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

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    Photo by Flickr user Aranami

    Photo by Flickr user Aranami

    Editor’s note: In a story Aug. 11 about U.S. Postal Service Revenues, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the agency blamed its $2 billion loss for the quarter ending June 30 on increases in compensation and benefit costs. Although those costs did increase slightly, the overall loss reflected the agency spending $18.4 billion in operating costs against revenues of $16.5 billion.

    A corrected version of the story is below:

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service lost $2 billion this spring despite increasing its volume and charging consumers more money to send mail, officials said Monday.

    The loss for the spring quarter, which ended June 30, was significantly higher than the $740 million loss for the same three-month period last year. The loss came despite a 2 percent increase in operating revenue compared with last spring.

    The agency said it would be unable to make a congressionally mandated payment of $5.7 billion this September for health benefits for future retirees.

    “Due to continued losses and low levels of liquidity, we’ve been extremely conservative with our capital, spending only what is deemed essential to maintain existing infrastructure,” said Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service’s chief financial officer.

    The Postal Service is an independent agency that receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control. It has asked to end most Saturday deliveries, a request that is languishing in Congress amid opposition by postal unions. The agency also is seeking to eliminate the congressionally mandated $5.7 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits.

    Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, agrees that Congress should get rid of the 2006 mandated payment but says it would be “irresponsible to degrade services to Americans and their businesses” just as postal delivery is rebounding with the economy. Because more people are shopping online, “the Internet is now a net positive for USPS, auguring well for the future as e-commerce grows,” Rolando said in a statement.

    The Postal Service has defaulted before on federally mandated annual payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. Corbett said the agency also needs $10 billion to replace old vehicles, buy new package sorting equipment and make other infrastructure upgrades.

    Other findings from the latest quarterly report compared to the same time period last year:

    • Shipping and package revenue was up 6.6 percent, while standard mail revenue increased 5.1 percent. The increase was attributed both to higher volume and prices charged to consumers.
    • First-Class mail volume declined by 1.4 percent, but revenue climbed 3.2 percent because of price increases.
    • Operating revenue increased by $327 million to $16.5 billion.
    • Operating expenses increased by $1.5 billion to $18.4 billion.

    The post UPDATE: U.S. Postal Service announces $2 billion spring loss despite uptick in revenue appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrapimage

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States moved closer today to new moves to rescue thousands of Yazidi refugees in Northern Iraq. They’re trapped on a mountain, surrounded by fighters of the Islamic State group. The U.S. military is already airdropping supplies, and 130 American advisers have arrived to assess things.

    Today, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the president is awaiting their recommendations.

    BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Adviser: There needs to be a lasting solution that gets that population to a safe space, where they can receive more permanent assistance. We don’t believe that that involves U.S. troops reentering a combat role in Iraq. It involves, frankly, a very difficult logistical challenge of moving folks who are in danger on that mountain to a safer position.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rhodes suggested the next move could involve a rescue mission with the help of Kurdish forces and the British. Meanwhile, the Yazidis are pleading for safe passage out of Iraq.

    We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: These are the survivors of an ancient religious minority which, until a week or so ago, many in the West had never even heard of.

    “We are Yazidis,” they cry. “Our children are dying every day, yet we haven’t hurt anyone.”

    Their families are living in this high school playground because they have nowhere else to go. Yesterday, we watched thousands streaming into Iraqi Kurdistan for safety, though the U.N. reckons over 20,000 may still be trapped and at risk of genocide.

    Nofa Baracat walked for 15 miles with her baby son. She told me then she kept him alive by having him suckled milk by a mountain goat. Today, we found her family living in the high school. They have no idea where they’re going, and they are terrified of the jihadists who hounded them here.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): They have buried people alive. They have killed children. They said, either you will convert to Islam or we will slaughter you.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Around 1,000 Yazidis will be sleeping here tonight, and for all of them, the dream of a united Iraq has been shattered forever.

    What is striking when you talk to these Yazidi refugees is that none of them have told us they will ever go back to their homes. They say that Iraq is finished for them. It is not a case of building refugee camps. They don’t want to be fed here. They want to leave the country.

    This afternoon, Yazidis in this camp gave us the same message. Just because foreign helicopters are poised to airlift their trapped relatives doesn’t mean they will settle here in Kurdistan, on the borders of a ruthless, self-declared Islamic state.

    Yet bulldozers are busy leveling the ground for four more camps. And because nobody really knows how many are dying on Sinjar Mountain, nobody knows how many survivors to expect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, the U.S. military announced a drone attacked Islamic State fighters on an armed truck near where the Yazidis are trapped. Separately in Baghdad, a series of attacks killed at least 29 people, this, while on the political front, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted he won’t accept a new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, until Iraq’s highest court rules on the issue. But Maliki’s political party lined up behind Abadi.

    GWEN IFILL: The Islamic State group made new advances in neighboring Syria today. Opposition groups reported the militants captured two key towns just 30 miles northeast of Aleppo. It followed fierce clashes with rival rebel factions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s word that a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas is being extended just as it was set to expire. Palestinian negotiators said late today the extension will run for five days. Israel didn’t immediately comment, but the Israeli military said several rockets were fired from Gaza as the news broke.

    GWEN IFILL: Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, are urging an end to nighttime protests over the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager. Last night, demonstrators held a largely peaceful event, but, later, police shot and wounded another man who allegedly pulled a handgun.

    This afternoon, police Chief Thomas Jackson said he wants to prevent violence, but accommodate the protesters.

    THOMAS JACKSON, Chief, Ferguson Police Department: They have a very strong message they want to get out. They’re looking for answers. I understand that. I understand the anger. But there are some people that come out and, after dark, it does get a little dangerous. So we think it’s better for peaceful demonstrations to occur during the daylight.

    GWEN IFILL: The chief said once again he will not publicly identify the policeman who shot the teenager, at least for now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The skies opened over New York’s Long Island suburbs today and dumped a summer’s worth of rain in just a few hours. More than 13 inches fell in the town of Islip.

    The deluge transformed roads into rivers, submerging many cars in several feet of water. Some roads were still shut down during the busy morning commute so crews could rescue stranded drivers.

    STEVE BELLONE, Suffolk County Executive: We have seen that before, where a couple of cars get stuck in a very specific area. This is nothing like anyone has ever seen here, dozens and dozens, hundreds across the county, of cars being stuck in major flooding.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At least one person died in a wreck at the height of the storm. The same system drowned parts of Detroit earlier this week.

    GWEN IFILL: The death toll from fighting in Eastern Ukraine has spiked. The United Nations estimated today at least 2,086 people have been killed since mid-April, up from 1,129 in late July.

    Meanwhile, a Russian humanitarian aid convoy was parked in southwestern Russia, awaiting permission to cross the border. Ukrainian authorities insist it could be cover for an invasion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the challengers in Brazil’s upcoming presidential election was killed today in a plane crash.

    Eduardo Campos was on a small was on a small plane that was trying to land in bad weather in the city of Santos. Campos was running third in the race to unseat President Dilma Rousseff, who’s seeking a second term. The election is October 4.

    GWEN IFILL: Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denied today that he ordered deadly force against protesters in 2011. More than 900 people were killed in the uprising that deposed him that year. Mubarak, now 86 years old, testified in a Cairo courtroom.

    HOSNI MUBARAK,
    Former President, Egypt (through interpreter): Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, who is before you today, didn’t order at all the killing of protesters or the shedding of the blood of Egyptians. And I didn’t issue an order to cause chaos and I never issued an order to create a security vacuum.

    GWEN IFILL: Mubarak was initially found guilty in 2012, but his conviction was overturned last year. He’s now being retried. A final verdict will be issued in late September.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 91 points to close at 16,651; the Nasdaq rose nearly 45 points to close at 4,434; and the S&P 500 added almost 13 points to finish at 1,946.

    The post News Wrap: White House considering Yazidi rescue measures appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    snowden

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the new revelations from a fresh interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

    The extensive profile, in “Wired” magazine is based on hours of interviews conducted over three days, including audio that captures Snowden’s voice.

    EDWARD SNOWDEN: What I did wasn’t to benefit myself. I didn’t ask for money. I gave this information back to public hands. And the reason that I did that wasn’t to gain a label, but to give you back a choice about the country you want to live in.

    GWEN IFILL: Snowden discloses that the U.S. government ran a top secret cyber-war program code-named MonsterMind. He said it could accidentally start a war. And he reveals that, in 2012, NSA hackers mistakenly shut down all of Syria’s Internet service.

    Edward Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013. Last week, that asylum was extended by three years.

    Journalist and “Wired” contributor James Bamford has written extensively about U.S. surveillance for decades, and is the author of the latest story, which appears in the September issue.

    He joins me now from Rio de Janeiro.

    James Bamford, you say in your piece that you feel like you have a kinship with Edward Snowden. Why did he talk to you?

    JAMES BAMFORD, WIRED Magazine: Well, hello, Gwen. Nice being on the program.

    The reason I think that we had a bit of a kinship was, interestingly, I worked also for NSA in Hawaii when I was in the Navy. I was assigned to a unit that was basically part of the NSA. And I worked there during the Vietnam War for basically two years out of three years I spent in the Navy.

    And then after I left the active duty and was in the Reserves while I was in law school, I discovered at one of the listening posts that they were eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. And so I blew the whistle on that to the Church Committee and actually testified in closed session before the Church Committee.

