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

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    kansasrace

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the other big political story of the last 24 hours is from Kansas. The U.S. Senate race there grew much more interesting late yesterday after Democratic candidate Chad Taylor abruptly announced that he was dropping out of the race.

    That leaves independent Greg Orman to face off against veteran Republican incumbent Pat Roberts, who just last month survived a Tea Party primary challenge. And all of it could have far-reaching consequences for which party controls the Senate.

    For more, I spoke just a short while ago to Jonathan Martin. He’s the national political correspondent for The New York Times.

    Jonathan Martin, thank you for joining us at the “NewsHour” again.

    So, why did this Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, suddenly pull out two months before the election?

    JONATHAN MARTIN, National Political Correspondent, The New York Times: Well, because, quietly, there has been pressure on him to get out because there is a well-funded independent candidate who Democrats think may actually have a shot to beat Senator Roberts this fall.

    Pat Roberts is someone who’s never really had a race, Judy. He’s been in Washington since 1980, when he first came to the House, came to the Senate in 1996. He’s never received below 60 percent. Why is it different now? Well, because he is somebody who’s been attacked from the right for the entire year. He had a tough primary against a Tea Party opponent.

    And he’s made a few gaffes on the campaign trail that are connected to the fact that he doesn’t have a home of his own in Kansas anymore. His primary home is in Alexandria, Virginia, in the Washington suburbs. And so he is somebody who was vulnerable to a primary challenge. He won his primary, Judy, in August, but only got 48 percent of the vote. There was some polling in the weeks after that that showed this third-party candidate, who, again, has been on TV because he has money, was competitive with Roberts.

    And Democrats believed that if their own nominee was to get off the ballot and they could make the independent the de facto Democratic nominee, that they would have a shot to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Senate history, and beat Pat Roberts in Kansas, a state which has not sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate, Judy, since 1932.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It would be — it would be historic by political standards.

    The Republicans, though, are saying that Chad Taylor, the Democrat, that there’s some corruption involved, that there’s — something that may even need to be investigated. What do we know about that?

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Right.

    Well, the big news today, Judy, is that the secretary of state in Kansas, who is a Republican, Kris Kobach, who oversees election law, is actually saying that Mr. Taylor, the Democrat, can’t come off the ballot because the Kansas law indicates that you can only do so if you have shown the inability to perform the duties of office.

    And Secretary of State Kobach is saying that Mr. Taylor has done no such thing, that he would in fact be capable to serve, and so he can’t come off the ballot. So that brings the question up, is the Democrat himself actually going to be actually on the ballot?

    And keep in mind, they have to print the ballot pretty soon because they have to start issuing absentee ballots for overseas voters. So we may see some litigation here in the days ahead. And even if we don’t, you could have a Democrat still on the ballot, Judy, who is a non-candidate, who is not campaigning anymore, who is basically saying, don’t vote for me.

    It’s quite a remarkable scenario.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the upshot is that Senator Roberts, veteran Republican lawmaker, may be vulnerable now. This independent candidate, Greg Orman, how would he vote? He says he’s independent.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Would he vote Democratic if he were elected? Is it known? What are his position on the issues?

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Well, his politics seem to be mostly sort of centrist politics.

    His consultants, Judy, are Democratic consultants. He’s obviously somebody who the Democrats think could caucus with them next year if he does win. Keep in mind, there are two independents currently in the Senate — in the Senate, both of which caucus with Democrats.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: And the expectation would be that he in fact would cast his first vote to make Harry Reid. He would caucus with the Democrats. That is the key vote, the first vote. Will he support vote Harry Reid for leader? And that’s what Democrats care about when it comes to Mr. Orman.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, overall, this is a huge headache for Republicans, I hear you saying. They want very much to become the majority in the Senate, and this makes it harder.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: They’re on the doorstep of retaking the Senate. They need six seats. Three of them are probably in the bag, and now they have a complication here, because in a year where they’re mostly on offense, the Republicans are, they now have to play defense in the most unlikely of states, Kansas, which again has not had a Democrat in the Senate since the Hoover era.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s a story that we’re going to be watching, another — another two months to go.

    Jonathan Martin, The New York Times, we thank you.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Thank you, Judy.

    The post How a last minute Democrat move could steal Kansas from the GOP appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    concussionsnfl

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Finally tonight:  The most popular sport in America tries to come to terms with one of its biggest problems, concussions and the impact of violence on its players. But will changes in the game be enough?

    Jeff is back with that.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Earlier this week, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks practiced for tonight’s kickoff of the new NFL season, one that will no doubt come with spectacular thrills, and, inevitably, the injuries of a violent game.

    The league is introducing several new rules aimed at preventing head injuries, including tighter regulation of illegal contact between defenses and wide receivers and a prohibition of hand-to-face contact.

    In fact, the NFL’s Health and Safety Committee reported yesterday that, overall, concussions were down 13 percent last season from the previous year, and the number of concussions specifically suffered from helmet-to-helmet contact decreased 23 percent.

    But thousands of athletes and family members allege that, for decades, the league hid information linking head trauma to an array of neurological diseases like dementia.

    Last year, the NFL, while admitting no wrongdoing, reached a proposed $765 million settlement with more than 4,500 former players suing over concussions suffered on the field. In July, a federal judge gave preliminary approval. A final decision is expected after a November hearing.

    Former players and families can also elect to opt out of the settlement. And, yesterday, the family of late San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau did just that, saying it would pursue a wrongful death suit against the league. Seau committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43. Posthumous tests showed he suffered from CTE, a degenerative brain illness caused by repeated blows to the head.

    And more on the concussion and violence issue now.

    DeMaurice Smith is executive director of the NFL Players Association, the players union. Dr. Matthew Matava is team physician for the Saint Louis Rams and president of the NFL Physicians Society. He doesn’t speak for the league itself.

    We did ask the league to join us tonight, but they declined our invitation.

    DeMaurice Smith, let me start with you.

    What are the most meaningful changes that your players will experience that fans will see tonight aimed at preventing head injuries?  Give us an example.

    DEMAURICE SMITH, Executive Director, National Football League Players Association:  Well, hopefully, it will be nothing that fans see, because the best likelihood or the best result that we can hope for is that none of our players are in head-to-head or head-to-ground contact that could cause a concussion.

    I do think that most of the most telling or important changes will be things that might be imperceptible to fans, for example, having neutral sideline concussion experts on the sideline, increased doctor accountability to their players, increased guidelines that limit contact, as we have for the last three years, during training camps.

    Those are the things that are most likely going to have an impact on decreasing concussions by decreasing exposure to things that might lead to concussions.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Dr. Matava, you know, there has been so much talk over the years about the team physicians and the teams themselves didn’t do enough to get players off the field, didn’t take this seriously enough.

    Were teams and physicians too lenient in the past?  And are there now specific rules and norms that will change that? 

    DR. MATTHEW MATAVA, President, NFL Physicians Society:  Well, like all areas of medical science, the science behind concussions has evolved significantly.

    I have been taking care of the Saint Louis Rams for the past 14 years, and the science behind concussion management and treatment and prognosis has changed considerably even during that time. It used to be several years ago where a player would be diagnosed with a so-called bell ringer. The standard of care was perhaps to let them go back to play without any known long-term consequences.

    We now know that those perhaps milder injuries of concussions, if you can call one mild, can — may be linked to long-term problems down the road or certainly a higher risk of concussions.

    But we have also known that, With this increased research that’s come down on concussions, there has been a vast change in the way physicians approach the injury, as well as how — the management. And the league is taking that seriously, as has the Physicians Society.

    As Mr. Smith has said, probably the biggest change you will see this year in the field, you won’t even see. There’s about 27 medical people in an NFL sideline or in a stadium right now to evaluate and manage any medical problem that a player may have.

    As he mentioned, there’s an independent neurosurgeon on the sidelines of both teams, both the home and away team. And then each team now has an unaffiliated neurosurgeon who has to clear the player before he’s allowed to return to play, even after he’s been cleaned by his own team physician.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, well, DeMaurice Smith, all of these steps, and yet the players are bigger. They’re faster. The culture is still there that you have got to hit as hard as you can.

    These are young guys, your players, who must feel immortal. How do you tell them to tone it down or change the way they play? 

    DEMAURICE SMITH:  Well, I think part of the key — and the doctor talked about it — is, you don’t really tell them anything.

    You make them a part of the process where they can actually impact the health and safety that is a part of their workplace. And what we have been able to do with the league and many of the things that the doctor’s talked about, those were collectively bargained. Those were things where the union sat down with management and said, those were the conditions that we want for our players to play safely.

    So the things that have changed over the last few years have been great strides in football, especially when you measure it against sort of the arc of history in football over the last 50, 60 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Do you not think…

    DEMAURICE SMITH:  But I’m happy to say that many…

    JEFFREY BROWN:  No, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

    DEMAURICE SMITH:  … many of the things were the result of collective bargaining.   

    JEFFREY BROWN:  I just wonder, DeMaurice Smith, staying with you , do you think it will be easier to get players off the field?  Because the culture, of course, is still not to come off the field.

    And what will happen when there are suspensions, because these hits will be inevitable?  There will be some suspensions of players who want to fight those suspensions.

    DEMAURICE SMITH:  Well, every player is entitled to their due process. And that’s something that we will jealously and rightfully protect.

    But I do think that the real goal here is, one, making players a part of the system to make the game safer, making sure that there are protocols that doctors and players follow to remove concussed or players who might be concussed from the field.

    And I do think that one of the biggest changes, again, was the league and the players union coming to a conclusion that referees on the sideline can actually be involved as first-responders, that, if they see a player who could be hurt, that they can actually step in and ask that player to step to the sideline for the mandatory concussion protocol. Those are things that are going to make this game safer.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Dr. Matava, as you said, the science of concussion has changed. Awareness certainly throughout our culture has changed.

    Is there a fear that — the game remains incredibly popular now, but is there a fear that perhaps more parents will not want their kids playing, that there will be a growing awareness of the kind of violence and repercussions, that the game may suffer? 

    DR. MATTHEW MATAVA:  Certainly, there’s an increased awareness from parents.

    I see it in my practice in Washington University all the time, parents asking about football risks, not only to their — for concussions, but also for other parts of their body. But they also asked me if I would let my son play. I told them that I did let my son play. But I would never tell a parent what he or she should do for the management of their own kids in the sports that they participate in.

