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

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    rikers_violence

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s a deep-seated culture of violence against teen inmates at one of the country’s largest municipal jails, Rikers Island in New York City. That’s how the U.S. attorney in Manhattan described practices and conduct there in a report released yesterday.

    It also said staff at Rikers Island — quote — “routinely utilize force not as a last result, but instead as a means to control the adolescent population.”

    Among his findings, the U.S. attorney reported: Nearly 44 percent of male teens between 16 and 18 years old have been subjected to force at least once while in custody, a striking number of serious injuries, including broken jaws and bone fractures, and investigations and incident reports that were often incomplete or falsified.

    Benjamin Weiser has been covering the story for The New York Times, and joins me now.

    Benjamin Weiser, thank you for being here.

    This is some strong language in this report that covers the period 2011 to 2013, is it not?

    BENJAMIN WEISER, The New York Times: It is strong, but the United States attorney, Preet Bharara, made it clear that they felt they have got it supported with evidence and reports and all the findings that they made.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do they mean?  When they say deep-seated culture of violence against these 16-to-18-year-olds, what are they referring to?

    BENJAMIN WEISER: The United States attorney in this report, a roughly 80-page report, talked about sort of force first, that correction officers there have used force in an excessive way, have resorted to solitary confinement, an overreliance of that, and also a kind of culture of silence.

    Correction officers use the euphemism, hold it down. It was widely used within the jails, meaning don’t report this incident. Teachers and medical staff have learned to look the other way or not report or even feared retaliation for reporting accurately what they felt might have been injuries inflicted by staff on other inmates.

    The U.S. attorney said Rikers is a broken institution, and broken institutions produce broken people. One of the sad parts of this is that almost half of the inmates, the adolescent inmates, are said to be mentally ill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to read from a part of couple of the descriptions in the story that you wrote, Benjamin Weiser.

    You wrote, in one instance, a female corrections officer punched an inmate in the ribs using handcuffs that were wrapped around her hand after he had fallen asleep in class. And then she was joined by other officers who kicked him while he was down on the floor, sprayed him in his eyes with pepper spray.

    What was the justification for that?

    BENJAMIN WEISER: Well, those are just samplings of a vast number of such cases.

    Our own reporting at The New York Times, my colleagues Mike Winerip and Michael Schwirtz, found that an internal report found that 129 inmates had been subjected to incidents of use of force last year over just 11 months. That required after altercations — seriously injured after altercations with staff.

    It’s just — the U.S. attorney said there was a widespread violation of civil rights, a pattern and practice of the overuse of force and the overreliance on solitary confinement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And tell us what the report says about how the corrections officers themselves explained why they did what they did.

    BENJAMIN WEISER: Well, what the report does say is that many of the corrections officers would give accounts, written reports after the fact, but those reports often were contradicted by not only the inmates’ accounts, but by videotape that was running at the time of an incident.

    And, in one case, the report said that accounts by several of the correction officers were so similar in language that it appeared that they had colluded. And, sometimes, the report said, inmates were beaten out of view of video cameras, as if they had been taken into isolated areas where video cameras were not watching.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The code of silence that you mentioned a minute ago appears to be a big part of this, where the report, the U.S. attorney’s office found, as you said, that there was an effort to keep quiet about what happened.

    Now, we know that New York City has a new corrections commissioner. What is the new official in charge of all this saying?  And what are they doing now?

    BENJAMIN WEISER: That’s a good question.

    The report was very careful to make the point that its investigation looked at a period that ended late last year. And, of course, that was the last administration, the Bloomberg administration. He had also made clear that the new commissions — commissioner of correction, Joseph Ponte, had not been the head of the agency during all this misconduct.

    But it’s now his ball game. And the report made clear that it expects and hopes a kind of cooperative response from the city over the next few months. If the city doesn’t respond that way, the U.S. attorney’s document said, the U.S. — the Justice Department could actually bring a lawsuit and seek remedial action that way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just to clarify, Rikers Island is a place where youth from all over the New York metropolitan area go?

    BENJAMIN WEISER: That’s right. There’s a combination of about 10 jails. Three of the jails presently hold adolescents. There are roughly 490 or 500 or so adolescents currently there. Again, that’s the age of 16 to 18.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do we know what’s happened or what — if there’s any punishment for a guard or a correction officer who was found to have engaged in excessive force?

    BENJAMIN WEISER: No. In fact, the report sort of makes the point that most these incidents didn’t lead to substantial punishments or discipline for corrections officers where even that happened.

    The union head of the corrections — the corrections union, a fellow named Norm Seabrook — actually, it was interesting. He gave a response to this report yesterday. And he said that they welcome certain reforms. He also said that there had been a lot of mismanagement at Rikers. He was sort of turning it around and pointing to the management and the leadership.

    And, to some extent, the report makes that point well. It actually makes it fairly strongly. But he also said that there are times when correction officers need to respond to defend themselves. And he seemed to suggest that much of this might have been that kind of response.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is a striking report. Benjamin Weiser with The New York Times, we thank you for joining us.

    BENJAMIN WEISER: Thank you.

    The post U.S. attorney finds Rikers Island officers use force ‘first’ against adolescent inmates appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    85406821

    In 2011, Eli Pariser delivered a TED Talk titled “Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles.’” A few months later, he published his book, “The Filter Bubble”, which addresses the same topic. In both, Pariser identifies one of the creation myths of the Internet — while previously newspaper editors and TV producers controlled what viewers saw and, to a certain extent, how they perceived current events, the Internet broke down this system by allowing complete, unfettered access to information.

    Pariser goes on to debunk this myth, explaining how Internet users and invisible algorithms function together to create a curated media experience. By choosing to “like” or “follow” specific stories, pages and users, we paint a picture for sites like Google and Facebook of our interests, preferences and worldview. These sites’ algorithms then set to work ensuring we are shown more of the same. The more we “like” a certain type of content, the more similar content becomes visible in our searches and news feeds.

    According to Pariser, the problems that arise from this are two-fold. First, it becomes possible for users to unwittingly opt-out of meaningful news coverage. By repeatedly clicking on cute cat memes and pop culture listicles, we encourage sites to show us more and more of the content Pariser describes as “information junk food,” until “information vegetables” — thoughtful articles and serious journalism — are completely eliminated from our media diet.

    Those who continue to eat their “vegetables” are in danger of having their feeds filtered to cater to their biases. Gilad Lotan recently published his findings on this topic on Medium.com. He explains:

    “As we construct our online profiles based on what we already know, what we’re interested in, and what we’re recommended, social networks are perfectly designed to reinforce our existing beliefs … Content that makes us uncomfortable, is filtered out.”

    Users who don’t bypass news altogether run the risk of bypassing stories that contradict their worldview. Lotan goes on to explore how this type of filtering has increased polarization on both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Have the Internet, social media and algorithmic filters contributed to political polarization in the United States? Has the ability to subsist on a diet of “information junk food” led to increased apathy towards foreign and even domestic events?

    Share your thoughts in a Twitter chat from 1-2 p.m. EDT this Thursday, August 7. Gilad Lotan (@gilgul will join to discuss his work on this topic. Follow the conversation and jump in using #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter Chat: Who controls our perception of current events? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hundreds of Hillary Clinton campaign buttons are ready to be shipped to Clinton supporters by Ready For Hillary, a PAC urging Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016 from its headquarters in Rosslyn, VA. Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

    Hundreds of Hillary Clinton campaign buttons are ready to be shipped to supporters earlier this year by Ready For Hillary, a PAC urging Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016. Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

    The new Associated Press-GfK poll offers a look at how nine potential 2016 presidential candidates appeal to the public.

    Awareness on the rise

    Though the 2016 presidential campaign remains distant, Americans are getting to know those most likely to run. Hillary Clinton is best known; 9 in 10 offer an opinion about her. On the GOP side, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is best known, with nearly three-quarters offering an opinion on him.

