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

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  • 08/12/14--12:19: Panda triplets born in China
  • Video by AP

    Chinese zoo officials in the southern city of Guangzhou’s Chimelong Safari Park have officially announced the birth of extremely rare panda triplets.

    The trio was born on July 29, but zoo officials waited until Tuesday to announce the births because of an “extremely high” mortality rate for infant pandas. Still unnamed, the cubs are “the only panda triplets that have ever survived,” according to a statement released by the zoo Tuesday.

    Zoo officials are confident that the mother, Juxiao, and all three cubs are healthy in what is being hailed as a major success for the Chinese artificial breeding program. Ju Xiao was too weak right after the birth to care for the newborns, but is now nursing with the help of feeders.

    The baby pandas were born just hours apart from one another, each now weighing between 8 to 12 ounces. Panda cubs face a dangerous first year. According to the Associated Press, 26 percent of male and 20 percent of female pandas do not live past the first year.

    Panda birthrates are so low in part because female pandas are only able to conceive for a few days every year. The beloved animals are also infamously selective choosing mates and uninterested in reproduction. Scientists cite this and human encroachment as factors contributing to the fewer than 1600 pandas estimated to be still living in the wild.

    On Tuesday, the Edinburgh Zoo also announced they believe that their female Giant Panda Tian Tian may be pregnant after months of uncertainty. Panda pregnancies are notoriously difficult to determine because the animals do not experience significant changes in hormones or behavior during pregnancy.

    The post Panda triplets born in China appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Twitter

    About 8.5 percent of Twitter’s monthly active users are bots. Image courtesy of Twitter.

    Twitter has disclosed the number of its users that are actually human as opposed to account-holding, automated programs in its most recent quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the report, about 23 million — or 8.5 percent of Twitter’s monthly active users — hold accounts that are programmatically updated “without any discernible additional user-initiated action.”

    Often referred to as Twitterbots, or simply “bots,” the programs are used for an array of different purposes ranging from the creation of revenue-generating URLs to the acquirement of instant followers for those willing to buy them. While traditionally thought of as being the source of Twitter’s significant spam problem, Twitterbots can also be used to a number of creative ends.

    Rob Dubbin, a writer for “The Colbert Report,” is the developer behind Olivia Taters and Real Human Praise, two Twitterbots designed to mimic the kinds of tweets typically sent out by teenagers, and conservative news organizations, respectively. @OliviaTaters has amassed well over 28,000 followers, many of whom are teen Twitter users who recognize and respond to the bot’s non-sequitorial stream of consciousness.

    The inherent simplicity of a Twitterbot’s programming often makes for inadvertently clever accounts. But the ease with which the bots can be created could be a problem for the social network.

    The market’s confidence in Twitter is linked primarily to its viability as an advertising platform.

    Since its initial public offering in November of 2013, Twitter’s market value has fluctuated drastically. After opening at $26 per share at IPO, Twitter stock hit an all-time high of $74.73 a month later before steadily losing about half of its market value. In late July, following a reported 24 percent jump in its number of active users, Twitter saw a massive surge in the valuation of its stock, bringing the company’s worth to $27.3 billion.

    The post Twitter reports 23 million users are actually ‘bots’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Julia Strand breathes new life into books that would otherwise be discarded, creating intricate carvings of the content within the pages. Minnesota Original, a weekly arts series from Twin Cities Public Television, spoke to Strand to find out more.

    Julia Strand makes art out of old books. But when she tries to tell people what she does, she struggles to come up with the right words.

    “When I say to people ‘I carve books,’ they say to me, ‘Oh, what does that mean?’ If I say, ‘I make sculptures out of books,’ people think I pile them up and make towers out of them or something,” said Strand.

    A cognitive psychologist who teaches at Carleton College in Minnesota, Strand works on her carvings in her spare time. She carves into old cookbooks and science books, reference books, dictionaries and books of topographical maps, removing most of the pages “so you can just see the pictures.”

    Julia Strand -- Book CarverWhen she is in search of new books, Strand follows a certain criteria. First, the book has to be thick enough for her to carve into and create layers. She primarily looks for books that are out of date and generally ones that are full of illustrations rather than photographic reproductions. She also won’t buy a book for more than $10 so that she doesn’t cut into something of value.

    “Because some people are uncomfortable about the idea of cutting up books under any circumstances, I want to be really careful that when I do cut them up. I’m only using books that people aren’t likely to use for other purposes.”

    Strand hopes to give these forgotten and unused volumes a second life.

    “What I really hope to do with my work is to make people look a second time at something that they are used to looking at and just looking over. What I think is really fun about carving books, and doing this up-cycling work, is that it takes an object that is boring and it makes it fun.”

    Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

    The post Artist saves old books by cutting them to pieces appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrapimage

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Record-breaking rain left Detroit’s suburbs soaked today. Monday’s deluge dumped more than six inches in some places. This morning, parts of major interstates remained closed, as cars and trucks were lifted from the flooded roads. Authorities warned people to stay off the roads if possible, and dive teams checked deep areas for any missing people.

    One woman died of a heart attack after her car was stranded. Flooding also shut down General Motors’ tech center outside Detroit, where about 19,000 people work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the Middle East, a temporary truce in Gaza held for a second day, but it was unclear if Israel and Hamas were making progress toward a lasting cease-fire. The two sides were meeting separately with Egyptian mediators in Cairo. A previous three-day cease-fire ended last week.

    GWEN IFILL: The government of Russia dispatched a miles-long humanitarian aid convoy toward Eastern Ukraine today. But Ukrainian leaders insisted it wouldn’t be allowed to enter under Russian military control.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News filed this report.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: An orthodox priest sprinkles 280 aid trucks with holy water to help them on the 600-mile journey from Moscow to the Ukrainian border, baby milk, wheat and other supplies, 2,000 tons in total. No question that those trapped by fighting need help, but the Ukrainian government fears that the Russians have ulterior motives.

    DANYLO LUBKIVSKY, Deputy Foreign Minister, Ukraine: You don’t need tanks and artillery to bring food and medicine for civilians. Stop the aggression. Stop the Russian terrorists.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: This is what he’s talking about. Western governments say the Russians have been transporting armor to the border, while Russian officials have talked of sending peacekeepers to Ukraine.

    President Putin was showing the Egyptian president around one of his warships today. The aid convoy is a new tactic in his battle to control Eastern Ukraine.

    Yet there’s no doubt that humanitarian is needed. And while many blame Russia for arming separatists, it’s the Ukrainian government forces that are causing damage like this in the city of Donetsk.

    “When the bombs are very loud, we sit here and we lean back. There’s a hole, so we try to stay away from the ceiling.”

    This week has seen the fiercest fighting of the conflict. Pro-Ukrainian volunteers launched mortars in sunflower fields like those where FLIGHT MH17 was brought down. International teams hoping to salvage wreckage and investigate cannot operate in such conditions, so they have left. The Ukrainians won’t let up because they think the Russian-sponsored rebels are on the back foot.

    Explosions echo through Donetsk, as Ukrainian forces press their advantage. Luhansk is said to be worse. People shelter in basements. Water is short, electricity intermittent. If the aid convoy gets through, President Putin will look good. If the Ukrainians block it, they will look bad. Whatever happens, the Russian president is determined to retain his influence in what he sees as his backyard.

    GWEN IFILL: The convoy could arrive at the Russian-Ukrainian border in several days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Looming famine in South Sudan brought new action today. The United States pledged $180 million of food aid to help nearly four million people who face starvation. That’s a third of South Sudan’s population. Fighting between rival factions erupted in December. Since then, at least 10,000 people have been killed, with more than a million displaced.

    GWEN IFILL: In economic news, U.S. employers advertised nearly 4.7 million jobs in June, the most in 13 years. And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nine points to close at 16,560. The Nasdaq fell 12 points to close at 4,389. And the S&P 500 slipped three to 1,933.

    The post News Wrap: Record rains soak Detroit suburbs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A NASA spacecraft dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has achieved final orbit, producing its first science data this week.

    The greenhouse gas contributes most significantly to global warming, and our current understanding of it’s distribution is getting even more precise. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory – 2 (OCO-2) will provide new evidence via imaging and eventually reveal the most concentrated sources on earth, as well as natural “sinks” — those areas with depleted pockets of carbon dioxide.

    Following a July 2nd launch, the OCO-2 lined up with five other satellites which also monitor the earth. In 2009, its predecessor, the OCO, failed to join up with the constellation of instruments.

    Although major calibration is needed for the spacecraft’s data to be viable, chief architect Randy Pollock claims that “this was an important milestone on this journey.”

