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

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    You're not the only one whose benefits will be lower by taking them earlier. Photo by Funstock/iStock 360 via Getty Images.

    Taking retirement benefits early doesn’t just give you lower benefits; it also reduces total lifetime benefits for your survivors. Photo by Funstock/iStock 360 via Getty Images.

    Larry Kotlikoff’s Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Let us know your Social Security questions. Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version.

    Greg — Minn.: I will be 63 in October, and my wife turned 63 in May. She quit work in 2012, while I plan to retire in January 2015 when we are both going to start taking our Social Security payments along with my pension. My question is, if I die before her, what Social Security benefit does she continue to receive — mine or hers? My monthly Social Security payment is almost twice what hers is. In the event of my death, she will continue to receive my pension.

    Larry Kotlikoff: ​Before answering your specific question, I need to caution that with you both taking your retirement benefits early — at age 64, not age 70 — you will A) both receive permanently lower retirement benefits, B) forego having one of you (your wife would be best) take a full spousal benefit starting at full retirement age while letting her own retirement benefit continue to grow until 70, and C) permanently reduce the widows benefit that she’ll receive once you pass away.


    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    Depending on your earnings histories, doing what you have in mind can mean the loss of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in lifetime benefits. If you can keep working or can tap other resources like retirement accounts to get closer to the Social Security benefit-collection strategy that maximizes your lifetime benefits, consider doing so.

    To see what’s at stake you need to run your situation through a highly detailed and accurate Social Security lifetime benefit maximization program. The free online programs, like AARP’s, which I’ve written about in the past, won’t always give you the right answer. They can be misleading, I presume, because their hosts think you don’t have the time to collect and enter the right data and get the right answer and don’t care about potentially leaving huge amounts of money on the table by following the wrong strategy. Another possibility is that they don’t have the technical and software engineering knowledge to make the right calculations.

    “Taking your retirement benefit early not only lowers your own lifetime retirement benefits, it also lowers your wife’s lifetime widows benefits based on whatever date you die.”

    Now to your specific question. If you take your benefit, as you plan, before full retirement age (specifically at age 64), your wife’s widows benefit will be calculated based on a special and highly complicated widows benefit formula called the RIB-LIM formula, which I discussed in a prior column. But given your situation and assuming you pass away after your wife reaches full retirement age, she will, indeed, receive a widows benefit equal to the retirement benefit you were receiving. But the retirement benefit you were receiving will be lower than it would otherwise have been were you to wait to collect it.

    So, to repeat, your taking your retirement benefit early not only lowers your own lifetime retirement benefits, it also lowers your wife’s lifetime widows benefits based on whatever date you die.

    Keith — Palm Desert, Calif: I started collecting Social Security at age 65. I was born in 1944. My wife has never worked and is 60 years old. I earn $2,170 per month. If my wife starts taking spousal benefits at 62, how much will she receive and when can she apply for Medicare?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Your spouse, if she has no work record on her own, will collect around $820 per month. This is her full spousal benefit (which equals half of your full retirement benefit), but reduced by 30 percent because she will be taking her spousal benefit four years before full retirement age.

    However, if your wife did have her own work record, she would, when she filed for her early spousal benefit, be deemed to be also filing for her retirement benefit. In this case, she’d get what amounts to roughly the larger of the two benefits. Hence, she might not receive any spousal benefit whatsoever. But if she waited until full retirement age, deeming would no longer apply, and she could file just for her unreduced spousal benefit.

    Then, at 70, she could file for her own retirement benefit, which would be 76 percent larger (after inflation) than were she to collect her retirement benefit at 62. If her age-70 retirement benefit exceeded her unreduced spousal benefit, she’d collect it since it’d be the larger of the two. If it’s less, she’d just continue, after reaching age 70, to collect her full (unreduced) spousal benefit.

    Dawn — Penn.: I am 60-and-a-half years old and will need to take some form of Social Security as soon as possible because I desperately need the money. I work part time. I was married for over 10 years and am now divorced. My ex-husband took his retirement at 62. Do I have to take my own Social Security first, or can I take some of his first and then let mine accumulate for later? Also, if I take mine now and he dies, can I then take a widows benefit, and what percentage would that be?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Unfortunately, thanks to Social Security’s nasty deeming provision, if you take a reduced early spousal benefit, you’ll be forced to take your own reduced early retirement benefit and will just get what is, roughly speaking, the larger of the two reduced benefits. To be precise, you’ll get your own reduced retirement benefit plus your divorced excess spousal benefit reduced by the spousal benefit reduction factor. The excess spousal benefit (equal, if positive, to half of your ex’s full retirement benefit, less 100 percent of your own full retirement benefit) could well be zero.

    In this case, you won’t collect a divorced spousal benefit and will have to wait until your ex passes away to collect a widows benefit on his earnings record (provided the widows benefit, subject to its own reduction if it’s taken before full retirement age, exceeds your own reduced retirement benefit). The size of the widows benefit will potentially depend on whether you take it before full retirement age. It will be calculated based on the complex RIB-LIM formula I discussed in a prior column. If, for example, your ex dies after you reach full retirement age, you’ll most likely receive a widows benefit equal to 82.5 percent of his full retirement benefit (adjusted for inflation), which is somewhat — about 8 percent — more than he is now receiving.

    Donna — Wis.: I will be 60 at the end of September 2014 and understand that I will be eligible for survivor benefits at that time. My husband of 22 years, who is in home hospice and not expected to live through this year, has been receiving Social Security benefits (he is 66) that had been converted from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments.

    “How can I plan my finances going forward when I can’t explore my options until I’m actually planning a funeral?”

    I was an office worker for many years, but stopped working to take care of my ill husband about 10 years ago. Additionally, I was married previously for 14 years to a professional who made substantially more money than I did. He is still alive, but was granted SSDI before he turned 62 last year. I may have more options for drawing Social Security benefits, but how can I plan my finances going forward when I can’t explore my options until I’m actually planning a funeral?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Extremely sorry to hear about your husband’s condition. If your husband passes away, you will, indeed, be able to collect a reduced widows benefit. There are two alternative strategies to consider. First, consider taking your reduced widows benefit immediately. Then, at your full retirement age, file just for your divorcée spousal benefit on your ex’s work record, and at 70 take your own retirement benefit. Or second, consider taking your retirement and divorcée spousal benefits at 62, then fil​e ​for ​your ​unreduced widows benefits at​ full retirement age​.​

    Also, once your ex passes away, you can collect widows benefits on his work record. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any software program that handles multiple marriages, but my and other companies can make special calculations for you.

    The post You’re not the only loser when taking Social Security early appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The World Health Organization handed over 24 motorcycles to the Ministry of Health in Guinea the first week in September to support Ebola contact tracing activities in eight districts in the country. Photo by A. Pallangyo/WHO

    The World Health Organization handed over 24 motorcycles to the Ministry of Health in Guinea the first week in September to support Ebola contact tracing activities in eight districts in the country. Photo by A. Pallangyo/WHO

    In a way, the use of motorcycles is a sign of how convoluted the struggle with Ebola has become.

    In early September, the World Health Organization donated two dozen motorcycles to the Ministry of Health in Guinea, one of the countries hit hardest by the Ebola virus. A week later, WHO said motorbikes used as taxis were one of the ways Ebola was spreading in Liberia.

    Health workers in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and other affected West African nations need an easy way of traveling to track down how individuals are infected and to help shut down the routes of transmission. As for the motorbike taxis, they were helping spread the disease because the bikes were rarely disinfected between passengers.

    The finding on the taxis came from a team of WHO investigators who were in Liberia — considered the epicenter of the disease — working with the Ministry of Health, local health personnel and partner organizations. About half of the region’s 3,500 Ebola cases are in Liberia, and nearly all of Liberia’s counties have confirmed cases of the deadly virus, the team said in a statement on Monday. The fatality rate in Liberia is among the highest at 58 percent.

    “The demands of the Ebola outbreak have completely outstripped the (Liberian) government’s and partners’ capacity to respond,” the statement said. “As soon as a new Ebola treatment facility is opened, it immediately fills to overflowing with patients, pointing to a large but previously invisible caseload … Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks.”

    The team assessed the conditions in Montserrado county, which includes Liberia’s capital Monrovia. It estimated that 1,000 more beds were needed at Ebola treatment centers to add to the 240 beds that are currently available. About 200 to 250 medical staff members are needed for each 70-bed facility.

    WHO investigators said conventional ways of trying to stop Ebola that appear to be working in other countries are inadequate in Liberia because of the aggressive infection rate.

    Compounding the problem is that the early symptoms of Ebola are similar to those of common infectious diseases – fever, headache and general weakness – putting medical staff at high risk of exposure. Dozens of health care workers have died in Liberia alone.

    President Barack Obama said Sunday that the U.S. military will help set up isolation units and provide security for public health workers in affected countries. Britain also has promised to send medical equipment and military personnel.

    The post WHO: ‘Many thousands of new cases’ of Ebola expected in Liberia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A sign giving direction to The University of Miami Hospital's Emergency Department hangs on a wall on April 30, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    A sign giving direction to The University of Miami Hospital’s Emergency Department hangs on a wall on April 30, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Many people newly insured by Medicaid under the federal health care law are seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms, one of the most expensive medical settings, a study released Monday concludes.

    The analysis by the Colorado Hospital Association provides a real-time glimpse at how the nation’s newest social program is working.

    It also found indications that newly insured Medicaid patients admitted to hospitals may be sicker than patients previously covered under the same program, which serves more than 60 million low-income and disabled people.

