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

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    ukaine1

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    GWEN IFILL: The crisis in Ukraine intensified today as the government in Kiev accused Russia of an outright invasion.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Prime Minister, Ukraine: We can confirm that Russian military boots are on Ukrainian ground.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The cries of invasion came from Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and President Petro Poroshenko, who announced Russian forces have entered Ukraine.

    PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukrainian (through interpretor): Amateur mercenaries, along with employed Russian servicemen, are trying to organize a counteroffensive against positions of our armed forces.  Without any doubts, the situation is extraordinarily difficult, but it is controllable.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Ukrainians charged, Russian soldiers and armor are helping rebels open a new front in the southeast.  Kiev confirmed the rebels have captured the town on Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea, leaving the port city of Mariupol suddenly vulnerable to attack.

    Ukraine’s government said images from Novoazovsk showed a Russian tank on the streets.  And NATO released its own satellite images showing Russian self-propelled artillery units on Ukrainian roads.  The alliance said well over 1,000 Russian troops have crossed the border and warned of more to come.

    BRIG. GEN. NICO TAK, NATO:  These latest images provides concrete examples of Russian activity inside Ukraine, but they are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the overall scope of Russian troop and weapons movements.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier this week, Ukraine had released a video showing what it said were Russian servicemen captured on its territory.  And, today, the rebel prime minister acknowledged several thousand Russians are fighting with the rebels on their own time.

    ALEKSANDR ZAKHARCHENKO, Prime Minister, Donetsk People’s Republic (through interpretor): Among volunteers from Russia, there have always been many retired military servicemen.  There are also currently serving soldiers among us who preferred to spend their vacations not on sea beaches, but among us, among brothers fighting for their freedom.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The spike in tensions prompted angry words at the U.N. Security Council.

    U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power blasted previous Russian denials of complicity.

    SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador to the UN: At every step, Russia has come before this council to say everything except the truth.  It has manipulated, it has obfuscated, it has outright lied.  So we have learned to measure Russia by its actions and not by its words.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In turn, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin dismissed the accusations, without directly denying anything.

    VITALY CHURKIN, UN Ambassador, Russia (through interpretor): Everyone knows that there are Russian volunteers in eastern parts of Ukraine.  No one is hiding that.  We’d like to see similar transparency shown by other countries.  I would suggest that we send a message to Washington.  Stop interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states.  Stop trying to undermine a regime that you don’t like.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Later, President Obama discouraged talk of a U.S. military option.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem.  What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia.  But I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president argued that pressure from existing and possibly new sanctions will take an increasing toll on Russia, even if it’s not apparent now.

    For more on what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine, I’m joined by Andrew Kramer of The New York Times.  He joins us from Donetsk.

    So, Andrew, you were visiting a town where the Russian troops were streaming in.  Describe that scene to us.

    ANDREW KRAMER, The New York Times: Yes, this was in the town of Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea.  And we were standing on the outside of the town speaking with Ukrainian soldiers who were retreating.

    These soldiers were convinced they were fighting the Russians.  At least many of them were.  We didn’t see the troops coming in, but they were said to have come across the border from Russia into Ukraine.  It was a very chaotic scene.  And, in fact, a day later, that town was seized by the pro-Russian forces.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You also spoke of locals in that area.  What did they think about what’s happening?

    ANDREW KRAMER: Well, people here who support the Russian cause are obviously cheered by this development.  The rebel organization had been on its last legs militarily in recent weeks.

    The Ukrainian army was closing in on towns of Donetsk and Luhansk.  And now there’s been a reversal of fortunes, a turning of the tide here.  The separatists and, according to Ukrainian government, with the support of Russia, has moved across the Russian border and has now opened a new front in the south along the seashore with the cities of Novoazovsk and Mariupol as the objectives.

    Now, a rebel commander I spoke with said the intention is to form a defensive triangle out of these two cities and Donetsk and hopefully force the Ukrainian government into settlement talks on more favorable terms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s the impact on the cities that you’re — you’re in Donetsk now.  But what’s the impact there on what’s happening in these other towns?

    ANDREW KRAMER: For now, in Donetsk, little has changed.  We had an artillery barrage come into town today that killed two people, hitting residential areas.  The Ukrainian government is keeping up its pressure on Donetsk.

    The assumption is that forces will be diverted from here to the south to address this new risk, this new push by the pro-Russians and possibly with support of Russian supporters coming in across the border.  That’s the hope at least of the separatists living in this town.  It’s a setback for the Ukrainians who are hoping to end this war quickly and on their terms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Can you feel a level of tension increasing or decreasing from the events in the past week?

    ANDREW KRAMER: The tension is certainly increasing, particularly in the towns and villages affected.

    We drove along a 75-mile stretch of highway from here in Donetsk to the area where the battle is taking place and it was almost wholly deserted.  You would see only a few cars carrying refugees, burned-out military vehicles, and people who were very concerned, obviously, about this new development and the violence which is coming to their communities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there a cognition of what’s happening and how the rest of the world is paying attention?  Do the people in Ukraine, the ones that you speak with, care about what’s happening at NATO or whether this is called an invasion or an incursion?

    ANDREW KRAMER: People in the areas that have been shelled are mostly concerned about everyday concerns, like fetching water and food and staying out of the way of danger.

    There is certainly, among the rebels, a larger understanding of the context of this war and this conflict.  Ukraine has now said — the president of Ukraine has said today that Russia invaded.  NATO was more cautious, saying that Russia had carried out an incursion into Ukraine.  In any case, what’s clearly happening here is a cross-border military action in Europe, and the consequences are very unpredictable.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Andrew Kramer of The New York Times joining us from Donetsk, thanks so much.

    ANDREW KRAMER: Thank you.

    The post Ukraine accuses Russian forces of invasion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CRISIS-POLITICS

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more on what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine, I’m joined by Andrew Kramer of The New York Times.  He joins us from Donetsk.

    So, Andrew, you were visiting a town where the Russian troops were streaming in.  Describe that scene to us.

    ANDREW KRAMER, The New York Times: Yes, this was in the town of Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea.  And we were standing on the outside of the town speaking with Ukrainian soldiers who were retreating.

    These soldiers were convinced they were fighting the Russians.  At least many of them were.  We didn’t see the troops coming in, but they were said to have come across the border from Russia into Ukraine.  It was a very chaotic scene.  And, in fact, a day later, that town was seized by the pro-Russian forces.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You also spoke of locals in that area.  What did they think about what’s happening?

    ANDREW KRAMER: Well, people here who support the Russian cause are obviously cheered by this development.  The rebel organization had been on its last legs militarily in recent weeks.

    The Ukrainian army was closing in on towns of Donetsk and Luhansk.  And now there’s been a reversal of fortunes, a turning of the tide here.  The separatists and, according to Ukrainian government, with the support of Russia, has moved across the Russian border and has now opened a new front in the south along the seashore with the cities of Novoazovsk and Mariupol as the objectives.

    Now, a rebel commander I spoke with said the intention is to form a defensive triangle out of these two cities and Donetsk and hopefully force the Ukrainian government into settlement talks on more favorable terms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s the impact on the cities that you’re — you’re in Donetsk now.  But what’s the impact there on what’s happening in these other towns?

    ANDREW KRAMER: For now, in Donetsk, little has changed.  We had an artillery barrage come into town today that killed two people, hitting residential areas.  The Ukrainian government is keeping up its pressure on Donetsk.

    The assumption is that forces will be diverted from here to the south to address this new risk, this new push by the pro-Russians and possibly with support of Russian supporters coming in across the border.  That’s the hope at least of the separatists living in this town.  It’s a setback for the Ukrainians who are hoping to end this war quickly and on their terms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Can you feel a level of tension increasing or decreasing from the events in the past week?

    ANDREW KRAMER: The tension is certainly increasing, particularly in the towns and villages affected.

    We drove along a 75-mile stretch of highway from here in Donetsk to the area where the battle is taking place and it was almost wholly deserted.  You would see only a few cars carrying refugees, burned-out military vehicles, and people who were very concerned, obviously, about this new development and the violence which is coming to their communities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there a cognition of what’s happening and how the rest of the world is paying attention?  Do the people in Ukraine, the ones that you speak with, care about what’s happening at NATO or whether this is called an invasion or an incursion?

    ANDREW KRAMER: People in the areas that have been shelled are mostly concerned about everyday concerns, like fetching water and food and staying out of the way of danger.

    There is certainly, among the rebels, a larger understanding of the context of this war and this conflict.  Ukraine has now said — the president of Ukraine has said today that Russia invaded.  NATO was more cautious, saying that Russia had carried out an incursion into Ukraine.  In any case, what’s clearly happening here is a cross-border military action in Europe, and the consequences are very unpredictable.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Andrew Kramer of The New York Times joining us from Donetsk, thanks so much.

    ANDREW KRAMER: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: Jeffrey Brown picks up the story from there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And to go deeper into these developments, I’m joint by Andrew Weiss, a former director of Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs at the White House National Security Council.  He’s now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  Andrei Tsygankov, a political science and international relations professor at San Francisco State University.

    Andrew Weiss first, how do you describe what’s going on and who are these Russian soldiers?  What role are they playing?

    ANDREW WEISS, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: I think, throughout the crisis, we have seen the Russians try to disguise their ultimate moments.

    So we may have a new front on the southern — southeastern — southeastern border between Russia and Ukraine.  We also might have a Russian attempt to create a land bridge between the Russian border and Crimea, which would allow them to supply Crimea more effectively in the future.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Would you use the word invasion, incursion?  What word would you use at this point?

    ANDREW WEISS: Well, there’s this interesting semantic game being played in Washington today, where U.S. officials are trying very hard not to use the word invasion, so you have the State Department spokesman, Jen Psaki, saying it’s an incursion.

    What I think the reason for that is, is that U.S. officials, as President Obama said today, is they’re trying to avoid any perception that there’s a U.S. military response in the offing.  So they seem to be somewhat downplaying what’s happened.

    But, at the same time, I think privately people are very worried that what we’re seeing is a dramatic escalation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Andrei Tsygankov, what do you call it?  How much of an escalation do you see?

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV, San Francisco State University: I would call it an escalation, and, as Andrew Weiss just described, the second front opening.

    And certainly this is — this is something that’s been going on for quite some time.  We have seen the Russians’ assistance before.  And this is also not major news.  What’s actually new is that the Ukrainian side is beginning to lose on the military front and that in, Minsk, Petro Poroshenko, Ukrainian president, has not gotten what he expected to get, and that Germany is beginning to pressure Kiev for peaceful solutions.