    So these were some of the things that I think we had a bit in common. And he was far more of a whistle-blower than I ever was, and he was far more involved with NSA than I ever was, but there were these connections that we did have.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s been widely reported that 1.7 billion documents were taken by Edward Snowden in some manner. Do you happen to know whether he knows what’s in all of those documents and whether there’s indeed a second leaker, as has been reported?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Yes, it was 1.7 million documents.

    GWEN IFILL: Thank you for fixing that.

    JAMES BAMFORD: But his comments were really extraordinary to me. He said that he actually left basically bread crumbs.

    He left some clues to indicate which documents he actually saw and which documents he actually copied, so that the NSA, when they went back and did an audit, would be able to determine that he was a whistle-blower, in other words, taking documents that indicated that they were involved, domestic eavesdropping, for example, as opposed to documents dealing with North Korea or Russia or China or whatever.

    So he didn’t say how many documents, but he said there were considerably fewer than the 1.7 million that the NSA has alleged. And that 1.7 million is basically based on the documents he may have at one point seen, but certainly not the documents that he copied. And by them missing the clues that he left, they aren’t able to tell which he saw and which he actually copied.

    GWEN IFILL: And which of the reports we have seen have come from his documents and come from possibly someone else?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Well, that’s the indication.

    And what Edward Snowden said to me was that the NSA certainly has a problem, that things are still going walking. And he said that’s a major problem to the U.S., since the NSA has so much of American communications, telephone calls, e-mails and so forth, and that, if there is a second leaker, which apparently there is — and certainly the evidence indicates that — and maybe having been inspired by Edward Snowden, that’s certainly a major problem for NSA.

    If they thought they had a problem with Snowden, now they have a problem with somebody else there.

    GWEN IFILL: What kind of life is Snowden leading in exile these days?

    JAMES BAMFORD: He seems fairly comfortable in his life.

    The three days I spent with him, he never complained about his life there. I think he’s adapted to life in Moscow quite well. Moscow is not your grandfather’s Russia under Khrushchev. This is a much more modern city. And I think it’s a very livable city in terms of somebody who may be spending a considerable amount of time there.

    He just had his visa extended for another three years. So, I think he is — obviously, he would much rather be living in the U.S. with his family and so forth, but I think he’s adapting quite well.

    GWEN IFILL: And he expects to be hacked at any moment by the U.S. government?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Well, he certainly thinks they’re certainly trying to hack into him.

    He says that he thinks it will be inevitable that they will be able to hack into him at some point. He doesn’t think they have geolocated him, in other words, found out exactly where he is at any particular time in Moscow. He takes his battery out of his cell phone. He’s going places. He’s very careful.

    But he does think that at some point NSA will probably be able to understand who he’s talking to, not necessarily what he’s saying because of encryption, but who he’s communicating with. And that troubles him.

    GWEN IFILL: Do he and his supporters have concern about something you describe in the article as NSA fatigue, that is, Americans losing interest in his cause?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Yes, he did.

    He was quite concerned that at some point, the information that is coming out will pretty much be put on the back pages, people won’t pay attention to it anymore. He sort of compared it to a war, in the sense that five people being killed is a headline, 1,000 people being killed a month later is a back page.

    So it’s a problem of becoming sort of numbed, or this whole problem of boiling frogs, where a frog is in the water. The heat gets turned up slowly, so the frog doesn’t know he’s being boiled. So it’s a problem that I think he’s concerned about, that the public will stop paying attention to the leaks and the revelations at some point.

    GWEN IFILL: And for that reason, he poses with an American flag on the cover of “Wired” magazine this month.

    James Bamford, thank you for your reporting. Talk to you soon.

    The post Snowden and supporters fear Americans will lose interest from ‘NSA fatigue’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Barack Obama is considering a range of military options, including airlifts and creating safe passages, for rescuing thousands of Iraqi refugees trapped on a mountain, the White House said. A small team of U.S. troops secretly scouted the site Wednesday.

    A U.S. military-led rescue mission on Sinjar Mountain could involve putting American troops on the ground. But the White House insisted that their mission would be strictly a humanitarian rescue and would not constitute a return to combat 2½ years after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. Obama is expected to make a decision in days.

    “We don’t believe that involves U.S. troops re-entering a combat role in Iraq,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “It involves frankly a very difficult logistical challenge of moving folks who are in danger on that mountain into a safer position.”

    The U.S. has been delivering food and water to the refugees for several days. But Rhodes said it was unsustainable to let thousands of people remain on the mountain.

    “There needs to be a lasting solution that gets that population to a safe space where they can receive more permanent assistance,” he told reporters traveling with the president during his vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.

    The Pentagon sent 129 U.S. troops to Iraq on Tuesday to assess the scope of the humanitarian crisis and the options for getting them safely off the mountain. Rhodes said that given the urgency of the situation, Obama was expected to receive their final recommendations quickly and make a decision within days.

    That process was advanced Wednesday when a team of fewer than 20 U.S. troops was flown onto the mountain by Black Hawk helicopter for a firsthand look at rescue mission possibilities, according to a defense official who revealed some details prior to a public announcement of the mission. They were safely extracted hours later.

    Also Wednesday, a U.S. drone aircraft attacked and destroyed an armed truck operated by Islamic militants near Sinjar, the U.S. Central Command said.

    Thousands of Iraqi religious minorities sought refuge on Sinjar Mountain after militants from the Islamic State group swept through their village in northern Iraq. In addition to the humanitarian aid drops, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets, both to protect American personnel in the region and stop the militants from moving on the civilians again.

    Obama has ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq, where nearly 4,500 Americans were killed during the eight year war that ended in 2011.

    Rhodes suggested the U.S. would undertake a rescue mission with help from allies, including Kurdish forces that are receiving arms from the U.S. and the British.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed Wednesday that his country stood ready to assist with that effort.

    “We need a plan to get these people off that mountain and get them to a place of safety,” he said. “Detailed plans are now being put in place and are underway and that Britain will play a role in delivering them.”

    The British military has already joined the U.S. in delivering supplies to the mountain in recent days. Rhodes noted that there have also been offers of humanitarian assistance from France, Canada and Australia.

    The White House has not said specifically how many people they believe to be on the mountain, though estimates range in the tens of thousands. Rhodes said several thousand have escaped, but the U.S. is seeking a more firm estimate from the assessment team now on the ground.

    The Pentagon said the assessment team was transported to Irbil, capital of the largely autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region, by a small number of V-22 Osprey aircraft from an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

    The assessment team joins 90 U.S. military advisers already in Baghdad and 160 in a pair of operations centers — one in Irbil and one in Baghdad, the central government’s capital — 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.

    ___

    Burns reported from Washington.

    ___

    The post Obama considering military options for rescuing Iraqi refugees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HEALTH CARE  UPDATE  monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s a new complication with the health care law and insurance coverage. Roughly eight million people signed up through the health care exchanges. But it’s been clear this summer that there are cases of discrepancies with information of some of the newly enrolled, calling their eligibility into question in some cases.

    Immigration status is now a part of this. Yesterday, the Obama administration warned that more than 300,000 people could lose coverage if they can’t show proof they are U.S. citizens or legal residents.

    Reporter Louise Radnofsky is covering all this for The Wall Street Journal.

    And we welcome you back to the program.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY, The Wall Street Journal: Thank you for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Louise, who are these people who are being questioned or getting these letters?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, originally, there were about a million people for whom the healthcare.gov system couldn’t verify that they were in the United States legally, and therefore entitled to access coverage under the law.

    The administration has whittled that down to about 310,000 people now that they say they haven’t heard from after they have asked them multiple times to send in more information.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So — and how did this come to light? What caused this to bubble to the surface for the administration?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: There appeared to be a long standing glitch in the healthcare.gov system in which it was particularly difficult to ascertain data supplied by people who were illegally resident in the United States or naturalized citizens, but were not born here.

    Essentially, the data that was being drawn on from the Department of Health and Human — the Department of Homeland Security, the other DHS, wasn’t — wasn’t working to get their information available in time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So they literally couldn’t verify what people were saying; is that it?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: They couldn’t.

    And at one point, people couldn’t enter document numbers that actually existed at all in order to get through the system. So they just sort of tried to progress as best as they could and then were planning to send information later.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, remind us about the eligibility requirements. For people to sign up for health care coverage under the program, they had to be what?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: They had to be legally in the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: This was a very highly charged issue at the time that the law was being debated.

    As a result, unauthorized immigrants are not only not eligible for tax credits towards the cost of coverage. They’re not allowed to shop on healthcare.gov at all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, they’re being told — as you said, over a million notices went out. They have heard back from many of these people. They have cleared it up; 300,000 people, though, they haven’t heard back from.

    What are they — what happens to them? What do they have to do?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Those people have until September 5 to start sending information, either uploading it or mailing it in to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    If they don’t, they would lose their coverage entirely. It’s not just a question of their tax credits being cut off and this being settled next year in taxes in time. Their plans will be terminated by their insurance company.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So the administration is literally prepared to shut them off, even after a year or less than a year of coverage?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: They are.

    It’s certainly something that immigrant activists are very concerned about. They never really liked the provision in the first place and felt it was somewhat spiteful to deny people the access to the exchange at all. But they say that here the government may be moving quite hastily.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do people in the administration say to you about this? Do they honestly believe that most of these people are illegal, that they’re not citizens or are not here legally, or do they think that there are just honest mistakes that were made?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: They say that they’re in a position to process through and find out whether people who submitted information in good faith do have data on file in the federal government that can verify what they’re saying.