    I can also tell them that the game has been safer now than it’s ever been before. I played high school football. I had three concussions, and we didn’t even diagnose them in those days. And so I try to reassure parents that great strides have been made and advances, not only in football in concussion management, but also in sports medicine, through the use of MRI, through arthroscopy, and the advances that come with medicine in general.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right. All right. We will leave it there.

    Dr. Matthew Matava, Saint Louis Rams, DeMaurice Smith of the NFL Players Association, thank you both so much.

    DR. MATTHEW MATAVA:  Thank you.

    DEMAURICE SMITH:  Thank you.

    The setup portion of this video report has not been published online due to rights restrictions.

     

    The post Will the NFL be safer this year? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    mcdonnell

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  To politics tonight and two very different stories.

    First, a jury today found former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a one-time rising star in the Republican Party, guilty on 11 corruption-related charges. He could face years in prison. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, was also on trial and found guilty on nine of 14 counts.

    We’re joined now by Bob Holsworth. He’s a longtime Virginia political analyst and the former director of Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

    Bob Holsworth, we welcome you to the program.

    First of all, remind us what Bob — what Governor McDonnell and his wife were charged with. And then what are they being found guilty of?

    BOB HOLSWORTH, Political Analyst:  Well, they were charged with 11 counts of conspiracy to obtain goods under the color of official right. They were charged with essentially bribery and fraud.

    And they were also charged with two counts of bank fraud. They were found not guilty on the two counts of bank fraud, but on all the key charges dealing with public corruption, fraud and bribery, the jury found Governor Bob McDonnell guilty and found Maureen McDonnell guilty of most of them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And so some of us were following the reports of the trial as it went along. What happened then to the defense argument that the McDonnells were simply doing what every governor does, that he meets with a lot of people, does favors for people, only in the course of being governor?

    BOB HOLSWORTH:   I think what happened here is that the jury rejected every element of the defense’s argument.

    And on the point that you just made, Judy, what they suggested is that, first, Bob McDonnell, according to jury, basically took a bribe from Jonnie Williams. Jonnie Williams came into the governor’s office, offered him a loan at sweetheart terms. He said he would give him $50,000. He wouldn’t have to repay that loan at all until four years later, when he left the governorship.

    At that, it would be 2 percent, and after that, he said there was going to be no documentation at all. We can just do that on a handshake. And I think, when Bob McDonnell did that, that started the course where the jury eventually reached its conclusion today, because what it then suggested is that simply by concealing that, the prosecution suggested, and the fact that Bob McDonnell took some actions that, even if they were relatively routine, after he had received that bribe from Mr. Williams, he should be found guilty of taking an official act on his behalf after receiving that bribe.

    The defense time and again suggested Bob McDonnell did nothing unusual for Mr. Williams. But when the judge instructed the jury, he said an official act didn’t have to be something unique or unusual. It could be something taken in the normal course of events. And once the jury connected that act to what they considered to be the bribe, Bob McDonnell found it very, very difficult to withstand the jury’s furor today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And what about the story we were hearing from the McDonnell defense that basically the governor and his wife were having marital difficulties and, therefore, they couldn’t have possibly worked together to try to arrange favors from this businessman? 

    BOB HOLSWORTH:   Well, it seems very clear that the jury rejected this defense absolutely uniformly, that they simply didn’t believe that it was the case.

    The prosecution argued that it didn’t matter. They said they certainly communicated enough to act in concert. And in some elements of the case, the prosecution demonstrated that. For example, in one of the key e-mails that Maureen McDonnell sent to one of Governor Bob McDonnell’s close advisers, they were able to prove that that e-mail was sent while Maureen was sitting next to Governor Bob McDonnell in his SUV.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  as someone who’s watched Virginia politics for a long time, Bob Holsworth, what are you making of this, first time a Virginia governor has been found guilty of a felony? 

    BOB HOLSWORTH:   Well, it’s certainly a day of infamy in Virginia. It’s a day over infamy for Bob McDonnell, in that it cements his reputation in a way that was unimaginable a couple of years ago.

    And it’s also a dynamite charge through the culture of Virginia politics, because we have very permissive laws with respect to gift and loans and those kinds of things. And Bob McDonnell throughout the trial and his defense noted that he didn’t break any Virginia law, that he was very careful in how he parsed things not to go beyond the bounds of any Virginia law.

    And what this shows, in that he was convicted today, is that these lenient Virginia laws actually provide not much protection for political figures who might engage in loan-taking and gift-taking and the like, and that Bob McDonnell was seen by a jury as violating federal laws on a services fraud and on taking property under the color of official right.

    And I think this is going to have a dramatic impact on every elected official in Virginia in terms of how they think about accepting gifts or loans or trips that they’re likely to receive from lobbyists and other interest groups in the state.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Just a remarkable comedown story.

    Bob Holsworth, we thank you for joining us.

    BOB HOLSWORTH:   Thank you.

    The post Ex-Gov. McDonnell found guilty of corruption and fraud in Virginia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    goucher

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, imagine that you have two minutes to make the case for why you should be accepted to a college, and to do that, all you have to do is submit a short video you recorded on your cell phone.

    That’s been unheard of until now. Today, a liberal arts college announced that it’s planning to do just that.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story, and he looks at how this move fits into a changing landscape of admissions in higher education.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  If you’re applying to Goucher College in Maryland, you won’t have to put together that traditional application packet. No transcripts. No recommendations. No list of extracurricular activities.

    Instead, Goucher, a small liberal arts college, announced it will accept a two-minute video submission. It’s a radical change. And the school put together a video of its own to explain the thinking.

    Here’s a clip.

    MAN: That’s it. No test scores, no transcripts.

    WOMAN: I’m more than just a number.

    WOMAN: I’m more than just a number.

     MAN: I’m more than just a number.

    MAN: I’m more than numbers.

    MAN: At Goucher, you’re more than just a number. That’s why we have created the Goucher Video App, a brand-new and totally unique way to apply for college.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Jose Antonio Bowen is the new president of Goucher College. And he joins us now from Baltimore.

    Thanks for joining us.

    You have said you’re doing this in a context in which — quote — “the admissions model is broken.”  What does that mean?  Broken how? 

    JOSE ANTONIO BOWEN, President, Goucher College:  Sure.

    Well, the college admissions process is broken in two fundamental ways. The first is this problem that is called undermatching, so we have thousands, tens of thousands even, of high-achieving, but usually low-income, often minority students who actually have the grades and have the credentials to go to a selective liberal arts college like Goucher College.

    But, instead, they don’t apply to any, not one, zero. They apply to no liberal arts colleges. They might go to community college. They might go to college — they might not go to college at all. So we’re missing potential there.

    But we’re missing potential in a second way, too. So test scores and grades are predictive, and Goucher College will continue to accept those. So if you want to send us your test scores and your grades, use the Common App, we do that.

    But there are students, like me, who might have had other concerns during high school. Life sometimes intervenes, and test scores are not a perfect way to predict who’s going to be successful in life. There are lots of people who don’t test well, the parents got divorced. I had a great gig the night before the SATs, and I didn’t actually realize — this is true — I didn’t actually realize the SATs were that important to the rest of my life at that point.

    I thought this gig was more important. I was out until 3:00 in the morning.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  They don’t tell the full story, but they certainly tell some of the story, don’t they?

    There was some immediate skepticism to your move. One expert at USC said: “With a transcript, you can see the level of academic work they have taken. Without it, how do you know the capabilities a student has?”

    JOSE ANTONIO BOWEN:  Well, there’s some risk in every process.

    So, test scores do predict some things, and the test scores is one way to do it. But we wanted to give students an alternative, again, for students who either have the grades and — but that C freshman year bothers them and they’re not sure they can get into college.

    I wanted to invite them to apply to college. For students who don’t have a great transcript, but can put together a great video and have a passion for learning, they should also have the chance to go to college. This is about finding potential. College should really be not just based upon past performance, but on future potential.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  When you say — excuse me — when you say a great video, what is it — because this would be the other area of skepticism or question — what is it that you think you could actually learn in a two-minute video? 

    JOSE ANTONIO BOWEN:  Well, first, let’s — you know, as a journalist, let’s not trivialize the difficulty of putting together a story in two minutes and telling it as a digital narrative.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, fair enough.

    JOSE ANTONIO BOWEN:  So, this is now a currency that students understand.

    You and I assume everybody has a laptop, everybody can write an essay for college. Well, no, actually not everyone has a laptop and not everybody had great English teachers in high school or A.P. courses at their high school, or a tutor who could help them.

    But a two-minute video levels the playing field. It’s something that most 18-year-olds really do understand. They have seen lots of them. They have made some, and everybody has a phone. It’s actually pretty hard to write a college essay on a phone if the phone is the only device that you have.

    But you can use the phone to make a video of yourself, and there’s a kind of authenticity. Remember that I can’t tell that you actually wrote your essay. There are plenty of tutors and teachers. And if you’re sending the same essay to dozens or even hundreds of colleges, you have probably worked on it through dozens of iterations with other people.

    This is a video just for Goucher College. And I’m not giving any points for production value. I just want to see you telling me why you want to learn and why you’re a great fit for Goucher College.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  I want to just try to help us fit this into the larger picture. We look at a lot of higher education issues on the program. Are there a sort of a two-tier system in which you have some schools that are overwhelmed with applications and pick very few and than many more colleges, especially liberal arts colleges that you’re familiar, including Goucher, that would have fewer applicants and pick a much higher percentage?

    How of it is that — how much is that an issue for you and other colleges, and how does this move fit into that? 

    JOSE ANTONIO BOWEN:  Sure.

    So, first, it is true the Common Application has made it easier to apply to multiple colleges. You can tick a box, which means that everybody’s yield has gone down a little bit, because students are applying to more colleges.

    But, at Goucher College, we have plenty of applications. We have got 8,000 applications a year for a class of 400. So there are plenty of students. And, again, we will continue to take transcripts and the Common App and all of that, but we wanted to get into a conversation with more students and different students.

    Goucher is a place that values diversity of thinking in every way and we have a long tradition of that. And so I wanted to find a way to invite students who might not think they have the test scores or grades or the background for a liberal arts education to think, we really want you to apply to this and all you have to do is send us this two-minute video.

    It’s the first step. It’s not the complete picture, but it is a way to say, this is good, you’re accepted to college, you can come.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Jose Antonio Bowen, the president of Goucher College, thank you so much.

