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

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    nsa

    NSA’s search engine ICREACH includes hundreds of millions of conversations via modern technology.

    Over 1,000 data analysts at 23 U.S. governmental agencies, including the DEA, FBI, and CIA, were given access to ICREACH — a Google-like search engine populated with hundreds of millions of records detailing e-mails, phone calls, instant messages, and phone geo-location.

    The search engine, described by Edward Snowden in documents leaked to “The Intercept,” provided deep meta data on both foreigners and American citizens to law enforcement. Many of those surveilled had not been accused of any illegal activity.

    Up until now, the exact mechanisms used by the NSA to share the massive amounts of data it has collected were somewhat unclear, as were the number of agencies it was sharing information with. More search portal than repository, ICREACH pulls on information stored in a number of different databases created by programs greenlit under Executive Order 12333 — a Reagan-issued order vastly expanding the data-collection powers of the American intelligence community.

    Described as a “one-stop shopping tool” by the NSA, ICREACH generates a portrait of communication patterns associated with a particular piece of information, like a phone number or e-mail address attached to a person. Although ICREACH does not have direct access to the content of the conversations it’s searching, information analysts are able to piece together fairly descriptive maps that detail who was talking to who and when communication took place.

    Perhaps the most troubling thing about ICREACH, though, is the potential it has to be abused by law enforcement agencies that have access to it. In 2013, Reuters reported on the DEA’s widespread promotion of “parallel construction” — a process in which one organization leaks information to another, and prompts the second organization to lie about where the initial tip came from. DEA-assisted parallel construction was explicitly mentioned in an instructional IRS manuals dated 2005 and 2006 before being removed in 2007

    The post Google-like NSA search engine implemented to learn about civilians appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    competencybasedcredits3

    Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: We turn now to a new series we’re calling Rethinking College.

    As the fall semester begins on campuses across the country, there are clouds on the horizon. Skyrocketing tuitions, crippling student debt, and an uncertain job market have led many to reexamine the value of today’s college degree.

    Our series begins with a look at a pretty radical challenge to the traditional college experience. This one features no classrooms or professors.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    MAN: Once again, just giving you kind of a broad overview.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more than a century, higher education has relied on the credit hour. Students earn credit for hours spent in class. In turn, credits add up to a college degree.

    MAN: Under a traditional, historical common law definition.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And while the credit hour is still the mainstay here at Southern New Hampshire University, a private institution of 17,000 students, the school has also embarked on a movement that questions the very value of the college classroom.

    President Paul LeBlanc says the nation invests too much in the idea of the credit hour.

    PAUL LEBLANC, President, Southern New Hampshire University: We give $153 billion of federal financial aid out every year based on the credit hour. But the credit hour is really only good at one thing, or at least the principal thing, which is telling people how long you sat, how long were you in class. It’s not very good at telling people what you have actually learned.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Under LeBlanc’s leadership, Southern New Hampshire University has launched College for America, an online degree program with no classes, no professors, and no credit hours.

    PAUL LEBLANC: Rather than measuring how long someone sat, the old credit hour construct, we actually have a program that measures what you learn, and we throw time sort of out the window.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how is this different than online universities that have existed for years now?

    PAUL LEBLANC: Almost all of online education today is still based on the credit hour and the course. We don’t have any courses, and we don’t have any credit hours, but we have 120 competencies, and you can master those as fast as you like, or as slow. The thing that we don’t care very much about is time. And that is such a fundamental reversal of the basic structure of higher education.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Last year, President Obama cited the new program as an innovative way to make college more affordable.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Southern New Hampshire University gives course credit based on how well students master the material, not just on how many hours they spend in the classroom. So, the idea would be, if are learning the material faster, you can finish faster, which means you pay less, and you save money.

    NARRATOR: The College for America has found a way to deliver more skills.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: An associate’s degree at College for America costs $5,000, a bachelor’s $10,000. In its first year, the school had 600 students spread out across 39 states.

    NARRATOR: We have finally truly innovated a college for America.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Students like Sue Shipka, a widower from Burlington Massachusetts who had tried to earn a degree once before, while raising her three children.

    SUSAN SHIPKA, Student, College for America: I’m sitting in class and I’m thinking of my kids at home with a babysitter, I’m not there, and everything else that I have to do, and I could be working overtime to pay the bills, or, you know, there were so many other things. So my mind was preoccupied. I wasn’t in class, so it wasn’t really helpful.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A licensed nurse practitioner, Shipka hopes an associate’s degree will lead to a job in hospital management with a higher salary and fewer hours.

    SUSAN SHIPKA: It will free up some time, so I can spend more time with the kids, even though they’re getting older. Working full-time, I missed a lot of time.

    PAUL LEBLANC: This model says, look it, if you have been working for 20 years and you look at the math competencies and you say, I got these cold, why would we make you sit through 16 weeks of course, class time?  Go ahead, demonstrate that you actually in fact have mastered these, and then move on.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But if College for America has no courses and no professors, how do its students qualify for a degree?

    That’s where chief academic officer Cathrael Kazin comes in.

    CATHRAEL KAZIN, Student, College for America: I think that fits very nicely with our competencies on quality management.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Kazin oversees a team of subject matter experts, academics, and industry leaders who are responsible for degree content.

    CATHRAEL KAZIN: What we did was to take a model degree, and then kind of break it apart. So we identified the key competencies that a student should develop in the course of earning that degree.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Students are given a series of projects to complete on their own time. The projects are evaluated by experts, an approach called direct assessment.

    CATHRAEL KAZIN: The projects are organized around certain themes. Each project is associated with a certain number of competencies. So, for instance, you might have competencies that involve critical thinking, communication skills, quantitative reasoning.

    You would demonstrate those by doing a business memo, for instance, with a spreadsheet that attacked a particular business problem. You might curate a virtual museum exhibit, so that you would be showing people how you look at art, right? So they’re all very, very carefully crafted.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But awarding competency-based credits has generated some skepticism among faculty at other institutions.

    JOHANN NEEM, Western Washington University: The purpose of a college education is actually to produce insight, not competency. OK?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Associate Professor Johann Neem, from Western Washington University, says college classrooms foster much more than competency.

    JOHANN NEEM: The reality is, seat time is a bad way of thinking about what happens in a classroom. It’s actually about actively engaging with material. It’s thinking time. That’s when brains are engaged. That’s when minds are thinking. That’s when people are talking to people, and that’s what this is all about, ultimately.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For now, College for America targets adults like Sue Shipka.

    PAUL LEBLANC: Our program is designed for those 40 million working adults who might have some credits, but no degree. And this is true at a time when 70 percent of all new jobs will require two degree or its equivalent. We have got a huge crisis in this country of preparing our work force, and what College for America is really designed to do is serve those working adults.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The college has partnered with more than 50 companies that sponsor employees who are interested in pursuing a degree. Sue Shipka’s employer, Partners HealthCare of Massachusetts, is paying half of her $5,000 tuition.

    But LeBlanc sees a much bigger role for competency-based education. He currently leads a group of 20 colleges and universities that discuss competency-based best practices. The group was recently funded by the Lumina Foundation, which also funds the “NewsHour.”

    This is a fairly disruptive idea. Does higher education need this disruption now?

    PAUL LEBLANC: I think competency-based education looms large as a disruptive force in the higher education because what it allows you to do is, when you reverse that time is fixed/learning is variable kernel, and you start to unbundle all of what goes into learning people, you can start to think about very new business models, different ways to bring learning to people. And that’s very powerful.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Department of Education has weighed in and approved the use of federal aid for students attending College for America. The department is currently evaluating applications from several more institutions.

    GWEN IFILL: We continue our Rethinking College series tomorrow, when Hari looks at the trillion-dollar burden of student loans.

    And, online, we look at the changing face of the typical college freshman. No longer just fresh out of high school, they’re older and juggling jobs and families.

    The post Online university skips class to be more accessible appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LauraLichter

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: A group of lawyers is charging immigration officials with violating the due process rights of detainees held at a New Mexico detention center. They filed a lawsuit against the federal government Friday.

    Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery talked with one of the attorneys offering free legal services at the facility before the suit was filed.

    It’s part of our series of conversations with those on the front lines of the immigration crisis.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: This is the third time in less than a month that Laura Lichter has driven nearly 550 miles from her home in Denver to Artesia in southeastern New Mexico. She comes at her own expense, and a hotel stay in this oil town isn’t cheap, upwards of $150 a night. Gas and meals all add up.

    Plus, the 47-year-old lawyer has left behind an immigration practice in Colorado, where an hour of her time can cost $300 or more. She is the immediate past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Lichter shows up at the federal law enforcement training center at 7:00 a.m., ready to meet with clients she barely knows and whom she charges nothing.

    There are women and children who tried to owner the U.S. illegally, were captured at the border and sent here. Most are making claims of asylum. When in Artesia, Lichter works a 15-hour day, culminating with an evening session at a local church, where the pro bono attorneys share stories.

    We caught up with her during an unusual midday break and began by talking about what happens when an immigrant says she’s afraid to be sent home.

    LAURA LICHTER, Immigration Lawyer: Well, ideally this person is telling the government at the moment they have been arrested that they actually have a fear of being sent back home.

    And if they tell the government that they’re afraid to go back home, they’re supposed to be referred for an interview on what’s called an asylum claim. The government official that reviews this case is supposed to look at whether or not that person actually has a reasonable possibility of being able to prove a case.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: So what is that reasonable basis for asylum?

    LAURA LICHTER: Asylum and being able to qualify for asylum means that the person has to prove to the satisfaction of the government that they have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of one of five bases.

    They have to show a connection between the harm that they’re afraid of and the reason why someone is trying to harm them. And that can be anything from their religion, their race, nationality, politics, or what we’re seeing a lot of here is a particular social group. And a social group is defined as something that is an immutable characteristic, the type of thing about yourself that you really can’t or shouldn’t have to change.

    So, for example, your gender might be part of the social group, your experiences, being forced into recruitment by a gang, having a gang member tell you as a 14-year-old girl that now you’re going to be the girlfriend of this individual who is in the gang.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: U.S. officials are saying that a lot of these women and children are economic migrants or they have come here because they think that they are not going to be sent home.

    LAURA LICHTER: I find this ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous that there is a bias against these women, that the people entering on the southern border right now in this humanitarian crisis are all economic migrants, that they’re here because they want to work, not because they are running away from something.