    The findings have implications for federal and state policymakers managing the coverage expansion under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Taxpayers could save millions of dollars if newly insured Medicaid patients with routine needs are steered to community health centers or urgent care clinics, as opposed to service-intensive ERs.

    The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid to cover many low-income adults with no children living at home. They were previously ineligible in nearly every state. About 7 million people nationally have been added to the rolls of the safety-net program, which is jointly run by the federal government and the states.

    More than half the states have signed up for the Medicaid expansion, with Washington paying the entire cost through 2016, and gradually phasing down to a 90-percent share thereafter. Another part of the law, which is available in every state, offers subsidized private health insurance to people who don’t have a health plan on the job.

    “When this newly insured population is trying to understand the system, they are using the easiest access point, and that is the ER,” said Chris Tholen, a vice president of the hospital association.

    The study looked at data reported by 450 hospitals in 25 states, through the middle of this year. Thirteen of the states expanded Medicaid, and 12 states did not.

    In addition, researchers with the association’s Center for Health Care Information and Data Analytics drilled down into reports from Colorado hospitals. That analysis showed that newly insured Medicaid patients appear to be sicker.

    Looking at the broad sample of 25 states, the study found that the average number of ER visits in states that expanded Medicaid increased by 5.6 percent, when the second three months of this year were compared with the same period in 2013. That increase was more than three times bigger than experienced by hospitals in states that did not expand. It was also outside the range of normal year-to-year fluctuations, Tholen said.

    Examining a different data set from Colorado-only hospitals, the researchers also found a rise in a widely used measurement for the clinical complexity of Medicaid patients.

    “They had diseases that weren’t being taken care of,” said Tholen. “We are seeing those needs are now being met. To me, that is the real definition of success.” He added, coverage “is more than just peace of mind for people who needed health care and couldn’t get it.”

    The study also found notable declines in hospital charity and self-pay charges for states that expanded Medicaid. But researchers said it will take more time to get a full picture of the impact on hospital finances.

    The post Rise in ER visits after Medicaid expansion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Undocumented immigrants on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. The U.S. government is closing emergency shelters for child migrants in several states as the number of children crossing the border has begun to drop. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    Undocumented immigrants on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. The U.S. government is closing emergency shelters for child migrants in several states as the number of children crossing the border has begun to drop. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration renewed its plea Monday for Congress to provide additional money to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border. The request seemed likely to fall on deaf ears as neither party showed an appetite to revive the issue.

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that without the $1.2 billion in additional funding for 2015, he will be forced to take money from other accounts, such as $405 million moved earlier this summer from the disaster relief fund.

    “This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks,” Johnson said.

    But a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the House had already dealt with the issue by agreeing to a smaller sum prior to Congress’ five-week summer recess, which ended Monday. “The House has already passed a border supplemental, along with much-needed reforms. Now, it is up to Senate Democrats to act,” said spokesman Michael Steel.

    No deal was ever reached with the Senate and no final bill ever passed. But with arrivals of Central American children down substantially at the border, the issue is now on the back burner on Capitol Hill and looks likely to stay there during the couple weeks Congress is in session ahead of November’s midterms.

    The administration might get some additional spending flexibility it’s asked for in a temporary government funding measure slated for votes the next two weeks.

    In his statement Johnson notes that only 3,141 unaccompanied kids crossed the border illegally in August, compared with a high of 10,622 in June as the crisis peaked. The administration has taken a number of steps to respond, such as reassigning immigration judges, but much of the reduction is seasonal as the summer heat has traditionally discouraged migrants.

    The spike on the border pushed the issue near the top of public concerns and it was front-and-center at some congressional town halls earlier in the summer. But now it’s been overtaken by other events including terrorist threats overseas.

    The post Obama administration seeks additional $1.2 billion for border crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Baltimore Ravens have not commented on the newly released video that shows the brutality of running back Ray Rice's assault on his fiance in an Atlantic City elevator. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens have terminated running back Ray Rice from the team, following the release of video that shows the brutality of Rice’s assault on his fiance in an Atlantic City elevator. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

    Updated 4:30 p.m. EDT: Following the Ravens’ termination of Ray Rice’s contract, NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello announced that league commissioner Roger Goodell had indefinitely suspended Rice based on the new video.

    Updated 2:22 p.m. EDT: The Baltimore Ravens announced via Twitter that they have terminated running back Ray Rice’s contract.

    Original story from 12:30 p.m. EDT Monday: On a day when NFL fans should be busy comparing their fantasy teams and stoking quarterback controversies, the discussion in the sports world is focused instead on the horrendous images of Ray Rice knocking his fiancé unconscious in an elevator.

    Early Monday morning TMZ released video of the Baltimore Ravens running back punching his fiancé, now wife, in the head and then dragging her unconscious body out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator. The image is a gruesome companion to the video that had been released in February, showing Rice dragging Janay Palmer out of the elevator and dropping her body onto the floor of the hotel hallway.

    Rice was arrested after the Feb. 15 altercation and later pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault. He avoided jail time by agreeing to participate in an anger management program. The NFL suspended Rice for two games, meaning he would have be eligible to participate with his team on Friday, a day after the Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.

    The outcry over the NFL’s mismanagement of the situation has been renewed. ESPN analyst and former NFL coach Herm Edwards said on “SportsCenter” this morning that as an organization, the Ravens should deactivate Rice.

    “What did you expect (the video) to look like?” he said, referring to the fact that the NFL had already seen the video of Rice pulling an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. “It’s cut and dry with me; it’s black and white.”

    Former player London Fletcher admonished NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:

    Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the NFL should ban Rice for life:

    Fans greeted Rice with cheers — and no reported boos — when he made his preseason debut back on Aug. 7.

    We’re asking: What do you think the NFL should do in response to these newly surfaced images? If you are an NFL fan and one of your favorite players had participated in this type of violence, how would you react? How would you want your organization or coach to react?

    Tell us in the comments below.

    The post UPDATE: NFL suspends Ray Rice after domestic abuse video surfaces appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats started their campaign-season drive Monday for a constitutional amendment aimed at curbing special interests’ financial clout in elections, a doomed effort the party hopes will make a populist appeal to voters.

    The measure would allow Congress and the states to limit the money raised and spent in election campaigns, curbs that have been weakened by Supreme Court decisions in recent years. It has no chance of winning the two-thirds majority needed to clear the Senate, let alone even being considered by the Republican-run House.

    Democrats were bringing the measure to the Senate floor anyway Monday, eight weeks from elections in which they are fighting to retain their majority in the chamber.

    Led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Democrats around the country have spent months lambasting the billionaire Koch brothers. The duo has contributed large sums to conservative groups that are spending millions to try defeating Democratic senators.

    “Should a family hard hit by the recession take a back seat in our government to a couple of billionaires?” Reid said Monday as the Senate returned from its summer recess.

    “We’re going to ask if there’s a single Republican who believes elections in America today should be determined by how much money you have,” he said.

    Republicans say limiting campaign spending by outside groups would violate free speech — a rationale Supreme Court justices have used in decisions diluting decades-old restrictions. They say Democrats are pushing the measure to try racking up political points and say people are more concerned with issues like the economy and health care.

    No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Monday that while back in his home state during Congress’ break, “Not a single time did my constituents say, ‘We want you to go back to Washington, D.C., and vote to gut the First Amendment right to free speech.’”

    Outside groups have spent $189 million on congressional campaigns since January 2013, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors political spending. That’s more than triple the $57 million spent to this point in the 2010 campaign — which, like this year, featured only congressional races and not a presidential contest.

    The proposed amendment by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., would let lawmakers roll back the Supreme Court’s 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, which found that limiting campaign spending by outside groups would violate their free speech.

    The legislation would also let Congress address two other cases that have eroded campaign finance strictures: The 2010 Citizens United case, which allowed unfettered independent spending by corporations and unions, and last April’s McCutcheon ruling letting wealthy individuals contribute to as many candidates as they’d like.

    Leaders are hoping this month’s session will be short so lawmakers can go home to campaign. Both chambers’ leaders plan to use much of the session to appeal to each party’s most loyal voters.

    Besides the constitutional amendment on campaign spending, Reid is preparing for possible votes on the federal minimum wage, women’s pay, student loans and contraception coverage for some workers. Republicans have previously blocked those measures.

    House Republicans envision votes on boosting energy production and easing regulations and taxes on businesses — bills the House has passed but the Senate has ignored.

    The post Senate Democrats in doomed push to limit campaign funds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A chilling new warning today on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The World Health Organization projected an exponential increase in new cases.

    In a statement, the U.N. agency said, “Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks.”  More than half of all the cases so far have been in Liberia. The U.S. military now plans to assist setting up isolation units and providing security.

    Hundreds of American children in 10 states have fallen ill with a severe respiratory ailment in recent weeks. The Centers for Disease Control reports that nearly 500 kids were treated at a single hospital in Kansas City, and many required intensive care. Symptoms can include heavy coughing, fever and asthma-like breathing trouble.

    In Ukraine, the cease-fire between government forces and separatists appeared to be holding after sporadic violations over the weekend. That word came as President Petro Poroshenko made a surprise visit to the key coastal city of Mariupol. Rebel forces have moved close, but in a speech, Poroshenko declared it will stay Ukrainian.

    PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine (through interpreter): We are ready to defend our state. Our armed forces, national guard, border guards, keep the powder dry. But speaking of political decisions, we will do all we can for a process of a peaceful settlement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Ukrainian president said also that nearly 1,200 prisoners of war have been released by the rebels under the cease-fire.

    Nigeria’s military reported today that it has recaptured a key town from Islamist militants of Boko Haram. A senior government official said that forces took back the town of Bama in northeast Borno state and blocked the militants’ advance toward the state capital. Over the weekend, however, Boko Haram captured several other towns.

    The Iraqi parliament took a giant step this evening toward putting a functioning government in place. Lawmakers officially named Haider al-Abadi as prime minister and approved most of a new cabinet. Abadi asked for another week to fill the key security posts of defense and interior ministers. The goal is a more inclusive government to bring Sunnis back into the fold.

    Rescuers in India and Pakistan are struggling to save thousands of people trapped by flooding. More than 320 have died in the disaster across the divided territory of Kashmir and northern and eastern Pakistan. Today, Indian air force helicopters airlifted more people to safety. People in the region’s main city of Srinagar waded through flooding streets over the weekend with cattle and belongings, waiting to be rescued.

    BLA CHANDRA, Air Commodore, Indian Air Force: From the second half of yesterday, we started focusing over the Srinagar city, where the water level has been continuously rising, and it has risen up to a considerable level, almost up to the second floor, and people are stranded on rooftops.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The disaster put tensions between the two countries on hold for now. The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers offered Sunday to assist each other in relief efforts.

    Widespread thunderstorms from the remnants of Hurricane Norbert sparked flash flooding in parts of Arizona this morning. In Phoenix, a record-breaking three inches of rain fell by daybreak, wreaking havoc on the morning commute. Portions of major interstates were closed and dozens of vehicles lay stalled in window-high water. The storm also triggered flooding in Southern California over the weekend.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 26 points to close at 17,111; the Nasdaq rose nine points to close at 4,592; and the S&P 500 slipped six to finish at 2,001.

    And some happy news this evening from the British royal family. Prince William and the duchess of Cambridge are expecting a second child.

    Tim Ewart of Independent Television news reports.

    TIM EWART: He had not wanted the world to know so soon, but Prince William had no choice. Kate should have been with him here in Oxford today, but a bout of severe morning sickness kept her at home and forced him to approve the announcement that they have another child on the way.

    QUESTION: Congratulations. How’s Catherine feeling?

    PRINCE WILLIAM, Duke of Cambridge: She’s feeling OK. It’s been a tricky few days, week or so, but obviously we’re immensely thrilled. It’s great news. Early days. We’re hoping just things settle down and she feels a bit better.

    TIM EWART: Kate hasn’t been seen in public since the World War I commemoration at the Tower of London last month. The announcement of her first pregnancy also had to be brought forward. On that occasion, morning sickness was so severe that she was taken to hospital.

    Prince George, now 1, was born seven months later. Today, it was confirmed he will have a brother or sister by next spring.

    DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: And on behalf of the whole country, I’m sure the house will want to join me in congratulating them on this fantastic news and wishing them well in the months ahead.

    TIM EWART: So, as he was greeted by one small well-wisher today, Prince William’s thoughts were very much with his own family and the wife he was forced to leave at home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The baby will be fourth in line to the throne behind Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: what the U.S. and its allies can do to destroy the Islamic State group; why politicians aren’t talking about immigration before November’s elections; deep political divides over fracking for oil and gas in Colorado; and the NFL suspends running back Ray Rice indefinitely for domestic violence.

    The post News Wrap: WHO projects ‘exponential increase’ for Ebola appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the next phase for the United States and partners in going after the Islamic State group. Many in the region and this county are anxiously awaiting more details as the president prepares for a national address Wednesday on his strategy in dealing with the militant group that has brought death and destruction to large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going shrink the territory that they control, and, ultimately, we’re going to defeat them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president outlined a multistep campaign in a lengthy interview seen Sunday on NBC. It elaborated on his statement last week in Estonia regarding the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So, the bottom line is this:  Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL, so that it is no longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but also to the region and to the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was widely reported today that the president’s expanded air offensive could last years. But in the NBC interview, he again made clear the effort won’t include combat troops.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re not looking at sending in 100,000 American troops. We are going to be, as part of an international coalition, carrying out airstrikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops. We are going to be helping to put together a plan for them, so that they can start retaking territory that ISIL had taken over.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Airstrikes have already been under way for four weeks, nearly 150 to date. They have helped Kurdish forces, plus Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shiite militia push back the Sunni extremists of Islamic State.

    Over the weekend, the air campaign reached into Anbar province, striking targets around Haditha dam. The predominantly Sunni region west of Baghdad is largely under Islamic State control. It remained unclear if an expanded air war would extend into Syria.

    General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said any move to destroy the militants would also mean strikes in Syria, where they are strongest. Just 10 days ago, at a White House news conference, Mr. Obama said there was no strategy yet on that question. He didn’t address that point directly in his NBC interview, but he did say it’s essential for majority Sunni states in the region to step up.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Not just Saudi Arabia, our partners like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, they need to be involved. This is their neighborhood. The dangers that are posed are more directed at them right now then they are at us.

    And the good news is, I think, for perhaps for the first time, you have absolute clarity that the problem for Sunni states in the region, many of whom are our allies, is not simply Iran; it is not simply a Sunni-Shia issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To that end, Secretary of Defense Hagel was in Turkey today, one of the 10 NATO nations committed to the so-called core coalition against the Islamic State group.

    It was also announced that Secretary of State Kerry will leave tomorrow for the region. And a two-day meeting of the Arab League in Cairo ended today with the group urging members to confront the Islamic State.

    The league’s secretary-general is Nabil Elaraby.

    NABIL ELARABY, Secretary-General, Arab League (through interpreter): What is happening in Iraq is a threat of a terrorist organization that is not just defying the state, but threatens its existence and the existence of other countries. This terrorist organization represents all forms of tyranny, oppression and terror. It’s working to divide the social structure of the region.

    The post U.S. and allies prepare new campaign against Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in Washington, President Obama begins consulting congressional leaders tomorrow. He plans to present the full strategy to the nation in a speech on Wednesday.

    So, can the Islamic State group be destroyed and degraded, as President Obama laid out?  For that, we get three views.

    Feisal Istrabadi was Iraq’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations from 2004 to 2007. He’s now a professor of international law and diplomacy at Indiana University. Frederic Wehrey is a former U.S. Air Force officer who served in and around the Middle East, including in Iraq. He’s now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And Hussein Ibish is a senior fellow on the American Task Force on Palestine. He writes extensively on Middle East issues.

    And we welcome all three of you back to the program.

    I’m going to start with you, Hussein Istra — I’m sorry — Feisal Istrabadi. My mistake.

    Is it realistic to say that the U.S. or anyone can destroy the Islamic State?

    FEISAL ISTRABADI, Former UN Ambassador, Iraq: Well, I think that, I mean, you obviously can’t destroy an ideology, but you can go after the individuals who have signed up for this ideology and who have taken the field.

    So, yes, I think you can, because they have — they represent a very small minority of the populations of the countries that they are in the midst of. There is a rising consensus amongst all the countries of the region and the peoples of the region that these people represent a direct threat in the region and internationally.

    And I think that an appropriate response by the countries of the region in coordination with the United States and NATO allies can result and must result — indeed, we don’t seem to me to have much of a choice — in the defeat of these organizations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred Wehrey, do you think it’s a realistic goal?

    FREDERIC WEHREY, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace: Just to add to that, I mean, I think you can degrade and disrupt and destroy their combat capability.

    I mean, you’re talking about a hybrid military force that uses mechanized forces that is sweeping across territory. So you can really I think constrain that capability. But, as we heard, undercutting this movement’s ideology is going to be a long-term, perhaps even generational process. You’re really talking about removing a cancer from the region and undercutting that ideology.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hussein Ibish, you’re nodding.

    HUSSEIN IBISH, The American Task Force on Palestine: Yes, I like that analogy. It is exactly a cancer.

    But it’s a cancer that’s metastasized into Iraq. And I think it’s maybe more doable to degrade them to the point that they’re a nuisance and a problem in Iraq, I think going after their stronghold in Raqqa, in Syria, where they are really quite dug in and where they are running what amounts to a mini-state that is, as Nabil Elaraby, the head of the Arab League, was just saying in your promo clip there, is a threat to the state system.

    It’s not a state that wants to join the state system. It’s a state that posits itself as an alternative, not to Syria and Iraq, but to the whole Westphalian state system. I mean, it’s just — it’s a threat to the international structure as we have known it for hundreds of years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So the president is talking about a staged approach here.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that — is that — does that make sense?  One assumes he is talking about starting in Iraq.

    HUSSEIN IBISH: Yes. I think that’s right. I think it’s essential.

    I think Iraq gives you the opportunity to build the coalition, and especially with local forces on the ground, with Sunni forces, Sunni tribal forces, even maybe some former Baathists, who — anyone who will join the campaign against ISIS would be welcome, and then from there, you could see how it could present new opportunities in Syria and change the dynamics in Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Feisal Istrabadi, back to Iraq, though. We heard — we reported a few minutes ago the parliament has now signed off on Mr. Abadi as the new prime minister. Are the pieces coming into place now in Iraq for there to be a cooperative effort between the U.S., the Iraqis, the Kurds to go after ISIS?


    And, of course, the Kurds are Iraqis. They are participating in this government. And their forces, the Peshmerga, are Iraqi forces provided for in the Iraqi constitution. I think we are seeing the beginning of the pieces falling into place, I think, although Iraqis have been optimistic in the past over the past eleven years, only to have their high hopes dashed.