    And that’s why they’re going to these extra measures. But they say they do need to hear from the people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So they don’t really know? They honestly don’t know? Is that what you’re saying?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: It’s a data-matching error, they describe it as, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

    So, at this point, two million people — we started out saying some two million people are being investigated for some sort of discrepancy. This is a big number of the eight million.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Right.

    And it gets to the idea that there were a number of flaws in healthcare.gov that went beyond the widely publicizes ones that being understood at the outset, where they couldn’t just get through a system that kept seizing up on them. The underlying data in some cases has been very problematic to verify, particularly because you have a number of people with complicated circumstances, like not being born in the United States, which here is proving to be very complicated, or their income has changed.

    That’s the other million people among that two million that we were talking about here. What they earned in 2012 does not appear to match up very closely with what they are saying they expect to earn in 2014. That, incidentally, is often the sort of thing that happens when people are suddenly looking to buy insurance on their own.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how does that get reconciled?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, for that, again, the administration is asking for more information for people.

    But for those people, because it’s about their tax credits and not about their coverage entirely, there is also an expectation that it will sort of get sorted out around tax filing season. The Republicans aren’t very happy about that, but certainly that’s the way it’s being planned out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, there is a renewal process that has to take place. What is the administration saying about that? Do they expect that to go smoothly? What are they looking at?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: The administration decided to automatically renew policies for people, unless they asked to change them in some way, precisely because it was worried about a bunch of people falling out of the system.

    The people whose policies are going to be renewed are generally people who were able to get through the system relatively smoothly the first time, and don’t have these additional circumstances complicating their applications that appear to have disproportionately affected immigrants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, they don’t look to — they don’t expect to have a significant problem?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: They don’t.

    But immigrant groups are also concerned that there are ongoing problems that will persist into the next enrollment season, particularly for these people that the administration is very keen to make sure, in cases where they’re in the United States illegally, are signed up for coverage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the watching goes on of the health care law.

    Louise Radnofsky, we thank you.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Thank you.

    The post Health care law data discrepancies threaten coverage for 300,000 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    afghanistan1

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to a look at the future of Afghanistan and the lessons of Iraq.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: For the people of Afghanistan, the next few months may decide if there’s a hopeful future or a descent back into chaos.

    On the political front, elections were held to replace President Hamid Karzai, but there’s no clear successor. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani led the June runoff against former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. But he won the first round, and has now charged fraud.

    Amid an audit of the votes, Secretary of State John Kerry has made two emergency trips to Kabul to try to hold the situation together, and get the candidates to agree to share power after the results, whoever wins. But Ghani cast doubt on that yesterday.

    ASHRAF GHANI, Presidential Candidate, Afghanistan: There is no difference in terms of agreeing to the framework. But the framework was not a document prepared for signing.

    MARGARET WARNER: The stakes are huge for continuing U.S. and NATO military and financial support after the December 2014 deadline for withdrawal. President Obama said in May he’s willing to keep 9,800 U.S. troops after this year, but withdraw them all by end the end of 2016.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: American personnel will be in an advisory role. We will no longer patrol Afghan cities or towns, mountains or valleys. That is a task for the Afghan people.

    MARGARET WARNER: But a new Afghan president would have to sign the deal allowing those troops to stay. And this week, the head of NATO warned time is running out.

    Meanwhile, the Taliban is staging new attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.

    MARGARET WARNER: Veteran diplomat James Dobbins just retired from his second stint as the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He presided over the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2001.

    The post Political limbo in Afghanistan raises stakes for U.S. security deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Suicide bomb attack in Kabul

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    MARGARET WARNER: Veteran diplomat James Dobbins just retired from his second stint as the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He presided over the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2001. It was the latest and last of a career as point man for post-conflict situations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and then Afghanistan.

    Among his books, “America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq.” He’s now back at the RAND Corporation, where we spoke today.

    Ambassador Dobbins, thank you for joining us.

    JAMES DOBBINS, Former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan: My pleasure.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let’s start with Afghanistan, where you spent so much of your career. Despite two interventions by Secretary Kerry, that election is still deadlocked. What are the consequences if this isn’t resolved soon?

    JAMES DOBBINS: Well, I think the consequences could be a schism, with two people claiming to be president, and a three-way conflict between two factions and the Taliban.

    I don’t think that’s in either of the candidates’ interests. I think they both recognize that and I think they will both work to avoid it. But there are forces within both of their campaigns, if you will, that push them in that direction.

    MARGARET WARNER: What does this say about the efficacy of our more-than-10-year effort there that the political leadership isn’t up to this test?

    JAMES DOBBINS: You know, I think we have to put this in some perspective.

    We have been in Afghanistan for 10 years. Afghanistan spent the previous 30 years in the midst of a civil war, and it’s made remarkable progress over the last 10. It’s not yet a Jeffersonian democracy. Indeed, the democracy is faltering. But they did have an election. Millions of people turned out. There was genuine enthusiasm, and they are trying to work their way through a process which will produce a legitimate result.

    MARGARET WARNER: And then with the U.S. drawing down to 9,800 troops by the end of the year, ultimately zero by the end of 2016, do you think that the Afghan security forces are up to the job of maintaining security on their own?

    JAMES DOBBINS: I think if we get a legitimate outcome to the election that’s widely accepted by the Afghan people, by their neighbors and by the international community, if international assistance thus continues to flow, I think the Afghan security forces will continue to improve, as they have by everybody’s measure over the last several years.

    The Taliban will be kept at bay, and the country’s social and economic and political progress will be further consolidated.

    MARGARET WARNER: But that was predicated by some ifs.

    JAMES DOBBINS: Yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: Senator John McCain and others have said that by announcing a troop withdrawal at the end of 2016, a total troop withdrawal, that essentially it’s inviting, first of all, the political leaders to revert to their old ways and the Taliban to just bide their time, not negotiate a solution.

    JAMES DOBBINS: I have done a lot of work on countries like Afghanistan.

    My view in these stability operations is, more is better. More time, more money, more troops produce better results. So if I was only responsible for Afghanistan, I would want more time. I would want more troops. I would want more money.

    But the president and the Congress both have wider responsibilities and they have to measure their commitment in Afghanistan against the demands of a lot of other crises and a domestic constituency that wants some reconstruction at home.

    So I think that it was a perfectly rational decision to limit our commitment without abruptly withdrawing. That said, whether or not it could succeed, whether Afghanistan can stay on a positive track, which it’s been on for the last several years, through our — the diminution of our presence and then its ultimate removal, I think is still an open question.

    I would note that 2017 will have a new administration, and they will have to reexamine these issues and make their own decisions.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, if you look at what’s happening in Iraq, where four years ago the expectation was, much as it is here in Afghanistan, that they were ready to take everything on their own, and you see it’s all unraveling, what are the lessons of that?

    JAMES DOBBINS: Well, I think the lesson of Iraq is that nation-building is difficult, that invading a country and overthrowing a regime is comparatively easy for a country as powerful as the United States.

    But making sure that something better takes its place in an enduring fashion is an expensive, time-consuming, and very difficult enterprise that has to be undertaken with extreme caution. We have succeeded. We have succeeded in Bosnia. We succeeded in Kosovo. We succeeded in Panama. And, of course, we succeeded in Germany and Japan after the Second World War, in South Korea after the Korean War.

    So it’s not as if it never succeeds, but it is tough, it is expensive and it’s something that should only be embarked on after careful thought.

    MARGARET WARNER: But 9/11 taught us that if we let problems fester in the wider Muslim Middle East that they can come back to bite us here at home.

    Yet, when we try to intervene, we often make a mess of it. So how do you square that circle?  How do you answer that conundrum for future presidents?

    JAMES DOBBINS: I think we have to be careful, discriminate about where we intervene. But we have to avoid going in the opposite direction of saying sort of never again, because the fact is that a number of these interventions do serve their purpose. They do enhance our security.

    In the case of the Middle East, clearly, we overburdened ourselves by invading Iraq only a couple of years after going into Afghanistan, before we had stabilized that country. The result was to deplete our resources and to make us unwilling and possibly unable to follow through with the air campaign in Libya or to become more engaged in Syria.

    I think that we were able to sort of take and surmount one hurdle at a time, we’d have a better chance of succeeding. Taking on a number of commitments and minimizing the commitment to all of them is a formula for just an ever-accumulating series of crises.

    MARGARET WARNER: But there is the argument that the world is just a lot more complicated now, that you have got crises exploding all the time.

    JAMES DOBBINS: Well, you know, the ’90s is now thought of as a golden era, but really we faced as many challenges and as frequent new challenges throughout the 1990s as we do today.

    I think the difference is that the administrations then were successful in successfully addressing each of these seriatim, rather than allowing them to accumulate. And that’s the difficulty with making minimal commitments that prevent problems from boiling over, but don’t resolve them.

    And so eventually, as problem — that you simply begin accumulating more and more problems, until you are at the point where you don’t have the resources or even the time and attention to actually turn and solve any one of them.

    MARGARET WARNER: And you think that is the lesson for future presidents?

    JAMES DOBBINS: Absolutely.

    MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador James Dobbins, thank you.

    JAMES DOBBINS: My pleasure.

    The post Veteran diplomat talks hurdles in enacting stable political leadership in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    laurenbacall

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we remember a sultry symbol of old Hollywood glamour, Lauren Bacall, known for her strong presence on screen and famous romances off camera.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look at her work and life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sometimes, the line, the look, and the delivery have a way of living on forever.