    Awareness increased significantly for all nine potential candidates tested, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren making the biggest gains. Warren is one of two who are least known: 56 percent don’t know enough to have an opinion about her and 61 percent say the same about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush takes the stage during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took the stage on the final day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on August 30, 2012. According to a new poll, voters have a “favorable” opinion of him. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    For Republicans, a mixed bag

    Among Republicans, Jeb Bush is most popular, with 56 percent holding a favorable opinion of the former Florida governor. Majorities have positive impressions of Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz generates more positive (46 percent favorable) than negative (14 percent unfavorable) impressions, while Walker remains broadly unknown even in his own party — 57 percent don’t have an opinion either way.

    Christie generates mixed reviews, with 45 percent viewing him favorably, 35 percent unfavorably. Thirty-nine percent of conservative Republicans see Christie more negatively than other Republicans (26 percent), a potential hindrance should he face the deeply conservative GOP primary electorate.

    Among Democrats, Clinton remains most popular

    Eight in 10 Democrats have a positive view of Clinton. She tops both Vice President Joe Biden, who had a 71 percent favorable rating and Warren, who had 33 percent favorability. Clinton’s popularity crosses ideological lines, with 84 percent of liberals and 80 percent of other Democrats viewing her positively. Biden fares better among liberal Democrats: 80 percent favorable vs. 66 percent among other Democrats.

    Most Democrats, 51 percent, say they don’t know enough about Warren to have an opinion, but she is more popular among liberals (42 percent favorable) than moderate or conservative Democrats (28 percent).

    The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28, 2014, using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,044 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents. It is larger for subgroups.

    Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

    The post How popular are these 9 potential presidential candidates? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This satellite image from the National Weather Service was taken at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday over the central Pacific Ocean showing the two storms approaching the Hawaiian islands.

    Hawaii is under a tropical storm warning as two hurricanes spin their way across the Pacific ocean. Residents are bracing themselves for torrential winds, rains and flooding, all of which are likely to cause power disruptions on the Islands.

    Iselle, a category 4 hurricane on Monday, was reduced to a category 1 Wednesday. It is trailed by Julio, which was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane Wednesday. They are moving at wind speeds of 90 mph and 75 mph, respectively. Maui and the big Island of Hawaii are expected to feel the storms’ greatest impact.

    Although both hurricanes are expected to pass within three to four days, residents have been advised by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to stock up on bottled water and emergency supplies.

    “Hawaii hasn’t been hit by a tropical storm or hurricane at all since 1992. And the one-two punch would be unprecedented in the era of satellite hurricane tracking,” said Kevin Roth, a meteorologist for the Weather Channel.

    The post Hawaii gears up for double hurricanes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA

    The New York Times reports that U.S. poultry exports to Russia account for about $300 million. Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order on Wednesday to ban and limit imports of agricultural products from the United States and other countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia.

    The U.S. and the European Union have recently imposed some of the toughest sanctions on Russia amid escalating tensions over the crisis in Ukraine, banning Russian companies, banks and exported goods.

    Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Putin ordered the ban as a retaliation to countries that have established sanctions on Russia, banning fruits from Poland and beef and cattle from Romania.

    According to The New York Times, Russia relies heavily on agricultural products from the U.S., with the imports adding up to about $1 billion annually in recent years. The import restrictions might also hurt Russia’s own economy, The Moscow Times wrote on Wednesday.

    Moscow has been denying all allegations linking its involvement in the conflict along the Ukrainian border.

    The post Russia bans imports on U.S. agricultural goods appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Investigators in Afghanistan today pieced together the circumstances surrounding yesterday’s killing of a U.S. Army general. They said an Afghan soldier hid in a bathroom, then opened fire on a group of foreign and Afghan officers. Major General Harold Greene was killed, but officials say there was no indication that he was specifically targeted. The general’s remains were being readied today to return to the U.S.

    GWEN IFILL: Indirect talks began in Cairo today on a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. An Israeli official told Reuters his government is ready to extend a 72-hour truce, now in its second day. But Hamas said there’s been no agreement.

    And at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the death and destruction in Gaza from Israeli strikes has shocked and shamed the world.

    BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, United Nations: Mere suspicion of militant activity doesn’t justify jeopardizing the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians. International humanitarian law clearly requires protection by all parties of civilians and civilian facilities, including U.N. staff and U.N. premises.

    GWEN IFILL: Ban called for Hamas to halt all rocket fire and weapons smuggling and for Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza.

    Later, in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Israel’s tactics in Gaza were justified and proportionate. He said it’s Hamas that bears the blame for heavy civilian casualties.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: So it’s not that they don’t want them. They want them. And they pretty much say so. Indeed, Hamas has adopted a strategy that abuses and sacrifices Gaza’s civilians. They use them as human shields. They endanger them and deliberately increase the death toll.

    GWEN IFILL: Officials in Gaza say nearly 1,900 Palestinians died in the fighting, most of them civilians. Israel lost 64 soldiers and three civilians were killed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Eastern Ukraine, government forces made new gains today against pro-Russian rebels holding the city of Donetsk. At the same time, there were new warnings that Russia’s military might invade to protect the rebels.

    In Warsaw, the Polish prime minister pointed to a Russian buildup just across the Ukrainian border.

    DONALD TUSK, Prime Minister, Poland (through interpreter): We have reasons to believe, according to information I have received in the last few hours, that the threat of direct Russian intervention is certainly greater than it was a few days ago. For that reason, it is not ruled out that the Ukrainian crisis could grow more serious than it already is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. and NATO officials say the Russians now have about 20,000 troops massed along the border. A NATO statement today suggested Moscow could use the pretext of a humanitarian mission to invade.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. and Europe have already imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions. Today, the Kremlin struck back. President Vladimir Putin announced his government will target agricultural imports from the West. The Russian veterinary service said all such products from the United States will be banned outright.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Iraq, two car bombs tore through Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing more than 50 people. Meanwhile, to the north, the government reported an airstrike killed 60 militants in Mosul now held by the Islamic State group. And Kurdish forces launched an offensive against Islamic State fighters near the regional capital of Irbil.

    GWEN IFILL: The death toll from the weekend earthquake in southern China rose sharply overnight to at least 589. Rescue teams found more bodies as they reached mountainous farming villages that had not yet been searched. In addition to the dead, more than 2,400 people were injured.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The state of Hawaii braced today for a one-two hurricane punch. The first of the two storms could strike Friday, with the second trailing by a couple of days. In advance, people in Honolulu rushed to stores to stock up on food and power supplies. Others battened down boats before high winds and storm surges hit.

    GWEN IFILL: Another veteran Republican lawmaker has turned back a Tea Party challenge. Kansas Senator Pat Roberts won his primary yesterday by a narrow margin. Meanwhile, in Michigan, Republican Congressman Kerry Bentivolio, a Tea Party ally, lost to a challenger supported by the party establishment. Another Tea Party-backed congressman, Justin Amash, won renomination.

    And Democrat Debbie Dingell was nominated to succeed her husband, Congressman John Dingell. He’s retiring after a record 58 years in the House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Same-sex marriage lawsuits in four states went before a federal appeals court in Cincinnati today. A three-judge panel heard arguments on gay marriage bans in Michigan and Kentucky. The issue in Ohio dealt with recognizing same-sex unions from other states. And a Tennessee case more narrowly focused on the rights of same-sex couples. The judge’s rulings could be weeks away.

    GWEN IFILL: There’s word that Bank of America and the Justice Department are nearing a record settlement over alleged conduct before the housing meltdown. The Wall Street Journal reports the bank will pay $16 billion to $17 billion. It involves actions by two subsidiaries in the mortgage market. The announcement is expected tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 14 points to close at 16,443; the Nasdaq rose two points to close at 4,355; and the S&P added a fraction to finish at 1,920.