    I think most of us realize this may well be our last chance to keep our country together. We have to do a number of things at the same time, including fighting ISIS or ISIL, but we also have to make a compact that allows us to live with one another in peace and harmony to confront mutual enemies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred Wehrey, just building on that, the question, I think, in so many people’s minds, is, OK, what — when the president said a minute ago these other countries need to be involved, and he named Jordan, the UAE, Turkey, what can we look for from these countries because they all relate to this in very different ways?

    FREDERIC WEHREY: They do. They all have links into Iraq and Syria.

    I think we’re going to be looking at certain capabilities that are leveraged. They’re not all going to be applying military power to this problem. They are going to be leveraging their tribal links. They’re going to be tackling the finances of ISIL.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean leveraging tribal links?

    FREDERIC WEHREY: Well, they’re going to — they’re going to — they have linkages. There are tribes that straddle the border that they tribal linkages between these countries and they will probably try to engage the Sunni tribes in those countries to peel them away from ISIS through cash, through incentives.

    They have excellent intelligence networks. They will tackle the refugee problem. But, again, I don’t think we should expect all of them to be sending jets into the air long — with some massive military coalition.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying it’s mainly a U.S. military…

    FREDERIC WEHREY: Unfortunately, I think, in terms of actual value-added, I don’t think many of these countries have the capability, perhaps the United Arab Emirates or Turkey.

    But, again, we’re talking — for the type of precision campaign that you need to avoid collateral damage and to go after the key leadership nodes, you’re talking really about a U.S. and perhaps some NATO countries.

    HUSSEIN IBISH: I do think there have to be boots on the ground, of course, though, to replace ISIL fighters when they are defeated. And I think that can’t be sectarian forces in — either in Iraq or in Syria, or perceived to be sectarian forces.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, who is that?

    HUSSEIN IBISH: So, it’s got to come from the local Sunni population.

    It’s got to come mainly from the people the ISIS is now claiming to represent and they have got to be flipped. One of the things that coalition partners can bring to the table beyond just the military, the law enforcement and the financial crackdown is the credibility, the Sunni Arab credibility that this is not an attack on Sunnis, that this is not shilling for sectarianism or for Iran or for Shiites or anything like that, that this is essential for the Arab Sunnis as a collective and for local Arab Sunnis in Iraq and ultimately in Syria as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and you bring up something that I want to turn to Feisal Istrabadi on.

    And that is, when this is done, assuming it gets done and however long it takes, who is going to be in place to hold the — this — the situation stable and to keep it from falling apart again?  Whose boots are they going to be?

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: Look, you cannot say on the one hand you cannot have — we shouldn’t have sectarian forces in Iraq, a proposition with which I agree, and then on the other hand say, but there need to be Sunnis in these areas.

    What we need to do is build institutions of the state. Unfortunately, we have wasted the last eight years, so we have to build state institutions at the same time that we are doing this work. It’s going to be extremely difficult, but this is the challenge the new prime minister has before him, to build truly Iraqi — an Iraqi security force that all groups and sects and nationalities that constitute Iraq buy into.

    If we’re unable to do that, and if we say the Shia have to patrol the Shia areas and the Sunni the Sunni areas, we’re really talking about the de facto and perhaps the de jure division of Iraq. And if that happens, then we have a true Pandora’s box in which Iraq ends up looking like Somalia.

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: We need to build state institutions.

    HUSSEIN IBISH: No, I’m not actually saying that.

    What I am saying is that any force that is on the ground that takes the place of ISIS has to have credibility with the local population. That’s essential. That’s really…

    FEISAL ISTRABADI:  That’s another story.

    HUSSEIN IBISH: Fine. That’s exactly what I’m…

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: That, I agree with.


    FEISAL ISTRABADI: That, I agree with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred Wehrey, how does the U.S., in trying to manage or help oversee all this, ensure that the things happen that the three of you are describing?

    FREDERIC WEHREY: Well, we don’t always have a good track record of social engineering these sorts of things.

    It’s going to be very shaky. We know that many of these states compete with one another, that — within the Gulf — to say that there’s a unified Sunni bloc is a bit of a misnomer. There’s really a Sunni cold war going on right now. So it’s going to be a very delicate task. But I think much of it hinges on what goes on in Baghdad itself and the actions that the Iraqi government takes toward its own population.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we already see it’s moving from one president, administration in this country, to the next one. The president has already said it’s going to go beyond the term — his term in office.

    We thank you, all three, Fred Wehrey, Hussein Ibish, Feisal Istrabadi. We appreciate it.

    FEISAL ISTRABADI: Thank you.

    HUSSEIN IBISH: Thank you very much.

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    ATLANTA — First lady Michelle Obama debuted on the 2014 campaign trail Monday in Georgia, where Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is working to pick up a key seat for Democrats.

    The open Senate seat is a critical battleground in the national fight for control of the Senate, in which Republicans must gain six seats to win the majority. Businessman David Perdue has relentlessly tried to tie Nunn to President Barack Obama, who did not win Georgia in 2008 or 2012.

    Mrs. Obama made the trip to boost voter turnout for Nunn among independents, minority and women voters.

    “During the 2012 campaign, First lady Michelle Obama was more popular in some states than her husband,” said Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist who led Obama’s re-election campaign in the South. “She generates an enormous amount of support from women and will bring the topic of public education to the forefront of campaigns in Georgia.”

    To counter the GOP’s efforts, Nunn and other vulnerable Democrats are emphasizing their independence from the president on issues like the Keystone XL oil pipeline and carbon emissions. Nunn, the daughter of veteran Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, won’t talk about how she would have voted on the president’s signature health care law, sticking instead to what she’d change about it.

    “While Michelle Nunn is trying to distance herself from President Obama and Washington Democrats publicly, she clearly has no problem raising money from them directly on the taxpayers dime in order to deceive Georgians about her true allegiance to President Obama and Harry Reid,” said Perdue’s spokeswoman, Megan Whittemore.

    Mrs. Obama’s visit is designed to pump up a voter registration effort led by the state party. Georgia Democrats have been hoping that an increase in out-of-state residents and a growing minority population would help them regain power after Republicans claimed every statewide office in 2010.

    That year, in a competitive governor’s race, the Democrat lost by about 259,000 votes. Democrats are hoping that by use of targeted voter registration and outreach efforts, including contacting voters who only vote in presidential years, they will be able to make up the difference.


    Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As the president considers his options for dealing with the Islamic State, he has decided to put off new moves on immigration.

    Jeffrey Brown reports on the political storm that’s created.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With Congress back from summer vacation, the president drew fire from both sides for delaying executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections in November.

    SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R) Alabama: The president now is brazenly reaffirming in even clearer language that he will carry out his amnesty plan, but only after the election in November. This is an attempt to protect his Democratic Senate candidates.

    They shouldn’t talk about it during an election? Well, when should issues be talked about, great issues facing America, if not during the election cycle?

    JEFFREY BROWN: The president is also taking heat from members of his own party. Yesterday, Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois sounded a warning on ABC’s “This Week.”

    REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ, (D) Illinois: Playing it safe might win an election. Sometimes, you lose an election playing it safe also. But it almost never leads to fairness, to justice, and to good public policy that you can be proud of.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Last year, the Democratic-led Senate passed its own comprehensive immigration bill, but it stalled in the Republican-run House. In late June, the president vowed to take executive action by summer’s end.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours. I expect their recommendations before the end of summer, and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Then came July and protests over the flood of immigrant children crossing into the U.S. Detention facilities reached full capacity, and when authorities sent the overflow to sites in nearby states, demonstrations broke out.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I wanted to make sure that the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yesterday, in his NBC interview, the president cited that issue in explaining why he’s putting off any immigration announcement.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This problem with unaccompanied children that we saw a couple weeks ago, where you had from Central America a surge of kids who are showing up at the border, got a lot of attention. And a lot of Americans started thinking, we have got this immigration crisis on our hands. And what I want to do is, when I take executive action, I want to make sure that it’s sustainable.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The surge of migrant children has now slowed, but, today, the administration renewed its request for $1.2 billion to deal with the problem.

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    Immigrant rights activists shout slogans in front of the White House on August 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

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    JEFFREY BROWN: The surge of migrant children has now slowed, but, today, the administration renewed its request for $1.2 billion to deal with the problem.

    So how could the president’s decision to delay action on immigration reform affect November’s midterm elections?

    We explore that question with Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Journal — Report — excuse me — and Roberto Suro, professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He’s also director of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, a research center that studies demographic diversity issues.

    Amy, the political calculation at the White House first. What were they looking at that led them to put off any action?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, I think they were looking at a Senate that is on the brink of flipping to Republican control.

    Look, they have known this entire year that the battle for control of the Senate takes place in red states. This is the seats that Democrats are defending, seven states that Mitt Romney won. The way to ensure that those red states keep electing a Democrat is to ensure that you don’t give the Republican base there any more energy or enthusiasm than they already have.

    The president going out and making an executive order on immigration would make the base, the Republican base in those states incredibly agitated. There’s no doubt that they’d come out and vote and vote against the Democrats.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the key states that you were looking at…

    AMY WALTER: Yes. Sure.

    You’re looking at places like Arkansas, and Louisiana, and Alaska. Those are those sorts of red states. But I do also want to note that were ads run by Republicans even in blue states, especially blue states that have a low Hispanic population, like Michigan and New Hampshire. So, this could have hurt not just those red states, but across the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Resonates all over.