    So, now what is happening, in addition to Russia’s escalation, is that Ukraine, Kiev is launching a P.R. offense against Russia.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you’re seeing this as coming from weakness by the Ukrainians, as opposed to more aggression by the Russians?

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV: I see both.  I see both, but Russia’s intervention is not something that has happened just now.  Russia has been assisting the rebels, eastern rebels before.

    As we know, Russian volunteers fought there.  We know that previous commanders of Donetsk and Luhansk, and primarily Donetsk, were Russian citizens.  So Russia certainly was involved.  And it makes sense for Russia, if it sees itself as a great power that needs to protect its interests in Ukraine, to be involved, so it has been — it has been taking place for quite some time.  This is just a new stage.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And…

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV: But what we also see is again that Ukraine is trying to launch a P.R. offensive against Russia.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Andrew Weiss, Ukraine seemed to have been doing — had — stronger militarily in many ways, which would counteract what he was just saying.

    ANDREW WEISS: I think people’s expectation in recent weeks was that the Ukrainians were a roll and that it looked like the separatists were basically cornered in two strongholds, Donetsk and Luhansk.

    And the question, what would Putin do?  Was Putin cornered?  And there’s this great vignette in Putin’s autobiography where he talks about chasing rats in the dilapidated building where he grew up in, and one day he cornered a rat and discovered that the rat was going to attack him.

    I think what we have seen here is an example of how Putin wasn’t really cornered.  Putin has basically at various turns in the crisis, when it looked like Russia’s status on the ropes, has chosen to escalate and he’s done that once again.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you’re seeing this quite differently from what — the description we just heard?  This is Russia more on the defensive and reacting?

    ANDREW WEISS: Well, it’s been restrained.

    I don’t think Putin’s first choice is to mount a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  But what we have seen is that they’re not willing to lose and that when it looks like the Ukrainians are poised to do too much too quickly, the Russians raise the stakes and that that’s where we are today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Andrei Tsygankov, what’s your response?  What — well, go ahead.

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV: I don’t disagree.  I don’t disagree.  I think this is what is happening.

    I think Russia is raising the stakes.  But remember that Russia is raising the stakes in response to Ukrainians raising the stakes.  Ukrainians have begun this anti-terrorist operations, what they called anti-terrorist operation, which is in effect is search for a military solution, and military solution to the conflict.

    And Russians certainly will see this as a need to restore balance of power.  For them, this is a necessity to negotiate better political conditions for their interests and values.  They have major interests, such as Ukraine not to be a member of NATO, such as Ukraine not to join the European Union, but ultimately to remain relationships with Eurasian Union.

    They have interests to protect Russian language speakers there, those who gravitates toward Russia.  And this is something that they will be willing to defend, if necessary by military means.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just before — Andrew Weiss, just before we started, you heard word of a new pronouncement or a news announcement, was it, from Putin?

    ANDREW WEISS: So, what seems to be happening ,as Andrew Kramer from The New York Times talked about, is that this Russian incursion in Southeastern Ukraine has really caused disruption in the Ukrainian ranks and soldiers are basically evacuating in a pretty sort of pell-mell kind of environment.

    The Russian president, Putin, tonight has issued a statement at an unusual hour, 1:00 a.m. Moscow time, calling on the rebels not to kill the Ukrainian soldiers who are now encircled.  And he is saying, open a humanitarian corridor.  These people are being forced to fight.  Let them go home to their families.

    It’s not clear what’s going on, on the ground, whether there is this significant risk that Ukrainian soldiers are going to be sort of ground up by the new Russian forces that have been introduced.  But it’s striking to me that Putin is reduced to sending out his commands via press release, and it just suggests to me that the situation is very messy and very uncontrolled.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Andrei Tsygankov, you can comment on that, but I also want to know your sense of whether the Russians and Mr. Putin are feeling any impact of the American sanctions so far, whether the pressure from the West is having any impact?

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV: Let me just make one observation about the situation in Ukraine.

    Certainly, Russians — Russians were assisting the rebels, and the rebels were losing until recently.  But, a week ago, about a week ago, they began a counteroffensive.  And that’s what’s happening today.  Thousands of Ukrainian troops are now encircled.  That’s not sufficiently reported in Western media, but it is something that certainly helps Putin to negotiate better conditions.

    This is one of the reasons why he felt so confident in Minsk.  This is one of the reasons why he didn’t feel that he would need to negotiate with Poroshenko over political conditions, because Poroshenko already knows all these conditions, and the ball in many ways is in his court.

    Russia can wait until the fall, until possibly winter, when it will be able also to use energy weapons.  And in the meantime, the solution is only a political one.  This is something that now all sides recognize.  Russia recognizes this.  The European Union, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, recognizes this.  Barack Obama now recognizes this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV: So it’s now essential to move in this direction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Andrei Tsygankov and Andrew Weiss, thank you both very much.

    ANDREW WEISS: Thank you.

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV: Thank you.

    The post What’s driving Russia to raise the stakes in Ukraine? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ebola1

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    GWEN IFILL: There were new numbers and a bleak projection today on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  At the same time, it appears human trials will begin for a possible vaccine as soon as next week.

    The ominous forecast came from the World Health Organization:  Ebola cases could top 20,000 as the outbreak continues to spread.

    DR. BRUCE AYLWARD, World Health Organization: It is now not just remote isolated areas where you can rapidly contain, but we are dealing with this disease in large urban environments and over large geographic areas.  This is very unique.

    GWEN IFILL: So far, the U.N. agency has confirmed more than 3,000 cases.  Of that number, more than half have died in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.  But the WHO says the outbreak could spread to 10 other countries.

    To contain the virus, the agency announced a $490 million strategic plan for the next nine months.

    DR. BRUCE AYLWARD: When we look at the numbers of people, to make this work, we are going to need 750 internationals at least and 12,000 nationals.  That is very difficult in the current — current environment, but that is the scale of manpower needed to do this.

    GWEN IFILL: The current environment includes a sizable fear factor, especially in Liberia, the country with the most Ebola cases and deaths.  Doctors Without Borders opened a treatment facility in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, two weeks ago, but its 120 beds are already full.

    LINDIS HURUM, Doctors Without Borders: The health care system has more or less broken down.  Hospitals have closed, clinics are closed.  Some of them have reopened, but the staff is afraid to go back because they are afraid to get the disease.

    GWEN IFILL: In desperation, Liberian officials quarantined Monrovia’s West Point neighborhood, and armed police have used live ammunition to stop residents from getting out.  The medical emergency has also placed a heavy economic strain on affected countries.  The African Development Bank is urging an end to trade and travel restrictions.

    DONALD KABERUKA, President, African Development Bank: Markets are not functioning, airlines are not coming in, projects are being canceled, businesspeople have left.  That is very, very damaging.

    The post WHO announces $490 million plan for fighting Ebola appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Local residents gather around a very sick Saah Exco, 10, in a back alley of the West Point slum on August 19, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. The boy was one of the patients that was pulled out of a holding center for suspected Ebola patients when the facility was overrun by a mob on Saturday. A local clinic Tuesday refused to treat the boy, according to residents, because of the danger of infection, although the boy was never tested for Ebola. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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    GWEN IFILL: Adding to the difficulty, a different strain of Ebola has appeared in the Democratic Republic of Congo, causing 13 deaths so far. 

    Here at home, the National Institutes of Health announced today it will start testing an experimental Ebola vaccine next week.

    For more on that development, I’m joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH.  He will oversee those trials.

    Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us again.

    What would trials like this look like?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Well, first of all, it’s an early phase one trial.

    And by phase one, we mean this is the first time this vaccine has been put in humans.  So safety is paramount, so you take a very small number of people, 20 in total, three at a time, and you use the vaccine to determine if there are untoward effects, any inflammation, any idiosyncratic or hypersensitivity reactions, pain or anything that might be a red flag about safety.

    And also you learn whether it induces the kind of response in a person that you would hope would be protective against Ebola infection.  The reason why we chose this vaccine is that it showed very favorable results in an animal model, a monkey model, in which it protected monkeys very well against a challenge with lethal Ebola.

    So this is a first, because it’s the first time this has been in a human, in now what will be a series of steps to ultimately develop it to determine if, in fact, it is effective.

    GWEN IFILL: This has been in development for some time.  You called this an uncontrolled outbreak in West Africa.  Dr. Tom Frieden for the CDC said it will get worse before it gets better.  Is it this West African outbreak which is moving this from development to trial?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: We have been working on an Ebola vaccine for a number of years now.  This has been one of the priorities of the hemorrhagic fevers, of which Ebola is actually the worst of those.

    This is kind of the culmination of an iterative process of developing it.  It was certainly accelerated by what we’re seeing now with this extraordinary outbreak in certain West African countries.  So we were on the track of an Ebola vaccine, but we accelerated it.  We didn’t cut corners, but we really put the afterburners on to get things done much more quickly, so that we could get to the point where, next week, we will put this first time in a human, in a normal volunteer right here in our clinical center in Bethesda.

    GWEN IFILL: We have spent a lot of time trying to figure out ZMapp, the small dosage which has been experimented on humans in this latest outbreak.

    This plan that you’re talking about developing would be working with a large drug company, GlaxoSmithKline.  Does that make a difference in the timetable, how quickly we would see it come to market if it worked?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Gwen, it makes an extraordinary amount of difference.  It really is the game-changer in that.

    When you have a company like GlaxoSmithKline, who partners fully with the NIH, with our science and their capability of producing this, that’s how you get things done.  And, in fact, one of the reasons why we had not gotten the vaccine up to now or even drugs is that there was relatively little interest on the part of many pharmaceutical companies for either drugs or vaccines.

    And I think the extraordinary, dramatic situation which we’re going through right now is going to really get people’s attention and we will see a lot more interest in that, which I’m very pleased about because we really do need a vaccine and some therapeutics.

    GWEN IFILL: Because Ebola is such a dangerous virus, how do you ensure the safety not only for those taking it in the trial, but also for those handling the virus?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, that’s a good question, Gwen.

    And it’s important to point out there’s no chance at all of the vaccine giving Ebola to anyone, because we’re not giving them the Ebola virus.  We’re giving them a vaccine that has a very small component of the genetic material from Ebola that will make a protein that is again an important component of the virus, but not a virus that can actually replicate.

    So there’s no chance.  When we say safety, which is the first part of phase one, we’re not talking about safety of giving someone Ebola.  We’re talking about safety of an adverse reaction to the vaccine itself.  That’s an important difference.

    GWEN IFILL: If we’re talking about the possibility of 20,000 cases before this thing begins to subside, how do we know the vaccines are the right solution, or even are they the right solution?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, again a great question, because the solution, right now, is what we know can stop an outbreak, and that is the ability and the infrastructure to deliver infection control by isolation, by quarantine, by contact tracing, and by protecting the health care workers with proper personal protective equipment.

