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

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    viewerslikeyou

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to Viewers Like You, your response to some of our recent work.

    We got a good deal of feedback about last Sunday’s interview with President Tong of Kiribati about his plan to ban commercial tuna fishing in the waters off his Pacific island nation. Some viewers wondered how feasible the idea is.

    Joel Shipp wrote us on Facebook. “They will simply fish outside those areas. Tunas move long distances every single day. They don’t stay in one place.

    And David Cramer wondered: “How do we keep the Chinese fishing fleets out?

    But most viewers praised President Tong for trying.

    Robert Cutler wrote us on our website: “Extraordinary interview. President Tong is so perceptive, dignified and tuned into the environmental challenges we face. Other short-sided political leaders and an industry often motivated by greed (not just survival) could learn a great deal from him.”

    Jesse Bustamante wrote us on Facebook: “A 5-year-moratorium on commercial fishing would replenish the oceans. One man. One boat.

    10/6 added this: “Ever been off the coast of New Jersey and seen the commercial fishing industry at work? It was enough for me to want to ban commercial fishing altogether, worldwide. Dirty, filthy polluting jerks.

    We also heard from many of you about Jeffrey Brown’s profile of Garrison Keillor about the 40th anniversary of “A Prairie Home Companion.”

    Monya Hanson Shenkenberg wrote: “One of my favorite shows. Always makes me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.”

    And Sandra Luster-Harper responded to Keillor’s suggestion to live for today. “My mom left me the same philosophy the day before she passed. She never got to tomorrow. So I try to live in the moment.

    As always, let us know what you think of our stories, on Twitter, Facebook or at newshour.pbs.org.

    The post Viewers respond to a ban on commercial fishing in Kiribati appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GormanWeb

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the coming days the Senate Intelligence Committee will release a declassified version of a 6000 page report, examining the CIA’s rendition detention and interrogation program. Yesterday, anticipating the report the president said, quoting now, “We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.” For more we are joined tonight from Washington by Siobhan Gorman she is the intelligence correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. So what’s likely to be in this report that the president is trying to prepare the country for?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN:
    Well we’ve reported on the broad outlines of it over the past few months and it sounds like it’s going to be certainly highly critical of the CIA’s execution of the program and will among other things say that the agency misled both the justice department and congress and I guess by extension the public about the effectiveness of the program.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So considering that everything is going to be compiled into one large report is it likely to highlight the mismanagement of the agency that led to all these problems?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN: I think we will see that as one of the key findings of this report. We’re told that the CIA Counterterrorism Center’s management of the program was at times really incorrect and inappropriate and that is something that lawmakers have said still needs to be looked at at the CIA so that may produce sort of follow on proposals for reforms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Any idea of the other key findings in here?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN: Well I think that one of the big takeaways at least as I’ve spoken to people who have read the report is people may not appreciate how these techniques were used in conjunction with each other. It’s one thing to think that the detainees were being deprived of sleep, being exposed to loud music, being thrown against walls, a few of the detainees also waterboarding. But if you think about a lot of those being used sort of back to back over an extended period of time the impact is somewhat more significant than what people might have already thought.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how many people have endured some of these different practices by the CIA?

    SIOBHAN GORMAN: Well my recollection is that it’s somewhere around 100 or a bit less than that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:
    And how this report was generated also made news this week with the revelations that the CIA was spying on some of the members of the Senate Committee who were investigating this very report.

    SIOBHAN GORMAN:
    Yes in sort of the final stages of reviewing the report and sort of the CIA’s response to it, the CIA came to expect that the senate may have inappropriately obtained an internal document and the CIA took it upon itself to try to figure out by monitoring senate networks whether or not there was some network vulnerability or whether or not the document had been stolen by the CIA.

    And when CIA director John Brennan brought this issue to the heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January it created a huge kind of an internal firestorm within the committee and it spilled out into the public in the spring. And the other day the inspector general of the CIA weighed in with his sort of verdict on it and he found that indeed the CIA had inappropriately monitored senate networks to include doing keyword searches of staff emails and in some cases reviewing emails.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Siobhan Gorman intelligence correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    The post Senate committee to release declassified report on CIA interrogation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Midterm elections that will decide control of the Senate are three months away, and the 2016 presidential campaign will start in earnest soon after. Yet the Republican Party still can’t figure out what to do about illegal immigration.

    It’s the issue that vexed Republicans as much as any in their 2012 presidential loss. It’s the one problem the party declared it must resolve to win future presidential races. And it still managed to bedevil the party again last week, when House Republicans splintered and stumbled for a day before passing a face-saving bill late Friday night.

    The fiasco proved anew that a small number of uncompromising conservatives have the power to hamper the efforts of GOP leaders to craft coherent positions on key issues – including one that nearly two-thirds of Americans say is an important to them personally, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released last week.

    “It would be very bad for Republicans in the House not to offer their vision of how they would fix the problem,” South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said when the initial House bill on immigration collapsed. While Republicans in the House are able to reject the proposals of Democrats, Graham said, that’s not enough: “At least they have a vision.”

    While often a flashpoint issue among Republicans in their primaries this year, the party could get a grace period of sorts in November. Immigration appears likely to have only a modest impact on the roughly 10 Senate races that will determine control of the chamber. The possible exception is the race between Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado, where Hispanic voters made up 14 percent of the electorate in 2012.

    Even if President Barack Obama moves ahead with a proposal to give work permits to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, removing the threat of deportation, Democratic strategists say Republicans won’t reap much of a benefit. Republicans, they argue, have already squeezed as much as they can from voters angry at the president by hammering at his record on health care, the IRS, foreign policy and other issues.

    “There’s a ceiling, and nothing the president can do can get them above the ceiling,” said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, head of the Democrats’ efforts to win House elections. “But swing voters and persuadable voters, they want solutions.”

    Hispanics made up less than 3 percent of all registered voters in 2012 in seven other states with competitive Senate races: Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Georgia and Kentucky. So any Democratic benefits from an Obama executive action on immigration could be just as limited.

    Still, a few Democratic senators in those tight contests – including Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas – are putting some distance between themselves and the president. The White House, Pryor said, is “sending mixed messages: telling folks not to cross the border illegally and then turning around to hand out work permits to people who are already here illegally.”

    Both parties agree that immigration is likely to play a bigger role in the 2016 presidential election. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP nominee in 2008, has said his party can’t win without supporting an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is among the potential candidates to urge the party to liberalize its approach to immigration.

    A GOP-sanctioned “autopsy” of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss made only one policy recommendation: The party “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” a term understood to include creating pathways to legal status for millions of immigrants living in the nation illegally.

