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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The governor of Missouri ordered the National Guard today to begin withdrawing from the Saint Louis suburb of Ferguson. They were deployed Monday, amid the unrest over the police shooting of Michael Brown.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged Americans everywhere to address tensions between minorities and police. He spoke a day after visiting Ferguson to talk with local residents and investigators.

    ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General: The national outcry we have seen speaks to a sense of mistrust and mutual suspicion that can take hold in the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities. I wanted the people of Ferguson to know that I personally understood that mistrust. I wanted them to know that, while so much else may be uncertain, this attorney general and this Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The streets of Ferguson were relatively calm overnight in a further sign that tensions are easing some. Small crowds demonstrated peacefully, and only six people were arrested. Police also announced that of the 163 people arrested to date, only seven live in Ferguson.

    Meanwhile, a police officer seen in this amateur video was suspended for pointing a semiautomatic rifle at a crowd of protesters Tuesday night and threatening to kill one of them.

    A friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber pleaded guilty today to obstruction of justice charges. Dias Kadyrbayev allegedly removed evidence from a college room, including a backpack holding emptied firework casings. Under a plea agreement, he will serve no more than seven years. The 2013 bombing killed three people and wounded more than 260.

    In Ukraine, there was no break in the heavy fighting around the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. At least 50 people were killed yesterday, as government forces pressed their offensive against pro-Russian rebels. Meanwhile, the first of more than 200 trucks in a Russian relief convoy began clearing customs. They’re being inspected by Ukrainian border guards. The Red Cross has agreed to oversee distribution of the humanitarian aid.

    The ice bucket challenge sweeping social media now faces challenges of its own. The campaign features people being doused with freezing water to raise money for research into ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Today, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati ordered its schools not to take part because some of the research involves embryonic stem cells. And the State Department ruled that ambassadors may not raise money for any private cause, however worthy.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 60 points to close at 17,039. The Nasdaq rose five points to close at 4,532. And the S&P 500 added more than five points to finish at 1,992 a new record.

    The post News Wrap: National Guard ordered to begin pulling out of Ferguson appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. government announced today that it is going after the man who beheaded American journalist James Foley. This word came after news that American special forces tried and failed to rescue the reporter and others from his Islamic State captors.

    CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: We all regret that the mission didn’t succeed, but I’m very proud, very proud of the U.S. forces that participated in it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: News of the failed hostage rescue brought Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Pentagon briefing room this afternoon.

    CHUCK HAGEL: This operation, by the way, was a flawless operation, but the hostages were not there. So, we will do everything that we need to do, that the American people would expect from their leaders, to continue to do everything we can to get our hostages back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The raid targeted an Islamic State site in Northern Syria earlier this summer, but found no sign of James Foley or any other hostages.

    CHUCK HAGEL: As to your question, was this a failure of intelligence, no. The fact is, as you all know, intelligence doesn’t come wrapped in a package with a bow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement last night, the National Security Council said it never intended to disclose the operation. Rather, it said, “We only went public when it was clear a number of media outlets were preparing to report on the operation.”

    The news leaked after the Islamic State group posted a video titled “A Message to America,” showing Foley being beheaded. Today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department is going after the killers.

    ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General: We have an open criminal investigation. And those who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something. This Justice Department, the Department of Defense, this nation, we have long memories, and our reach is very wide. We will not forget what happened. And people will be held accountable one way or the other.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The New York Times reported today the United States rejected an Islamic State demand to pay a multimillion-dollar ransom for James Foley’s release.

    Other Western countries have funneled millions to the militants in exchange for the release of their citizens. Meanwhile, the British accent of the militant in the beheading video raised new questions about the Islamic State’s reach.

    MAN: We have brothers from Bangladesh, from Iraq, from Cambodia, Australia, U.K.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This video released by the group in June shows militants identifying themselves as British urging Westerners to join them and saying, the cure for depression is jihad. The video was removed from YouTube shortly after its release.

    The post U.S. vows killers of James Foley will be ‘held accountable’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the attempted rescue of James Foley, we turn to Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post.

    Karen, welcome back to the NewsHour.

    First of all, what more is known about this rescue attempt?

    KAREN DEYOUNG, The Washington Post: Well, I don’t think we got a lot more details today.

    I think that, as we reported this morning, there were at least two Black Hawk helicopters on the ground. They discovered very quickly that the hostages weren’t there. There was a firefight, in which some of the Islamic State fighters were killed. One U.S. soldier was wounded, not seriously, before they took off. They were not on the ground for very long.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we just heard Defense Secretary Hagel say it wasn’t a failure of intelligence that explains the fact that this didn’t work out. Why do they believe it didn’t work?

    KAREN DEYOUNG: Well, I think that — I think that their departure, the militant departure with the hostages from this place, took place not very long before the raid happened.

    There’s every reason to believe that, in fact, they were there, that the intelligence was correct, but that they had left. It’s not clear — I have heard versions between several days and two weeks before the raid took place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So it’s not known whether they knew this was coming?

    KAREN DEYOUNG: Correct. Yes. I haven’t heard that suggested, but they certainly had been there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What level of confidence, Karen, does the administration need typically in order to carry out something like this?

    KAREN DEYOUNG: Well, you know, Secretary Hagel said today that — along with General Dempsey, said that they had undergone a lot of planning for this raid. They had practiced it a number of times. I think it does require a lot of planning. Whether that’s weeks or months, I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s something that they undertake, as we were told yesterday, without a great deal of planning and without intelligence from many different sources.

    They had signals intelligence. They had human intelligence, so they did have good reason to believe that this is where the hostages were being held.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I think people — people are familiar with the successful raid to go after Osama bin Laden. I think some people may get the impression that something like this is usually successful. Do we know — I mean, do we know whether there are many other attempts made like this by special forces that we just never hear about?

    KAREN DEYOUNG: I couldn’t say.

    I think, in this case, for these hostages, we’re pretty certain that there haven’t been. But, remember, with the raid, the successful raid against Osama bin Laden, I think the confidence that he was actually there was far less than it was with this raid.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in this case, more confidence, but it still didn’t work.

    I was struck today, Karen, in one of the stories I read that some Pentagon officials quoted as saying they were angry that the administration made the decision to confirm this, that this happened. What do you know about that?

    KAREN DEYOUNG: Well, I think, as the administration itself said last night and earlier today, there were several news organizations, including The Washington Post, that were prepared to run stories about it. We certainly were prepared to run a story about it.

    We had the information that we felt we needed. When the administration decided that they would brief those few organizations that had come to them and said, look, we have this information, I don’t think we got a great deal more detail from them. And, of course, then they publicly announced it very shortly thereafter.

    Again, I think that it was something that was going to come out regardless of whether the administration decided to publicly acknowledge it or not.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Karen, one other thing. We know the — we have been told the administration of the United States has a policy of never paying ransom in a situation like this. Do you get any sense in your extensive reporting that that’s something that is being discussed, being rethought, or what?

    KAREN DEYOUNG: I don’t. In fact, the administration very strongly today came out and said, look, we don’t pay ransom, we don’t believe it’s a good idea to pay ransom, that that puts more Americans at risk.

    It actually is against the law for Americans to pay ransom to the Islamic State and many other organizations that are designated as terrorist organizations. And I think the request didn’t come and wasn’t turned down by the United States government. It came to the family of James Foley and to GlobalPost, his employer. And the request was for 100 million euros, about $132 million.

    And I think that neither they nor the U.S. government, who they informed about this, thought it was a serious offer. It was far, far more than anything that we know has been paid for some of the other European hostages that have been released.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen DeYoung with The Washington Post, we thank you.

    KAREN DEYOUNG: You’re welcome.

    The post More details emerge on failed mission to rescue James Foley appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we learn more about the threat the Islamic State poses and how they’re recruiting Westerners.