    The difficulty in those West African countries is, they don’t have that kind of infrastructure in place, and it’s truly a struggle to be able to do that kind of infection control.  Historically, under other circumstances, there have been now about 24 outbreaks of Ebola, usually in geographically-restricted areas, where it was much easier to contain it.

    You can contain it with good hospital and infection control capabilities.

    GWEN IFILL: Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health, thank you very much.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: You’re quite welcome.

    The post Ebola’s spread hastens preparations for vaccine testing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    border

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    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended nearly 63,000 unaccompanied children at the southwest border just this year.  Many of them are then relocated to various cities across the country, creating a growing need for health care and education.

    Judy Woodruff recently visited a D.C.-based organization that is providing some of that support.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: When Maria Gomez was 13 years old, she and her mother emigrated to the United States from Colombia, after her political activist father was murdered.  The two settled in Washington, D.C., where Gomez grew up in the midst of a burgeoning Latino community.

    Seeing the difficult time many were having, in 1988, Gomez gave up her job as a nurse to open Mary’s Center, a place for pregnant Latina women to receive free or low-cost prenatal care.  Many of these women had come to the U.S. to escape poverty and civil war in countries like El Salvador; 26 years later, a much expanded Mary’s Center is on the front lines of providing an array of services to an influx of Central American families and children.

    Already this year, nearly 6,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have crossed the U.S. border and have been released to sponsors in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland.  Mary’s Center alone has received more than 500 of the unaccompanied children just over the past few weeks, putting a serious strain on its resources.

    Since its founding, the organization has grown enormously, in order to address the needs of children and adults who’ve received little or no formal education, and many of whom don’t speak English.  Mary’s Center now offers schooling and social services, in addition to medical care.

    A few days ago, I visited one of Mary’s Center’s four locations in the Washington area and spoke with its president and founder, Maria Gomez.

    Maria Gomez, thank you very much for talking with us.

    MARIA GOMEZ, President, Mary’s Center: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you have run Mary’s Center for over a quarter-of-a-century, since 1988.  You have seen families, children coming into the United States from Central America and other places.  What are you now seeing?  How is that incoming of people changing?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Yes, the incoming that we see now is — it’s almost the same, but really people were coming really fleeing a war back in 1988 from El Salvador.

    Now people are fleeing the gang members who are basically doing pretty much the same, killing their families.  We have one child after another whose families have been killed, their brothers and sisters, their mothers, their fathers.

    Yesterday, we were at a vigil and one of the children, one of the boys, a 16-year-old, both of his parents were killed right in front of him, and was threatened that if he didn’t pay them whatever he earned from the rest of the family that was there that he would also be killed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And these are not an occasional story.  You’re hearing these regularly; is that right?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Every kid that comes in has a story, whether it’s their aunt, their grandmother, their father.  Many, many, many men, the fathers of many of these children have been killed because they refused to give them their daily payments that they earned.

    And, sometimes, it’s for nothing, at the maximum, $2, $3, $5 that these people are making a day anyway.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How are most of them getting here?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Well, what we’re hearing from the families and the kids is that the parents or the family members over there sold pretty much everything they had, the little land they had, whatever they had, their cows, their sheep, whatever they had, to make sure that they could get enough money you know, $5,000.

    So not only do they now have nothing back home, but now they owe money still to those people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you also have young women, girls who are being raped, sexually abused on the way?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Yes.

    Many of them, unfortunately, because of the gang activities, particularly in Honduras, the individuals, these young women are being raped even back home.  And so they’re fleeing.  There’s a 50/50 chance that they will cross the border alive.  Then there is a chance for them to be living back home, because they’re either — they either be submissive to the abuse or they will get killed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But once they’re in the United States there’s a good chance they will be deported back to their home country.  What do they face if they go back?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Death is really what they’re facing, because once an individual becomes a wage-earner, they are threatened daily for their wages or they will be killed.

    That’s basically — that’s the option they have at this point.  That is why, you know, many parents are taking the risk of actually sending kids as young as 9, 11 years of age across the north.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re dealing with families with children who’ve seen trauma.  What are you seeing and how do you deal with it?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Some of them have gotten pregnant.

    Some of them come to relatives.  What we’re seeing when they come to relatives, they go through another trauma, because the relatives really can’t afford to have them in their apartment.  They realize that they’re sort of a nuisance, an extra.

    Many of the kids come with the aspiration of coming to school, because they have never been to school.  Some of those kids have never been to school because it’s too dangerous.  One girl was telling us that they actually killed one of her friends and left body parts on the way to give her the message that, if she went to school, that would happen to her, unless she became part of the gang group.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Where does the money come from to take care of all this?

    MARIA GOMEZ: So, right now, it’s costing us over $800 to take care of these kids because they come…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A person.

    MARIA GOMEZ: A person, every person, because — especially because we’re not only taking care of the medical piece, but the mental health and the dental health.  And when you add all those things together, we can get bills as high as $1,300, $1,500 per person, when you start dealing with that.

    But the basic health care right now is about $800 per person, because we are having to do special tests now for young kids as young as 9 years of age for sexually transmitted diseases, for HIV, that we wouldn’t otherwise do that at that young, right?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And do you feel you’re able to address the need?  Are you able to do what needs to be done?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Yes.  Well, we have the staffing.  We have the staff to be able to do that, even if it means we extend hours.  We have the psychiatrists, the psychologists.  We have the medical staff to do that.  We have the capacity.

    I think what’s we’re concerning now is that, right now, we’re running — as of the end of July up to now, we are — we have racked up almost $400,000 worth of free care that we have given, because these individuals are not able to pay.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The stories you tell that they tell are so powerful, and yet there are still people in the United States who say, we’re very sympathetic, we wish it weren’t this way, but we first have to pay attention to problems in our own country.  We can’t receive people who are suffering from all around the world.

    What do you say to those — to those people?

    MARIA GOMEZ: Yes, I totally understand what they are saying, and — but I also know that this land has an opportunity we have — this is how we were created — to take people from all over the world.

    And what I say to people who talk about the fact that we can’t take on, and we have so many people that we have to still take care of, I often wonder, are we really taking care of the poorest and the most vulnerable in this country?

    When we’re given an opportunity, we, as Americans, always pay it back.  And that is, I think, what we need to look forward to.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria Gomez, Mary’s Center, we thank you very much for talking with us.

    MARIA GOMEZ: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

    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 On the front lines of care for undocumented children who cross the border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    chicago

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: For years, community colleges in America have opened their doors to everyone, offering a huge variety of courses at a fraction of the cost. But with only 5 percent of community college students graduating on time, should the schools be revamped?

    The city of Chicago believes so, and has hired a controversial chancellor who has her own story of transformation.

    Hari is back with the next in our series on Rethinking College.

    CHERYL HYMAN, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago: These are all natural science classes.

    WOMAN: Yes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Cheryl Hyman knows these hallways better than most. After all, she walked them some 20 years ago as a community college student.

    CHERYL HYMAN: Let’s see if I can recognize any of my old classrooms.

    WOMAN: All righty.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Today, she walks as the boss. In 2010, Hyman was asked by Chicago’s mayor to leave a lucrative job at the utility giant Commonwealth Edison to become chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, one of the largest community college systems in the country.

    CHERYL HYMAN: This is how much closer we need to get to the target.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Hyman manages a budget of $650 million, oversees 5,700 of employees and seven college campuses.

    CHERYL HYMAN: I just wanted to stop in and say hi.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Her task was to turn around a dismal record. Only 7 percent of the 115,000 students were graduating.

    CHERYL HYMAN: Good luck, and thanks for attending City Colleges of Chicago.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Like many of the students at City Colleges of Chicago, Hyman had a challenging childhood.

    CHERYL HYMAN: How are you?

    GIRL: It’s my birthday.

    CHERYL HYMAN: Happy birthday!

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Raised in Chicago’s public housing by parents addicted to drugs, she left home at age 17, dropped out of high school and, for a time, became homeless.

    Against the odds, Hyman returned to school, getting her high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s prestigious Kellogg School of Management.

    How important is it for someone that’s sitting in that sort of prospective student’s chair to say, here’s a woman that came through the housing authority, she went through corporate America and she’s running this place; I could see myself in her shoes?

    CHERYL HYMAN: I think a lot. I think a lot.

    What many of our students need more than anything else is hope. A lot of times, they walk through our doors, and they don’t have that. And I think, without that, it doesn’t matter what type of education we’re providing them. They will never think that they can make it out of their circumstances, or they will somehow think that their circumstances dictate their destiny.

    And I try very hard to give them that hope that that’s not true. That’s part of why I came from corporate America and took this job.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now Hyman hopes to reinvent the City Colleges of Chicago.

    CHERYL HYMAN: Reinvention to me is, how do you establish a model which helps you shift the paradigm of how community colleges should be defined, shift the paradigm from institutions that have typically been solely focused on access to those who now couple access with success?

    And what we mean by success is that students are completing what they came here for in a timely manner, and that those credentials are relevant.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Currently, only 5 percent of the 8.3 million students enrolled in community colleges around the nation graduate on time. That means 35 million Americans over the age of 25 have some college credit, but no degree.

    Were students coming to City Colleges and taking credits that they didn’t particularly need or wouldn’t translate into a job?

    CHERYL HYMAN: Yes. They were. They would come in with a perception of, I want to be X, and then they would thumb through this huge course catalog to try to put their future together with the limited information and guidance.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When Hyman arrived at City Colleges of Chicago, she says too many students were taking too many classes that didn’t advance them toward a degree. As a result, many dropped out.

    Others like Shaina Henderson say they wasted time and money. Henderson ended up with 88 credits, 26 more than she needed for her associate’s degree.

    SHAINA HENDERSON: I didn’t necessarily know how to navigate college and how to select my classes, so I took art because I figured that, you know, I like drawing, but I didn’t know necessarily if they will count towards my graduation.

    CHERYL HYMAN: What’s really going to determine when we offer what and how often we offer it is students’ availability.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Hyman tripled the number of student advisers and crated course-by-course career paths for every student.

    CHERYL HYMAN: So, we have launched the Student GPS, the Guided Pathway to Success, which now takes what we know to be the relevant industries which represent the job market, which represent what four-year institutions look for, and so we have taken those and put them in clear semester-by-semester pathways.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: New transfer agreements with four-year universities ensured college students were taking proper courses towards a bachelor’s degree.

    That seems kind of basic. That seems fundamental.

    CHERYL HYMAN: It does.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: I would have expected that a city college or any college would have my credits to transfer.