    The post NASA’s carbon dioxide imaging mission shows first sign of success appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    who

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The size of this Ebola outbreak, and its spread, is challenging public health workers and governments as the disease never has before. Health officials are warning its toll will continue to get worse for now. And researchers and doctors are grappling with how they can get a better handle on an urgent problem.

    It’s a desperate measure for a desperate time. As the outbreak spreads, an ethics panel of the World Health Organization today officially approved using untested drugs to fight the disease. Speaking in Geneva, the group’s assistant director general says the decision was unanimous, but with caveats.

    MARIE-PAULE KIENY, Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization: These include transparency about all aspects of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for person, and preservation of dignity, and with the involvement of the community.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The decision came as the number of Ebola deaths reached 1,013, out of 1,848 confirmed cases. Most have been in three countries, Guinea, where the illness was first detected, as well as Liberia and Sierra Leone. And officials in Nigeria now say 10 cases of Ebola have been confirmed there in the sprawling city of Lagos.

    Two American aid workers, recently flown back to Atlanta from Liberia, received the experimental U.S.-made drug ZMapp. Doctors say they have shown signs of improvement. But in Spain today came word that a priest who was given ZMapp has died. Officials in Liberia announced they have been promised a shipment of ZMapp later this week.

    But that may be the last of the medicine for some time to come. The Wall Street Journal reported today the drugmaker, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, has now distributed all of the doses it had. That leaves as apparently the only option for officials throughout West Africa stepping up awareness campaigns and screening measures to quarantine the virus.

    Several states, Ivory coast, Gambia and Zambia, have now banned all flights from Ebola-infected countries.

    The post WHO approves use of untested drugs to fight Ebola, but supply may be running out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LIBERIA-HEALTH-EBOLA-WAFRICA-CHINA

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Given those problems with the health systems and a scarcity of drugs, what more can be done and what should be done?

    We ask two people who are watching this all very closely. Lawrence Gostin is professor of global health law at Georgetown Law School, and he’s the director of the World Health Organization’s Center on Public Health Law. And Jonathan Moreno is professor of medical ethics and health policy at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

    And we welcome you both to the NewsHour.

    There is some late-breaking information that’s come out this afternoon.

    And I want to start with you, Dr. Gostin.

    Some Canadian officials saying they have about 1,500 doses of a vaccine which they believe can be used on Ebola. What do we know about this and is it useful in this crisis?

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN, Georgetown Law: Well, I don’t think we know very much.

    We don’t know that it’s undergoing rigorous safety and efficacy testing. And we don’t know how quickly they can ramp it up. But I will say this, that a vaccine would be a blessing come true. Heretofore, most experts had not predicted a vaccine coming on board this quickly. All we can do is keep a very watchful eye on it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Moreno, is it a surprise the Canadians have this?  It just came out. It just broke in the news this afternoon.

    JONATHAN MORENO, University of Pennsylvania: It’s surprising to me. It’s a kind of hopeful sign that the international community is trying to respond in a humane way to the crisis.

    What’s disheartening is that we have gotten to this point at all. The infrastructure for public health in West Africa and indeed the global infrastructure has been neglected. And so this was unfortunately predictable, though it’s a little more horrible than even those of us who were watching this would have thought.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sure.

    And what about a timeline for this Canadian vaccine?  Again, the vaccine different from the drug that was being used to treat it, treat a very few people, because that would be given to people to prevent them from getting Ebola in the first place. Do we know anything about a timeline about when it would be available?

    JONATHAN MORENO: Well, as Professor Gostin said, the testing for safety is critical. It needs to be underlined.

    A real clinical trial is going to take a year-and-a-half, in my estimation, roughly, if you really ramp things up. And that means that you need an infrastructure to do that in a number of patients with whom to do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You have as we reported a little — a few minutes ago, Dr. Gostin, the World Health Organization voting unanimously to make the drug available. Is that something that a vaccine could — could it also be made available without extensive testing?

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Well, I do think that given the urgency of the situation that, as long as it had fairly good safety data and promising effectiveness, that we would want to have some kind of an investigational use of it.

    And I would roll it out as quickly as we could, given those two preconditions, but continue to evaluate it, because both ZMapp, the drug to try to treat this, and this vaccine are still at very, very early stages, and we want to make sure it doesn’t do harm, and we want to make sure that it helps.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sure. There are so many questions here that are being asked.

    Dr. Moreno, part of what the World Health Organization is addressing is not only how quickly, but who gets this, and we know Liberian officials announced today that two doctors will be among the first recipients. Is it health officials who should be first in line?

    JONATHAN MORENO: Well, there is certainly an argument to have a kind of multiplier effect, of the benefits to people who are on the front line to try to get them better again so they can work again.

    There is also an argument about reassuring other health care workers to make sure that their morale stays up when they’re exposed to these very difficult conditions. So there are those arguments.

    And also perhaps physicians might be able to have a better understanding of the informed consent issues involved in this highly investigational and I would say experimental serum.

    So there are some arguments for doing doctors first, but still, how many doctors and how do you decide which doctors?  Other triage arguments could be, well, do you give it to the sickest or do you give it to somebody who you think is the most likely to benefit?  So there are these subcategories of micro-allocation questions that, so far as I can tell so far, the WHO hasn’t addressed.

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: I agree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were going to add…

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Yes.

    One of the things that really troubles me and I think troubles people on the ground in West Africa is, is that the first three people who got this medication were white European foreign aid workers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two Americans, Spanish…

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Two Americans and a Spanish priest.

    And they weren’t involved in the decision-making process. The health care workers there are on the front line. It’s really dangerous to go to work in Sierra Leone and other places like that because you don’t have protective equipment, you don’t have infection control, and there’s a high rate of illness and death from Ebola.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, at this point, we know the manufacturer of ZMapp, the drug, the serum, is saying they have exhausted their supply.

    Both of you have talked to us earlier today about what else needs to be done urgently, Dr. Moreno. What are the kinds of things that government, governments and health care organizations need to be doing right now?

    JONATHAN MORENO: Well, 50 very courageous CDC people, I understand, are in the region now…

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: They are.

    JONATHAN MORENO: … to try to bulk up the — to ramp up the infrastructure in those countries.

    Isolation is something that’s going to have to be improved, from what we can tell. Obviously, you do worry about immigration. There are three major airports in Lagos alone. And when people come to other countries and present to their doctors with flu-like symptoms and the doctor can’t figure out exactly what’s going on, the straightforward first-year medical student question is, where have you been?

    So there are very straightforward, non-rocket science measurers that need to be taken. And I’m afraid, by the way, that some of the conversation about the magic bullets, ZMapp, and the vaccines and so forth, are distracting from what really needs to be done now.

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Totally agree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are distracting from — what needs to be done?

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Let me begin by saying that this was a completely preventable tragedy.

    We got surprised by it. There was no reason to be surprised, because Ebola pops up in Africa a lot. We have very fragile health systems. If it happened anywhere else, we would know. So, basically, you want to have protective equipment for the hospitals, you want to have safe, sterile isolation, and you want to find the contacts and put them in isolation, treating them in a dignified and humane way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling us earlier today a lot of money, in fact tens of millions of dollars have been spent internationally in the developing world on other diseases.

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Yes, I have been really calling for a dedicated fund at the World Health Organization, which would be peanuts compared to what we give for AIDS, T.B., malaria, that would be dedicated to building up this fragile health system and to do it in an endurable and sustainable way.

    We can prevent the next one. Right now, I foresee that it would take at least six months for us to contain this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you agree with the six months?

    JONATHAN MORENO: I’m afraid I agree that that’s likely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on that sobering note, I know the two of you will continue to work very hard on this.

    Dr. Lawrence Gostin, Dr. Jonathan Moreno, we thank you very much.

    JONATHAN MORENO: Thank you, Judy.

    LAWRENCE GOSTIN: Thank you.

    The post Is talk of ‘magic bullet’ Ebola treatments distracting from more important measures? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    maliki_iraq

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: In Iraq today, an aid helicopter on a mission to help stranded members of the Yazidi religious minority crashed. Meanwhile, the man chosen to succeed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gained critical international support.

    On the streets of Baghdad today, Iraqis tried to keep track of the political battle over who will be their prime minister. The incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, was warning military commanders not to intervene. Instead, the Shiite leader urged them to focus on defending Iraq against the Islamic State group and its Sunni allies.

    NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through interpreter): What I am scared of is that al-Qaida gangs, the Islamic State group and insurgents might try to make use of the current tension. Therefore, I would like you to draw your attention to carefully checking all the convoys and the armed men, because there are those who will take advantage.