    That comes from Steven Simon, who served as a senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs on the National Security Council staff from 2011 to 2012. And Shadi Hamid, he’s a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. He’s also the author of “Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East.”

    And we welcome you both to the NewsHour.

    Steven Simon, I will just start with you. How — we have been reading so much about ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, recently. How are they different from these other extreme groups, and particularly al-Qaida?

    STEVEN SIMON, Middle East Institute: Well, they’re different in terms of their tactics, and I think in terms of their overall strategy. Their tactics, as we have seen, are savage.

    They deploy savagery as a tactic. This is a tactic that has been repudiated by core al-Qaida. You know, the al-Qaida leadership in South Asia, Ayman al-Zawahri, the current leader of al-Qaida and the replacement for bin Laden, he has specifically enjoined al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, from doing the kinds of things that he is doing, because, from an al-Qaida point of view, it alienates most Muslims. And that’s a serious defect in the strategy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Shadi Hamid, is that the main difference, that this is just a more extreme — a group that is just far more willing to take extreme actions?

    SHADI HAMID, Brookings Institution: That’s a key difference, but it goes well beyond that.

    They’re not your terrorists of early to mid 2000s that were blowing things up and just killing innocent civilians without any kind of vision of how to build something. What’s really scary about ISIS is that they actually have a governing program. They actually control and hold territory. They provide social services. They run local government. They provide some modicum of law and order.

    So they are actually able to obtain some local support in Iraq and Syria precisely for those reasons. So it’s the viciousness along with governing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Steven Simon, is that one of the reasons they have been able to attract the supporters, the members, the young men who have come not only from the Middle East, from that part of the world, but we also know Westerners from Europe, even from the United States?

    STEVEN SIMON: Well, this side of the successful Muslim movement challenging the West in particular, challenging those who want — who are perceived to want to kill Muslims is a galvanizing thing, I think, for Muslim young men in many places, including Europe.

    In Iraq, in particular, though, ISIS is benefiting from the mismanagement of Iraqi affairs by the Iraqi government, the exclusion of Sunnis from public goods, the disregard for Sunni interests, in the wake of the massive dislocation that followed the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    There’s a lot of unhappiness among the Sunni majority population, especially those Sunnis who are concentrated in the areas where ISIS has gotten a foothold. So ISIS is able — has been able to join forces with the Baathists, former Saddam people, and other disaffected individuals to gain a pretty serious grip.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about in Syria, Shadi Hamid? I mean, they were clearly able to swell their forces, draw more adherents in Syria, and, again, from the West, from Europe, from the United States. What’s the appeal? And we just — we saw in the video, the terrible video with James Foley, the man who was there with him had a British accent.

    SHADI HAMID: This actually worries me that we’re focusing so much on Iraq, and senior administration officials focus on that part of it. They barely even mention Syria. Obama clearly doesn’t even want to talk about that.

    But the rise of ISIS is more directly tied to Syria than it is to Iraq. And Syria experts were warning this administration a year-and-a-half ago, saying that if there is more — this power vacuum continues and we can’t support the more mainstream rebel forces, extremist groups like ISIS are going to gain ground.

    So I think that we have been kind of asleep at the wheel. Americans are waking up to the threat right now, but ISIS has been beheading Arabs and Muslims for over the past year.

     

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So why is that an appeal? What’s the appeal to young people to join?

    SHADI HAMID: Well, I think part of the problem with the kind of Arab spring is that peaceful protest didn’t work, working within the democratic process didn’t work, so we had peaceful protesters in Syria, but they were being shot down and slaughtered by the Assad regime.

    We had mainstream Islamic movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, which were trying to work within the democratic process. Yes, they had — we, as Americans, don’t share their values. They were deeply conservative and illiberal, but at least they were saying that there has to be a process.

    ISIS is saying that you can have an Islamic state through brute force, that you don’t have to wait, you don’t have to be gradualist about it. And there’s a kind of appeal, the kind of — I think for radicals and for radicalized Europeans, they see a kind of purity to their vision.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And let’s pick up on that, Steven Simon.

    What is it — for young men living — who are Muslim living in Europe, living in the United States, I mean, what is the draw?

    STEVEN SIMON: Well, I think they see themselves engaged in a noble and virtuous endeavor. They’re doing something that they feel is a fight for a really good cause.

    And it’s interesting, because they don’t see themselves as going to join a terrorist movement. They see themselves going to join liberators. And, for this reason, for example, they tweet and Facebook their way to the battlefield, to the delight, I have to say, of law enforcement and intelligence officials in Western Europe and the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So I guess the — you know, stepping back, the question on everyone’s mind, Shadi Hamid, is, what is the threat here, both to the region, the wider region beyond Syria and Iraq, and then ultimately to Europe and then to the United States?

    SHADI HAMID: Yes.

    So we shouldn’t underestimate ISIS. And I worry that with all this rhetoric about ISIS being inexplicably evil, to use John Kerry’s words, that we will just look at them as these kind of fringe extremists, but we have to understand the root causes of their rise and also their staying power.

    If we don’t have any plan to understand the Syrian roots of the conflict, ISIS is probably going to be with us for the foreseeable future, three years, five years, 10 years, God knows how long. So that’s what’s so scary about this is that they are a reality on the ground. In some ways, they’re the most successful extremist group in modern history.

    So there isn’t an easy solution, unless there is a coherent vision that addresses both Iraq and Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, I mean, what would you add to that, Steven Simon? What do you see the threat? We heard I think Secretary Hagel say this is a threat beyond anything we have ever seen.

    STEVEN SIMON: Well, you know, look, there aren’t that many ISIS fighters. The numbers vary really widely depending upon who’s counted as being an ISIS and who isn’t. The initial ISIS attack in Iraq consisted of about 3,000 fighters.

    OK, this is essentially a minuscule force. The Iraqi army consists of 900,000 individuals, 900,000 soldiers. The Pentagon says about a third of those are workable, you know, that the United States could help about a third of that army fight ISIS. That’s a huge advantage.

    The Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, they haven’t fired a shot in anger in a long time. They folded initially, but they have come back. Where is ISIS actually going to go is really the question? They can’t invade Iran. They’re not going to invade Saudi Arabia. They can’t invade Jordan. They’re not going to invade Turkey, and they can’t invade Israel.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you see them as more contained than what…

    STEVEN SIMON: I see them as fundamentally contained. I think their tactics will earn them a lot of enemies, and the tacit alliances that they formed in Iraq won’t last.

    SHADI HAMID: But even if they don’t gain additional territory, what they control now is a very large swathe of territory in both Iraq and Syria. So there is an extremist so-called Islamic State in the middle of the Middle East.

    And that destabilizes obviously Iraq and Syria, but also you see spillover effects in Jordan, in Lebanon. So, even if we contain it, it’s still a huge problem.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, they have certainly gotten a lot of people’s attention.

    Shadi Hamid, Steven Simon, we thank you both.

    SHADI HAMID: It’s good to be here.

    The post How is the Islamic State different from other extremist groups? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Fed policies of Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, who begins her term Feb. 1, are making former Harvard economist Terry Burnham withdraw his money from Bank of America. Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Justice Department today announced that it had settled its investigation into Bank of America with a record-breaking financial penalty.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Under the terms of the deal, Bank of America will pay a total of nearly $17 billion for its role in writing and securitizing risky home loans in the run-up to the housing crisis. Many of those loans eventually failed.

    Almost $10 billion of that figure will go to the U.S. Treasury, $6 billion to the states and other government agencies; $7 billion is earmarked to aid struggling consumers, particularly distressed homeowners.

    At a press conference this morning, U.S. Associate Attorney General Tony West said that was an important part of the deal.

    For a closer look at today’s deal and what impact it and other earlier bank settlements might have both on Wall Street and on Main Street, I am joined by Lynn Stout, professor of corporate and business law at Cornell Law School, and Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of BetterMarkets.com, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in financial markets.