    And nothing could be farther from the truth. It is so bizarre to see a government attorney arguing that the young mother next to you and her 7-year-old and her 3-year-old are a national security threat, because somehow the government thinks that if any one of these women escape from this institution, by being able to pay a reasonable bond, that somehow that means that more people will come.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Is there something different happening here in terms of the speed of the process?

    LAURA LICHTER: If you are an immigration lawyer, this is kind of like watching Hurricane Katrina happen. I have never seen a process where the government was so hell-bent on moving people through a process, just completely pro forma, like a matter of checking boxes, with the assumption that nobody here has a real case, and that we just need to run them through.

    It is — I run out of words to describe how frustrating, maddening, Kafkaesque, unfair, irrational some of the procedures have been that we have seen. We have seen cases that have been pushed through this process so fast that there literally could not have been any meaningful opportunity for the person to be heard.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: The government says, look, we’re protecting rights. These women have access to counsel.

    What’s your view on that?

    LAURA LICHTER: When these one of these women would first go in front of an asylum officer, the government will hand them a sheet of paper that tells them how to find free legal services.

    We’re in Artesia, New Mexico. We’re about three-and-a-half from El Paso, and we’re about the same distance from Albuquerque. There are no legal services providers in this entire state that are funded to do representation for people who are in detention. The legal services list that the government is providing to these individuals has the names of three organizations out of El Paso, Texas, none of which set up or funded to actually do direct representation.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: So what is it that you have done?

    LAURA LICHTER: The first thing we recognized is that people — people didn’t understand their rights. They didn’t understand, for example, that they could ask for time to try to find an attorney.

    They were under the impression that, if they tried to delay their case, that the case would just kind of go on without them. They were told that they would just get deported if they didn’t show up to a hearing. There was a lot of misinformation.

    This is probably the one thing I am most proud of in my legal career. This was a neat little, very subversive tool. And these forensic green sheets basically say, know your rights. Immigration cases are complex. You have a right to a lawyer. You have a right to ask for time to talk to a lawyer. No one can deport you without you having an opportunity to present your case.

    And, most importantly, this is my little personal hammer. We gave them a tool. We gave them something that they could use to have a voice, because on the reverse side of this form, it says, I would like to continue my case so I may seek legal help.

    And it doesn’t sound really dramatic, and you might wonder why I’m getting all choked up about this. But this changed everything. When we presented these, they flew around the detention center. And ever since we did that, people realized that there were lawyers here, and they cared about what was going on. And they were going to help these women.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: A final question. It’s stressful, long hours, expensive. Why do you do it?

    LAURA LICHTER: I have never felt more pressured in my life that, on my work, what I am doing, people’s lives are depending. But I have also never felt more energized and more rewarded by what I have ever been doing. This is the highest and best use I have ever seen for my little piece of paper law license.

    And I will tell you that, almost to a single person, every single person that we have had that has come down and volunteered — and these are — these are lawyers who have dropped everything. They’re on their own dime. They have abandoned their practice, you know, everything, to come down here and do this. Almost every single person that has been down here has said: I’m coming back. I’m coming back.

    GWEN IFILL: Laura Lichter plans to return to Artesia in September.

    For the record, we have asked for an interview with an official in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service.

    Online, you can see more of the interview with Lichter, where she describes conditions inside the detention center, plus, Kathleen’s reporter’s notebook about another dispute there over crayons for children.

    We will continue our series of conversations on this issue tomorrow, when we talk with an Arizona rancher and veterinarian who works along the border.

    The post Immigration lawyer helps detainees in New Mexico know their rights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pre-employment tests disrespect employees, says guest columnist Dr. Erica Klein. Photo by Flickr user albertogp123.

    Pre-employment tests disrespect employees, says guest columnist Dr. Erica Klein. Photo by Flickr user albertogp123.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    This week’s column features a guest writer, Dr. Erica Klein. In her book, “Employment Tests: Get The Edge,” Dr. Klein explains that “The goal of this guide is to give you an edge on pre-employment tests by arming you with an insider’s understanding of tests, by reducing your anxiety and frustration, by minimizing common errors in test taking, and by increasing your accuracy as a test taker.”

    But I like to get at the real problems and challenges people face when job hunting. So I asked Dr. Klein to let Ask The Headhunter readers in on what bothers her about employment testing. You might be surprised that her concerns mirror your own — and you might find her tips very helpful the next time an employer suggests you take a test. I’ll let Dr. Klein say it in her own words.

    Dr. Erica Klein: Even though I am what you’d call an insider in the pre-employment testing business, certain aspects of testing bug me — and it might surprise you that my concerns may be similar to your own. And even though testing is a science, the design of some tests and the practice of administering tests demand scrutiny. I hope my perspective on these issues can help you in your job search when you encounter testing.

    My #1 complaint about pre-employment testing is the disrespectful treatment of test takers. This can start when you are asked to take a test without warning or explanation. It continues through tests that seem to make no sense in the context of the job, and it can culminate when employers provide no feedback to test takers about test results.

    Employers have choices about each of these points of disrespect, and some employers do make respectful choices. For example:

    • Job postings can — and should — describe tests that applicants will be required to take.
    • When test invitations are issued, they should provide useful information about the type of test to be administered and the reason for using the test.
    • Feedback about your test results should be provided, although sometimes only upon request. (Sometimes employers shy away from feedback to avoid inadvertently “coaching” some applicants over others and to avoid awkward conversations.)

    What should you do if you encounter disrespectful treatment related to pre-employment testing? My advice is to continue with the testing process if you still want the job. After you are through the selection process, you can let the employer (the hiring manager and HR) know how the testing process felt disrespectful to you. It is certainly not your job to bring this to HR’s attention, but if you choose to do so, it might help bring about needed changes.

    “Even though delivering negative feedback is a big part of HR’s job, I believe the majority of HR employees would like to treat you as respectfully as possible.”

    Let me step aside for a moment and argue a point that is controversial in this neighborhood: I firmly believe that most HR employees are caring people who want to do a good job and want to treat people as well as possible. The recruiting function, unfortunately, is also in the business of rejection. HR must eventually reject all but one applicant for each open position. Many of those rejected might have been able to perform the job adequately or even well, but only one person can be selected. Even though delivering negative feedback is a big part of HR’s job, I believe the majority of HR employees would like to treat you as respectfully as possible.

    My #2 complaint about pre-employment testing is lack of “face validity.” Face validity is a subjective judgment the test taker makes about a test, not a quality of the test. A test is face valid if it appears to be measuring what it is actually measuring. Since pre-employment tests are always measuring and predicting attitudes, behaviors and knowledge related to work, the test is face valid when it asks questions related to the work.

    For example, in my opinion, face-valid pre-employment tests should not be asking about how you act at parties, your personal life, whether you take the stairs two at a time (I’m serious: this is a famous, real test question!) or anything that does not appear to be related to the work.

    Nonetheless, tests can lack face validity but still be good tests for predicting job performance. In the scientific underbelly of testing, we can often predict your job behaviors and performance from weird things — including how you act at parties, the criminal behaviors of people you know socially, how energetically you climb stairs, and what color shoes you wear (yes, this is another famous study!) — but, in my opinion, these types of questions have no place in pre-employment tests. They are frustrating and confusing for test takers and result in mistrust between test takers and employers.

    What can you do if you encounter a test that is not face valid? First, momentarily put aside your distaste (and mine). Remember that even though a test is not face valid, it might still be a good test in other ways. It might be good at predicting your fit with, and likelihood of success in, the job. In other words, in spite of our belief that a test is not face valid, it might actually help you win a job or avoid a job that would not be a good fit for you.

    “In the scientific underbelly of testing, we can often predict your job behaviors and performance from weird things…”

    So you might be surprised at my advice: Take the test and compete for the job. Nonetheless, if you encounter test questions that make you too uncomfortable, then feel free to abandon the test and the job opportunity.

    My #3 complaint about pre-employment testing is that some employers use tests that are no better than horoscopes. Take a look at this article about bad tests by Dr. Wendell Williams: “Is Your Hiring Test A Joke?” Dr. Williams says it very well:

    When something looks good on the surface, but [is] completely without merit, it is called a joke. You might not have thought of this before, but many hiring tests fit that bill. I’m talking about tests that deliver numbers and data that look good on the surface, but do nothing to predict candidate job success.

    Employers have an obligation to use tests that are good at predicting success, and you have a right to expect that any test you take will indicate your chances of doing well at a job. As a job applicant, you might find it difficult to tell bad tests from good tests — especially given that not all good tests will look like what you think they should (see complaint #2).

    There is absolutely a right way to develop tests, and there are a lot of good tests out there. It’s not an easy read, and it was outside the scope of “Employment Tests: Get The Edge,” but if you want to understand what it takes to develop a great test, consult the American Psychological Association’s “Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing.”

    What should you do if you have done your research and are confident that you are facing a bad test — a test no better than snake oil, a test based on junk science? I think you should walk away. Employers who use bad tests are demonstrating (or tolerating) a general lack of good judgment and critical thinking. Those might be failings that reveal employers you should avoid.

    Many thanks to Dr. Klein for this guest column!

    Dear Readers: What are your concerns and experiences with employment testing? Dr. Erica Klein will respond to as many of your questions and comments as she can.


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: An insider’s tips for approaching employment tests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The University of New Hampshire in Durham is one of the state's public universities and is currently under a two-year tuition freeze. Photo by Danita Delimont and Getty Images

    The University of New Hampshire in Durham is one of the state’s public universities and is currently under a two-year tuition freeze. Photo by Danita Delimont and Getty Images

    This summer, the board that governs New Hampshire’s public universities voted to take the unprecedented step to turn their system’s two-year tuition freeze into a four-year guarantee. Next month, trustees will send their plan to the state legislature as part of their request for state funding.

    rethinkingcollegeSince 2011, New Hampshire’s public universities have held the uncomfortable distinction of having the highest average in-state tuition in the country. That was the year that state funding to New Hampshire’s public universities was slashed nearly 50 percent, bringing the state’s share of university revenues to 6 percent, down from about 12 percent. In response, the average tuition for the state’s four-year public universities rose from $10,276 to $11,604, to help cover the loss. By 2013, that number had climbed to $14,665.

    Since 2007, New Hampshire has been one of more than a dozen states where average tuition rose by more than 30 percent after being adjusted for inflation.