    LAUREN BACALL, Actress: You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?  You just put your lips together and blow.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Lauren Bacall was just 19, a model and a daughter of Jewish immigrants, when she made her movie debut alongside Humphrey Bogart in the 1944 film “To Have and Have Not.”

    It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, on screen and off, as the two fell in love and eventually married, despite a 25-year age gap, becoming the epitome of Hollywood glamour, and making four movies together, including “Key Largo” and “The Big Sleep.”

    HUMPHREY BOGART, Actor: You better run along, because you made a deal and you’re going to stick it, right or wrong. We will take up the question of you and I when the race is over. The only trouble is, we could have…

    ACTOR: Pardon me.

    LAUREN BACALL: Yes.

    The only trouble is, we could have had a lot of fun if you weren’t a detective.

    HUMPHREY BOGART: We still can.

    LAUREN BACALL: So long.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Bacall would make more than 40 films in all.

    Confirming her death last night, her son Stephen Bogart said his mother’s life — quote — “speaks for itself. She lived a wonderful life, a magical life.”

    Humphrey Bogart died of throat cancer in 1957 at age 57. Bacall became briefly engaged to Frank Sinatra, and then married actor Jason Robards. They divorced in 1969. Her film career would have highs, lows, and periods of inactivity.

    During one lull, she won a Tony Award for best actress, the first of two, in the 1970 Broadway show “Applause.” In 1974, she returned to film in “Murder on the Orient Express.”

    ACTOR: Your handkerchief, Mrs. Hubbard.

    LAUREN BACALL: That’s not mine. I have mine right here.

    ACTOR: Oh, I thought the initial H.

    LAUREN BACALL: H for Harriet. H for Hubbard. But it’s still not mine.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Bacall even won a National Book Award for her 1980 memoir, “By Myself.”

    She continued to appear on television and in films and earned an Oscar nomination for her role as a vain, imposing mother to Barbra Streisand in the 1996 film “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

    LAUREN BACALL: It’s an awful thing to look back on your life and realize that you have settled. The problem was that I always thought that I had more time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She was given an honorary Oscar in 2009 and returned to that very first role.

    LAUREN BACALL: I have been very lucky in my life, probably luckier than I deserve, but to at the age of 19 have been chosen by Howard Hawks to work on a film with a man named Humphrey Bogart. And he gave me a life and he changed my life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Lauren Bacall died yesterday at a hospital in New York City. She was 89 years old.

    The post Remembering Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    American screen star Lauren Bacall, pictured here circa 1945, died Aug. 12, 2014. Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Ann Hornaday is a film critic for The Washington Post, and joins me now.

    Well, Ann, what’s interesting about that first performance for me is, it seems to start with a kind of Hollywood construct. That famous director Howard Hawks, he’s looking for, trying to shape a type, but Lauren Bacall manages to make it more than that, right?

    ANN HORNADAY, The Washington Post: Oh, it’s mythic in all of its contours, because you’re right. It was that kind of straight from Shraff kind of narrative about, you know, get me the right girl.

    And, of course, it was his wife Slim who suggested then Betty Perske, Betty Bacall, that he look at her. And then he did mold her. And I think one of the contradictions of her career is that she did come to personify this ideal of independence and flintiness underneath this amazing panther-like sensuality.

    And a lot of that was created by Hawks. He was the one who suggested that she lower her voice, which she exercised every day to lower. He was the one who helped her perfect the look. So it was very much a collaboration.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When you look at what defines her as an actress, can you compare that idea of glamour and strength in women then and today?

    ANN HORNADAY: Well, it’s so interesting, too, that we are now kind of in the season of these young female heroines, people like a Scarlett Johansson, people like a Jennifer Lawrence, who are leading films and portraying, projecting this persona of toughness.

    But unlike a Lauren Bacall, they have to kind of do it through action. There’s this new paradigm of a career, a woman’s career, which is sort of tentpoled or balanced on the one hand by these action films, and then by the more subtle character studies.

    She was able to do this in these very sophisticated dramas, which have not aged one bit. If you watch “To Have and Have Not” or “Key Largo” today, they have not — they’re not dated. They’re of the moment. So I just — I think it really says a lot about — that a 19-year-old girl can be that mature, was allowed to be, and it wasn’t even thought twice about that she could project that kind of maturity in her screen debut.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She, of course, is forever tied to Bogart. She acknowledged that. And if I read her right, at some times, she seemed a little annoyed by that, and other times she herself, as we saw in that Oscar speech, she herself embraced it.

    ANN HORNADAY: Right.

    And as David Thomson observed in the Washington Post obituary today, that was another part of that myth, was that we got to watch them fall in love on screen, which — and really fall in love. And it was obviously capitalized on by the studio, publicity people. Everyone knew that it was going on and saw the potential, the marketing potential in it. But it was genuine.

    And that doesn’t happen every day. And so that was just another kind of layer, another frisson of that Hollywood narrative kind of weaving its way through her real life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And through her real life, a big life, on the screen, on the page, as we said, on stage, and a celebrity for decades.

    ANN HORNADAY: Indeed.

    And I just want to also commend her. Especially later in her career, she went out of her way to work with really interesting emerging directors, people like Lars von Trier, people like Jonathan Glazer. She did an incredible job in a little movie called “Birth” that Jonathan Glazer directed a few years ago. He just lately worked with Scarlett Johansson.

    So there is this kind of through-line. But I just — it would have been so easy for her to sit back on her laurels, but she really sought out demanding, challenging material and challenging directors.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post on the life and legend of Lauren Bacall.

    Thanks so much.

    ANN HORNADAY: Thank you for having me.

    GWEN IFILL: What an icon.

    The post Lauren Bacall, 89, lit up stage and screen with glamour and strength appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    water

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, the state of our drinking water and how two major problems in American cities these past few months are calling new attention to concerns over supply and protection.

    Hari Sreenivasan in our New York studios has our conversation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The most recent case, Toledo, Ohio, where contamination from an algae bloom in Lake Erie temporarily made the water supply unsafe for 400,000 people and stirred new worries throughout the Great Lakes region.

    That followed a major disruption earlier this year in West Virginia, after chemicals leaked into the Elk River around Charleston.

    David Beckman wrote about these matters in an op-ed for The New York Times.  He’s with the Pisces Foundation, an environmental philanthropy based in San Francisco, and joins me now.

    So, Mr. Beckman, I know that we’re better off than 800 million people or so on the planet who don’t have access to clean drinking water on a daily basis, but what do these two events start to make you think about?

    DAVID BECKMAN, Pisces Foundation: Well, Hari, they make me think about the fact that, while we have come a great distance in terms of water in the United States since the early 1970s, when we had rivers catching on fire, that water pollution is not a set-it-and-forget-it situation.

    And we have to be cognizant all the time and vigilant to address new threats that come on the horizon, so that we can continue to enjoy safe and reliable drinking water and clean lakes and rivers.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, where are the largest sources of concern?  We don’t have rivers catching on fire. And there were two different causes to these two incidents in Ohio and West Virginia. But is it about industry?  Is it about runoff from cities?

    DAVID BECKMAN: Right.

    Well, you’re right. The two situations, one in West Virginia and one in Toledo, are different in many respects, but one of the common threads between them is that source waters for drinking water upstream of cities need better protection, whether that’s runoff, which is increasingly a problem in the U.S., both from cities and from agriculture, or it’s just better enforcement and better upgrading of the existing system, say, that protects storage tanks, like the one that leaked in West Virginia.

    We need to continue to invest in better approaches, and a more integrated view of water, I think, is really necessary.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, let’s talk a little bit about that integration. What about the regulatory — regulatory structure? How much of this is a federal responsibility and how much for the states?

    DAVID BECKMAN: Well, both surface water protection, like rivers, and lakes and drinking water, are a combination of federal rules, state rules and in some cases with drinking water local agencies, city agencies typically that actually provide drinking water in many parts of the country.

    So it’s an integrated system, with state, federal, local efforts. And all of that has to fit well together. And the situations that we have seen recently, I think we’re reminded of the fact that runoff particularly is something that needs greater attention. That’s not a part of the regulatory system to the same degree as factories and sewage treatment plants have been.

    We have dealt with those industrial sources much better than some of the runoff sources that are now causing trouble. And that’s really where I think attention needs to be focused in the years to come.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And how do we pay for it? Some of the numbers that you had in your op-ed piece were very sizable.

    DAVID BECKMAN: Yes. Those are EPA numbers.

    And they may be a little lower, they may be a bit higher, but we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars over a 20-year period. And so we definitely need new financing mechanisms.

    And I think, more than anything, we need to make investments that have multiple benefits. Traditionally, with water in the U.S., we have made water quality investments to protect the river. And we didn’t think about and the rules and the laws didn’t often to require us to think about, but what about the drinking water source, or what about source water protection, or how about green cities that might need improvement at the same time?

    And there are new approaches, like, for example, green infrastructure that I mentioned in the piece, which have the effect of making urban landscapes function from a water perspective more like natural landscapes. They green cities while they protect our drinking water and our surface waters. And it’s smart investments like that, that I think will make it easier to accomplish the goals that we all have for safe water.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But it’s often very difficult to get those ideas through a Congress who have to make some very tough choices about where to spend our funds.

    DAVID BECKMAN: Well, that’s true.

