need to ensure American veterans are getting the care we’ve promised them.”

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said McDonald “has a tough job ahead of him,” but said that if McDonald “is willing to work in a collaborative and open manner with Congress, he will find a constructive partner on this side of the aisle.”

    House and Senate negotiators have approved the VA bill, which is intended to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them, and make it easier to fire executives at VA. The vote by the 28-member conference committee late Monday sends the bill to the full House and Senate, where approval is expected later this week.

    The measure includes $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff; and about $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

    Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chairs the Senate panel, say the bill will require about $12 billion in new spending after accounting for about $5 billion in unspecified spending cuts from the VA’s budget.

    Despite the steep cost, Miller said he is confident he can sell the bill to fellow Republicans, including tea party members.

    “Taking care of our veterans is not an inexpensive proposition, and our members understand that,” Miller said Monday. “The VA has caused this problem and one of the ways that we can help solve it is to give veterans a choice, a choice to stay in the system or a choice to go out of the system” to get government-paid health care from a private doctor.

    Pressed on the point by reporters, Miller said there will be “an educational process that will have to take place” before the House votes on the compromise plan later this week. “Obviously some of our members will need a little more educating than others.”

    Rep. Tim Huelskamp., R-Kan., a tea party favorite and a member of the House veterans panel, said “throwing money at the VA won’t solve their problem,” adding that “a fundamental change in culture and real leadership from the president on down is the only way to provide the quality, timely care our veterans deserve.”

    Sanders, for his part, said funding for veterans should be considered as a cost of war, paid for through emergency spending.

    “Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war. So is taking care of the men and women who fight our battles,” he said.

    Miller and Sanders both predicted passage of the bill by the end of the week, when Congress is set to leave town for a five-week recess.

    If approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, the veterans’ bill would be one of the few significant bills signed into law this year.

    White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama welcomes the bipartisan deal as “much-needed reforms that need to be implemented.”

    The White House is especially pleased that the bill includes emergency spending “to provide VA the additional resources necessary to deliver timely, high-quality care to veterans through a strengthened VA system,” Earnest said.

    The VA has been rocked by reports of patients dying while awaiting treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays. The resulting election-year firestorm forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in late May.

    The compromise measure would require the VA to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics, or those who live at least 40 miles from one of them. Only veterans who are enrolled in VA care as of Aug. 1 or live at least 40 miles away would be eligible to get outside care.

    The proposed restrictions are important in controlling costs for the program. Congressional budget analysts had projected that tens of thousands of veterans who currently are not treated by the VA would likely seek VA care if they could see a private doctor paid for by the government.

    The post Senate confirms Robert McDonald as new Veterans Affairs secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    By 2020, President Barack Obama wants the United States to regain its position as the country with the most educated residents. But in the last 20 years, nearly one in every 10 Americans started a college career that they never finished.

    They may help account for the gap between the U.S. and the most educated members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2011, 43.1 percent of U.S. residents ages 25 to 64 had completed a degree beyond a high school diploma, while 63.8 percent of Koreans had a post-secondary degree.

    But a report from the National Student Clearinghouse released Tuesday argues they can also be an important source of students for colleges and universities trying to close that gap.

    The report identified 31 million who have taken college classes, but haven’t completed a degree. Nearly four million of those former students already have two or more years’ worth of credits and could be just a few courses away from an associate’s degree or other credential.

    The report (which was funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation, an organization that also supports the NewsHour) counted students who enrolled in college courses in the last 20 years, which means many of those 31 million people are unlikely to give college another try.

    “In some fields (e.g., nursing) ‘old’ means more than two years. So if one is talking about bringing back students who have been out of school for 20 years, lots of luck,” Cliff Adelman of the Institute for Higher Education Policy told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    By 2020, analysts expect about 65 percent of available jobs in the U.S. to require some education beyond high school. That’s one reason those with some credit, but no degree can’t be overlooked, Dr. Joni Finney, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, said in a statement released with Tuesday’s report.

    “Ensuring that students who begin college complete their certificate and degree coursework must be a national priority,” she said. “A focus on creating viable educational pathways for these students is imperative if individual states and the nation are to realize higher levels of educational attainment.”

    PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Those with ‘some college, no degree’ could hold key to U.S. education goals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Over the last two weeks, many Twitter users have observed some unusual sponsored tweets in their feeds like this one:

    It’s not surprising that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been using his account on the social media site to garner support for Israeli actions in the conflict in Gaza. By purchasing sponsored tweets, a feature of the site typically used by advertisers, he ensures that his messages appear in the feeds of more Twitter users, not just those who follow his account. This strategy is just one example of the evolving role of social media in war and conflict.

    For its part, Hamas’ military wing maintains a presence on Twitter in English. Its Arabic feed was recently suspended, along with a Hebrew account, used to communicate with Israelis.