    The loss of state funding in 2011 led to a perception that the public system was not the best option for students, said Todd Leach, chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, during an interview with the PBS NewsHour. As a result, he said, counselors began recommending options outside the public system and out-of-state.

    But in 2013 the legislature restored about $15 million in funding, enabling a system-wide tuition freeze that turned those perceptions around. “We’ve seen increases in New Hampshire residents enrolling and students staying in the public system,” Leach said. “Now we want to continue that message.”

    State legislatures across the country are supporting similar freezes, though mostly one year at a time. This fall, university systems in 16 states are holding tuition flat for in-state students at most or all of their campuses. That’s up from 11 states for the 2013-14 school year.

    The tide of tuition freezes is no coincidence, according to Sandy Baum, a George Washington University researcher and senior fellow at the Urban Institute.

    “You see a real cyclical pattern of price increases,” Baum said. “Whenever there’s a recession, states pull back on funding and tuition goes up faster. It’s not the whole explanation, but what has happened in the last few years is exactly what happened in past recessions.”

    An instructor at Granite State College in Concord, N.H. talks to students in class. If trustees' plans are approved, tuition at the school will go four years without increasing. Courtesy of the University System of New Hampshire.

    An instructor at Granite State College in Concord, N.H., talks to students in class. If trustees’ plans are approved, a current two-year tuition freeze will extend for an additional two years. Courtesy of the University System of New Hampshire.

    As the recession squeezed state budgets, the Obama administration made college affordability one of its signature issues, often pointing out that while average tuition at public universities rose 300 percent in the last 30 years, the average family’s income rose just 16 percent.

    Now that states are starting to turn the funding faucet back on for higher education, Baum said public pressure is helping drive efforts to clamp down on costs to students.

    “People are realizing they can’t just keep raising prices,” she said. “There is outside pressure on institutions to look for other ways to solve their problems.”

    At public universities in New Hampshire, they’ve looked for a range of solutions to offset money lost in the freeze. The university enforced layoffs, capped enrollment in expensive-to-run departments and discontinued some programs. A cheaper form of health insurance for staff is saving the system about $10 million a year and upgrades to campus power plants are aimed at lowering the system’s energy costs.

    The drive to keep costs down in New Hampshire isn’t limited to the schools Leach oversees.

    Tuition has dropped at the state’s community colleges this fall. Students will pay $200 per credit, down from $210. That will bring annual tuition for the average full-time, in-state students down to $4,800 from $5,040. Ross Gittell, chancellor of New Hampshire’s community college system, said centralizing administrative jobs across the seven campuses he runs and creating remote classes that students at every campus can take together helped make the reduction possible when the legislature increased the schools’ funding.

    And while public colleges and universities often face more public resistance to increasing tuitions, even private colleges, with their higher price tags, are feeling the pressure to contain costs.

    This spring, Dartmouth College leaders okayed the smallest tuition increase the university has seen since 1977.

    Dartmouth College president Philip Hanlon asked department heads to find 1 percent of their spending to discontinue and to propose innovative projects to fund with the freed up money.

    Part of what drives rising costs is that “colleges and universities need to be living at the cutting edge,” Hanlon said. “Teaching new things, teaching in new ways, doing research on new subjects, and you need facilities for that. All of that costs money. What higher education has not done well is to innovate through substitution instead of addition.”

    By finding less expensive IT support, the business school freed up $566,000 to funnel back into student services. The provost’s office created a team to help faculty integrate technology into their classes by not filling other positions when employees left.

    Last year, the average tuition at public universities nationwide grew by just 2.9 percent, the smallest increase in 30 years, according to a report from The College Board. Baum, one of the report’s authors, said the country could be entering a new phase of the tuition price cycle where prices continue to go up — she said they always go up — but more slowly.

    “But we shouldn’t take that as having solved the problem,” she said. “If we are (entering a phase of slower growth), it would be a good time to step back and say, ‘How do we fix this so that we don’t have these sorts of crises, and students don’t face these problems where suddenly tuition goes way up or suddenly there aren’t enough places for students?’”

    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 Colleges warm up to tuition freezes to keep students in-state appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Obama has promised a new Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    President Obama has promised “a new culture of accountability” within Veterans Affairs. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — His standing with veterans damaged by scandal, President Barack Obama on Tuesday defended his administration’s response to Veterans Affairs lapses that delayed health care for thousands of former service members, but conceded more needed to be done to regain their trust.

    His appearance also had deep political overtones in a state where the Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, is facing a difficult re-election and has sought to distance herself from Obama’s policies, declaring as recently as Friday that his administration had not “done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans.”

    But Hagan and the state’s Republican Senator, Richard Burr, were at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base to greet Obama. She welcomed him warmly and he gave her a peck on the cheek.

    Obama and Hagan were both addressing the American Legion’s National convention, with the president’s address to the legionnaires the latest administration response to the health care uproar that led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in May.

    Obama declared that the nation owes veterans for their service and that the lengthy wait times and attempts to hide scheduling flaws were “outrageous and inexcusable.”

    “We are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there,” Obama said. “And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens.”

    Obama promised “a new culture of accountability” under new Secretary Bob McDonald. “Bob doesn’t play,” Obama said.

    He announced steps to strengthen access to mental health care by members of the military, to improve the transition for those leaving the military from care administered by the Defense Department to that run by Veterans Affairs, and to foster suicide prevention and better treatments for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

    Earlier this month, Obama signed a $16.3 billion law aimed at easing the long waits that tens of thousands of military veterans had endured to get medical care.

    The law, a product of rare bipartisanship in the House and Senate, followed reports of veterans dying while awaiting appointments to see VA doctors and of a widespread practice of employees covering up months-long wait times for appointments. In some cases, employees received bonuses based on falsified records.

    The VA says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix.

    Moving beyond the steps included in the law, Obama planned to take executive actions that:

    — Automatically enroll military personnel who are receiving care for mental health conditions and are leaving the service in a program that transfers them to a new care team in the VA.

    — Undertake a study designed to detect whether people show signs of being vulnerable to suicide or post-traumatic stress syndrome.

    — Spends $34.4 million in a VA suicide prevention study and about $80 million on a program to treat diseases, including post-traumatic stress syndrome.

    Obama also announced a partnership with lenders such as Wells Fargo Bank, CitiMortgage, Bank of America, Ocwen Loan Servicing and Quicken Loans to make it easier for active-duty service members to obtain mortgage interest rate reductions.

    The post Obama unveils plans to improve mental health care for veterans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Valerie June performs her song “Workin’ Woman Blues” at Pickathon 2014, a three-day musical festival outside Portland. Seattle’s KEXP recorded the performance. Video by Jim Beckmann, Shelly Corbett and Justin Wilmore; edited by Scott Hoplainen

    Valerie June may be a full-time singer-songwriter now, but, like most musicians, she has worked a series of different jobs to support herself. She cleaned houses, walked dogs, cared for kids, serviced coffee, made soaps and the list continues.

    “I can’t say that I don’t love all the things,” June told Art Beat. “It’s just that I love making music more.”

    June grew up in Tennessee and true to her roots she makes what she calls “an amalgamation of southern music and roots music.” Her songs include a mash-up of folk, country, blues and gospel.

    “If it is a good story, then I want to sing it usually.”

    When June first moved to New York, she wrote “Workin’ Woman Blues,” the first song off her album “Pushing Against a Stone.” Unlike most of her compositions, the music came to her before the lyrics did. But when she finally heard the story in her head, she couldn’t get it out.

    June thought about all the women in her life: her mother and grandmother, the woman who owned the herb shop she worked at and the who ran the couple of coffee shops where she served. Both of her record labels — the UK’s Sunday Best and North America’s Concord Music Group — are owned by women.

    “There are just so many women out there that are working hard and doing great things and changing the world one little day-to-day job at a time. We needed an anthem and whenever I heard that song and I started writing it, I thought yeah, I could really sing this one,” said June. “I consider it to be an anthem for women.”

    Her anthem seems to have touched people around the country — from a poet with a day job to the first woman in her family to go to college.

    “That song gives them a lot of power and a lot of energy to just be like … ‘I’m going to do what I have to do regardless,’” said June. “There’s always this juggle in everybody’s lives, but this song in particular gives honor and respect to women. That’s why I call it an anthem because it gives so many women pride and inspiration and motivation to continue along whatever path it is that they’re on.”

    Valerie June is currently on tour through mid October. She will be playing at Bumbershoot Musical Festival in Seattle. You can listen to June perform at the KEXP Bumbershoot Lounge on Sept. 1.

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

    The post Valerie June sings an anthem for the ‘Workin’ Woman’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Blake Patterson

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday mandating that all smartphones sold in the state are to be installed with a software that remotely clears the device of data. Photo by Flickr user Blake Patterson

    In case of theft, residents of California will be able to remotely wipe their smartphone data with the push of a button.

    This kill-switch functionality will be built into all smartphones sold in the “Golden State” manufactured after July 1, 2015. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation into law on Monday.

    The bill, first introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), is designed to help curtail cell phone theft. In addition to giving people the ability to protect their information, the kill-switch bill levies a civil penalty ranging between $500-$2,500 against anyone found to be selling stolen phones.

    This feature, which is optional, is not universally supported.

    Both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the CTIA wireless industry  lobbying group have said that a number of third party applications already provide this functionality for most cellphones. In June, the EFF said that giving consumers easy access to data wiping capabilities could provide hackers with a vulnerable entry point to intercept private information.

    Similar claims were made by a number of cellphone manufacturers and wireless carriers when the bill first passed through the Senate. Apple, AT&T, Google, and Verizon, who all stood to benefit financially from the sale of cellphone replacements and monthly insurance, reversed their opposition following questions about the ethics of their position.

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    WASHINGTON — The Islamic State militant group is holding hostage a young American woman who was doing humanitarian aid work in Syria, a family representative said Tuesday. The 26-year-old woman is the third American known to have been kidnapped by the militant group.

    The Islamic State group recently threatened to kill American hostages to avenge the crushing airstrikes in Iraq against militants advancing on Mount Sinjar and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

    The 26-year-old woman was captured last year while working with three humanitarian groups in Syria. A representative for the family and U.S. officials asked that the woman not be identified out of fear for her safety. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

    More than a week ago, freelance journalist James Foley of Rochester, N.H., was beheaded by the Islamic State group, which kidnapped him in November 2012. Foley, 40, has worked in a number of conflict zones across the Mideast, including Iraq, Libya and Syria. He was in northern Syria on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost when the car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control.