    Roberto, do you agree with that analysis and also with the notion that the issue of the youth migration over the summer really changed the political calculus?

    ROBERTO SURO, University of Southern California: Yes.

    I think it’s very clear from the polling numbers, and it’s also the kind of reaction that we have seen before to images of a border that seems to be out of control. When there’s a surge of unauthorized migration, you get a reaction of anxiety, sometimes anger and certainly distrust towards the federal government, in this case the Obama administration.

    So, potentially, I think the perceptions in the White House were accurate that there was a negative reaction and potentially a larger negative reaction. It’s still a question of whether they have resolved that or not by these actions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Amy, and to that, there’s still going to be an election.

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And it’s still very much an issue and the president, after all, just said, I’m going to wait essentially until afterwards. So…

    AMY WALTER: Wait until at the election, right.

    Right. He can still put an executive order in place right after the election.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, how does this — how does this now look like it might affect…

    AMY WALTER: So, Democrats have a 50-seat problem. That’s the Senate that we just talked about.

    Republicans have a 270-vote problem. That’s the Electoral College. And their 270-vote problem is that immigration is an issue they have to resolve if they think — if they want to win the White House back. So they have got to be able to win in states that we’re not talking about today, but like Nevada. We are talking a little bit about Colorado, New Mexico, other states where immigration is a very big deal, is a very big issue.

    For Republicans to win the White House, they have got to be able to handle these demographic issues that they lost badly in the last election. And so they can put this off. The president can put this off, Republicans can put this off, but at some point, this is going to hurt Republicans, most likely, in the long term, unless they find a way to handle this in 2015.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about, Roberto Suro, in the shorter term, just for these elections first? Is there that — we have heard a lot of anger from Latino groups. Is there the potential for a backlash that hurts Democrats right now?

    ROBERTO SURO: I think there is the potential for a backlash.

    If you look at some of the social media chatter today, particularly among the groups of younger activists, the so-called dreamers, there’s a lot of talk about demonstrations, about disrupting political appearances. It’s happened several times so far this year, and mostly with Republican candidates, but in some cases with Democratic appearances.

    And they were quite aggressive in the spring and early summer of 2012 in trying to push the Obama reelection campaign towards more generous policies. So there’s a possibility that, you know, you have a very — a small number of people, but being loud at Democratic events, protesting this, and there’s always the possibility that in a few key places where there are substantial Republican vote — Hispanic voters, you might get a stay-at-home effect this time around.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think about that, Amy, the potential for — especially for keeping down the vote, right?

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    So, there’s one state where this could be a real issue, which is Colorado, where we know Latino voters have been very important to Democrats. If they’re depressed, they’re could have an impact on whether or not Democrats can hold that Senate seat.

    But then you look at every other state that is up this year, you have very a small Latino population. I don’t think you are going to see a backlash in 2014. The real question, as I said, what happens in 2015? Does the president actually do an executive order, which then reenergizes Latinos on behalf of Democrats, puts Republicans on the defense once again, or do Republicans say in 2015 and ’16, we have got to handle this issue or else we are going to have a really hard time winning the White House in 2016?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Roberto Suro, what do you think about the long-term politics of this, of the issue and also the prospects for immigration reform at this point?

    ROBERTO SURO: Let me just make a quick note about 2014. Latinos aren’t the only people who care about immigration.

    There are a lot of progressive Democrats who are going to be disappointed in the way this turned out who are not Latinos and who were key parts of the Obama coalition. Young people in particular have been very strongly in favor of immigration reform. And this may add to a sense of disappointment.

    Looking to the long term, there are a couple of possibilities. If the Republicans win control of the Senate, they may pass an immigration reform measure that is much less generous than the one that was passed by the Senate last year, and put immigration advocates and the president in the position of taking something, rather than nothing.

    Beyond that, looking towards 2016, if it’s not resolved, then whoever is running for president on the Democratic side is going to have to deal with it during this election process. And there will be pressure from Latinos and other pro-immigration groups, essential parts of the Democratic base, that will push anybody who’s running for the nomination to adopt strong positions on immigration reform.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Roberto, just in a word, is there — so, the prospects for immigration — for large-scale immigration reform going forward, the politics don’t change that much, do they?

    ROBERTO SURO: You mean in the next couple of years?



    It’s hard to imagine a sweeping reform of the type that the progressives had advocated and that was enacted by the Senate. It seems pretty well dead until 2017, except for that possibility that the Republicans might try something, might try to create their own bill and force Democrats to say yea or nay to it. But, otherwise, it’s hard to see how comprehensive reform comes back.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    All right, Roberto Suro and Amy Walter, thank

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We just heard about how immigration may affect the coming election in a number of states, including Colorado. Well, it turns out there is another issue that could have a significant impact in the state of Colorado, fracking.

    Communities there are engaged in a battle with the state to get more control over oil and gas drilling.

    Rocky Mountain PBS’ Dan Boyce reports from the town of Longmont.

    KAYE FISSINGER: I found out that they were going to be fracking all around Union Reservoir.

    DAN BOYCE, ROCKY MOUNTAIN PBS: Seventy-year-old great grandmother Kaye Fissinger is a busy woman these days. She’s been fighting for the last three years to protect the town she loves from fracking, the technique of pumping pressurized water deep underground to fracture rock and extract oil and natural gas.

    KAYE FISSINGER: So, we don’t have drilling and fracking yet here, and that’s because of the ban.

    DAN BOYCE: Fissinger was eager to show us this reservoir at the edge of Longmont, where companies have been trying to put in a series of gas wells.

    KAYE FISSINGER: There will be fracking all around here, where people play.

    DAN BOYCE: She’s worried it will soon look like so many other places along Colorado’s Front Range, with drill towers and wellheads cropping up next to homes at an unprecedented rate.

    Activists like Fissinger in a handful of communities just north of Denver succeeded in keeping this boom away from their doorsteps by lobbying at the local level. The Longmont City Council voted to restrict where wells could be built a couple of years ago.

    A few months later, residents took it a step further, passing a ban on fracking altogether. The state government immediately launched two lawsuits against Longmont for this, and it fired up a grassroots citizens movement for a statewide initiative to give local communities more control over fracking.

    REP. JARED POLIS, (D) Colorado: People are most concerned what it means for their quality of life.

    DAN BOYCE: The activists’ cause got a big financial boost when their congressman and former tech entrepreneur, Democrat Jared Polis, decided to bankroll the so-called local control initiative.

    Local vs. state control has become the crux of the fight over fracking both in Colorado and around the country.

    REP. JARED POLIS: What I think it should be left to is each community to decide. And I think — and we have many communities. One of the counties nearby, Weld County, it’s an important part of their economy. Other areas that I represent have voted to ban it. I think those votes should be respected. It’s like any kind of other industrial operation. I think it’s up to communities to decide if they want to incorporate that into their economic development strategy or not.

    DAN BOYCE: But party Democrats did not want the initiatives to make the November ballot, and the pressure on Polis to back down kept mounting, says University of Denver political science professor Peter Hanson.

    PETER HANSON, University of Denver: From a political standpoint, the fracking initiatives were going to make life very difficult for the Democrats this fall. Mark Udall and Governor Hickenlooper are facing very competitive races. And for Senator Udall or the governor to open themselves up to the accusations that they were somehow opposed to energy development and jobs in the state would have been politically quite dangerous for them.

    NARRATOR: Colorado is sitting on vast reserves of shale. They can provide huge amounts of oil and natural gas through an environmentally safe process called fracking.

    DAN BOYCE: Even before the initiatives had gained enough signatures to make the ballot, the industry was already spending millions of dollars in advertising to fight them.

    NARRATOR: It means jobs for Colorado.

    DAN BOYCE: The ad spending showdown over the measures was expected to total tens of millions, breaking state records.

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D) Colorado: Energy extraction and our environment and managing the balance can be difficult, but it is something we have always been able to do in Colorado.

    DAN BOYCE: Last month, Governor John Hickenlooper announced he had reached a compromise between some major environmental organizations and industry groups. The state would drop one of the lawsuits against Longmont. Congressman Polis would drop his two ballot initiatives. The oil and gas industry would drop two pro-fracking initiatives and a new so-called blue-ribbon commission would be appointed to craft a solution on local control issues for the state legislature.

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: This approach will put the matter in the hands of a balanced group of thoughtful community leaders, business representatives, and citizens who can advise the legislature and the executive branch on the best path forward.

    DAN BOYCE: Business and industry groups have long argued the state is best equipped to regulate the oil and gas industry to avoid a hodgepodge of regulations.

    MATT LEPORE, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: Where all of those — all those red dots are wells.

    DAN BOYCE: Matt Lepore heads up the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency which regulates the industry.

    MATT LEPORE: Part of what is going on I think it’s important for everybody to understand is that these cities and communities are expanding. What was once just rural agricultural land, subdivisions get developed.

    If, today, the local governments chose to say no drilling in our residential zone, what about tomorrow, when the residential zone has moved again out to where drilling was OK?

    DAN BOYCE: Lepore says the governor was right to broker the compromise.

    Would you go so far as to say you breathed a sigh of relief?

    MATT LEPORE: I think that, yes, I did, and I think Colorado should have breathed a sigh of relief, too, to be honest.

    The state is, in my opinion, uniquely equipped to regulate oil and gas, both in terms of the expertise that we have and the resources that we have and the long history of regulating it that we have.