    For that reason, some Republicans found the House hubbub discouraging. Party leaders had to yank an immigration bill from the floor Thursday after realizing they lacked the votes to pass it. Democrats mocked House Speaker John Boehner for declaring that Obama should take numerous steps, “right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders,” while his website also stated, “More unilateral action from the White House will make (the) border crisis worse.”

    “I’m just about as conservative, and full-spectrum conservative as it gets, and I was going to go yes” on Thursday, said Arizona GOP Rep. Trent Franks. “So I’m not certain what happened.”

    Ultimately, the party’s rank-and-file refused to start Congress’ five-week break without proving the GOP could pass some type of immigration bill. It would clear the way for eventual deportation of more than 700,000 immigrants brought here illegally as children. It also would allocate $694 million for border security efforts, including $35 million for the National Guard.

    The action kept Republicans from ending the summer empty-handed on immigration. But that doesn’t mean the party is any closer to untying the nation’s immigration knot.

    While solid majorities of Americans say the country’s current immigration policies are unacceptable, many House Republicans owe their jobs to conservative activists who fiercely oppose “amnesty” for immigrants and dominate GOP primaries in districts where Democrats have almost no chance of winning.

    Some of those Republicans were among the House conservatives who met last week in the office of Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who urged them to force concessions from Boehner’s leadership team. And on Friday, Cruz was talking about immigration in the Senate race in New Hampshire, which will hold the first presidential primary of 2016.

    In a fundraising message, Cruz attacked Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for supporting Obama’s “amnesty” immigration policies.

    The post Republicans still don’t know what to do about illegal immigration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Documents released on Friday reveal that Joseph Wood received a total dose of lethal medication that is 15 times higher than what the state of Arizona recommends for executions.  Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers via Getty Images

    A “death chamber” is shown in Huntsville, TX. Documents released on Friday reveal that convicted murderer Joseph Wood received a total dose of lethal medication that is 15 times higher than what the state of Arizona, where he was executed, recommends for executions. Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers via Getty Images

    Documents released by the State of Arizona on Friday reveal that Joseph R. Wood III, an Arizona inmate who was executed over a period of nearly two hours last month, was injected with 15 times the recommended dosage of lethal medication before he died.

    According to Wood’s attorney, Dale Baich, Arizona’s execution protocol calls for 50 milligrams of the painkiller hydromorphone, and 50 milligrams of the sedative midazolam to be used in lethal injections. Wood received 750 milligrams of each drug.

    In a statement, the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Charles Ryan, said that additional doses were given to Wood to ensure that he was constantly sedated.

    “The inmate’s sedation level was continually monitored and verified by the IV team,” he said.

    But some medical experts say that using higher doses of these lethal drugs won’t aid the process of an execution.

    “It doesn’t matter if you give the person 500 additional doses or five million doses. It won’t have any more effect,” Dr. Joel Zivot, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University Hospital told The New York Times.

    Wood’s lawyers have called the execution “botched” and have insisted that an investigation by a nongovernmental entity should be required.

    Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, said she has already started an internal review of the state’s execution process. In the mean time Arizona’s attorney general has ordered a temporary halt to all executions in the state.

    The Arizona Department of Corrections estimated that it would take 10 minutes for Wood to die, but instead the process lasted for an hour and 53 minutes. Some witnesses to the execution say Wood suffered and gasped for air over 600 times. Others deny these claims.

    “There was no gasping of air. There was snoring,” Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general’s office told the L.A. Times. “He just laid there. It was quite peaceful.”

    Wood’s execution is the third this year that has called into question the use of lethal injection on inmates.

    In April, convicted killer Dennis McGuire reportedly began to gasp after he was administered an injection in Ohio, which led his family to call for a ban on executions in the state.

    Calvin Lockett, a convicted killer and rapist in Oklahoma also reacted unexpectedly to his injections. Instead of becoming paralyzed, Lockett clenched his teeth, tried to raise his head and died of a heart attack 43 minutes later.

    “If they’re going to continue, they can’t have this failure rate in dealing with human subjects in the way that they are,” Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the L.A. Times.

    The post Arizona inmate received 15 doses of lethal injection before he died appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MINNEAPOLIS — In a neighborhood dubbed “Little Mogadishu,” Mohamud Noor can’t walk more than a block without being stopped by someone who wants to shake his hand.

    Juggling two cell phones and a stack of campaign fliers, he chats them up on his bid for a seat in Minnesota’s House of Representatives. They already know. He’s one of theirs.

    “You’re going to succeed, keep on going,” Noor said, translating the encouraging words of an elderly Somali woman.

    Noor, 36, has been door-knocking, phone-banking and fundraising in a race that could make him the first Somali-born state lawmaker in the U.S. With the backing of many in the city’s growing Somali-American population, Noor is pressing the longtime incumbent Democrat in a hotly contested primary.

    Minnesota has become home to an estimated 30,000 Somalis who began fleeing civil war in their homeland a generation ago, drawn here by welcoming churches and social services. Many have settled in Minneapolis in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where ethnic restaurants, markets and shops huddle in the shadow of massive high-rise apartment buildings.

    So established is the community that members are rising in politics, with Somali-Americans capturing a Minneapolis school board seat in 2010 and a Minneapolis City Council seat last year. A win by Noor in November could add another milestone. Somali-American leaders said they know of no other state legislators.

    Noor narrowly lost a race for state Senate in 2011. But he has raised about twice as much money for this campaign and hopes that running in the smaller House district, where about a fourth of the residents are foreign-born, could make a difference.

    Noor is taking aim at Rep. Phyllis Kahn, 77, who has been in office for 42 years and routinely crushes opponents by 50 points or more.

    A liberal Democrat, she touts her seniority and position atop the committee that controls arts and environmental funding. Among her top achievements, she lists the nation’s first indoor smoking restrictions passed in 1975.

    Noor’s asset is Somalia. He fled the violence in his home country before his teen years. He and his family escaped to Kenya’s refugee camps, “living in tents, eating what we got,” he said. In 1999, the nine Noors moved together to Minnesota.

    Today, he works at a local center that helps immigrants learn English and find work. He and his wife have four children.

    On a recent weekday pounding the sidewalk in the district, Noor wore jeans and a dress shirt as he sought out potential votes. He waved down passing cars and leaned his slender frame inside to chat up drivers in Somali or English – or Amharic, Oromo or Swahili, other languages used in East African countries whose people have settled in the area.

    Noor brings up issues, criticizing Kahn for not doing more to restrain tuition increases or to get more state money to expand a cultural center. But for many Somali voters, what’s important is, “He’s Somali. He’s a Muslim. He’s a good guy,” said Khadija Hirsi, 76, who lives in the community.

    “I’ve been there. I understand their challenges,” Noor said.

    In her first primary in years, Kahn isn’t conceding anything. With the energy that befits someone who still runs marathons and plays hockey, she is out door-knocking and putting up signs. The district is so heavily Democratic that their Aug. 12 primary is the de facto election.