    The Islamic State video of Foley’s beheading also showed another of the missing American journalists, Steven Sotloff, and warned he would be killed next if U.S. airstrikes continued. U.S. officials believe the video was made days before its release and have grown increasingly worried about Sotloff’s fate.

    Other American hostages have been held by other militant groups, including Peter Curtis from Boston, who was recently released by al-Nusra Front, a rival Sunni extremist group. Another U.S. freelance journalist, Austin Tice of Houston, disappeared in Syria in August 2012 and is believed to be held by the same organization. Tice was working for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other media outlets when he was kidnapped.

    The Islamic State militant group is seeking to create a caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq. The militant group is so ruthless in its attacks against all people they consider heretics or infidels that it has been disowned by al-Qaida’s leaders.

    President Barack Obama said in a speech in North Carolina on Tuesday that “America does not forget” and vowed justice for Foley’s murder.

    In its annual report last November, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimated at least 30 journalists have been kidnapped or have disappeared in Syria — held and threatened with death by extremists or taken captive by gangs seeking ransom. CPJ described the widespread seizure of journalists as unprecedented, and largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help to negotiate the captives’ release.

    The group reported 52 journalists have been killed since Syria’s civil war began in early 2011, and documented at least 24 other journalists who disappeared earlier this year but are now safe.

    Separately, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders last fall cited higher figures, saying at least 60 “news providers” are being detained and more than 110 have been killed.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

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    Chicago will lay to rest its youngest fatal shooting victim this year on Friday.

    Nine-year-old Antonio Smith was fatally shot at least four times in a South Side backyard just blocks away from his home, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    Since the summer of 2012, when the city recorded the nation’s highest homicide count, shootings have become a large part of an ongoing discussion about relations between the police and residents, neighborhood safety and gun control legislation.

    This real-time map, created by Chicago-Sun Times before the the summer began, pinpoints and identifies every shooting recorded during each weekend, the most violent period of time.

    While police and legislatures seek a way to stem the tide, Chicago youth who have grown up with gun violence have their own ideas about what must be done to effect positive change in their neighborhoods.

    In this Student Reporting Labs video, Free Spirit Media producers ask what it is like to have to be home before dark and constantly aware of your surroundings. They also question whether this generation has become numb to the high level of violence, and argue that the way forward is to convince fellow Chicagoans not to pull the trigger.

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    Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology have been able to change the properties of quartz glass into metal for very brief moments using laser pulses. Image by Vienna University of Technology

    Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology have been able to change the properties of quartz glass into metal for very brief moments using laser pulses. Image by Vienna University of Technology

    Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology found a way to turn quartz glass into metal — if only for a split second.

    Using quick laser pulses, the scientists are able to fundamentally change the electronic properties of the non-conducting quartz glass and allow the material to briefly behave as a metal and a conductor.

    “The laser pulse is an extremely strong electric field, which has the power to dramatically change the electronic states in the quartz,” Georg Wachter, theoretical physicist at the Vienna University of Technology said. “The pulse can not only transfer energy to the electrons, it completely distorts the whole structure of possible electron states in the material.”

    The change in state may be short, but the scientists believe that transistor technology can take advantage of that moment. Once the laser pulses are applied, the change in state from glass to metal is found to happen within femtoseconds — one millionth of one billionth of a second.

    In the transistors we are using today, a large number of charge carriers moves during each switching operation, until a new equilibrium state is reached, and this takes some time. The situation is quite different when the material properties are changed by the laser pulse. Here, the switching process results from the change of the electronic structure and the ionization of atoms. “These effects are among the fastest known processes in solid state physics”, says [associate professor at the Vienna University of Technology] Christoph Lemell. Transistors usually work on a time scale of picoseconds (10^-12 seconds), laser pulses could switch electric currents a thousand times faster.

    The post Changing glass into metal, with the help of lasers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: The leaders of Russia and Ukraine came face to face today. They agreed to have their border guards consult, but, otherwise, there was little sign of progress. The meeting unfolded as Kiev claimed new proof that Russian troops are inside Ukraine.

    It was the first encounter between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko since June. They joined other European leaders at a summit in Belarus.

    PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine (through interpreter): Today in Minsk, without any doubt, the fate of Europe and the fate of the world is being decided. We should together find the only correct solution upon which nothing less than peace on the continent depends.

    GWEN IFILL: Poroshenko called for imposing stronger controls on the border with Russia and for cutting off arms supplies to pro-Russian rebels.

    On the Russian side, President Putin said the crisis cannot be resolved without — quote — “peaceful dialogue.”

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): I would like to stress that we are ready to discuss any variants of our cooperation, based on consideration for each other’s interests. We are ready to exchange opinions on the current acute crisis in Ukraine, which I’m sure cannot be solved by further escalation of military actions.

    GWEN IFILL: The one-on-one meeting between Putin and Poroshenko finally took place late at night. It was hosted by the president of Belarus.

    PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, Belarus (through interpreter): Talks were not easy, but the dialogue was substantive and extremely frank. It is already valuable and important that this dialogue took place.

    GWEN IFILL: But military action only intensified in southeastern Ukraine. It was the second day of fighting around Novoazovsk, which lies close to the major port of Mariupol, and on the same road that leads to the Russian-annexed Crimea Peninsula.

    Ukraine also charged that a Russian helicopter attacked a border post yesterday, killing four guards. And Kiev released sound and video of what it said were 10 captured Russian soldiers. Several complained about their government’s actions.

    ALEXEI GENERALOV, Captured Russian Soldier (through interpreter): Stop sending the men here. Stop it. It shouldn’t be happening. Why is this being done? It’s not our war. It’s not our war, and if we weren’t here, then none of this would be happening. They would have sorted out their state and their own problems by themselves.

    GWEN IFILL: Moscow said the soldiers accidentally strayed across the border. The Russians have repeatedly denied they are aiding the rebels in Ukraine.

    The Obama administration wouldn’t confirm reports today that U.S. planes are conducting surveillance flights over Syria. They could set the stage for airstrikes on Islamic State militants there. The Pentagon’s main spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, declined to say directly if the flights are under way. He did acknowledge there’s a lot to learn about the group.

    REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: We recognize that their development, their growth, the increase in their capabilities, it hasn’t happened overnight, and it has happened regionally, that they operate pretty much freely between Iraq and Syria.

    Do we have perfect information about them and their capabilities, whether it’s on the Syrian side or the Iraqi side? No, we don’t.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama made no mention of surveillance flights in his speech today, but he cautioned that rooting out the Islamic State group will not be easy. He also vowed the killers of journalist James Foley will be brought to justice. He said, America doesn’t forget.

    There’s also word the Persian Gulf state of Qatar is working to secure the release of four more American hostages in Syria. The Reuters news service reported that development today, citing an unnamed source in the Gulf. Qatar helped free American journalist Peter Theo Curtis on Sunday. He’d been a hostage in Syria for two years.

    In Afghanistan, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah threatened to pull out of a U.N.-supervised audit of the disputed runoff election. His camp said none of the fraudulent votes are being thrown out. Abdullah led in the initial voting, but former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani finished first in the runoff.

    The scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs brought a new presidential pledge today. The agency has faced disclosures of lengthy wait times for health care and of falsified records. President Obama defended his response to the scandal.

    But, at the American Legion Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, today, he said there’s much more to do.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there, and those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens.

    GWEN IFILL: The president also announced steps to improve access to mental health care for active-duty troops and veterans. Separately, VA officials said an investigation found no proof that delays in care at its Phoenix hospital caused any deaths.

    The World Health Organization is now officially targeting electronic cigarettes. The U.N. agency today proposed an array of regulations, including banning the indoor use of e-cigarettes and restricting advertising and sales to minors. Use of the devices has soared in recent years and created an industry worth $3 billion.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 30 points to close at 17,106. The Nasdaq rose 13 points to close at 4,570. And the S&P 500 added two points to finish above 2,000 for the first time.

    The post News Wrap: Fighting in Ukraine intensifies as Putin and Poroshenko meet one-on-one appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ceasefire1

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    GWEN IFILL: In the Middle East, the bloody battle between Israel and Hamas which took thousands of lives this summer appears to be ending. A new cease-fire was announced this afternoon.

    Celebratory gunfire rang out in Gaza City, where people poured into the streets on news that seven weeks of war might finally be over. The formal announcement came from Egypt, which mediated talks, on and off, for weeks.

    In its essentials, the statement said, Israel and Hamas accepted what they called an open-ended truce. And Israel agreed to open more border crossings, allowing humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza.

    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007, is expected to take over administration of Gaza’s borders.

    PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian National Authority (through interpreter): We hope that this will fulfill the demands and needs of our people in Gaza and provide all their food and medical requirements and to begin the rebuilding of all that had been destroyed.

    GWEN IFILL: If the cease-fire holds, new talks on other issues would begin in a month. Those issues could range from Hamas demands to rebuild Gaza’s bombed-out airport and construct a seaport, to Israel’s demand that Hamas disarm.

    The terms of the cease-fire deal contained no major concession by the Israelis. But Hamas says there’s no doubt who won this latest war.

    SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): We are here today, after achieving an agreement between the two sides, to announce the victory of resistance. We are here today to announce the victory of Gaza.

    GWEN IFILL: On the Israeli side, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu painted the outcome differently.

    MARK REGEV, Israeli Government Spokesman: Israel has accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. We hope that this time, the cease-fire will stick, and I think now that, as the dust will begin to clear, many people will be asking, why is it that, today, Hamas accepted the very same Egyptian framework that it rejected a month ago? Ultimately, so much bloodshed could have been avoided.

    GWEN IFILL: The cease-fire followed another night of Israeli airstrikes on high-rise buildings in Gaza. They leveled a 15-story apartment and office complex and severely damaged another.

    By day, Palestinians viewed the destruction that left 25 people wounded. The buildings had largely been evacuated before the bombings, after Israeli warnings. The final hours of fighting also saw more rockets hit Southern Israel. One struck a home in Ashkelon, injuring a dozen people. And a mortar strike killed one Israeli.

    In Washington, the State Department cautiously welcomed the prospect of an end to the killing.