    JOSE ANTONIO BOWEN:  Thank you.

    The post Can a cell phone video get your kid into college? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    algae

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The algae bloom that turned part of Lake Erie toxic just a few weeks ago is bringing a new level of attention to runoff and several other troubles in the Great Lakes.

    Yesterday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will provide $12 million to the region to help address those problems.

    Reporter Christy McDonald of Detroit public television has our story.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD, Detroit Public Television: Lake Erie has long been considered the canary in the coal mine for the Great Lakes system.

    The southernmost, warmest, and shallowest of the five lakes, Erie provides an ideal habitat for an unwelcome summer visitor, algae, particularly the toxic kind that caused drinking water problems for Toledo, Ohio, several weeks ago.

    And that makes it an ideal place to look for solutions to that problem. Here at the Stone lab in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, they have been studying algal blooms since the ’70s. At that time, significant improvements were made to sewage treatment plants, ushering in 30 years of improved health for Lake Erie.

    But in the early 2000s, large algal blooms started to reappear, with the worst on record occurring in 2011.

    For Jeff Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College and Stone Lab at the Ohio State University, that algae bloom was like nothing he’d seen before.

    JEFF REUTTER, Director, Ohio Sea Grant College and Stone Lab, Ohio State University: The bloom in 2011 really got everybody’s attention. That bloom was two-and-a-half times worse than anything we’d ever seen before. And it was really a bloom like I’d never experienced and I have been working on Lake Erie since 1971. And I have seen these before, but I had never seen a bloom that when you hit it with a boat, it actually slowed you down, it was that dense.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: He believes that bloom and others like it are caused by excess potassium, nitrogen and other byproducts of fertilizer run off from the farms and towns that surround Lake Erie.

    JEFF REUTTER: The algae are very much like the grass on our lawns. You know, you put fertilizer on it, it’s going to have nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus. It’s going to make your grass grow. We put it in Lake Erie, and we get algae.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Reutter says those ingredients can be coming from a variety of sources.

    JEFF REUTTER: When we look at different places around the country where they’re having harmful algal blooms, some of them are going to be driven by agricultural loading, but some of them are going to be poor sewage treatment plants or a bunch of failing septic tanks, but, in Lake Erie, it’s primarily agriculture.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: And climate change is proving to be an aggravating factor.

    JEFF REUTTER: Most of the phosphorus that comes into the lake, probably over 80 percent comes in during storms. Climate change leads to more frequent severe storms.

    And if we have most of the phosphorous coming in from agricultural runoff, combined sewer overflows, runoff off our lawns, if most of that’s coming in during storm events, and you have more storm events, you’re simply going to get more phosphorous. It’s that simple.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: And more phosphorous encourages the growth of a form of algae known as cyanobacteria. It produces microcystin, the main toxin of concern on Lake Erie.

    And although Toledo’s recent bloom was actually quite small, the densest portion of the harmful algae clustered right over the intake for the city’s water treatment plant, turning the tap water toxic.

    Justin Chaffin, research coordinator at the Stone lab, tests samples from surrounding water treatment facilities to monitor whether the water is safe for drinking.

    JUSTIN CHAFFIN, Research Coordinator, Stone Lab: If you look at some of your known toxins that you’re familiar with, microcystin is about on par being — toxicity with something like cyanide, or — and it’s just below dioxin, so it’s a really potent toxin.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: The United States has no national standard for these toxins, but Ohio has adopted the standards of the World Health Organization, which recommends one part per billion for drinking water.

    On August 2, 2014, the toxin levels in Toledo’s water came in at three parts per billion. Yet the most alarming aspect of that toxic bloom is that it arrived in early August.

    JEFF REUTTER: It was much earlier than we had anticipated seeing a really bad bloom. Scary for all of us, because we know that this bloom is going to stay around here until well into October, maybe the end of October, and it probably won’t reach its peak until September. So, the big concerns are, the worst is likely still yet to come.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Chaffin has also been studying the toxic algae on a molecular level. His findings provide some clues into how we may be able to stop these blooms from spreading.

    JUSTIN CHAFFIN: During that summer of 2011, we did a molecular study where we tracked the cyanobacteria, the microcystis bloom, throughout the lake and throughout time. Now, that cyanobacteria bloom that started in Maumee Bay in mid-July was the same microcystis that ended up off of Cleveland in October.

    So, with that molecular study, we know that if we stop a bloom in Maumee Bay, we will stop a bloom by Cleveland or by Sandusky. So, if we stop it in Maumee Bay, the rest of the lake, it should be good.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Currently, the only way to stop a bloom from moving is to stop it from forming in the first place. And the only way to accomplish that is to reduce the amount of phosphorous coming into the lake.

    JEFF REUTTER: I don’t think anybody thinks that we’re going to make it colder real soon. So we can’t address climate change to say, well, the solution’s climate change. All we got to do is stop it. The only thing that we control is phosphorus load. And that means we have to change our behavior.

    Our goal has to be to reduce the phosphorous by about 40 percent. But that’s not something that I think anybody believes is going to happen real quickly. So the first thing that we have to do is arm our water treatment plants with the right technology, the tools, make sure that the people understand, the people that manage the plants understand how to take the toxins out that come into the plant, because, clearly, toxins will come in.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: We are now entering into prime algal bloom season. Some water treatment facilities are testing for the toxins, but those tests aren’t mandatory. Municipalities can only look to scientific research from places like Stone Lab to understand algal blooms and to prepare for the possible threat to their water supply.

    The post Michigan scientists study runoff to stop toxic algae in the Great Lakes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ferguson

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson met with federal officials yesterday, and said he would welcome the investigation. He said his department has no intentional policies that lend themselves to discrimination.

    But there is a broad racial disparity between the force and the city it polices. Ferguson, with a population of 20,000, is two-thirds African-American. The police department has 53 officers and only four of them are black. A 2013 report by the Missouri attorney general found Ferguson police stopped and arrested black drivers nearly twice as frequently as they stopped white drivers.

    In recent years, the Justice Department has stepped up its own investigations of police agencies. There’ve been 20 such investigations in the past five years, including high-profile probes in New Orleans and Albuquerque. That is more than double the number in the previous five years.

    We get some insight on how this investigation might unfold with Robert Driscoll. He’s a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration. He’s now a partner at the firm Friedlander Misler here in Washington. And Tracie Keesee, she is co-founder of the UCLA Center for Policing Equity. She’s a 25-year veteran police officer.

    And we welcome you both to the “NewsHour.”

    Robert Driscoll, to you first.

    How is an investigation like this different from the other investigations that are under way on what happened in Ferguson?

    ROBERT DRISCOLL, Former Justice Department Official: This investigation won’t look at any individual instance. They’re really looking for policies and procedures and patterns of possible unconstitutional behavior by the Ferguson Police Department.

    So they will be looking at data and looking at scores of incident reports and reviewing that with policing experts they will bring in to try to reach some conclusions about whether there are any unconstitutional practices that can be changed.

    So no one will be going to jail. There’s no risk of anyone going to jail at the end of the investigation, and there won’t be any money damages paid. What the Department of Justice will be seeking will be reforms of the police department if they find such a pattern. And they will get that through either a memorandum of agreement or some sort of court-enforced consent degree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to ask you about that in a minute.

    Tracie Keesee, I took some notes at the attorney general’s news conference today, and I noticed they said they were going to be looking at several things, use of excessive use of force, stops, searches, and arrests, treatment of detainees in jail, and just discriminatory practices generally.

    Can you flesh out for us, what exactly are they looking at, at the department? Are they looking at police records? Will they be interviewing people? How does this work?

    TRACIE KEESEE, Co-Founder, UCLA Center for Policing Equity: Well, it’s a combination of those things. And I think, as it was stated before, you have to kind of go back.

    If you’re looking for patterns and practices, you have got to go back a way. So, it’s not going to be just what happened in the last year. You’re really trying to determine if any of those policies are influencing the way officers on the street make their decisions.

    So, they will be looking at use of force, they will be looking at training. They will be meeting with the community. I’m sure that has already started. There will be discussions internally in that organization as well. So they look at a myriad of things because they have to really get a good picture of what’s going on in regards to policing in Ferguson.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I guess I’m curious to know, Robert Driscoll, how it works. Here, you have the great, big Justice Department in Washington, D.C., investigating a 53-person police department in the little city of Ferguson, which is actually a suburb of Saint Louis, and trying to — we’re trying to get our arms around about how this works.

    Do they send a whole fleet of people in there to do interviews over a period of years? How does it work?

    ROBERT DRISCOLL: It certainly won’t take years, but it will take certainly weeks and well into months.

    They will send in probably, in my experience, a team of maybe four to five to six DOJ Civil Rights Division attorneys, and they will probably have one lead expert and maybe a second expert to look at the jails, and they will interview command staff of the police department.

    This is a very small police department for one of these investigations, and so it will be I think probably a little bit challenging to find patterns and practices. This isn’t a department like Detroit, New or York City or even New Orleans, where you have enough data that you can really see some trends. With 53 officers, it is going to be a little more challenging. But they will look at how the officers are trained and they will look at the policies and see what they find.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tracie Keesee, what would you add to that in terms of what they’re looking at and how this will work?

    TRACIE KEESEE: Well, I think that the things that we have already named are going to be critical, but they are also going to speak with the community. And that is another piece.

    One of the issues that they will look at, what you have in a lot of small departments is turnover. So how many officers come through there? We always have talked about since Ferguson began was the diversity, the ability to recruit and retain. All of those things are going to be on the table. What are those recruitment policies? How do you hire people? So that is going to be another aspect of what they’re going to look at as well.

    And I think, again, the community component of this is going to be — really going to add some additional information to that investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I was actually surprised that they — at this news conference today, they said that hiring practices were not something they were going to initially look at. And why would that be?

    ROBERT DRISCOLL: I think that’s likely just an internal Justice Department matter and that there’s a separate section of the Civil Rights Division that handles employment and public employment, and they will have to open up a separate matter to do that.

    They certainly have the authority to do that broadly when you’re looking at DOJ as a whole. Certainly, Attorney General Holder could direct such an investigation at some point if they get some unemployment data they don’t like. But I think that this unit of lawyers likely won’t be looking at the employment aspect of it directly.