    Kahn has about twice as much cash on hand, $16,000 to his $8,000, for the last two weeks before the primary. She has the backing of statewide unions, Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

    Noor’s marquee endorsement comes from popular former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and he’s also supported by several local progressive groups.

    Kahn isn’t without support in the Somali community. She backed the Somali-American who won a spot last year on the City Council, Abdi Warsame, and has Warsame’s backing in this race. Warsame’s move sparked a divide in the community. A February caucus degenerated into a near-melee between Noor’s and Warsame’s supporters.

    Sadik Warfa, a community member who himself made two unsuccessful bids for the Legislature, said he believes the race is “very close.” No matter how it turns out, he said, Minnesota’s Somali community has shown its political importance.

    “We opened the doors for many people,” Warfa said.

    This report was written by Kyle Potter of the Associated Press.

    The post Candidate seeks to become first Somali-born state lawmaker in US appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    adaptiveclimbing

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Quemuel Arroyo lost the use of his legs after a biking accident in 2008 and spends most of his day in a wheelchair. But as a member of Adaptive Climbing Group, he’s found a way to leave his chair behind.

    QUEMUEL ARROYO: It’s physical and it breaks down the fact that you’re disabled if you are able to be a rock climber and do it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Adaptive Climbing Group brings climbers with mental and physical disabilities together to challenge themselves and each other.

    QUEMUEL ARROYO: We push each other a lot, maybe too much. We’re really hard on each other because it’s like, ‘You can do it!’

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Kareemah Batts founded the group two years ago. She lost part of her left leg to cancer.

    KAREEMAH BATTS: You become unsatisfied with the aspects of your life from anything from walking to how you used to make the best or how you used to sweep the floor. I chose climbing because I had reached a plateau in my recovery. Rock climbing was one of the only sports that I had never done before and so I said, ‘That’s a good one, I‘m going to pick that one because if I can do it, than I have no more excuses. All assistive devices are on the ground and it’s just you and that wall.

    QUEMUEL ARROYO: I don’t think I’m the best climber out there. I’m going to meet awesome climbers who, like me, want to have fun and want to challenge themselves and break social barriers around being disabled and just kicking some ass and rock climbing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Quemuel Arroyo did just that, winning a silver medal in Atlanta. Adaptive Climbing Group won five medals over all.

    The post Upwardly mobile: Paraclimbers overcome perceived limitations of disability appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Israel strikes another UNRWA school in Gaza; 10 killed

    A man carries a wounded Palestinian child to the hospital after Israeli artillery shelled a school run by the U.N. Palestinian refugees agency (UNRWA) on Sunday, August 3, 2014 in Rafah city, Gaza. Credit: Belal Khaled/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The United States said Sunday it is “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling by Israel of a United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza.

    In language that was rare in its directness and severity, the U.S. denounced in a statement issued Sunday the attack earlier in the day that killed 10 people, noting that the school had been designated a protected location.

    “The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israel Defense Forces,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in the statement. “We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”

    The U.S. condemnation follows one by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who depicted the shelling near the Rafah school as both “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”

    Earlier, a senior Palestinian diplomat expressed outrage over killings and bloodshed on both sides in Gaza and called for negotiations to end the savage fighting that has gone on for nearly a month. “What we need now is to stop this fighting, to address the tragic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding “these things need to be stopped.”

    He said that putting the people of Gaza “in a continuous situation of confrontation and fighting” will only lead to more violence, saying “This is an excellent atmosphere for radicalism.”

    “But if you give them (Palestinians) hope, you open the borders, you let them go to school, let them look for good jobs, let them look for moderation. And we will succeed in allowing all those who want to have peace…to have the upper hand.”

    Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, called the shelling a clear violation of international law. “These are premises that are protected, the sanctity of which has to be respected by all parties,” he said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

    About 1,400 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza nearly a month into Israel’s forceful assault on Hamas, according to health officials.

    This report was written by Tom Raum and Matthew Lee for the Associated Press.

    The post US: ‘Appalled’ by shelling of UN school in Gaza appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    gazasocialmedia

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    P.J. TOBIA: As fighting in Gaza moves into a fourth week, a parallel battle is taking place on a different front — waged online through social media. Both Hamas and Israel are seeking to control the message behind the fighting, and are taking to Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms to influence the public’s perception.

    ADEL ISKANDAR: It is a competition for likes, recommends, tweets, retweets

    P.J. TOBIA: Adel Iskandar is a professor of global communications at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He says both sides of the conflict are pursuing similar objectives with online content.

    ADEL ISKANDAR: They realize that their footprint can be much wider, and they can reach sort of the deep crevices and far-out places in online if they’re able to build platforms that are solely their own, that they can control exclusively and send their messages out.

    P.J. TOBIA: Iskandar points to Facebook pages created by Hamas and Israel. 

    ADEL ISKANDAR: So pages dedicated to this particular conflict, or in the case of the Israeli Defense Forces, the operation itself, or specific aspects of the operation, specific spokespersons’ offices that derive from the Israeli Defense Forces.

    The same goes with Hamas. Hamas has a very, very integrated system, communications system, not just in terms of a satellite network which broadcasts 24 hours a day, but they also have Facebook pages, dedicated Facebook pages, for each of their brigades as well.

    P.J. TOBIA: Earlier this week, the headquarters of Hamas-run Al-Aqsa Satellite TV network was hit by Israeli airstrikes. Israel defense forces posted video of the strike soon after.

    Throughout the conflict, IDF’s Twitter feed has featured a number of photos and videos taken during Israeli military operations. The page has more than 350,000 followers. Recent uploads include a clip showing the destruction of Hamas’ network of underground tunnels.

    Another video claims to show soldiers uncovering hidden rocket launchers in Gaza. Hamas’s Twitter page — in Arabic — has more than 80,00 followers. Many tweets link to articles and releases from its information office.

    Hamas’ military wing has also released videos online of its efforts in Gaza. The recordings have shown armed fighters winding their way through elaborate underground passageways. Another showed militants emerging from one tunnel to attack an Israeli border outpost.

    Hamas’ English-language Twitter account has been suspended. They’ve also posted many taunting videos in Hebrew on YouTube, but they’ve been removed by the company under its hate speech policy.

    Iskandar says the goal with social media campaigns shouldn’t be quantity, but traction.

    ADEL ISKANDAR: If you have a single posting from let’s say an IDF page, or a Hamas page, if it doesn’t get any more than 200, 300 Likes, it probably is – it’s had little to no impact whatsoever, and hasn’t circulated.

    If it gets retweeted by someone who has 20,000 or 100,000 followers, then all of a sudden your message has been amplified. If you can’t amplify your message, then you have little to no impact.

    P.J. TOBIA: Those retweets and shares may be more important than the original messages created by the Israeli government and Hamas.