    DAN BOYCE: The state of Colorado has been a leader in requiring oil and gas companies to disclose fracking fluid information and to control methane emissions at the wells.

    Representative Polis doesn’t think that’s enough. He wishes Governor Hickenlooper’s compromise would have gone further, but he says it was better than gambling in November.

    REP. JARED POLIS: So, absolutely better than rolling the dice with an initiative that may or may not pass, having oil and gas company-sponsored initiatives on the ballots as well, which could have been a setback for protecting our environment and our homeowners. This provides some certainty, a few steps forward, and a process in place that hopefully will allow us to solve this issue in the future.

    DAN BOYCE: But the anti-fracking crowd attacks Polis for caving to political pressure.

    If you could sum it up, some up your feelings…

    KAYE FISSINGER: Betrayal. Betrayal.

    DAN BOYCE: Kaye Fissinger, a lifelong Democrat, says the whole thing is forcing her to leave the party.

    KAYE FISSINGER: It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for Hickenlooper, not for somebody who betrays us like that, who sues us twice, with our own money, no less.

    DAN BOYCE: Yes.

    KAYE FISSINGER: How could I?  It would — it would so violate my integrity to vote for this man. So, there’s a green candidate. And I will vote for him.

    DAN BOYCE: You felt that compromise was a subversion of…

    KAYE FISSINGER: The democratic process, yes.

    DAN BOYCE: Gwen Lachelt is a lifelong environmentalist and county commissioner from the southwestern part of Colorado. She’s not abandoning the process yet. She too supported the local control measures, and the compromise left her with mixed emotions.

    GWEN LACHELT, La Plata County Commissioner: I have both a sense of disappointment and also a sense of this blue-ribbon commission could really be an opportunity for not only Colorado, but for other states that are dealing with this issue.

    DAN BOYCE: Governor Hickenlooper is tasking Lachelt to co-chair the new commission, which is charged with resolving these conflicts over local control. Lachelt says industry can’t ignore the issue anymore.

    GWEN LACHELT: If the oil and gas industry refuses this time to address the people’s concerns, they will lose their social license to operate, and the people of Colorado will take matters in their own hands. If this commission fails or the legislature fails to enact the recommendations from this commission in 2015, I say, get ready for 2016.

    DAN BOYCE: In the meantime, the industry is continuing to drill new wells at a furious pace in many parts of the state.

    KAYE FISSINGER: The people of Longmont look to you tonight.

    DAN BOYCE: And the citizens of Longmont are continuing to fight to keep their fracking ban.

    ROD BRUESKE: This ban has become more than just a ban on hydraulic fracturing. It has become a statement of democracy for and by the people.

    DAN BOYCE: Residents spoke up at a recent city council meeting with impassioned pleas after a district judge declared the ban unconstitutional. Council members voted unanimously to appeal that ruling.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: This story was produced in cooperation with Inside Energy. That’s a public media collaboration focusing on America’s energy issues.


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    San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, a punishment that drew widespread criticism for being too lenient. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at first defended the suspension. But last month, he sent a letter to team owners saying he didn’t get it right. He set the future penalty for a first-time domestic violence offense at a six-game suspension. But that was before the new video emerged, which the league and the Ravens said they had never seen until today.

    The Rice news came on the heels of another scandal in the National Basketball Association. On Sunday, Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson said he plans to sell the team because of racially charged remarks he made. He wrote in an internal e-mail two years ago that white men might not be comfortable in an arena with a high percentage of black fans.

    About four months ago, the NBA banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life over racist comments he made. The team was later sold.

    And we take a close look at these developments with Christine Brennan. She’s sportswriter and columnist for USA Today and ABC News. And Kevin Blackistone, he’s a sportswriter and commentator for ESPN. He’s also a professor of sports journalism at the University of Maryland.

    And we welcome you both back to the program.

    Christine Brennan, I will start with you. The video of Ray Rice… so disturbing. A lot of questions tonight about whether the football league has handled this properly. What are your thoughts?

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: Judy, this is a stunning turn of events, where all of a sudden Ray Rice is getting ready to return to the Ravens, and now he’s gone. He’s a pariah, history, that’s it.

    A great ending, I think, to a terrible black eye for the league. The fact that it took so long to get to this point, the fact that it took a video to see this, I mean, in many ways, I think a lot of us are asking today, what did you think domestic violence looked like and why did it take this video to spur the league to action?

    So they have gotten to the right place, but so many questions, as you said, about how they got here and also what does it mean for others who have either been accused of or actually found guilty of domestic abuse in the NFL who are still playing, and is it time for them to go as well?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kevin Blackistone, what was your reaction when you saw this, and how do you see how the league has handled it?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE, University of Maryland: Well, seeing the video this morning really just confirmed what I thought had happened in the first place.

    And I didn’t really need this second video release to confirm my thoughts about what should happen to Ray Rice. You know, I think it’s interesting that — and this is the really sad commentary — that each year in this country, 1.3 million or 1.4 million women are victims of domestic violence, yet it takes a videotape before everyone gets exercised and apoplectic over what has happened and demands that something be done.

    If there is any good to become — come of all of this, maybe it’s that. But even on Ray Rice’s own team, the Ravens, in the last few years, at least two players have been penalized by the league for domestic violence and they have gotten a game suspension or a two-game suspension.

    And we know that, since the year 2000, there have been at least 77 players in the league who have been penalized for domestic violence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the Ravens, Christine Brennan, standing behind Ray Rice at the news — with him up until just today. He had a two-game suspension.

    What about — there are questions raised now about the league, commissioner Goodell. He has walked back the decision, I guess, for two games. They’re saying six-game suspension for any other player found guilty of domestic violence. But is that the right approach?

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, as of today, there are new rules to supersede that.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: And that, of course, as you know, Kevin, was less than two weeks old. So it went from two games to six games.

    Now, I will say that the second offense, according to new rules as of a week-and-a-half ago, is that — it’s at least a year and even could be for life. So if Ray Rice is gone from the league, that could be the precursor to what this new policy is.

    I think the bottom line is — I don’t know what you think, Kevin — is that we don’t know. This is unchartered territory. It shouldn’t have taken a video to get us to this point, but the fact the NFL is now at this point I think is a good conversation, clearly, to be having.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But how — Kevin Blackistone, how does one know whether something like this is truly going to change the approach and truly change the message that young players are hearing?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: I think by the fact that, as Christine pointed out earlier, Ray Rice has now become a pariah in this league.

    I e-mail a friend of mine who used to work in the general counsel office of the NFL and asked him what would happen to Ray Rice now that he was cut?  And he said that basically he would be out of a job, that though there are teams that could go out and pick him up, teams will be very, very unlikely to do so because of his reputation, which is now so, so tarnished.

    And, remember, this was a young man out of Rutgers University who people spoke highly of up until this particular incident. So I think this is going to have some real ripple effects throughout college football, as young men try to put their lives together and become professional athletes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Kevin just cited, Christine, what, 77 instances over the last period.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does that say about what our professional sports culture and especially football is saying to these young men?

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, of course, it’s a violent game, and one would hope that they would understand the violence is on the field, not off.

    But it’s also a problem in society. It’s not just the National Football League. It’s not just Major League Baseball, the NBA. It is our society. But the NFL can now be a leader. I think that’s a positive takeaway from this, Judy, is that the NFL is starting this conversation for all of us and all of us are having it today. And that’s a very good thing if we get to a better place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Quickly, I want to ask you both about the other news that we reported, the owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Bruce Levenson, announcing he’s selling the team, Kevin, after he released these remarks that he made.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, there are some who are saying, well, this is perfectly probate. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweeted questions about how to attract more white fans.

    Entirely reasonable?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Well, coming on the heels of the Donald Sterling thing, everyone is quit to equate it to that. I won’t do that.

    I mean, Donald Sterling was a serial housing discriminator in this country, the largest seen since the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, after Martin Luther King’s assassination. So, I’m not going to at all bury him to the level of this.

    In fact, I applaud him for pointing out his inappropriate observations and comments in that e-mail. I would, however, suggest a couple of things. One, if he is concerned that white basketball fans in Atlanta don’t want to attend Atlanta Hawk games because of the prevalence of black fans there and black cheerleaders and black music, then I think he needs to have a conversation with them, and not with his marketing department, because they are the problem.

    That’s their hangup. And the second thing I would say is that if he’s concerned about disposable income on the part of black fans that do come to those games, once again, that’s a conversation you should have with the business community in Atlanta, which, if it tracks national trends, means that they pay — they pay black workers less than they pay white workers, even when you control for education.

    So this is a larger problem than just what’s going on in the Atlanta Hawks’ arena.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You just raised a lot of — a number of questions that we could spend some time on.

    But, Christine Brennan, what — what does this say about the — I mean, it made a number of people, I know, wonder about the attitudes of white owners across the board and people who are in the business of promoting professional basketball.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: And a sport that is so racially diverse and inclusive, and then this is what we hear.

    I think Levenson himself said it best when he sent the e-mail apologizing and saying, he’s a leader and basically he blew it. And as a businessman, this is the 21st century, obviously. The 50- to — or the 60-, 70-, 80-year-old fans are going to be gone sooner rather than later.

    The 20-, 30-year-olds are going to be around for a long time. They have grown up in a very different country. You have got to play to them, whether it’s on issue of sexual orientation, race, gender. It’s got to be — you have got to be much more open-minded.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But that hasn’t happened.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, at least he said, I blew it and I’m done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But is there reason to believe, Kevin, that this is an attitude that’s more — that’s wider — more widely held, more prevalent than what we have heard?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Sure, some people have suggested that.