    They could be looking at racially biased policing and other things, and maybe get at it a little bit that way, but the direct employment matter would be different.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tracie Keesee, what… Go ahead. I’m sorry.

    TRACIE KEESEE: I’m sorry. No.

    And, obviously, to add to that, too, part of the community conversation will be about the type of policing that the community should have. And I think that is going to be critical as well, especially — to me, that’s a direct tie-in to employment and what you do look at when you’re trying to hire people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Will there be overlap, staying with you Ms. Keesee,, with the grand jury investigation that is already under way and the other investigations that are under way into what happened last month in the death of Michael Brown?

    TRACIE KEESEE: Well, from what I’m understanding, this is really separate.

    This is beyond what’s going on, on the side, criminal investigation. You’re really now looking at the operations of the department itself and the policies of the department. So, those are two separate things.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we know, Robert Driscoll, and I think you were suggesting a minute ago it’s not intended to lead to criminal prosecution. It’s to reforms in the police department. We know this Justice Department has already investigated several other, as we said, high-profile police departments in the country.

    ROBERT DRISCOLL: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do those investigations change the way these departments work?

    ROBERT DRISCOLL: They can over time.

    And it’s a long process. This is not — it’s a long process. The investigations take a while. They can take over a year to reach findings and then negotiate a resolution with the city. It depends on what they find. We can’t forget there’s a possibility they won’t find that the Ferguson Police Department has — they have to tie what they want to do to unconstitutional acts by the department, and they have to find enough of them to prove a pattern and practice and then negotiate a settlement.

    So the reforms take time. And then once the reforms are implemented, they take time to sometimes take hold, because they’re really talking usually about changing a culture if they do find a place that has a pattern of unconstitutional conduct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tracie Keesee, how do you see something like that unfolding? We don’t know what they are going to end up recommending, but if there is a memo of understanding, is that what it’s called, at the end of this process? How does that work?

    TRACIE KEESEE: Well, absolutely, and especially if the organization is cooperative and they can come to some agreement.

    And I think that, for most agencies, that’s the best way to go. And I think we have heard during the interview that Ferguson P.D. is more than open and more than willing to take a look at what they have got going on and making any changes that they think will help definitely their form of policing.

    But as it was stated, these things take time, and the problem with that is often the community doesn’t have the patience for the time that it does take for those investigations and those initial implementation of the changes of policies. And it’s not just the changes. They do have to take hold. So you have to have some sustainment there over a period of time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s interesting the Justice Department announced this investigation just within a month after — after the initial shooting.

    Well, we thank you both for joining us, Tracie Keesee joining us and Robert Driscoll. We appreciate it.

    ROBERT DRISCOLL: Thank you.

    TRACIE KEESEE: Thank you. 

    The post How will the Justice Department investigation in Ferguson work? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    holder_ferguson

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Department of Justice is launching a full-blown federal civil rights investigation of the entire police department in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white officer.

    ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General: There’s cause for the Justice Department to open an investigation to determine whether Ferguson police officials have engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the United States Constitution or federal law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement came just short of a month since the death of Michael Brown, who was 18 and unarmed. The killing sparked weeks of protests in Ferguson and often violent clashes with police. Holder went to the Saint Louis suburb himself on August 20 to meet with community leaders and Brown’s family.

    ERIC HOLDER: When I visited Ferguson two weeks ago, I promised that the United States Department of Justice would continue to stand with the people there long after the national headlines had faded.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Justice Department is already investigating the confrontation that led to the shooting of Brown at least six times by police officer Darren Wilson. This new probe will examine recent police practices in Ferguson for any patterns of racial bias, excessive use of force and other problems.

    ERIC HOLDER:  The vast majority of police departments do their job in a way that we would expect. But to the extent that there are problems, I think we as a society need to have the guts to say, you know, we’re going to identify this as a problem, this is a deficiency in our country and we’re going to make it better.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson met with federal officials yesterday, and said he would welcome the investigation. He said his department has no intentional policies that lend themselves to discrimination.

    But there is a broad racial disparity between the force and the city it polices. Ferguson, with a population of 20,000, is two-thirds African-American. The police department has 53 officers and only four of them are black. A 2013 report by the Missouri attorney general found Ferguson police stopped and arrested black drivers nearly twice as frequently as they stopped white drivers.

    In recent years, the Justice Department has stepped up its own investigations of police agencies. There’ve been 20 such investigations in the past five years, including high-profile probes in New Orleans and Albuquerque. That is more than double the number in the previous five years. 

    The post Justice Department to investigate Ferguson police department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she will likely make a decision on whether to run for president around the beginning of 2015.

    The former U.S. secretary of state, senator and first lady said her background gives her a “unique vantage point” to bring to the White House should she run in 2016. But she said she wants to be sure she has a clear vision of what she wants to achieve, as well as how to lead both sides of the political aisle toward those ends.

    “I am going to be making a decision around probably after the first of the year,” she said.

    Clinton spoke at an event in Mexico City honoring thousands of scholarship students supported by the Telmex Foundation, one of several charitable organizations under the umbrella of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

    Her appearance coincided with a Mexico trip by a potential 2016 GOP rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He was touring the central city of Puebla, and the two were not expected to cross paths.

    Clinton also met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday, as did Christie earlier this week.

    Asked about her presidential intentions, Clinton would only speak “hypothetically.”

    “That’s a very serious undertaking,” she said. “So obviously I’m thinking about it, but I have not made a decision yet.”

    Slim, one of the world’s wealthiest people according to Forbes magazine, was in the audience. Other speakers on the agenda included Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, actor Antonio Banderas and soccer player Ronaldinho.

    Most of Clinton’s appearance involved a motivational speech in which she urged the college-age students to work hard, dream big and help others.

    She touched on several policy matters in a follow-up Q&A, such as cultivating a broad middle class as key to the American dream; the importance of cooperating with Mexico and other countries in the region; and her view of Washington’s role as a global leader.

    “What I have learned as secretary of state and before that as a United States senator is that every problem in the world cannot be solved by the United States, but there is not a problem in the world that can be solved without the United States,” Clinton said.

    She said she views the world with optimism, but acknowledged there are troubling issues to be addressed.

    She called the Islamic State group a “very aggressive, hostile form of jihadism … which is a very direct threat to all the countries in the region, but even beyond.”

    And she criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine.

    “It’s very important that Europe remain whole, stable and at peace,” Clinton said, “and that Russia be persuaded or somehow convinced, even coerced, into looking toward the future not the past.”

    The post Hillary Clinton expected to make 2016 decision early next year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The smallpox virus shown under magnification. Photo By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

    The smallpox virus shown under magnification. Photo By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images


    WASHINGTON – The National Institutes of Health said it has uncovered a nearly century-old container of ricin and a handful of other forgotten samples of dangerous pathogens as it combs its laboratories for improperly stored hazardous materials.

    The agency began an intensive investigation of all its facilities after a scientist in July found vials of smallpox dating from the 1950s, along with other contagious viruses and bacteria that had been stored and forgotten in one lab on the NIH’s campus.

    Friday, the NIH said in different facilities, it found small amounts of five improperly stored “select agents,” pathogens that must be registered and kept only in certain highly regulated laboratories. All were found in sealed and intact containers, with no evidence that they posed a safety risk to anyone in the labs or surrounding areas, the agency said in a memo to employees. All have been destroyed.

    Also discovered were samples listing pathogens that cause botulism, plague, tularemia and a rare tropical infection called melioidosis. They included a bottle of ricin, a highly poisonous toxin, found in a box with microbes dating from 1914 and thought to be 85 to 100 years old, the memo said. The bottle was labeled as originally containing 5 grams, although NIH doesn’t know how much was left.

    Ricin has legitimate research uses, the NIH said, but was not studied in this lab.

    Also discovered were samples listing pathogens that cause botulism, plague, tularemia and a rare tropical infection called melioidosis.

    The NIH does have laboratories that are cleared to use select agents, and those pathogens are regularly inventoried, said NIH director of research services Dr. Alfred Johnson, who oversees agency security and safety issues.

    But these samples were in different labs, mostly in historical collections that scientists once routinely kept in the backs of freezers or on dusty shelves but that today require special handling.

    “NIH takes this matter very seriously. The finding of these agents highlights the need for constant vigilance in monitoring laboratory materials in compliance with federal regulations on biosafety,” the agency memo said.

    Separately Friday, the Food and Drug Administration reported it had found still another improperly stored pathogen in one of its laboratories — staphylococcus enterotoxin that can cause food poisoning. The vials were in a locked freezer but not in a lab registered to work with select agents, and thus have been relocated to the correct facility, FDA said.

    The post Forgotten vials of ricin, smallpox and plague uncovered in NIH labs review appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Overall obesity rates in U.S.

    Image courtesy of CDC.

    Map of overall obesity rates in U.S. Image courtesy of CDC.

    This week, the Center for Disease Control released new data on obesity in the United States. The discrepancy between rates for white and black adults reveals an alarmingly wide gap.

    When considering non-Hispanic white adults, zero states had a prevalence of obesity of 35% or greater. However, for non-Hispanic black adults, 28 states and the District of Columbia reported that 35% or more of the demographic is obese.

    The maps combined data from 2011 through 2013.

    Obesity rates among black Americans

    Image courtesy of CDC.

    Map of obesity rates among black Americans. Image courtesy of CDC.

    The agency calculated body mass index (BMI) averages for all 50 states using self reported data on weight and height. It was obtained through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) — a telephone interview survey conducted by state health departments with CDC oversight. The sampling was state-based, and included both cell phones and landlines.

    When considering the country at large and all ethnicities, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Only Mississippi and West Virginia reported rates of 35% or greater.

    Obesity rates among white Americans

    Image courtesy of CDC.

    Map of obesity rates among white Americans. Image courtesy of CDC.

    Overall, based on the self reported data survey, non-Hispanic blacks experienced obesity at 37.6 percent, followed by Hispanics at 30.6 percent, and non-Hispanic whites at 26.6 percent.

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    The congressional investigation has been highly politicized because of allegations the IRS improperly singled out tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status. Photo by Joshua Doubek/Wikimedia Commons

    The congressional investigation has been highly politicized because of allegations the IRS improperly singled out tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status. Photo by Joshua Doubek/Wikimedia Commons

    WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has lost emails from five more employees who are part of congressional probes into the treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, the tax service disclosed Friday.