    And the fact of the matter is that, increasingly, the federal picture is only part of it. There is a real movement at the local level, in cities, to address these issues, in part by making investments that protect our drinking water sources and our surface water sources, but also constitute economic revitalization of the city, these green approaches that add green space, and parks, and rain gardens, and pervious pavement.

    Places like Philadelphia are doing huge efforts over multiple years, investing often less than they would to build a new sewage treatment plant or a new traditional water treatment plant, and yielding even more benefit than they might have with that old approach.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There also seems to be almost a philosophical shift here.

    This is a resource that people have taken for granted as something that was a natural right, something that was valued as free. But now we’re talking about serious costs associated with maintaining something that most of us have just said comes out of the tap and I can drink it.

    DAVID BECKMAN: Well, that’s right. We’re spoiled in the United States.

    The vast majority of our public drinking water systems deliver water that meets the national drinking water standards. But that’s cold comfort if you’re in a city or it’s your tap that doesn’t meet the standards, if you were in Charleston or you were in Toledo.

    And the fact is, we have actually made huge investments in water as a country. We did a lot of it in the ’70s and ’80s, less in the ’90s and more recently. But we are going to have to stay at it if we want to maintain, not just environmental quality, but, remember, water is insinuated in every part of the economy.

    Every product that we have requires water in some way or another. And so it’s not just an environmental issue, although it is fundamentally one. It’s also a question of water security and economic security for the country to make sure that we’re dealing with supply and quality and doing it in a way that will continue the success that we have had overall, as opposed to, you know, falling backward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Beckman of the Pisces Foundation joining us from San Francisco, thanks so much.

    DAVID BECKMAN: Thank you very much.

    The post Are we doing enough to safeguard drinking water? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Associated Press is reporting from Baghdad that Iraqi Prime Minister “Nouri al-Maliki has given up the post of prime minister to Haider al-Abadi.”

    We will update this story as it unfolds.

    The post Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki steps down as Prime Minister appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Missouri Governor Jay Nixon promised there would be a change in tactics used to control crowds gathered to protest in Ferguson, Missouri during remarks earlier on Thursday. During a 4 p.m. press conference, the governor announced that the Missouri State Highway Patrol would takeover security operations in Ferguson.

    Earlier, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that he was concerned about the police use of military-style equipment and that the activity is sending a “conflicting message.”

    Holder said in a statement Thursday that Ferguson law enforcement authorities have accepted the Justice Department’s offer of crowd-control help as it continues to investigate a police officer’s shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

    He said the response by law enforcement to protests there “must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them.”

    The attorney general said representatives from the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, which works to mediate race disputes, have also been sent to Missouri.

    The FBI and Justice Department are conducting a civil-rights investigation into Saturday’s shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Holder said eyewitnesses have already been interviewed.

    The post Governor announces Missouri Highway Patrol to provide security in Ferguson appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Lesley McSpadden, the mother of slain teenager Michael Brown, showed a painting of her and her son through her car window as she leaves a press conference. Brown's death has provoked a Twitter campaign questioning how young black victims are portrayed in the media. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Lesley McSpadden, the mother of slain teenager Michael Brown, showed a painting of her and her son through her car window. Brown’s death has provoked a Twitter campaign questioning how young black victims are portrayed in the media. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    The photos of military vehicles dispatched in the streets could have come from a war zone, but it’s Ferguson, Missouri. Community members are in a tense stand-off with law enforcement days after an unarmed African-American 18-year-old named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. While the unfolding events continue to disturb observers around the country, the emerging narrative is familiar.

    “We have a kind of script that we often use when dealing with the deaths of young black and brown people at the hand of police,” said Craig Steven Wilder, head of the History Department at MIT, in a conversation with the PBS NewsHour. “When you have young, low-income people dying, we look for the victim to assume the guilt, assuming they were responsible for forcing the police to take aggressive action.”

    Wilder appeared on the NewsHour in June to discuss the $40 million settlement made by the city of New York to a group of men known as the Central Park Five, who were wrongly convicted of a brutal rape in Central Park in 1989 and misrepresented in the media as a pack of predatory hoodlums. He explained how the pressure to solve the case put police and prosecutors on a track to resist the facts.

    On Thursday we talked to Wilder by phone for his take on how citizens in Ferguson are responding in the streets and on social media, as well as how the events are being portrayed in the media.

     
    NEWSHOUR: From your perspective as a scholar who specializes in urban history, how significant is what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri, right now?

    CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: I think there are some key issues happening here that people need to think about. We need to think about the social implication of the militarization of local police forces. It’s so compelling and shocking, these can pass as images from Baghdad three or four years ago. This hyper militarization is the consequences of the past decade-and-a-half war on terror and that increasing exploitation on an international and national level.

    The criminalization of low-income, non-white people is another issue here and it is what has created, essentially, an excuse for turning our local police into military units. All of this is unfolding right in front of our eyes in Ferguson.

    NEWSHOUR: What do you make of these Twitter hashtags (like #IfTheyGunnedMeDown) associated with the events?

    CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: I think it’s important to hear what they are saying on Twitter – a large part of the population has a legitimate fear of the police forces that are supposed to keep them safe. The ease with which we accept, as a nation, the killing of unarmed black and brown men, it should be frightening to us all. What’s happening is a cry from the street and a protest from the street. It is asking us to take a harsh look at the values of our laws in the context of people of color.

    NEWSHOUR: We’ve talked before about media portrayal surrounding the Central Park Five and how that has a lasting impact on how they are remembered. Obviously this is a very different case, but what do you see as being the same?

    CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: We have a kind of script that we often use when dealing with the deaths of young black and brown people at the hand of police. When you have young, low-income people dying, we look for the victim to assume the guilt, assuming they were responsible for forcing the police to take aggressive action. You can compare that to how we treat white young men accused of mass murder campaigns in the U.S. We almost immediately turn to a script that is one of sympathy for these young men and the assumptions that they are suffering from a pathological disorder.

    There is a racialized script that we used and that we turn to with these cases. Immediately after you see the media go out of its way to wait for toxicology reports and things which is a sort of not so coded language to say let’s actually find evidence of guilt that excuses the aggressive action taken by the police. That’s not the way we treat white people when they’re arrested by the police and when they’re the victims of excessive police action.

    NEWSHOUR: St. Louis is not dissimilar from other American cities divided by race and income. With the right trigger, could we see this happen anywhere?

    CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: I think this is a time to reflect on the crisis of inequality and the fact that so much of that manifests in urban areas. The triggers are more easily found and created in urban areas, but I think what this is a time to reflect on is the nature of inequality. The growth of income inequality, the severity of unemployment in low-income communities, we have as a nation for the past 30 years, criminalized the non-white poor, we have incarcerated the unemployed and I think we are seeing all of that come to the surface in Ferguson.

    The post From Michael Brown to the Central Park Five, race changes how victims are portrayed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Embattled “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory is tweeting that he is leaving NBC. Chuck Todd has been announced as the next host of the long-running show.

    In tweets posted Thursday afternoon, Gregory said he is leaving the network as he arrived at it, “humbled and grateful.”

    “Meet the Press” has fallen to third place since he took it over in 2008. His departure had been rumored for months.

    This internal memo was distributed to NBC staff:

    Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2014 4:41 PM
    To: @NBC Uni NBC News All
    Subject: Meet the Press

    Dear All,

    I want to share some news about Meet the Press. After an exceptional 20 years with NBC News, David Gregory is leaving the network.

    I want to express my sincerest thanks to David, who, after the death of Tim Russert, led Meet the Press for almost 6 years. Under his leadership the show has had a string of exclusives, and David has shown a remarkable gift for holding leaders to account and getting answers on issues that matter to our audience. He is an outstanding journalist whose sharp intellect and quick sense of humor have made him a pleasure to work with. I know you all join me in expressing our deepest gratitude and in wishing him the very best.

    I am very pleased to announce that Chuck Todd will take the helm on September 7. There is no one with a bigger passion for politics than Chuck. His unique ability to deliver that passion with razor sharp analysis and infectious enthusiasm makes him the perfect next generation moderator of this beloved broadcast. Chuck will ensure that Meet the Press is the beating heart of politics, the place where newsmakers come to make news, where the agenda is set. We have some exciting plans to evolve and update the broadcast under Chuck’s leadership that we will be sharing with you shortly.

    Chuck will continue as NBC News political director, and will hand over his roles as chief White House correspondent and anchor of MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown.

    Andrea Mitchell will serve as moderator of Meet the Press this weekend, and will continue to be a central figure of the broadcast, along with some new names that we will announce in the coming days.

    For nearly seventy years, Americans have turned to Meet the Press on Sunday mornings for unrivaled insights on the news stories, political battles and public affairs debates dominating the national discussion. The next-generation Meet the Press, led by Chuck Todd, is certain to be the must-watch political destination on Sundays and beyond.

    The post Chuck Todd to replace David Gregory on ‘Meet the Press’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama at a press briefing at the Edgartown School  in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, MA on August 14, 2014.  President Obama is vacationing with his family on Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Rick Friedman/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama at a press briefing at the Edgartown School in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, MA on August 14, 2014. President Obama is vacationing with his family on Martha’s Vineyard. Photo by Rick Friedman/Getty Images


    EDGARTOWN, Mass. — For President Barack Obama, the intersection of race and the law has revealed both the pitfalls and the power of wading into these delicate matters as the nation’s first black president.

    Just months after being sworn in, Obama rapped police in Massachusetts for acting “stupidly” by arresting a black Harvard professor at his own home. After more details of the case were revealed, Obama was forced to clarify his statements and tried to make amends by hosting an awkward “beer summit” at the White House with the professor and police officer.