    We invited Bank of America and the major banking industry trade groups to join us. They all declined our requests.

    So, Lynn Stout, let me start with you. How big of a deal is this?

    LYNN STOUT, Cornell University: I think this really is a big deal, and it’s overdue.

    I think we should all be glad to see it; $17 billion is real money, even to a bank. It amounts to about 10 percent of the value of all Bank of America stock and a year of two of their profits, so this should really get the bank’s attention.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dennis Kelleher, is it big enough?

    DENNIS KELLEHER, Better Markets: Well, it’s not $17 billion. First of all, they are going to get a $4 billion tax deduction, so essentially the American taxpayers are going to be subsidizing the settlement, so that takes 17 down to 13.

    Of the $7 billion of so-called soft money in homeowner relief, that really will never amount to more than 50 cents on the dollar, so you cut off another $3 billion or so there. In fact, if you really want to know how incredibly tough this is, the biggest mover on the financial stocks was Bank of America, which went up over 4 percent.

    So, when the stock goes up because they announced there’s a settlement, that tells you how Wall Street perceives how tough or lack of toughness that this settlement really is.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lynn Stout, did the punishment not fit the crime? Was it too small?

    LYNN STOUT: I think it’s the best we could hope for, really.

    The reality is, I don’t think there’s any amount you could ask the banks to pay that would make up for the damage they have done to the economy. We have now had several settlements in the billions. The damage is measured in the trillions.

    Without shutting down the banking industry entirely, there’s no way to make up for that damage. But compared to what’s gone on in the past, where regulators have settled with banks for far smaller amounts that really were just a slap on the wrist, this is going to inflict some real pain. It will get the banks’ attention.

    It will help to discourage this sort of unethical and even fraudulent behavior in the future. So I think that Eric Holder and Tony West deserve a pat on the back. It’s hard to say that this isn’t a lot better than what we have seen before.

    DENNIS KELLEHER: Well, the problem with that analysis is that, unfortunately, these settlements are carefully crafted more to conceal than to reveal.

    So, for example, it’s impossible to say whether or not $17 billion is appropriate or not. After all, this is supposed to punish crime and deter future crime. And the only way to know whether or not this is a reasonable amount or should be lauded and patted on the back is to know, how much did the bank make from its years of systemic fraudulent conduct, or, conversely, Hari, how much did investors, customers and clients lose?

    So, for example, if the bank made $200 billion, $17 billion doesn’t look very good. Or if investors and customers and clients lost $100 billion, $17 billion doesn’t look very good. So they didn’t provide any of the key information that anybody would need to actually evaluate the settlement.

    And most importantly, if you want to deter crime and law-breaking on Wall Street or anywhere else, then you ought to punish individuals. Banks do not commit crimes. Bankers do. And not a single banker was punished here, not one. They get to keep their bonuses, their positions, their promotions and everything else, and the bank gets to use shareholders’ money to pay off and buy a get-out-of-jail-free card for them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lynn Stout, what about that idea, that no individual has been held accountable?

    LYNN STOUT: I think the reality is that we need to acknowledge that, actually, banks and institutions do commit crimes.

    The people inside Bank of America were driven by incentives and pay-for-performance schemes that are now widespread in the industry. We might as well call them pay-for-unethical-performance schemes in many situations.

    And, ironically, a lot of those incentive schemes were demanded by the shareholders of the banks themselves. So it doesn’t trouble me to think that the shareholders are going to pay some of the settlement. They are responsible for some of the pay practices and the procedures that led to this problem in the first place.

    So the reality is, corporations are huge institutions. They influence the behavior of the people inside them. At some point, you have to focus on the institution, and not just on the individuals. The people in the banking industry who knew it was going on were for the most part at the very low levels. They were the mortgage brokers. They were the underwriters.

    It wasn’t the CEOs and the top executives, many of whom found it quite easy to look the other way and not know what was going on. Criminal prosecution of individuals is very hard in these cases. The most effective strategy may be just what the Department of Justice is pursuing, which is to hit the corporate entity where the corporate entity hurts, and that is its wallet.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dean Kelleher?

    DENNIS KELLEHER: Well, unfortunately, I wish that were true.

    But no one has anywhere near enough information to actually know whether it is or not. And if you want to affect — which is to say, what did executives know and when did they know it, it is not credible to think that literally hundreds of people were involved for years in systemic fraudulent practices.

    And if you read what — I put in quotes — “the statement of facts” put out by the Department of Justice, they identify people by their titles, including the chairman of Countrywide sending e-mails in ’06 clearly indicating a knowledge of fraudulent practices that were widespread at the time.

    And so you have to focus on individuals and hold individuals accountable, and I don’t — I’m OK with using shareholder money for an institution to pay some of the fines. But if individuals get off scot-free — and they don’t have to be criminally prosecuted, although they could be, but they’re not even being held civilly liable.

    So if there’s no downside for the individuals who are collecting bonuses, the banks are getting bailed out with taxpayer money, years later, some — a couple of billion dollars of shareholder dollars is thrown at to make it all go away, that actually rewards past crime and incentivizes future crime. You have to go after bankers, not just banks.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dean Kelleher, what about the fact that some of these bankers that were responsible for the fraudulent activity came from, say, Merrill Lynch or Countrywide, institutions that Bank of America purchased? Should Bank of America be held liable?

    DENNIS KELLEHER: As Lynn knows, it’s standard corporate practice, and it has been for, I don’t know, 100 years, that an acquirer acquires the assets and liabilities of an institution. And that’s what happened in this case.

    It’s routine and boring and happens all the time. They’re trying to — they took the position or they tried to claim that they should get extra credit because they did it as a service to the country in the middle of the crisis. Well, that was factually false. And the Department of Justice rejected it, as they should have.

    They actually bought Countrywide in — closed it in early 2008, and they bought Merrill Lynch after trying to buy Merrill Lynch for years. So they took an advantage of an opportunity. They also got a tremendous upside from those acquisitions, notwithstanding the downside, largely due to Countrywide.

    So I think that that’s a red herring that the bank’s trying to distract people with.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lynn Stout, the door has been left open for criminal investigation, but what’s the likelihood that that avenue is ever pursued?

    LYNN STOUT: Well, that is going to depend on a lot of things that we’re not privy to.

    I have to say, this Department of Justice seems to be somewhat serious about the issue, so I think we can all hope that they’re going to do the in-depth investigation that Dennis is calling for. And, by the way, it’s important to note, this settlement — this settlement doesn’t preclude future criminal proceedings against the bank or against individuals.

    It’s in addition to, not a substitute for criminal prosecutions. But whether we’re going to be able to show that any top executives had the kind of deep knowledge that you need to show to get a criminal prosecution or a criminal conviction, that remains to be seen.

    DENNIS KELLEHER: I think criminal prosecution is a sideshow.

    The bar is so high and it’s so difficult, particularly, as Lynn alluded to earlier, these senior executives get to pretend like they look the other way and there’s no e-mails. But civil litigation and civil prosecution should be at the front and top of the list.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Dennis Kelleher, not Dean, thank you very much.

    And, Lynn Stout, thank you for joining us.

    DENNIS KELLEHER: Thanks, Hari.

    LYNN STOUT: You’re welcome, Hari.

    The post Will the $17B Bank of America penalty deter individuals from breaking the law? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Gov. Bob McDonnell Takes Stand In Corruption Trial

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell found himself back on the witness stand today fighting charges of political corruption and talking openly about his marital struggles.

    It marked a startling fall for the Republican, who just two years ago was on Mitt Romney’s short list of potential vice presidential candidates.

    Reporters swarmed former Governor Bob McDonnell as he arrived at court today to take the stand for a second day in his public corruption trial.

    QUESTION: Governor, in the spectrum of difficult things you have done in your life as governor, how does this rate, what you’re going to have to do today?