    PHILIP SEIB: Well there’s a contest for world opinion on, on numerous levels. Certainly, the governments are waging that contest.

    P.J. TOBIA: Philip Seib is Vice Deen and professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. I spoke with him via Skype.

    PHILIP SEIB: Social media provide a very comfortable home for unofficial voices. And also voices that tend to be more trusted by the audience. I’m not really concerned with what Hamas and the government of Israel say, but I am concerned about what my friends say. My friends in the Arab world. My friends who live in Israel.

    P.J. TOBIA: He says the real test of these antagonists’ social media strategies might be how much offline action they create.

    PHILIP SEIB: What we still don’t know is the extent to which getting information on social media translates into political participation. In other words, are people who are hearing things on social media writing to their members of Congress saying give Israel more aid or cut off aid to Israel.

    P.J. TOBIA: In the meantime, the online war of words burns hotter by the day.

    The post Online war of words: To amplify message, Israel and Hamas fire up social media appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Rim Fire burned through over 250,000 acres of Sierra Nevada forestland last year. Now environmentalists and loggers are debating what to do with the charred remains the fire left behind.

    The Rim Fire burned through over 250,000 acres of Sierra Nevada forestland last year. Now environmentalists and loggers are debating what to do with the charred remains the fire left behind. Credit: Dept. of Agriculture via Wikimedia Commons

    A year after a California wildfire known as the “Rim Fire” burnt through over 250,000 acres of Sierra Nevada forests, environmentalists and loggers are debating what to do with the blackened woodland it left behind.

    The timber industry believes that chopping down and selling the trees that remain will not only restore Sierra Nevada forestland, but also create jobs.

    Some loggers including Steve Brink of the California Forestry Association, say that without tree removal, the forests won’t be opened to the public again for as long as a century, the Associated Press reports.

    If the lumber industry doesn’t get the opportunity to start removal in the next year, they may never, as charred trees quickly disintegrate. Brink said that environmentalists aren’t making it easy for industry representatives to seize their chance.

    “They know if they can stall the process, the brush wins, deterioration will take over — and they win,” Brink told the AP.

    Environmentalists are opposed to logging burnt forests because deteriorating trees create a unique ecological opportunity. Environmental groups argue that standing dead and dying trees — also called “snags” — provide habitats for dozens of species and are three times as rare as living trees.

    “For us, post-fire logging is the last and worst thing you should ever do in a forest,” said Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist told the AP. “The scientific community is so strongly against this.”

    Hanson said that dying forests can be home to small, flying insects and wood boring beetles, which are food sources for birds and bats.

    Since last year’s fire, birds including woodpeckers have made a comeback in the burnt woodlands and new trees are starting to poke through the soil.

    Environmentalists are concerned that logging efforts might destroy these emerging seedlings.

    Logging has already begun in an area of about 50 square miles close to public roads, to prevent dead trees from falling on drivers.

    The U.S. Forestry Service will make a decision in the next few weeks that determines how much of the remaining burnt forestland will be logged.

    Today, over a dozen wildfires are raging in California, where Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

    The post Following ‘Rim Fire,’ what should be done with the trees left behind? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ivanmoreno

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: First of all, nearly 10,000 people have already signed up for this, and I’ve got to ask what does this driver’s license get you, just the ability to drive? 

    IVAN MORENO: Yeah, it gets you the ability to drive, essentially. And for some of the immigrants who I’ve talked to and their advocates, they also say it gives them a certain peace of mind so that in their interactions with law enforcement they will feel a bit more comfortable and a bit more at ease.

    And also, again I think it goes into immigrants feeling like it gives them a degree of legitimacy that really a lot of them probably won’t ever have while they are in this country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And that same level of legitimacy has got to be a source of concern for critics who say ‘They are illegal in the first place, we are enabling them to stay here, and now we have appointments of exactly when they are going to show up to DMV, so shouldn’t we actually meet them with a customs official there?’

    IVAN MORENO: Well, to the first part of your statement that has been part of the argument from people is that it will—opponents of this—that it will encourage or reward illegal behavior. I haven’t talked to anyone who has actually said ‘Let’s put federal authorities outside of this DMV and arrest and deport these people,’ but I think the biggest concern is that again you are sanctioning illegal behavior is what critics of this law say.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So who is pushing for the law in the first place and how long have they been working on it?

    IVAN MORENO: Well, it was the Democratic-controlled legislature here in Colorado and then the governor signed it. It was supported by Democrats and actually last year was the first year that it was introduced here. Colorado was part of this wave of states that passed this law.

    You mentioned that it’s 11 states that have it, but most of those were last year, eight to be exact. So this is really something that I think—to be perfectly blunt—came out of nowhere last year and I think it grew out of some frustration that Congress’ inability to pass any kind of comprehensive immigration reform.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So who’s paying for this program?

    IVAN MORENO: Well, the program is intended to be sustained by user fees. So the people who are applying for these licenses and identification cards are paying for these services themselves. And for that reason, these driver’s licenses and the IDs are much higher than what the rest of the general population pays — about double the amount of what people usually pay, so the funding going to support this program is all user fees.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there safeguards in place that there are no other services that can be accessed with a driver’s license now?

    IVAN MORENO: There are. In Colorado these licenses and identification cards are clearly marked to say they can’t be used for voting, they can’t be used to access federal benefits. And the idea too is that you can’t take your driver’s license or ID card to the airport and board a plane.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press joining us from Denver. Thanks so much.

    IVAN MORENO: Thank you.

    The post Colorado issues licenses to drivers who lack legal residency appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    For a second day, residents of Toledo, Ohio, are not able to drink water flowing from their taps. The water is unsafe because of an algae bloom in Lake Erie, which is affecting the city and surrounding areas’ water supply.

    NewsHour spoke to two scientists whose work predicts that this won’t be the last such water crisis created by algal blooms.

    Anna Michalak‘s paper for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has a title that might tell you that these algae blooms are not shocking to scientists: “Record-setting algal bloom in Lake Erie caused by agricultural and meteorological trends consistent with expected future conditions.”

    Michalak has also been the lead investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded project studying water quality and sustainability of the Great Lakes, where they’ve been examining the effects of climate change induced extreme events.

    “It was a combination of agricultural practices, meteorological conditions and also slowly changing climate conditions that are coming together to make these blooms more and more likely as we look into the future.”

    The blooms are so significant you can see them from space.

    Here are views of the blooms over the past three years.

    2011

    Algal bloom shown in bright green, 2011

    2012

    Algal bloom shown in bright green, 2012

    2013

    Algal bloom shown in bright green, 2013

    The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has been studying these blooms as well.

    Richard Stumpf, along with other scientists wrote a paper that shows there are ways to predict the severity of the blooms based on the amount of runoff from farms each year.