    The IRS said in June that it could not locate an untold number of emails to and from Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. The revelation set off a new round of investigations and congressional hearings.

    On Friday, the IRS issued a report to Congress saying the agency also lost emails from five other employees related to the probe, including two agents who worked in a Cincinnati office processing applications for tax-exempt status.

    The disclosure came on the same day the Senate’s subcommittee on investigations released competing reports on how the IRS handled applications from political groups during the 2010 and 2012 elections.

    The Democratic report, released by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, said both liberal and conservative groups were mistreated, revealing no political bias by the IRS. The Republican report, issued by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said conservative groups were clearly treated worse.

    The IRS inspector general set off a firestorm last year with an audit that said IRS agents singled out tea party and other conservative groups for inappropriate scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.The IRS inspector general set off a firestorm last year with an audit that said IRS agents singled out tea party and other conservative groups for inappropriate scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

    Lerner’s lost emails prompted a new round of scrutiny by Congress, the Justice Department, the inspector general and at least two federal judges.

    The IRS blamed computer crashes for all the lost emails. In a statement, the IRS said all the crashes happened well before Congress launched its investigations.

    The IRS first told Congress in June that other employees involved in the probe also had computer problems. At the time, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen promised lawmakers a report on whether any had lost emails. The report was issued Friday.

    “Throughout this review, the IRS has found no evidence that any IRS personnel deliberately destroyed any evidence,” said the IRS statement. “To the contrary, the computer issues identified appear to be the same sorts of issues routinely experienced by employees within the IRS, in other government agencies and in the private sector.”

    When Congress started investigating the IRS last year, the agency identified 82 employees who might have documents related to the inquiries. The IRS said 18 of those people had computer problems between September 2009 and February 2014. Of those employees, five probably lost emails — in addition to Lerner — the agency said Friday.

    Lerner, who was placed on leave and has since retired, has emerged as a central figure in congressional investigations. The other five employees appear to be more junior than she.

    In addition to the Cincinnati workers, they include a technical adviser to Lerner, a tax law specialist and a group manager in the tax-exempt division.

    In general, the IRS said the workers archived emails on their computer hard drives when their email accounts became too full. When those computers crashed, the emails were lost.

    “By all accounts, in each instance the user contacted IT staff and attempted to recover his or her data,” said the IRS statement.

    The IRS has said it stored emails on backup tapes but those tapes were re-used every six months. The inspector general’s office is reviewing those tapes to see if any old emails can be retrieved.

    “The IRS has lost thousands of emails, but worse yet, completely lost the American people’s trust,” said Sarah Swinehart, a spokeswoman for House Ways and Means Republicans. “The DOJ must appoint a special prosecutor so the full truth can come out.”

    Attorney General Eric Holder has turned down numerous requests from congressional Republicans for a special prosecutor, citing numerous investigations already underway.

    Friday’s reports by the Senate subcommittee on investigations mark the conclusion of just one investigation. The Justice Department and three other congressional committees are continuing their probes.

    Levin is chairman of the investigations subcommittee and McCain is the ranking Republican. Their staffs routinely work together on investigations, and while they don’t always agree on the results, it is highly unusual for them to issue such diverging reports.

    “The investigation found that the IRS used inappropriate selection criteria, burdensome questions and lengthy delays in processing applications for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status from both conservative and liberal groups,” Levin said in a statement.

    The Democratic report slams last year’s audit by the IRS inspector general. It says the IG report was incomplete because it focused only on the treatment of conservative groups. The IG’s report “produced distorted audit results that continue to be misinterpreted,” the Democratic report said.

    J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, said his investigation is ongoing, with facts “still coming to light.”

    “I firmly stand behind the audit report that we issued last year, showing the inappropriate treatment of applicants for 501 (c)(4) status, for which the IRS apologized,” George said in a statement. “It is important to remember that the IRS accepted all of the recommendations contained in our audit report.”

    McCain’s Republican report says far more conservative groups were singled out for extra scrutiny. They were also asked more questions and were more likely to have their applications rejected or withdrawn.

    “The IRS selected conservative groups out of normal processing, placed them on a separate list, stopped work on their applications completely, forced them to answer intrusive questions about their behavior and demeanor at meetings and delayed their applications for multiple years,” the Republican report said. “Our investigation has uncovered no evidence that liberal groups received the same expansive inappropriate treatment that conservative groups received.”

    The Democratic report said investigators reviewed 800,000 pages of documents and conducted 22 interviews with current and former workers at the IRS and the inspector general’s office. The investigators, however, were not allowed to see confidential taxpayer information, so many of the documents were blacked out.

    Only two committees in Congress have the authority to see confidential taxpayer information: the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Those two committees are continuing their probes.

    ___

    The post IRS can’t find emails for 5 more employees in congressional probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo illustration by Getty Images

    Photo illustration by Getty Images

    Consumers may soon find a surprise in their mailbox: a notice that their health plan is being canceled.

    Last year, many consumers who thought their health plans would be canceled because they didn’t meet the standards of the health law got a reprieve. Following stinging criticism for appearing to renege on a promise that people who liked their existing plans could keep them, President Barack Obama backed off plans to require all individual and small group plans that had not been in place before the health law to meet new standards starting in 2014. The administration initially announced a transitional policy that, with state approval, would allow insurers to renew plans that didn’t comply with coverage or cost standards starting in December 2013 and continue doing so until October 2014. Then in March, the administration said it would extend the transitional policy for two more years, meaning that some people will be able to hang onto their non-compliant plans through 2017.

    Insurers aren’t required to renew non-compliant plans, however. States can also bar them, and some states did that initially, particularly those that were operating their own health insurance marketplaces. Many others, however, are following the federal lead.

    “The majority of states are allowing transitional policies to continue for at least one more year,” says Sabrina Corlette, project director at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, who co-authored a blog post for the Commonwealth Fund that examined state activity in this area.

    Insurers are required to give policyholders 90 days notice if they’re discontinuing their plans. That means consumers whose plans will be cancelled this December should be receiving notices now.

    If your plan is being canceled, you have a number of options. By law, your insurer has to let you buy another of its plans if you want. You can also shop on the state health insurance marketplace for coverage, where many people qualify for subsidies that reduce the cost, or you can buy a plan off the marketplace as well.


    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Jay Hancock contributed to this report.

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    dogcancer

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    EMILY SENAY: You’ve seen them on the streets helping the blind, at airports and train stations sniffing for explosives and at the scene of earthquakes searching for survivors. But ever since her family got a Doberman puppy, this 55 year old retired magazine editor from New York’s Staten Island believes there may be another way for dogs to save lives.

    One night in the spring of 2011, a couple of weeks after getting a new puppy, Diane Papazian noticed her dog Troy behaving strangely.

    DIANE PAPAZIAN: So, he’s in bed with us, and he is in between my husband and myself, and– so, his head is right here. And he is nuzzling up against my left side, and he keeps nuzzling, and he’s nuzzling, and he’s not stopping. And I’m thinking, what in the heck is going on with this dog? Cut it out, you know, that’s so annoying. What are you doing?

    And– he kept doing it persistently, like it wasn’t just once or twice, it was for a few minutes that he kept nuzzling. So finally I said, what in the heck is he doing? So, I started to itch, because I’m highly allergic, and that’s when I felt the lump.

    EMILY SENAY: Just days after discovering the lump, doctors found a tumor three centimeters long. Diane was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage two breast cancer. She had gone for a mammogram six months earlier which was clear and wasn’t due for another mammogram for another six months.

    EMILY SENAY: When you went to the doctor, did you say, you know my dog sort of alerted me to this?

    DIANE PAPAZIAN: Yes.

    EMILY SENAY: And what did they say when– when they heard you– heard your story?

    DIANE PAPAZIAN: Well, I don’t think– I think they kind of partly thought I was a little crazy. But I think that they– probably have heard enough stories about dogs and their– very keen sense of smell that they weren’t– completely surprised.

    EMILY SENAY: Diane’s story might not be so crazy after all. For the past 25 years, cancer researchers have been exploring the possibility that cancer actually smells like something—and that dogs can detect that smell.

    EMILY SENAY: The idea of dogs smelling cancer makes perfect sense to Doctor Cindy Otto, a veterinarian with a doctorate in veterinary physiology. Otto started the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007. She thinks dogs could be picking up on the changes in odor researchers believe are created by cancer cells.

    CYNTHIA OTTO: It makes sense that they could change the odors that are released from that person. And a dog, with their extremely sensitive sense of smell, might be able to pick up that change.

    EMILY SENAY: At the Penn Vet Center, researchers are testing that idea. A team of four dogs like Tsunami, a German Shepherd and Ffoster, a Labrador Retriever are being trained to detect blood samples from ovarian cancer patients. Ovarian cancer kills more than 14,000 women in the US each year and is especially hard to detect in early stages. The dogs are rewarded for sitting down after identifying which of the samples contains cancer.

    Researchers like Otto started investigating the idea of dogs smelling cancer after hearing stories from people like Diane Papazian.

    CYNTHIA OTTO: People would report that their dog was acting differently. And they went to their doctor and they found out they had cancer. Or the very first case was a dog that was biting at a mole. And that person went in and found out that it was melanoma.

    And so just taking that, the stories that people have, and realizing there’s some really important information in those stories.

    EMILY SENAY: Otto acknowledges the research is preliminary- her study is still ongoing and hasn’t been submitted for peer review. But she says the early results have been exceptional.

    EMILY SENAY: When you say exceptional, what does that mean? How accurate are they?

    CYNTHIA OTTO: About 90% of the time these two dogs are telling us, “That’s the cancer sample.” And the other samples that are out there, whether it’s from a normal patient or from a patient with– benign ovarian disease, they’re like, “Nah, it’s not that.”

    EMILY SENAY: It’s not just the University of Pennsylvania. At a meeting of the American Urological Association in May, a group of Italian scientists from Milan presented the results of a study claiming a 98 percent accuracy rate with two dogs in detecting prostate cancer from urine samples. That study has yet to go through scientific review for publication, but researchers are hopeful it will eventually lead to an earlier and more accurate screening tool for prostate cancer.

    GARY SCHWARTZ: The holy grail of oncology has been to try to develop a test, either in the blood or the urine or some bodily fluid that would allow us to detect cancer at an early stage.

