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

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    President Barack Obama told congressional leaders Tuesday that he has the authority he needs to carry out a broader campaign to root out the violent extremists in Iraq and Syria, a day before outlining his plans to the American people in a prime-time address.

    The White House said the president told lawmakers that he still would welcome action from Congress that “would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL.” That could take the form of congressional authorization to fund counterterrorism efforts, as well as train and equip more moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.

    The president’s broader strategy to confront the Islamic State militants may also include more wide-ranging airstrikes against targets in Iraq and possibly in Syria. The U.S. began launching limited airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq in August, action that occurred at the invitation of the Iraqi government but without specific authorization from Congress.

    Even before Obama’s meeting with congressional leaders, some lawmakers had suggested a vote on the president’s plans was unlikely before the midterm elections in November.

    “As a practical matter, I don’t really see the time that it would take to really get this out and have a full debate and discuss all the issues,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

    The post Obama says he has authority for militant campaign appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Health officials reported stark new numbers today in the Ebola outbreak across West Africa.  The World Health Organization said confirmed deaths have reached nearly 2,300 out of 4,200 cases.

    Meanwhile, a fourth American aid worker infected with the virus returned to the United States for treatment.  The still unidentified patient was seen arriving at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta this morning.  We will take a closer look at U.S. efforts to fight the outbreak later in the program.

    GWEN IFILL: Carbon dioxide levels in the world’s atmosphere hit a record high last year.  The U.N.’s weather agency reported today concentrations of the gas last year rose by the most on record.  They’re now nearly 40 percent higher than preindustrial levels.

    The World Meteorological Organization warned the trend is not only warming the Earth; it’s accelerating.

    MICHEL JARRAUD, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization: Year to year, we’re breaking records.  But this year, an important additional news is that the rate of increase of fuel to concentration is even faster than previous year.  Actually, it was the fastest rate over more than 30 years.

    GWEN IFILL: The surge is tied to increased emissions and to the diminishing ability of the oceans and plant life to absorb any more carbon dioxide.  Meanwhile, a separate report warned of the effects of warming on North American birds.  The National Audubon Society said 126 species could lose half or more of their habitat by mid-century unless climate change slows.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The death toll keeps climbing in monsoon flooding across Pakistan and Indian-controlled Kashmir, after the heaviest rain there in 50 years.  Officials said today more than 440 people have died, and they warned hundreds more villages could be inundated.  Houses in Kashmir remained underwater as people gathered on rooftops, waiting to be rescued.  More than 1.5 million people are affected.

    GWEN IFILL: Dutch authorities issued initial findings today in the Ukraine air disaster that killed 298 people.  The report bolstered suspicions that a Malaysian plane was shot out of the sky.

    Richard Pallot of Independent Television News has this report.

    RICHARD PALLOT: On another Malaysia Airlines flight, two more bodies were returned today, almost two months on, for these families in Kuala Lumpur, at least some sort of closure.  Many relatives still do not have that, but now all have an official steer as to just what happened.

    A report released by crash investigators in Holland, the country that more than half the victims were from, concluding that MH-17 broke up after being hit by numerous objects at high velocity, photos clearly demonstrating the holes in the fuselage, with no evidence of any technical or human error.

    TJIBBE JOUSTRA, Chair, Dutch Safety Board: The pattern of damage to the body of the aircraft and the cockpit is consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft.

    RICHARD PALLOT: It stops short of saying the plane was definitely hit by shrapnel from a missile, but, in reality, it points to little else.  The report is based on purely pictures and videos from the scene, because fighting in the area has meant it’s not been safe enough for investigators to visit.

    At the moment, the plane is still believed to be with pro-Russian separatists.  The final report will be published within a year, at a similar time to the findings of a separate criminal investigation, the largest of its kind in Dutch history.

    GWEN IFILL: The rebels denied again today that they shot down the plane.  A top commander told a Russian newspaper, “We simply don’t have the technology.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Yemen, violence between soldiers and Shiite protesters erupted today.  Medical officials said at least four people were killed when troops fired on a crowd trying to storm the cabinet building.  Anti-government demonstrations have gripped the capital city, Sanaa, for weeks.

    GWEN IFILL: A federal judge in Miami has resentenced convicted terrorist Jose Padilla to 21 years in prison.  An appeals court had ruled the original sentence of 17 years was too lenient.  Padilla was originally charged, in 2002, with plotting to set off a dirty bomb loaded with radioactive material.  That charge was later dropped, but Padilla was ultimately convicted of taking part in a terror conspiracy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Investigations at Veterans Affairs hospitals have found widespread efforts to hide delays in health care.  The department’s inspector general told senators today that managers at more than a dozen facilities lied to investigators.  At the same hearing, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said the agency has now contacted more than 266,000 veterans to get them appointments.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 97 points to close below 17,014.  The Nasdaq fell 40 points to close at 4,552.  And the S&P 500 dropped 13 to finish at 1,988.

    The post News Wrap: CO2 levels hit record high in 2013, finds UN report appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    obama_is1

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: how to combat the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. It’s the biggest problem facing political leaders in Washington this week.

    President Obama called congressional leaders to the White House this afternoon to review the strategy he will outline tomorrow night for the nation.

    He made no public comment, but spokesman Josh Earnest said the president is looking for congressional buy-in.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: The president believes that’s important because he understands that Congress has and should have a role as these important decisions are being made.

    This is a priority, because the president believes that when you have the executive branch and the legislative branch, Democrats and Republicans, bridging divides to present a united front, both to our enemies, but also to the international community, it only strengthens the hand of our country as we confront those threats.

    GWEN IFILL: But the White House wouldn’t reveal if Mr. Obama will seek formal authorization to use force against the Islamic State group.

    And party leaders themselves remained divided over how to move forward. Democratic Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid was taking a wait-and-see approach.

    SEN. HARRY REID, Majority Leader: I’m inclined to not rush into anything. Tomorrow, the president is addressing the nation. That doesn’t happen very often. And Thursday afternoon, we’re having a briefing here from the administration on what’s going on in the Middle East. So I don’t know how others feel, but I’m just going to wait and try to get the facts.

    GWEN IFILL: Republican House Speaker John Boehner was also noncommittal about seeking a vote. He said it depends on what’s in the president’s plan.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: What I’m hoping to hear from the president today is a strategy that goes after ISIS and destroys them. We have a very serious problem. And what we need is a strategy. And until there is a strategy, there is no reason to talk about any of the specifics.

    GWEN IFILL: But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it’s in the president’s interest and the country’s interest to take the issue to Congress in advance.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Minority Leader: The view of myself and most of my members is the president should be seeking congressional approval, period, for whatever he decides to do, because that’s the way you hear from those of us who represent everyone in the country. That’s the way you get congressional support.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. military has been conducting limited airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq for four weeks, without congressional approval. New polls out today found a majority of Americans believe it’s time to ratchet up the assault. A survey by The Washington Post and ABC News reported 71 percent of those polled now support expanding airstrikes in Iraq. In addition, 65 percent back striking Islamic State bases inside Syria. A CNN survey showed similar results.

    The administration is also trying to create an international coalition of supporting states. Secretary of State John Kerry left Washington today to travel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

    The post Obama seeks ‘buy-in’ on Islamic State strategy from Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Obama Meets With Members Of Congress On Foreign Policy

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    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. military has been conducting limited airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq for four weeks, without congressional approval. New polls out today found a majority of Americans believe it’s time to ratchet up the assault. A survey by The Washington Post and ABC News reported 71 percent of those polled now support expanding airstrikes in Iraq. In addition, 65 percent back striking Islamic State bases inside Syria. A CNN survey showed similar results.

    The administration is also trying to create an international coalition of supporting states. Secretary of State John Kerry left Washington today to travel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

    For the view from Capitol Hill, we turn to two lawmakers actively engaged in the unfolding debate. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees.