    FMR. GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-Va.: Thirty-eight years of public service, I never thought I would be having to testify in a trial like this. So, yes, it’s difficult, for sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In court, McDonnell described in detail how relations with his wife, Maureen, had broken down, including clashes over the way she treated her staff.

    It’s part of a defense strategy to show the couple could not have engaged in a criminal conspiracy because they were barely speaking to each other. Prosecutors allege they accepted more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Richmond businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. to promote his dietary supplement company, Star Scientific.

    The items included a Rolex watch with a price tag of more than $6,000. McDonnell testified Wednesday that his actions on behalf of the company didn’t go beyond typical constituent outreach.

    The trial represents a stunning turn of events for the one-time rising star in Republican politics. If convicted, Virginia’s former governor and first lady could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison each and face large fines.

    Craig Carper is a political reporter for WCVE Richmond, Virginia, Public Radio, and he was in the courtroom today.

    Craig, thank you for being with us.

    First, if you could, lay out for us the essence of the prosecution’s case against the governor and his wife.

    CRAIG CARPER, WCVE: Sure. Well, thank you for having me, Judy.

    The prosecution alleges here that the McDonnell — they’re alleging quid pro quo, that the McDonnells accepted this — these gifts and loans — now revised figures show that it’s $177,000 worth of gifts and loans — in exchange for official acts.

    There’s a lot of talk about what constitutes an official act from the defense. So…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in terms of the prosecution’s case, what were their — who were their main witnesses? What was the main evidence they showed?

    CRAIG CARPER: Sure.

    Now, a lot — it’s fair to point out that a lot of these witnesses were called by both defense and prosecution. And, of course, they got the opportunity to cross-examine them. But, first, we saw some of the McDonnell family. Two of the children testified. We saw McDonnell’s sister later on testify for the defense.

    She was also his business partner in some of these real estate investments that she made, the center of a lot of what these loans were going toward. We saw members of the McDonnell cabinet, friends, family. We have seen accountants, a lot of focus on the accountants and the McDonnells’ personal finances.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about from the defense? How — how have they — what is the thrust of the case they’re presenting in the defense of the governor and Mrs. McDonnell?

    CRAIG CARPER: Well, really, it’s twofold.

    They’re showing — they’re trying to highlight — basically, a broken marriage is what they’re trying to show, that the McDonnells spent 22 years in public service in different capacities. And, with that, he spent less and less time at home, as his seniority grew in the house of delegates, then later as attorney general, and finally coming to a head as governor.

    That’s one of the things the defense is trying to highlight. The other is that McDonnell really gave no special treatment to Mr. Williams that he wouldn’t give any other Virginia business. He ran on the platform “Bobs for jobs.” So he’s saying this is not unlike what he did for thousands of others.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what are he and the other defense witnesses saying about the gifts, though, the Rolex watch, I guess the clothes that Mrs. McDonnell got, and the vacations and so forth?

    CRAIG CARPER: Sure.

    Well, there’s been, you know, an effort on the part of the defense to isolate Governor McDonnell as much as possible. Really, you have got the defense lawyers for Mr. McDonnell and Mrs. McDonnell kind of putting that blame on his wife, Maureen, really — I would say kind of — really pulling that blame on his wife, Maureen, the argument being that she wasn’t a public official, not an elected official.

    And there were no laws against her doing things to benefit companies. You can’t really regulate private citizens in terms of gifts for acts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right, so the separation technique.

    How is the governor himself doing on the stand? He was on the stand briefly yesterday, back again today.

    CRAIG CARPER: Sure. Sure.

    He’s — a local — a local columnist, Jeff Schapiro from The Richmond Times-Dispatch, I think summed it up very well. He said, this is Governor McDonnell’s final campaign. He’s in campaign mode. He’s very relaxed. He’s very calm, at times somber, and he’s certainly gotten a little more tired late into the day today, but very poised, very composed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But he was also, as I understand it, from what I have read, emotional in describing his relationship with his wife. I mean, he got into some personal details about the two of them.

    CRAIG CARPER: That’s true. That’s true. He did.

    And, you know, he opened his testimony today saying that, you know, he’s a private person, and this makes him very uncomfortable. But he didn’t pull any punches today when highlighting his wife’s role in this scandal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So is there any kind of consensus, Craig Carper, about whether the governor is helping his case, helping the defense or not? What are people saying?

    CRAIG CARPER: I think he is, at this point.

    I think that’s the general sense right now. It was — they needed to turn things around, because, yesterday, they heard some pretty — I don’t know — it was negative — they got — there was some negative cross questioning from the prosecution of one of their own witnesses who is a financial expert. And the prosecution was able to high light several holes in his testimony and the evidence he had presented.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just final question. We know Mrs. McDonnell not expected to testify. Is this case getting a lot of attention in the state of Virginia, people paying close attention to it?

    CRAIG CARPER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

    We have got just about every media outlet in the state here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Craig Carper with WCVE Public Radio, we thank you, in Richmond.

    CRAIG CARPER: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Former VA governor leans on marital struggles as defense to fight corruption charges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 20: Mo'ne Davis #3 of Pennsylvania pitches to a Nevada batter during the United States division game at the Little League World Series tournament at Lamade Stadium on August 20, 2014 in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA – AUGUST 20: Mo’ne Davis #3 of Pennsylvania pitches to a Nevada batter during the United States division game at the Little League World Series tournament at Lamade Stadium on August 20, 2014 in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)


    Wednesday wasn’t a great night for Mo’ne Davis, the teenage pitching phenom making headlines for her performance in this year’s Little League World Series.

    The thirteen-year-old Philadelphia native was pulled out after giving up three runs and six hits. “There’s no question [she] didn’t have her A-game tonight,” her team manager said.

    But it was a winning night for ESPN, the television network airing the series, which enjoyed record ratings for the event as viewers across the country tuned in to watch Davis’ seventy mile-an-hour fastball.

    With an overnight national rating of 3.4, corresponding to the percentage of homes with televisions watching a program, it was the most-watched LLWS game in the network’s history.

    Davis made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated last week after becoming the first girl to throw a shutout in LLWS history.

    The post Mo’Ne Davis’ power breaks Little League World Series ratings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Following this week’s cease-fire collapse, there was heavy fighting again today between Israel and Hamas. Members of the Palestinian group’s military leadership were among the casualties. Hari is back with that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Thousands marched through the streets of Gaza today in the funeral procession of three senior Hamas military commanders. The men, identified as Mohamed Abu Shamala and Raed al-Attar, plus Mohammed Barhoum, were killed by a pre-dawn Israeli airstrike. The militant group quickly decried the killing.

    SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): The assassination of the al-Qassam leaders in Rafah is a big Israeli crime that will not succeed in breaking the will of our people. And the occupation will pay the price, God willing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting with U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa, hailed the intelligence behind the attack and vowed there’s more to come.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): I want to commend the excellent work of the operational and intelligence units of the Shin Bet security service. We will continue to work together to reach the targets, to restore peace and security for an extended period to the citizens of Israel.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A day earlier, an Israeli airstrike missed Mohammed Deif, the top Hamas commander, but his wife and infant son were killed.

    Ordinary Gazans appealed today for an end to the aerial assault.

    AMAL LADIYALI (through interpreter): Every day, there are men, women, elderly people, and children getting killed, everybody. They mock us by giving us a bit of food to distract us. They are killing us and burying us at the same time.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, a mortar round fired from Gaza seriously wounded one man in Southern Israel today. Overall, more than 100 rockets were fired, leaving Israelis within their reach to ponder staying or leaving.

    LARRY BUTLER: This is my home, and I will stay here. And I just hope these people — maybe — it will all calm down. It has to calm down. It can’t get much worse.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It was the June killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen that sparked this conflict. A top Hamas official has now acknowledged for the first time that his group kidnapped the Israeli teens.