    Spokeswoman Jen Psaki:

    JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: We view this as an opportunity, not a certainty. Today’s agreement comes after many hours and days of negotiations and discussions, but, certainly, there’s a long road ahead. And we’re aware of that, and we’re going into this eyes wide open.

    GWEN IFILL: Gazan officials say more than 2,100 Palestinians died during the conflict, with half-a-million displaced. On the Israeli side, 69 were killed, all but five of them soldiers.

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    Palestinians celebrate Gaza ceasefire

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    GWEN IFILL: For more on where things go from here, I’m joined by Dennis Ross, a longtime U.S. diplomat and Middle East envoy who served in the George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations. He’s now a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat of peace and development at the University of Maryland, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of the book “The World Through Arab Eyes.”

    Gentlemen, welcome back to the NewsHour.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI, Brookings Institution: Pleasure.

    GWEN IFILL: So we have talked about this before.

    Dennis Ross, you have certainly been on the other side of the negotiating table before. Does this cease-fire seem real to you?

    DENNIS ROSS, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: It does seem real to me because I think both sides really want this to be over. Neither side knew, at this point that there was much more that could be gained and they each saw that the price they were paying was one that was going to continue to go up.

    And we can look at it as the price not being equal to the two sides, but how does each side evaluate those costs? I think, for the Israelis, they had destroyed the tunnels. If they wanted to go in and stop the mortars, they had to go in on the ground again and basically try to take over Gaza, which was just too high a price to pay.

    So, they had achieved basically what they were going to achieve militarily. For Hamas, they’re in a situation as well where, if you look at the rockets they have left, if they kept firing, they would begin to deplete the arsenals they have. The price that was being paid within Gaza was also going up.

    So I think each was looking for a way out, and right now this way out gives them a chance to sustain something.

    GWEN IFILL: Shibley Telhami, we heard Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesman, say in that piece he didn’t understand why Hamas didn’t take the same deal a month ago. Is he correct in that?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: No, I think it was actually the same deal for either side.

    The Israelis got some more out of it in some ways, but obviously the immediate opening of the passages, the crossings and providing relief is something to get out of it, but they didn’t get everything they were asking for, especially not the ports.

    But I just want to go back to the question that you asked about, will the cease-fire hold? I agree with Dennis, first of all, that I think the incentives for both of them to keep it and respect it is very high. They don’t have much incentive to break it. They have very little to achieve in the short-term.

    But here’s the thing. I believe, from the outset, neither side wanted the escalation, and they ended up with an escalation. It remains very volatile. There is a lot of negotiations at stake coming up. Politically, there are some gains and some losses. The prime minister of Israel started of the 82 percent approval rating. Yesterday, the latest poll was 38 percent approval rating.

    There’s a political problem for each one and there’s much to go. So I don’t think it’s over, even though I think it’s a different kind of strategic decision right now. Both sides don’t want to reengage again in conflict.

    GWEN IFILL: Is the Palestinian Authority strengthened in this? Is Netanyahu, as Shibley Telhami says, weakened?

    DENNIS ROSS: I don’t believe that Netanyahu has really been weakened.

    This is not like 2006 with Prime Minister Olmert. Netanyahu was much more careful in terms of how he framed the objectives. His objectives were to destroy the tunnels and to restore quiet. Now, it’s true the threat of Hamas is still there. They have been militarily weakened, but the threat is still there.

    And for those on the right, he will be challenged. He — the numbers of support he had at 82 percent were unrealistic and weren’t going to be sustainable anyway, so he will have to contend with explaining where you go from here. And I think simply having the pre — the status quo ante is not something that will necessarily be acceptable.

    I think Hamas though is also, in the near term, you know, the sense that they have stood up is one thing, but, as the dust settles, I think that there will be a lot of questions about where do you go from here, and in terms of the Palestinian Authority, they want to show that they’re back in Gaza now.

    Hamas will look for ways to demonstrate who’s still in control and that’s I think an issue for us to be watching.

    GWEN IFILL: How different is the role that Egypt played this time around for this deal, and how different was the role the U.S. played?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Oh, this is very different, because I think, obviously, in some ways, Egypt is essential, partly because, of course, Egypt has a stake in Gaza. It’s right there and it cares about what happens in Gaza for multiple reasons, A, for the Palestinian cause, but, B, because they see Hamas as the threat and an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    But what made them more valuable this time for the Israelis is that they were closer to Israel on Hamas in many ways. That’s why — one reason why the Israelis in some ways preferred Egyptian mediation to American mediation, whereas, oddly enough, the Palestinians actually preferred American mediation to Egyptian mediation. This is the oddity of all of this.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask Dennis Ross about the U.S. role in this.

    Was it — did it help to step back from the table a little bit?

    DENNIS ROSS: Yes, I think it did, because, at the end of the day, the Egyptians did have the leverage. And Shibley is right.

    You had a conversion of interests between Egypt and Israel. If anything, in some ways, Egypt was even harder on Hamas than the Israelis were. For Egypt, Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood and this is an existential struggle. They’re the ones — and part of the deal here is probably the reopening of Rafah. Only they could do that. From an American standpoint…

    GWEN IFILL: Right, the checkpoint in Egypt, yes.

    DENNIS ROSS: Yes.

    From an American standpoint, we looked I think at Egypt and wondered, well, are they active enough to try to make something happen? And that probably had us look at Turkey and had us look at Qatar, but in a way that in a sense was unlikely to produce the Egyptians.

    So, our taking a step back at a certain point helped, number one. And, number two, I think there was — one of the things that was different from last time, this time, the Egyptians didn’t want it to appear as if they needed the U.S. to come in to do this. And because of that, I think we were still active, but I think we were active in a much more low-visibility fashion.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the carrot at the end of the stick in another month? Right now, this whole deal is for a month. And, if so, others things happen. What is it likely those things will happen?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: And this is really a central question, because the reality of it is, we can say that both lost and political stalemate or whatever, but here’s the reality on the ground.

    Gaza was in horrible shape before the war started, needed relief before the war. So, guess what? Not only do we have 0.8 percent of its population dead or wounded and about a quarter homeless, but we have — the damage to property is many times its GDP. And no one can do that from the inside.

    So even to get back to where they were, which was horrible, it is going to take an enormous amount, billions of dollars that’s not going to come. And, two, I think when you look at it, nobody really can do this over and over again. There was a war in 2008-2009 that was devastating. There was a war in 2012, just two, three years later. There’s a war now, and some Israelis are saying, well, this is not — unfinished business. We need to do this again.

    GWEN IFILL: Had this devolved into a war of attrition, that this was only way out?

    DENNIS ROSS: Yes, I think that is one of the things that helps to explain why we’re seeing this end right now.

    The price did become too high. And the gains grew increasingly suspect. So that produced a reality where we are right now. And I think it is going to create an incentive on each side not to see it end.

    But I would build on one point that Shibley made. The more you do the reconstruction — it has two elements to it. One element is the P.A. is at the border crossing.

    GWEN IFILL: The Palestinian Authority.

    DENNIS ROSS: Yes, the Palestinian Authority, so that they can be in a position where they can take some credit for this, but also the more you begin to have reconstruction, assuming there are safeguards for its end use, so that Hamas can’t misuse this material to rebuild the tunnels and the rockets, the more it is going to be hard to go back to conflict, because to begin to restore life again in Gaza is going to create a very strong incentive not to put that at risk.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: If I may just say, the Gaza war itself was a symptom, not the source of the problem.

    Just before, we were talking about the possibility of a third intifada, that the two-state solution was just coming to an end, collapse of hope. And so even if you fix Gaza, meaning what has happened, all of the tragedy that has happened, that’s not going to fix it.

    And I think one of the things that wars do, historically, is they create new opportunities, because you reshuffle the deck. And I think it can cut both ways, obviously. People can say I’m going to fight again or people can say this is not tenable. And I think the diplomatic effort right now should focus on turning this into, we need to do something much more comprehensive.

    GWEN IFILL: That’s what we will be watching for.

    Shibley Telhami from the University of Maryland, Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, thank you both very much.

    DENNIS ROSS: Thank you.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Pleasure.

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    Burger King To Buy Tim Hortons Chain For About $11.4 Billion

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    GWEN IFILL: Now, when is an American company not an American company?

    Jeffrey Brown has our look at a growing controversy over corporate taxes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In recent years, a number of American companies, as many as 22 since 2011, have relocated outside U.S. borders, usually through mergers with or purchases of a foreign company. One impact of changing their business addresses: They’re no longer subject to U.S. corporate taxes. It’s a process commonly known as a tax inversion.

    And Burger King appears to be the latest example. Today, it announced plans to pay some $11 billion for the Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons. Burger King will effectively become a Canadian company for tax purposes, though the company denies that was the motive for the move.

    Here to tell us about all this is economist Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

    And welcome to you.

    A tax inversion, it’s a phrase that maybe only an economist could like, right, or love. What exactly is it and are we actually seeing more of them?

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS, Tax Policy Center: An inversion occurs when an American company merges with a foreign company and becomes the foreign company. That’s the important part. You have to become a foreign entity to avoid U.S. corporate taxes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And are we seeing more of them, in fact?

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: We are seeing more of them, for a couple of reasons.

    One, people are seeing very high corporate tax rates and trying to avoid that. And, secondly, it appears that Congress is thinking about ways of stopping inversions. People are trying to get in ahead of that kind of change, make the inversion now, so you can take advantage of it before the door closes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I see, so they’re taking preemptive action in some cases.

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, as I said, Burger King says this is not why they did it. What do companies say about the tax structure, about why they might want to look — become foreign companies for tax purposes?

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: They’re not going to use taxes as the excuse for merging. That doesn’t sell well to the American public. It doesn’t sell well to their stockholders.

    What they sell it as is an advantageous melding of two different kinds of activities. In the case of Burger King, they’re saying, we’re getting the breakfast activities of the Tim Hortons plant. So we’re bringing things together and making a more efficient, larger company that will bring benefits to the stockholders.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And — yes, go ahead.

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: The tax savings are just an added benefit, they say.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They say.

    But what — how does the U.S. corporate tax structure compare to others?  I mean, what is the argument for that kind of move?

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: The United States taxes corporations differently than most other developed countries.