    Senator Kaine, I will start with you since the Democrats have the majority in the Senate right now. What do you need the hear from the president tomorrow night?

    SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) Virginia: Well, Gwen, I’m expecting and, based on what I’m reading, optimistic about the president laying out sort of a crisp definition of what our mission should be to stop this admittedly serious threat with ISIL.

    And, in particular, I’m very interested in the work that the administration has been doing in the last few weeks to gather other nations who will support this effort, because they have a lot at risk. And we can’t police a region that won’t take responsibility to police itself. Those are some of the things that I’m most interested in hearing tomorrow night.

    GWEN IFILL: Senator Inhofe, you have been critical of this president on this — this and other issues. What do you want the hear him say?

    SEN. JAMES INHOFE, (R) Oklahoma: Well, first of all, I want him to take a position and develop a strategy.

    Gwen, I have been trying to get the president to come out with a strategy on the Middle East since September of last year. Now, of course, we’re wanting a strategy specific to ISIS, because that is the threat. And I — I’m very proud of Secretary Hagel for coming out and articulating this as the real threat it is to our mainland.

    And so I’m looking forward to having him come out with a specific strategy. And if he doesn’t do it, I have already filed an AUMF that won’t require him to do it, but nonetheless will require him to come up with a written strategy and then use all the resources.

    My concern is this. And we don’t have many disagreements between Senator Kaine and myself. I have a great deal of respect for him. We serve on the same committee.

    I think the president already has the authority. I think perhaps Senator Kaine is not as sure of that. But, nonetheless, we could eliminate all doubt by having an AUMF and say, our president, you have the authority, win this war.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you both about that — that issue about congressional agreement to go forward in Iraq and in Syria against ISIL, or ISIS.

    Senator Kaine, do you make a distinction between consultation, talking to Congress about this in advance, and asking Congress’ permission?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: I do, Gwen.

    I have a pretty strict construction view of what I think these constitutional powers are. Forgive me for being a big James Madison fan, a Virginian, but he crafted this pretty carefully, that it is Congress that initiates the decisions about whether to be in war.

    The president can take steps to defend the nation from an imminent and immediate threat. So when the president began in early August trying to protect American Embassy personnel, that’s the kind of thing a commander in chief can do. But when the airstrike mission evolved to, we need to protect this dam, or, as the president said last week on TV, it’s time to go on offense against ISIL, I don’t think a president can wage an offensive war either under Article 2 of the Constitution or under either of the previous AUMFs without congressional engagement.

    But I do agree with Senator Inhofe said. Even if it’s a close question — I have talked to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I had lunch with the Virginia delegation today, which is very bipartisan. I’m talking to constituents. They see ISIL as a threat. And they think a narrow and tailored mission, particularly a mission of airstrikes, is something that they would strongly support.

    So, when you see that support in the public and you start to see it across the aisle, I think that presents a good opportunity for the president to come, eliminate all doubt, and make sure that everybody is behind this mission.

    GWEN IFILL: And, Senator Inhofe, that AUMF, the authorization to use military force, do you know whether your — the leaders in the Senate or the House who are meeting with the president today even want a vote on this?

    SEN. JAMES INHOFE: Well, you know, I don’t know that because this meeting that they’re having right now with the president was one that was unexpected and not known by us very far in advance.

    I made a presentation to our conference about this today, and we’re going to do another one tomorrow. So I don’t know where everyone’s going to be. I do know this, though. I was on the floor last night. I talked to some — every member I talked to was in agreement that we need to do something. The president needs to have that authority.

    And, Gwen, we don’t have the luxury of time like we have quite often. They’re on the march right now. They have already killed Americans. As far as I’m concerned, they have already declared war.

    GWEN IFILL: Senator Kaine, he just talked about them being on the march and being a threat to Americans, but do we know if they are a threat domestically to America and whether there should be limits to what U.S. action is if that case is made?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Well, I would hope there would be limits.

    I think an important feature of an AUMF is putting some timing and some limitations on it. The thing about the president’s speech tomorrow is this. We all have access to intelligence, as members of the Senate. We get intelligence briefings. But nobody has as much intelligence and the capacity to gather the information that’s most current as the president.

    And so his game plan tomorrow night is going to be informed by the full range of intelligence. And that’s why we’re all excited to have the president make that address and lay out the case. I do think an AUMF with some limiting factors is a good idea. I think the best process is for the president to put a proposal on the table and for us to debate it and revise it and amend it.

    That’s normally the way it happens, but we will — and I am certainly encouraging the president to do that. If the president for some reason doesn’t, I will contemplate the AUMF that Senator Inhofe has introduced. And there are some others that have been introduced as well.

    But I hope the president will decide that, with the public support growing, with members on both sides of the aisle saying this is a threat and we need to deal with it, that we can work together to find a common cause. That’s good for the troops that we send in harm’s way to know that they’re carrying out a mission that has the political consensus behind it of both Congress and the executive.

    GWEN IFILL: Setting aside the question of congressional approval, which may or may not happen before action happens, do you, gentlemen, Senator Inhofe, beginning with you, do you make a distinction between ground troops, the insertion of ground troops, and airstrikes, whether it’s inside Syria or remains near Syria?

    SEN. JAMES INHOFE: No.

    In fact, my AUMF doesn’t have restrictions. It doesn’t have guidelines, because I think this is what the president needs to do. Obviously, it’s going to — right now, there are ground troops already over there. And if it takes ground troops, whatever it takes.

    This resolution doesn’t say you are precluded from ground troops, nor does it say use ground troops. It says win a war. We’re in the middle of a war. By the way, it can’t go unnoticed that a poll this morning came out that 71 percent of the American people believe that it’s a threat to the homeland, and 71 percent of the people do not think that the president has a strategy. I hope he can correct that situation.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, I would like to ask Senator Kaine about that. Then you can have a quick response also on the tail end of this, which is, how do you rate your confidence in the ability of this White House, this president to have a strategy, an overarching strategy for dealing with this?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Gwen, I have confidence, and I’m fully expecting to hear a very clear strategy tomorrow night.

    And I think — I think one of the elements that’s taken some time since — from August 8 to today has been the president’s strong desire to gather a coalition of nations to support this. Remember, there are nations who face a much more imminent threat from ISIL than the United States. And we’re also talking about a region that frankly has shown an unwillingness to police itself.

    Getting a group like the Arab League on board, a willingness to express their strong condemnation of these atrocities and their willingness to be engaged publicly in the effort to police their own region is very important. And what I’m hearing from the White House suggests that they have been spending a lot of time at the NATO summit and other venues doing that.

    So I think we’re going to hear a strong statement and a strategy tomorrow night that includes that element of international support, which you have to take time to build. That doesn’t happen automatically.

    GWEN IFILL: And, Senator Inhofe, is there anything the president can say tomorrow night that will make you feel — have more faith and confidence?

    SEN. JAMES INHOFE: Oh, yes. Yes.

    I hope that Senator Kaine is correct in this. I hope he comes out and articulates something. He’s had time to do it now. Now, if he doesn’t, this AUMF does require him to do — and to come up with a strategy in writing within 15 days. It’s just — I want some action.

    We don’t have the luxury of time right now. I hope you’re right.

    GWEN IFILL: Senators Jim Inhofe and Tim Kaine, thank you both very much.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Thanks, Gwen.

    SEN. JAMES INHOFE: Thank you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: I spoke with the two senators this afternoon, before the White House meeting concluded.

    Later, White House officials said the president told lawmakers he has the authority he needs to take action against the Islamic State group, but he would welcome action by Congress.

    The post Senators debate the president’s power to launch fight against the Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ebola

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In West Africa, doctors are fighting the world’s most deadly Ebola outbreak with makeshift hospitals, a handful of vehicles and a few brave volunteer health workers. Meanwhile, terrified villagers and city-dwellers alike can only watch helplessly as their loved ones succumb to the disease.