    But I would just point out that Levenson is part of corporate America, and big-time sports are a part of corporate America. And so do other owners believe that?  I wouldn’t be surprised that they don’t. The Atlanta Braves just packed up and left downtown Atlanta for the suburbs to be closer to their more moneyed fan base.

    David Stern, the previous commissioner of the NBA, was the one who spearheaded the policy towards how the laborers in the NBA would dress and appear before the public. So this has been going on in other language and in other activities as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And reflecting some of what you said just very quickly, Christine, it sounds like some of these owners in making these decisions are not necessarily thinking yet about the younger generation.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: No, they’re not, but they are going to have to one way or the other. That’s for sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We are going to leave it there.

    Christine Brennan, Kevin Blackistone, we thank you both.


    The post Will Rice firing set precedent for pro sport rules on domestic violence? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg

    Photo by Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Obama meets with Hill leaders on Islamic State
    • New poll shows Americans questioning the president’s leadership
    • It’s the last primary day before Election Day
    • Ferguson is back in the spotlight — on Capitol Hill and locally

    Obama to sell strategy to Hill leaders: President Barack Obama will huddle with congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday afternoon as he seeks “buy-in” from lawmakers for his strategy to confront the threat posed by Islamic State militants. The 3:15 p.m. ET meeting in the Oval Office will include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The president has already said he believes he has the authorization he needs to take action, so the aim is more to explain and build support for the plan. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday the president was “committed to intensive consultations between the administration and Congress.” The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reports that the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, is nonetheless planning to offer legislation Tuesday that would give the president approval “to use to use all necessary and appropriate force in order to defend the national security of the United States against the threat posed by the organization called the Islamic State.” For many lawmakers, though, a vote on authorizing military force less than two months before Election Day is something they would prefer to avoid.

    New poll shows support for strikes, not Obama: As the president prepares to address the country Wednesday, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds the American people largely supportive of airstrikes in Iraq (71 percent) and Syria (65 percent). In a sign of how public views have shifted, just 45 percent of Americans backed strikes in Iraq in June. But when it comes to the president’s job performance, only 43 percent of respondents describe him as a strong leader, and 53 percent say he is too cautious in his handling of international affairs. The New York Times’ Peter Baker writes that part of the challenge for the president in outlining his strategy on Wednesday will be overcoming previously stated “assessments of the world that in the harsh glare of hindsight look out of kilter with the changed reality he now confronts.”

    Republicans consult with Cheney: As lawmakers prepare to weigh in on the president’s strategy, House Republicans will hear Wednesday morning from one of the architects of the Iraq War — former Vice President Dick Cheney. The 9 a.m. ET meeting is taking place at the Republican National Committee headquarters. The former vice president has been a loud critic of the president’s handling of foreign policy, including the threat posed by Islamic State extremists. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in June Cheney and his daughter, Liz, wrote: “Watching the black-clad ISIS jihadists take territory once secured by American blood is final proof, if any were needed, that America’s enemies are not ‘decimated.’ They are emboldened and on the march.” Some Republicans have called for a more hawkish approach by the president, and it appears he’s moving somewhat in that direction. But even if Republicans agree with the policy, getting them to express support for HIM is another thing altogether.

    Last primary before Election Day: It’s the last primary day before Election Day, Nov. 4, and the voting takes place in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. It’s the rare day, as Politico points out, with lots of contentious Democratic primaries. Not a single Democratic incumbent has lost this cycle, and that COULD happen today in Massachusetts’ 6th Congressional District, a district Republicans are targeting as they’re expected to expand their majority this fall. Rep. John Tierney is facing stiff opposition from fellow Democrat Seth Moulton, an Iraq vet and Ivy League graduate. The winner will face off with better-funded Republican Richard Tisei, who is openly gay. Tisei lost to Tierney in 2012. Today’s voting will also set up the governor’s race in Massachusetts, where Republicans hope this time will be the charm for Charlie Baker, the likely GOP nominee, going against Martha Coakley, who’s likely to win on the Democratic side today and who lost to Scott Brown for the Senate after Ted Kennedy died. New Yorkers are seeing a fight between liberals and more moderate factions in the lieutenant governor’s race; Brown is being tested in his bid to become a senator from New Hampshire (will he get close to 50 percent); and Rhode Island has a three-way fight for governor on the Democratic side and includes a bid by Clay Pell, the grandson of legendary Sen. Claiborne Pell (of Pell Grant fame) and the husband of ice skater Michelle Kwan. He is not favored today.

    Vaya con Dios’? As far as where things are headed on election night, Stu Rothenberg goes out on a limb a bit, getting ahead of his ratings and predicting a Republican majority with a gain of at least seven seats. (The GOP needs to net at least six to wrest control of the Senate.) “I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain,” Rothenberg writes in his column for Roll Call. He adds, “ I’ve witnessed 17 general elections from my perch in D.C., including eight midterms, and I sometimes develop a sense of where the cycle is going before survey data lead me there. Since my expectations constitute little more than an informed guess, I generally keep them to myself. This year is different. I am sharing them with you.” This post-Labor Day period is a volatile time in campaigns and polling. There is a lot of shifting going on. The summer was clearly a GOP advantage and moving TOWARD the possibility a Republican majority, albeit a slim one. Of course, Kansas is the wild card throwing a wrench into Republican plans. A Survey USA poll — which is an automated poll, but one of the better ones — shows independent Greg Orman and incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts essentially tied, with Orman holding a slight 37 percent to 36 percent edge. Democrat Chad Taylor, who dropped out of the race but will remain on the ballot, pulls in 10 percent and the libertarian candidate gets 6 percent. It’s also not clear how the unpopularity of Congress will play. A new Gallup poll finds Congress’ approval at 14 percent, the lowest approval in the fall before any election since the Watergate scandal led to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Of course, the president’s party lost 48 House seats and five Senate seats that year. And in 2010, Congress’ approval was just 18 percent (when Democrats were in control of the House), and Republicans gained 63 seats in the House (a post-World War Two record) and six in the Senate.

    Ferguson under the microscope: Congress is back and so are the committees. Post-Ferguson, the Senate Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing at 10:30 a.m. ET on “equipping state and local law enforcement agencies.” Various government and police officials as well as an NAACP representative are expected to attend. And tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the Ferguson City Council meets for the first time since the police shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. The council is expected to “make changes designed to reduce court fine revenue, reform court procedures and start a Citizen Review Board that will help keep an eye on and guide the police department,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. But those announcements won’t likely dominate the meeting, as a large crowd is expected and “protesters have been demanding the ouster of both Mayor James Knowles III and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson,” Reuters notes. To accommodate the large crowd, the meeting is being held in a local church. The city council canceled its previously scheduled meeting in August.

    Quote of the day: “He’s a phony from New Hampshire that just happened to live in Massachusetts for a little while. He’s more New Hampshire than most people we have in New Hampshire.” — Chris Sununu, son of former Gov. John Sununu, quoting “someone” who told him that about meeting Scott Brown. Sununu was trying to compliment Brown in an introduction, but proved loquaciousness runs in the family.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1893, President Grover Cleveland’s daughter Esther was born in the White House. How many children of presidents were born at the White House? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Monday’s trivia: What did critics call the pardon of President Nixon? The answer was: the corrupt bargain.


    • A former aide to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is going public with allegations that Rodgers used congressional staff in her campaign to become conference chairwoman.

    • Congress is back, and that means the House Select Committee on Benghazi will hold their first hearing.

    • Senate Republicans want to debate Democrats’ proposed constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform, even though they could have killed the measure outright Monday.

    • Statehood advocates for the District of Columbia are finally getting their day in the sun, or at least in front of a Senate committee.

    • There are more than 220 political appointees for the administration awaiting Senate confirmation, and some of those long-term vacancies are making it a lot harder for Mr. Obama to get things done.

    • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will hold three town hall meetings in Iowa next weekend.

    • The latest Loras College poll puts Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, at 45 percent and Joni Ernst at 41 percent, with 14 percent undecided.

    • Some critics have accused North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis of being sexist and condescending during last week’s debate with Sen. Kay Hagan; Tillis does not agree.

    • Can the GOP’s Brad Pitt look-alike defeat Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District?

    • You wouldn’t necessarily know it from listening to DC banter, but immigration reform just isn’t as hot a topic outside the Beltway as it is inside, with strategists from around the country of both parties saying it’s an issue they’d rather avoid.

    • The new head of Veterans Affairs says the department needs to hire “tens of thousands of new doctors, new nurses, new clinicians” to handle the demand.

    • Georgia state Sen. Jason Carter pledges to protect the state’s education budget in his latest positive spot in the gubernatorial race.

    • First Lady Michelle Obama told Georgia Democrats Monday that if Democratic registration and turnout this fall increased by just 3 percent, Carter and Michelle Nunn could win the state.

    • With Republicans now controlling both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has lowered his expectations for expanding Medicaid to about 25,000 uninsured Virginians instead of the 400,000 he had said would be eligible.

    • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enjoys a 46 percent approval rating with registered voters in his state, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University/PublicMind poll released Tuesday. That’s a slight improvement from March, when more registered voters disapproved than approved of him. In a hypothetical presidential matchup, Christie would trail Hillary Clinton 42 percent to 45 percent in his own state — within the poll’s margin of error.

    • With 2016 dreams in mind, Texas Gov. Rick Perry cannot afford to have his indictment drag on too long.