    We tax corporations based on all the profits they make worldwide, as opposed to the profits they make at home. Most companies — most countries used a territorial system. You tax on the business that goes on in your own country. That’s a very different thing.

    For us, we also have the very highest tax rate. Our tax rate is in excess of 35 percent, higher than any other developed country in the world. Now, we have a lot of tax breaks that bring the rates down, so the effective tax rates companies pay can be very low, depending on whether you can take advantage of those tax preferences, the tax loopholes, if you will.

    The other big issue facing corporations is, if you earn money overseas, you don’t pay U.S. corporation — corporate taxes on that until you bring those moneys home, until you repatriate those moneys. Estimates are, there’s about $2 trillion of American companies’ profits sitting overseas because companies don’t want to bring them home and pay Americans taxes on them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: They’re hoping for a tax holiday, a lower rate or a zero rate to bring those moneys home. And while they’re waiting for that to happen, they’re doing what would look otherwise like very silly things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: For example, Apple has billions of dollars of profit sitting overseas, yet they borrowed $30 billion earlier this year at home.

    Why borrow money at home when you have got the money sitting overseas?

    JEFFREY BROWN: You pay taxes.

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: Exactly. You don’t want to pay money on the taxes.

    And you can deduct the interest you pay at home, so you’re doing OK on the home tax side.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so for the critics of the companies and for many people looking at this just — there as an example, where it looks inefficient, it looks unpatriotic. These are unpatriotic corporate citizens.

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: Well, the president certainly looked at it that way, and a number of congressmen have claimed, this is not a fair way to do it. On the other hand, as Judge Learned Hand said in the Supreme Court years ago, there’s nothing wrong with trying to minimize your tax bill. You and I do it, I hope.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you mentioned the president. He said — he sort of called out the companies.

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He also, though, said he didn’t know how much authority — he didn’t think he would have that much authority to take action.

    Where does that stand in terms of what the president or Congress might do?

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: Treasury is looking to see if there are ways they can close down some of the benefits for inverting. One of the things companies that invert do is loan money from the foreign company to the American part of the company.

    The Americans pay interest to the foreign part of the company. That interest is deductible against the American profits and reduces the taxes paid by the corporation in the United States, and the interest is not taxable in other countries. So it’s a win-win situation on the tax side.

    This is a way of not only getting out from under the corporate tax for your moneys earned outside the United States, but minimizing the tax you pay on profits made inside the United States.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I know you’re not a political scientist. I don’t want to make you be, but you watch this. I mean, where do you see the kind of sentiment and politics of calls for change?

    I mean, even today with Burger King, this is a very prominent company, right, with a name brand. I see calls for boycotts. So I wonder, how much public sentiment do you see out there that might be pushing the president and Congress to take some action that would stop these kinds of moves?

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: I don’t really know how far that is going to go. People will call for the boycotts, but whether they will actually give up their Burger King hamburgers or their Tim Hortons donuts in the morning, I don’t know.

    What I do know is, we need the revenues. We’re running large deficits still. And whatever things that are using up those revenues are things not good for the U.S. Treasury. The Treasury will look for as many ways as they can to stop this. Whether it will be successful or whether Congress will step in a good question.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center, thanks so much.

    ROBERTON WILLIAMS: You’re quite welcome.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now we continue this week’s series Rethinking College.

    As states cut funding for public institutions, students are taking on bigger debt burdens to pay for their education. More than 70 percent of last year’s college graduates had student loans, averaging almost $30,000 each.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It was a great day for Ann DeGarmo, who joined 6,400 students for graduation at the University of Wisconsin in Madison last May. The milestone marked the beginning of her life after college.

    ANN DEGARMO: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. It’s happening.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It also marked the beginning of payments on $58,000 of student loans. The heavy debt load carried by students like Ann  has sparked a national dialogue among policy-makers.

    And it’s easy to see why. Seven of 10 graduating students left college last year in debt. The average debt load is $26,000. One in 10 owes more than $40,000. Behind home mortgages, student loans are the second largest source of personal debt, more than credit cards, more than auto loans. The total bill due for students in America tops $1 trillion.

    Throughout college, Ann DeGarmo held a job. Even so, she took on private and federal loans to make ends meet.

    ANN DEGARMO: I couldn’t work enough hours with going to school full-time and be able to afford to pay my rent in full.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now the reality of paying down debt for years has her worried.

    ANN DEGARMO: It’s hard. It’s really hard, and it’s really scary.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Why are you scared?

    ANN DEGARMO: This education is going to cost me, you know, a car, a house, potentially.

    This education is going to cost me, you know, a car, a house potentially. It’s like, $58,000 isn’t change. It’s definitely not pocket change. It’s going to cost me the ability to start a family when I want to, potentially, depending on how fast I can pay it back.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: DeGarmo brought her concerns to a town hall meeting in Madison.

    ANN DEGARMO: About half of my debt is federal debt, and about the other half is private debt.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The gathering was organized by an advocacy group called One Wisconsin Now. Scot Ross is the group’s executive director.

    SCOT ROSS, Executive Director, One Wisconsin Now: We have traveled around Wisconsin, and we have talked to people of all ages about their student loan debt. And it’s soul-crushing for them. They’re saying, all I want to do is go to college, and now I have got a 25-year obligation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Student Saul Newton from Northern Wisconsin described the difficult time he had affording college.

    SAUL NEWTON: Over the course of two years, I saw my tuition skyrocket. I was working multiple jobs trying to keep my head above water, but I was drowning.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Newton says he joined the Army to avoid serious debt, and was quickly deployed to Afghanistan during the military surge in 2007.

    SAUL NEWTON: I’m grateful that now I qualify for the G.I. Bill and I can go to college, and I have that opportunity, but I think it’s very indicative of the types of choices that students have to make now, that I had to make the choice to go to war in order to afford a college education.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Congressman Mark Pocan, a Democrat who represents Wisconsin’s Second District, believes student debt is creating a drag on the country’s economic recovery.

    REP. MARK POCAN, D-Wis.: Coming out of school, you’re paying a lot of loans. If you’re not buying a new car, you’re not stimulating the economy. Instead of buying a home, you might continue to rent. So some of the things that really help us at the most base level of trying to bring the economy up and get it going while we’re still recovering from the recession is held back even further by people having high levels of debt.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what’s causing this situation?

    REP. MARK POCAN: With the crash of the entire economy just a few years ago, we really haven’t seen states put money back into their public institutions. So while you still have the cost of education, if it’s not being covered as it traditionally was, often by the states, it’s gone and got passed on to students over and over.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In fact, tuition at public institutions has risen more than 50 percent over the last decade. It’s a significant number, given that 70 percent of undergraduates in the United States attend public institutions.

    Recently, Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker weighed in on the rising costs of higher education. In announcing his reelection campaign, Walker promised to extend a two-year tuition freeze at the University of Wisconsin.

    GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-Wis.: More students and more working families can afford to send their sons and daughters to get a great education at one of our many U.W. campuses all across the state. How about that?

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ross welcomes any attention to high college costs and heavy debt as an election-year issue.

    SCOT ROSS: There are forty million student loan debtors out there. They need to get organized. If you think about the amount of time and discussion and debate and fear that elected officials have to, say, doing something with Social Security, well, there’s 65 million people who get Social Security. Now we have got 40 million people with student loan debt.

    That’s forty million people who, if they get involved in the public policy debate, if they get organized, they’re going to be a voting bloc that people will fear to not act.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This spring, a flurry of bills were introduced by Democrats in Wisconsin and Washington to lower the existing debt burden, so far with little success. One bill proposed by Congressman Mark Pocan would allow for refinancing of student loans at lower interest rates.

    REP. MARK POCAN: In anything else in the world, if you’re a small business, if you own a home, you have a car, you’re a state or local unit of government, everyone’s refinancing loans because we’re at historic lows, and yet, with student loans, it’s really not allowed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the folks that say, well, where’s personal responsibility, this was the cost of going to school?

    REP. MARK POCAN: I think the difference is, you know, like I said, I also took loans, in addition to getting some grants, when I went to school. I could pay it off in five years. Now these are people leaving with $26,000, $58,000, and not doing it in five years, but doing it in 10, 20 years.

    ANN DEGARMO: It’s difficult to kind of understand as an 18 or-19-year-old that, you know, this education that you want, and you’re expected to get at this point in order to get a good job, is going to cost so much money.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It is still true that, to get the good job, a college degree is worth the money. According to the Federal Reserve, a bachelor’s degree provides a 75 percent wage advantage over a high school diploma.

    Despite the high cost, some studies say the rate of borrowing has remained steady, and the vast majority of graduates are pleased with their education.

    ANN DEGARMO: The college experience is great. I have had a lovely, a wonderful time in college, but it’s challenging, and it’s sometimes very exhausting. But I think in the long run, it’s worth it. It’s worth it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: DeGarmo is likely to get some relief on her federal student loans from the president’s executive order this summer, which caps payment to 10 percent of monthly earnings.

    GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow, Hari looks at the impact that massive open online courses, called MOOCs, are having on traditional teaching at the university level. And, online, you can read about how New Hampshire is experimenting with a tuition freeze at its public colleges to keep its students in-state.

    Plus, join us all week for NewsHour Twitter chats. Tomorrow’s topic: What gives a college degree its value?

    The post Wisconsin group wants to turn student borrowers into activists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: We return now to Iraq and the prospects for unity in a greatly fractured country.

    The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it will provide additional military support against the Islamic State group only when Iraqis form an inclusive government that can deliver national unity.

    However, as chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports from Northern Iraq, disaffected Sunnis and Kurds are saying they don’t have much hope in the politics emanating from Baghdad.

    MARGARET WARNER: Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers greeted the governor of the long-contested province of Kirkuk Sunday along a defensive trench built to stop infiltration from the south.

    And how many of these observation posts are there?

    MAN: We have, I think, built 32 of these, and we have another 28 we’re building, yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Iraqi military used to share security for Kirkuk city and province, until mid-June, when they hastily retreated before the so-called Islamic State’s advance. The Kurdish regional government’s Peshmergas took over.

    The trench around the city funnels all who seek to enter it through clogged checkpoints, and many outsiders are turned away. It’s a metaphor for the mutual distrust that afflicts the country among its regions and its sectarian groups, the majority Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds.