    “We’re looking at making some upgrades in our modeling of the location of the bloom so that we might be able to help the water suppliers along the lake better know if there’s potential impact, so they can plan better.”

    In fact NOAA has even been creating seasonal forecasts for the region and more frequent bulletins.

    Both scientists agree that certain measures to decrease the amount of phosphorus from farm runoff actually made such algae blooms rare, but they began to come back stronger in the late 90s.

    Though the amount of phosphorus has not increased radically, the concerns is that more stressors are at work now — creating ripe conditions for a perfect algal storm.

    The post Hear from the scientists who saw the Ohio algae blooms coming appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Undocumented immigrants on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. The U.S. government is closing emergency shelters for child migrants in several states as the number of children crossing the border has begun to drop. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    Undocumented immigrants on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. The U.S. government is closing emergency shelters for child migrants in several states as the number of children crossing the border has begun to drop. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The government said Monday it will soon close three emergency shelters it established at U.S. military bases to temporarily house children caught crossing the Mexican border alone. It said fewer children were being caught and other shelters will be adequate.

    A shelter in Oklahoma at Fort Sill is expected to close as early as Friday, the Health and Human Services Department said. Shelters in Texas at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and in California at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme will wrap up operations in the next two to eight weeks, agency spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said. About 7,700 children had been housed at the three military bases since shelters there opened in May and early June. They stayed an average of 35 days.

    Since Oct. 1 more than 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been caught crossing the Mexican border illegally.

    A 2008 law requires that unaccompanied child immigrants from countries that don’t border the United States be handed over to the Health and Human Services Department within 72 hours of being apprehended. The children are cared for by the government until they can be reunited with a relative or another sponsor in the United States while they await a deportation hearing in immigration court.

    The crush of Central American children caught at the border in recent months has strained resources across the government and prompted President Barack Obama to ask Congress to approve an emergency $3.7 billion spending bill to deal with what he described as a humanitarian crisis. Congress adjourned for the August recess without acting on the request.

    Last month the Homeland Security Department reported that the number of child immigrants crossing the border alone had started to decline, from as many as 2,000 each week in June to about 500 each week in mid-July. Administration officials said at the time that multiple factors likely contributed to the decline.

    The number of people caught crossing the border illegally typically declines during the hottest summer months.

    Administration officials have said as many 90,000 child immigrants could cross the border by the end of the budget year in September.

    The military base shelters could reopen if the number of young border crossers spikes again in the near future, Wolfe said.

    ____

    Associated Press reporter Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California contributed to this report.

    The post Feds closing emergency shelters for child migrants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba. Photo by the National Guard.

    Air Force Col. Vance Spath has said a 2005 case he prosecuted has no bearing on his thinking in the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba. Photo by the National Guard.

    FORT MEADE, Md. — A newly appointed judge refused on Monday to step down from the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, dismissing defense arguments about possible conflicts stemming from an earlier case.

    Air Force Col. Vance Spath said a 2005 case he prosecuted has no bearing on his thinking in the current case.

    Defense attorney Richard Kammen spent about two hours Monday quizzing Spath about his views on matters including the 2005 death-penalty case of Senior Airman Andrew P. Witt. Spath was the lead prosecutor in that case, in which Witt was sentenced to death for premeditated murder in the 2004 stabbing deaths of Senior Airman Andrew Schliepsiek and his wife Jamie in Macon, Georgia.

    Kammen questioned whether Spath could be an impartial judge in the trial of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, since al-Nashiri also faces a possible death sentence if convicted. A member of al-Nashiri’s defense team is assisting in Witt’s appeal, Kammen said, calling that another potential conflict.

    Government prosecutors said they were satisfied that Spath could be impartial.

    Spath said says he’s not biased for or against the death penalty. And he said the Witt appeal “doesn’t cross my mind and it’s not an issue for me.”

    Monday’s pretrial hearing in Cuba was the first before Spath. The Associated Press covered the hearing by watching a video feed at Fort Meade, near Baltimore.

    Spath was assigned in July to preside over the U.S. Military Commissions trial of al-Nashiri. Spath succeeded Army Col. James Pohl, who stepped down to avoid scheduling conflicts with another high-profile case he is hearing, the conspiracy trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged accomplices in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    Spath told Kammen he had “gone through what I would call a struggle” with capital punishment but had not come to a personal decision about its fairness.

    “I don’t have a personal opinion or a bias in my mind one way or another,” he said.

    Kammen also probed Spath’s attitudes about torture and Islam. Al-Nashiri is Muslim.

    Kammen asked Spath if he would consider as a mitigating circumstance evidence that a defendant had been tortured or abused. Al-Nashiri was held for several years in secret CIA prisons. A CIA inspector general’s report says al-Nashiri was subjected to waterboarding, an interrogation technique in which drowning is simulated, and threatened with a gun and power drill. Prosecutors cannot use evidence obtained by coercion.

    Spath said he would have to hear the evidence before reaching a conclusion.

    When queried about his views on Islamic extremism, Spath said: “I am confident that in every faith there are people who are one extreme or the other in how they practice.”

    The hearing is scheduled through Friday. Other motions to be argued include a defense request that the judge set a deadline for prosecutors to turn over documents detailing al-Nashiri’s treatment by the CIA.

    The defense also wants the judge to order an MRI brain scan of al-Nashiri to look for evidence of traumatic injury. Defense lawyers also want the government to disclose the method it would use to execute al-Nashiri, if he is sentenced to death.

    The trial is scheduled to start in February but is likely to be postponed.

    The post Judge in USS Cole case refuses to step down for death penalty bias appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Bill Clinton (L) congratulates former Reagan Administration Press Secretary James Brady (R) on the passage of the Brady bill as Vice President Al Gore (2nd-L) and Sarah Brady look on during a meeting at the White House 24 November 1993. Photo credit should read JENNIFER YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

    U.S. President Bill Clinton (L) congratulates former Reagan Administration Press Secretary James Brady (R) on the passage of the Brady bill as Vice President Al Gore (2nd-L) and Sarah Brady look on during a meeting at the White House 24 November 1993. Photo credit should read JENNIFER YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — James Brady, the affable, witty press secretary who survived a devastating head wound in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and undertook a personal crusade for gun control, died Monday. He was 73.

    “We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Jim “Bear” Brady has passed away after a series of health issues,” Brady’s family said in a statement. “His wife, Sarah, son, Scott, and daughter, Missy, are so thankful to have had the opportunity to say their farewells.” The statement did not say where Brady was when he died.

    Brady suffered a bullet wound to his head outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. Although he returned to the White House only briefly, he was allowed to keep the title of presidential press secretary and his White House salary until Reagan left office in January 1989.