    There were also accusations about the collapse of peace talks in Egypt this week. Officials of the Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank, claimed the Gulf state of Qatar pressured Hamas to scuttle the effort.

    The post Israeli strikes kill members of Hamas leadership appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Funeral ceremony of Hamas commanders in Gaza

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more on the fighting between Israel and Hamas, I spoke with Josef Federman of the Associated Press a short time ago.

    So, Josef, how significant of a blow to Hamas was the killing of these three leaders?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN, Associated Press: Well, we can tell that they’re definitely high-quality targets.

    We could tell by the reaction that we saw in the streets of Gaza today. Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of people, were out at the funeral today. Clearly, they are valuable people. It’s clearly a demoralizing blow to Hamas and a big moral victory, I think, to Israel.

    The question is what effect it has on the battlefield. And what we have seen in the past is, every time Israel kills a senior target, another one seems to sprout up and take their place.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what do we know about Israel’s ability to track and target these three individuals?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yes, it seems to be quite a sophisticated intelligence operation.

    You heard the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praising his intelligence services. I think what made this so interesting is that these three men were underground. They have been in hiding for the duration of this war over the past month or so. And from what we understand, they literally — they came out of a tunnel. They had been in hiding.

    And in a matter of minutes, Israel tracked them down and killed them. So that tells you something about Israel’s tracking abilities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There seems to be something different about this round of fighting than in the past few weeks before the cease-fire. What is it?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well, I think you see by this killing today, Israel seems to be moving into a new phase.

    In the past, there have been lots of casualties. Over 2,000 Palestinians have been killed. But these casualties for the most part have been in the heat of battle, ground-level soldiers. Now Israel seems to be going after the higher level, after political operatives.

    In addition to these three, Israel yesterday went after Mohammed Deif, the chief of Hamas’ entire military wing. That is the highest-quality target they could get. It’s still unclear. Hamas says he survived. They haven’t provided any evidence. Israel’s remaining quiet about that, so it’s not quite clear what happened to him.

    But we do feel like we’re in a new type of phase, when Israel is going after political-type targets.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We reported today that a member of Hamas took responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of those three teenagers that really started this newest round of conflicts. Was that a surprise in the region?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: It was a big surprise, because Hamas has been keeping quiet about this.

    They have — actually, they have been very proud — or they have praised the kidnapping repeatedly, but they have always been careful to say that they didn’t do it or they didn’t know who did it. Suddenly, one of Hamas’ top people, an exiled leader who lives in Turkey, is claiming responsibility.

    That seems to change the equation in many ways, because now Hamas is essentially admitting that they are — they played a role in setting off this whole chain of events that led to this war.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk a little bit about what’s happening on the diplomatic front. What happened in those talks in Cairo?  Why did they end?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well, we’re never going to know exactly what happened in these talks.

    It was in — behind closed doors, obviously. Egyptian intelligence were hosting things. But what we do understand is, you know, two sides were taking maximalist positions. Israel wants Hamas to give up all of its weapons. Hamas wants a complete end to the Gaza blockade.

    That’s not going to happen. So they’re wrangling, I think, over how to find a compromise. And Israel — neither side, really, was willing to give enough to reach something in the middle. Now that the diplomacy appears to have failed, now that we have been involved in a war for the past month, where Israel even went in with ground troops, with heavy force, neither one of those scenarios seemed to bring an end to this. And it makes you wonder how long this latest phase is now going to go on.

    It seems like it could drag on for a while.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there any plans by either side to try to return to a negotiating table of any sort, possibly in Cairo, possibly elsewhere?

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: You don’t hear it directly from the sides, but you do hear Egypt saying that it’s involved behind the scenes. It’s calling for a cease-fire. It’s encouraging everybody to return to the negotiating table.

    We also see some developments elsewhere in the region. Qatar, a — the Gulf country, a close ally of Hamas, is hosting the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas’ leader, Khaled Meshaal, this evening. So there is some hope on that end.

    We also see some movement in the U.N. Security Council. Some European countries are now trying to put together a resolution with international support calling for an international cease-fire, with the possibility even of an international presence to help enforce it.

    So there is some movement, but it doesn’t seem like anything is going to happen in the next 24 hours.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Josef Federman of the Associated Press, thanks so much.

    JOSEF FEDERMAN: Thank you.

    The post Targeting political operatives, Israel moves into new phase of fighting Hamas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, some good news in what has been a very troubling story.

    An American doctor who contracted Ebola in West Africa was discharged from an Atlanta hospital today. He and the hospital staff spoke to reporters after his release.

    (APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A smiling Dr. Kent Brantly was greeted by applause inside Atlanta’s Emory University hospital, where doctors today announced the 33-year-old had made a full recovery after being infected with the Ebola virus while working in a hospital in Liberia.

    DR. KENT BRANTLY: Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Standing alongside the medical team that treated him, Brantly recalled the first day of what would be a near-month-long battle for his life.

    DR. KENT BRANTLY: On Wednesday, July 23, I woke up feeling under the weather, and then my life took an unexpected turn as I was diagnosed with Ebola virus disease.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On August 2, Dr. Brantly was admitted to Emory University Hospital after being flown out of Liberia.

    DR. KENT BRANTLY: Thank you to Emory University Hospital, and especially to the medical staff in the isolation unit. You treated me with expertise, yet with such tenderness and compassion. For the last three weeks, you have been my friends and my family.

    And so many of you ministered to me not only physically, but also spiritually, which has been an important part of my recovery. I will never forget you and all that you have done for me. And thank you to my family, my friends, my church family, and all who lifted me up in prayer, asking for my healing and recovery.

    Please do not stop praying for the people of Liberia and West Africa, and for a quick end to this Ebola epidemic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: After his remarks, Brantly and his wife hugged each one of the physicians and nurses that cared for him.

    Dr. Bruce Ribner, medical director of the hospital’s infectious disease unit, touched on the bond his team developed with Brantly.

    DR. BRUCE RIBNER, Emory University Hospital: There was a very strong emotional, as well as health care interaction that occurred. If the hugging transmit the message that we don’t think he’s contagious, I think that would be accurate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Ribner also said that 59-year-old Nancy Writebol, who was also being treated at Emory for Ebola, had been discharged earlier this week. At her request, her departure wasn’t announced at that time.

    DR. BRUCE RIBNER: The medical staff here at Emory is confident that the discharge from the hospital of both of these patients poses no public health threat. Ebola virus is a new infection on this continent, but our colleagues across the ocean have been dealing with it for 40 years now, and so there is strong epidemiologic evidence that, once an individual has resolved Ebola virus infection, they are immune to that strain, recognizing that there are five different strains of Ebola virus.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Both Brantly and Writebol received treatment with the experimental drug ZMapp while in Liberia, but the Emory team said the role it played in their treatment is unknown.

    DR. BRUCE RIBNER: They are the very first individuals to ever receive this agent. There is no prior experience with it. And, frankly, we do not know whether it helped them, whether it made no difference, or even theoretically if it delayed their recovery.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ribner went on to say his staff would pass along guidelines to those doctors still fighting Ebola in West Africa.

    DR. BRUCE RIBNER: We are in the process of working with a number of medical journals and other organs to disseminate the observations that we made in the care of these two patients.

    The providers in Africa will be able to read the article we read — we write, but, in addition, we are planning to make some provider-specific information available to them. So, again, we are hopeful that what we have learned here will assist our colleagues in Africa in caring for these critically ill patients.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kent Brantly told reporters he will take some time off with his family before addressing the media again. But doctors will continue to monitor him and Nancy Writebol through follow-up visits.

    Online, we take a look at the Ebola virus at the molecular level to explain what makes it so deadly. You can read that on our Science page.