    • A Democratic “human” is challenging an incumbent state legislator in New Hampshire’s Tuesday primary.

    • Former President George W. Bush gives former President Bill Clinton a little advice on being a grandfather.

    • Former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s best friend in Washington was a golden retriever named Bravo.

    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    The post Is President Obama too cautious? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The United States’ spending on higher education far outstrips that of other countries that make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the group’s annual Education at a Glance report released today. Annually, the U.S. spends about $26,000 per student, compared to the OECD average of less than $14,000.

    But it looks like Americans may not be getting as much return on their investment as they could be.

    In 2012, 43 percent of 25 to 64 year-old Americans held a degree beyond a high school diploma — up seven percentage points from 36 percent in 2000. Despite President Obama’s goals for increasing college access and completion, many OECD countries saw their degree-holding population rise faster over the same period. Canada, the only country where residents held more degrees than Americans in 2000, saw a 13 point jump to 53 percent in 2012. Luxembourg had the biggest increase — degree holders there rose from 18 to 39 percent of working-aged adults. (In the graphs included in this post upper secondary refers to educational attainment equivalent to a high school diploma in the U.S. and tertiary refers to the level of an associate’s degree or higher.)


    When it comes to the skills degree holders actually possess, just about a quarter of college-educated Americans reached the highest levels of proficiency on an adult skills test of literacy. That was near the OECD average, but below their peers in the U.K., Belgium, Norway, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Japan. Meanwhile, only 19 percent of college-educated Americans score at the highest levels on a similar test of numeracy, on par with Estonia. In only Spain, Italy, Korea and Ireland do their peers fare worse.


    The chances of attaining a higher level of education than your parents is also relatively low in the United States. About 30 percent of working age Americans are more educated than their parents. That number was lower only in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. The U.S. also has one of the highest rates of adults with less education than their parents at about 16 percent.


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

    The post Higher spending may not help U.S. higher education outperform peers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    San Francisco-based artist Andres Amador creates temporary, large-scale, geometric art works using the beach, rakes and ropes. Video produced by Joe Matazzoni and Cynthia Stone of KQED

    “I felt like my head was on fire.”

    That’s how “earthscape artist” Andres Amador describes the moment it struck him that he could turn his studies of sacred geometry and fractals into large-scale artworks using the beach as his canvas.

    “I’d backpacked into this amazingly beautiful remote beach, Kalalau Valley, in Hawaii, and was drawing circles with a stick in the sand. And it was as though a bolt came down and struck me,” says Amador. His body began shaking as he visualized the possibilities; he couldn’t wait to get back to San Francisco to get started.

    Walking along Bay Area beaches, you may be lucky enough to come across one of Amador’s “playa paintings,” large-scale patterns he creates in the sand using rakes and ropes as his tools. His pieces originally embodied precise geometric forms, but over time they’ve become more free-flowing and abstract, seeming to emerge from and interact with the landscape.

    Andres Amador's earthscapes

    For Amador, picking the right time and place is part of the art.

    “My favorite area is from Santa Cruz up to Fort Bragg,” the artist says. “When I go further south, the beaches get too narrow.”

    Once he has the perfect location, Amador must wait for the right tide and then work fast. He starts an hour before low tide and works until an hour after — two hours in all. “I love the focus and drive that that requires,” Amador says.

    The last regular job Amador had was 15 years ago, as a computer technician. “That didn’t last long,” he says. “I felt a yearning I could not understand.” He studied ancient geometry, created large-scale geometric sculptures and explored improvisational dance. But when Amador created his first earthscape piece on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, he seemed to find what he was looking for.

    Since then he’s been creating commissioned work and installations for businesses and individuals across the U.S. and Europe. And Amador includes the public in the fun through his Playa Painting Workshops, in which participants collaborate to design and create their own large-scale sand artworks.

    Andres Amador's earthscapes

    Seen at work from above, Amador is a speck in the midst of a massive pattern. Down on the beach, however, the overall design is hard to see. Amador uses flashcards to sketch and index quick inspirations, then refers to them while realizing the piece. But still, he says, after the piece is complete there’s always that moment of suspense when he scales a cliff or sends up his drone helicopter to film from above.

    When his work and the photographic documentation are good, he enjoys the feeling of accomplishment. But impermanence is the essence of his art, and Amador doesn’t dwell on his productions: “Once I’ve created a piece, I feel like it’s moved through me and I can let it go.”

    As the tide erases his work, “I don’t feel an attachment,” Amador says. “I feel complete.”

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

    The post California artist races the tide to sculpt the beach appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user clappstar

    A new study claims it is possible to train children to resist unhealthy food options. Photo by Flickr user clappstar

    A study published in Psychological Science says it is possible to train children’s brains to resist craving junk food.

    The cognitive strategy was developed by researchers at Columbia University, who took MRI brain scans of 105 children, adolescents and young adults while they looked at images of “unhealthy but appetizing” food. The participants rated each picture by how much it made them want to eat it. When asked to visualize the food far away, as well as focus on the shape and color (versus imagining the food up close, in addition to its taste and smell), researchers saw a 16 percent drop in response, i.e., cravings.

    The study also revealed that even when using the strategy, kids’ food cravings have a higher baseline than adults, meaning they are much more powerful. Analyses of the MRI scans found this is potentially linked to a less developed prefrontal cortex — an area of the brain that regulates self control.

    “These findings are important because they suggest that we may have another tool in our toolbox to combat childhood obesity,” said psychological scientist and lead researcher Jennifer A. Silvers.

    Developmental changes in food craving and self disciplinary regulation are poorly understood, yet one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. The cognitive strategy for self discipline was more effective on children with a lower body mass index (BMI).

    Currently, most interventions aimed at tackling childhood obesity focus on changing the environment (limiting junk food access) or on encouraging physical activity. Silvers sees promise in the new method, explaining, “If children as young as six can learn to use a cognitive strategy after just a few minutes of training, that has huge implications for interventions.”

    The Columbia University team is planning to retest the participants’ psychological relationship with food over time.

    The post Can we wire children’s brains to not crave junk food? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Image courtesy of Apple

    Image courtesy of Apple

    Apple unveiled today the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay function and the much-anticipated Apple Watch. Here’s a rundown of the functionality behind the new gadgets:

    Image courtesy of Apple

    Image courtesy of Apple

    iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
    The thinnest iPhones to date will become available on September 19. The smartphones will include:

    • Ion-strengthened cover glass
    • Software that will help you take better photos, including a faster autofocus
    • Time-lapse and slow motion functions on video camera
    • A 25% faster processing power than any iPhone before
    • 128 GB of storage
    Image courtesy of Apple

    Image courtesy of Apple

    Apple Pay
    Leave your wallet at home, Apple says. The Apple Pay function — available October 14 — will offer wireless payment option.

    • Apple Pay will work with American Express, MasterCard and Visa
    • Using Touch ID security and Secure Element privacy, you can securely set up Apple Pay by adding a credit card from your iTunes account.
    • By the end of the year, Disney, Seamless, Instacart, Sephora, Nordstrom, Chipotle and MLB.com will accept Apple Pay.
    Image courtesy of Apple

    Image courtesy of Apple

    Apple Watch
    Finally. Everyone’s dream to become Maxwell Smart will soon be realized. With Apple Watch, you’ll be able to:

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    For days, police in the St. Louis suburb wore camouflage, riot gear and helmets and carried assault rifles and ammunition. Photo by Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    File photo of a police officer in Ferguson wearing camouflage, riot gear and helmets and carrying assault rifles and ammunition. At a hearing today, the Senate Homeland Security Committee questioned government programs that provide military weapons police. Photo by Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    The fallout from the police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last month continued on Capitol Hill today. During a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, senators from both parties grilled administration witnesses about programs that provide military-grade equipment and weapons to local police forces.

    While protesting the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb, demonstrators were met with military trucks and combat gear and weapons, prompting senators like Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, to deride the practice.

    At today’s hearing, McCaskill didn’t hide her outrage at how the Defense Department’s military surplus program is administered.

    “What in the world are we doing buying things that we’re not using?” McCaskill said in an exchange with Alan Estevez of the Defense Department. “Isn’t that a fundamental problem you need to get at before we even talk about whether all this stuff is being used appropriately, or being used with training, or being used in a way that makes sense?”

    McCaskill criticized the Defense Department program, in particular, for giving mine-resistant trucks, also known as MRAPS, to police departments.

    “Does it make you uncomfortable that there are states where the National Guard has no MRAPs and the police departments have them everywhere?” she asked Estevez.

    Kentucky Republican Rand Paul voiced his frustration with military-to-police weapons program while the Ferguson protests were erupting. Today, the libertarian said the militarization of police forces discourage peaceful dissent.

    “Confronting protesters with armored personnel carriers is thoroughly un-American and for 150 years we’ve had rules separating the military, keeping the military out of policing affairs,” Paul said, “but you sort of obscure that separation if you allow the police to become the military.”

    Estevez and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice vowed to review the programs, but often evaded pointed questions about the programs.

    Peter Kraska, a professor of justice studies at the University of Eastern Kentucky, told senators during a second panel that the federal government started to provide equipment to local police as part of an effort to fight drug crime. The Department of Defense program dates back to the 1990s.

    “The federal government has increasingly since 9/11 played a significant role in accelerating these trends toward militarization,” Kraska said.

    McCaskill promised to hold more hearings on the topic.

    The post Post Ferguson, senators question military-to-police weapons programs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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