    Brady, who spent much of the rest of his life in a wheelchair, died at a retirement community in Alexandria, Va., where he lived with his wife.

    The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, a federal law requiring a background check on handgun buyers, bears his name, as is the White House press briefing room.

    “He is somebody who I think really revolutionized this job,” said Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama’s press secretary. “And even after he was wounded in that attack on the president, was somebody who showed his patriotism and commitment to the country by being very outspoken on an issue that was important to him and that he felt very strongly about.” Earnest said Brady leaves a legacy “that certainly this press secretary and all future press secretaries will aspire to live up to.”

    Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement that because of Brady’s work on gun control “an estimated 2 million gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people have been blocked. As a result, countless lives have been saved. In fact, there are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible for saving as many lives as Jim.”

    Of the four people stuck by gunfire on March 30, 1981, Brady was the most seriously wounded. A news clip of the shooting, replayed often on television, showed Brady sprawled on the ground as Secret Service agents hustled the wounded president into his limousine. Reagan was shot in one lung while a policeman and a Secret Service agent suffered lesser wounds.

    Brady never regained full health. The shooting caused brain damage, partial paralysis, short-term memory impairment, slurred speech and constant pain.

    The TV replays of the shooting did take a toll on Brady, however. He told The Associated Press years later that he relived the moment each time he saw it: “I want to take every bit of (that) film … and put them in a cement incinerator, slosh them with gasoline and throw a lighted cigarette in.” With remarkable courage, he endured a series of brain operations in the years after the shooting.

    On Nov. 28, 1995, while he was in an oral surgeon’s office, Brady’s heart stopped beating and he was taken to a hospital. His wife, Sarah, credited the oral surgeon and his staff with saving Brady’s life.

    Brady was a strong Republican from an early age — as a boy of 12 in Centralia, Ill., where he was born on Aug. 29, 1940, he distributed election literature for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    In a long string of political jobs, Brady worked for some well-known bosses: Sen. Everett M. Dirksen of Illinois, Sen. William V. Roth Jr. of Delaware, and John Connally, the former Texas governor who was running for president in 1979. When Connally dropped out, Brady joined Reagan’s campaign as director of public affairs and research. There, his irrepressible wit made him popular with the press, but not necessarily with the Reaganites.

    He once ran through the Reagan campaign plane shouting “Killer Trees! Killer Trees!” as the aircraft flew over a forest fire. It was a jab at his own candidate’s claim in a speech that trees cause as much pollution as cars.

    Brady remained as transition spokesman after Reagan’s election. But Reagan’s advisers appeared hesitant to give him the White House job. Nancy Reagan was said to feel the job required someone younger and better-looking than the 40-year-old, moon-faced, balding Brady.

    “I come before you today not as just another pretty face, but out of sheer talent,” Brady told reporters. A week later, he got the job.

    Previously, he had worked in the administrations of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford: as special assistant to the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as special assistant to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as an assistant to the defense secretary.

    He was divorced from the former Sue Beh when, in 1973, he courted Sarah Jane Kemp, the daughter of an FBI agent who was working with him in a congressional office.

    Sarah Brady became involved in gun-control efforts in 1985, and later chaired Handgun Control Inc., but Brady took a few more years to join her, and Reagan did not endorse their efforts until 10 years after he was shot. Reagan’s surprise endorsement — he was a longtime National Rifle Association member and opponent of gun control laws — began to turn the tide in Congress.

    “They’re not going to accuse him of being some bed-wetting liberal, no way can they do that,” said Brady, who had become an active lobbyist for the bill.

    The Brady law required a five-day wait and background check before a handgun could be sold. In November 1993, as President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, Brady said: “Every once in a while you need to wake up and smell the propane. I needed to be hit in the head before I started hitting the bricks.”

    Clinton awarded Brady the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. In 2000, the press briefing room at the White House was renamed in Brady’s honor. The following year, Handgun Control Inc., was renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as a tribute to Brady and his wife.

    Brady also served as vice chair of the National Organization on Disability and co-chair of the National Head Injury Foundation.

    Survivors include his wife, Sarah; a son, Scott; and a daughter, Melissa.

    The post Former Reagan press secretary Jim Brady dies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This picture taken on June 2, 2014 shows the Vietnamese fishing boat "DNA 90152", which was reportedly sunk by a Chinese ship, at a shipyard in the central coastal city of Danang. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    This picture taken on June 2, 2014 shows the Vietnamese fishing boat “DNA 90152″, which was reportedly sunk by a Chinese ship, at a shipyard in the central coastal city of Danang. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The United States will be looking to calm tensions stoked by recent Chinese oil drilling in disputed waters of the South China Sea at an upcoming meeting of the region’s foreign ministers, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

    Although the U.S. claims neutrality in the disputes, China is unlikely to respond favorably.

    Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip in Myanmar, starting Saturday, comes after China angered Vietnam by deploying a deep-sea oil rig for two months near islands claimed by both countries.

    Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told reporters that China’s withdrawal of the rig in mid-July had removed an irritant but left a legacy of anger and strained relations with Vietnam and likely raised serious questions among China’s other neighbors about its long-term strategy.

    “China as a large and powerful nation has a special responsibility to show restraint. There is a big footprint that comes with military strength and it warrants setting your foot very, very carefully and treading very gingerly when you are in a sensitive area,” said Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia.

    At the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Myanmar capital, Naypyitaw, Washington will be proposing that South China Sea claimants take voluntary steps to reduce tensions. The U.S. suggests freezing actions that change the status quo, such as seizing unoccupied islands and land reclamation.

    Chinese officials have already made clear they don’t support the proposal. China says it has a historical right to most of the South China Sea and resents what it sees as U.S. meddling, viewing it as an attempt to contain its growing power. The other claimants include the Philippines, which is a U.S. treaty ally, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

    Russel said all the claimants, including Vietnam, can do more to clarify what they say is theirs in accordance with international law. He said the U.S. would also urge conclusion of a long-delayed code of conduct — another initiative China is unenthusiastic about.

    Separately, while in the Myanmar, Kerry will be pressing the country’s leaders to apply greater safeguards for human rights. Kerry will also be gauging the former pariah nation’s preparations for 2015 elections, Russel said.

    Last week, more than 70 U.S. lawmakers warned of worsening conditions in Myanmar, also known as Burma, including anti-Muslim discrimination and violence, and urged the Obama administration to sanction those complicit in abuses and atrocities. The lawmakers also urged Obama not to make further concessions to the reformist government unless there’s significant progress.

    After Myanmar, Kerry will travel to Australia to join Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Australian officials for security talks.

    The post U.S. seeks to quell South China Sea tensions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A bit of gaming each day may keep some negative effects in children away. Photo by Flickr user Rodrigo Della Fávera

    A bit of gaming each day may keep some negative effects in children away. Photo by Flickr user Rodrigo Della Fávera

    Parents take note: letting your children finish that one last video game level before they start their homework may have its benefits.