    EMILY SENAY: Doctor Gary Schwartz is the head of oncology and hematology at Columbia University Medical Center. He’s impressed by the results from the Italian study- but has some doubts about the 98% detection rate.

    GARY SCHWARTZ: I am a little skeptical on the outcome reported in this particular abstract from the Milan group.
    Now maybe prove I’m wrong. I mean, that’s the scientific part of me. I’m– but being a scientist as well as a physician, I think we always have to question until we see all the data, and all the information, we shouldn’t make any definitive conclusions about any finding. And at this point and in my analysis of the information we have, it’s still an open question how good the dog really is.

    EMILY SENAY: Even if the dogs can be trained to detect cancer, how useful will that turn out to be?

    EMILY SENAY: Do you see the day when dogs are used in a practical way to screen for cancer?

    GARY SCHWARTZ: I would say not. I really can’t envision a dog si– sitting in a clinical laboratory at a desk or in front of a series of urine samples saying, sniffing around, saying, “Oh, this one is and this one isn’t.” I just– The dog gets distracted on that sample, and it’s called maybe negative when it could be positive. So I think we’re better than that. I think we have better technology that we can use now to find whether a patient has– a cancer.

    EMILY SENAY: Schwartz says there are more promising prospects for early detection such as tests that find cancer DNA in the blood, but he acknowledges there may be something to the science of using dogs to detect cancer.

    GARY SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I suspect there is an odor– and that’s what the dogs are reacting to. Dogs have increased sensitivity. So the dogs are– are showing us something, they’re leading us down the path in which we can apply our own scientific methodology to identify what’s in the urine to which they are finding offensive, and to which they’re reacting to. And this in itself could be a significant advance.

    EMILY SENAY: And– we spoke with– the head of hem-onc at Columbia. And he said, “Gosh, I don’t see the day when dogs are gonna be working– sniffing samples, detecting cancer.”

    CYNTHIA OTTO: I think that it’s good to have skepticism. I think what we’re learning is that not all dogs can do this. It takes special training. But I also agree completely that dogs are not gonna be in the hospital laboratories, sniffing samples. Our goal with the dogs is to help direct where– how we can build a better screening tool.

    EMILY SENAY: Doctor Otto acknowledges that training cancer detecting dogs is time consuming and expensive at more than thirty thousand dollars a dog each year- and dogs can only identify a limited number of samples each day. But she sees her research eventually leading to a more efficient screening tool.

    CINDY OTTO: The dogs themselves probably aren’t gonna do the final job. They’re helping us design the tool that will then become the screening tool. Something that is more automated, something that is inexpensive and can screen thousands of women, millions of women a year.

    EMILY SENAY: That’s where Doctor Charlie Johnson comes in. He’s a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania using nanotechnology to develop what amounts to an electronic nose capable of smelling cancer. So one day his device might be programmed to measure the gases and compounds emitted from tumors that Doctor Otto’s dogs are smelling.

    A.T. CHARLIE JOHNSON: Our idea is to create a little device that can actually smell the vapors in the air and use it to smell the vapors that are emitted by blood samples and to tell which people have cancer based on that information.

    EMILY SENAY: Can your robotic nose beat a dog’s nose yet?

    A.T. CHARLIE JOHNSON: The best we can hope for I think will be to equal the dog’s nose. The dog are amazing. I mean, I think one thing we have done is we have demonstrated our ability to detect– a very small amount of a chemical that people cannot smell at all.

    EMILY SENAY: Johnson hopes to create a cancer detecting device as small as an iPhone that could be in every doctor’s office, but says they’re years away from that goal. But the dog study gives them hope that getting sniffed for cancer by an electronic sensor one day could become a routine procedure.
    After a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, Diane Papazian is cancer free today, and she says that’s all thanks to Troy.

    DIANE PAPAZIAN: I always say that had it not been for Troy, I don’t know if– I would be here today, or what the situation would’ve ended up really turning out to be.

    EMILY SENAY: You believe that?

    DIANE PAPAZIAN: I know that he was trying to tell me something in his own little, sweet way.

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    The famous “Boys on the Bus”–the gaggle of reporters who covered the 1972 McGovern/Nixon race, memorialized in Tim Crouse’s book of the same name–lost another member today. Longtime CBS and CNN correspondent Bruce Morton died Thursday afternoon in Washington after a battle with cancer. He was a near 30-year veteran of CBS News, who covered everything from Vietnam to Civil Rights to, notably, politics. Former PBS NewsHour correspondent Terence Smith worked with Morton at CBS then, and said today, “the amazing thing about Bruce was, he would cover a story for the day, and at the end of that long day he would sit at, what we used then: a typewriter, and craft the most-perfectly turned, perfectly-phrased portrait of the day’s events. He was the perfect television writer, who understood the medium. That is a gift. He was better at it than any of his contemporaries, and maybe one of the best ever.”

    Morton decamped for CNN in 1993. There he served as National Correspondent, and in-house éminence grise, lending a learned and wise take on the news. He often did so alongside the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, who anchored the network’s “Inside Politics” program then, and frequently called on Morton’s counsel on and off-air. “Bruce was a joy to work with,” she said today. “He was a walking encyclopedia of American politics, the ‘go to’ guy for just the right quote or historical reference. He was the consummate gentleman who somehow managed to keep us all laughing, even when the news was hard to take. What a gift he was to television news.”

    In 2000, as the primary season heated up, Terence Smith looked for the bridge between the old “Boys on the Bus” and the burgeoning digital age campaign coaches–now with as many “girls” as “boys”. He interviewed two pillars of that long-ago era still on the trail; both, now gone: Jack Germond, and Bruce Morton. Here they are, part of “The Boys and Girls on the Bus.”

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    Photo by Getty Images

    Photo by Getty Images

    WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is going after his opponent’s proposal to make birth control an over-the-counter drug.

    Udall brought Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the national president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to a suburban Denver battleground where female voters frequently decide statewide elections in Colorado.

    The three blasted a plan by Republican Rep. Cory Gardner to make the birth-control pill available without a doctor’s prescription. They call it a cynical attempt to distract women voters from his record opposing abortion rights and access to reproductive health.

    Udall is making women’s reproductive rights a major plank of his campaign. Friday’s rally came less than a week after Gardner started airing an ad casting himself as a “new kind of Republican” who supports over-the-counter birth control.

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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog conceded that its progress investigating Iran’s nuclear program has hit a wall. The latest confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency was obtained by several news media outlets.

    It said the IAEA had satellite imagery showing ongoing construction activity a Parchin military base, a suspected nuclear site. It also revealed that Tehran had only implemented three out of five measures to be more transparent under a deal with the IAEA. Iran denies that it wants or is working on nuclear arms.

    A plane chartered by coalition forces in Afghanistan, and carrying about 100 Americans, had to land in Iran today after filing the wrong flight plan. The Washington Post first reported the incident. Iranian air traffic control reportedly asked the plane to return to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, but it didn’t have enough fuel. A senior State Department official said the issue has been resolved and the plane is scheduled to resume its flight.

    There was new information released today on one of the deadliest friendly-fire episodes of the war in Afghanistan. An investigation by the U.S. military into the June episode found communication errors led to the deaths of five American soldiers and one Afghan. The incident happened in Zabul province when a B-1 bomber crew failed to check their information properly before launching two laser-guided bombs which hit the soldiers.

    The Pentagon confirmed the death of the leader of the African terror group Al-Shabab today. Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a U.S. airstrike on Monday in Somalia. In a statement, the Defense Department said it was a major symbolic and operational loss for the terrorist organization.

    Flash floods and landslides sparked by torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 116 people in Eastern Pakistan and Kashmir. Swollen rivers today swept away buildings and bridges and left many trapped on their own rooftops. Soldiers and emergency workers used boats and helicopters to ferry the stranded to safety. The flooding was forecast to intensify this weekend.

    A third American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia is now in stable condition in Nebraska. Dr. Rick Sacra arrived at a hospital in Omaha early this morning with a police escort. He had been evacuated from West Africa. The 51-year-old delivered babies at a Liberia hospital, and it’s still unclear how he contracted the virus. The head of the Nebraska Center’s Infectious Diseases Division said the patient is in a specially equipped bio-containment unit.

    DR. MARK RUPP, Infectious Diseases Division Chief, Nebraska Medical Center:  We’re doing our basic checks on him right now with getting some of our baseline laboratories, making sure that his fluid status is equilibrated, that his electrolytes are in control. We know that he is seriously ill with a virus that has a fairly high mortality rate associated with it.

    Like I said, we will continue to care for him with very aggressive, supportive care, and we’re looking into alternatives for some of our experimental therapeutics right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two other American health workers who contracted the virus in Liberia were treated and cured at Emory University in Atlanta.

    Also today, the World Health Organization reported the death toll in West Africa from the Ebola outbreak passed the 2,000 mark. Half of those deaths were in Liberia.

    Job growth slowed in August, as U.S. employers hired fewer workers than analysts had expected. But stocks on Wall Street seemed undeterred by the news. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 67 points to close at 17,137; the Nasdaq rose 20 points to close above 4,582; and the S&P 500 added 10 points to finish at 2,007. For the week, the Dow, the Nasdaq, and the S&P all rose a fraction of a percent.

    And in a special piece of good news, the California blue whale has bounced back from near extinction. A study done at the University of Washington found that they have recovered to number about 2,200 in the Pacific Ocean. That’s about 97 percent of historic 19th century levels. But the largest animals on earth are still vulnerable to being stuck by large ships.

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    nato1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This weeks NATO summit, dominated by the crisis in Ukraine and fears over the Islamic State group, came to a close today in Wales, just as a deal was finalized which could end the fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine: I give an order to chief of my military to declare a cease-fire in an half-an-hour’s time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made the announcement outside the NATO summit in Wales shortly before 4:00 p.m./11:00 a.m. Eastern time. He said his government had agreed to a framework for peace with Russian-backed separatists.

    PETRO POROSHENKO: This is a very important change not only for Ukraine, not only the region, for the whole world, about the security.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The agreement came following talks in Belarus today among representatives of Russia, Ukraine,the separatists, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. A separatist leader, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, spoke after the deal was reached.

    ALEKSANDR ZAKHARCHENKO, Prime Minister, Donetsk People’s Republic (through interpreter): The cease-fire will allow us to save not only civilian lives, but also the lives of the people who took up arms in order to defend their land and ideals, their targets and their goals.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Negotiators agreed upon the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, the release of all prisoners and the delivery of humanitarian aid to war-torn cities.