    CHERYL HYMAN: It does seem very fundamental to you and I, but it was revolutionary when I started talking about it through reinvention. Students would — they would get their associate’s degree and transfer and only half their credits would transfer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The change helped Shaina Henderson transfer to the University of Illinois.

    SHAINA HENDERSON: And no one else in my family had reached that type of milestone in their lives, because they always had — had to take care of their family or have — like, have to work. So I figured to take it upon myself to have that accomplishment for my family will make us all proud.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In three years since Hyman launched her reinvention campaign, graduation rates have nearly doubled. The number of degrees awarded jumped from 2,000 to 4,000.

    But the reinvention of City Colleges has also met with controversy. Hyman, who has no background in education, was under fire from faculty for hiring expensive outside business consultants. At the same time, she took the drastic move of replacing six out of seven college presidents.

    CHERYL HYMAN: We can those buildings open seven days a weeks, 24 hours a day. Students still have to juggle their schedules.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: She cut staff, eliminating courses and other costs, and took a hard line on labor negotiations to save $51 million.

    What is the hardest part of changing a culture?

    CHERYL HYMAN: Well, the hardest part of change is culture. I think the hardest part of changing culture is, you have to convince everybody that you’re changing not to hurt them, but you’re changing so that everybody can have a win-win.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Hyman’s sweeping changes at City Colleges of Chicago will be watched closely by both critics and supporters, as her reinvention plan heads into its fourth year this fall.

    GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow, Hari looks at performance funding at public universities. The more students graduate, the more money the institution gets from the state. Online, read about how an Arizona community college is running its campuses like a business, and whether its students benefit from being treated like customers. That’s on our Education page.

    The post Grad rates double after reinvention of Chicago City Colleges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bookcover

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: Some people may judge a book by its cover, but what does it take to create a cover that best represents a book?

    Jeff recently talked with a man who does just that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Book lovers — and you know who you are — will recognize the covers of numerous books that have appeared in the last decade, from reissues of classic writers to new novels and works of nonfiction.

    The man who designed these covers is now stepping forward with two books of his own, one that investigates the act of reading itself called “What We See When We Read” and, the second, a glossy compendium of his work and his thoughts about it entitled “Cover.”

    Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director for Knopf Books.

    And welcome to you.

    PETER MENDELSUND, Author, “What We See When We Read”: Thank you for having me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What are you doing in creating a book cover? What — how do you see the job?

    PETER MENDELSUND: The job is really to represent the author’s words.

    We read the manuscript when we get it and we try to find some way of translating those words into a visual that can sort of bear the weight of the narrative.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You actually read — I was almost surprised — maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that you actually read it.

    PETER MENDELSUND: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you do a deep reading of the book.

    PETER MENDELSUND: Yes.

    It’s a serious responsibility, and I like to read the work as closely as I can. It’s very important to me that the cover that ends up on the book not be in some way dissonant with the author’s project as a whole.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You write about reading in a different way. You’re looking for different things than I would be as a general reader.

    PETER MENDELSUND: It’s an extremely strange process reading as a designer.

    I’m very interested in finding those visual emblems or occasions in a book that I can then translate into something visual. It could be a scene, it could be a character, it could be a metaphor itself, but just anything in the text that could be made visual, and then that thing can be sort of the vessel that the whole book can be poured into.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, when you say you bear the responsibility, that goes to, do we judge a book by its cover, right? You’re coming between the author and potential readers.

    PETER MENDELSUND: Yes, it’s a very serious responsibility. And I feel a tremendous amount of guilt when I get it wrong.

    It’s very important to me in my responsibility to the author to make sure that they’re comfortable with the thing that wraps their — their baby.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, have you developed a theory about what makes a great cover, and vice versa?

    PETER MENDELSUND: I would say — well, there’s two answers to that question. One is a great cover is, as I said, a cover that really does a great job of representing that particular story, but, of course, a great cover is also a cover that sells a book well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    PETER MENDELSUND: And my theory about what sells a book well is not a popular theory, but I think any cover that looks very different from all the covers around it, that cover is going to draw your eye.

    So if all the covers on the table are colorful, and you make a white cover, it may seem bland by itself, but that white cover, just by virtue of being different, will draw your eye and draw you to it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me give you — I want to give an example. One of the biggest sellers in your successes is Stieg Larsson books. Now, why did that work?

    PETER MENDELSUND: Well, I think — I also have another theory, which is that, if you make something pretty enough, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, people will want it.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PETER MENDELSUND: And I think this is an extremely violent murder mystery.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    PETER MENDELSUND: And the cliches and tropes for jacketing those kinds of books are shadowy guys in trench coats, murder weapons, a lot of blood.

    You can pretty put blood on any kind of jacket image and it will signal to you that it’s a crime novel.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    PETER MENDELSUND: In this case, there’s no blood, and it is very sort of delicately wrought. And the color is very unusual. It’s sort of a very bright DayGlo yellow.

    And I think that kind of proves my earlier point, which is that it just looked so different and hopefully was visually appealing enough that, when you were in a bookstore, and you saw it, at the very least, you would come a little bit closer to it. Sort of it would appeal to the magpie in the shopper. You just wanted to kind of pick it up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And did you know it away, or does the — do sales tell you that you have succeeded?

    PETER MENDELSUND: It was a horribly arduous process coming up with that cover. I probably did 50 to 70 different versions of it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really? And is that normal? You do that many?

    PETER MENDELSUND: It depends. Sometimes, lightning strikes away, and you have your eureka moments.

    But I do as much work as I need to do unlike I feel like I have done my job. And in this case, even after it was made, there was still some hemming and hawing about whether it was the right cover, which also just goes to prove that you can never get consensus on these things.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PETER MENDELSUND: But I was happy with it. And I’m not sure if it’s a good cover by association or whether it’s generally a good cover, but I’m proud of it, for what it’s worth.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the — we will call the smaller book, you ask the question, “What We See When We Read.”

    Now, you’re actually talking about what we see, what we imagine. And I’m wondering. We’re in a visual culture now, and this obviously ties to the kind of work you do as a designer of covers.

    PETER MENDELSUND: That’s right.

    I mean, it occurred to me at some point I was plucking, as I said, these sort of visions out of an author’s work. And it occurred to me that it was a very strange process. It wasn’t quite the way that I had imagined it. And the way that I think I had imagined it is the way that most people imagine it, which is that the author provides you with their vision of a particular world that’s populated by particular characters.

    And you read about them. And you see the author’s people and places. And then you close the book and it’s over. And the strange thing was really, I realized when I started to examine these kind of visions, that, in fact, the author’s prompts weren’t mattering that much.

    He might — Tolstoy might tell me that Anna Karenina has a certain kind of a hair. It’s black hair and it’s tightly curled.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I’m not actually picturing that?

    PETER MENDELSUND: No.

    You know, when I’m reading about Anna, I’m picturing whatever the closest analogue I can come up with to the woman that Tolstoy very, very narrowly describes for us. And that might be a teacher of mine from grade school. It turns out, once you really start examining the process and parsing it, that we all do this. We sort of co-create the book along with the writer.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And do you think that all of this is changing because of a changing technology, a changing society that is more visual, perhaps, than print-oriented?

    PETER MENDELSUND: In a way, it makes this idea of imagining things for ourselves, this kind of nebulous, amorphous world that we occupy when we’re reading, it makes it more valuable than ever, because we’re so bombarded all the time with visual stimuli, that there are very few other places, maybe other than when we’re dreaming, where we get to have this feeling of occupying this kind of metaphysical realm.

    So it becomes very special in that regard. We text pictures to each other. We see pictures on the Internet all the time. Everything, you said, is visual. So it’s nice to think of this more, as I put it, kind of amorphous place that doesn’t exist in the corporeal world that we can sort of occupy. It becomes more precious, I think.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, “What We See When We Read” and “Covers.”

    Peter Mendelsund, thank you so much.

    PETER MENDELSUND: Thank you for having me.

    GWEN IFILL: You can find a photo gallery of Peter Mendelsund’s work on our Art Beat page.

    The post How a book designer plucks a vision from an author’s pages appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    It’s been a runaway treadmill of a summer. If it hasn’t been protests in the Midwest, it’s been planes dropping out of the sky in Ukraine. If it hasn’t been rockets and missiles raining down in the Middle East, it has been border confrontations in the American Southwest.

    You can be forgiven for forgetting there is a midterm election underway.

    But Labor Day is nigh, and voters are facing an array of pretty interesting choices this fall. In two states, rising Republican stars who were busy building national profiles in anticipation of 2016 have suddenly been forced to refocus.

    Both are Republicans who infuriate their foes at home, but have become political rock stars far beyond their state borders.

    In Wisconsin, Marquette University Law School published the results this week of a new neck-and-neck poll between Republican Governor Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting on March 29 in Las Vegas. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting on March 29 in Las Vegas. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Just 19 months after first being elected, Walker survived a recall election in 2012 after championing expanded voter identification and cutting collective bargaining rights for state employees. But he and Burke are in a tight race, trapped within a 3.5 percent margin of error among both registered and likely voters.

    It is clear much of the surprising tightness has more to do with Walker than Burke. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) told me the story of bringing Burke to a black church on a summer Sunday. The worshippers clapped politely when Burke was introduced by name; then erupted wildly when she was identified as Walker’s challenger.

    And only this week, Burke won the endorsement of Democracy for America, a political action committee founded by former DNC Chair Howard Dean, which had barely a word to say about Burke herself. “After working for years to defeat him[Walker],” the press release read, “Democracy for America members in Wisconsin and across the country can’t wait to knock on every door and make every phone call necessary to send Mary Burke to Madison and end Scott Walker’s political career once and for all.”

    A similar tableau may be playing out in Florida – but with a twist. “It really is an only-in-Florida kind of story,” Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith told me.

    Charlie Crist hugs his running mate Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as they win the Democratic primary for the Florida governor's race Aug. 26.  Photo by Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

    Charlie Crist hugs his running mate Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as they win the Democratic primary for the Florida governor’s race Aug. 26. Photo by Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

    There, former Republican Governor Charlie Crist — now a Democrat — is teeing up for a run against another polarizing incumbent — Republican Rick Scott.

    For most of his first term in office, polls have ranked Scott as more unpopular than popular. That helped Crist launch a campaign to rebrand himself as a Democrat allied with President Obama. As with the Walker-Burke race in Wisconsin, Democrats are hoping voters can be persuaded to cast an anyone-but-Scott vote.

    But Scott, a wealthy man who spent tens of millions of dollars getting elected the first time, is spending freely again — closing the popularity gap by casting Crist as a turncoat. RealClearPolitics now rates the race a tossup.