    Tonight’s episode of “Frontline” on PBS takes an intimate and harrowing look at all this on the ground in Sierra Leone. In the following scene, “Frontline” cameras travel with a group of health workers who go to remote villages, searching for Ebola’s victims.

    NARRATOR: They’re heading to a village where Ebola has already killed an old man. Everyone they encounter, even those who look healthy, could be infectious.

    The team used to wear protective clothing, but the suits terrified the villagers, who ran, hid and sometimes even attacked them. Manjo now relies on keeping his distance from everyone he meets.

    MANJO: My name is Manjo, and this is Ishata (ph) from the World Health Organization.

    NARRATOR: A young woman is clearly unwell.

    MANJO: What’s wrong with you?

    NARRATOR: Kadiatu Jusu (ph) is 25 years old, the mother of four children.

    WOMAN: Do you have a fever?

    WOMAN: Yes, I have temperature, diarrhea and I’m vomiting.

    NARRATOR: Her husband, Fallah (ph), is a farmer. He’s 35. It was his father who died two weeks ago. Ishata Conteh (ph) can see Kadiatu is almost certainly infected.

    WOMAN: She actually fits into the case definition, because she was the one taking care of the old man, feeding him, cleaning where the old man was vomiting, and there was direct physical contact.

    MANJO: I’m going to spray this area.

    NARRATOR: Manjo disinfects Kadiatu’s home with chlorine. Everything she touched could have been contaminated. Ishata notes the names of everyone who’s been in close contact with Kadiatu. Her children and husband are at the top of the list.

    WOMAN: Seventeen. All these 17 people here. If anyone gets a fever or the cough or feels like they have malaria or pain all over their body or is vomiting or going to the toilet a lot, any of those symptoms, you must call us. They are all at risk. We need to monitor them for the next 21 days.

    WOMAN: She, too, is going with the same thing.

    NARRATOR: Fallah can’t risk touching his wife to say goodbye.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s from a “Frontline” episode airing tonight.

    As we reported earlier, the number of Ebola deaths in this latest outbreak now tops 2,300.

    To find out what the U.S. is doing to combat the deadly epidemic, I’m joined by Nancy Lindborg. She’s assistant administrator at the United States Agency for International Development, which has been heading up the government’s response to this growing crisis.

    Nancy Lindborg, thank you for joining us.

    Again, how typical would you say that scene is that we just watched?

    NANCY LINDBORG, U.S. Agency for International Development: I think that scene was, unfortunately, very typical, and what we’re seeing is an unprecedented outbreak that is occurring across West Africa, but particularly focused in countries that are only recently emerging from decades of civil war.

    So they had very fragile health systems to begin with. And they also have practices that are enhancing the spread. You heard about the burial practices that involve touching the dead. So we are working on a strategy across the U.S. government that involves USAID, Centers for Disease Control, and DOD, State Department to work with the global community and countries on the ground to help stop the transmission, to expand treatment, and to stand up greater capacity at the local level to do exactly what you saw, be able to address this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s clear that this is an epidemic that is much worse than was thought just a few — a matter of certainly a few months ago, even a few weeks ago.

    What is the U.S. responsibility in all this?  At this point, there is not an Ebola patient in the U.S., except those who have been transported to the U.S. from West Africa. But what is the U.S. responsibility in this?

    NANCY LINDBORG: Our responsibility as a global leader is to do what we can to contribute to that stopping of the transmission and the provision of the treatment and helping these countries stand up better systems.

    We’re working closely with the global community, and this is really going to take an all-hands-on-deck kind of approach. We just announced this morning a $10 million contribution to the African Union as they mobilize a continent response. They have mobilized 100 health workers who are going in and will provide the logistical support for them to be successful.

    This will — we know what it takes to stop this. We also know that it will take significant ramping up by all the various partners, and it will probably take several months to get this under control.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ten million dollars, is that enough at this point?  Is that just a drop in the bucket?  I mean, how do you compare that to the challenge out there?

    NANCY LINDBORG: That’s — that was just to support the African Union mobilization.

    USAID has committed about $100 million. We have got additional commitments from the Department of Defense. They’re bring in diagnostic labs, a field hospital. We’re bringing in almost a daily airlift of supplies, the protective personal gear that you saw people wearing, the backpack sprayers, household kits, so that households have what they need to take care of loved ones and keep themselves safe, food, a whole variety of supplies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What — is the U.S. able to understand and to — I mean, is — do you now have a list somewhere that says, OK, here are all the things that are needed, and we’re going to provide these things, or are you still figuring this out as you go along?

    NANCY LINDBORG: We have a very clear strategy that we’re pursuing, in coordination with the World Health Organization, with the local countries and their health systems and with our partners, the Europeans and the African Union.

    There is — it’s stop the transmission, expand the treatments, and set up local systems, and also help the home health care strategy, so that people are not continuing to handle the dead the way that they do and to — and practice the kind of daily health practices that can change forever the way this is transmitted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But that means getting more people on the ground to spread the word, doesn’t it?

    NANCY LINDBORG: Absolutely. Absolutely.

    Well, both to spread the word and to help with the setting up of the treatment facilities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And as you — as you — at this point, is this a matter of resources, or is it a matter of time, people?  What is it that’s needed the most to bring this raging epidemic under control?

    NANCY LINDBORG: It’s really all of the above.

    It’s surging in the supplies. It’s surging in the people who are trained to have the very rigorous protocols required to provide the treatment. It’s activating all the ways that we can provide the information to people in the communities. We are — we have surged about 100 people into the region of USAID.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Americans?

    NANCY LINDBORG: Of American, USAID, CDC, Department — the DOD, all parts of the U.S. government on the ground to get us moving ahead and further identify how to plug in, how to activate a coordination system on the ground.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How much are you concerned?  What are the odds, the chances that Ebola could spread to the United States?

    NANCY LINDBORG: You know, part of what we have done is brought in a lot of those thermometers that you saw the health workers using, and set up the kind of screening that is done at the airports, so that there’s that additional control.

    There’s — we always want to be concerned about global epidemics, but this — this is controllable and this is — what we have seen is, as it’s spread to places like Senegal, that they have the systems to do the tracing, the treatment, and they’re able to keep it from spreading.

    Ultimately, there needs to be strengthening of the health systems, so that when these kinds of cases appear, there can be the kind of immediate response that keeps it from becoming the kind of really terrible outbreak that we’re seeing right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: An enormous task.

    Nancy Lindborg with the U.S. Agency for International Development, we thank you.

    NANCY LINDBORG: Thank you.

    The post U.S. offers support to fragile, West African health systems to combat Ebola appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    algae2

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    GWEN IFILL: Now, in the aftermath of the water quality emergency that plagued Lake Erie last month, some residents who live along its shores are calling for solutions.  And they are looking outward, to the countryside.

    Reporter Christy McDonald of Detroit Public Television has our story.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Farmer Jeff Sandborn thinks this drone could help solve the tainted water problem that left Toledo, Ohio without access to safe drinking water for three days earlier this summer.  That’s because experts believe the toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie that turned tap water noxious was caused by the fertilizer runoff from farms like Sandborn’s throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

    JEFF SANDBORN, Owner, Sandborn Farms: We only have so much land that can grow crops, productive crops.  And this planet continues to have more people on it, so we have to do a better job on the land we have and get more out of the resources we put in, get higher yields to feed more people, is what it boils down to.  We’re here to feed an ever-growing population.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Unfortunately, pressure to increase food production can have a negative impact on the environment, and, today, many are convinced Lake Erie’s problem starts on the farm.

    Fertilizers that feed crops, like nitrogen and phosphorus, also feed the blue-green algae in the water.  Experts believe changes in farming practices have led to an increased amount of phosphorus runoff in recent years.

    Kristy Meyer works for the Ohio Environmental Council, an advocacy group, where part of her time is spent sharing with other farmers best management practices for controlling runoff.