    The post News Wrap: Investigators piece together killing of U.S. Army general in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HOLES IN THE NET monitor russia hackers

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    GWEN IFILL: Computer hacking and the breaches of privacy that come with them are becoming a regular and unwelcome feature of our wired world.

    Now The New York Times and a security firm based in the Midwest are reporting a massive one that includes the collection of more than a billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million e-mail addresses. What’s more, the perpetrators appear to be a shadowy Russian crime ring.

    Details, including the names of the victims, are hard to come by. But the news has raised eyebrows around the world. So, how serious is it?

    For that, we turn to Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, a Web security firm.

    Mr. Alperovitch, tell us just in context of all these other breaches we have had in the past year, say, how — relative to those, how big is this?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CrowdStrike: Well, the number is certainly striking; 1.2 billion credentials is a lot. In the past, we have seen some big breaches that numbered in the hundreds of millions.

    But this is certainly the biggest one that I — that I can remember.

    GWEN IFILL: Are we talking about a targeted attack in which they are trying to take down either individuals or corporations? Or was this a sweep?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Not all the details are known yet, but what we do know is that these criminals did aggregate a lot of already stolen data from other cyber-criminals, and that probably amplified some of these numbers.

    They were also able to hack into a number of Web sites and steal credentials that people were using to log into those sites.

    GWEN IFILL: And when we say shadowy Russian crime ring, who are these hackers?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: They have not been publicly identified.

    The firm that released this information called them cyber-thieves, CyberVor. In Russian, vor means thief. But we don’t yet know a whole lot about them, but we do know that there’s a wide range of cyber-criminals operating out of Russia that have formed these organized criminal syndicates.

    They have really been trading in this type of stolen information, credentials, banking details, credit card numbers. And it’s a really booming business over there.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about Hold Security, the firm that uncovered this and provided this information to The New York Times, which The New York Times said it authenticated through a third party.

    Its head is a guy named Alex Holden. And there have been some questions raised among — especially among tech reports today whether the timing of this was suspicious, happening just as tech people are meeting in Las Vegas for this big conference, which you are there attending actually.

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: I am, indeed.

    This is not unusual, though, that security firms have released reports at these big conferences, like the Black Hat conference that is here in Vegas right now. That usually is done to get more publicity around this time and it is not something that is all that unusual.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. At the root of this, I am told, I read, is something called a botnet. What is a botnet?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: A botnet is essentially a network of compromised machines.

    So, when you get a suspicious e-mail, and you decide to click on it and your e-mail is infected by a cyber-criminal, your machine will connect to a server that they control. And when you aggregate this to millions of machines that get compromised every single day around the world, you essentially create these network of machines that the cyber-criminals have complete control over.

    They can steal any type of file from that system or they can monitor that system on an ongoing basis. And any time you visit a site like your banking Web site do your online banking, for example, they can steal your username and password and surreptitiously send it to the cyber-criminal.

    GWEN IFILL: Do we know that that happened in this case?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: That’s what the firm is reporting, that some of the credentials were in fact harvested from botnets, which is a common thing that we see regularly from cyber-criminals. That alone is not going to get you 1.2 billion credentials.

    For them to get to those types of numbers, they clearly have to go to the source of that data, which is Web sites that would aggregate this information. So we have heard of incidents in the past. Adobe was compromised about a year ago, “Forbes” magazine earlier this year, where the criminals were able to get into the Web sites of these companies and steal all the credentials, all the usernames and hashes of the passwords that were used for logins in to those sites.

    GWEN IFILL: And actually cause those companies or those individuals damage? Do we know that money was drained from bank accounts? Do we know whether there is — this is a lucrative thing to amass all of this information, which is basically what it sounds like these hackers were doing?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: So, typically, these credentials are not directly to the banking sites.

    Most banking sites are actually very secure, and it’s very hard to retrieve the usernames and passwords directly to those banking sites, unless you’re collecting it from the botnet, as I mentioned before.

    But what is a common problem these days is that people reuse passwords. So the same username and passwords that you may use to sign up for a magazine subscription, someone may use to log in into their banking sites. And is a real problem, because when those credentials gets reused, if one of those sites gets compromised, you are vulnerable everything else you use those credentials.

    GWEN IFILL: This is supposed to be a billion different user-passwords combinations. Are we talking about from all kinds of different Web sites or from one big breach, for instance, only a few companies that would have that many users, like Facebook or Google or Microsoft?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, reportedly, it does include data from over 400,000 sites. But there are probably some very big breaches in there that amplify those numbers.

    GWEN IFILL: OK.

    So, now here’s the real question for those of us who now are rushing to our desks to change our passwords again. Is this the risk of living in a wired world? Is this something that we have to get used to, build into our psyche, that once a month, we are going to hear about another big hack?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Unfortunately, it is.

    And once a month, we would be lucky if we heard at that frequency. Unfortunately, it’s almost a daily occurrence. And what I recommend to everyone is to make sure that you use a different password on every site that you do anything with, whether it’s a banking site, or even an innocuous site like a magazine subscription.

    And use a password management program to track all these sites. Obviously, no one can remember a hundred different passwords. So, create long and random passwords, store them in a secure program. And then you can easily access that password when you need to log in to that site.

    And when there’s a compromise, that compromise will be isolated just to the site that was hacked.

    GWEN IFILL: In your experience, do people take that advice?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Most don’t, unfortunately.

    But it’s really not that hard. And it takes just a little bit of effort, and you will be a lot more secure as a result.

    GWEN IFILL: Dmitri Alperovitch, thank you so much.

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Thank you.

    The post After criminals steal 1.2 billion web credentials, how to protect personal info from data breaches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An artist rendition of the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft approaching comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Photo courtesy of the ESA

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s taken 10 years and a journey of four billion miles, but, today, a spacecraft began orbiting a comet, a first in space history, and a mission that may tell us something about the origins of life itself.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our conversation, which was recorded as part of a Google Hangout earlier today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After a billion miles and 10 years in space, the Rosetta spacecraft, launched by the European Space Agency, it’s finally near where it’s supposed to be.

    That’s flying right now to a comet at 35,000 miles per hour. It took an amazing feat of rocket science and precise maneuvering to get the satellite close. And it will take even more to perform the next part of the mission by November. That is to get close enough to send a probe that will land on the comet.

    The first images were sent back today.

    Mark McCaughrean is the senior science advisory with the European Space Agency. He joins me now.

    So, why do we want to send a satellite this close to a comet?

    MARK MCCAUGHREAN, Senior Scientific Advisor, European Space Agency: That’s a great question.

    There’s many things we could do, but comets are the repository of information about the origin of our solar system. They’re leftover bits and pieces, if you like, the garbage pile that is left over from when the planets were made. That material is pristine, primordial, pretty much untouched.

    And by rummaging through that garbage pile, if you like, we can start to learn about how our solar system is built, but not only that, because these comets have got a lot of water in them. And they perhaps hold the answer to a long — a mysterious question that has baffled people for a long time.

    If the Earth was really hot when it was first made, which it was, how did water stay on the planet? It would have boiled off? Maybe it came later or maybe it came from something like comets. So, the cup of coffee you had this morning, maybe you’re actually drinking stuff that came from a comet.

    And on top on that, we know that comets are really dark. They’re not snowballs. They’re very, very black. And they have got stuff in them which is dust, but also organic, complex molecules, including amino acids, the buildings blocks of life. So comets could have also seeded the Earth with the raw materials for making who we are today. So there’s — if you like, there’s the loop.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, we have gotten close to comets before, so why do we need to orbit one?

    MARK MCCAUGHREAN: All the other mission have been quick flybys, because it’s actually easier — much easier — or, in terms of spaceflight, rocket science — to fly past a comet very quickly instead of work our way around the solar system using the other planets, using Earth and Mars to kind of bend our trajectory around to get to — actually slow down and get to the right speed to rendezvous.