    GWEN IFILL: Maliki, who has condemned the new president’s choice of Haider al-Abadi to succeed him as prime minister, is a deeply divisive figure. Even though Abadi and Maliki share a political party, he has shown no sign he will step aside.

    Yesterday, he deployed loyal troops in Baghdad, but few others are rallying to Maliki’s cause. Many in Baghdad reacted favorably today to the naming of Abadi.

    ABU MAZIN (through interpreter): We hope that the new prime minister will provide us with the security and stability and all humanitarian necessities.

    GWEN IFILL: And international leaders have also praised the selection of the new prime minister-designate. A representative of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Khamenei, said: “Iran supports the legal process that has taken its course. Iran favors a cohesive, integrated and secure Iraq.”

    On the military front, the U.S. again struck Islamic State fighters in Northern Iraq. This time, a drone destroyed a mortar position threatening Kurdish forces.

    And Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Australia, said more U.S. support is possible.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options, as Iraq starts to build a new government, and very much calculated to try to help stabilize the security situation, to expand economic development, and to strengthen the democratic institutions.

    GWEN IFILL: For now, much of the effort involves airdrops of food and water to members of the Yazidi religious minority. Thousands of them have fled the Islamist forces, taking refuge on Mount Sinjar. Some Yazidis have been evacuated through rescues by helicopter like this one, mobbed by refugees yesterday.

    On a similar mission today, the overloaded helicopter crashed, killing the pilot. New York Times journalist Alissa Rubin and several others on board were hurt.

    The post Maliki urges military commanders not intervene in Iraq political battle appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Three days after a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager outside Saint Louis, President Obama weighed in, as tensions continue to flare between police and crowds demanding answers.

    For a second night, protests boiled over into violence in Ferguson, Missouri. Police said they fired tear gas and beanbag rounds after some in the crowd started throwing rocks. At least five people were arrested, making a total of 50 since Saturday, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a policeman.

    Brown’s family and civil rights leaders appealed for calm again today.

    BENJAMIN CRUMP, Lawyer for victim’s family: This family, none of these individuals, not Michael Brown Sr., nor Lesley, the mother and the father, have asked for anybody to be disrespectful, to be irresponsible, to be violent, to do anything at all. We have not asked anybody to do anything like that. So, it is very important to them and their name and their respect and their child that we make sure we call for calm and we call for everybody to be responsible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in a statement, President Obama acknowledged strong passions over the killing, but he said they should be expressed in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

    Demonstrators did stage another peaceful march and rally in Ferguson, a city with a largely black population and a mostly white police force. But there was little new information on the shooting investigation. The police chief said today he won’t publicly identify the officer involved, for now, because of death threats. The FBI is also investigating the incident for possible civil rights violations.

    For more now, we are joined by Jim Salter of the Associated Press. He’s in Saint Louis.

    Jim Salter, we just reported on what happened last night. What about today? What happened in the aftermath of that?

    JIM SALTER, Associated Press: So far today, things have been pretty quiet, Judy.

    There have been some peaceful protests in Ferguson, but nothing — nothing dangerous has broken out, although the previous two days the violence has occurred after nightfall, so police are certainly on high alert anticipating what might happen tonight. We can probably expect roadblocks on the main thoroughfare of West Florissant.

    We can expect a huge police presence in that area. And, certainly, they will be moving as quickly as they can to keep people off the streets, to keep them from congregating in large crowds and to urge them to stay home and to avoid any violent activity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we just reported — on that point, we just reported on President Obama’s statement. It came out late this afternoon from the White House saying the death was heartbreaking, calling on people to remember Michael Brown. He said talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

    Have you talked with anyone either in his family or in the community to see what the reaction is?

    JIM SALTER: We haven’t talked to people about the reaction to the president’s comments, but certainly the president is echoing things that both community activists and folks like the Reverend Al Sharpton have said, that it’s dishonoring this young man to loot stores, to create violence, to burn buildings. The best way to honor him would be peaceful protests, to effect change in a peaceful way and not to be creating this violent activity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what are people in the community saying today, now that we’re a few days past this shooting? What kinds of reactions are you hearing from people who live there?

    JIM SALTER: One thing that people are saying is that they want — they want justice to move quickly.

    And that could be problematic, as you can imagine. These sorts of investigations take a lot of time. Police are using eyewitness testimony. They’re reaching out to anybody who might have a cell phone video, and there are certainly a lot of different reports of what people said they saw that vary from what police have said was the official, you know, report from the officer.

    So it’s going to take a lot of time. There’s going to be toxicology tests and ballistics tests. And people are going to have to be patient. It could be several weeks before we know exactly a little closer to what happened there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So the police are being pretty visible in the way they’re investigating this?

    JIM SALTER: They’re trying to be very visible.

    In fact, the Ferguson department almost immediately turned the investigation over to the Saint Louis County Police. And the FBI has also involved — has joined the investigation, a separate investigation. So they’re trying to be as transparent and as open as possible, but they are also urging that they’re going to have to move cautiously and they’re going to be as thorough and as diligent as they have to be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What would you say, Jim Salter, the forces are for calm right now in the community, and what would be the forces that are — or folks who are still angry and not accepting the explanations of the police force?

    JIM SALTER: You’re right. Those are two very competing forces.

    It was exemplified Sunday night. There was a candlelight vigil at the site where Michael was shot involving several thousand people crowded under a very narrow street, and it was very peaceful, with people lighting candles, and teddy bears, and other remembrances of Michael, and then a couple of blocks away, people were burning down a QuikTrip convenience store and looting several stores up and down that street.

    Certainly, some people have used this as an opportunity to commit crimes. The vast majority of people, though, are heartbroken by what’s happened in Ferguson. And the leadership of the community, the comments from the president, are all urging that this — that people try to take a step back and try to take a peaceful look at this.

    There are two community meetings tonight both along that line to try to urge caution and peace. And we will see how long that holds once the sun goes down.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, quickly, how does this fit into the history, recent history of racial relations in the Ferguson community over the last several years?

    JIM SALTER: Well, Ferguson is a near suburb to Saint Louis. It was once a mostly white, middle-class suburb. As urban sprawl has occurred, it became a mostly black community, with — about 67 percent of the community is black.

    There is racial tension there, as there is in much of north Saint Louis County. But most of Ferguson is actually a middle-class community, and there are pockets of poverty. And it’s those pockets of poverty where — are the biggest concerns. That’s where a lot of the police incidents happen, and those are the areas where the outbreaks have occurred.

    So it’s a community that has certainly been changing over the years and we will see how that continues to change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Salter with the Associated Press reporting for us from Saint Louis, we thank you.

    JIM SALTER: Thank you.

    The post Family of slain Missouri teen calls for calm after protest violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    robin williams

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    GWEN IFILL: A fast-talking space alien, a manic genie with a gift for improv, an inspirational teacher with a love of literature, and a blazing stand-up comedian, all just a handful of the roles that propelled Robin Williams into the entertainment stratosphere.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look at the work of the Oscar-winning actor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This afternoon, the Marin County, California, Sheriff’s Department said that Robin Williams had died by asphyxia by hanging.

    LT. KEITH BOYD, Marin County Sheriff’s Office: Mr. Williams’ personal assistant became concerned at approximately 11:45 a.m., when he failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door.

    At that time, the personal assistant was able to gain access to Mr. Williams’ bedroom and entered the bedroom to find Mr. Williams clothed, in a seated it position, unresponsive, with a belt secured around his neck.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Word of his death broke yesterday evening and led to an outpouring of shock and sadness from fans, friends and colleagues.

    On Twitter, comedian Steve Martin wrote: “I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.”

    Friend and colleague Billy Crystal wrote simply: “No words.”

    And late-night host Conan O’Brien appeared shaken as he announced the news during his show.

    CONAN O’BRIEN, Host, “Conan”: I’m sorry to anyone in our studio audience that I’m breaking this news. This is absolutely shocking and horrifying and so upsetting on every level.

    JEFFREY BROWN: President Obama released this statement, saying: “Williams made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most.”

    Robin Williams began his career in stand-up comedy and was known from the beginning for his almost out-of-this-world improvisational wit, speed, and energy.

    ROBIN WILLIAMS, Comedian: I’m melting.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Help me. Help me.

    You’re not going to help me, are you?

    (LAUGHTER)

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Nanu nanu.

    JEFFREY BROWN: His big break, in fact, came in the late ’70s, playing an alien on the television show “Mork & Mindy,” where his character would often check in with his outer space superior.

    ACTOR: A spaceship from the planet Necroton landed on Earth.

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Oh, no, not the Necrotons. Our arch enemies?

    ACTOR: No, they’re a hockey team.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ACTOR: Of course they’re our arch enemies.