    Four years later, unburdened by re-election, Obama spoke out passionately about the 2013 acquittal of the man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen gunned down near his family’s home in Florida. In unusually personal terms, Obama declared that Martin “could have been me 35 years ago” and gave voice to the pain felt by the African-American community.

    Now the president is again wading into a racially charged matter that has riveted the nation, this time in Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a white police officer. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown Saturday has been followed by violent clashes between police and protesters.

    In his first in-person statement on the situation, Obama appealed Thursday for “peace and calm” in Ferguson and called for restraint by all involved.In his first in-person statement on the situation, Obama appealed Thursday for “peace and calm” in Ferguson and called for restraint by all involved.

    “There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” Obama said, speaking from the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard where he is in the midst of a two-week vacation. “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”

    The president decided to speak on the matter after receiving a late-night briefing Wednesday from Attorney General Eric Holder on the violence that had escalated while Obama mingled with former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others at a birthday party. Until then, Obama had held off to give local law enforcement a chance to quiet the situation, but by Wednesday night it was clear that wasn’t happening, according to a White House official who insisted on anonymity in order to describe the president’s thinking.

    There are conflicting reports about what led to Brown’s death. Police say that an officer encountered Brown and another man on the street, and one of the men assaulted the officer and struggled with him over his weapon. During the struggle, which spilled onto the street, Brown was shot multiple times, according to police.

    But a man who says he was with Brown during the shooting has told a much different account. Dorian Johnson says the officer grabbed his friend’s neck, then tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. Johnson and another witness both say Brown was on the street with his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.

    Obama’s carefully worded statement reflected the lack of clarity about what happened. He urged police to be “open and transparent” as the investigation unfolds, but made no judgments about what led to Brown’s death.

    Obama avoided mentioning race in his statement, and he called on people to “remember that we’re all part of one American family.”

    The president’s approach stood in contrast to his initial handling of the 2009 arrest of his friend Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. Obama declared during a White House news conference that a white police officer had acted “stupidly” in arresting Gates outside his home. Obama conceded days later that his own remarks had inflamed the situation and that Gates had probably overreacted in the moment, contributing to his arrest.

    The incident was a searing one for a new president and his team, trying to navigate a black president’s role in sensitive racial matters. Throughout the remainder of his first term, Obama largely steered clear of controversial discussions of race, at times irking African-American leaders who wanted to see him take a more active role in racial issues.

    But the president’s reserve did memorably give way when discussing the death of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old killed near his family’s Florida home by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

    Obama addressed the matter in unusually personal terms, declaring that if he had a son, “he would look like Trayvon.” A year later, when the man who shot Martin was acquitted, the president again used deeply personal language to try to explain the outrage of many in the African-American community.

    “The African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” Obama said, recalling instances where he had been followed in a department store or heard car locks clicking on doors as he walked down the street.

    Obama made no such statements Thursday when discussing Brown, saying only that the teen died in “heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.”

    NAACP president Cornell William Brooks said Obama was right to tread carefully in his remarks given that emotions remain raw and the city of Ferguson remains on edge.

    “The president as the chief executive has to be careful and thoughtful in his choice of words, particularly at a moment when there’s unrest — unrest in the streets, but also unrest in the American conscience,” Brooks said.

    The post Ferguson events draw Obama into national conversation on race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The governor of Missouri today ordered the state Highway Patrol to take over security in the Saint Louis suburb of Ferguson.

    Local police have drawn heavy criticism for their use of force against protesters last night. The crowd was demonstrating against the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson grew up in Ferguson, and he will be in charge.

    He said it’s vital to break the cycle of violence.

    RON JOHNSON, Captain, Missouri State Highway Patrol: I plan on tonight myself walking to the QuikTrip that has been called ground zero and meeting with the folks there myself tonight. And so we are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we are in this together, and look at our resources to make sure we’re not taking resources out there that we don’t need.

    But when we do need those resources, they will still be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will have the full story of the violence that erupted last night and explore what is behind racial tensions in the Saint Louis community after the news summary.

    GWEN IFILL: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki finally stepped down this evening, as his support crumbled on all sides. He announced he wants to — quote — “safeguard the high interests of the country.”

    So, he will support Haider al-Abadi’s nomination to be prime minister. There was also word that the U.S. has decided not to expand a humanitarian rescue mission that might have put U.S. combat troops back on the ground.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain. And it’s unlikely that we’re going to need to continue humanitarian airdrops on the mountain.

    GWEN IFILL: From President Obama today, confirmation that the crisis facing Yazidi refugees in Northern Iraq has greatly eased. Fighters from the Islamic State group had surrounded thousands of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. But military and civilian advisers sent in this week reported U.S. airstrikes broke the siege.

    At the Pentagon today, Rear Admiral John Kirby said the air campaign and Kurdish ground forces helped the Yazidis escape.

    REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: We believe that thousands of them were leaving every night. Now, it’s — I can’t give you an exact figure of how many every night, but certainly more than 1,000 or so every night were leaving the mountain with Peshmerga help.

    GWEN IFILL: Kirby estimated about 4,000 people remain on the mountain, but nearly half are said to be herders who live there and have no interest in leaving. Those who did leave continue to arrive in refugee camps and many say they will never return.

    MAN (through interpreter): No way. No way can I go back. How can my eyes see Sinjar again, when I witnessed hundreds of people die there?

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, there were new clashes in Western Iraq today between Islamic State fighters and government forces around Fallujah, in Anbar Province.

    The governor of the province appealed for U.S. airstrikes there too, but American officials had no immediate response. In another development, France announced the imminent delivery of military aid to Kurdish forces battling the militants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Pakistan, thousands of anti-government demonstrators headed toward Islamabad, the capital, where police have barricaded entry points.

    The protesters are demanding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign over claims he came to power a year ago through vote-rigging. One protest convoy was led by Imran Khan, an opposition party leader. Cars, trucks and buses left from Lahore this morning with more than 5,000 protesters. Others joined along the way.

    GWEN IFILL: Three people were killed in Egypt today, as security forces crushed small protests by Islamists. They were trying to mark the anniversary of the killing of more than 1,000 demonstrators one year ago. Those demonstrations followed the military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A Russian aid convoy edged closer to the Ukrainian border today. More than 200 vehicles headed toward a crossing controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian officials had demanded the convoy pass through a of its government border post so that its cargo can be inspected.

    Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government dispatched its own shipment of relief supplies to the war-torn region. It is sending 75 trucks loaded with 800 tons of aid.

    GWEN IFILL: Doses of a potentially lifesaving drug have arrived in Liberia to treat Ebola patients. ZMapp is still untested, and these are the last known doses. The company that developed it says producing more will take months. Also today, the U.S. ordered family members of embassy employees in Sierra Leone to leave immediately due to the Ebola outbreak.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s word that actor and comedian Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease when he committed suicide. His wife, Susan Schneider, announced it today in a statement. Williams had a long history of substance abuse, but the statement said he had returned to sobriety. Parkinson’s disease attacks the nervous system and destroys the ability to control movement. It is incurable.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 61 points to close at 16,713; the Nasdaq rose nearly 19 points to close at 4,453; and the S&P 500 was up eight points to finish at 1,955.

    The post News Wrap: Iraq PM Maliki steps down as support crumbles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Guardian’s Jon Swaine talks with Hari Sreenivasan about social media’s impact on his reporting.

    When Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested Wednesday night in Ferguson, Missouri — an incident that even President Barack Obama commented on during a press conference Thursday — the news broke first on Twitter.

    The two reporters were camped out at a McDonald’s alongside other reporters who had taken a break to recharge their phone batteries. Lowery and Reilly tweeted about the SWAT team’s arrival at the restaurant — Lowery filmed his conversation with one of the officers and Reilly tweeted that they were being ordered to leave the building.

    It was then that The Guardian’s Jon Swaine picked up their story and conveyed to the public that the two reporters had been arrested.

    The details surrounding the Ferguson riots — a reaction to the shooting death of an unarmed teen at the hands of the Ferguson police — have spread via a social media-first cycle. News of the the riots’ eruption Sunday night hit Twitter feeds before news wires, as did reports of tear gas being used in the face of peaceful protesters.

    In a phone interview with Hari Sreenivasan, Swaine said social media has allowed him to immediately share stories coming out of Ferguson, like he did with the arrests of Lowery and Reilly, and the tear-gassing of Al Jazeera journalists later that same evening.

    Conversely, social media has helped his reporting, ensuring that he be at the right place at the right time.

    “You obviously can’t be at all places at all times,” so relying on the eyes and ears of other reporters and Ferguson residents has given him the ability to virtually watch everything at once.

    The flip-side to relying on social media is that, of course, not all social media is reliable.

    Earlier Thursday, the international “hacktivist” group Anonymous claimed to have the name of the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.

    The Anonymous Twitter account was ultimately suspended for releasing the sensitive — and unverified — information. Swaine said that in such a case, social media should be used as “an old-fashioned” tip-off, that must be checked before being reported.

    The post How Twitter is getting it right in Ferguson appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to the drama that unfolded in the Saint Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, last night, and dominated conversation across the country today.

    It was a scene of utter chaos that riveted the nation’s attention. Stun grenades and tear gas exploded in the streets of Ferguson, as heavily armed police aimed weapons from armored trucks. Police said they used force when a protest that began peacefully turned violent, with people throwing rocks and firebombs.