    So we have learned things about comets, but just for a few minutes at a time. This time, we are going to watch this comet as it comes into the inner solar system, heats up, evolves, changes, gets dynamic. There is going to be so many unexpected surprises, but we will be able to then use that to link what we see from the comet close up to what we see from comets from distances, and use it as a — exactly what the name suggests, a Rosetta stone for understanding comets in general from being close up to this one.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk a little bit about what this took to accomplish. We’re talking a 10-year-long project, scientists and equipment from all over.

    MARK MCCAUGHREAN: In some ways, it’s actually a lot longer than that, because, in 1986, the European Space Agency did a first. It was the first ever flyby of a comet, Comet Halley, on its famous passage back in 1986.

    And then there was the genesis of the idea to actually start, saying, flying by at 68 kilometers a second and seeing a few minutes’ worth of data is good. But what would it be like to go there and stay there for a full year and maybe even land?

    So, that was then. By 1993, the mission had been approved. It took 10 years to build it. And then we had to launch it. We had a year’s delay, not on our side, in the sense the mission was ready, but one of our rockets exploded and we had to then revisit that and try to work out what was wrong with that.

    And we lost the first comet we were supposed to be going to. It had moved on. We had to pick another one quickly. And now we have been in space for 10 years. And what I have been saying is, being in the cars for 10 years, the kids in the back being — getting a bit irritated. Are we there yet?

    And we’re there now. We haven’t got out of the car. We’re looking out the window. And there’s scientific Disneyland just waiting for us. It’s the most astonishing project — comet to get to — sorry — right at the end. What an amazing place to land on. We couldn’t have wished for better.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You’re going to try to land on the comet. I have even heard the word harpoon.

    MARK MCCAUGHREAN: Yes, literally, yes.

    You might think we would take a bit of time off now, having had a good rendezvous today, and have a glass of champagne, but we can’t relax, because we’re at the perfect time. We’re at a Goldilocks time now. The comet is moving in from its orbit.

    Its most distant point from the sun is beyond the orbit of Jupiter. It’s cold out there. There’s not much sunlight. We couldn’t power the spacecraft fully out there. But coming in, we have got enough power to power the spacecraft now. And the comet is not too active yet.

    But comet will be getting active soon. And we want to land before it gets too active to kind of lower the risk. And that means we have to land by November. We have three months now to pick a landing site, both technically, scientifically, risk-wise, and get the thing down on the surface, so it is going to be a frantic period, really exciting as well, though.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what happens to that object after it lands? I have heard that they’re both hurtling toward the sun.

    MARK MCCAUGHREAN: It’s a little — I know. We all have these pictures of things going so close to the sun they break up and don’t come back out again. Comet ISON last year was one such object.

    Kind of the dirty secret here is this comet never comes as close to the sun as the Earth even. It ends up — its closest to the sun is 184 million kilometers out, so somewhere between the Earth and Mars.

    It will have a tail. It will develop a big coma, the gas and dust blowing away. So, we will learn a lot. But it’s never in danger of being so bad that we risk the mission.

    One of the interesting little side facts is, people will want to know where they can go and look and see the comet. Don’t bother. You won’t be able to see it naked eye. You will need a pretty big telescope to see it at all. But you don’t have to worry. We have a ringside seat. We will show you it from close up.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark McCaughrean with the European Space Agency, thanks so much.

    The post How Rosetta can help decipher a comet’s secrets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of the 1st Australian Imperial Force at a camp in Australia around 1916. Photo from State Library of South Australia/the Open University

    Members of the 1st Australian Imperial Force at a camp in Australia around 1916. Photo from State Library of South Australia/the Open University

    For the 100th anniversary of the “war to end all wars,” a team at the Open University in the United Kingdom has been searching through photo archives around the world to find unique and significant images of the conflict. The university hired a photo restoration specialist to restore and color a handful of images. Here’s a sneak peek.

    Photo from the London Transport Museum. Restoration by the Open University

    Photo from the London Transport Museum. Restoration by the Open University

    Homing pigeons provided critical communications to and from the front, so the British forces developed traveling pigeon lofts built onto the back of busses. For more on the role pigeons played during the conflict, don’t miss Smithsonian Magazine’s “Closing The Pigeon Gap.”

    Photo from the State Library of South Australia. Restoration by the Open University

    Photo from the State Library of South Australia. Restoration by the Open University

    Kids pitch in during a fundraising drive for the Red Cross in Adelaide, Australia. The Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C., but grew by leaps and bounds during the Great War. In 1914 the aid organization had only 17,000 members. By 1918, membership grew to 20 million.
    Photo from The British Library. Restoration by the Open University

    Photo from The British Library. Restoration by the Open University

    Photo from the Canadian Library and Archive. Restoration by the Open University

    Photo from the Canadian Library and Archive. Restoration by the Open University

    Chemical weapons were a threat to human and animal alike. Above, Indian infantry wear protective masks in trenches in 1915. Below, a member of the Canadian Veterinary Corps and his horse model protective masks.

    Photo from The British Library. Restoration by the Open University

    Photo from The British Library. Restoration by the Open University


    Personal comforts were few for soldiers in the trenches. Above, a soldier gets a haircut from a barber on the Albanian front.

    Photo from the State Library of South Australia. Restoration by the Open University

    Photo from the State Library of South Australia. Restoration by the Open University

    Pvt. Cleveland Frank Snoswell is welcomed home to Adelaide, Australia, at the end of the war. More than 60,000 Australians died in World War I, out of more than 400,000 who served.

    View all of the restored images at the Open University.

    The post Photo Essay: World War I remastered and in color appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    californiaquake

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    GWEN IFILL: Next, we turn to a science report on a major new effort to give California communities more warning about an impending earthquake.

    The quake in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province earlier this week provided a sobering reminder of the deadly toll. Unlike most natural disasters, earthquakes usually hit without warning.

    The NewsHour’s Cat Wise has a story on plans to give residents in Southern California a heads-up.

    CAT WISE: In Mexico, when an earthquake is about to hit, many people hear this.

    (SIREN BLARING)

    CAT WISE: And in Japan, where thousands of seismic sensors are installed around the country, this is what some TV viewers saw in 2011 right before their large quake hit.

    But, in Long Beach, California, residents have had no warning system, even though the area, home to the second busiest container port in the country, oil refineries and a major airport, sits on top of one of the most seismically active regions in the world. In 1933, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Long Beach, causing widespread destruction and killing 115 people.

    Since then, laws have been passed to improved building standards. And residents are better educated about earthquake risks. So why hasn’t a system been rolled out in the U.S. yet?

    Lucy Jones is a science adviser for risk reduction in the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS.

    LUCY JONES, Seismologist, United States Geological Survey: Japan voted for the money after 6,000 died in Kobe. Mexico voted for it after 10,000 died in Michoacan. China had 80,000 die in the Sichuan earthquake and then started early warning.

    What we’re hoping to be is the first country that brings it in without killing 1,000 people first.

    (SIREN BLARING)

    COMPUTER VOICE: Earthquake.

    CAT WISE: The system she is talking about called ShakeAlert is being tested in a handful of sites around California, including Long Beach.

    MAN: OK. It looks like there’s an earthquake at 142.

    CAT WISE: On a recent afternoon, a loud warning and a countdown sounded in the city’s emergency command center when a small quake hit to the north.

    REGGIE HARRISON, Long Beach, California, Deputy City Manager: How many seconds of warning did we get?

    MAN: We have 67 seconds of total warning.

    CAT WISE: Reggie Harrison is Long Beach’s deputy city manager in charge of disaster preparedness.

    REGGIE HARRISON: If we get a warning, seconds or tens of seconds of warning, we like to give information to the gas department, where they may take an opportunity to turn off gas, give the public an opportunity to drop cover and hold, or giving a crane operator at the port an opportunity to get down from that crane.