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Good retort, sir. That’s one for you, eight million for me.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Williams moved to film, sometimes combining his frenetic comedic style with more serious subject matter, as when he played a rebellious armed services deejay in the 1987 movie “Good Morning Vietnam.”

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Hey, this is not a test. This is rock ‘n’ roll. Time to rock it from the Delta to the DMZ. Is that me, or does that sound like an Elvis Presley movie? Viva Da Nang.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In 1989′s “Dead Poets Society,” he was an unconventional English teacher at a boarding school attempting to inspire his students.

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

    JEFFREY BROWN: More hits came in the 1990s in a variety of roles, including “Mrs. Doubtfire,” where he played a father pretending to be a British nanny in order to see his children.

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Euphegenia Doubtfire, dear. I specialize in the education and entertainment of children.

    Surprise.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And Williams won an Oscar for his supporting role as a South Boston psychiatrist in 1997′s “Good Will Hunting.”

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, and watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Through the years, Williams returned to stand-up comedy, performing for U.S. troops overseas, winning a Grammy for a comedy album in 2002, and appearing multiple times at the Kennedy Center’s Annual Mark Twain Awards.

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: Some of you are under indictment. You know who you are.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ROBIN WILLIAMS: So, we ask you please to turn off your cell phones and your ankle bracelets. Enjoy the evening.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yet, throughout the many highs, he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and with depression, and would make reference to it in his comedy routines.

    Just this summer, he checked himself into a rehab clinic to help maintain his sobriety. And, today, the coroner said Williams had been seeking treatment for depression.

    Robin Williams was 63 years old.

    The post Out-of-this-world wit: Famed performer Robin Williams dies at 63 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Robin Williams was nominated for his role as the teacher who inspired his students at an upper class prep school in the 1950s in "Dead Poets Society" (1989). Photo by Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we’re joined now by Budd Friedman. He’s the founder of the Improv Comedy Club in Hollywood, where Robin Williams often did his stand-up comedy act as a young man. And A.O. Scott, who followed Williams’ movie and television careers as The New York Times’ chief film critic.

    Well, Budd Friedman, what do you remember of those early performances?  What did you see in the young Robin Williams?

    BUDD FRIEDMAN, Founder, Improv Comedy Club: Well, I guess what is memorable.

    I have never forgotten his first time on stage. He just knocked me out. just He went all over the place physically and mentally. And it was a joy to behold. And he became a regular at the Improv from the very first time he set foot on stage or into the audience, because he go right into the crowd and tear them apart.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that improvisational skill that — was the show different every night? Did it look like he was working at it? Or did it just flow from him? What could you tell?

    (LAUGHTER)

    BUDD FRIEDMAN: He never looked like he was working at it.

    As a matter of fact, my favorite story, I was courting this young lady about 34 years ago. I was crazy about her, and I thought, she’s got everything I need and she’s not in show business. And our first date, we went to see Robin at the club. And she watched him and then she said, you know, I think I could do this.

    I said, be a stand-up? She said, yes. I said, oh, God. And the next night, we went back again. She saw Robin again. And then she turned to me. And very wisely, my wife, Alex — then became my wife — said, maybe I can’t do this, because she realized he made it look so easy, he was having so much fun up there, that he thought anyone could do it, but obviously not.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Tony Scott, he was a man of many voices and characters all at once, it seemed, and yet he evolved into an actor who could take on a role and create a character. How did he do that?

    A.O. SCOTT, The New York Times: Well, it was fascinating to watch, because, as Mr. Friedman said, he was just this kind of — it was like turning on a faucet or a fire hose, all of the voices and the ideas and the jokes that would just come out seemingly effortlessly.

    I was watching on YouTube earlier today some of his Johnny Carson appearances, where Carson would be just feeding him cues, and he would do impressions and improvisations and ideas.

    I think what you see in some of his serious roles, including some very, very dark ones, like playing a killer in “Insomnia” with Al Pacino, or a serious, sensitive role like the psychiatrist in “Good Will Hunting,” is that you feel some of that exuberance and some of that manic energy being held in check.

    So you feel like the person that you’re watching, the character that he’s playing, but also the actor himself, has this enormous energy, this enormous vitality and liveliness that is just under the surface. And you never know from scene to scene whether it’s going to peak out or it’s going to pop out.

    So part of the pleasure of watching him in those more serious, more restrained roles is that feeling of that spirit in there that could burst out at any time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You also wrote in your appreciation today he often played sly, sad or surprising versions of himself, but he was rarely arch or insincere.

    A.O. SCOTT: Well, there was a lot of self-awareness. If you listen to his stand-up routines that you can get on the Internet or, you know, watch some of the specials, there’s a lot of commentary on what he’s doing, on how the comedy is working, which is, you know, what we like to call these days meta, the sort of self-awareness.

    But it was never cynical, it was never arch, there was never any distance from the material. There was a kind of exuberance and sweetness and generosity always in what he was doing. He was just — when you watched him performing, you got the sense of someone just who was having fun and was inviting you to have fun along with him.

    So it wasn’t — it wasn’t a kind of satirical or a pointed or a harsh kind of humor. It was just he had all of this energy, all of these voices, all of this inventiveness that he almost couldn’t help but share.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Budd Friedman, speaking of how he did it, you have watched a million comedians, I guess. What do the great ones have?  What did he have?

    BUDD FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, he was able to transform himself, talking about movies, into the part.

    Even though I knew I was watching Robin, I believed he was that person, the psychiatrist, the deejay in Vietnam. He always made it real. And when you — you really can’t compare him to anyone else, for perhaps the improvisational skills of Jonathan Winters, who was his mentor, his idol, but Jonathan couldn’t do a movie role the way Robin could.

    So I think Robin just sat there by — out by himself as far as all-around performers are concerned.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Budd Friedman, he also still battled depression, and now we have this very sad ending. There’s the trope about the comedians being sad underneath, right, about feeling doubt all the time.

    BUDD FRIEDMAN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Did you ever see that in him?  Do you think that’s real or overplayed? What…

    BUDD FRIEDMAN: I never saw it in Robin.

    Granted, I didn’t see him much — I didn’t see him at all in the last year, but I never saw him depressed. If he was — you know, if — after a show, he might have a little letdown, but then, boom, he’d pop up again. But the idea of all comics being, I would say, suicidal or dark, I just don’t agree with that.

    I think there are — you know, unfortunately, this will certainly add to that thought, but I don’t think all comics are like that at all.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Tony Scott, we’re remembering that because of the sad ending, but we’re also remembering the generosity. We mentioned in our setup he often played for the troops. He helped a lot of people, including Jonathan Winters in the last few years.

    A.O. SCOTT: Yes, he was extraordinarily generous.

    And you got the sense that he would — I mean, he worked a lot. He was in tons of television shows. He showed up on “Louie.” He showed up on “Homicide.” He was in movies, some good, some bad, big Hollywood movies, indie movies.

    And the sense that one always got wasn’t of a soul in torment, but of a person who just really enjoyed what he did, who got and gave enormous pleasure from the impulse to perform that he had.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Tony Scott, do you have one that you will go back to for — to recommend to us or that you will go back to, to remember him?

    A.O. SCOTT: There are a few.

    I would go back and look at clips of some of those “Tonight Show” performances, guest appearances. I think he was the greatest late-night talk show guest in history.

    In film roles, I’m very fond of “The Birdcage,” with him and Nathan Lane as a gay couple. And that’s one where he’s playing the more restrained, the more uptight person in this partnership. And the two of them are wonderful together.

    And also a movie — Paul Mazursky, who recently passed away — “Moscow on the Hudson,” terrific movie, playing a Russian emigre, a wonderfully soulful and funny and original and humane performance. And you believe through the entire movie that he’s Russian.

    BUDD FRIEDMAN: Good choices.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, A.O. “Tony” Scott of The New York Times and Budd Friedman on the life and work of Robin Williams, thank you both so much.

    BUDD FRIEDMAN: Thank you.

    A.O. SCOTT: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: A real loss.

    We have listed Robin Williams’ entire filmography in the order they were ranked by movie lovers. See if you agree, and then let us know your top 10, on our Art Beat page.

    The post Robin Williams made transformation look effortless appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    floridaredistricting

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    GWEN IFILL: No matter what the polls tell us about how unpopular Congress is, 90 percent of them are reelected every time. It’s no accident. Their districts are drawn that way.

    For proof, look no further than the state of Florida. Last month, a federal judge said two key districts there designed to protect the incumbents representing them were illegal. So, yesterday, the state legislature came up with new maps, two weeks before the next round of primary elections, and even though a million voters have already cast ballots.

    Florida is not the only state where the lawmakers from both parties have stretched the limits of geography to create politically homogeneous districts.