    Back in Wales, President Obama expressed cautious optimism over the truce.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: With respect to the cease-fire agreement, obviously, we are hopeful, but, based on past experience, also skeptical that in fact the separatists will follow through and the Russians will stop violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. So it has to be tested.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He credited economic sanctions levied on Moscow by the U.S. and European Union, but said allies are prepared to bring even more.

    In Ukraine, fighting continued right up until the late afternoon cease-fire took effect, and there were some initial reports of explosions and shellings after the truce began, but it appeared to hold into the evening, as soldiers pulled back from the front lines.

    Following numerous failed cease-fire attempts over months of fighting, some residents appeared wary.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I have said I have hopes, but it is very hard to trust anybody these days. Moreover, we have seen such efforts before and they brought nothing good, but we must hope.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Another flash point came far from Southeast Ukraine, after word that an Estonian security guard was taken at gunpoint from the Baltic state into Russia. Estonia’s president urged calm and officials said the abduction didn’t appear to be politically motivated.

    The ongoing Russian involvement in Ukraine and its other regional muscle-flexing prompted NATO leaders in Wales to approve plans today for a rapid response force. It will be headquartered in Eastern Europe, with thousands of troops able to mobilize quickly if an alliance country comes under attack.

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

     

    ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, Secretary-General, NATO: NATO protects all allies at all times, and it sends a clear message to any potential aggressor, should you even think of attacking one ally, you will be facing the whole alliance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Leaders also agreed to steadily increase member countries’ defense budgets over the next decade.

    Meanwhile, President Obama said there was unanimity among members that the Islamic State group’s surge across Iraq and Syria poses a significant threat to NATO countries. He said a coalition of America’s allies, which includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Turkey, Canada, and others, is prepared for an international effort to combat that threat.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You can’t contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory. The goal has to be to dismantle them.

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    UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CRISIS

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the region next week, hoping to build the coalition further.

    And joining me now to help interpret these developments are former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns. He’s a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, he wrote an article for the latest issue of “Foreign Affairs” magazine titled “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault.”  And Michael McFaul was U.S. ambassador to Russia until spring of this year. He now teaches at Stanford University.

    And, Mike McFaul, let me start with you. What do you make first of this new cease-fire. Are there clear winners and losers?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL, Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia: Well, the first thing I would say is that peace is always better than war. The fact that they’re not fighting in towns like Mariupol like tonight is a good thing, and Donetsk. That is a good thing.

    And I respect President Poroshenko, who understands his security demands and challenges better than I do. So, I think it’s a welcome sign. It’s also a cautious sign, as the president rightly said, because we have done this before.

    I would just add two caveats. What it does today, by having it today instead and, say, not two weeks ago, is it freezes into place Russian gains on the ground, Russians and their allies in Eastern Europe. They have been on the offensive and they have been winning the war on the ground. This now freezes that into place.

    And, secondly, the obvious point, there’s no political solution in the cease-fire. That’s going to take a lot of negotiating for months, if not years to come.

    JEFFREY BROWN: John Mearsheimer, where do you think things stand as of this moment, and what did you make of this announcement today from NATO about a rapid response force?  Is that a useful thing or a provocative step?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago: Well, I agree with the two points that Mike made as caveats. There’s no question this deal solidifies Russian gains in recent weeks. And, furthermore, I think the more important point that he made is that a cease-fire by itself a meaningless. What we have to do is get some sort of meaningful peace agreement between the three sides here.

    And I’m very pessimistic about that, because I think the Obama administration and the other Western countries are pursuing exactly the wrong policy with regard to Ukraine. I think getting tough with Putin, which is what we have been doing all along, and promising to get tougher in the future, is just going to make a bad situation worse.

    So I’m not very optimistic about the future. With regard to the 4,000-troop reinforcement capability, I think that’s fine. I think the two key things we definitely don’t want to do is, number one, permanently station troops or military forces in Eastern Europe, and, number two, give military aid to the Ukrainian military.

    I think that that would cause all sorts of problems with the Russians and, again, make a bad situation worse.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Nicholas Burns, from your NATO experience, tell us a little bit more about how to think about this, especially about the rapid response force. What kind of message is it, how unusual is it, how forceful is it, in fact?

    NICHOLAS BURNS, Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO: Well, Jeffrey, I think there were two major takeaways from the summit today.

    The first is that NATO really strengthened itself. This decision on the NATO response force is consequential. It means, in essence, that the NATO alliance can now in a credible way reinforce Article 5 of the NATO treaty.

    That’s the article that says if one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked and we will all respond to help that country. That’s a major deterrent against President Putin and the Russian government. It was very important to the Poles, to the Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, the new members of NATO, that know the Soviet reality, that lie geographically close to the Russian border, that they know that alliance will defend them.

    So, I think that was a very strong achievement by President Obama and his colleagues. On the other hand, I very much agree with Mike that, unfortunately, this cease-fire, of course, is a positive event, but, unfortunately, it locks in the Russian gains.

    And here, I think there was a missed opportunity at the summit by the United States and the other countries. The West didn’t raise additional sanctions on Russia, and it should have, because Russia moved across the border two weeks ago with its own military forces and, of course, has largely defeated the Ukrainians on Ukrainian soil tactically.

    And there was not a decision to aid Ukraine militarily, and I think there should have been, not that we want to give Ukraine lethal offensive capability, but the means to defend themselves, to enforce their own sovereignty, to patrol their own streets, that’s logical that we do that to a partner, and Ukraine is a partner.

    So I think there are positive developments today, but a missed opportunity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me actually go back to John Mearsheimer then on that point about whether it would be useful to have gone further. And then we will bring Mike McFaul back in.

    John Mearsheimer?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that those points, that Ukraine is a partner and that we should support our partner in a war against Russia and the insurgents, is a prescription for disaster.

    The Russians have made it very clear that they’re not going to tolerate a situation where Ukraine forms an alliance with NATO, the principal reason that Russia is now in Ukraine and trying to wreck Ukraine.

    And let’s be clear here. What Russia is trying to do is wreck Ukraine, is because Russia doesn’t want Ukraine to become part of the West. It doesn’t want it to be integrated into NATO or the E.U. And if we follow the prescriptions that Bill and I know Mike favors as well, what we are going to end up doing is further antagonizing Putin. He is going to play more hardball. And the end result is that Ukraine is going to be wrecked as a country, and we’re going to have terrible relations between Russia and the West, which is not in Russia’s interest and not in our interest.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me bring Michael McFaul back in.

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: Well, first of all, the issue of Ukraine joining NATO has not been an issue for several years, literally wasn’t an issue when I was in the government for five years. That wasn’t what sparked this. It was what happened inside Ukraine.

    Second, I agree that the summit should have announced in a more specific way assistance to the Ukrainians to defend themselves. Now, President Obama intimated that in his speech in Tallinn. It was very clear, and that was a new policy objective. What the details are have not been described.

    And, second, with respect to sanctions, I agree. The administration has put in place a tit for tat. We will ratchet up if the Russians ratchet up. The Russians now have ratcheted up, and I think that demands a response in terms of sanctions. And I actually expect that that will be coming. It would have been nice to announce it at the summit. I hope we will see it next week.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Nick Burns — and first I want to apologize because I think I called you Bill earlier — so, Nick — I got it right — I want — you know, there’s so much on the table right now at NATO, so I want to bring the Islamic State issue into this as well, because there was also an announcement today of a new kind of coalition to fight on that front.

    Frame that for us as well. How important is that as kind of a useful message or even force going forward?

    NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, this has become, as you know, the central preoccupation of the United States over the last month or so, as ISIS has made these extraordinary gains in Northern Syria and Western Iraq.

    It was very positive today that President Obama was able to say that he intends to form a coalition, that he will continue the use of American airpower, in essence, to beat back the ISIS gains specifically in Northern Iraq, positive that the Europeans said they were with us.

    But I think, Jeffrey, there’s two things that have to happen now. Number one is, we don’t just need political platitudes from the Europeans. We need concrete assistance, particularly from Britain and France, in the matter of air assets, so that the United States doesn’t have to go this alone in the air.

    And, secondly, this can’t just be a European/North American/Canadian/U.S. coalition. We need help from the Saudis, the Emirates, the Turks, of course, from the Qataris, the Kuwaitis. There has to be buy-in from the Sunni-Arab nations, so that the Sunni populations of both Syria and Iraq will know that there’s an alternative.

    And, hopefully, if the government in Baghdad can strengthen itself and become much more inclusive, and if the Shia leadership in Baghdad can offer a place in government to the Sunnis, then President Obama will be able to achieve essentially what President George W. Bush did so well in 2007 and ’08. And that’s win back the allegiance of the Sunni fighters and the Sunni population. That’s the next big step that has to take place.

    JEFFREY BROWN: John Mearsheimer, what are the chances of doing something like that?  How difficult will it be for John Kerry when he next returns there?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that the local actors, the actors in the Middle East that live near ISIS, are the ones that are going to have to beat them back in the end.

    I believe that wars are won on the ground, and the United States and the Europeans are obviously not going to insert ground forces into this conflict. So it’s going to be — it’s going to depend heavily on what forces in the region do. And I think, as they feel increasingly threatened by ISIS, they will work hard to counter ISIS and I think, ultimately, contain it.

    Whether it can be defeated over the long term remains to be seen. I actually don’t think it’s that big of a deal, because I think that ISIS is overrated as a threat to the United States, and I think there’s not a whole heck of a lot that the United States can do to fix the problem. I think it largely depends on what the local or regional actors do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, very much to be continued on all fronts.

    John Mearsheimer, Nicholas Burns, Michael McFaul, thank you, all three.

    NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you.

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: You’re welcome.

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    shieldsbrooks

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A once-rising Republican star was found guilty of corruption, and the Islamic State group executed a second American in gruesome fashion. It was another full week of news.

    We get the analysis now of Shields and Brooks.

    That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome back, gentlemen. You have been away for a couple of weeks.

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: You have been.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, maybe.

    MARK SHIELDS: We were here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

    So, we said a full week of news, David, and, as Jeff was just reporting, and this NATO summit has ended — do you sense that now the West has a strategy for dealing with Putin, with the Russians?