    KRISTY MEYER, Managing Director, Ohio Environmental Council: So we have moved away from those small quaint farms to these larger farms.  We are spraying it out over the fields with huge equipment.  And it just sits on top of the soil.  But when we have these extreme storm events, it carries those fertilizers right off the land.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Right off the land and into the rivers and streams that feed into major drinking water supplies.  But how can farmers prevent runoff from their fields?  Part of the answer is not overusing fertilizer.

    Larry Antosch from the Ohio Farm Bureau says farmers would agree with that.

    LARRY ANTOSCH, Senior Director, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation: The biggest cost that a farmer has is their fertilizer bill, and so if I put on two extra pounds of a nutrient, then that’s money essentially I’m throwing away.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: For Sandborn, using fertilizer efficiently is a no-brainer.

    JEFF SANDBORN: Everything that I do on a field costs me money, whether it’s the seed I buy, the fertilizer I use, the chemicals that are applied.  I want to grow the most crop I can out of that given unit of fertilizer.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Increasing the amount of fertilizer doesn’t necessarily mean a farmer will see an increase in the amount of crops he or she is able to produce.  That’s why Sandborn has teamed up with Michigan State University researcher Bruno Basso.

    Basso’s drone provides farmers with detailed maps, which can help them determine exactly how much fertilizer is needed in a specific location of a field, maximizing crop yield and minimizing harmful nutrient runoff.

    BRUNO BASSO, Michigan State University: So a uniform application that normally a farmer does, by definition, he overestimates this input in one area, and he underestimates the input in the other area.  And so that’s — one size fits all is not the case in agriculture, because there is a lot of variability.  So, in the end, what does the drone do?  It tells us about that variability.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Understanding field variability is one part of the puzzle, but for all that information to be useful, a farmer has to know what practical measures to take.

    That’s why Basso is also developing a predictive modeling software that allows a farmer to digitally test out a fertilizer application.

    BRUNO BASSO: You can simulate your field, and you compare two nitrogen treatments.  You basically learn that, 80 percent of the time, 100 kilograms will give you the same response as 200 kilograms, or maybe 100 percent of the time.  So if you get that kind of confidence, why use the 200?

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: For Sandborn, implementing new technology to increase fertilizer efficiency is more than a smart business decision.

    JEFF SANDBORN: We want to do the best we can with every year we get to farm.  And so anything that Bruno’s doing or, you know, as this technology moves forward, it’s going to help me do a better job at what I’m doing and help agriculture in general.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Experts agree, doing a better job means incorporating a suite of fertilizer best-management practices known in the agricultural community as the four R’s.  That’s right fertilizer source, applied at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place.

    LARRY ANTOSCH: Four-R program really looks at blending together conservation practices for nutrient management, that protect the economic, the social and environmental concerns of — of society and of the farmer themselves.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Farmers say practices recommended in the four R’s make sense, like avoiding fertilizer application before a large storm, where it will wash off the crops and into nearby rivers and streams.  And perhaps that’s why many say they are already doing the right thing.

    LARRY ANTOSCH: Agricultural community has been engaged in the discussions early on to — to be part of the solution.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Lana Pollack, the United States section chair of the International Joint Commission overseeing the Great Lakes, believes these types of voluntary conservation efforts are a step in the right direction, but they simply don’t go far enough.  That’s why she thinks government regulation of fertilizer use is necessary.

    LANA POLLACK, United States Section Chair, International Joint Commission: No one wants to ruin a lake.  No one wants to deny people their drinking water, for heaven’s sakes.  And no one wants to waste money putting on phosphorous that’s going to fertilize the lake, instead of their — their — their corn.  But it’s not working.  So, whatever they’re doing is clearly not enough.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Farm-lobbying groups, like the Ohio Farm Bureau, would prefer conservation and best-management practices remain voluntary for farmers.

    LARRY ANTOSCH: They like to be able to have control of their operation, have the ability to oversee and to make the management decisions that they want to do or the things that are most appropriate to them, vs. a regulatory approach, in which everyone must do the same thing.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: But to environmental advocates, the time for voluntary conservation on the part of farmers is over.  They argue that more regulation of the agricultural sector is necessary to reduce the toxic blooms.

    KRISTY MEYER: If I want to open up a business, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to apply for a number of permits.  So, agriculture is really a business.  I mean, in Ohio, it’s our number one industry.  So, maybe it should be started to treat like a business.  It’s not just an Ohio problem.  It’s not just a Lake Erie problem.  It isn’t just a national problem.  It’s an international problem.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: The U.S. and Canada are working to create new targets for how much phosphorus can flow into the lake.  Those might be announced this fall.

    And the International Joint Commission, which has no regulatory power, is encouraging state, federal, and international lawmakers to start enacting policy that will clean up the Great Lakes.

    GWEN IFILL: Detroit Public Television is co-hosting a conference on the future of the Great Lakes this week.  Topics range from algae blooms to the threat of plastics in the water to concerns about oil pipelines.  You can watch it all in a live-stream on our Web site.  Check the Rundown for times.

    The post How drones could limit fertilizer flow into Lake Erie appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    domesticviolence

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The numbers are staggering. One in every four women in the U.S. will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. And an estimated 1.3 million American women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

    In many cases, the abuse is coupled with silence. But the release of a video this week of an NFL star hitting his then-fiancee has sparked a national conversation on how best to address the issue.

    Ray Rice won’t be playing NFL football any time soon, but the storm swirling around him only intensified today. The star running back told ESPN and CNN he’s trying to be strong for his family. He was let go Monday by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. That’s after TMZ Sports released video that showed him slugging his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, last February.

    Vice President Joe Biden joined the national conversation about the incident, appearing on NBC’s “Today Show” with Tamron Hall.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: And then, when the video was out there and you saw how brutal it was, the Ravens did the right thing, fired him immediately. Now, you can argue they should have done it sooner, they didn’t want it. Whatever the reason is, it’s happening.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Ravens had defended Rice when the incident first happened, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for two games. He later acknowledged he mishandled the case.

    Today, there were new calls for Goodell to resign. And Rice’s now-wife, Janay, spoke out. In a post today on Instagram, she defended her husband saying, “No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted opinions from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. This is our life.”

    Her decision to marry Rice, even after the incident, also generated widespread commentary on social media. On Twitter, thousands of assault victims used the hashtags #whyIstayed and #whyIleft to tell their personal stories of abuse.

    To help put this case in the context of domestic violence nationally, I am joined by Esta Soler. She is founder and president of Futures Without Violence. It’s a nonprofit group that works to end physical abuse. She was also influential in the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which celebrates its 20th anniversary today.

    Esta Soler, welcome to the “NewsHour.”

    ESTA SOLER, Futures Without Violence: Well, thank you so much. A pleasure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I understand — speaking of the Violence Against Women Act, I understand you just came from a celebration of the anniversary today in Washington.

    ESTA SOLER: I did. I did, with Vice President Biden. We were celebrating the 20th anniversary.

    And there’s some good news to celebrate.

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

    And it takes sometimes a case like this for us to begin to talk about these issues. But how — first of all, how common is domestic physical abuse in this country today?

    ESTA SOLER: Well, it’s way too common, but let me just put that in context.

    In celebrating the 20 years since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, we have seen a 64 percent reduction for domestic violence among adult women. That is extraordinary. So, what I think we need to say is — take a pause and say, we have made some progress. But we’re only really halfway there.

    And what this case points out, what the Ray Rice situation points out is, we still have so much more work to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why has there been progress?

    ESTA SOLER: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I just want to preface by saying that this — you were telling us this happens across all socioeconomic, racial lines.

    ESTA SOLER: Correct. Correct. Correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It happens to men, as well as women and children.

    ESTA SOLER: That’s right. That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But why has there been some progress?  What’s happened?