    I’m not sure it’s especially good for politics in general to be reduced to voting for the person you dislike the least. In fact, such choices — often rendered even more visceral by floods of negative advertising — could serve to depress turnout.

    And in a close race, that could determine the margin of victory. That’s all the more reason to pay attention to the political shoes that are about to drop this fall.

    The post Gwen’s Take: Getting to 2016 by surviving 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kraft Foods Products Ahead Of Earnings Release

    Packages of Kraft Foods Group Inc. Singles cheese slices are displayed for sale at a supermarket in New York, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. Kraft Foods Group Inc. announced a recall of the product on Aug. 29, 2014 Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Kraft Foods Group Inc. said on Friday it is recalling nearly 8,000 cases of Kraft American Singles, according to news reports.

    The company recall happened after a supplier “did not store an ingredient used in this product in accordance with Kraft’s temperature standards,” a Kraft Foods press release said.

    The recall is linked to products with “Best When Used By” dates of Feb. 20, 2015 and Feb. 21, 2015, Reuters reports.

    The company told Reuters that while food-borne illness and premature spoilage are unlikely, people should not consume the product and return the product to the store for an exchange or refund.

    The Kraft American Singles were produced at a Kraft plant in Springfield, Mo.

    The post Kraft recalls thousands of American Singles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    IslamicStateGain

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Islamic State has entered our consciousness for multiple reasons.

    Partly for the savagery they are willing to commit and also because of the savvy they display in spreading their message.

    For some analysis yesterday I spoke with Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution and author of “Temptations of Power: Islamists & Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East” and Philip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland and blogger at Hizballah Cavalcade, who studies Islamic extremism.

    So, Shadi Hamid, compare these guys to al-Qaida. It seems that we were almost better off getting these grainy video tapes from Osama bin Laden out of a cave compared to what we are seeing today.

    SHADI HAMID: So ISIS are quite advanced in their marketing and media strategy, they’ve been very active on Twitter and for those of us on the outside trying to follow them, you can actually engage with some of these people on Twitter. And they’re actively tweeting about somewhat mundane things.

    There was actually a Twitter meme, where ISIS fighters were eating jars of Nutella. But on the other hand, you also see very savage things like beheadings.

    So, there’s a kind of strange duality, a schizophrenia that they’re showing this dark, brutal side, but they’re also trying to show, at least as they might see it a more humane side to Western audiences.

    And we’re not going to buy that as Americans, but for people who are potentially sympathetic or fence sitters, seeing those images can actually be appealing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Philip Smyth, it seemed that in the past it was guys holding machine guns in the backdrop of a video, well this is how tough I am.

    It seems now the bar is I need to be holding a human head in an Instagram.

    PHILIP SMYTH: We’ve seen stuff like this before. It’s not really that new, it’s just the platforms that are being utilized: Twitter, Instagram you mentioned, Facebook. There’s now direct outreach to the people they wish to recruit and to the people they wish to influence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so, why is this escalation? Is this an escalation of the savagery to these groups feel like there is no other alternative? But why go to these extremes now?

    SHADI HAMID: Well one thing that ISIS wants to do is instill terror in the hearts of their opponents.

    So when say the Iraqi army or the Syrian army see images of beheading and mass executions, they think to themselves, if they get caught by ISIS fighters that’s what will happen to them.

    So that really hurts the morale of anyone who’s trying to fight ISIS and we saw that in a very striking fashion with the Iraqi army.

    ISIS was going into Mosul with a much smaller number of fighters, but the Iraqi army just essentially dissolved.

    And that’s part of it was because they were hearing all these stories about the military prowess and the savagery of the ISIS fighters. So it does really have an impact on the battlefield.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Philip Smyth you mentioned earlier kind of almost the hijacking of conversations.

    They’re not trying to hijack aircraft, but they’re trying to get into the consciousness of people who are talking about anything from Nutella to the Ice Bucket Challenge.

    PHILIP SMYTH: Correct. They want to have a full sweep. If you’re trying to cast any kind of narrative, you want to look as average as possible.

    If I’m, if somebody’s trying to recruit me, they’re going to want to interact with me like they were a friend, even like how we’re talking now.

    It’s probably one of the best ways to get in and influence somebody’s mind.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So some of this is coming into, or across our radars, because these people understand English.

    We’ve had this larger conversation of Westerners becoming radicalized, but it’s also because they know the difference of what the West is talking about.

    SHADI HAMID: So there’s an important distinction here. The Head of the Islamic State, al-Baghdadi, it’s not as if he himself is tweeting or any of the senior figures around him.

    We’re talking about the younger fighters on the ground, many of whom are English speaking and many of whom are European, even a few that are American.

    So for them, they grew up with Twitter, they grew up with Instagram, and Twitter is about something you just do during the day.

    So, they go on the battlefield, there’s been a big fight, their instinct is to tweet about that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How about the influence of American speakers, or I should say English speakers throughout the Western world participating in this conversation, how important is that to the recruitment of others?

    PHILIP SMYTH: It’s extremely important. If one of the target audiences, if their sole language is English, then it’s necessary to bring them in as foreign fighters, but it’s not simply that.

    As an analyst, I also have interacted with IS supporters and they will try to influence material that comes out of other analysts.

    So they understand, this is kind of a full spectrum approach, if you will, to spread their narrative or to influence other people that are on the web.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So are you finding, say for example the State Department now is kind of engaged in trying to battle this conversation, with hashtags of their own, trying to find, is that successful at all?

    SHADI HAMID: So the State Department actually has a Twitter account focused on  countering some of these jihadis and extremists online and specifically on Twitter.

    It’s hard to say how effective that is, perhaps it’s better than doing nothing.

    But we shouldn’t kind of delude ourselves into thinking that public diplomacy can really change people’s minds in a very obvious way.

    The American government doesn’t have a lot of credibility with anyone who is going to be vaguely sympathetic to the aims of the Islamic State. So it’s not just a problem of message, but also the messenger.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Does the U.S. government have, not just any street credibility, but have any chance at trying to intercept that messaging that the Islamic State seems to be pretty successful at?

    PHILIP SMYTH: Well in terms of monitoring and recruitment, we do spend billions of dollars a year on the NSA, which I would assume monitors quite a bit of this traffic, but in terms of countering the propaganda, it is always good to have what’s called trolls.

    IS people do have their own trolls that will harass American government accounts and other analysts accounts. And sometimes it’s good for a little pushback just to show the United States is watching and that occasionally it can also poke at them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Philip Smyth, Shadi Hamid, thanks so much for your time.

    PHILIP SMYTH: Thank you.

    SHADI HAMID: Thanks for having us.

    The post The duality and mission of ISIS on social media appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ukraine

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about the crisis in Ukraine, we’re joined now via Skype from Kiev by Alan Cullison of the Wall Street Journal.

    So, Alan what can you tell us what’s the latest there this morning and the whole week we’ve been reporting on new incursions or invasions, however you want to call them, by Russian troops into different parts of Ukraine.

    ALAN CULLISON: Well, there are more details of more armor being poured in and the latest allegation is that an armored column that came in from Russia flattened the town near the border of a Ukrainian town.

    It’s nothing that any of us can confirm since getting into that part of the battle zone is extremely dangerous. But basically it’s just a gradual escalation of an overwhelming – they say that the Ukrainian troops are just facing overwhelming odds and some are being encircled, or pushed back.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there specific villages, are there specific areas right along the border who are feeling it more who basically have no choice now?

    ALAN CULLISON: Well, there were, yes, basically there were two battlefronts near the Ukrainian border. One was near the Ukrainian city of Luhansk, the other one was near Donetsk.

    What happened this week was that an armored column broke into Ukraine, in an area where there wasn’t any rebel activity before, which was, you know, clearly evidence that there were Russian forces doing this. That’s been the most catastrophic part of the week for the Ukrainians.

    This new front that opened up in the south along the Sea of Azov, because the Russian forces are moving along the coast and may be taking the town of the port city of Mariupol.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there cases where the Ukrainians are retreating, either tactically, or otherwise?

    ALAN CULLISON: Yeah, they’ve been in retreat for about a week now, but more problematic for the Ukrainians is that several of their groups surrounded – and of course getting out alive that is a consideration. There have been efforts to negotiate a deal, I believe, a trade for prisoners.

    If the Ukrainians would give up some prisoners then the Russians might let them out of encirclement and back into their own territory. But, yeah, the Ukrainians are taking a beating at this point.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And how effective are some of the videos that we’ve seen out of there, especially on sort of Ukrainian Independence Day in the last week and half or so, we saw that there were actually separatists forces that were parading Ukrainian soldiers through the streets.

    Is that kind of a message getting out to the wider Ukraine that this is an active war, that there are prisoners of war?

    ALAN CULLISON: Well, I think, at least in Ukraine it’s been clear they’ve been at war for quite a while. They’ve been trying to send that message to people. I think that the effect of the prisoner parade on Ukraine was that it polarized people even more. I mean, some want to fight harder, others are also it’s just arousing enormous animosity towards those in the east who are fighting against them.

    It’s going to make peace-making a lot more difficult. Although, there are those Ukrainians who if the fatigue sets in, and if this war continues for a long time, they might develop an attitude that they’re just a different people over there who are just so hostile that they just don’t want them to be part of Ukraine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the idea that Ukraine has essentially called out a draft and wants men to enter into military service?

    ALAN CULLISON: Well, I think mobilization is what most people expect and actually quite a few people have been asking why it hasn’t happened yet. It’s something that the leadership has been – I don’t know exactly, it’s hard to say why they’ve held off on it.

    I think that they were hoping that there would be a negotiated solution. And they were actually quite optimistic about defeating the rebels up until about a week, a week and half ago, when they said that just a lot of troops in armor started moving into the country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Alan Cullison of the Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    ALAN CULLISON: Thank you.

    The post Ukraine military facing ‘overwhelming odds’ as incursions continue appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BRAZIL-RUSSIA-PUTIN

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Returning now to the crisis in Ukraine. For more perspective about what options the United States and its western allies have to deal with the Russian military intervention there, we’re joined now via Skype from Westfield, Mass., by Nicholas Burns. He is a former undersecretary of state and now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Thanks for joining us.

    So, what should the West’s role be here? What is the appropriate balance between diplomacy and military action?

    R. NICHOLAS BURNS: This is a major turning point in the crisis because President Putin has now put Russian soldiers, Russian-mechanized equipment over the border into Ukraine. They’ve encircled the Ukrainian military, and they’ve turned the tide of this war. It’s an outright violation of international law, so I think that the West has three options ahead of it and there will be a very important NATO meeting in Wales to consider this.