    But now that the militants have captured one-third of Iraq, the pressure is on, encouraged by the U.S., for the three fashions to reconcile in the capital. Twelve days ago, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to step aside after eight years. Another Shiite figure, Haider al-Abadi, faces a September 10 deadline to form a new government with buy-in from disaffected Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

    MICHAEL STEPHENS, Royal United Services Institute: You have two constituencies in that country who clearly feel alienated from the capital city.

    MARGARET WARNER: Analyst Michael Stephens, in the Kurdish capital, Irbil, says, before cooperating, both groups have demands, above all, guarantees that Maliki’s heavy-handed Shiite-dominated rule won’t be repeated.

    MICHAEL STEPHENS: There’s a number of problems here on both sides to do with distribution of resources and almost a show of respect from the state.

    MARGARET WARNER: Part of that respect bubbles up from beneath here, Iraq’s oil wealth. It’s the world’s seventh largest producer, drawing foreign companies with their technology and management skills to produce here.

    But the Maliki government has shortchanged the Kurd and Sunni regions in redistributing the revenues. Yet ordinary Iraqis seem less concerned with sharing the oil windfall. Those we met said that what they really want is simply a peaceful country in which to live their lives.

    Um Ahmed fled Mosul with her family when extremists took over Iraq’s second largest city June. We met her in an Irbil shopping mall.

    UM AHMED, Iraq (through translator): We hope things get better. We ask only for peace and security.

    MARGARET WARNER: Baghdad lawyer Aqil Al-Hayali said rampant sectarian violence had forced him and his wife to abandon the capital.

    AQIL AL-HAYALI (through interpreter): There is a 20 percent possibility I will go back, but things have to get better. I thank God we don’t have children right now.

    MARGARET WARNER: But can the political system deliver reconciliation, and in the face of the I.S. threat?

    For answers, we sought out two figures, one from each alienated camp: Kirkuk Governor Karim, a Kurd, and Sunni Arab Ali Hatem Al-Suleiman, leader of Iraq’s largest tribe, whose fighters in 2006 to 2008 helped U.S. forces turn the tide against al-Qaida in Iraq.

    Governor Karim has won huge majorities from all sectarian and ethnic communities, Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen, Christians and Shiites. On a heavily-guarded tour of city projects under construction, he maintained that the extremists’ advance has brought his city’s often divided groups together.

    GOV. NAJMALDIN KARIM, Kirkuk, Iraq: Actually, believe it or not, I think it has strengthened the relationship. They feel closer to me. They come to me for their concerns, for their needs and all that more than actually before.

    MARGARET WARNER: Karim’s seeks buy-in from all his constituents, delivering services inclusively, in contrast to the zero-sum politics in Baghdad.

    It seems to have worked with Turkoman shop owner Arkan Esam.

    ARKAN ESAM (through interpreter): We like this governor. Why?  Because he is serving the city and doesn’t differentiate between the ethnicities.

    MARGARET WARNER: But Iraq’s long-running sectarian warfare, newly fueled by the extremist advance, still impinges. The evening before we arrived, three deadly bombings tore through this city.

    President Obama has been reluctant to get engaged more militarily in Iraq, until its warring factions agree to work together. But the weekend suicide bombings here in Kirkuk and a cluster of other attacks in Baghdad, Diyala province and Irbil suggest that reconciliation remains very difficult to achieve.

    Karim believes there’s only one pathway to that, to decentralize the government and empower the country’s three regions. If not, he forecasts, there will be a messy breakup anyway.

    GOV. NAJMALDIN KARIM: The common goal is to have — to build a country that’s truly democratic, that’s inclusive, and that is decentralized to the maximum extent you can do it.

    MARGARET WARNER: And if that’s not possible?

    GOV. NAJMALDIN KARIM: If that’s not possible, I think Iraq is gone as we know it.

    MARGARET WARNER: And what about the Kurdish region?

    GOV. NAJMALDIN KARIM: The Kurdish region will have every right, if that doesn’t happen, to go its own way and determine its own future.

    MARGARET WARNER: And Kirkuk is part of that?

    GOV. NAJMALDIN KARIM: Kirkuk is always part of Kurdistan.

    SHEIK ALI HATEM AL-SULEIMAN, Crown Prince, Dulaim tribe (through interpreter): We don’t want to split from Iraq, but we want to have our own region, our own economy, our own security. We never wanted to split from Iraq, but rather strengthen Iraq’s unity.

    MARGARET WARNER: We spoke with Sheik Ali Hatem in Irbil, far from his ancestral home in the western province of Anbar. He sought refuge here after Baghdad issued an arrest warrant against him for treason amidst the conflict between Maliki’s security forces and Sunni demonstrators in Anbar.

    Ali Hatem doesn’t claim to speak for all Sunni Arabs, but he shares Governor Karim’s view that the reconciliation talks in Baghdad will go nowhere if the central government doesn’t loosen its grip.

    How hopeful are you that this kind of inclusive government can be formed?

    SHEIK ALI HATEM AL-SULEIMAN (through interpreter): Very difficult. If we want to protect Iraq, if we want to protect the right of the Iraqi people, we should move to three different regions, a democratic, federal Iraq, rather than a united Iraq built on the blood of the Iraqi people.

    MARGARET WARNER: If that does come to pass, he says, then his Dulaim Tribe and others, far from supporting the militants, as is often charged, are ready to take up arms against the Islamic State forces.

    SHEIK ALI HATEM AL-SULEIMAN (through interpreter): ISIS are not Muslims. They are Islamists. They want to take advantage of the Sunni region to create their own country. We have postponed the battle against ISIS only because of the political situation. Otherwise, we are going to face them.

    MARGARET WARNER: Even if the Baghdad talks produce an inclusive government and Sunni tribes join the fight, would it be enough?

    MICHAEL STEPHENS: The idea that a political agreement in Baghdad will immediately solve all the problems to do with Sunni disaffection and tribal disaffection, I think, is a bit naive. But it just opens that door.

    MARGARET WARNER: For a country that sees no exit, even an open door may offer hope.

    GWEN IFILL: I spoke with Margaret a short time ago.

    Margaret, thanks for joining us again.

    We just heard in your piece a Kurdish leader saying that a decentralized Iraq is now possible. Did you have a sense of that?  Is Baghdad crazy about that idea?

    MARGARET WARNER: You know, Gwen, I haven’t been in Baghdad on this trip.

    But I would say that the Shiites certainly aren’t going to like that idea. After all, they are the majority in this country. They’re bound to keep winning future elections, and that means that for the foreseeable future, they will always get to have a Shiite prime minister. And Maliki’s made that a hugely important post.

    The only thing that might change their mind and be more willing to compromise is that now they do need the other two groups to fight this new threat from these extremist forces. But that’s only if the Kurds and the Sunnis insist on it as a price for getting into the government.

    Now, the Kurds, who have this semiautonomous region already up here, are, of course, in favor of it if it means getting a bigger slice of the oil revenues or getting to sell their own.

    I think the Sunnis — the Sunni political class is a little less clear, because you do have Sunni politicians in Baghdad who are invested in the idea of a strong central government. They just want a bigger slice of it. Their critics say, like that sheik that we interviewed, that’s because they want to share in the spoils.

    The question I keep getting asked here, Gwen, is, where is the United States going to come down on this?  A lot of people here, and I — and also farther south into Iraq proper, have said, you know, the Americans’ insistence over the last 10 years under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama on a unified Iraq is really unrealistic, because the politics practiced here are sectarian, winner-take-all, and always alienates the other two groups.

    GWEN IFILL: Does Iran have a role in this — in the direction this goes?

    MARGARET WARNER: Oh, absolutely. They have had a role here all along, even all during the American occupation, as a matter of fact.

    But the latest sign of that was that, today, surprisingly, the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, showed up here in Irbil, met with the president and the prime minister. They had a joint press conference. And President Massoud Barzani, the president of this region, announced that in fact Iran has been supplying the Kurds with weapons to fight the I.S. forces.

    Now, that’s a real turnaround, because the Iranians have their own Kurdish problem, as they see it. They have never been friendly to this semi-sovereign Kurdish entity up here. But I guess it’s the I.S. threat that is impelling them in that direction. And Barzani said, you know, we asked a lot of countries for help and for weapons, and Iran was the first country to respond.

    So I think it is evidence, Gwen, that, in this sort of slow-motion dissolution of Iraq that we have been really seeing over the last few years, exacerbated by the I.S. forces now, not only Iran, but perhaps some of Iraq’s other neighbors are going to want to play.

    GWEN IFILL: Keeping an eye on Iran and the U.S., Margaret Warner for us in Iraq tonight, thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: Pleasure, Gwen.

    The post Pressure is on for Iraqi factions to reconcile in face of extremist threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: We turn now to our occasional series of conversations with those directly affected by the ongoing border crisis.

    Jeff is back with that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Last night, we heard from an attorney offering free legal services to immigrants at a New Mexico detention center.

    Tonight, rancher and veterinarian Gary Thrasher joins us. He’s lived on the southern U.S. border for more than four decades. He has a ranch near Sierra Vista, Arizona, just eight miles from the Mexican border. And he treats cattle in ranches from Arizona to New Mexico to West Texas, where rugged, remote landscape is a major corridor for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.

    Well, welcome to you, Dr. Thrasher.

    So how does illegal immigration at the border impact your life as a rancher and vet? Give us a glimpse of life at the border as you experience it.

    DR. GARY THRASHER, Veterinarian/Rancher: Well, where I’m at, at the border, and where I spend most of my time is in the remote regions of the border, rather on the areas where there’s a lot of population.

    So we’re in pretty remote areas that have a lot of traffic, that are not patrolled very regularly. And it does create a situation where we come in contact with quite a few people coming across the border for all kinds of different reasons.

    Right now, it’s a lot of drugs, a lot of other-than-Mexican-type smuggling, mostly just smuggling activities, rather than just immigrant activities. In the past, it’s been huge amounts of immigrants. Now it’s drugs and more OTMs, they call it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Have you seen a lot of change in recent years either in volume or in types of activities?

    DR. GARY THRASHER: Oh, yes, there’s change depending on what regions of the border.

    I travel the whole border of New Mexico and Arizona primarily, and different regions have different types of traffic depending on the gangs that are running those particular routes through there. We are not seeing much in the line of unaccompanied minors coming across in our area, mostly because they have much easier access through the Texas corridor down around the Rio Grande.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, for you…

    DR. GARY THRASHER: But if they ever stop that down there, it will be coming here. So we’re expecting to see it eventually.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, explain that, so — because there is a lot of talk about border issues in Texas, but you’re worried that when it gets turned off there, it moves up to where you are?