    CAT WISE: ShakeAlert is being developed by a team of scientists from the USGS and several West Coast universities, including here at the California Institute of Technology.

    ELIZABETH COCHRAN, Seismologist, United States Geological Survey: So what we have here is the — what we typically have installed in the field.

    CAT WISE: Elizabeth Cochran, a seismologist with USGS and Cal Tech, is one of those working on the new system.

    ELIZABETH COCHRAN: For the current early warning system, we have about 500 sensors throughout the state which are contributing data. And that number continues to grow as we install new sensors or upgrade sensors.

    CAT WISE: The sensors send back data in real time to servers on campus, which use sophisticated algorithms to analyze the information in less than a second and send out alerts.

    Those alerts, which will range from a few seconds to a minute or more, depending on distance from the epicenter, will eventually go out over cell phones, radios, TVs, and other emergency communications. The system depends on something about earthquakes most people probably don’t know.

    They actually send out two different seismic waves, P waves, or primary waves, come first. They travel faster, but are generally small and harder to feel. S waves, or secondary waves, are slower, but cause more damage. That lag time is important, says Cochran.

    ELIZABETH COCHRAN: We can actually measure those P waves, which aren’t very damaging, and then predict how big the earthquake is going to be, and hopefully get that warning out to people before the S waves come in.

    CAT WISE: She showed us how the warning system would work during a hypothetical 7.8 earthquake in Southern California.

    ELIZABETH COCHRAN: Our sensors would rapidly detect that earthquake. You can see here the yellow or are the P waves, and the second wave here is the S wave. And that’s where we get our strong shaking.

    Los Angeles would get about 60 seconds of warning.

    CAT WISE: Russ Oliver is one of the dozen or so seismic engineers around the state who install and maintain the large network of sensors. On the afternoon we caught up with Oliver, he was checking on sensors 10 feet underground in a concrete bunker near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The sophisticated equipment in this location costs about $30,000.

    RUSS OLIVER, California Institute of Technology: The sensors are very sensitive. Imagine a football field, and you lift it up on one end, slide a human hair underneath it, and the sensors could detect that lift.

    CAT WISE: While the public early warning system will be new for most residents once it’s rolled out, some private companies like one called Seismic Warning Systems already use different proprietary technology to provide earthquake alerts for paying clients.

    Sensors installed directly on their buildings reduce alert times. The costs range from $1,200 to $2,500 per client a year. But USGS’ Lucy Jones feels it’s important also for the government to make investments to the public system being created.

    LUCY JONES: The reality is, this is a benefit for all of us. Something like 40 states have some earthquake risk. We’re going to figure out how to do it here because so much more is at stake, but once we do it it’s something that we can give to everyone.

    CAT WISE: So far, the system’s only been partially funded by Congress. And in California, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill supporting development of the system, but stipulated that no general state funds could be used.

    Mark Ghilarducci is the director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

    MARK GHILARDUCCI, Director, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services: Government will continue to provide a funding stream, but not all of the funding. We’re looking at it in a little bit more innovative ways, a little outside-the-box thinking to be able to incorporate our partners in the private sector.

    CAT WISE: Back in Long Beach, Deputy City Manager Reggie Harrison doesn’t care how the system is funded. He’s just anxious to get it implemented in his community.

    REGGIE HARRISON: It can literally save lives, this technology. Seconds really do count in this industry, and especially with an earthquake.

    CAT WISE: Officials say, even if funding is coming through soon, it will be several years before California residents are likely to hear this…

    (ALARM BLARING)

    CAT WISE: … before an earthquake.

    The post Measuring ‘p-waves’ to warn the public of impending earthquakes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Authors Margaret MacMillan, John Mearsheimer and Jack Beatty appeared on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour to discuss the legacy of World War I.

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I. PBS NewsHour chief correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke with authors Margaret MacMillan, John Mearsheimer and Jack Beatty on Wednesday about the lasting effects of the war on the United States today.

    In the above web-only portion of their conversation, Beatty, senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly, said today’s U.S. alliance includes Japan, which is butting heads with China over issues such as territorial rights over islands in the East China Sea. “Is that the kind of alliance that could lead to a war? We don’t know,” he said.

    Since the world wars, the United States’ goal has been to make sure no single country dominates Europe or Asia, said Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago. These days, “you don’t see any threat to dominating Europe today … but Asia is a very different story,” with the rise of China, he said.

    But MacMillan, professor of international history at Oxford University, said China has “other issues to worry about,” including Japan, India and its neighbors. “I’m not sure the rise of China is going to be that smooth.”

    Watch more of their conversation on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    The post How does WWI impact the U.S. today? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Emory Hospital To Receive American Ebola Patients From Liberia

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now an update on the Ebola outbreak.

    The World Health Organization today raised the number of dead and called for discussions on using experimental drugs.

    Every day, there are more victims of the Ebola outbreak and more burials. The World Health Organization now says the death toll reached 932 by Monday. Almost all had been in three countries, Guinea, where the outbreak began, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

    But the new number includes a man who died in Nigeria after traveling from Liberia. Since Monday, Nigerian health officials report a nurse who treated that patient has died. The airport in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, is now on high alert, screening passengers for body temperature and other symptoms as they arrive.

    YAKUBU DATI, General Manager, Corporate Communications of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria: We have a medical team from the Ministry of Health under the port services that inspects their medical history and also have some equipment where they check without having personal contact. And all that is done on arrival even before the immigration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, officials in Sierra Leone and Liberia have deployed hundreds of soldiers and police to quarantine remote villages and medical centers in Ebola hot spots. The leaders of those two countries missed this week’s Africa Summit in Washington in order to deal with the crisis.

    President Obama took note of their struggle today.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States and our international partners will continue to do whatever we can to help our African partners respond to this crisis, and to stand with the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In their histories, they have overcome great challenges, and they’re drawing on that same spirit of strength and resilience today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two Americans who helped treat Ebola patients in Liberia and were themselves infected are now being treated in Atlanta. They have received an experimental drug, ZMApp, that had never been tested on humans. The drug is extremely limited in supply. And today the World Health Organization announced it’s convening a medical panel next week to consider the ethics of making ZMApp more widely available.

    The post World Health Organization calls for emergency meeting on Ebola outbreak appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NIGERIA-HEALTH-DISEASE-EPIDEMIC-EBOLA-LIBERIA

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is a late-breaking piece of information. President Obama was asked this afternoon as he met with the African leaders who are here meeting at a summit in Washington — he was asked about that drug made available to the two American health care workers. He said — quote — “All the information is not in yet on the new Ebola drug.” He said, we need to let the science guide us.

    So, having said that, reports say there are only a handful of courses of treatment with that experimental drug right now. Its use is prompting questions over whom should get access and under what circumstances.

    We have two experts who join us to discuss this.

    Robert Garry is a virologist. And he’s a professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine. And Laurie Garrett is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    We welcome you both.

    Laurie Garrett, you just heard what the president said about that. What is known about any drug available at this point to treat Ebola?

    LAURIE GARRETT, Council on Foreign Relations: Almost nothing. We don’t know if they work. We don’t know if they are safe.

    There have been not been clinical trials. What we know is, one individual, an American, received this ZMAb drug and seems to have had a recovery. Did he have a recovery because he was part of the lucky 30 percent of people who have contracted Ebola in this current outbreak who have indeed walked away and survived the disease, or did he make it through because the drug worked?

    We don’t know. And until you have something more than an N of one person, you don’t have any clinical evidence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Garry, what is your understanding of how much is known about this drug and what is your comfort level with its having been given to one or two of these American health care workers before anyone else?

    DR. ROBERT F. GARRY, Tulane University School of Medicine: Well, let me answer the second question first.