    Number one, stronger sanctions against the Russian government and the Russian economy. And this will mean very severe financial sanctions, the kind of sanctions that will really drive up the cost to President Putin for what he has done. Second, the Ukrainian government is asking for sophisticated arms transfers from Europe and the United States – and intelligence support where they can fight back and control its own territory.

    I think President Obama has been very clear, and rightly so, the United States is not going to go to war with Russia over Ukraine. But certainly we have an interest in helping the Ukrainians to defend themselves and defend their territory.

    And third, continued economic support and here the Europeans should take the lead, led by Germany, because the Ukrainian economy as you know is faltering, and it needs a dramatic infusion of western capital.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there any reason to believe these sanctions will work? We’ve imposed some sanctions on Russia and so have the Europeans. It just seems they have just escalated no into a sanctions war.

    R. NICHOLAS BURNS: It’s really the only pressure point that the West has right now because, again, we’ve rightly given up the alternative of war. It doesn’t make sense legally or politically for us to tangle with the Russian government. We’re two nuclear weapons countries.

    And so it’s really the Russian economy’s vulnerable. The Russian economy is very much integrated, particularly with the European economy. It depends on infusions of international capital, it depends on manufactured imports from Europe, especially.

    And if the Europeans will agree to substantial financial sanctions much stronger than the first two rounds of sanctions over the last five months, that will be the best way to get Putin’s attention and show him, demonstrate to him that there’s a real cost to what he’s done in violating international law in the way that he’s done so.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If we began arms transfers, are we essentially engaging in the equivalent of a proxy war against Russia?

    R. NICHOLAS BURNS: No, we’re simply helping a friendly country. And Ukraine in the last 15 years has been a friendly country to the NATO allies, including the United States. We’re helping that country defend itself, protect its borders, police its streets, take back two big cities — Donetsk and Lugansk — in the eastern part of the country that are critical for the survival of an integrated Ukraine.

    And I think the reason to do so, Hari, is the principle at stake is so important. At the end of the Cold War, we achieved a democratic peace in Europe, something that Europe had not been for centuries. That’s now all at risk because Putin very cynically is using force to divide countries and draw new dividing lines in Europe.

    So it’s that important that the United States and the Western Europeans get engaged here and next week’s going to be and important week. We’ll know the answer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how consequential is Ukraine’s attempt to join NATO, and how long would that process take?

    R. NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, you know, Ukraine has been a partner of NATO since the late 1990s. It’s not at all realistic that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, given the fact that Ukraine is fractured. It has these massive territorial disputes with Russia. Ukraine can hope to be a partner, continue to be a partner with NATO and work with it.

    But I think what the Ukrainians need and want most, Hari, is not NATO membership. They want a trade relationship with the European Union. They won’t be a member of the European Union any time soon as well. But they need the trade, they need the capital investment. They need the economic assistance that some kind of association, a partnership or association would have.

    And remember, President Putin’s invasion of Crimea and everything he’s done was precipitated by the fact that the Ukrainians were threatening a trade agreement with the European Union. He is that paranoid about states along his periphery looking west as opposed to east.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about this idea of Novorossiya, something that the Russians have said, ‘Sure, we’ll stop all of this if we can just go ahead and annex this portion of Ukraine back’? It seems that whether we like it or not, they’ve already sent the troops in and are, in fact, taking over that part of Ukraine. 

    R. NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, it’s a very unsettling and destabilizing concept that you’d say that, ‘We have a right as Russians to unite all Russians outside the borders of Russia.’ There are significant populations of Russians, of course, in Ukraine, but also in Moldova, in Belarus, in Kazakhstan, in Uzbekistan.

    Should we support the Russian government’s right to march into those countries, take over portions of those countries simply because ethnic Russians are living there? This is an inexact comparison, of course, but that was essentially the philosophy of the Nazi party in Germany in the 1930s, that they would unite the Germans living outside the German Reich.

    It’s a very dangerous, destabilizing concept we vowed after the second World War we would not allow that kind of action in Europe. And here it is with President Putin, with this Novorossiya, New Russia concept, which is dangerous. And it needs to be opposed by the United States and the Western Europeans.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Nicholas Burns, thanks so much for your time.

    R. NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you.

    The post Sanctions ‘only pressure point the West has’ in Ukraine-Russia crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military says fighter aircraft and unmanned drones have struck Islamic State militants near Iraq’s Mosul Dam.

    In a statement issued Saturday, U.S. Central Command says the five latest U.S. airstrikes were in support of operations conducted by Iraqi security forces.

    Officials say the airstrikes destroyed an armed vehicle, a fighting position and weapons and significantly damaged an Islamic State building.

    Central Command says it has conducted a total of 115 airstrikes across Iraq.

    The post US airstrikes target Islamic State near Mosul Dam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Fearing a Russian invasion and occupation of Alaska, the U.S. government in the early Cold War years recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military, newly declassified Air Force and FBI documents show.

    Invasion of Alaska? Yes. It seemed like a real possibility in 1950.

    “The military believes that it would be an airborne invasion involving bombing and the dropping of paratroopers,” one FBI memo said. The most likely targets were thought to be Nome, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Seward.

    So FBI director J. Edgar Hoover teamed up on a highly classified project, code-named “Washtub,” with the newly created Air Force Office of Special Investigations, headed by Hoover protege and former FBI official Joseph F. Carroll.

    The secret plan was to have citizen-agents in key locations in Alaska ready to hide from the invaders of what was then only a U.S. territory. The citizen-agents would find their way to survival caches of food, cold-weather gear, message-coding material and radios. In hiding they would transmit word of enemy movements.

    This was not civil defense of the sort that became common later in the Cold War as Americans built their own bomb shelters. This was an extraordinary enlistment of civilians as intelligence operatives on U.S. soil.

    This account of the “Washtub” project is based on hundreds of pages of formerly secret documents. The heavily censored records were provided to The Associated Press by the Government Attic, a website that publishes government documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

    The Russians never invaded, of course.

    So the covert cadre of “stay-behind agents,” as they were known, was never activated to collect and report wartime information from backwoods bunkers. It was an assignment that federal officials acknowledged (to each other, if not to the new agents) was highly dangerous, given that the Soviet Union’s military doctrine called for the elimination of local resistance in occupied territory.

    To compensate for expected casualties, a reserve pool of agents was to be held outside of Alaska and inserted by air later as short-term replacements. This assignment was seen as an easier sell to potential recruits because “some agents might not be too enthusiastic about being left behind in enemy-occupied areas for an indefinite period of time,” one planning document noted dryly.

    “Washtub” was not, however, a washout.

    It operated from 1951-59, according to Deborah Kidwell, official historian of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or OSI.

    “While war with the Soviet Union did not come to Alaska, OSI trained 89 SBA (stay-behind agents), and the survival caches served peacetime purposes for many years to come,” she wrote in an OSI magazine last year.

    With the benefit of hindsight, it would be easy to dismiss “Washtub” as a harebrained scheme born of paranoia. In fact it reflected genuine worry about Soviet intentions and a sense of U.S. vulnerability in a turbulent post-World War II period.

    As the plan was being shaped in 1950, Soviet-backed North Korea invaded South Korea, triggering a war on the peninsula that some in the Pentagon saw as a deliberate move by Moscow to distract Washington before invading Europe. The previous summer the Soviets stunned the world by exploding their first atomic bomb. Also in 1949, the U.S. locked arms with Western Europe to form the NATO alliance, and Mao Zedong’s revolutionaries declared victory in China, adding to American fear that communism was on the march.

    “Washtub” was known inside the government by several other codenames, including Corpuscle, Stigmatic and Catboat, according to an official Air Force history of the OSI, which called it one of OSI’s “most extensive and long-running Cold War projects.” The FBI had its own code word for the project: STAGE.

    “Washtub” had two phases.

    The first and more urgent was the stay-behind agent program. The second was a parallel effort to create a standby pool of civilian operatives in Alaska trained to clandestinely arrange for the evacuation of downed military air crews in danger of being captured by Soviet forces. This “evasion and escape” plan was coordinated with the CIA.

    Among those listed as a stay-behind agent was Dyton Abb Gilliland of Cooper Landing, a community on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage. A well-known bush pilot, Gilliland died in a plane crash on Montague Island in Prince William Sound in May 1955 at age 45. FBI records say he spent 12 days in Washington D.C., in June-July 1951 undergoing a range of specialized training, including in the use of parachutes.

    The agents also got extensive training in coding and decoding messages, but this apparently did not always go well. Learning these techniques was “an almost impossible task for backwoodsmen to master in 15 hours of training,” one document said. Details in the document were blacked out.

    Many agent names in the OSI and FBI documents also were removed before being declassified.

    None of the indigenous population was included. The program founders believed that agents from the “Eskimo, Indian and Aleut groups in the Territory should be avoided in view of their propensities to drink to excess and their fundamental indifference to constituted governments and political philosophies. It is pointed out that their prime concern is with survival and their allegiance would easily shift to any power in control.”

    Recruiters pitched patriotism and were to offer retainer fees of up to $3,000 a year (nearly $30,000 in 2014 dollars). That sum was to be doubled “after an invasion has commenced,” according to one planning document. The records do not say how much was actually paid during the course of the program.

    At least some recruits were fingerprinted and all were secretly screened by the FBI for signs of disloyalty.

    The FBI linked one candidate, a resident of Stony River, to a list of names in a 1943 bureau file on “Communist Party activities, Alaska” that tracked U.S. subscribers to a magazine called “Soviet Russia Today.”

    Another candidate was flagged – falsely, it turned out – as a likely communist sympathizer based on an FBI informant’s tip about membership in the “Tom Paine Club, Communist Party, Spokane, Washington.”

    One was described in a May 1952 OSI memo to the FBI office in Anchorage as the postmaster in Kiana, Alaska; another was manager of a hotel in Valdez. One agent candidate worked for a tin-mining company at Lost River on the Seward Peninsula, one of the higher-priority areas for placing “Washtub” stay-behind agents.

    The FBI tapped its local contacts, including federal judges, the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, an Anchorage physician and others for names of reliable Alaskans to be approached.

    “Washtub’ was crafted in painstaking detail. But just as the first trained agents were to be put in place in September 1951, Hoover pulled out, leaving it in OSI’s hands, even though one month earlier his top lieutenants had advised him the FBI was “in these programs neck deep,” with an “obvious and inescapable” duty to proceed.

    Hoover worried that when the shooting in Alaska started the FBI would be “left holding the bag.”

    “If a crisis arose we would be in the midst of another `Pearl Harbor’ and get part of the blame,” Hoover wrote in the margin of a Sept. 6, 1951, memo from an aide, to whom Hoover added one final order: “Get out at once.”

    Three years later, Hoover was pulled back in, briefly.