    Here to explain what’s up and why is NewsHour political editor Domenico Montanaro.

    So much of what happens, Domenico, in the midterms doesn’t have to do with what voters themselves are voting for directly.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO, Political Editor: A lot of it has to do with how the table is set before the voters actually go into the polls.

    You think that you’re voting directly for direct election of your congressman. And what actually has been happening is that the cake kind of gets baked. And over the last couple of decades — and it’s really gone back to even our founding fathers in certain instances, but really over the past decade or so, they — both sides have really perfected the game, perfected an art almost of how to draw some of these districts to either pack in a lot of voters of one party, to — in order to keep districts safe outside of that, or to exclude them in other ways.

    GWEN IFILL: And I want to make the point you just made, which is both sides are engaged in this interest of preserving the status quo.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, right.

    And we look at one district in Maryland, the Third Congressional District, where you really see what almost looks like a Rorschach test-like district, because it really meanders, as you can see, all over the state.

    GWEN IFILL: I love what the federal judge said about that map, that it’s reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl lying prostrate across the center of the state. And actually he’s very poetic in that.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, and, look, Democrats did this to be able to draw out one Republican and give enough — pick up enough votes through the kind of corridor of between Baltimore and D.C. to get enough Democratic votes in order to district out the one Republican that was in one part of the state.

    GWEN IFILL: So, a Republican represents that district, just to be clear.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes. But — no, a Democrat represents that district.

    GWEN IFILL: A Democrat?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Right — but to give him enough votes to get out a Republican in another district.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: But the big picture here, the point of these things is not just to say, well, look how odd these things look. It’s that Democrats right now are so under-represented because of redistricting.

    They are about 19 or 20 seats under-represented. If you were to do the math, that would mean they would have 220 elected members of Congress. And how many votes do you need to get something passed, like immigration, infrastructure? Two hundred and eighteen. So you would have Speaker Nancy Pelosi, not Speaker John Boehner.

    And a lot of that is because of what’s happened over the last decade, where Republicans throughout the country — yes, Democrats have done this in certain places, but Republicans have put a lot of time and effort into legislative races, into governor’s races, and have really cleaned up and were able to really redraw a lot of these districts in their favor.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s go back to Florida, where in fact Democrats have done their share of this.

    And this is that district. We were just looking at it. Looks kind of like it was a toothpaste tube and now it’s been expanded to include — for Corrine Brown, who’s a Democrat in that district, to include friendly districts.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: So, Republicans, the judge there had said that Republicans had to redraw these districts.

    And still there’s a lot of drama to play out with this, because even though this — these districts have expanded slightly, what was happening with Corrine Brown’s district was, this was a majority African-American district. It was 50 percent. Now it’s about 48 percent.

    And that’s what Republicans really felt like the judge was getting at, that this was an unconstitutional district. So they took some of the black voters out, put them elsewhere to try to change the landscape of it.

    But August 20, next week, we are going to see if the judge even accepts this, and the judge could send it back and it could wind up in the Supreme Court, like we have seen in other places. And why that’s complicating is August 26 is when the primaries in the state are supposed to be.

    Already, 1.2 million people have cast early ballots. And we’re not sure how this is going to play out, whether they’re going to have to have special elections for seven of these districts or so. It’s really a big mess.

    GWEN IFILL: But why does it matter at all, to anyone who doesn’t live in these affected districts? Why is it of any national significance at all?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, like I said, you could have a House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if that were the case. Currently…

    GWEN IFILL: But most people may not care who the House speaker is.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well…

    GWEN IFILL: Does it affect their franchise?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, it affects what legislation gets through.

    Frankly, for people who sit there and say, oh, Congress doesn’t get anything done, and they just ignore these kinds of things, say, oh, these districts, they look kind of weird and the redistricting sounds pretty funny, but what winds up happening is that important legislation winds up getting stuck or not getting through or passing on a partisan basis because you really do have a lot fewer competitive districts all throughout the country.

    GWEN IFILL: But is it in either party’s interest to change that?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, it’s in the parties’ interest to retain power.

    And they do squiggle all of these lines to try to get their own power, you know, increased. You know, I think there are some states where they do do it well. I mean, Iowa, for one, they look like four quadrants. Nevada. Indiana, even, has a fairly decent-looking map.

    I think that a lot of people are starting to move toward wanting to have maps that look a little bit more normal.

    GWEN IFILL: OK, well, we will be looking for normal maps the rest of the year.

    Domenico Montanaro, as always, thank you.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Thank you.

    The post States stretch the limits of geography for politically uniform districts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user btckeychain

    Photo by Flickr user btckeychain

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a primer on Monday meant to warn consumers about the potential dangers related to popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin. The CFPB, an agency that consolidates employees from the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve, and other federal regulatory bodies, also launched a website to collect cryptocurrency-related complaints.

    Though lauded by technologists and early adopters, the CFPB explains the very real downsides associated with cryptocurrencies including hacking potential and the inherent lack of consumer protections. Cryptocurrencies, as their names suggest, are generally untraceable, digitally created mediums of exchange designed to exist outside of centralized banking and economic systems.

    Unlike traditional forms of money, cryptocurrencies are “mined” using powerful computers that cipher through a finite number of “blocks” in which the coins are encrypted. The more blocks that are decrypted, the more difficult the the next set of blocks becomes to decipher. That, coupled with the limited number of blocks overall, creates artificial scarcity and value.

    The decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies makes it so that technically anyone can participate in their creation and use. It also means that were anything to happen to the trading systems used to handle crypto-transactions, consumers would be left to their own devices.

    Despite the complexity associated with their creation, cryptocurrencies’ mainstream popularity has been on the rise since Bitcoin was first described by its creator Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. Following the Federal Election Commission’s ruling allowing political committees to accept bitcoin contributions this past May, a number of campaigns have sought to set themselves apart by soliciting the digital cash from donors. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) recently hosted “Bitcoin 101,” a briefing to introduce and explain cryptocurrencies to Hill staffers as a part of “Bitcoin Demo Day.”

    Andrew Hemingway, a Republican contender for New Hampshire’s gubernatorial seat, has reportedly raised 20 percent of his campaign funds in bitcoin alone.

    More than merely financing his bid for the governor’s seat, Hemingway, 32, has expressed his desire to allow New Hampshire residents use bitcoin to pay for their state taxes, which would be a first in the country.

    The post Consumer protection agency urges Americans to beware of Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Another 130 U.S. troops arrived in Iraq on Tuesday on what the Pentagon described as a temporary mission to assess the scope of the humanitarian crisis facing thousands of displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Sinjar Mountain and evaluate options for getting them out to safety.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the deployment in remarks to Marines at this Southern California base on the final stop of a weeklong, around-the-world trip that also took him to India, Germany and Australia.

    “This is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation,” Hagel said. “We’re not going back into Iraq in any of the same combat mission dimensions that we once were in in Iraq,” he added, referring to the eight-year war that cost more than 4,400 U.S. lives and soured the American public on military involvement in Iraq.

    Another defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide additional details on the sensitive mission, said the extra troops were Marines and special operations forces whose mission was to assess the situation in the Sinjar area and to develop additional humanitarian assistance options beyond current U.S. efforts there. Still another official said the mission for the 130 troops could last less than one week.

    That official also said that while the troops were not being sent in to execute some type of rescue mission of the Yazidis on the mountain, they would assess the feasibility of a rescue or what one might look like. The also would assist in the ongoing effort to evaluate the use of airstrikes as part of the mission to protect the Yazidis from attacks by the Islamic State militants.

    Hagel referred to the 130 as “assessors.”

    The additional troops arrived Tuesday in the city of Irbil, well east of Sinjar. They were to work with representatives of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to coordinate plans with international partners and non-government organizations to help the trapped Yazidi civilians on Sinjar Mountain.

    “They will make a very rapid and critical assessment because we understand it’s urgent to try to move those people off the mountain,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters traveling with him in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

    The move shows the Obama administration is weighing the impact and implications of several days of targeted airstrikes on the Islamic State fighters and how that has affected U.S.-backed Kurdish forces opposing them in northern Iraq.

    President Barack Obama has said repeatedly he will not send ground combat forces back into Iraq.

    One immediate dilemma was the fate of thousands of displaced Yazidis in the Sinjar area who have been provided with food and water delivered by U.S. cargo planes in recent days. Washington also was considering how to increase its military assistance to the Kurds, whose militia is outgunned by the militants.