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    St. Louis local PBS station Nine Network presents an evening of programs focused on what happens next in St. Louis after Ferguson. Watch live here, beginning at 7 p.m CDT.

    The Nine Network is devoting its entire prime time schedule to events in Ferguson and where we go from here.

    Tune in starting at 7:00 p.m. CDT as Donnybrook, Stay Tuned, and PBS NewsHour explore recent events in Ferguson and we talk with local leaders about what should happen next.

    The aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson has been widely covered by local and national news outlets. But, the violence and looting have overshadowed some of the core issues that need to be addressed.

    The events in Ferguson impact us all. How do we as a community learn and develop solutions together?

    Charlie Brennan will lead the Donnybrook panel in an hour-long discussion starting at 7:00 p.m. CDT followed by a special edition of StayTuned at 8:00 p.m. CDT featuring a conversation with trusted faith and community leaders who are on the ground in Ferguson. A special PBS NewsHour broadcast will follow at 9:00 p.m. CDT.

    The conversation continues on Stay Tuned next week, August 28, starting at 9:00 p.m. CDT.

    The post Watch LIVE: What happens next in Ferguson? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The tensions between Ukraine and Russia spiked today when a Russian convoy rolled across the frontier. The move drew widespread condemnation.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After more than a week of waiting, a stream of white trucks crossed the Ukrainian border without the Kiev government’s approval. Russian officials said the trucks carried only food, water, generators, and sleeping bags.

    ALEXANDER LUKASHEVICH, Spokesman, Russian Foreign Ministry (through interpreter): We can’t tolerate this kind of outrageous situation. All pretexts to postpone the aid delivery to the people in the area of humanitarian catastrophe are over. The Russian side has decided to act. We warn of any attempts to disrupt the purely humanitarian mission that has been prepared long ago.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Ukrainian government said it wouldn’t use force to stop the trucks, but it condemned the Russian move.

    VALENTYN NALYVAICHENKO, Security Service of Ukraine (through interpreter): We call it this way: This is a direct invasion. These are military vehicles. These are military men with fake documents. This is why this situation is so dangerous.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The convoy headed for Luhansk, a rebel-held city under siege by Ukrainian government forces. The first trucks arrived there by midday, and many appeared half-empty.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that proved Russia is lying about the real purpose of the convoy.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Prime Minister, Ukraine (through interpreter): Here is their motivation: They are now waiting for several trucks of the so-called humanitarian aid convoy to be simply bombed, and bombed by the Russians themselves, so that they can tell the whole world, this is a junta who wages war on its own people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Ukrainians further charged the trucks would transport weapons and carry away the bodies of Russians killed in the fighting. International criticism also poured in.

    Rear Admiral John Kirby spoke at the Pentagon.

    REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: This is a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia. Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen added his voice, saying: “This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments and can only deepen the crisis in the region.”

    At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, discussed possible steps for a cease-fire in Ukraine. Merkel travels to Kiev tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Iraq today, a deadly new assault today jeopardized efforts to form a new government; 64 people died when a suicide bomber and then gunmen attacked a Sunni mosque northeast of Baghdad in Diyala Province. At least 60 others were wounded. It was unclear if Shiite militias or Sunni radicals from the Islamic State group carried out the attack. But it prompted Sunni lawmakers to quit talks on creating an all-inclusive cabinet.

    The White House has signaled that the U.S. military might go after Islamic State forces inside Syria, as well as Iraq. Yesterday, the chair of the Joint Chiefs, Army General Martin Dempsey, said that’s the only way to defeat the militants. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes addressed the issue today at Martha’s Vineyard, where the president is vacationing.

    BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Adviser: We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat, and we’re not going to be restricted by borders. We have shown time and again that, if there’s a counterterrorism threat, we will take direct action against that threat if necessary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Overnight, U.S. warplanes carried out more airstrikes against Islamic State targets around Mosul in Northern Iraq.

    The U.S. today accused China’s military of dangerous conduct in an aerial incident on Tuesday. Pentagon officials said a Chinese fighter jet repeatedly buzzed a U.S. Navy surveillance plane, coming within 30 feet at one point. It happened about 135 miles off China’s Hainan Island. Another U.S. surveillance plane had to land there in 2001 after being hit by a Chinese plane.

    To the Middle East now and to Gaza, where gunmen executed 18 Palestinians accused of spying for Israel a day after Israeli airstrikes killed three Hamas commanders. Meanwhile, a mortar round killed a 4-year-old Israeli child. The Israeli military said that it was fired from next to a U.N. school sheltering Gazans. Four Palestinians died in the latest Israeli airstrikes.

    The U.N. Human Rights Office now estimates stunning numbers have died in Syria’s three-year-long civil war, more than 191,000 people. That includes 62,000 in the last year alone.

    A spokesman for the U.N.’s human rights commissioner spoke today in Geneva.

    RUPERT COLVILLE, Spokesman, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: People are dying every single day. The rates of killing in Syria is — if you look at monthly averages, is extraordinarily high still. We’re talking, I think over the last year, around 5,000 to 6,000 per month.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.N. officials charged war crimes are also being committed on all sides in the Syrian conflict.

    The death count in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has now surged past 1,400. The World Health Organization says nearly 300 more people died since the last count a week ago. More than 2,600 cases are confirmed in four affected countries, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and now Nigeria.

    More marches are planned tonight and through the weekend in Ferguson, Missouri, as street violence subsides. About a hundred people peacefully protested in the Saint Louis suburb last night. They carried signs and chanted slogans calling for justice in the police shooting death of Michael Brown. The funeral for Brown is scheduled for Monday.

    The Obama administration is trying again to end a fight over contraception coverage under health care reform. New rules they announced today say that church groups and some companies don’t have to pay for birth control if they notify the government of religious objections. Instead, insurers will foot the bill. Supreme Court decisions in June struck down previous requirements.

    Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen gave little indication today of when the Fed might raise interest rates. But, in a major speech, she suggested again it won’t be any time soon.

    Wall Street’s reaction was muted. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 38 points to close at 17,001. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 4,538. And the S&P 500 was down nearly four points at 1,988. For the week, the Dow gained 2 percent. The Nasdaq and the S&P were up more than 1.5 percent.

    The post News Wrap: Russian convoy rolls into Ukraine without Kiev’s consent appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    LAS VEGAS — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Friday for jokes he made about Asians during a luncheon of business leaders in Las Vegas earlier this week.

    Reid was addressing the city’s Asian Chamber of Commerce on Thursday when he told the audience, “I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are.”

    When another man was summoned to the podium, he grabbed the microphone and quipped, “One problem I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”

    Both comments were met with laughter from the crowd of about 150 people.

    The incident was captured on video by a tracker, posted on YouTube and distributed to reporters by America Rising, a Republican opposition research firm.

    Reid later issued a statement saying: “My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize. Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”Reid later issued a statement saying: “My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize. Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”

    Asian Chamber of Commerce Director James Yu said Reid has been a longtime friend of the group, which was established in 1986 to promote political, social and economic parity for Nevada’s Asian Pacific American entrepreneurs, according to its website. Yu said he hadn’t heard any complaints from attendees about the Senator’s comments.

    “Someone is making an issue out of a nonissue,” he told The Associated Press.

    Yu said a young man with a camera had shown up and was told not to videotape the event, and he assured chamber leaders that he was just taking still shots. Yu said the young man would be turned away if he shows up again.

    The chamber’s luncheon brought a separate disappointment for Reid — the group announced its endorsement of Republican Mark Hutchison for lieutenant governor. Reid has been championing Democratic state lawmaker Lucy Flores in the race, which is the highest-profile contest in Nevada’s midterm elections.

    Hutchison said he was grateful for support from leaders of Nevada’s Asian community, which comprises about 8 percent of the state’s population.

    The post Harry Reid apologizes for telling jokes about Asians at business leaders lunch appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, to the frontline of the fight to save Iraq.