    In October 1954, an envelope and a typewritten letter containing a coded message were turned over to the FBI by a woman in Anchorage. It had been misaddressed by the anonymous sender in Fairbanks. Espionage was suspected, triggering flurries of FBI internal memos. Hoover was informed that bureau code breakers were urgently trying to decipher the message.

    They never broke the code but eventually declared the crisis over. The mystery message, they determined, was not from an enemy spy. It was a “practice message” sent errantly by one of the “Washtub” agents.

    Follow Robert Burns on Twitter.

    The post In early Cold War years, US prepped for possible invasion of Alaska appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ISRAEL-SYRIA-UN-PHILIPPINES-CONFLICT-GOLAN

    Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) wave as they drive their armored vehicle in the Golan Heights near the border crossing between Israel and Syria, on August 30, 2014. 40 UN peacekeepers from the Philippines escaped after being surrounded since Thursday by Islamic militants in southern Syria. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

    40 United Nations peacekeepers from the Philippines escaped overnight after being surrounded since Thursday by Islamic militants in southern Syria, Reuters reports.

    “We may call it the greatest escape,” Philippine military chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang told reporters in Manila, according to the Associated Press.

    The day before, 35 Filipino peacekeepers were rescued, following a firefight. The peacekeepers had been trapped by an al-Qaida linked group known as the Nusra Front. The group has been fighting the Syrian army in the area for the past several days.

    Forty-four Fijian troops were captured at the same time. They remain in captivity in an unknown location, as negotiations for their release continue.

    A Nusra Front commander told Reuters the Fijian peacekeepers had been detained because the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force troops were helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

    The peacekeepers are part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, a special force that has monitored the area since 1974, following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

    Last year, due to escalating violence in the area, several nations withdrew their troops. At that time, the U.N. and U.S. pleaded with the Philippines not to follow suit, according to the AP.

    There are an estimated 1,223 peacekeepers in the zone from six countries.

    The post Trapped U.N. peacekeepers escape Islamist militants in Golan Heights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BAIJI, IRAQ - JULY 30:  During the Eid al-Fitr, Islamic State of Iraq and Levant-led militants patrol on the roads of Baiji after they control the city in Iraq on July 30, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    Islamic State of Iraq and Levant-led militants patrol on the roads of Baiji on July 30, 2014. Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate intelligence committees said Sunday that President Barack Obama should take decisive action against the growing threats from Islamic State militants on American soil. Credit: Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees on Sunday prodded President Barack Obama to take decisive action against what they say are growing threats from Islamic State militants on U.S. soil.

    The lawmakers, one Republican and one Democratic, offered bipartisan pressure on the White House to turn back the hazard of Islamist fighters who have taken control of vast swaths of Syria and Iraq. Those militants now are looking toward the United States or Western Europe for its next targets, lawmakers said.

    Without offering specifics on any threats or suggestions how to confront them, the lawmakers said Obama soon needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to crush the fighters.

    “His foreign policy is in absolute free-fall,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee.

    In another TV interview, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate intelligence panel, said Obama is perhaps “too cautious” in his approach to combatting the Islamic State group.

    “This is a group of people who are extraordinarily dangerous,” Feinstein said. “And they’ll kill with abandon.”

    The pair of lawmakers, who have access to some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets and receive regular and detailed briefings from the nation’s spy agencies, offered dire predictions of an attack on the United States or its European allies if the militants are not confronted.

    “They have announced that they don’t intend to stop,” Feinstein said. “They have announced that they will come after us if they can, that they will, quote, `spill our blood.’”

    The threat, Rogers said, could include Americans who have trained with Islamic State fighters. He said there are hundreds of Islamic State-trained Americans who can return to the U.S. with their American passports.

    “I’m very concerned because we don’t know every single person that has an American passport that has gone and trained and learned how to fight,” Rogers said.

    Rogers said U.S. intelligence agencies were tracking the Americans who are known to have traveled to the region. If they helped Islamic State fighters, he said, they should be charged under laws that prohibit Americans from aiding terrorists.

    “ISIL would like to have a Western-style attack to continue this notion that they are the leading jihadist group in the world,” Rogers said, using another name for the group.

    The top Democrat on his intelligence panel, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, was more skeptical. He said more needs to be known before judging whether they plan to commit terrorist acts in the U.S. any time soon. The group’s priority now seems to be to hold on to territory it has gained rather than export violence.

    “It is extremely urgent, but you don’t just rush in,” he said.

    It was a view shared by Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington state Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee: “We can’t simply bomb first and ask questions later.”

    Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged fast action and said Islamic State fighters “must be defeated, not contained,” because they represent a direct threat to the U.S.

    Added Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.: “The longer we wait, the more dangerous” the group becomes.

    Feinstein said she has seen nothing that compares to the viciousness of the militants who have overrun large portions of Iraq, killed civilians and beheaded American journalist James Foley. The Islamic State group has financing, military structure and weapons unlike any other militants, she said.

    Obama said Thursday he did not yet have a strategy for dealing with the Islamic State organization, a remark that brought criticism from Democrats and Republicans. In an interview published early this year by The New Yorker, the president appeared to minimize the group by comparing it to a junior varsity basketball team. The White House said he was speaking about a different threat posed by a range of extremists across the world.

    Feinstein said she thought the basketball analogy was wrong – “I think it’s a major varsity team” – but would not say whether she thought Obama projected weakness by admitting he had no strategy.

    “I think I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is he’s very cautious,” she said. “Maybe in this instance, too cautious. I do know that the military, I know that the State Department, I know that others have been putting plans together. And so hopefully, those plans will coalesce into a strategy.”

    Feinstein spoke to NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Rogers appeared on “Fox News Sunday.” Ruppersberger was on CNN’s “State of the Union.” McCain, Smith and King were interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

    Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter.

    The post Lawmakers push White House to take action on Islamic State threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    highschoolers

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    ERIN DEVANY: I feel like after hearing about the situation, I realized that if we have to protest the killing of unarmed youth in our nation, then we really don’t live in a free country at all.

    MICHAEL BRAXTON: I shouldn’t be scared because of the color of my skin, whether you’re white, Mexican, black, Indian – we should all have the same justice. I mean, it just doesn’t add up to me.

    YAHYA YUSSUF: I feel like Ferguson was like a true showing of what the nation truly feels about equality between minorities and the majorities in certain communities.

    HENRY CHAVEZ: It’s definitely let me know that justice and race are still a big topic to focus on in America — that racism is still something that exists and that equality amongst races themselves isn’t fully met yet.

    ANTHONY PALMER: After the events of Ferguson, I found a magazine about racial profiling from July 30 of 2001. This magazine brought to my attention that even since 2001, racial profiling has been still present and that our government is kind of ignoring what’s happening in today’s world.

    KYRA ADAMS: Racial stereotypes have always played an active role in our society today, and when things like this happen, it kind of reminds us the severity with which they are still a part of it. But having the media expose it the way that it has, has brought it to light to thousands of other citizens that would normally turn a blind eye to it.

    KADEN JETT: I believe that police officers have too much power to not be responsible with it. The police officer should have went for the Taser as opposed for the gun, and then Michael Brown would have been in the jail as opposed to the morgue.

    The post ‘It just doesn’t add up’: Amid Ferguson fallout, students sound off on race in America appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    water

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more we are joined by Pilita Clark, environment correspondent for the Financial Times and author of the recent series, a world without water. So, let’s just set the stage a little bit. How significant of a problem is water scarcity?

    PILITA CLARK: Well, water scarcity, it’s an interesting term. I mean, often there’s not so much a problem with a physical shortage of water around the world, but increasingly what there is, is a real problem of competition for supplies of available water and that’s happening for a range of reasons but fundamentally the drivers are a growing population, an increasingly wealthy population and to some extent climate change as well is playing a part in it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so in your reporting you’re saying some of the CEOs are actually starting to say, you know climate changes almost takes up all the oxygen in the room, water scarcity is far more pressing. Well, what are companies doing about it?

    PILITA CLARK: Well companies are doing a range of things. I mean, the chairman of Nestle, Peter Brabeck, said that to me and his company has spent more than 40 million dollars alone in the last year on trying to figure out ways of using less water in their factories, making sure whatever water they do use when it is returned to the environment it’s discharged in a reasonably clean fashion. Coca-Cola has spent more than, or close to 2 billion dollars since 2003 making sure that all of its bottling plants around the world adhere to those sort of strictures and a number of companies actually in other sectors are doing some even more interesting things, more expensive things.

    BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, two of the world’s biggest miners last year agreed to approve a 3 billion dollar desalination scheme in Chile for one of their copper mines that they jointly operate there. And it’s going to desalinate water from the coast of Chile and then pump it up around 10 thousand feet up to their copper mines. And the reason they are doing that is because they don’t want to be competing with local towns and farmers for fairly scarce water supplies up there. They’re also potentially getting in ahead of legislation in that country because law makers have been looking at making it mandatory for miners to do this sort of desalination work before they can operate.

    And that’s the sort of a pattern that we are seeing across the world where regulation to try to ameliorate this competition for water supplies or to try to ensure that competition between the biggest users, who are often farmers, they global take up around or use around 70 percent of water, make sure that competition between farmers and industry stays at a minimum.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So some of these local communities who are pushing back say that it is a race to privatize water. Here was a, what was a ubiquitous resource was and now it is becoming more expensive. It was almost a resource that we thought of as absolutely free.

    PILITA CLARK: Well that’s right, that’s certainly been the case for companies. And they have been able to use it largely for free or for very little cost. It raises some interesting points because farmers are even able to use it at lowers costs. In fact SABMiller which is one of the companies that I spoke to, they are one of the world’s biggest brewers and they made a point that, you know, they’re not really worried about the physical cost of water.

    But the point they make is that farmers can often use water for a fraction of that cost and so what happens is because they are able to do that they use so much of the available resources, often ground water resources, which are not always replenishable. And that puts more pressure on companies and other users around, in the surrounding areas. And, you know, it is a very difficult situation. Countries want to be, want to have independent sources of food. They also want to make sure that they have a flourishing farming sector, so they don’t want to remove subsidies or make it any more difficult for farmers that might be the case than normally.

    They find it very difficult to address this situation where, to make it more expensive for farmers to operate and that’s why we see these, this competition for water supplies growing in a lot of parts of the world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Pilita Clark of the Financial Times, thanks so much.

    PILITA CLARK: Thank you.

    The post Multinational corporations take action on water scarcity appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    paleo

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: By 2050, the planet will have 2 billion more people on it than it has now. Just how to feed all of those people is a question being explored in the September issue of National Geographic magazine. It’s all part of an eight-month series that begins by looking at the popular Paleo Diet, and what we think our ancestors ate may not actually be the case.