    The use of social media as a tool in times of war, uprising and military conflict is nothing new. Extremist groups such as the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, have incorporated the use of social media into their broader military strategy. During the Arab Spring, Twitter was both a catalyst for social unrest, demonstrations and revolution, and a valuable resource for journalists reporting on the situation.

    Social media can be used to circulate true information in the face of censorship. It can also cause false information to go viral. It has powered revolutions, but it is also used to expand the reach of violent extremists. What is the role of social media in modern warfare? How has this changed as the medium evolves? What responsibility do sites such as Facebook and Twitter have to regulate (or restrict) users’ promotion of military actions?

    Join the conversation in a Twitter chat 1-2 p.m. EDT, Thursday, July 31. John Little, who blogs about international relations and national security on his website Blogs of War, will participate through his Twitter handle @BlogsofWar. PBS NewsHour foreign affairs producer @PJTobia will also contribute. Follow along and weigh in using #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter Chat: Is social media a weapon in modern warfare? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Israel widened the scope of its military barrage against Hamas in Gaza, as it promised it would. Hamas has said it won’t stop firing rockets into Israel until it gets an international guarantee the border blockade will end.

    Today, heavy strikes came on the ground and from the air, as the Palestinian death toll reached 1,120. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

    Flames and smoke billowed out of Gaza’s only power plant this morning. The plant’s director said the damage would have a severe impact on the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the narrow coastal territory.

    MOHAMMED AL-SHARIF, Power Plant Director (through interpreter): I would like to say to the world that this was a humanitarian plant that served the people. Therefore, its existence helped people, life, hospitals and the normal, simple life of the people of Gaza.

    GWEN IFILL: The power plant was just one in a string of targets Israel hit in the 22nd day of fighting with Hamas. The bombardment started overnight, as huge explosions filled the night sky over Gaza. Among the other sites hit: the unoccupied home of Gaza’s Hamas leader and the Hamas-run Al Aqsa satellite TV station.

    Israeli media said the army had also destroyed 20 of the more than 30 tunnels used by Hamas to sneak weapons into the country.

    Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner:

    PETER LERNER, Spokesman, Israeli Defense Forces: This is a gradual increase in the pressure on this organization. It has been over the last three weeks taking a new step every day. And indeed we are striking and we are determined to strike this organization and relieve us from this threat.

    GWEN IFILL: There were also multiple reports of cease-fire agreements today, all eventually squashed. At one point, the Palestinian Liberation Organization announced it had offered a temporary truce, and said it was speaking for Hamas.

    YASSER ABED RABBO, Secretary General, Palestine Liberation Organization (through interpreter): Following consultations with our brothers in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Authority declares its readiness to an immediate cease-fire and a humanitarian cease-fire for 24 hours.

    GWEN IFILL: But Hamas later denied that. Then, Israel’s Channel 2 television reported the two sides agreed in principle to an Egypt-brokered cease-fire, only to retract it moments later.

    Iran got involved too. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, put out a call to Muslims around the world to help Palestinian fighters.

    AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader, Iran (through interpreter): We call on the world, and especially the Islamic world, to support and arm the Palestinian nation.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, both Palestinians and Israelis buried their dead, as the casualty count continued to grow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, there was word today police in China shot dead dozens of gang members who used knives to stage attacks on two areas. The attacks happened yesterday in the Western region of Xinjiang and hit two neighboring towns. The gangs went after civilians and set fire to cars. The dead and injured included ethnic Uighurs and also members of China’s majority Han population.

    GWEN IFILL: Also in China, the ruling Communist Party began investigating the country’s former security chief over allegations of corruption. Zhou Yongkang, who retired in 2012, was a powerful leader in the party’s inner circle. Its members have long been considered off-limits for prosecution to maintain party unity. It’s the latest move in President Xi Jinping’s widespread crackdown on corruption within the Communist Party.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mississippi’s only abortion clinic will not be closing, a federal appeals court ruled today. A state law passed in 2012 required doctors at the clinic to have the privilege to admit patients to local hospitals, but the hospitals wouldn’t give them those privileges. The court ruled that forcing women to go out of state placed an undue burden on a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

    GWEN IFILL: The acting U.S. surgeon general had a warning for sun worshipers today: Stop sunbathing and stop using indoor tanning beds. A report released today cites a 200 percent jump in deadly melanoma cases since 1973. More than five million people in the U.S. are treated for skin cancer each year, and $8 billion is spent treating the mostly preventable disease.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A series of public hearings got under way today on President Obama’s proposed rules to cut pollution from power plants. He’s seeking to slash carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency is hearing from supporters and opponents in four cities, Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, before it unveils its final proposal next year.

    SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, D, Ore.: Let’s get the facts straight. Carbon pollution is waging a direct assault on rural America. It is a direct assault on jobs in America. And if we sit back and do nothing, there will be severe economic disruption.