    One element of the U.S. effort to turn the situation around relies on arming Kurdish security forces in their fight with militants from the Islamic State group.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, just spent the day with Kurdish military leaders as they traveled to Jalawla, which is not that far from Baghdad.

    Here’s her report.

    MARGARET WARNER: Racing south on the highway between Iraq’s Kurdish capital, Irbil, and Baghdad, miles of open desert unfold, dotted by villages and towns. But just a quarter of the way down, Iraq’s most vital commercial lifeline becomes the frontline.

    The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has advanced to within 650 yards of the road. Kurdish forces Colonel Wria Hasan took us to one of many well-manned Kurdish Peshmerga outposts guarding the new frontier to show us just how close the militants’ forbidding flag flew.

    What keeps the ISIS forces from just moving across this road?

    COL. WRIA HASAN, Peshmerga (through interpreter): If they came closer, we could stop them, and we could move their way, but there are a lot Arabs living there.

    MARGARET WARNER: So you’re saying it will be a very bloody battle if you tried to advance that way?

    COL. WRIA HASAN (through interpreter): Yes it would be bloody, and many civilians would die.

    MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Hasan was escorting us in his armored SUV to the town of Jalawla, 100 miles northeast of Baghdad, in southern Diyala Province. The province is now partly controlled by the Kurds since the Iraqi army collapsed before the Islamic extremists’ onslaught in mid-June.

    We’d come to explore why, over the past month, the famed Peshmerga army, considered one of the best in the region, had also fallen back at several points along its internal frontier against the Islamist group.

    General Mahmoud Sengawi commands this southern region, and on our way to the front, I asked him why he was now fighting to take back the strategically located town of Jalawla.

    How did the Peshmerga forces lose Jalawla on August 11?

    GEN. MAHMOUD SENGAWI, Peshmerga (through interpreter): Because there were civilians inside the town, and because we couldn’t distinguish those who are ISIS with those who are not. There were snipers among them, and our Peshmerga were getting killed. This is why I decided to retreat from Jalawla.

    MARGARET WARNER: We continued talking behind the shelter of a Peshmerga outpost overlooking a two-mile stretch of no-man’s land east of Jalawla.

    How different are these fighters from Islamic State than other forces you have ever faced?

    GEN. MAHMOUD SENGAWI (through interpreter): ISIS is essentially fighting the way Islamic fighters did in early centuries, when they spilled a lot of blood to occupy other countries. We have never fought anyone like that.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, how are you going to have to adjust your tactics and your strategy?

    GEN. MAHMOUD SENGAWI (through interpreter): Yes, of course we need to change strategy. These fighters came straight from the streets, and we need to learn to fight them in the streets.

    MARGARET WARNER: Street fighting training is key, says military analyst Michael Stephens, who lives part-time in Irbil. I spoke with him today via Skype from London.

    MICHAEL STEPHENS, Royal United Services Institute: But the general rank-and-file Peshmerga are not able to do this. In fact, they have almost been turned into a checkpoint army, where they’re basically responsible for static security protection, and not the kind of dynamic advanced tactics that ISIS are using the ground.

    MARGARET WARNER: But that’s not the only change they need, Stephens says.

    MICHAEL STEPHENS: The other thing, of course, is that ISIS are almost fighting a new type of warfare that the Kurds are not used to. A tank is no good against mobile units of independently working armored Humvees that are very able to move quickly. And the Peshmerga just simply aren’t trained for that sort of combat.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Kurdish forces blame their problems on the lack of the sort of advanced weapons they need to combat the modern American-made items captured by Islamic State forces from Iraqi army bases in Mosul and elsewhere.

    General Hussein Mansour, who runs the weapons supply unit for the south, took us to see just how old fashioned their weapons are.

    GEN. HUSSEIN MANSOUR, Peshmerga: It was made in 1955.

    MARGARET WARNER: No.

    MARGARET WARNER: Really, 1955?

    GEN. HUSSEIN MANSOUR: Fifty-five or ’50.

    MARGARET WARNER: And you keep it running.

    GEN. HUSSEIN MANSOUR: We have no options, so…

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    The general’s phone rang constantly with requests from commanders in the field, demanding more weapons.

    GEN. HUSSEIN MANSOUR: Peshmerga, this is what is has, no armor, and here is what ISIS has, armored Humvees.

    MARGARET WARNER: Inside his operations center, Mansour explained further.

    GEN. HUSSEIN MANSOUR (through interpreter): Unfortunately, our weapons are very old, left over from Saddam’s regime, and we do not have sufficient ammunition. We are supporting our Peshmerga fighters as much as we can. But we really need help to acquire modern weapons, because we think this fight is a long-term war, and it will not end easily.

    MARGARET WARNER: Can you retake Jalawla without better weapons?

    GEN. HUSSEIN MANSOUR (through interpreter): There, we have problems larger than weapons. Arabs in those towns support ISIS. Jalawla has always been a bastion of Baathist support. There are 1,200 former high-ranking Baathist officers there. It’s always been a bastion of terrorists, even when the Americans were here.

    MARGARET WARNER: To test that notion, we had Mohammed Mala Hassan, mayor of Khanaqin, where the Peshmerga are based, take us in his convoy of heavily armed men to meet one of the many Sunni Arabs he said have fled to Khanaqin from Jalawla.

    Amer Yusef, a successful contractor, left with his family of 13 in June as the Islamic State began infiltrating Jalawla. He has a decidedly negative view of the Islamist group.

    He said it’s true some Sunnis are with them, but often the extremists are more brutal with Sunnis.

    AMER YUSEF, Contractor: (through interpreter): They are a terrorist organization that wants to harm us. They have harmed most of the families who have stayed in the town.

    MARGARET WARNER: Many people say all Arabs here support the Islamic State. Is that true?

    AMER YUSEF (through interpreter): I have a close friend who was a member of the municipality, my neighbor, and he is a Sunni Arab. They killed him few days ago. After taking him and his brother to their Sharia court, his brother said they killed them.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Islamic State says they’re doing all of this in the name of pure Islam.

    AMER YUSEF (through interpreter): No. They everyone’s enemy. Who are they killing the most? Christians or Muslims? They have killed mostly Muslims, both Sunnis and Shiites.

    MARGARET WARNER: To halt the Islamic State’s onslaught here and throughout Iraq, the Kurdish commanders say they need more American help, including the weapons they say they have not received.

    Back at our spot overlooking Jalawla, General Sengawi had an ominous warning.

    GEN. MAHMOUD SENGAWI (through interpreter): They should help us. I tell you, if they succeed in occupying our country, they next will take the battle to America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Margaret joins me now from Irbil.

    Hello, Margaret. That was quite a report.

    Now, we are hearing that there is fresh fighting today in the same place where you were yesterday between Kurdish fighters and these Islamic extremists.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, certainly Kurdish and British Web sites are reporting that the Peshmerga forces launched a new assault against Jalawla today and, in fact, took an eastern district, which is exactly where we were, I was, in that crow’s nest outpost at the end with that general.

    And a senior Kurdish military official confirmed that to me tonight. What is more, The Guardian’s reporting is that this action was supported by U.S. airstrikes. And, meanwhile, CENTCOM put out a report saying they had launched U.S. airstrikes, but in the vicinity of Mosul dam. We were not able to get confirmation from the Pentagon tonight as to whether the two were related.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Margaret, one other thing. What can you tell us about whether the Kurds have been receiving weapons from the U.S.? We know U.S. officials are saying they have. The Kurdish commanders were telling you they haven’t.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, on the way home, the long drive home from this shoot yesterday I did call a senior Kurdish military — Kurdish political official and reported what the commanders had said to me when he asked me. And he said, take that with a grain of salt. Commanders always like to say if things aren’t going too well that, well, they didn’t have the right weapons.