    ESTA SOLER: Well, for a couple of reasons.

    In every community across the country, there are women and men who have created services that are providing critical support to people who are in these situations. Since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, we have seen a comprehensive response from law enforcement, from the judiciary, coming together and basically creating a support system and a prosecutorial system that holds people accountable.

    So we have been able since 1994 to say in this country, though clearly we have so much more work to do, that there’s no excuse for domestic violence, that it’s not excusable. There’s no reason for it. And we need to continue to say that, because we’re only halfway there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it is still, as you were just saying, still happening in too many places.

    ESTA SOLER: It is. It is. It is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why it is happening, and why, as we saw in the instance of Ray Rice and his now-wife Janay…

    ESTA SOLER: Right. Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … people who are victims of abuse stay with their partners?  Why?

    ESTA SOLER: Well, there are a couple of things.

    First of all, I believe that this violence is preventable. I think it’s learned, and, if it’s learned, it can be unlearned. And while we have put in place a very good, comprehensive system with law enforcement and our judiciary and support services and shelters across this land, we have not done enough for our young people, for kids in high school, in middle school.

    And we have been hearing about the horrific epidemic of sexual assault on our college campuses. We need to do way more for our young people, because, at the end of the day, you can give people tools to have healthy relationships. If you have seen it, if you have witnessed it in your home, you need to unlearn it.

    And that’s the next body of work that we need to do. Why do people stay?  People stay for a lot of reasons. My question is, why do people abuse?  Because, at the end of the day, we need to make sure that before somebody abuses, we give them the tools so that they can lead a better life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But is there enough information out there for victims of domestic abuse to know where they can go for help?

    ESTA SOLER: Well, I hope we have enough information out there.

    And I think we will redouble our efforts. As I was going in the cab to celebrate the Violence Against Women Act and seeing the horrific image of that video, I said to myself, yes, we have done a lot, but we obviously have to do way more. There is a national hot line.

    There are programs in every community that are doing extraordinary services. But we obviously need to reach everybody, and we have not done that yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this involves across — health care providers, doctors, nurses who see people.

    ESTA SOLER: Correct. Correct. Workplaces. Workplaces. It’s really, really important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So it’s not just police.

    ESTA SOLER: I totally agree with you.

    And we now know that most people either talk to a friend or they tell somebody who they know that this is going on. So it’s really important they — that we equip everybody with the right information.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what advice would you give for someone who is either in a situation where they are being abused, know of someone who is being abused, or someone they — a friend has confided in them or they have strong reason to believe it?

    ESTA SOLER: Well, I think the most important thing is, if you can, get somebody to support you, speak out and believe that there is a better way.

    I think, at the end of the day, too many people think that there’s a reason why they should stay in a situation. They might be afraid. They might think that, oh, my God, what am I going to do for our kids?  But at the end of the day, that’s not going to stop the violence. What’s going to stop the violence is the violent person needs to stop the violence.

    And it’s really important for people to know that they’re not going to be able to do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Because, in some of these instances, it is financial support. People, as you have suggested, believe…

    ESTA SOLER: I absolutely agree. I absolutely agree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … think if they — if they separate from this individual, how will they survive?

    ESTA SOLER: Right. Right. I think that’s real.

    So I think the programs that really empower women economically are absolutely essential, so that they have options to choose a different life, if that’s what — that they have that option. I also think what’s really important is that we change the norms.

    It’s really critical that the social norm says very clearly that there’s no excuse. And that’s why I think it’s so important that the sports leagues step up. They are such a powerful conveyor of what’s acceptable behavior, not only to their fans, but also to the next generation.

    And, as a parent and as a grandparent, what do you want to give your kids?  You want to give them the possibility of having healthy relationships. You want them to go to school and not get hurt. You want them to date and not get raped, and you want them to go to college so they can learn.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Esta Soler, the founder of Futures Without Violence, we thank you.

    ESTA SOLER: Thank you.

    The post NFL domestic violence case sparks conversation on the silence that surrounds abuse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    apple_payphones

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight:  The eyes of the tech world turned once again today to Cupertino, California, where, with all the hype that has come to mark its periodic product upgrades, Apple unveiled the latest iPhone.

    But carrying on telephone conversations is probably its least interesting feature. The device is a watch, a wallet and, more than ever, a walking, talking computer. But is the iPhone 6 the future happening now, or is it paving the way to the end of privacy?

    John Simons, media and technology editor for the Associated Press, covered the latest rollout. And he joins us now.

    John, of all the whiz-bang elements that were rolled out today, watch, wallet, the size of the iPhone, the battery life, which was the most innovative to you?

    JOHN SIMONS, Associated Press: I think what’s most innovative is the payment system that Apple introduced into its iPhones today.

    It’s called Apple Pay. And it allows people to go to brick-and-mortar stores and use their iPhones to pay for things at the register. Rather than pulling out a credit card, you can swipe your phone at the point of sale and make your purchase.

    GWEN IFILL: In this age of…

    JOHN SIMONS: Now it remains to be…

    GWEN IFILL: Go ahead.

    JOHN SIMONS: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

    It remains to be seen whether this will catch on. This technology was — it exists in other phones, and it’s been around for a while. And it requires a lot of retailers to upgrade their systems in order for this to be widely used.

    GWEN IFILL: In this age of data breaches and hacking, should we worry about the possibility that all of your information is — I hate keeping all my information in one wallet, let alone in one phone.

    JOHN SIMONS: This is a concern.

    But what we have seen in a lot of our reporting and a lot of our look at research is that consumers, while they say that they’re really interest and concerned about — about recent high-profile hacking events and concerned about NSA surveillance, consumers continue to use their — the digital technology, their phones, storing things in the cloud.

    They just are — they say they’re concerned in polls, but continue to use their technology and continue to use the newest things. So there is a challenge to this NFC technology. That’s near field communication. That’s the name of the new technology that’s in the iPhone.

    But it’s — you know, people will use this. It is a privacy concern, though.

    JOHN SIMONS: Apple will say that this is more secure than using a credit card, but only slightly more secure, in that the person at the register doesn’t see your card number.

    GWEN IFILL: You know, we have heard for years and years in these Apple announcements of things getting smaller, thinner, lighter. This seems to be getting bigger. Why is it going in the opposite direction?

    JOHN SIMONS: Yes.

    Well, consumers are basically — are sort of commanding this direction in the marketplace. Consumers are basically showing that they want bigger screens. Apple for a while, for the last two years, if you walk into any store, a Best Buy, a retail telecommunications store, you will notice that the iPhone was the — one of the smallest smartphones in the store.

    And that’s — that’s just because a lot of other companies, HTC, Samsung, noticed that consumers want a slightly bigger screen. And Apple is — you know, for a while, they were insistent that this was the size of the iPhone. But they came around, I think, and they want to — they want to challenge Samsung, which is the number one — the world’s number one smartphone seller now.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, you know, Androids that — like Samsung produces, have gotten very popular. Apple still makes a tremendous amount of money obviously on these new devices.

    JOHN SIMONS: Absolutely.

    GWEN IFILL: Are they the leader in innovation?  Are they the leader in finding out what the people want?

    JOHN SIMONS: Well, you know, Apple — what’s interesting about today’s developments with Apple is that the company has historically entered markets late.

    They have surveyed the landscape. They have historically entered markets late. They were not the first producer of a digital music player. They were not the first smartphone company. They were not the first company to produce a tablet.

    But when they enter a market, they generally make a big splash, and they end up sort of really competing and competing well, and making a statement. And the question is, can Apple continue to rely on that, on its ability to do that, with these three major advancements that were introduced today, the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and Apple Pay?

    GWEN IFILL: Boy, and we didn’t even get to talking about the Apple Watch, because — mostly because I can’t figure out why I would need one, but I will let you try it first and ask you all about it next time.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JOHN SIMONS: OK.