    The 130 were in addition to 90 U.S. military advisers already in Baghdad and 160 in a pair of operations centers — one in Irbil and one in Baghdad — working with Iraqi security forces. They were in addition to about 455 U.S. security forces and 100 military personnel working in the Office of Security Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

    U.S. officials said that while Obama put caps on the number of troops deployed to Iraq, these latest forces were being sent under the authorization for humanitarian assistance and therefore did not exceed the limits.

    Burns reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Honiara, Solomon Islands, contributed to this report.

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    Photo by Flickr user kps-photo.com.

    Photo by Flickr user kps-photo.com.

    WASHINGTON — Little of the impassioned debate that fractured lawmakers last year over possible military intervention in Syria is happening now as American warplanes strike extremist targets in Iraq.

    Almost a week into the Obama administration’s emergency action in northern Iraq, the campaign is attracting surprisingly broad bipartisan support. Republicans have issued several I-told-you-so statements and called for stronger action, and dovish Democrats say they’re concerned about slipping into a new war. But outright opposition has been muted.

    “The need to move quickly to prevent further loss of life of men, women and children is not in dispute,” said Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., expressing the view on Iraq of many in both parties. A year earlier, Rigell wrote a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that the White House seek congressional approval before ordering an attack on Syria, collecting the signature of more than 100 of his fellow House members.

    Obama’s goals are more defined this time.

    Last summer he wanted to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government for using chemical weapons, hoping to deter repeat attacks and, at the prodding of Senate hawks, reverse the country’s civil war. With weak support at home and abroad, Obama requested authorization from Congress.

    Lawmakers returned early from a recess full of town hall meetings where they heard little support for action. Facing defeat in the House and Senate, the administration ultimately opted for Russian-supported mediation and Assad relinquishing his chemical arsenal.

    Several elements worked against Obama back then. Americans felt little responsibility for Syria, a country the United States has shunned for decades. Even without committing ground troops, U.S. airstrikes would have meant taking on a Syrian military with formidable air defense capabilities. The effort also could have helped anti-Assad groups with questionable motives, including the Sunni militants who’ve since named themselves the Islamic State and invaded Iraq, prompting that country’s civil war.

    Iraq’s crisis is in some ways more urgent, though still far less deadly than the three-year fight in neighboring Syria, which has killed 170,000 people.

    Obama says he’s acting to protect thousands of American personnel in Iraq and avert a possible genocide of minority groups. In a place where the U.S. spent hundreds of billions of dollars and lost almost 4,500 lives trying to secure, the fact that hundreds of thousands of Christians are at risk reinforces an American sense of responsibility.

    Unlike with Syria, the U.S. is working with the government in Iraq and fighting a group already on a U.S. terrorism blacklist. It is providing military assistance to the central government in Baghdad and to the largely autonomous Kurdish authorities in the north, a bastion of pro-American sentiment in a region full of Sunni extremist and Iranian influence.

    Perhaps more confident of backing at home, Obama sidestepped asking for Congress’ permission this time. So far, he appears justified.

    “The president’s authorization of airstrikes is appropriate,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week. Boehner, however, also accused Obama of lacking a comprehensive strategy, which he said “only emboldens the enemy and squanders the sacrifices Americans have made.”

    Many Republicans issued similar support for the action accompanied by broader criticism of Obama’s Iraq policy. They cite the administration’s inability to secure a U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2012 and its refusal for several weeks to order military action while officials were collecting intelligence and prodding Iraq into forming a more inclusive government. Iraq’s new president nominated on Monday a senior Shiite lawmaker to form a new Cabinet, snubbing powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    Sen. John McCain of Arizona called Obama’s response thus far “ineffective.” Rep. Ed Royce of California, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, said Obama’s inaction when Royce suggested armed drone deployment was “tragic.” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida noted his June call for strikes. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the House Armed Services Committee chairman, backed intervention but said the Sunni extremists’ rise was “preventable.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma both called the White House action “overdue.”

    Democratic leaders in Congress issued more straightforward support.

    But some in Obama’s own party expressed reservations.

    Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 ranked Democrat, who voted against President George W. Bush’s Iraq war authorization 12 years ago, said the White House assured him no U.S. boots on the ground were required. “While this is strictly an air mission, I still have concerns,” he declared, saying American troops couldn’t solve Iraq’s underlying problems.

    Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said he shared his constituents’ “weariness about any expansion of U.S. involvement in Iraq” and warned about “mission creep.” Still, he said the threat from the Islamic State was “real and extends to U.S. interests both in the Middle East and at home.”

    Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Obama should seek congressional approval for any prolonged military operation.

    Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims in Congress and among its most dovish members, voiced support for limited intervention.

    “Nations with the power to act have a responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Ellison said.

    The post Few in Congress question U.S. efforts in Iraq appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    "To Have and Have Not" (1944). Courtesy Photofest

    “To Have and Have Not” (1944). Courtesy Photofest

    Lauren Bacall, the iconic actress known for her sultry voice and timeless beauty, died Tuesday at the age of 89. Bacall launched into Hollywood stardom at the age of 19 in the 1944 film “To Have and Have Not.”

    It was the first of many roles alongside Humphrey Bogart, including “Key Largo” and “Dark Passage.” Bogart wasn’t just her co-star. The two became one of Hollywood’s most iconic couples of all time.

    Bacall eventually went on to star in movies with Charles Boyer, Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. She won two Tonys, one for “Applause” (1970) and the other for “Woman of the Year” (1981).

    She was nominated for the Academy Award for best supporting actress as Barbra Streisand’s Mother in the 1996 film “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” Although she lost to Juliette Binoche in “The English Patient,” she was later awarded an honorary Oscar in November 2009.

    Bacall acted for more than 50 years, but she is best known for her earlier films.

    Check out the posters below from some of her best known films:

    "Confidential Agent" (1945). Courtesy Photofest

    “Confidential Agent” (1945). Courtesy Photofest

    "The Big Sleep" (1946). Courtesy Photofest

    “The Big Sleep” (1946). Courtesy Photofest

    "Dark Passage" (1947). Courtesy Photofest

    “Dark Passage” (1947). Courtesy Photofest

    "Young Man with a Horn" (1950). Courtesy Photofest

    “Young Man with a Horn” (1950). Courtesy Photofest

    "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953). Courtesy Photofest

    “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953). Courtesy Photofest

    "The Cobweb" (1955). Courtesy Photofest

    “The Cobweb” (1955). Courtesy Photofest

    "Written on the Wind" (1956). Courtesy Photofest

    “Written on the Wind” (1956). Courtesy Photofest

    "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974). Courtesy Photofest

    “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974). Courtesy Photofest

    The post Gallery: 30 years of Lauren Bacall in film posters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Paul Solman reported on this summer’s Market Basket protests in early August. Stay tuned to the Making Sen$e page for updates on the company’s ownership struggle.

    With each passing day, New England waits for a smoke signal that the Market Basket board has reached an ownership agreement for their 71-store grocery chain. The latest comes from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who said Wednesday that he’d spoken with the chair of the Market Basket board, Keith O. Cowan, and former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, and that a deal on the sale price was close. He urged striking employees to return to work during the negotiations.

    Earlier this week, Market Basket issued another ultimatum to their striking workers. Return to work by Friday, they wrote Tuesday to some 200 employees, or you’ll lose your jobs.

    After nearly a month of strikes uniting aproned deli clerks and suit-jacketed managers, many deliveries, especially of perishable items, have stopped. What’s left on the shelves — gluten free products, for example — isn’t moving because the chain’s loyal customers, carb and non-carb eaters alike, aren’t crossing the picket lines; in many cases, they’ve joined them. The store has lost up to $10 million a day.

    Entire aisles remain empty at this Market Basket store in Tewksbury, Mass. NewsHour still photo.

    Entire aisles remain empty at this Market Basket store in Tewksbury, Mass. NewsHour still photo.

    Workers are feeling the pinch. Market Basket has cut the hours of thousands of part-time staff, many of whom are now applying for unemployment benefits. And Market Basket started holding job fairs last week to internally replace striking managers. But those fairs, too, were picketed.

    So will the ultimatum shut down the protests?

    Fifty-five-year old Chris Elkins, who supervises the courtesy booths at the chain’s 71 stores, told the Boston Globe she’s nervous. “I’m a widow. I have one income, and I haven’t gotten paid in four weeks.” But she didn’t think the board would actually act on its threat.

    The board very well could act on the threat, said management consultant and worker ownership advocate Christopher Mackin, but “following through may well backfire and deepen customer antagonism toward the existing management group,” he told Making Sen$e Wednesday.

    The latest ultimatum seems to have emboldened some strikers. “If anything, it strengthens our resolve to bring Artie back,” Anne Browne, 23, of Market Basket’s IT department, told the Boston Globe.