    I am very comfortable having those two Americans given this experimental treatment. They’re both health care workers. They knew about the risks of taking an experimental drug, so they were fully informed of the possible outcomes.

    And so I think, as Americans, we need to do all that we can to protect people that go to countries where a very serious disease like this is occurring and do all we can to protect them if they should be unfortunate enough to get infected.

    So this drug, ZMApp, has shown very good promise in experimental animals. These human — these monoclonal antibodies are very promising drugs. They’re at the very top of a list for possible treatments for hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, staying with you, Dr. Garry, does that mean it should be more widely distributed at this point?

    DR. ROBERT F. GARRY: Well, when I came back from Sierra Leone about a month ago, I realized that this outbreak was — had the potential of being unlike any other, to spread wider and infect more people, because it was in West Africa instead of Central Africa.

    And so people are living much closer together there. They are more mobile. And, unfortunately, that has come to pass. So, my first concern when I came was about some of my colleagues who I have been working with for about 10 years. And I thought, well, maybe we need to start to pull out some of the stops and think about getting them some of these either experimental treatments like the ZMApp, or perhaps, even better, some of the vaccines that have shown such great promise in monkeys and in other trials.

    So, unfortunately, what I was faced with was resistance, saying, you can’t do experiments during an outbreak. And that didn’t come to pass. And, unfortunately, some of my dear colleagues lost their battle to Ebola virus.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Where was that resistance coming from, Dr. Garry?

    DR. ROBERT F. GARRY: Many people say that you shouldn’t do research during an outbreak.

    But I think that this outbreak is totally different. It’s not in Central Africa. It’s not so easy to get a ring around the small villages that are very isolated. It’s in West Africa. The population is much more dense. This outbreak is going to go on for a much longer period of time.

    So we need to think outside the box of some of the thinking that we have had about can’t do a research, can’t do a trial, can’t do these things. We need to get the approvals in place and we need to think about doing some things that are going to be necessary to protect Americans and also to help the Africans.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Laurie Garrett, listening to all this, what are the considerations that should be part of this conversation as it’s decided how — when, how, what medications are made available and to whom?

    LAURIE GARRETT: I think we’re in an unbelievably difficult mess here.

    There’s no easy answer to your question, Judy. We will start with this. We have a population that has demonstrated that they don’t trust their government, they don’t trust police, they don’t even trust the folks at the next village or the local health care workers.

    Health care workers have come under physical attack. People are — part of the reason we can’t control this epidemic is because people are not complying with quarantines, they are not complying with burial procedures meant to limit exposure to bodily fluids, and, in general, they are highly suspicious of everything that’s going on.

    So, now, if you start to introduce a pill, an injection, whatever it may be and say, we’re not sure, but we think this might be helpful, you’re going to have to have an extraordinary effort to communicate that risk to make it understood what you’re talking about, or you could have a really violent reaction against either saying, you know, that those white doctors from someone else put a pill in my relative’s mouth, and that’s what killed them, or, conversely, saying they’re hoarding the pills, and the pills will save you, and our village isn’t getting them as fast as this other village.

    This isn’t like rolling out an experimental procedure in Bethesda, Maryland, on the NIH campus. This is social chaos. And it’s potentially, if not thought through very carefully, you could be worsening the situation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re mainly talking about it obviously at the point of distribution, the difficulty of gaining the trust of people in these countries in West Africa and perhaps elsewhere on the African continent.

    Let me come back to you, Dr. Garry, because you were speaking about difficulties about the point of origin. What needs to change?  And, again, we don’t even know if this drug ZMApp is what has led to the survival so far of the American health care workers. But even assuming it is making a difference, what needs to happen, do you believe, in the United States or in the places where these drugs are being created and manufactured?

    DR. ROBERT F. GARRY: Well, first, let me address something that Ms. Garrett said.

    There are always going to be some people in a population that are going to resist what the government says and what they’re doing. But the vast majority of people in Sierra Leone and West Africa are listening to their government. The government is stepping up, doing the right thing. And there is cooperation there.

    So you’re going to get a small fraction that are going to say, no, that’s not the right thing to do. That’s, you know, white people coming in and causing a problem.

    But it’s not the — it’s not the vast majority of people there. And so what we need to do, is we need to engage the governments. We need to get all the ethical approvals in place on both sides of the Atlantic, in Africa and in the United States. We need to get out of our own way.

    If we can make these wonderful new drugs that may or may not have had an impact in the two Americans that are in Atlanta, let’s try some things. Let’s not be faced with the next outbreak and saying, oh, well, we can’t do something now because we don’t have the proper ethics approvals in place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, these are tough questions. And we are going to continue to look at this, as I know the two of you are.

    Dr. Robert Garry, Laurie Garrett, we thank you both.

    LAURIE GARRETT: Thank you.

    The post Should an experimental drug be used to treat Ebola in West Africa? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WWI U.S. SOLDIERS

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: One hundred years ago, the world was drawn into what was called the Great War. Seventeen million people died over the course of four years in a conflict that laid the foundation for wars that continue today.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Bright red ceramic poppies seemed everywhere this week at the Tower of London. They cascaded down the stonework into the dry moat, each one representing a British soldier who died during the war, nearly 900,000 in all. The poppy was about the only flower that would grow in the wastelands of Belgium and Northern France, where millions fought and died in four long years of trench warfare.

    This week, former enemies have marked the centennial of the conflict with ceremonies in Belgium and elsewhere.

    KING PHILIPPE, Belgium (through interpreter): The remembrance of the First World War allows us to reflect on the decision made to keep the peace and bring people closer together. The European memory reminds us that no country can last without a spirit that can surpass the suffering endured, and which moves beyond the question of culpability and directs itself resolutely towards the future.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Great War, as it came to be called, was the world’s first fully industrialized war, with tanks, machine guns, airplanes and chemical weapons used to devastating effect.

    Neutral at the beginning, the U.S. didn’t join the fight until 1917. The American commander, General John “Black Jack” Pershing, recorded this appeal to the home front, thought to be the first from a battlefield.

    GEN. JOHN PERSHING, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces: Three thousand miles from home, an American army is fighting for you. Everything you hold worthwhile is at stake. Only the hardest blows can win against the enemy we are fighting.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ultimately, more than four million Americans fought, 116,000 died, and 200,000 were wounded. Worldwide, 17 million soldiers and civilians were killed in Western and Eastern Europe and on other continents.

    The death and destruction radically altered the maps of Europe and the Middle East and the course of world history. In 1917, the Russian Revolution brought Vladimir Lenin to power, and led to the formation of the Soviet Union. The Russian empire, along with the Austro-Hungarian and German empires, had dominated the European mainland before the war. All three collapsed and their territories ultimately became the states of modern-day Europe.

    The Ottoman Empire was divided into the nation-states, including Syria and Iraq, of the Middle East. Ever since, the redrawn borders have been points of contention, helping fuel conflicts that continue today.

    French President Francois Hollande took note of that Sunday, saying if France and Germany can live in peace, so too can the Middle East.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): To those who are losing hope about the peace process in the Middle East, we couldn’t send a more beautiful message than today’s. France and Germany’s history proves that determination can overcome fatality and that two people who were viewed as hereditary enemies can, within a few years, reconcile.

    JEFFREY BROWN: World War I ultimately ended with the Treaty of Versailles, signed in Paris in 1919.

    The post How the ‘Great War’ redefined the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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    JEFFREY BROWN: From then to now, we turn to three people who have studied and written extensively on the war.

    Margaret MacMillan the author of “The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914.” She’s a professor of international history at Oxford University. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago is author of “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.” And Jack Beatty’s book on the war is “The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began.” A former editor for “The Atlantic,” he’s now a news analyst for the NPR program “On Point.”

    Well, welcome to you all.

    Margaret MacMillan, it’s a very big question, but I want to put it on the table right now. How is the world we live in today most shaped or influenced by World War I?