    GWEN IFILL: John Simons of the Associated Press, thanks a lot.

    The post Apple offers new way to access your wallet with your phone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Obama will address the nation about proposed military action against the Islamic State on Wednesday. Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    President Obama will address the nation about proposed military action against the Islamic State on Wednesday. Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Obama set to address country at 9 p.m. ET
    • Public says military action in ‘national interest’
    • President tells leaders he has authority to act, but will continue to consult
    • The 2014 primary season officially comes to an end

    Big-speech time: President Barack Obama will address the nation in a prime-time speech at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday on the threat posed by the Islamic State, operating out of Iraq and Syria. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest previewed the speech in his White House press briefing Tuesday, noting that the president will lay out the risk the group poses to the U.S. and the strategy he’s put together to “degrade and destroy” the group. But he will reassert that there will be no troops on the ground and no timeline for how long it might take. While polls this week show more support for action against the Islamic State, the speech comes at the lowest point of his presidency. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds just 32 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy, the lowest score of Obama’s presidency. His overall job approval rating of 40 percent is also his worst mark. The president’s challenge tonight — the day before the 13th anniversary of 9/11 — is to sell military action to a war-weary country skeptical of military intervention and of his ability to lead. By the way, don’t expect it to be a long speech, which may indicate an address meant to make the moral case but short on detail.

    Polls show support for military action: The president, though, may have an easier time selling the public on the plan he’s putting forward (airstrikes and no ground troops) than may have once been thought. On the heels of the beheadings of two American journalists, the NBC/WSJ poll also finds growing fear among Americans that the country has grown less safe — 47 percent said they believed the country is less safe than before 9/11, up from 28 percent who said so last year. Perhaps because of that, 61 percent of Americans now say military action against the Islamic State is in the national interest. Four-in-10, a plurality, support airstrikes, while another 34 percent back action that includes airstrikes AND combat troops. A year ago, only 24 percent of Americans supported the president’s call to use military force against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for its reported use of chemical weapons. And while the number of Americans who believe the country should be more active in world affairs has jumped to 27 percent (from 19 percent in April), still 40 percent of respondents said the U.S. should be less active (down from 47 percent earlier this year). President Obama has to walk a fine line tonight. Americans have clearly been affected by the images of the beheadings, but the support for action remains limited. There is support for airstrikes, but there remains an underlying weariness about becoming TOO entangled in overseas conflicts, particularly one that might include boots on the ground.

    Consulting with Congress: The president huddled with congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday as part of his push to get buy-in from lawmakers for his strategy to confront the Islamic State. While some on the Hill have called for a vote to authorize force, the president “told the Leaders that he has the authority he needs to take action,” according to a White House readout of the meeting. What the president did offer was to continue “extensive consultation with Congress.” The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, told the NewsHour Tuesday that he believes the president “already has the authority” to take military action, but wants him to “come out with a specific strategy” to “win this war.” Inhofe was joined on the program by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who advocated for the president to seek authorization from Congress, saying, “the best process is for the president to put a proposal on the table and for us to debate it and revise it and amend it.” House Republicans, meanwhile, heard Tuesday from former Vice President Dick Cheney, who urged them to reject the anti-interventionist approach being advocated by some in the GOP. And that’s a line for Republicans to walk — there may be more support for some intervention, but probably not as far as Cheney would like.

    Election results – first Democratic incumbent loses: While the president’s speech Wednesday could have midterm implications for Democrats, the last primaries of this election cycle took place Tuesday night. And it put Democrats in the spotlight. In fact, the first Democratic House incumbent this cycle lost, John Tierney of Massachusetts to first-time candidate Seth Moulton, a Harvard grad and Iraq war veteran who served directly under Gen. David Petraeus. Tierney was a top Republican target in a district President Obama won with just 55 percent in 2012. By the way, so much for Mad-As-Hell America. Incumbents went 16-for-17 last night and now that primary season is over, just four House incumbents have lost this cycle — three Republicans and one Democrat. No incumbent senators lost in primaries and one governor did, Democrat Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii.

    If you can make it there…: In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University professor and former director of the Sunlight Foundation, wound up with more votes than expected, pulling in 35 percent. It’s another embarrassment for Cuomo following his disbanding of an ethics board he created. He has a lot of work to do to fix his image if he has national ambitions. … In Massachusetts, Martha Coakley barely won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination — by far less than predicted. It’s again giving heartburn to Democrats after her disastrous Senate campaign against Scott Brown in 2010. Republican Charlie Baker, who has run previously for governor, but is seen as a strong candidate, won the GOP nomination. Could Bay State Republicans get their first governor since Mitt Romney? … Speaking of Brown, he cleared his primary hurdle in New Hampshire for the Senate and will take on incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is favored.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt mandated gasoline rationing as part of the U.S. wartime effort. What other time in U.S. history was gas rationing mandated? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Tuesday’s trivia: How many children of presidents were born at the White House? The answer was: One, Cleveland’s daughter.

    LINE ITEMS

    • Members of Congress are privately saying that nothing will get done during their short time back in Washington. That is probably not surprising to most Americans, whose approval of Congress is hovering around 13 percent.

    • One thing Congress is working hard at is raising money, but for House Democrats, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is shouldering a good deal of that burden. The California Democrat has already raised $80 million this cycle.

    • House Republican leadership released plans for a stopgap spending bill Tuesday that would fund the government through Dec. 11 and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank through June 2015.

    • But late Tuesday night, over pizza, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, held another strategy session with conservative House Republicans who think that Dec. 11 is too soon for a continuing resolution to expire.

    • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doubts there’ll be any action on corporate tax inversions this month. Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said his department would be taking action “in the very near future” but that no measure would be complete without a legislative solution.

    • Members grilled Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security witnesses about the militarization of police during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing Tuesday.

    • The Veterans Affairs inspector general testified Tuesday that multiple VA facility administrators have lied about the degree of waiting-list manipulation.

    • House Oversight and Government Reform Republican staffers claim that Attorney General Eric Holder’s communications director called them for help spinning a story…thinking they were the Democrats’ staff.

    • Forty-three percent of registered voters view Hillary Clinton positively, compared to 59 percent in 2009, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

    • Almost all of GOP 2016 hopefuls lack foreign policy experience.

    • Even though Colorado is on the frontline of legalizing marijuana, Centennial State politicians are not using pot as a political weapon.

    • The former Democratic Senate candidate in Kansas, Chad Taylor, is suing to have his name removed from the ballot.

    • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is throwing more money behind Senate candidate Joni Ernst.

    • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., came to Ernst’s defense against an attack from NextGen Action that accused Ernst of prioritizing big oil supporters over national security.

    • Republican candidate Monica Wehby gets the endorsement of a same-sex couple in her latest ad.

    • Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue is using the leaked campaign memo from his opponent’s campaign against her.

    • The National Republican Senatorial Committee is working hard to link Michelle Nunn to President Obama in a new ad that says “President Obama + Michelle Nunn = Amnesty”. The Washington Post points out that the “amnesty” legislation the ad refers to is the bill co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, among others.

    • Sen. Mark Udall says Rep. Cory Gardner stood with his party during the government shutdown, instead of standing up for the people of Colorado.

    • West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant goes personal in a new ad about her commitment to health care reform by talking about her daughter’s open heart surgery.

    • Michigan Rep. Gary Peters champions his military service as preparation for public service in the Senate.

    • A Detroit News poll of likely voters gives Peters a 10.5 percentage point lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land. The same survey shows Gov. Rick Snyder ahead of Democrat Mark Schauer by less than 2 percentage points.

    • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee calls the Koch brothers a “cloud of dark money” who are “using their dirty profits to prop up Terri Lynn Land.”

    • Charlie Crist’s campaign tries to paint Gov. Rick Scott as wrong for the women of Florida in his latest ad.

    • A Republican Governors Association ad touts welfare reform as Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s greatest accomplishment.

    • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., leads Republican Jeff Bell 42 percent to 29 percent, with 27 percent of registered voters undecided, in a Fairleigh Dickinson University/PublicMind Poll.

    • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is back in Illinois campaigning for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner. And he’s set to appear at a New Jersey GOP fundraiser with Mitt Romney in attendance later Wednesday.

    • Connecticut Republican Tom Foley leads Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy 46 percent to 40 percent among likely voters in a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

    • Nebraska Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann is stepping down from his post and out of the race for re-election, in light of allegations that he assaulted his sister.

    • The Washington Post’s Philip Bump lays out who actually was the greatest job-creating president.

    • 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.

    TOP TWEETS

    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 Obama’s prime-time challenge to sell the country on action against the Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    OLD FORGE, N.Y. — Elise Stefanik is fighting to make history in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, an expanse of rural America in upstate New York that — like the Republican Party — is struggling to grow.

    Just 10 weeks after her 30th birthday, the Republican congressional hopeful is poised to become the youngest woman of either party ever elected to Congress. She must first overcome a well-funded Democratic opponent, skeptical voters and barriers from within the GOP that long have limited opportunities for women despite the Republican establishment’s push to highlight diversity among its ranks.

    Stefanik, an aide in George W. Bush’s White House, hopes to join a House Republican majority currently comprising just 19 women and 214 men. Democrats have three times the number of women serving in the House, and four times as many in the Senate, and enjoy a perennial advantage with female voters nationwide that Republicans are desperate to erase.

    “It’s not news to anyone that Republicans have struggled to reach out to voters in my specific demographic: young women who are professional, not married — that was one of President Obama’s most enthusiastic most voting blocs,” Stefanik, who worked to defeat Obama as a member of Mitt Romney’s campaign, said during a recent tour of small businesses along Old Forge’s bustling main drag. “There is an appetite in this district for a new type of Republican.”

    The party’s “women problem” was well-documented in the Republican National Committee’s 2012 postelection report. It helped spawn a program instituted by House Republicans last summer, Project Grow, that includes renewed focus on recruitment, training and fundraising for promising female candidates nationwide. Stefanik is among the program’s beneficiaries, who are spread across the country.

    It is a long-term effort, GOP officials say, and one that is critical to the party’s future.

    “The job of the party committees is to recruit the best candidates possible, and this cycle we have an outstanding field of women candidates running across the country,” says Andrea Bozek, spokeswoman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, which leads Project Grow.

    Project Grow has been slow to produce results, however. The number of Republican women set to appear on the ballot in House races this fall is roughly the same as in prior elections, according to Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Republicans had 47 Republican women on the ballot in 2010 and 2012 elections, down from a high of 53 female candidates in 2004; there will be at least 51 this November after Tuesday’s primaries.

    “There’s a lot attention on women in general in this election,” Walsh said. “But it’s a trajectory that appears to be moving in the wrong direction.”

    There are few opportunities for Republican women in part because there are so few congressional seats in play every two years. Redistricting has given GOP incumbents a stronger grip on the vast majority of their 234 seats, and Republican leaders aren’t willing to encourage promising female candidates to challenge incumbents.

    Stefanik found an opening in New York’s 21st Congressional District, where her father still runs the plywood distribution company he founded two decades ago. The seat, held by retiring three-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, is considered one of the GOP’s top pick-up opportunities.

    A veteran Washington operative years before she turned 30, Stefanik fought through residency questions to win her party’s nomination in late June. She opposed a better-known Republican businessman with the help of establishment-minded super PACs that funneled more than $1 million into the primary contest on her behalf.

    Stefanik faces Democrat Aaron Woolf, a documentary filmmaker and business owner who already has dipped into his personal finances to lend his campaign $400,000.

    She spent much of the summer touring the rural villages and towns of the district, which encompasses roughly 15,000 square miles and extends from the Canadian border across the Adirondacks to Saratoga Springs. The district is one of the largest in the eastern United States, and its voters are among the oldest.

    “I may be the only woman who was looking forward to her 30th birthday,” Stefanik said with a laugh during a recent interview.

    She says she’s particularly concerned with the exodus of young people from the region. She often refers to “my generation” and “people my age” while talking to voters who worry aloud about the area’s economic challenges.

    Some concede that her age was a factor — at least at first.

    “That was everybody’s first impression: She’s just too young,” says Chip Kiefer, whose Old Forge’s Souvenir Village displays an “Elise for Congress” sign on its front window. “But having young energy is a good thing for us.”

    Stefanik’s future is unclear, but she’s lucky to have made it this far.

    Rep. Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican helping female candidates across the country, said she’s identified only five to seven top-tier female candidates who could join the next Congress. The list includes retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally, 48, of Arizona; Mia Love, 38, in Utah; and former House aide Barbara Comstock , 55, of Virginia.

    “It’s just going to take a long time,” Wagner says of the GOP’s effort to bring more women to Washington. “This isn’t a one-cycle effort.”

    The post Female GOP candidates struggle to reach voters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch President Barack Obama’s prime-time address to the nation in which he laid out his plan to fight the Islamic State militant group operating out of Iraq and Syria.

    WASHINGTON — In a major reversal, President Barack Obama ordered the United States into a broad military campaign Wednesday night to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants in two volatile Middle East nations authorizing airstrikes inside Syria for the first time as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq.

    In an address to the nation, Obama also announced he was dispatching nearly 500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to assist that country’s besieged security forces. And he called on Congress to authorize a program to train and arm rebels in Syria who are fighting both the Islamic State group and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

    Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks offer their analysis of the president’s speech.

    Saudi Arabia, a crucial U.S. ally in the Middle East, offered to host the training missions, part of Obama’s effort to persuade other nations to join with the U.S. in confronting the militants.

    “This is not our fight alone,” Obama declared. “American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.”

    “Our objective is clear: We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”

    The president adamantly ruled out the prospect of putting American troops in combat roles on the ground in Iraq or Syria.

    Even so, Obama’s plans amount to a striking shift for a president who rose to political prominence in part because of his early opposition to the Iraq war. While in office, he’s steadfastly sought to wind down American military campaigns in the Middle East and avoid new wars — particularly in Syria, a country where the chaos of a lengthy civil war has given the Islamic State space to thrive and move freely across the border with Iraq.

    Speaking on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Obama’s plans also amounted to an admission that years of American-led war in the Middle East have not quelled the terror threat emanating from the region.

    While administration officials have said they are not aware of a credible threat of a potential attack by the militants in the U.S., they say the Islamic State group poses risks to Americans and interests in the region. Officials are also concerned about the prospect that Westerners, including Americans, who have joined the militant group could return to their home countries to launch attacks.

    In recent weeks, the militants have released videos depicting the beheading of two American journalists in Syria. The violent images appear to have had an impact on a formerly war-weary public, with multiple polls in recent days showing that the majority of Americans support airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria.

    The U.S. began launching limited airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq earlier this summer. But officials said Obama was waiting for Iraq to form a new government — a step it took Tuesday — before broadening the effort.

    Officials said strikes in Iraq would now be wide-ranging and extend into Syria. Obama plans to proceed with those actions without seeking new authorization from Congress.

    Instead, officials said Obama will act under a use of force authorization Congress passed in the days after 9/11 to give President George W. Bush the ability to go after those who perpetrated the terror attacks. Obama has previously called for that authorization to be repealed, he has also used the measure as a rationale to take strikes against terror targets in Yemen and Somalia.

    Officials compared the new U.S. mission in Iraq and Syria to the actions in Yemen and Somalia, campaigns that have gone on for years.

    Obama is seeking authorization from Congress for a Pentagon-led effort to train and arm more moderate elements of the Syrian opposition. Ahead of Obama’s remarks, congressional leaders grappled with whether to support that request and if so, how to get such a measure through the fractured legislature before the November elections.