    DR. GARY THRASHER: Historically, that’s the way it’s always happened.

    There was a lot of traffic through California. When they shut that corridor, they shut it, sent them into the Arizona corridor, thinking that it would be a lot more rugged and a lot more difficult for them. But it’s just a matter of where the gates are open the most.

    And we have — running parallel to the Arizona border and New Mexico border, we have Mexican Route 2 that runs from Mexicali all the way to Juarez. And it’s really excellent access for anything coming to the border. In spots, it’s less than half-a-mile from the U.S.-Mexican border.

    So the next — if they don’t go through the Rio Grande Valley, the next most successful place for them is along our border.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, sounds like you’re saying…

    DR. GARY THRASHER: And if they plug…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, go ahead. I’m sorry.

    DR. GARY THRASHER: If they plug our border, then the next place will probably be the Texas Big Bend area, but there’s not very good access to that on the Mexican side, so it’s the last one that will be pressured with anything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so it sounds like what you’re saying, that, for you, the immigration and particularly the immigration of minors isn’t so much the issue, as security or border security is and drugs.

    Define that problem and how serious is it, and what do you want to see happen?

    DR. GARY THRASHER: Well, it becomes more and more serious.

    The illegal immigrants are not as serious a problem as the drug trade and trade from other people being smuggled in from other countries. When they’re driven farther and farther out into the sticks to cross the border, it’s becoming much more difficult to them, and they don’t want to be caught out there, and they don’t want their trails to be interrupted.

    So it becomes a little bit more violent. They stand up to us a lot more. As it is now, we don’t very often come in contact with very many people because we don’t want to be in contact with them. We just want to call it in and see if the Border Patrol can catch them after they have come across, rather than confronting them ourselves like we used to.

    There’s just been too many people hurt and too much violence going on for us to get involved in that now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So I wonder, as you watch and listen to the debate around the country, what is it that you want the rest of the country to know or that perhaps is not being understood or seen clearly from where you sit?

    DR. GARY THRASHER: Well, the border is not a uniform, consistent situation all the way across the border.

    Some places, the fence works. Some places, it doesn’t. Some places, you don’t want a fence. Each particular area has its own characteristics and will have to be dealt with differently. You can’t compare the Rio Grande Valley to the Arizona mountains to the Arizona deserts. They’re all completely different. The Yuma desert is completely different.

    It takes a whole lot different planning and a whole lot different methods and ways they’re trying to slow the immigration. What the — most of our problem in Arizona is the fact is that Border Patrol, historically, has not actually tried to enforce the international boundary in the rural areas.

    They have waited for them to come across. Then they chase them, try to apprehend them after they have gone through our ranches and caused whatever problems they’re going to cause. At this point, we need them on the international boundary, rather than back.

    And I don’t mean 100 percent of them. I mean 75 percent to 80 percent of the agents probably should be and the assets should be. As it is now, they’re trying to watch them, but when they watch them, they just watch them cross, and then they chase them to our places, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me ask you, just in our last 30 or 40 seconds here, what — you watch the debate going on in Washington. Is there one thing that you would like to see from the federal government at this point?

    DR. GARY THRASHER: A change in policy, a change in deployment strategies, dependent upon the particular area it’s in.

    It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing, where they control it all from Washington, D.C. The agents on the ground, their morale is terrible after all this problem with the unaccompanied minors. You know, illegal crossing of the border the first time, where you just cross the border and you haven’t done anything else, is only a misdemeanor.

    How much risk and how much effort do you want to go to, to enforce a misdemeanor? There is no way to differentiate whether that’s — they’re carrying guns, whether they’re carrying somebody that’s a criminal or seeks to do harm in the U.S.

    So it’s very difficult, and it’s very disheartening for the agents themselves. They are just frustrated in what they’re doing. So, how much confidence can you have in them, when they’re controlled out of D.C. the way they are?

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Gary Thrasher, thank you so much for joining us.

    DR. GARY THRASHER: You bet. Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: We will have more conversations on the border crisis soon.

    Hear more voices from the immigration debate. PBS NewsHour has invited an immigration judge, a border patrol officer, an immigration lawyer, an Arizona rancher and more to give a personal account from their front-seat view of the clash over the recent influx of migrants from Central America. Watch these conversations in the playlist below:

    The post Arizona rancher: No one-size-fits-all solution to border enforcement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scientists are attempting to grow human tissue on small computer chips. Video by Wyss Institute

    Scientists working out of the University of California, Berkeley are trying to grow thin layers of human lung, liver and heart tissue on minuscule computer chips in an effort to reduce the delay between initial laboratory research and clinical trials.

    By manipulating adult cells harvested from skin, the team has recreated the tissue of vital organs that might otherwise be difficult or dangerous to obtain from test subjects. Using these so-called “organoid chips” in lieu of people might give doctors the chance to further refine drug treatments both for their effectiveness and overall safety.

    Similar research is being done at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, where “organs-on-a-chip” are used to conduct drug testing to treat Barth syndrome and other diseases.

    In many ways, the human body is like a complex puzzle composed of more than 7,500 individual parts, which are generally grouped into 78 organs and 13 organ systems. These chips act like simplified puzzle pieces that, when assembled, can simulate the ways in which drugs affect both individual organs and the body as a whole.

    These chips, however, typically lack the complexity of the full-grown human tissue. Moreover, their shelf lives are too short for long-term testing periods. Yet, these chips can still be of value to drug companies. Like traditional computer microchips, “organoid chips” are meant to be mass-produced, providing a massive pool of semi-living subjects on which multiple iterations of a drugs-in-development could be tested.

    For every one drug that eventually reaches consumers, there are some 40,000 that do not because of the monumental costs associated with bringing drugs to market. Much of the costs, according to drug companies, is attributed to failed drug trials. Organoid chips, unlike individual human or animal test subjects, could be created uniformly, possibly eliminating many of the variables that complicate and slow down the testing and eventual approval process of experimental treatments.

    The post Growing human tissue for mass-production appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Five candidate sites were identified on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko during the Landing Site Selection Group meeting held 23–24 August 2014. Image by ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

    Five candidate sites were identified on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko during the Landing Site Selection Group meeting last week. Image by ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

    Earlier this month, after a 10-year, 4-billion-mile journey, the Rosetta spacecraft entered orbit around the rubber-duck-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Now it must land.

    This is no helicopter landing. Putting the lander down onto the comet’s surface will require fantastically precise calculations, maneuvering and navigational skills and, once it’s released, six hours of what U.S. Rosetta project manager Art Chmielewski calls “patient stress.”

    “The landing is so difficult,” he said. “So, so difficult. It’s definitely one of the hardest things humankind has ever done.” Imagine, he said, grabbing a mosquito by the wings. Except the mosquito is in New York, and you’re working the controls from Los Angeles.

    It’s difficult because the comet is hurling through space at 36,000 mph. The spacecraft has to catch up with the comet, fly alongside it at exactly the same speed and then drop a lander the size of a washing machine onto an area just over half a square mile. (For perspective, the width of Central Park between Central Park West and Fifth Avenue is half a mile.) Unlike Earth or Mars, there’s no substantial atmosphere, just a thin layer of gas particles surrounding the comet’s nucleus called its “coma.” And whereas the Mars Curiosity lander plummeted at about 13,000 miles per hour, the Philae lander will float down at a speed closer to 20 centimeters per second, like a piece of paper floating to the ground.

    science-wednesday

    “It’s all about this moment of release and the precise calculation of where it’s going to drop,” Chmielewski said. “Once you release it, you have no control.”

    Rosetta is now cruising at an altitude of roughly 60 miles — that’s the distance from the spacecraft to the surface of the comet. It is close enough that a quarter of the comet fills the full frame of its camera lens. Earlier photos showed the full comet from different angles. Like this:

    Rosetta snapped this shot of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of 177 miles on Aug. 3. Photo courtesy of the European Space Agency

    Rosetta snapped this shot of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of 177 miles on Aug. 3. Photo courtesy of the European Space Agency

    And this:

    Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Aug. 2. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera from a distance of about 342 miles. Photo courtesy of the European Space Agency

    Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Aug. 2. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera from a distance of about 342 miles. Photo courtesy of the European Space Agency

    This week, a team of 50 scientists, representing a range of countries, narrowed the landing site down to five possibilities. Choosing a landing site for a comet isn’t easy either. The site requires a flat terrain and the right amount of daylight for the landing. It must have enough sun to power the equipment’s solar panels. And then there are the conflicting needs of the mission’s team members.

    Engineers want a spot that lacks any obstacles — boulders, for example — that might thwart the landing. Scientists, on the other hand, say that’s geologically boring, Chmielewski said. “They say, ‘We want crevasses, we want boulders, we want varied terrain.’ If you try to find a landing site that meets all of them, you get a headache.”

    From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the requirements for a landing site:

    “For each possible zone, important questions must be asked: Will the lander be able to maintain regular communications with Rosetta? How common are surface hazards such as large boulders, deep crevasses or steep slopes? Is there sufficient illumination for scientific operations and enough sunlight to recharge the lander’s batteries beyond its initial 64-hour lifetime without causing overheating?”

    And from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission Twitter feed:

     

    The team plans to have each site “assessed and ranked” by Sept. 14. Rosetta’s lander Philae is slated to land in mid-November. Once there, it will dig up dirt, sample the soil, test its constituents and study the depth of dust, along with ice and water. Meanwhile, the orbiter will continue to chase the comet as its orbit nears the sun.

    Earlier this month, Hari Sreenivasan talked to Mark McCaughrean, senior scientific advisor of the European Space Agency.

    Comets, McCaughrean said, are “treasure chests of material left over from the birth of the solar system.” They contain dust, water and organic materials — “stuff that could be the origin of life.”

    The lander’s research will teach us about the ingredients of the comet itself, but may also give clues to the formation of the solar system and to the “initial ingredients that became the sun and the planet and you and me,” Chmielewski said.

    “This time,” McCaughrean said, “we’re going to watch this comet as it comes into the inner solar system, heats up, evolves, changes and gets dynamic — there’s going to be so many unexpected surprises.”

    The post How to land on a comet as it hurls through space appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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