    MATT SCHLAPP, Chairman, The American Conservative Union: EPA’s proposal is an unacceptable example of executive overreach. Decisions how and whether to create laws of this breadth should be made by our representative branches of government, not by unelected federal agency officials.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers issued a new report that warns delaying climate action could cost the economy billions of dollars.

    GWEN IFILL: The former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura was awarded nearly $2 million in damages today in a defamation lawsuit. A federal jury agreed author and ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle didn’t tell the truth in his book, claiming he and Ventura got into a bar fight in 2006. Ventura was also a former Navy SEAL and said the fight never happened.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to debt collection agencies. The Urban Institute, a Washington-based policy research center, studied the credit files of seven million Americans to come up with that figure. It found the average amount reported to collection agencies was more than $5,000. The highest concentration of people delinquent in their payments live in Southern and Western states.

    GWEN IFILL: Stocks on Wall Street fell modestly today, with a new batch of economic growth reports expected tomorrow. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 70 points to close at 16,912. The Nasdaq fell two points to close above 4,442. The S&P 500 dropped nearly nine points to close just under 1,970.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As the violence escalates in Ukraine and international frustrations mount over separatists’ control of the Malaysia airline crash site, the U.S. and Europe stepped up their response to Russia today in a bid to force Moscow to pull back its support of the rebels.

    Hours after the European Union announced its greatly expanded sector-wide sanctions, the president deepened U.S. penalties against Russia and its economy.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If Russia continues on its current path, the costs on Russia will continue to grow. And today is a reminder that the United States means what it says.

    Now, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the sanctions that we have already imposed have made a weak Russian economy even weaker. Foreign investors already are increasingly staying away. Even before our actions today, nearly $100 billion in capital was expected to flee Russia.

    Russia’s energy, financial and defense sectors are feeling the pain. Projections for Russian economic growth are down to near zero. The major sanctions we’re announcing today will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia, including the cronies and companies that are supporting Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The E.U. mirrored U.S. sanctions against the banking, defense and energy sectors in Russia.

    Yesterday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was defiant in advance of the E.U. move:

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): I can reassure you, we will overcome the difficulties that will arise in certain parts of our economy. Maybe we will become more self-reliant and more self-confident.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, today, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said Lavrov’s tough talk would hurt Moscow.

    FRANS TIMMERMAN, Foreign Minister, The Netherlands (through interpreter): The consequence is that Russia chooses to isolate itself. And that’s not positive for Russia. My colleague Lavrov can say to the media, in that way, we will be more independent. But that is an independence that will lead to more poverty for the Russians.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Dutch are also reeling from the crash nearly two weeks ago of the Malaysian airliner Flight 17 that originated in Amsterdam. More than 100 Dutch citizens out of almost 300 total died when a surface-to-air missile allegedly fired by pro-Russian separatists brought down the aircraft in Eastern Ukraine.

    Investigators from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, said they were still working on getting to the crash site after being forced to turn back yesterday by heavy fighting in the area. The crash site is north of Donetsk, the rebel stronghold and regional capital of Ukraine’s east. It is now becoming a battleground, its leafy boulevards now empty, except for men with guns.

    The shrouded, badly-mangled body of a man was loaded on to a stretcher outside a city center apartment block as shelling hit Donetsk. He was the husband of Lubov Skorikh. They had fled the ravaged city of Slavyansk for Donetsk.

    LUBOV SKORIKH (through interpreter): I looked at him, and at first couldn’t understand who he was, but then I saw the shoes. They were his shoes. Do you understand, his shoes? My God, I have lived with him for 45 years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A national security spokesman in Kiev said the battle for Donetsk was at hand.

    ANDRIY LYSENKO, Spokesman, Ukraine National and Security Council (through interpreter): Ukrainian servicemen will recapture the city of Donetsk and will save infrastructure. But the primary goal is to save the lives of people who remain there, of civilians.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fighting over the past day has killed dozens of civilians, pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops. Yesterday, the rebels’ commander, Igor Strelkov, who was a former Russian military intelligence officer, gave his account of the pitched fighting.

    IGOR STRELKOV, Military Commander, Donetsk People’s Republic (through interpreter): I will not estimate the outcome because not all operations are clear. I can say only this: The enemy is throwing everything they have into battle.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Russian support for Strelkov and other separatists is one of a raft of serious issues now plaguing U.S.-Russia relations. And, today, a new and serious grievance emerged. The U.S. now contends Russia has routinely violated a Reagan-era weapons treaty signed with the Soviet Union and governing intermediate nuclear forces.

    The 1987 pact governed, in part, the deployment and flight-testing of ground-launched cruise missiles, which the Russians are alleged to have violated.

    The post U.S., EU slam Russia with more sanctions for stoking Ukraine unrest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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