    He said U.S. and allied weapons are getting through, though many may be directed at areas of higher priority for the U.S., like the Peshmerga forces’ assault to retake the Mosul dam. Separately, a military analyst here told me that part of the problem is distribution among the two different political factions of the Kurdish forces, and that since the weapons are being funneled — and they are being funneled, but it’s through the political party of the president, President Barzani of the so-called KDP, and that the other political party who makes up part of the government called the PUK is getting the short end of the stick.

    And the forces we were with yesterday were with the PUK. So, basically, Judy, this country is not only divided among Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds, but, in fact, even within each ethnic or sectarian group, which gives you an idea of how complicated it is, I think, to put this country back together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of complexity to pull apart.

    Margaret Warner reporting from Irbil, we thank you, and stay safe.

    MARGARET WARNER: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Why Kurdish fighters lack the military might to thwart the Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    piperkerman

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, with the Emmy television awards ceremony coming up Monday night, we take a look at one the most celebrated shows of the season.

    Hari is back with that.

    ACTRESS: Look at you, blondie. What did you do?

    ACTRESS: Aren’t you not supposed to ask that question? I read that you’re not supposed to ask that.

    ACTRESS: You read that? What, you do studies for prisons?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix’s most popular original show, follows the story of Piper Chapman, a white, middle-class woman sentenced to 15 months in prison for a past drug crime.

    ACTRESS: I’m here to surrender.

    ACTOR: Oh, OK then.

    ACTRESS: Did he look surprised to you when I said that I was here to surrender? Didn’t he look surprised, like, what the hell is she doing here?

    ACTOR: I didn’t notice.

    ACTRESS: He look surprised to me.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The dark comedy is based on the real life of Piper Kerman. In 2004, she spent time in a minimum security prison in Danbury, Connecticut, and wrote “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” about her experience.

    The book and series have been praised for bringing diverse and undertold stories about women behind bars to light. Kerman has since used the popularity of her story to advocate for prison reform. She testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on solitary confinement earlier this year.

    PIPER KERMAN, Author, “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison”: There are egregious examples of solitary confinement being used by prison officials to hide horrific, systemic sexual abuse under their watch.

    The terrible threat of isolation makes women afraid to report abuse and serves as a powerful disincentive to ask for help or justice.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The series has already won Three Emmys this season and is nominated for nine more.

    And Piper Kerman joins me now.

    So, what’s it like to see a portion of your life turned into a TV show and nominated for a dozen Emmys?

    PIPER KERMAN: Well, it’s interesting to see your biggest mistake and the consequences for that mistake turned into something that has such far-reaching impact.

    And that is really thrilling. I think every writer probably fantasizes finding an audience and finding readers, because you would never finish a book otherwise, but it is really humbling and gratifying to see such an amazing adaptation by Jenji Kohan and to see the show reach so many people and to gain such acclaim.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Even after the success of the show, success of the book, what are the central ideas about a woman’s experience in prison that you think people still don’t get?

    PIPER KERMAN: I think that people don’t necessarily recognize that women are a crystallizing example of people we have put in prison over the last 30 years that we never used to put in prison.

    So people who are convicted of low-level nonviolent offenses, that is an accurate description of most women who are in prison or jail today. And, sometimes, you know, those women are sent to prison for really long times. You know, I was so fortunate to only go to prison for a year, for 13 months. But many of the women that I was doing time with were doing a lot more time, and, again, for nonviolent offenses.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, you have testified regarding solitary confinement, but mental illness is something that has come through on a couple of the characters and storylines as well.

    PIPER KERMAN: Yes. That’s a very accurate depiction on the show.

    A huge percentage of prisoners and an even more significant percentage of female prisoners suffer from mental health problems and sometimes very acute mental illness. It’s a big part of what drives their involvement sometimes in crime. And the real issue is that confinement, incarceration, doesn’t make mentally ill people better. In fact, it really has terrible impacts, the most extreme example being in solitary confinement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so quite a few people are interested in the program also because it’s almost like this character gives you a lens to look at perhaps how women of color are getting into the penal system, whether it’s African-American or Latinos.

    And the Chapman character is the sort of opportunity for someone from that community to see all the circumstances that brought them here.

    PIPER KERMAN: When I chose to write my own story, I thought that it was possible that, if I did a good job, I might get someone to pick up a book about prison who would not otherwise read a book about prison.

    That was my hope in telling my own story. We have the biggest prison population in the world and the biggest prison population in human history in this country. And the vast majority of people in our prisons and jails come from the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

    I think that anything that helps us recognize those folks as human beings and their lives as having a lot of meaning and value is really important. There can be no question that not all Americans are policed equally, not all Americans are prosecuted equally, and not all Americans are sentenced equally. And that’s a real problem. That’s something that should concern everyone.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the things many viewers asked me about was, there’s a tremendous amount of sex in the TV version of the program. How much of that is real and how much of it is Hollywood?

    PIPER KERMAN: For me, my 13 months in prison were celibate. That doesn’t mean that no one else in prison was having sex. But someone who reads my book will find lots of differences between the show and my own experience.

    And one of them is that my own experience was much more chaste. That said, you know, people are human — human beings are sexual creatures, and that’s true even if you put them in a cage.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, you had, in your own words, a very successful exit. You had an infrastructure of support. You had a job to back go to, things that really matter when someone comes out of prison, especially a woman. What’s happened to some of the women that you were incarcerated with? Any idea?

    PIPER KERMAN: Yes, I was fortunate. I had a safe and stable place to live. I had a job that I started the week after I home from prison.

    The vast majority of the women that I did time with didn’t have all of those advantages, and in some cases none of those advantages. Many of the women that I did time with have come home successfully in one way or another.

    A small handful of the women that I know have gone back to prison, and that’s really heartbreaking. I will say that, for the people I know who have done the best since they came home in terms of turning their lives around, in terms of moving forward in a really positive way, their relationships with their families and the families’ readiness to sort of be there as a resource for those people was, I think, the number one predictor.

    And that’s why it’s so important if we choose to incarcerate a person that we make sure that they stay connected to their community and their family, because that’s the thing that will ultimately determine whether they will return home to the community safely.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Piper Kerman, thanks so much for joining us.

    PIPER KERMAN: Oh, thank you.

    The post ‘Orange Is the New Black’ author’s biggest mistake inspired prison activism and a hit TV show appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan traveled the country this year to explore the state of higher education. He will share five of stories he found as part of a week-long look at how America is rethinking the college experience. The series comes at a time when many believe higher education is at a crossroads.

    rethinkingcollegeDuring the week of Aug. 25, PBS NewsHour will explore that crossroads with Sreenivasan’s broadcast stories as well as online articles and Twitter chats. In the past year, educators, policy makers and the Obama administration have begun a lively conversation about the effectiveness of the nation’s higher education system. Looking at national statistics, it’s easy to see why. Only 53 percent of college students in America go on to graduate, and 35 million have some credit, but no degree.

    At the same time, economists estimate that two-thirds of all jobs in five years will require some kind of post-secondary degree. Tuition at public institutions has skyrocketed, doubling in some states, as legislatures slash funds to deal with a sagging economy. Student debt now tops $1 trillion. The average debt owed by student borrowers is $26,000. Behind home mortgages, student loans are the second largest source of personal debt, more than credit cards and auto loans.

    The massive financial burden and changing job market have raised questions about the value of a degree and spawned innovative new programs.

    But it’s not all bad news. Our broadcast reports will feature some of the cutting-edge innovations on campus, including performance-based funding, challenges to the age-old credit hour system, online learning and proposals to ease student debt.

    Online, we examine the increasing cost of a college education, pressures to improve graduation rates and the changing demographics of college students.

    To see all of the on work on the changes and challenges in higher education, visit our Rethinking College page.

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

    The post Explore the future of higher education with Hari Sreenivasan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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