    MAN: You must disperse immediately. This is no longer a peaceful protest when you try to injure people. You must disperse now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: With that, officers loosed the barrage of grenades and gas, sending the crowd fleeing.

    MAN: We just said, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

    MAN: Is that all you were saying?

    MAN: That’s all we were saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

    MAN: Were you in the front line up there?

    MAN: In the front line, yes. And they just started shooting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Both city and county officers were involved, and today they defended their actions.

    Thomas Jackson is chief of the Ferguson police.

    THOMAS JACKSON, Chief, Ferguson Police Department: There is gunfire. There are firebombs being thrown at the police. And I understand that what it looks like is not good. The whole situation is not good.

    We would like the protesters to stop the violence. We certainly don’t want to have any violence on our part. We want this to be peaceful. If individuals are in a crowd that’s attacking the police, they need to get out of that crowd. We can’t individually go in and say, excuse me, sir, are you peacefully protesting? Are you throwing rocks? Are you throwing a Molotov cocktail? It’s a crowd.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reported 10 people were arrested, among them, Saint Louis City Alderman Antonio French, who’d been chronicling events on social media, including several Vine video posts.

    MAN: What do we want?

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    JUDY WOODRUFF: French was released this morning.

    MAN: Stop videotaping. Let’s grab our stuff and go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery recorded this exchange with police, as he and a Huffington Post reporter were ordered to clear out of a nearby McDonald’s.

    MAN: You don’t have time to ask questions. Let’s go.

    The reporters were detained and later released without any charges. Separately, members of an Al-Jazeera America TV crew had to run for it, after police fired tear gas as they prepared for a live report. Today, the police chief denied the media had been deliberately targeted.

    But the stark images from last night reverberated far beyond Ferguson. President Obama interrupted his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.

    And here in the United States of America, police shouldn’t be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Missouri political leaders spent the day in Ferguson. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, speaking after a community gathering, sharply criticized police tactics.

    SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D, Mo.: I think that the police response needs to be demilitarized. I think that the police response has become part of the problem, as opposed — as opposed to being part of the solution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Police Chief Jackson rejected the criticism.

    THOMAS JACKSON: The whole picture is being painted a little bit sideways from what’s really happening. And it’s not military. It’s tactical operations. It’s SWAT teams. That’s who’s out there, police. We’re doing this in blue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also voiced concerns about police actions, and said the Justice Department has offered to provide technical assistance with crowd control.

    The night’s events in Ferguson have swept across the Web in a torrent of videos, tweets and retweets. The chant of “Hands up, don’t shoot” had already morphed into a rallying cry on social media. This morning, Howard University in Washington, D.C., posted a photo on its Facebook page, showing scores of students with hands raised and the hashtag #HandsUpDontShoot.

    Similar photos from across the country also circulated online.

    PROTESTERS: Don’t shoot!

    PROTESTERS: Hands up!

    PROTESTERS: Don’t shoot!

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, the investigation continued into the incident that started all this, Saturday’s shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    The identity of the officer who fired the fatal shot remained a point of contention. Authorities again said they’re not ready to release the name, due partly to death threats. At one point, a Twitter account associated with the activist group Anonymous did publish a name that it said was the officer in question. That was flatly denied by police, and Twitter later suspended the account.

    The post After night barrage of gas and grenades, images of Ferguson confrontations resonate around U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For a look at what’s happening on the ground in Ferguson, we turn to USA Today reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who was there last night. She regularly covers social issues relating to criminal justice. I spoke to her a short time ago.

    Yamiche Alcindor, we thank you for talking with us.

    First of all, reaction to the governor’s announcement that the Missouri Highway Patrol is going to be taking over law enforcement there?

    YAMICHE ALCINDOR, USA Today: Residents here for the last two days that I have been here have really been complaining about what they consider military-style policing.

    People are welcoming this announcement. I just talked to a woman who said she was scared to have her child out in the street and that she was going in extra early.

    I think people are really excited about. And even though they don’t know exactly what’s coming and they — and they’re still kind of worried about what the Highway Patrol is going to do, people think, if it’s not going to be tanks or tear gas, that may something will be better.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you were very much there last night. You were reporting on it, tweeting about it. What did you see? Because, as you know, officials are saying people in the crowd were throwing rocks, throwing firebombs.

    YAMICHE ALCINDOR: So, I didn’t see people throwing rocks and firebombs. But I know that there are some images of people doing that, so I continue — I think that that might have actually happened.

    What I saw mostly were people crowding in different areas, picking up their arms, saying, don’t shoot, hands up. People were in some ways aggressively walking up to police and kind of taunting them. At about 2:00 in the morning, I was at the Ferguson Police Station, and a group of six to seven people actually walked on to the Ferguson police property and were kind of taunting the police there.

    Soon after, the Saint Louis County police showed up with about four trucks and about 60 officers in riot gear. So I think — I saw that. And I also saw officers with rifles drawn kind of pointing at people that they thought were either taunting them or — or that they thought might be shooting at them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about — Yamiche Alcindor, what about what happened between the police and the news media, reporters? I saw you tweeted about police yelling at you at one point.

    YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, I should say that police yelled at me, but they also yelled at people that were in the street. They were really trying to get people just out and dispersed.

    And I was taking a picture of about three to five people being arrested at about 2:30 in the morning, so the police didn’t take kindly to that. But I should say that I was also told to leave with the protesters. They had made an announcement saying people should leave the area. But they were very, very, I guess, aggressive with people at the end, saying you really need to leave. You will go to jail.

    As I was leaving, I saw these people being arrested. And I thought, I’m a journalist. I need to take this picture. So, the police were not happy with me taking that picture. But I can understand that they were really just trying to get people dispersed. And these people were being arrested, and that’s kind of my experience with the police here.

    And for the most part, police have been respectful of me as a journalist. So, I can say that I have been treated with respect for the majority of the time here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How would you say tempers are today? Have they cooled down at all? What’s going on in — where you are? I see people behind you.

    YAMICHE ALCINDOR: People are behind me. They’re protesting.

    People are really not dying down. I thought the first couple of days here, OK, things are going to get — they are going to get quiet, and people are going to go home, and they’re not going to think about this anymore, but I talked to a man who lives just feet away from the spot where Michael Brown was shot.

    And he said: “I — I’m happy with what we’re doing. This is the first time I have really seen people so united and so determined, and that we want the officer’s name, that we want him charged with murder.”

    And I think people are still really angry. So, I think four days, five days into this, people are still really upset and people are still really organizing and making their voices heard through protests and demonstrations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yamiche Alcindor with USA Today, we thank you for talking with us.

    Now we get two reactions to what’s been happening.

    Tony Messenger is the editorial page editor at the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. And Brian Fletcher is a former mayor of the city of Ferguson.

    And we welcome you both to the program.

    Brian Fletcher, to you first.

    How did the situation in Ferguson deteriorate to this point, do you think?

    FORMER MAYOR BRIAN FLETCHER, Ferguson: I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that.

    I believe it’s a built-up frustration of generations of difficulties within the African-American community. Unfortunately, this tragic accident happened to occur the city of Ferguson, although I think it could happen in any large city suburb across the United States. Unfortunately, it’s been Ferguson that is getting the attention at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tony Messenger, your newspaper, the editorial page, certainly has been writing about this. I think, to many looking in from the outside, it’s hard to understand how the police force could be majority white, and the community majority African-American.

    Why can there — how can there be such a disconnect or a discrepancy between the two?

    TONY MESSENGER, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: I think the important thing to understand looking from the outside is how divided this community is by jurisdiction.

    Ferguson is a suburb of Saint Louis. Saint Louis the city is not even in Saint Louis County. It’s its own city. So, the largest police forces in our region are Saint Louis County and Saint Louis City. We have 90 municipalities in Saint Louis County — Ferguson is one of those — many of them very small.

    Many of them have police forces that they can barely afford, and so your best police officers are going to the county or going to the largest municipality, Saint Louis City, so it’s harder for the smaller police forces to actually develop strong forces that are worthy of their community and that match the demographic makeup of their community. And so that’s part of what we have here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying it’s a salary issue that causes the police force not to be representative of the community?

    TONY MESSENGER: I would say salary is part of it.

    I would say it’s primarily an issue where you have all of these different little municipalities fighting for some of the same officers as compared to what we have advocated for — on the editorial page, which is for the community to become one larger community, with one large police force that can be representative of the community, one large fire department that can be representative of the community, instead of all of these tiny different municipalities having their own forces.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brian Fletcher, how much has that lack of representation, do you think, contributed to the tensions there in Ferguson?

    BRIAN FLETCHER: I personally don’t feel that that contributed at all.

    I will tell you my vision of why there is a difficulty of having very few African-Americans on most of the Saint Louis suburbs. One is there’s a lack of African-American men and women going through the police academy. We constantly tried — when I was mayor, for six years, we constantly tried to hire African-Americans. When we did so, they were recruited from other surrounding municipalities because they had the same exact issue of seeking more African-American police officers. And they are unfortunately allowed to pay more money than we have the budget for.

    It’s not for lack of trying. It’s just there is enough — not enough candidates available within the African-American community to hire them. I would like the list provided to us, if someone has a list — and certainly we have been trying to do that. Unfortunately, they’re taken from us by other larger communities, even though Ferguson is not small, we are approximately 22,000, and we are the fifth or sixth largest municipality in those 90 that Tony mentioned.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How — I think, given that, I think that’s certainly part of the explanation.