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: No.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: You know, there’s just this glacial gap between — or I guess I should say a glacial-sized gap between the president’s rhetoric on Putin, which is very good, that he does threaten basically the civilized order, the idea that you don’t invade neighboring states, and the actual policies put in place, and that we have some sanctions.

    There weren’t ratcheted-up sanctions. The sanctions don’t seem to be particularly effective. The crucial debate, as we just heard with McFaul, Burns, and Mearsheimer, is over whether we actually give the Ukrainians lethal weaponry to defend themselves.

    And, to me, a military assault demands some sort of military response. And arming the Ukrainians seems like the — the place that Obama is going to get to eventually, but it seems to be taking a long time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS: I see progress.

    I mean, certainly, a week ago, we were talking about whether there was any strategy at all. And I think this was a test of NATO. And if NATO hadn’t responded, and collectively, on both counts, I think it would have just been a — dismissed, and rightly so, as a paper tiger.

    I think the question of, as Mike McFaul put it, peace is better than war, but a peace agreement today or a truce, an armistice, essentially does lock in the Russian aggression and rewards it. And three weeks ago — I mean, there’s no question militarily that Putin said off the record, on the record, but I guess offhand, that he could be in Kiev in two weeks, he could take it. And I don’t think anybody really doubts that, quite honestly.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    I would just say, I think the paper tiger issue is still very much alive. The NATO countries, the 28 of them, have all promised to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, so they actually a military, some military capability. Out of the countries, four are doing it. And two of those are Greece and Estonia, not particularly huge countries. The U.S. and the U.K. are really the only substantial armies left in NATO.

    And so there’s…

    MARK SHIELDS: Turkey.

    DAVID BROOKS: Turkey.

    MARK SHIELDS: Turkey.

    DAVID BROOKS: OK, fair enough.

    MARK SHIELDS: ... the biggest.

    DAVID BROOKS: And so there’s just the question of materiel.

    The second is will. Putin has brazenness coming out the ears. So far, we have — it reminds me so much of all this conversation of the way it felt in Europe around the Yugoslav war, where there were firm declarations, we will not let this happen, we will not let the Serbs do this, we will not this happen to Bosnia, but nothing was done.

    And it feels like that again a little.

    MARK SHIELDS: I just think, looking at it, Putin has great advantages, in the sense that he doesn’t have to clear his actions with anybody. He is a one-man coalition.

    But that’s the drawback. I mean, he is isolating himself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Whereas the West has to get everybody together.

    MARK SHIELDS: They have to get everybody together.

    But I think the long-term strategy for Putin is ultimately self-defeating. Any idea — now, the problem that the West has is that this week, we saw even more deteriorating economic news in the West, even including Germany. So then you start talking about tougher sanctions with winter coming on and these faltering economies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And are they going to be willing to go — carry through...

    MARK SHIELDS: Go through with it. And all politics is local in the final analysis, and are leaders going to say to their people, we’re going to impose these sanctions?  You’re going to pay for them. It’s going to make your life more difficult. It could hurt our own economies, but we have to do it. And I think that’s really one of the great problems.

    DAVID BROOKS: If I could just build off that point, the marriage right now between domestic policy and foreign policy seems to me unusual in our lifetimes, that we have always faced threats, the Soviet Union, and this or that, but we did it as kind of a relative self — democratic functionality and self-confidence.

    Domestically, we’re seeing political dysfunction of an unprecedented level and lack of trust, lack of self-confidence. And so you have got this marriage of threats, which have always sort of been around. The president is right about that, but much more dysfunction on the domestic front. And that makes the threats bigger and more potent and makes our ability to counter them much weaker.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the Islamic State coming out of NATO, do you see any more resolve on the part of NATO there?

    MARK SHIELDS: I do. I do.

    But I think that Nick Burns’ point that the Arab companies have to buy in big, but the fact that Turkey is in is encouraging. I think seriousness of the president — I think the president, whatever else one says about him, he is not impulsive. And, no, but, I mean, that’s — it’s a time of thoughtfulness. There isn’t a ready, fire, aim — fire, ready, aim approach to him.

    He is — and he’s — the test will be not the process, which we’re seeing very openly, but what the product is, where we do come to. But I think he has set the parameters. It’s going to be long. It’s going to be difficult, but he has set an objective. There’s no question. It’s not with a lot of swagger and bravado, but he’s put it very clear. We’re going to destroy them.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. He is not impulsive. The Grand Canyon was formed faster than our policy in Syria.

    But you’re right. It’s sort of hard to grade it because it’s so much in formation. And I agree he set the right goal. He said, this is a cancer; therefore, you have to totally eradicate it. John Kerry has said no matter where it exists, it has to be addressed.

    And yet our policy right now is, we will address it in Iraq with some bombing and other things. We will not address it in Syria. And so that has got to change. The policy doesn’t match the goal and the rhetoric. And so it’s hard to grade it because it’s this evolved — very, very slowly evolving set of policies, but I think the president here and in Ukraine is going to get carried along.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s bring it back home.

    We watched in the state of Virginia this week former Governor Bob McDonnell, Mark, he and his wife, Maureen, found guilty on many counts of corruption, a big comedown for this man who was at one point a rising star in the Republican Party. What do you make of this whole...

    MARK SHIELDS: And on the short list for vice president in 2012.

    Well, I mean, I will be honest with you. I was surprised by the verdict. But, I mean, I don’t argue with juries. They were there listening to it for all those weeks.

    The defense — Bob McDonnell essentially ended his political career with his defense, which was “The War of the Roses.”  In other words, there couldn’t have been collusion and cooperation between my wife and me because we had no relationship, and we had no relationship because she was erratic, she was absolutely difficult, demanding, impossible to work with, short-tempered.

    I mean, I just — quite honestly, even he had been declared — found innocent, that would have been — it would such a — destructive to watch a family just kind of…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was painful to watch.

    MARK SHIELDS: It really was.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it have repercussions for other politicians?  I mean, is this a one-time…

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I mean, there are degrees of corruption in American politics.

    And so the normal giving is, the gift is over here and the response by the politician is over here. McDonnell’s problem was, he went like that. And so he, like, would get a gift or a loan and, like, there would be an e-mail going out in eight minutes. But our normal corruption is, there’s like this discreet interval in between the gift and the countergift.

    And so that’s not so clean either, but he just got a little greedy and brought the two together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that made it easier for the prosecution, presumably.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes. And Virginia’s always had sort of a self-righteousness about itself, that we’re this, oh, the state of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison and Patrick Henry.

    MARK SHIELDS: And we’re sort of aristocratic and noble in public service. And this was pretty seamy and pretty...

    DAVID BROOKS: I want to say that Virginians are not self-righteous. Honest would be the word I would use.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: Oh, I see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We may get a few e-mails about that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I will let you know next week.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, so the last thing I want to ask you about is the Senate and the state of Kansas this week. Everybody was kind of surprised, I think, when the Democratic candidate for the Senate suddenly dropped out, two months to go before the election, David.

    Does this — this was a state the Republicans have been counting on. Everybody, both the Democrats and the Republicans, this is really important?

    MARK SHIELDS: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What — does this shake things up?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, the short term is, it’s a potential pickup for Democrats.

    I mean, you have got a candidate on the Republican side who is old and living out of state. If you want a recipe for losing, that’s it. That’s been proven time and time again. The larger picture, though — and it’s also interesting to look at the Alaska governor’s race, where a similar thing happened, where you got a very polarized electorate, and if you’re on the losing side of a party, and there’s an independent, you can make an alliance with that independent and maybe beat the majority.

    And so that can — that — we might see more and more of that if there are independent candidacies in a very polarized election, because there’s so much space in the middle for an independent and the minority candidate to make an alliance.

    MARK SHIELDS: George McGill. You know who George McGill is?  He was the last Democrat elected from Kansas. That was 1932.

    In the last 82 years, Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate. It’s the only one of the 50 states that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in the last 82 years. So, the idea of Pat Roberts — Pat Roberts, who was the incumbent and is the incumbent, but who was Bob Dole-Nancy Kassebaum kind of Republican, Republican, conservative, worked across the aisle, worked — didn’t demonize.

    MARK SHIELDS: And he became terrified in the last couple of years of a challenge from the Tea Party, which he did beat that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he did have.

    MARK SHIELDS: And he became this sort of contrivance, a conservative voting against the farm bill, voting against the VA and all the rest of it.

    So I think what you see, building on what David said, is sort of the revenge of the moderates, of the revolution of the middle. There is a sense that we want back our Kansas. And Orman, the Democrat, the independent Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat turned independent…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Who the Republicans are saying…

    MARK SHIELDS: ... voted for Obama, voted for Romney, who is running as an independent, you know, cast himself as a Bob Dole, which, you know, we will find out whether, in fact, that still gets traction in Kansas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, does this mean — I mean, to pick up on what you were saying, does this mean we may see more independents running?

    DAVID BROOKS: I think it makes sense. I think if you have got two parties who are representing — you look at first — party I.D. is low. People used to be married to parties.

    DAVID BROOKS: Now they have withdrawn, so there are just a lot more independents. Some are not — are sort of fake independents, but some are more real independents.

    But there’s just a lot more space in the middle. And you can’t walk down the street without somebody saying — telling you, well, I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Where is my home?  And so that is floating out there. It’s — that space has always lacked candidates, donors and institutions. But if you begin to see some candidates, maybe you will see an infrastructure.

    MARK SHIELDS: The one thing I would say, Judy, cautionary note for the Democrats, is that yesterday the Federal Reserve survey of consumer finances, which comes out only every three years, showed that all of the growth, all of the income expansion, all of the new wealth has gone to the top 10 percent, who now control 55 percent of the wealth of the country. The top 3 percent do, top 3 percent.

    In Ronald Reagan’s year, 40 — they controlled only 44 percent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying the Democrats need…

    MARK SHIELDS: I would just say, the Democrats — what we’re seeing is, in every other single economic bracket, income bracket, the median income fell between 2010 and 2013.

    And so I just think what you’re seeing is this rising tide is lifting all yachts. And the idea that the economy is getting bigger and expanding, the pie is getting larger, but the slices for everybody other than the top are getting smaller, and that’s a real problem with today’s unemployment numbers, I think, is a real problem with the economy heading into this election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re just glad to have a slice of the two of you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields and David Brooks, we thank you.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Ukraine cease-fire, Gov. McDonnell’s guilty verdict appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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