    Earlier, I spoke with Ann Gibbons, author of part one, “The Evolution of Diet” and the book, The First Human: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors.

    So, in your reporting you discover that it’s not as much about man the hunter as it is woman the forager. Explain that.

    ANN GIBBONS: Yeah, it’s really interesting. So the Paleo diet as we know it today focuses on a lot of meat. It assumes our ancestors were like Neanderthals or cave men going out and hunting and eating big slabs of bloody meat every day.

    The reality when you go talk to anthropologists, and this is what I did for the National Geographic article in September. I interviewed a lot of anthropologists and then I went to visit indigenous people and hunter-gatherers and people that are eating traditional diets. The reality is when you see these people and what they eat – they don’t get that much meat. And they don’t get that much meat because hunting is hard work.

    While the men go out every day practically and hunt and spend many hours out, even with rifles today, often come back empty-handed. And I saw this for myself with the Chimani foragers in the Amazon, and it was confirmed by anthropologists that I talked to.

    And what they rely on are the plants, the fruits, the vegetables that the women and children gather. This is known from studying many traditional people today and also from records in the fossil, records from looking at remnants of food, the plants, the fossils, the molecules that they ate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And another big difference I suspect between the Paleo Diet and what it wants to do and what it’s doing is that we’re not actually out chasing the deer. We’re not out spending thousands of calories hunting today. I mean, though meat is far more readily accessible, you could actually have that diet, but you wouldn’t be burning those calories.

    ANN GIBBONS: Yes, going to the supermarket and buying your grass-fed beef takes a lot less energy, especially if you drive, than going out all day long tracking scrawny antelopes, often the guys in the Hadza hunter-gatherers in Africa in the rainy season, or the dry season, spend days on end and come back with scrawny bits of meat. So much fewer calories and they spend far more energy getting their food.

    The real problem for most of our ancestors was getting enough calories. They weren’t that picky about what they ate. As they moved out of Africa, this is our species Homo sapiens in the last hundred thousand years, they adapted to all sorts of terrain and habitats. And the trick was to find the plants and animals that they could eat. You know, plants that weren’t toxic to them.

    So, they adapted to all different kinds of environments and ate anything they could eat, but they spent most of their time trying to get that food.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You talk about different hunter-gatherer societies around the planet, from Greenland to Africa to South America, what do they have in common?

    ANN GIBBONS: What they have in common is they all want meat, they all crave it. There was one bushman in South Africa who told one of my sources, Alison Brooks at George Washington University, that what his very favorite food was a fatty piece of meat, the type where the fat dripped down his chin. That’s what he was craving. But they don’t get very much of it.

    What they all have in common are often starchy carbohydrates. So, the Hadza of Tanzania, those hunter-gatherers dig up tubers, vegetables with lots of carbohydrates. In Papua New Guinea, they get the starchy pith of the Sago Palm. In the Trimany, they were eating plantains, lots and lots of plantains and Cassava – a very bland diet actually. The Mayans have beans, a lot of beans in their diet and corn.

    It’s very interesting as you go around and look at these different groups, what they rely on and they almost all have a plant that gives them a lot of calories that’s very starchy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now as your article points out, these are really the last remaining peoples that are living this way. Globally, our diets are actually starting to become very similar. Explain that.

    ANN GIBBONS: So, the Western diet is spreading rapidly. Whenever a grocery store opens, we begin to see more sugar, salt coming into the diet, and cooking oils. In fact with the Chimmony, what we saw with riverboats bringing salt and sugar in and cooking oil to the people. The father they were from the villages that had those ingredients, the less of that they had. And so those are the staples that are entering all the diets.

    When people who have been eating traditional diets, living traditional lifestyles, move into towns or cities and begin to eat the Western diet, they begin to get more sugar, salt, fat, more processed foods. And those give them a lot more calories. You know it’s a lot easier to get calories from Twinkies than it is from vegetables that you have to gather and cook. And so they end up with too many calories and fewer diverse nutrients.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, the article is called “The Evolution of Diet” in this September issue of National Geographic. Ann Gibbons, thanks so much.

    ANN GIBBONS: Thank you very much.

    The post Where’s the beef? Uncovering the ancient paleolithic diet in modern cultures appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The spread of the most recent strain of the Ebola virus across parts of West Africa has highlighted not just the lethality of the disease but also the strains on the existing medical infrastructures there. For further insight, yesterday I spoke with Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and Estrella Lasry, tropical medical advisor at Doctors Without Borders.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: First, why is this strain so much more lethal compared to others? I mean we’re talking 3,000 people infected, 1,500 dead.

    STEPHEN MORSE: I don’t think it’s more lethal than other strains of Ebola Zaire. This is a highly lethal virus. I think the problem is that there are a large number of people getting infected and perhaps some of them are not getting care at the appropriate times. But I don’t think biologically it’s behaving much differently than the ones we already know about.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there a different social component on why this is spreading faster?

    STEPHEN MORSE: I think that initially with the outbreak in Guinea, it was allowed to get out of control and there were just so many patients by then, it began to spread across the borders. And, so by time, the organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders, were able to start on it in the Spring. There were already so many cases of this, it was an uphill battle.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Why has the international kind of effort to try to combat this been so much slower than it seems that we’ve heard about in the past? Your organization is one of the last ones there and you have a number of people there, but you don’t see the same kind of push from lots of international aid agencies going in.

    ESTRELLA LASRY: Well, usually the outbreaks aren’t as big as this one. So, we expected it to – we started working on the outbreak in March and we expected it to finish in two, three months, which is what we would usually see in an Ebola outbreak and in the Ebola outbreaks that we’ve been responding to in the past. Part of the problem with this outbreak is that it spread very quickly in an urban area, which meant that it was much more difficult to control in terms of the contact tracing and it was much more difficult to control in terms of how quickly it spread. So, it’s lasted much more than the previous outbreaks and it’s affected a lot more people and that’s why there is an absolute need for more organizations to get involved in the response.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, this is also highlighting kind of a disparity in kind of poor existing medical infrastructure. Some of these countries, entire countries, have less doctors than, say, a single hospital in a major Western city. And then there’s also a disparity between countries who’ve dealt with this virus before versus countries who have not.

    STEPHEN MORSE: Yes, absolutely, and these countries, I think, are particularly stressed because they’ve had civil strife, they have trouble between the government and the local people – some distrust of government. So, you know, that is overlay over an already difficult and strained medical infrastructure. But even Nigeria, which is the very big country by comparison, has only 17,000 doctors.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How significant is the fear factor, the misinformation in spreading the disease, or chasing away caregivers?

    ESTRELLA LASRY: It’s huge. It’s a big part of why the outbreak has been spreading so much. So, if the fear is causing people not to go to health facilities, to hide the disease, to hide people who have died in the villages. We’re not being granted access to some of the villages where we think there might be cases, so definitely it’s been playing a pivotal role in why the disease has been spreading in the way that it is spreading.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s the distrust? Why not let a doctor come into a village? What do you hear?

    ESTRELLA LASRY: Well, first of all it’s very difficult, there’s been a lot of people who have died and a lot of people are taken into isolation wards. We’re dressed in the full personal protective equipment, the astronaut suits that you’ve been seeing on TV, and of course it adds to the fear, the fact that we’re bringing people into these wards. So, one of the things we try to do is ensure that family members do have access to see their relatives who are inside the ward, creating some kind of terraces where there’s a barrier, a physical barrier, between the family member and the patient. But it allows them to see their family member, it allows them to see that they are inside the ward, but they are being taken care of and we’re not hiding them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, I even saw reports that kind of reverse causality, they say, you know everywhere these doctors go, more people are dying, so let’s keep the doctors out.

    ESTRELLA LASRY: But it’s understandable that that kind of fear would be created in a population that does not know the disease and that is not used to this kind of response to a disease like that.

    STEPHEN MORSE: In addition to perhaps a mistrust of authority and of course people coming from foreign countries to help, but since it has such a high mortality rate, normally the case fatality rate is fairly high and many people feel that there’s no point in going to the hospital anyway. And in some cases if infection control isn’t effective, in some hospitals other patients can get affected. There’s a historical basis for that. We can do much better now and Médecins Sans Frontières has demonstrated the improvements that are possible even with general care. But I think it needs educating the public about that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, really by the time they get to the hospital sometimes they’ve already infected thousands of others.

    ESTRELLA LASRY: Yes, and the sooner someone who has been in contact with a patient, with a known case, actually says that they have been in contact, or the sooner that person is identified, the sooner they can be monitored. So, what’s happening is that for every case, for every confirmed patient, all of the contact, all of the physical contacts that they’ve had in the past 21 days are monitored on a daily basis. So, you can imagine how huge the response to that needs to be, especially with the amount of cases that we’re seeing. But not everybody is saying all of the contacts that they’ve had, or not everybody is willing to be followed for 21 days on a daily basis. So it’s also one of the challenges.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, looking around the corner a little bit, we’ve had some promising results with ZMap and the tests that have been – how far away are we from anything close to what we could say is a vaccine that could be manufactured at scale that could actually reach this region?

    STEPHEN MORSE: Scale is going to be a difficult problem, even with ZMap, they’re working very hard to try to scale it up just to experimental doses and it’s going to take a while. Some of the other drugs in the pipeline will take longer, because they need to be tested. As you know there’s a vaccine candidate going into early trials right now for safety testing essentially. But then the question is what’s the market for that vaccine. People who are going as healthcare workers, or lab technicians, or others who would be dealing directly with patients would be clearly able and willing to get the vaccine. But this is sporadic, we don’t know where the next Ebola outbreak is going to occur. So, you’re never quite sure whom to vaccinate until it actually happens.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Given that there are so few doctors and so many cases, what do you do to keep your own staff safe? I mean they’re working under incredible stress, under very long, difficult conditions, and people make mistakes when they’re on 18 hours a day, etc., etc., and these mistakes could cost them their lives.

    ESTRELLA LASRY: We do several things. The first thing is to train people before they go to an outbreak. Once they’re in the outbreak, we make sure that they really understand the infection control, and if at any point they feel unsafe they can leave. But also once you go into the ward, we have a buddy system. So, you will never go into the ward alone. You dress with someone to make sure that there’s no skin, nothing is exposed. And then you go into the ward with at least one other person, so that in case you’re about to make a mistake, the other person can actually warn you. So, we try to keep everyone within a very, very strict set of rules, because there’s no place for mistakes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Estrella Lasry, Stephen Morse, thanks so much.

    ESTRELLA LASRY: Thank you.

    STEPHEN MORSE: Thank you.

    The post How did the West Africa Ebola epidemic get out of control so fast? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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