    According to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, children of ages 10 to 15 who play a small amount of video games each day show slightly higher indicators of psychosocial adjustment than kids who play no video games at all. The children who played an hour or less each day were found to possess higher levels of “life satisfaction” and “prosocial behavior,” in addition to lower levels of “externalizing and internalizing problems.”

    However, researchers don’t recommend letting kids be glued to their gaming either. The study found that children who consistently played games for more than three hours daily were linked to the opposite effects and were considered less adjusted than those who gamed a little or not at all.

    The study, however, reminds readers that while the findings are consistent and significant, the changes on both spectrums are small. The “broad fears and hopes about gaming may be exaggerated,” the researchers write, though they hope the study will provide “a new standpoint for parents and policymakers to understand electronic play.”

    The post Playing a small amount of video games daily may ‘level up’ adjustment in children appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Federal agents are watching airplanes in a chance an passengers are carrying the Ebola virus. Photo by Flickr user ATOMIC Hot Links

    Federal agents are watching airplanes in a chance an passengers are carrying the Ebola virus. Photo by Flickr user ATOMIC Hot Links

    WASHINGTON — Federal agents at U.S. airports are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the recent Ebola outbreak, as delegations from some 50 countries arrive in the nation’s capital for a leadership summit this week.

    Border patrol agents at Washington’s Dulles International and New York’s JFK airports in particular have been told to ask travelers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes. Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, which will receive several African heads of state, is screening passengers too, while U.S. Secret Service agents in charge of security for the three-day summit have been briefed on what to look for and how to respond, officials said Monday.

    If a passenger is suspected of carrying the deadly virus, they would be quarantined immediately and evaluated by medical personnel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provided the additional training to local airports.

    “There is always the possibility that someone with an infectious disease can enter the United States,” CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said Monday. “The public health concern is whether it would spread, and, if so, how quickly.’”

    The Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever that has stricken more than 1,600 people, killing at least 887 of them in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine, unlike an airborne virus like influenza or the common cold. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21 days to exhibit any symptoms, making it possible for infected travelers to enter the U.S. without knowing they have it.

    While the CDC says it is not screening passengers boarding planes at African airports — the job of local authorities there — the center said it has encouraged vulnerable countries to follow certain precautions. Outbound passengers in the countries experiencing Ebola are being screened for fevers and with health questionnaires, Reynolds said.

    Health officials say the threat to Americans remains relatively small, even with the uptick in travel this week between Africa and the United States. In the past decade, five people have entered the U.S. known to have a viral hemorrhagic fever, including a case last March of a Minnesota man diagnosed with Lassa Fever after traveling to West Africa.

    Reynolds said in all five instances, U.S. officials were able to contain the illness.

    A vaccine against Ebola has been successfully tested with monkeys, and there is hope it could become available as early as next July, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told “CBS This Morning” on Monday.

    The post Federal agents on the look out for Ebola symptoms on airplanes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua (L) holds her baby Gammy, born with Down Syndrome, at the Samitivej hospital, Sriracha district in Chonburi province on August 4, 2014. Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/Getty Images

    Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua (L) holds her baby Gammy, born with Down Syndrome, at the Samitivej hospital, Sriracha district in Chonburi province on August 4, 2014. Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/Getty Images

    A 7 month-old boy in Thailand is caught in the middle of an international battle over paternity and citizenship.

    Australian immigration officials are weighing the case of Grammy, who was born via surrogacy in Thailand and was rejected by his biological parents. Grammy has down syndrome and a congenital heart defect, and is living with his 21 year-old surrogate mother in Thailand. His twin sister, born in good health, was brought back to Australia.

    The case is drawing international attention because the Australian government considers Grammy a citizen. As a citizen, the boy is entitled to free healthcare in Australia, but it is unclear whether or not the nation has any jurisdiction over the boy’s case. The situation has sparked debate inside Australia about the practice of international surrogacy.

    Grammy’s surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, is a food vendor in the small town of Sri Racha. She was promised $9,300 to carry the children but has not been paid in full. The young woman became aware of her baby’s medical status 2 months before giving birth. Chanbua told Agence France Presse she refused to abort the pregnancy because of her Buddhist faith, despite the urging of the commissioning agency. Abortion is illegal in Thailand. It is not currently clear whether birth defect based abortion was a stipulation in the surrogacy contract. Throughout the ordeal, Grammy’s biological parents have remained anonymous.

    An Australian charity, Hands Across the Water, has raised about $200,000 for the baby’s medical costs in Thailand since July 22nd.

    Scott Morrison, an Australian immigration officer, spoke to Sydney Radio 2GB on Monday and claimed that Chanbua “is an absolute hero” and “a saint.” He emphasized the “very, very murky” laws surrounding the case saying “We are taking a close look at what can be done here, but I wouldn’t want to raise any false hopes or expectations.” Grammy’s case is in Thailand’s jurisdiction, Morrison explained. However, he said, “the child may be eligible for Australian citizenship.”

    Surrogacy for pay is banned in Australia, and a few states outlaw couples from going abroad to commission a child. In the United States, it is banned in New Mexico and regulated in other states.

    The post Abandoned baby tests international laws of citizenship and parenthood appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jason Lelchuk

    Photo by Jason Lelchuk

    Analysts who fear health spending is accelerating got plenty of evidence in Wall Street’s second-quarter results to support their thesis. But so did folks who hope spending is still under control.

    Now everybody’s trying to sort out the mixed message.

    The answer matters because deficit debates and affordability concerns revolve around forecasts that health spending will speed up as the economy revives. If it doesn’t, the future looks better for consumers, employers and taxpayers.

    To hear hospitals tell it — based on earning reports issued over the last two weeks — we might be heading back toward the painful, 8 percent spending increases of the early 2000s. (National health spending rose only 3.7 percent in 2012, the most recent year for complete results.)

    Thanks to expanded coverage from the Affordable Care Act that began in January, “we have seen higher utilization rates than maybe we originally anticipated,” William Rutherford, chief financial officer at the hospital chain HCA Holdings, told stock analysts last week.

    HCA’s admissions rose after declining in the previous two quarters. Revenue increased 5 percent, and the company raised its profit forecast.

    Tenet Healthcare, another hospital chain, booked its best quarter in six years for admissions covered by private insurance. Inpatient revenue at Universal Health Services’ general hospitals popped 12 percent. Most hospital stocks are up more than a tenth since earnings season began.

    So the insurance companies who pay for all this must be getting killed, right? Not exactly.

    “Medical cost trends continue to be moderate,” Aetna’s chief financial officer said last week. Cost increases at WellPoint for the second quarter stayed close to a tame 6 percent, the company says. It doesn’t see that changing soon.