    MARGARET MACMILLAN, University of Oxford: What World War I does is begin to destroy European power. Europe starts its slide to being a much less important part of the world.

    The United States’ rise to a great power is accelerated. And of course what the First World War does is leave behind it a legacy of violence, bitterness, radical politics, ethnic politics which is going to go on playing out through the 20th century and indeed into the 21st century.

    JEFFREY BROWN: John Mearsheimer, how would you answer that, especially looking at today’s headlines about the Middle East and about Ukraine and Russia and so on?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago: Well, I would make two points.

    First of all, it is the first time that the United States engages in a major war outside of the Western Hemisphere. And, therefore, it represents the first time the United States begins to act as the world policemen, a policy that it continues to pursue today.

    Secondly, it’s very important to understand that, as a result of the war, three big empires, the Russian empire, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the Ottoman Empire, all collapsed. And the end result is you got the map of the Middle East that pretty much exists today after World War I.

    And you also got a change, a fundamental change in the map of Europe, where you have got all these states that didn’t exist before World War I created after World War I, countries like Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, and so forth and so on. And that has had a major consequence on European politics ever since then.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Jack Beatty, same question, but framing it a little differently, just to think in terms of some of the themes we just heard about, the catalyst for the nation-state, for nationalism, for industrialization of war, certainly, after World War I.

    JACK BEATTY, Author, “The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began”: Yes, indeed, the mechanization of war.

    But there is a sort of cultural or psychological legacy that Eric Hobsbawm, the British historian who died recently, nearly age 100, commented on. He said that the legacy of the war was barbarism, that people of his parents’ generation, people who grew to maturity before 1914, couldn’t imagine the horrors that were to come, that there were limits to what you could expect nations to do to one another.

    Now, of course, the nations had been doing terrible things to people in the tropics, and they had been doing — the Battle of Omdurman, for example, in a few hours, 10,000 Dervishes were mowed down by British Maxim guns. The line went, thank God that we have the Maxim gun and they have not.

    So, people in the Third World, as we would call it, felt this kind of barbarism or mass violence. But it was only after the Great War that that barbarism became a permanent fixture in warfare between nations and between — especially between European nations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Margaret MacMillan, when you look at, well, the rise of the modern concept of the nation-state, these things that are — remain so problematic, to what extent was that all there in the aftermath of World War I? To what extent was it there from the beginning?

    MARGARET MACMILLAN: Well, it was there even before the war.

    The idea that you should have a state based on a particular ethnicity, a nation-state, was already there. But what the First World War did, as John Mearsheimer said, was make it much more possible, because it destroyed the old empires which had kept these different nationalities inside one border. And so you have got a series of ethnically based states which sadly contained large minorities. And so it was an absolute formula for disaster.

    And we’re still seeing it happening in the Middle East today, as Iraq gets torn apart by this growing nationalization of different ethnicities.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Staying with you, Margaret MacMillan, I was seeing that it’s still with us even in Europe. I was just reading today about coming elections in Catalonia. Of course, you have elections in Scotland. These issues are still very much with us.

    MARGARET MACMILLAN: Well, I think in a funny way it’s almost a reaction to globalization, because I think as the world gets more interconnected, people cling to smaller identities. It’s a sort of home and it’s a sort of safety.

    I agree. Scotland has a strong nationalist movement, Catalonia, of course, and you see it further east in Europe. In the Balkans, you still have very strong national identities. You have trouble now still between Hungarians and their neighbors because of Hungarians living outside Hungary. And so, no, we certainly haven’t moved away from it yet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: John Mearsheimer, when you’re thinking about great power situations today or the kind of global struggles we see today, are there lessons that you most look at from 100 years ago?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: I think there are two fundamental differences between Europe today and Europe in 1914.

    I think the first is that, in 1914, you had one country, Germany, that was especially powerful, yet fearful. And I think that that Germany, imperial Germany, was the principal cause of the war. Today, you have no power in Europe, whether it’s Russia or Germany, that has the power to dominate Europe.

    So there’s no one country that can cause a lot of trouble. The second big difference is the presence of nuclear weapons. I think it would be almost impossible today to have World War III that looked like either World War I or World War II in Europe or in Asia or any other place on the planet, simply because of the presence of nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear weapons are major league forces for peace. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a limited war. But, anyway, all of this is to say that I think the situation in Europe is much more stable today than it was before World War I, before World War II, or even during the Cold War.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And yet, Jack Beatty, of course, globally, we still have superpower competition. We have the rise of China in Asia. What kind of lessons do you see from looking at the run-up to 1914?

    JACK BEATTY: Well, I see what Graham Allison at Harvard has called the Thucydides trap looming as a potential over history, U.S.-Chinese relations.

    The Thucydides trap refers to the book by Thucydides “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” in which he writes it was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.

    Well, change that around. It was the rise of Russia and the fear that this inspired in Germany in 1914 that made war inevitable. As you look through the German — what Germans of the period were saying, it was a feeling of now or never. Russia’s power will be irresistible in a few more years. It’s strategic railroads to the — its western borders will have been completed. Our whole strategy of a two-front war which counted on a lag in mobilization between Russia and Germany, that will be out the window. We won’t be able to stand for it. Let’s have a preventive war now.

    Well, you say we would never have a preventive war in China. And yet, in 1990, Paul Wolfowitz, who was then an assistant secretary of defense, wrote a paper, made front-page news in The New York Times, saying that it should be the policy of the United States to prevent the rise of a rival power.

    And, of course, the Bush doctrine of 2002, as it’s been called, essentially is a doctrine of preventive war. We will not wait for dangers to gather. We will prevent that from happening.

    So we have been tempted at the level of our elites. And then there’s just — to talk about preventive war.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Margaret MacMillan, I just wonder, as a historian, do you like to make these direct analogies, or do you hear echoes? What’s useful for us to think about now?

    MARGARET MACMILLAN: I think what is useful to think about is how we might formulate questions about the present by drawing on the past.

    But I don’t think the situations a hundred years ago are the same as today. So many more things have happened. And, as John Mearsheimer points out, we now have nuclear weapons. I think we can learn that it is very important to understand your neighbors, to understand what it is that they’re worried about, to try and build bridges.

    It’s very important to have international institutions. I wouldn’t agree completely with Jack Beatty, that I don’t think that things are inevitable in human history. I think if we accept that there are human factors, there are possibilities of making decisions, that nations on the rise don’t necessarily need to go to war with those comfortable hegemonic nations.

    You could have argued that Britain was probably going to go to war with the United States in the 1890s because the United States was a threat to the British position in the new world. And it didn’t happen. The British and the Americans decided to manage that relationship. So, I think you can have a transition as one nation becomes more powerful and another nation becomes less powerful.

    And I think we need to remember that. We need to remember that there are choices in history.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you know what? On that, we’re going to continue that discussion. We will do that online. And I will invite the audience to join us there later on.

    But, for now, Margaret MacMillan, Jack Beatty, and John Mearsheimer, thank you all so much.

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: You’re welcome.

    MARGARET MACMILLAN: Thank you.

    JACK BEATTY: Thank you.

    The post Did destruction and upheaval of WWI pave way for Ukraine, Mideast conflicts? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake shook Japan, triggering a catastrophic tsunami and nuclear disaster. Since then, PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien has provided some of the most in-depth reporting on the subject to-date. He has traveled to Fukushima three times and six times entered the exclusion zone, which he described as a “post-apocalyptic landscape of abandoned towns, frozen in time.”

    We’ve stitched his latest reports together into this documentary-length video. They include his tour of the hazardous Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and a look at the health of marine life off the coast of Japan. He also delves into the debate on the future of nuclear power there. Plus, a never-before-seen exclusive tour of Fukushima Daini, Daiichi’s sister plant, which narrowly escaped the same fate.