    Since the Market Basket board ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas in late June, thousands of the chain’s 25,000 employees have walked off the job in support of their former boss. In his place, the board, which is controlled by Demoulas’ cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, appointed two new CEOs.

    Artie T.’s their Greek God, receding hairline and all — a ubiquitous symbol of the labor struggle that has enthralled New England, and increasingly, the nation.

    This isn’t the company’s first plea to get workers back to their posts. When more than 2,000 employees rallied outside company headquarters in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, in late July, the new chief executives threatened that employees skipping work would lose their jobs.

    For eight of the protest ringleaders that threat had teeth; Market Basket fired them. But that didn’t stop a second rally three days later, and ever since, employees and boycotting customers have decamped to store parking lots, chanting, “Bring back Artie T.”

    From Tewksbury all the way up to Biddeford, Maine, Artie T. is everywhere. His head bobs above the crowds as protesters thrust homemade placards into the air. He’s their Greek God, receding hairline and all — a ubiquitous symbol of the labor struggle that has enthralled New England, and increasingly, the nation.

    Employees and customers hold a rally in support of Arthur T. Demoulas and Market Basket. Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

    Employees and customers hold a rally in support of Arthur T. Demoulas and Market Basket. Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

    This labor strike is attracting widespread attention because it’s not a labor strike in the traditional sense. Market Basket employees don’t belong to a union, and white collar managers are striking alongside the blue collar workers they supervise, rallying for Artie T.’s return.

    For all the heartwarming stories about employer and customer loyalty, however, Holman Jenkins Jr. questioned in the Wall Street Journal last week just what that loyalty will get the employees.

    Arthur T., his family opponents might say, had every incentive to behave in ways that inveigled employees to his side. He had every incentive to keep costs inside the company and shift profits outside to related parties, where 50.5% wouldn’t go to relatives he detested.

    Because, Holman predicted in the same piece, any resolution “is likely to lead to Market Basket being run more leanly and meanly to pay down debt incurred in buying it,” those striking workers, he continued, “might have found their leverage greater if they had rolled with the change in control from Arthur T. to Arthur S. rather than forcing a crisis that ends with the company being sold and worked to satisfy debt holders.”

    Artie T. has defended the fired employees and submitted an offer to buy the 50.5 percent of the company shares controlled by his rival cousin. Last week, he rejected a deal from three Market Basket directors that would have allowed him and the striking workers to return to the store to get it back on its feet while the board continued to consider his purchase offer. Arthur T.’s spokesperson dismissed the proposal as “an attempt to have [Arthur T.] stabilize the company, while they consider selling it to another bidder,” according to the Boston Globe.

    Delhaize Group SA, the parent company of Hannaford’s, another New England grocery chain, has submitted a bid, likely for only the 50.5 percent Arthur S. controls, but no one knows for how much money.

    The two main warriors in the ownership war remain the family factions. Five of the company’s nine shareholders support Arthur S., who controls the shares of two of his sisters and of the widow and daughter of his deceased brother. The four remaining shareholders — Arthur T. and three other sisters — control 49.5 percent of the company.

    The Arthur S. Demoulas side of the family, right, owns 50.5 percent of the company. NewsHour image.

    The Arthur S. Demoulas side of the family, right, owns 50.5 percent of the company. NewsHour image.

    On Sunday, Arthur T. blamed “onerous” terms from his cousin’s faction for blocking any progress on the sale negotiations. But what those terms are, as well as the price of Arthur T.’s bid, remains a mystery.

    So how long can negotiations to resolve the family feud take, and how long can the workers, many of whom have lost working hours and used up sick days and vacation time to strike, continue their fight?

    Part of the answer to the latter question, at least, is that this is a family struggle in more ways than one. Protesters aren’t just resisting the ouster of Market Basket’s CEO; to them, Artie T. is “our” CEO. In Massachusetts’ northern suburbs, the filial piety has become synonymous with the store itself. “We’re in the grocery business second; the people business first,” protestors chant.

    Protesters at a Market Basket rally hold a sign saying "One Family," featuring giraffes, the mascot they've adopted. NewsHour still image.

    Protesters at a Market Basket rally hold a sign saying “One Family,” featuring giraffes, the mascot they’ve adopted. NewsHour still image.

    For outside observers, though, it’s hard to imagine this refrain justifying workers risking their jobs for their boss. But to them, Artie T.’s not just some mythical hero. The stories abound; Artie T. cares, protesters say, not just about “his employees” in the abstract, but about individuals like Mary Jane.

    Mary Jane Findeisen is an officer manager at store number 10 in Methuen, Massachusetts. Arthur T. visited her husband when he was dying in the hospital, and as she recounts below, he spent 45 minutes comforting her and thanking them both for their service to the company. “It means the world to me, so this is why I’m here,” she says.

    How could a company, and one man specifically, be so beloved? From Arthur T.’s personal touch — the phone calls to workers and his attendance at their relatives’ funeral services — to the company’s profit-sharing system, employee scholarship program and generous wages (starting salaries for full-time clerks are $4 higher than Massachusetts’ minimum wage), it’s not hard to see why employees have been loyal to management under his leadership.

    In today’s corporate world, John A. Davis wrote on the Harvard Business Review’s blog, we’ve forgotten about the virtues of family-owned companies. They’re “a largely silent sector of market capitalism,” he writes, which represents two-thirds of businesses throughout the world and half of U.S. companies. He also points to studies showing that public and privately held family companies tend to perform better. “They are stronger financially, have higher stakeholder loyalty, live longer, and are more trusted by the public,” Davis wrote.

    NewsHour still image.

    NewsHour still image.

    From a balance sheet perspective, though, how does Market Basket offer both higher-than-average salaries and charge lower-than-average prices? Christopher Mackin pointed to several factors. First, the company, unlike some competitors, maintains a very low level of debt on their balance sheet, which allows it to accumulate cash reserves. And second, Market Basket makes money in a low-profit-margin business because of a high sales volume. (Mackin notes that they’ve grown steadily, opening new chains throughout the last decade.) That volume is sustained by the intertwined forces of employee and customer loyalty. The fact that Market Basket prioritizes employee loyalty, Forrester Research Inc. analyst Emily Collins told Bloomberg, has inspired customers like her to boycott their local stores.

    Whether that loyalty will be enough to patch the holes in workers’ paychecks, however, is another matter — especially if there’s any credibility to the board’s latest threats, and they actually do fire people come Friday. MIT’s Tom Kochan, co-director of the Institute of Work and Employment Research at the Sloan School of Management, suspect it’s a mostly empty threat, but that may not be enough reassurance for workers who find their livelihoods on the line.

    In the meantime, New England waits. At the very least, Kochan pointed out, there hasn’t been a press release from either Demoulas side in a day — an optimistic sign, he said, that maybe they’re busy getting down to work on a deal.

    The post With jobs on the line, why are Market Basket employees so loyal to Artie T? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Egyptian security forces move in to disperse a protest camp held by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Aug. 14, 2013 near Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    Egyptian security forces move in to disperse a protest camp held by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Aug. 14, 2013 near Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    A year ago, Egyptian security forces bulldozed the main protest camp in Cairo, after the demonstrators had been rallying for weeks against the removal of President Mohammed Morsi. The Egyptian government this week disputed a Human Rights Watch report that likened the security forces’ actions to crimes against humanity.

    Prior to dispersing the protesters, Egypt’s interim government had declared a state of emergency and issued a nighttime curfew in Cairo and elsewhere.

    Human Rights Watch released a report on Tuesday that said its researchers who visited area hospitals and morgues after the incident, counted more than 800 people killed when the police and army broke up the demonstration in Rabaa Square in eastern Cairo on Aug. 14, 2013.

    “While there is also evidence that some protesters used firearms during several of these demonstrations, Human Rights Watch was able to confirm their use in only a few instances, which do not justify the grossly disproportionate and premeditated lethal attacks on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters,” the group said in a statement.

    It said no police or army officers were held accountable and urged other countries to withhold aid to military and law enforcement agencies in Egypt until it adopts human rights measures.

    In response, Egypt’s State Information Service issued a statement saying Human Rights Watch’s report “presents a highly negative and biased account of the violent events that took place in Egypt during the year 2013, and totally fails to adequately report on the attacks carried out by the Brotherhood, as a terrorist organization, and its supporters.”

    Hundreds of supporters of Morsi and his political party the Muslim Brotherhood currently are on trial for assaulting security forces and other alleged violent acts last August.

    The clearing of the camp came after the “failure of all political and popular efforts aimed at persuading the protesters to disperse peacefully” and after escalating complaints from residents that the sit-ins were being used to launch non-peaceful marches and criminal activity, the statement said.