    “Our underlying cost trends remain very well controlled,” UnitedHealth Group’s top financial officer told analysts. Cigna even lowered its cost outlook, projecting an increase for 2014 of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent.

    What’s going on?

    Part of the apparent contradiction is that health plans focus on per capita, not total costs, says Ana Gupte, who follows insurers for Leerink Partners, an investment house. “Moderate” expense increases for an insurer means moderate per member — even if thanks to the ACA insurers have many more members than they did a year ago.

    That new membership is why hospitals “are getting new patients from Obamacare, and they’re getting it in spades,” Gupte said in an interview.

    But somebody is paying for the expanded coverage: federal taxpayers, through subsidies for private insurance bought online and direct payments for expansion of the Medicaid program for low-income consumers.

    To a smaller extent, employers are also probably getting billed for hospitals’ revenue gains, as economic improvement means more people have jobs and employer-sponsored coverage.

    Does this mean national health spending is off to the races? Not necessarily.

    Part of the second quarter’s volume surge looks like pent-up demand from the previously uninsured, analysts say. That may not last.

    And not all the billions spent on Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies are net new money to the system. The ACA partly compensates for those additional dollars by cutting federal support for hospitals to care for the poor and seniors.

    The law also includes readmission penalties and other efficiency incentives that should reduce hospitals’ future revenue. The Labor Department estimates hospitals cut 7,000 jobs in July, suggesting they feel financial pressure.

    Even so, health spending in the second quarter looks a lot stronger than it did over the winter, when bad storms helped shrink the whole economy.

    One after another in recent days, insurers reported higher ratios of medical expenditures to second-quarter premiums even as they reassured investors about cost trends.

    That’s not very persuasive evidence that costs will stay on track, especially since health plans don’t have a good record of predicting spikes, says Citigroup analyst Carl McDonald.

    In a note to clients he writes: “It’s hard to correlate plan comments on slowing [cost] trend with the recent commentary from some providers that underlying volumes are rising for the first time in years.”


    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

    The post Sorting out the mixed message given by health spending appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s word this evening that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a three-day cease-fire starting early tomorrow. Egypt proposed it, with negotiations to follow a halt in the Gaza fighting that has killed almost 1,900 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis. The news came hours after Israel observed its own short truce for part of the day.

    The brief unilateral cease-fire was designed, Israelis said, to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

    YOEL BENON, Deputy Director of Security, Kerem Shalom Border Crossing: They all bring flour, rice and foodstuffs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The seven-hour lull didn’t apply everywhere, but was supposed to enable at least some Palestinians to return to their homes. Tens of thousands have been forced out by airstrikes and heavy fighting. But Hamas charged the Israelis broke their own truce by striking a house in Gaza City, killing an 8-year-old girl and injuring at least 30 others.

    NADYEH ABUTUH, Gaza Resident (through interpreter): We were having breakfast and suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of rubble. We pulled all of these people out from the rubble, as you can see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Elsewhere, eight Palestinians from one family were killed in early-morning shelling in Beit Lahia in Gaza’s northern reaches. The cease-fire also didn’t cover Rafah on Gaza’s southern border, where heavy fighting that began Friday continued today amid widespread destruction, all of this as much of the Israeli ground force withdrew from Gaza, while aerial bombardments continued.

    There were two other attacks today on the streets of Jerusalem. A Palestinian man rammed an excavator into a city bus near the dividing line between Jewish West Jerusalem and a predominantly-Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

    MICKY ROSENFELD, Spokesman, Israel Police: The tractor made its way down the main road and hit a bus, flipped the bus over. At this moment in time, what we know from the police officers that arrived at the scene opened fire at one of the suspects inside the tractor itself. He was shot and killed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A pedestrian was also killed in the incident. Separately, an Israeli soldier in Jerusalem was shot and seriously wounded.

    Meanwhile, there was more fallout from Sunday’s Israeli airstrike on a United Nations school in Rafah. Three suspected militants were killed, along with seven others lined up for food aid. It was only the latest such attack and drew strong condemnations.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called it a moral outrage. The U.S. State Department branded it disgraceful.

    Today, a White House spokesman explained the strong words.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: What that State Department statement made clear is that the suspicion that militants are operating nearby doesn’t justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hours later came the reports from Egypt that Israel and Hamas had accepted yet another cease-fire proposal.

    In another development, the State Department played down a report that Israel intercepted phone calls by Secretary of State John Kerry last year. The account in the German magazine “Der Spiegel” said Kerry used unsecured phones during a push for Middle East peace talks.

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki:

    JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: We have better disposal tools to secure phones and computers for highly classified communication, but there are also times we communicate less sensitive information via open lines to world leaders and others. We are fully aware of the possible risks. We will continue to utilize open communications channels when appropriate and secure communication channels when necessary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The magazine reports that intelligence agencies in Russia and China may also have listened in on Kerry’s calls.

    GWEN IFILL: Lebanese army soldiers advanced against Islamist rebels from Syria today in a battle for a border town. The fighting around Arsal began on Saturday. Thousands of civilians and Syrian refugees have fled the area since then.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rescue crews in southern China dug out scores of survivors today from the rubble of a Sunday earthquake. It killed at least 398 people and wrecked 12,000 homes. Thousands of soldiers and local police have now joined the rescue operation. They’re working against the clock, as rain is expected to fall in the area over the next three days.

    GWEN IFILL: A massive landslide in Nepal is raising fears of flooding and causing mass evacuations in Eastern India. The disaster happened Saturday on a mountain river 75 miles east of Katmandu, the Nepalese capital. The landslide, touched off by monsoon rains, blocked a river and formed a new lake. It now threatens to overflow and inundate villages where 125,000 people live downriver in India.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Northern California, two large wildfires have scorched nearly 100 square miles. The two fires, burning about eight miles apart, expanded from a national forest onto private property over the weekend. It destroyed eight homes and forced the evacuation of a small hospital. Large fires are also burning in southern Oregon and Washington State.

    GWEN IFILL: For the first time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to disclose how much pollution its dams are sending into the nation’s waterways. The Corps today settled a federal lawsuit in Oregon filed by the conservation group Columbia Riverkeeper. The group has said the Corps failed to monitor oil discharges from eight dams in Oregon and Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report today on New York City’s juvenile jails. It found a — quote — “culture of violence” at facilities that hold 16-to-18-year-old offenders. Federal prosecutors said guards routinely use excessive force and violate inmates rights. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to reform the jail system.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, stocks made up a bit of last week’s lost ground; the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 76 points to close at 16,569; the Nasdaq rose 31 points to close near 4,384; and the S&P 500 added more than 13 points to finish at nearly 1,939.

    The post News Wrap: Israel, Hamas agree to three-day cease-fire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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