    But, Tony Messenger, are there other steps that could have been taken, should have been taken, in your mind, to get the community closer — working closer together with law enforcement?

    TONY MESSENGER: Well, I think part of it is just taking it seriously.

    In the first editorial that we wrote, for instance, we talked about the annual racial profiling numbers that come out. In the state of Missouri, it’s a state law that every municipality, every police force has to produce racial profiling numbers every year on traffic stops.

    For 11 of the last 14 years, the state has gotten worse in those racial profiling numbers. More blacks as a percentage of population are picked up in most — in many municipalities based on those numbers. And every year, the numbers come out, and every year people don’t pay that much attention to it.

    I don’t believe we have paid enough attention in our community, in our state to the seriousness of this driving-while-black situation, or what — how I mentioned in one of the editorials, walking while black, as this situation might have been.

    These are serious situations that have built up over a generation or so, and that’s why that anger is exploding so much on the streets of Ferguson and Dellwood and all of those other municipalities right around that area right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brian Fletcher, as a former mayor, what — how do you see that?

    BRIAN FLETCHER: Well, there — and there is truth. In the city of Ferguson, we are roughly 70 African-American. And I believe the last statistics showed about 83 percent or 84 percent of those pulled over as being African-American by our police officers.

    But let me explain why I think that the misconception is skewed. There are surrounding communities Ferguson, approximately, like Jennings and Dellwood, Berkeley, are over 90 percent African-American. They drive through our major streets of West Florissant and Florissant.

    If you have 10 individuals pulled over by a Ferguson police officer, the chances are it’s going to be in the low to mid 80 percent just by the pure fact of numbers.

    The other thing that skews that is that many African-Americans have low wages. They are unable to pay for their new tags on their automobiles. They may not have auto insurance that is required by the state of Missouri.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well…

    BRIAN FLETCHER: When an officer sees no tag on a plate, he is going to pull it over. It doesn’t matter the color of the individual.

    I’m not saying there is not racial profiling. I’m just saying the numbers are skewed. And I’m giving you the reason why I believe the numbers are skewed as far as our city is concerned.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear you both.

    Tony Messenger, how much difference do you think it will make to have the Missouri state patrol in there providing law enforcement going forward, and how much confidence do you have that the investigation is going to be carried out in a fair and transparent way into what happened?

    TONY MESSENGER: Well, first of all, I think the governor was too slow to act and I think he made the wrong decision. There was already state patrol there.

    I think he would have been better off taking city of Saint Louis police officers, who have better training in this sort of specific urban situation, and put them in charge. I understand that there were some discussions about that. The governor chose to go a different way.

    I hope it is beneficial. I hope it is helpful. But for it to be helpful, the militarization situation is going to have to be dialed down. The tear gas and rubber bullets and the dogs, that stuff’s going to have to go away.

    And I would like to think that that’s going to work. It seems to me that the political system is now engaged all the way up to the White House. And so, in an ideal situation, things will calm down a little bit. I think it will take a couple of nights for that to happen.

    If the same police officers are out there, but they’re under a different leadership, I’m not sure how much of a difference that’s going to make. I would like to think that things will be calmer tonight. I would like to think that — that it will slow down.

    As to the second situation, that — what happens in that investigation will have a direct effect on how intense the protests are from here — from going forward.

    I think that the prosecutor, the FBI, whomever is ultimately in charge of this investigation, is going to have to be transparent, and be transparent soon. Right now, we just don’t have enough information. And so the people in the community, primarily African-American people, do not trust the state of the investigation right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And former Mayor Fletcher, very quickly to you. Do you have confidence in this investigation?

    BRIAN FLETCHER: I do. I believe, ultimately, that a thorough investigation will be done.

    Judy, I do want to indicate this is not indicative of the Ferguson community. That is proven, but those arrested so far doing the looting, that they are not from the city of Ferguson. They’re from surrounding communities, one so far as from Dallas, Texas.

    If you ask somebody to interview, you ask if they live in Ferguson, what street they live on, you’re interviewing a lot of non-residents. And this is not indicative of our wonderful community that’s been here for 120 years.

    And we’re meeting tonight as community leaders to come up with a way to overcome this negative publicity we’re getting, and unjustly so. I don’t believe, in the history of Ferguson, have we ever had an African-American teen shot by a police officer, ever.

    Unfortunately, this is a tragic situation, but it’s more about Ferguson. It’s about a national and regional situation. It’s wider. And, unfortunately, I think the memory of Michael Brown is being exploited by many people that don’t care about him or the family. They care about their own personal concerns.

    And that’s the sad part about this situation. We have a lot of healing to do in Ferguson. And I am going to be a part of that. And I ask others to join with us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we do hear the both of you. And we thank you for joining us, former Mayor Brian Fletcher and Tony Messenger, who is the editorial page editor for the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.

    BRIAN FLETCHER: Thanks, Judy.

    TONY MESSENGER: Thank you.

    The post Why doesn’t Ferguson’s police force reflect the community? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

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    GWEN IFILL: One of the many issues in Ferguson attracting national attention is the extent to which local police are becoming ever more heavily armed, or, as many put it, militarized.

    Hari Sreenivasan in our New York studios picks up that part of the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Most notably, many have been talking about how military equipment is making its way from the Department of Defense to police departments around the country.

    Matt Apuzzo been covering this for The New York Times and joins me now from its Washington, D.C., bureau.

    So, Matt, what kind of equipment are we talking about? What are local authorities in Ferguson using that came from the DOD or the Pentagon?

    MATT APUZZO, The New York Times: Well, I mean, for starters, the Pentagon makes it very hard to track equipment that goes from the military to local agencies.

    I mean, the best data we can get comes at the county level. But in a response like this, where — you know, where it’s basically all hands on deck for a county response, you know, a number of M-16s — M-16s are very common. Under President Obama, there have been tens of thousands of M-16s transferred to police departments nationwide, after, you know, being used in the military.

    We have also seen there also have been some trucks, there have been some aircraft. This is part of a program that began as part of the drug war, the idea being, in the ’90s, we need to give this surplus military equipment to police departments as a way to fight drug gangs.

    And like a lot of programs, after 9/11, it was sort of re-engineered for counterterrorism purposes and expanded. And, you know, you have really seen — after the drawdown of two wars, you have really seen a huge amount of military equipment being transferred from the Pentagon to local police departments, state and local police departments.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how widespread is this and what happens to the equipment if police departments don’t want it?

    MATT APUZZO: Well, it’s very widespread.

    It’s one of the more popular programs as far as police goes, because this stuff is free. So, what happens is, for instance, we bought a bunch of — we, the United States taxpayer, bought a bunch of MRAPs, mine-resistant trucks, for fighting in Iraq.

    And now we’re not in — now we’re not fighting in Iraq anymore, and so we have got all these extra trucks. And so they’re basically offering them to police departments for free. And they say, if you want these trucks, you can have them, and if you don’t want them, we will just scrap them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So the police departments that you have talked to in your reporting, do they say any particular reason that they need an armored vehicle that can withstand a mine patrolling their streets?

    MATT APUZZO: Well, most police departments say, well, look, I don’t think we necessarily need it to sustain a mine explosions, but we wanted a bulletproof truck, and this was the one that was available for free, or we could go out and buy it.

    Now, remember, for the past 10 years, there have been — federal grants have been paying for these — for police departments to buy this stuff outright. So the idea of — the idea that this is all just coming from the Pentagon, that’s just one part of it.

    So what you’re seeing is, you’re seeing police departments saying, well, geez, if it’s free, what’s the downside?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And one of their concerns is that their citizenry or communities in certain areas are heavily armed. Is there any legitimacy to that idea, that claim, saying, we’re almost outgunned when we go out there and we don’t feel protected?

    MATT APUZZO: Well, I mean, certainly, there’s an argument that police should be protected.

    Nobody — any — nobody I talk to say — nobody anybody would talk to would say that police shouldn’t have protection. But the idea that — the idea that the streets of the United States are so dangerous as to — the police are outgunned, it just isn’t borne out by the data.

    We’re looking at violent crime in the United States now is at a generational low, and police shootings have been steadily declining — shootings against police. And I should note that, while the federal government and private groups keep data when people shoot police, no such data is collected when the police shoots people.

    And what’s interesting about this is, what we’re seeing in Ferguson, is we can have the discussion about the — what military equipment should go to police departments, but you can be certain that what’s happening in Ferguson is only going to encourage more police departments to buy this stuff.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    And what about the — we had a couple of members of Congress today, even the attorney general say that they’re very concerned about this militarization. Anything likely to happen? It seems like a congressional program with some support.

    MATT APUZZO: Yes, I mean, there hasn’t really been any opposition to this program.

    You know, the criticism of the so-called militarization of police has largely come from libertarian quarters for several years. They have kind of been the lone voice on this, folks like the Cato institute. “Reason” magazine has been writing a lot about this.

    And you’re sort of seeing — you’re sort of seeing right now — in Ferguson, you’re starting to see what’s happening there, kind of galvanize some of the more traditional liberal voices against this in ways that they have kind of just been on the sidelines on this issue.

    But you’re right. The idea that — the idea that this is a new concept to members of Congress is certainly — it’s just not true. It’s been no secret that these transfers have been going. It’s a popular — the military transfer program is very popular, as are the grant programs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times joining us from Washington, D.C., thanks so much.

    MATT APUZZO: Thank you.

    The post Why military equipment is in the hands of local police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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