    The information service also noted that the Egyptian government has set up a national independent fact-finding commission led by former international judge and law professor Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riad to investigate the violence in July and August 2013, and that the Human Rights Watch report preempted its results.

    The post Egypt fires back at report on protest violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Why do so many child lullabies have such dark undertones, and does matter when it comes to their ability to soothe? Image by Maria Pavlova and Getty Images

    Why do so many child lullabies have such dark undertones, and when it comes to their ability to soothe, does it matter? Image by Maria Pavlova and Getty Images

    In the 1920s, the poet Federico García Lorca heard a woman in Granada sing a lullaby to her child and was struck by the acute sadness of the song. In a lecture delivered in Madrid in 1928, he observed that the country’s “saddest melodies and most melancholy texts” are contained in these so-called cradle songs. “Spain possesses joyous songs, jokes, jests … Why then has Spain reserved the most potent songs of blood to lull its children to sleep, those least suited to their delicate sensibilities?”

    Lorca’s lecture, “On Lullabies,” focused specifically on lullabies in Spain, a country, in his words, of dead stones and soulful landscapes, “dashing its head against the walls.” But sad lullabies are hardly unique to that country.

    Judging by lyrics alone, the lionshare of lullabies are not sweet and soothing; they are dark and creepy and macabre. There’s an Italian lullaby about a wolf devouring a lamb until “the skin and horns and nothing else remain.” An Andalusian lullaby about a rider who “led his horse to water but would not let him drink.” And a Turkish lullaby about a mother mourning her baby after an eagle has torn it to pieces, karmic punishment when the father fails to fulfill his vow of sacrificing three camels.

    Here in America, there’s “Hush Little Baby” with its broken mirrors, fallen horses and mockingbirds that won’t sing. “Rock-a-Bye Baby” ends with an uncertain prognosis — death? injury? — after a cradle containing a baby plummets from a treetop. And, of course, “You are My Sunshine,” the saddest song ever.

    So why are so many lullabies about death, despair and loss? And as it relates to their primary function — to lull the child to sleep — does it matter?

    Music as Medicine

    A lullaby, or cradle song, is defined by Merriam-Webster as just that: “a song to quiet children or lull them to sleep … a soothing refrain.” Any song can serve as a lullaby, says ethnomusicologist and UCLA lecturer Andrew Pettit, provided it is sufficiently slow and rhythmic. There are the songs that are composed specifically as lullabies, he says, and then there are “functional lullabies,” songs that are altered to serve that purpose.

    People have said that lullabies are the space to sing the unsung, a place to say the unsayable. You’re alone. Nobody is listening, and you can express the feelings that are not okay to express in society.

    “You can take any song, slow it down and sing it to your kid to help them sleep,” said Pettit, whose research has focused on lullabies from India. When his own daughter was an infant, for example, he sang the cowboy ballad “I Ride an Old Paint,” made famous by Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

    Research has shown that lullabies do often serve their intended purpose. When used right, they can soothe and possibly even help to heal an infant.

    A study published in the journal Pediatrics in April 2013 found that live lullabies slowed infant heart rate, improved sucking behaviors that are critical for feeding, increased periods of “quiet alertness” and helped the babies sleep. Researchers followed 272 premature infants in 11 hospitals and found that the music, provided by a certified music therapist, offered stress relief for the parents too. The study concluded that “lullabies, sung live, can enhance bonding, thus decreasing the stress parents associate with premature infant care.”

    It didn’t seem to matter whether the parent or music therapist sings the lullaby, said Joanne Loewy, the study’s lead author and director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital in New York. However, recorded music, she said, is not recommended except under controlled circumstances.

    Lullabies have also been studied as a form of pain relief. Dr. Mark Tramo, a UCLA neurologist and lecturer at the university’s Herb Alpert School of Music, performed a pilot study, also on preterm babies in the neonatal unit. He played lullabies to infants recovering from a painful heel stick procedure used to draw blood. His results suggested that music helped to slow the babies’ heart rates and thus reduce stress, but the study sample was too small to be definitive. He hopes to replicate the study in a larger population to learn more about the power of this effect.

    science-wednesday

    “From a basic science standpoint, we want to know how music affects heart rate,” Tramo said. “But from a clinical standpoint, we want to know if music can prevent heart rate from going into the danger zone.”

    As early as the 24th week of pregnancy, babies can hear a range of frequencies that include the human voice and most classical musical instruments, said Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology and an expert in early child development. The mother’s voice “is particularly powerful because it resonates internally and externally, her body acting as the sounding board,” she wrote in her book, “The Genius of Natural Childhood.” Both before and after birth, a mother’s voice provides a connection between respiration, sound and movement, an acoustic link from life and communication before birth – to the brave new world after birth.”

    Explaining the dark lullaby

    It is that voice and the rhythm and melody of the music that the youngest babies respond to, not the content of the song. Is it the case then, that the words are as much for the parent as for the child? That the mother is singing as much to herself as to the baby? Lyrics to lullabies, Pettit said, have often been interpreted as a reflection of the caregiver’s emotions.

    There is a special physical bond between mother and child in the first year of life, in which mothers feel they can sing to their child about their own fears and anxieties, but in the safety and comfort of physical togetherness.

    “People have said that lullabies are the space to sing the unsung,” Pettit said. “A place to say the unsayable. You’re alone. Nobody is listening, and you can express the feelings that are not okay to express in society.”

    Driving this may be the closeness between the caregiver and child.

    “There is a special physical bond between mother and child in the first year of life, in which mothers feel they can sing to their child about their own fears and anxieties, but in the safety and comfort of physical togetherness,” Blythe said.

    In ancient Babylon, lullabies were used as magical charms, meant to protect sleeping babies. But darkness pervaded across cultures and centuries, with lullabies expressing fears directly or metaphorically about absent fathers, injured, sick or lost children, domestic abuse and unhappy lives. A gender divide was common in Indian folk lullabies, which celebrated boys, often predicting a wealthy and glorious future, while preparing girls for a life of hardship, Pettit said. But as the inequality gap between genders shrinks in modern India, recent lullabies have changed to reflect that.

    In Spain in Lorca’s time, the most widespread group of cradle songs placed the child as “the sole actor in his own lullaby,” and in the lyrics, he was poor or his mother was missing or was not his mother. In response to such songs, children would cry, kick or protest, Lorca said.

    “There is no… attempt to threaten, frighten or construct a scene,” Lorca said, “only to thrust the child into the song, alone and unarmed, a little knight defenseless against his mother’s reality.”

    In an essay published in 1974, the late folk artist and researcher Bess Lomax Hawes had a similar observation about American lullabies. The most characteristic quality, she wrote, is the “spatial isolation” of the baby. In every traditional American lullaby, caregivers are somewhere else: hunting, for example, or out watching sheep or shaking dreamland trees.

    “Baby, meanwhile, is up in a tree, or sailing off in a boat made out of the moon, or driving away with his ‘pretty little horses.’ When he does sleep, he is described as being in a place called ‘dreamland’ which, wherever it is, clearly isn’t his own bed; and he is variously requested or ordered to take himself to that ‘land of Nod’ by the linguistic convention that requires English speakers to ‘go to sleep.’”

    The isolation of the child defines these lullabies, she wrote, even suggesting that the line: “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,” is simply a reference to closing the bedroom door. The context is a culture that values independence and strength in its children. But the tradeoff is separation strain experienced by the postpartum mother.

    The American lullaby then, is a mother’s conversation with herself about separation, Hawes concluded: “And, as such, one of its most profoundly supportive functions is to make the inevitable and inexorable payment of our social dues just a little less personally painful.”

    “I always found myself that rocking a baby to sleep was kind of a sad thing to do,” she wrote. “Not miserable or tragic or irksome — just a little bit sad, somehow.”

    The post Why are so many lullabies also murder ballads? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Barack Obama consulted by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a 72-hour cease-fire in the Gaza Strip neared expiration.

    Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes says Obama talked to Netanyahu Wednesday from his vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

    Palestinian negotiators are weighing an Egyptian proposal to end the monthlong Israel-Hamas war. Since a temporary truce took effect Sunday, Israel had halted military operations in the coastal territory and Gaza militants have stopped firing rockets. The cease-fire expired at midnight local time and was meant to give the parties time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and road map for the coastal territory.

    The White House says in a written statement that Obama reaffirmed U.S. support for Egypt’s effort to mediate a lasting truce that satisfies both parties.

    The Israeli military reported that shortly before the cease-fire was set to end, at least three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.

    The AP reports from Jerusalem that the rocket fire came as Palestinian officials said that Hamas had agreed to extend the cease-fire with Israel for five days.

    The post Obama talks to Israel’s Netanyahu as cease-fire expires appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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