    A year after Daiichi failed, Japan shut down all 50 of its nuclear power reactors. The disaster prompted a congressionally-mandated report from the National Academy of Sciences this July on preparing nuclear power plants for “beyond-design” disasters.

    Nearly three and a half years later, the nuclear power plants remain shuttered. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pressing to reopen the Sendai plant southwest of Tokyo, pending a month of public consultations starting this August. Such a move would end the nuclear shutdown, but it’s been met with fierce opposition from those who argue that the plant, located 30 miles from an active volcano, lies in a dangerous and earthquake-prone region.

    View more of Miles coverage of Fukushima after the meltdown here.

    The post Miles O’Brien returns to the site of Japan’s nuclear disaster three years later appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Engineers are experimenting with new ways of harnessing the power of sun. If they can generate enough heat from sunlight, they can drive chemical reactions and create renewable fuels. Photo by Science Nation/National Science Foundation

    Engineers are experimenting with new ways of harnessing the power of sun. If they can generate enough heat from sunlight, they can drive chemical reactions and create renewable fuels. Photo by Science Nation/National Science Foundation


    Many cities and countries look to solar energy to replace coal burning power plant. Now a group of chemical and mechanical engineers want to harness the power of the sun to fuel cars, airplanes and semi-trucks.

    If the energy from sunlight can be harnessed and boosted in a single spot, it can be used to break chemical bonds, explains California Institute of Technology chemical engineer Sossina Haile.

    “What we’re doing is collecting enough to get a lot of heat and using that to drive chemical reactions,” Haile said, breaking water into hydrogen fuel or carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide.

    She and University of Minnesota mechanical engineer Jane Davidson are working that. In Davidson’s lab a solar simulator, an array of seven 7,000-watt lightbulbs, focuses its beams on a brick. It cranks out heat — 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, enough to burn a hole through the brick. These experiments will help them understand how to harness that much energy and turn it into solar fuel.

    Experiments harnessing the power of sun burn a hole in this brick. If engineers can generate enough heat from sunlight, they drive chemical reactions and create renewable fuels. Photo by Science Nation/National Science Foundation

    Experiments harnessing the power of sun burn a hole in this brick. If engineers can generate enough heat from sunlight, they drive chemical reactions and create renewable fuels. Photo by Science Nation/National Science Foundation

    Miles O’Brien has more on this story for the National Science Foundation’s series “Science Nation.”*

    *For the record, the National Science Foundation is also an underwriter of the NewsHour.

    The post Engineers want to fill up your tank with sunlight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

    Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images


    In an effort to make the Internet a safer place, Google will prioritize secure websites in search results, giving a boost to those URLs with an “https” — “s” as in “secure” — over “http.”

    According to Mashable, 56 percent of websites are encrypted — a topic that took center stage during April’s Heartbleed security flaw revelation.

    In a blog post Wednesday, Google said that “over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”

    By rewarding such encrypted sites, Google is essentially encouraging organizations with non-encrypted websites to switch to encryption. The tech company plans to release a set of guidelines helping organizations make that transition.

    The post Google search will reward encrypted sites appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo of Great Spring and Paradise Lake at Yellowstone National Park by Flickr user jamesbmore.

    Photo of Great Spring and Paradise Lake at Yellowstone National Park by Flickr user jamesbmore.

    What happens when a drone crashes into one of the world’s largest hot springs? The aircraft might potentially damage the spring, but trying to remove it might cause even more damage.

    According to USA Today, a tourist crashed a camera-equipped drone into Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park’s largest hot spring.

    If the drone ends up blocking the waters’ flow in the spring, it might change the appearance of the spring. However, officials are concerned about how they can remove the aircraft without causing further damage in the area.

    The Grand Prismatic Spring, a popular attraction to approximately 3 million visitors a year, is 370 feet in diameter and more than 121 feet deep. It is known for the natural brilliant colors caused by bacteria and minerals in the water.

    Saturday’s crash follows the National Park Service’s ban on drones announced in June.

    “We have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircrafts is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy,” said NPS director Jonathan Jarvis in a June statement.

    The post Drone crashes in Yellowstone hot spring, causing potential damage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Afghanistan today, in an urgent bid to end presidential election deadlock. In Kabul, he pressed the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to accept results from an ongoing audit of votes from the June runoff. The U.S. wants a national unity government formed by next month. American combat forces are due to leave Afghanistan by year’s end.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the body of U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene arrived back in the U.S. He was killed this week by an Afghan soldier outside Kabul. Troops carried the flag-draped metal case off a C-17 cargo plane at Dover Air Force base in Delaware. The general’s family and officials, including Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, were on hand.

    GWEN IFILL: This was the final day of a 72-hour truce between Israel and Hamas, with negotiations continuing in Egypt for a longer cease-fire.

    In Gaza, several thousand Palestinians marched in support of Hamas. A spokesman for the militants insisted there can be no peace until the blockade of Gaza is lifted.

    MUSHIR AL MASRI, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): The talks in Cairo are going on, and we are still waiting to hear the answers. We have fair and legal demands, and the Israeli occupation has no choice except to respond to our demands. There will be no cease-fire and the enemy will not live in security while Palestinians aren’t living in real security.

    GWEN IFILL: In turn, Israeli officials have said Hamas must disarm first before the blockade can end.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Cambodia, two of the last leaders of the Khmer Rouge reign of terror were convicted today of crimes against humanity. The fanatical communist movement killed nearly two million people in the late 1970s, a quarter of the population; 83-year old Khieu Samphan and 88-year-old Nuon Chea remained stoic today as the verdict was read. They were sentenced to life in prison by a U.N.-backed tribunal.

    CHEA LEANG, Co-Prosecutor (through translator): This verdict cannot turn back time or the lives of those who died or were killed under the sun’s heat, overworked, starved. However, this verdict can provide some justice and restore the respect of victims.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Khmer Rouge’s supreme leader, Pol Pot, was never tried and died in 1998.

    GWEN IFILL: The Russian government has granted permission to Edward Snowden to remain in Russia for three more years. His one-year asylum expired August 1. Snowden faces espionage charges in the U.S. for leaking extensive records on surveillance by the National Security Agency.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, a jury in Detroit convicted a white homeowner today of killing an unarmed black teenager on his front porch. Theodore Wafer fired a shotgun at Renisha McBride after she knocked at his door in the predawn darkness. He said he thought it was a break-in.

    Prosecutors said McBride had been drinking and wrecked her car and was looking for help. The case sparked comparisons to the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida.

    GWEN IFILL: Hawaii is bracing for Hurricane Iselle’s arrival tonight, the first direct hit on the state in more than 20 years. The storm could arrive with winds of 85 miles an hour and heavy rain, but Governor Neil Abercrombie counseled residents and tourists today not to panic.

    REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, D-Hawaii: We all have to have confidence in one another. And I want to assure the public that, from the point of view of those that you have appointed who have the jurisdiction, who have the responsibility, we’re ready. And if we all work together, we’re going to come through this in very fine fashion.

    GWEN IFILL: A second hurricane is also headed toward Hawaii, but is still several days away. And if that weren’t enough, a moderate earthquake jolted the area today. But there were no reports of damage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama has signed a bill to help veterans who’ve endured long waits for health care. The ceremony today, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, involved a $16 billion measure. It will pay for hiring thousands more VA doctors and nurses, and for vets to see private doctors in some cases. The new law also makes it easier to fire senior VA officials for poor performance.

    GWEN IFILL: The top conferences in college sports moved a big step closer to making their own rules on everything from scholarships to recruiting. The NCAA governing board voted to let the five richest conferences make unilateral changes in some longstanding rules. The new system could take effect in January unless other schools combine to vote down the changes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 75 points to close at 16,368; the Nasdaq fell 20 points to close below 4,335; and the S&P 500 slipped 10 to finish at 1,909.

    The post News Wrap: Kerry visits Afghanistan to press election resolution appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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