    The White House wants Congress to include the authorization in a temporary funding measure they’re expected to vote on before adjourning later this month. Republicans made no commitment to support the request and the House GOP has so far not included the measure in the funding legislation.

    A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat might opt to seek separate legislation to authorize the president’s request.

    While the CIA currently runs a small program to arm the rebels, the new program would be more robust. Obama asked Congress earlier this year to approve a $500 million program to expand the effort and put it under Pentagon control, but the request stalled on Capitol Hill.

    Some of Obama’s own advisers, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, pressed him to arm the rebels early in their fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad. But Obama resisted, arguing that there was too much uncertainty about the composition of the rebel forces. He also expressed concern about adding more firepower to an already bloody civil war.

    Separately, the White House announced Wednesday that it was providing $25 million in immediate military assistance to the Iraqi government as part of efforts to combat the Islamic State.

    In the hours before the president’s remarks, the Treasury Department said that Obama’s strategy would include stepped-up efforts to undermine the Islamic State group’s finances. David Cohen, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, wrote in a blog post that the U.S. would be working with other countries, especially Gulf states, to cut off the group’s external funding networks and its access to the global financial system.

    The U.S. has also been pressing allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere to help with efforts to degrade the terror group.

    France’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country was ready to take part in airstrikes against extremist fighters in Iraq if needed. And the German government announced that it was sending assault rifles, ammunition, anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles to Kurdish forces in Iraq fighting, breaking with Berlin’s previous reluctance to send weapons into conflicts.

    Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Saudi Arabia and Jordan this week. He first made a stop in Baghdad to meet with Iraq’s new leaders and pledge U.S. support for eliminating the extremist group.

    Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Andrew Taylor and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

    The post Obama: U.S. to expand airstrikes against Islamic militants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Obama Iraq speech

    Watch Video

    President Obama’s remarks to the nation on fighting the Islamic State group, as prepared for delivery:

    My fellow Americans — tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

    As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.

    Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the “Islamic State.”

    Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

    In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

    So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region — including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners — including Europeans and some Americans — have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

    I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

    But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

    Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

    First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

    Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work — and Iraq has formed a government — we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.

    Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.

    Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into — and out of — the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

    Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

    This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

    My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.

    Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved — especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

    My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back — America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

    Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day — and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.

    Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America — our scientists, our doctors, our know-how — that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people — or the world — again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.

    America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia — from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East — we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform — pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.

    When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

    That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety — our own security — depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

    May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

    The post Full speech: Obama’s plan to fight Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In a prime-time address Wednesday night, President Barack Obama laid out a four-point plan to fight the Islamic State militant group operating out of Iraq and Syria.

    WASHINGTON — It’s not as clear as President Barack Obama made it sound Wednesday night that he has the authority to go after Islamic State militants in the manner he plans, with sustained airstrikes and associated military actions designed to neutralize the foe. What is clear, though, is that he’s going ahead with it anyway.

    In his speech to the nation, Obama also said his strategy against militants operating in Iraq and Syria calls for no U.S. troops in the fight, but it’s not that simple.

    A look at some of his claims and how they compare with facts:

    OBAMA: “I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL.”

    THE FACTS: Obama didn’t elaborate on his claim of authority to conduct a potentially yearslong campaign against the Islamic State group, or ISIL, without new congressional approval. But administration officials briefing reporters before the speech said it is grounded in two authorizations passed by Congress, in 2001 and 2002. Obama himself criticized the 2001 authorization in the past and his administration called the 2002 resolution outdated. But now, both are being cited to support his action in Iraq and Syria.

    The 2001 authorization supported President George W. Bush’s war against al-Qaida and the then-Taliban government of Afghanistan. In a May 2013 speech, Obama said he wanted to “refine and ultimately repeal” it because “we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight.” The Islamic State group was once tied to al-Qaida but has broken those links and now considers it a rival.

    The 2002 authorization supported the invasion of Iraq. Last year, Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, asked House Speaker John Boehner to repeal it, calling it “outdated.”

    In short, it’s in dispute whether Obama has the authority he claims. The ability of presidents to launch sustained military action on their own is questioned whenever it happens, but it tends not to stay their hand.

    The administration does acknowledge it needs approval from Congress to conduct one part of its strategy — training and equipping Syrian opposition forces.


    OBAMA: “We will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. … It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”

    THE FACTS: That’s splitting hairs. It’s true that the troops he is sending, in addition to the approximately 1,000 already there, are not intended to get into a shooting war. But some will be advising Iraqi army commanders in the field so they can advance more decisively against Islamic State forces under the cover of U.S. bombs. And under standard military rules of engagement, they will be allowed to defend themselves if shot at.

    Obama said he wants Americans to understand that this will be “different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” where hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops fought extended battles. To make his point he termed his Iraq-Syria action a “counterterrorism campaign” to “take out” Islamic State forces using American air power and “support” for “partner forces” on the ground.

    Even so, it will be a shooting war and no one can say that U.S. troops will not engage in combat and possibly get killed. Obama acknowledged that any military action involves risk to those who carry them out.

    Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Stephen Braun contributed to this report.

    The post Does Obama really have the authority to carry out strikes against Islamic militants? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In a prime-time address Wednesday night, President Barack Obama laid out a four-point plan to fight the Islamic State militant group operating out of Iraq and Syria.

    In a prime-time address Wednesday night, President Barack Obama rallied Americans to support the fight against the Islamic State militant group operating out of Iraq and Syria.

    The president warned of a long-term effort in both countries or “wherever they exist,” but committed to no American “combat troops” on the ground. Instead, he said there would be continued airstrikes and American military “advisers” who would train more moderate rebels in Syria and work with the Iraqi military. To “train and equip” those fighters, he urged Congress to approve more funding for that effort.

    Reaction to the president’s speech and policy ranged from support to skepticism to questions of a lack of specifics.

    “What happens if airstrikes can’t do it?” New York Times columnist David Brooks asked on a NewsHour Special Report following the president’s speech. He added that it was a “clear, straightforward” speech, but asked, “What’s the next step?”

    Syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted that the president laid out a “big set of promises,” but “made the case against [the Islamic State group] better than he made the case for his own action.” He said the president “glossed over” Congress’ role and urged that “it’s very important to have a debate,” especially because “the president is making a case for war here.”

    Responses from the Hill ranged from relief…

    “I commend the President for his persistent, strong leadership in establishing a government of reconciliation in Iraq, and in his diplomatic efforts to have coordination among of our NATO allies and regional powers,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, in an official statement.

    …to doubt.

    “A speech is not the same thing as a strategy…” said Rep. John Boehner, House Speaker in his official response. “While the president presented a compelling case for action, many questions remain about the way in which the president intends to act.  For example, I support the president’s plan to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian opposition, but I remain concerned that those measures could take years to fully implement at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains need to be immediately halted and reversed.”

    “It is right to target ISIS from the air, while local Arab and Kurdish forces are trained and armed to battle on the ground, but Syria can’t be a sanctuary from U.S. and allied air strikes,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in his official comments. “…Tonight was a start, but it remains to be seen whether the Administration, after much delay and denial, develops and executes the sustained commitment needed to destroy ISIS by building a powerful coalition against these brutal jihadists.”

    “…the President’s plan will likely be insufficient to destroy ISIS, which is the world’s largest, richest terrorist army,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement.

    “Tonight, the President finally recognized the grave and serious threat posed by ISIS. The President laid out his plan to address this threat; however, President Obama’s strategy remains much too vague and leans far too heavily on foreign partners,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in a Facebook post.

    Academics observing thought the president’s remarks lacked specifics.

    In a rare moment of agreement, the President’s plan seemed to align with former Vice President Dick Cheney’s assessment of the threat. At an event earlier in the day Cheney said “ISIS does not recognize a border between Syria and Iraq, so neither should we. We should immediately hit them in their sanctuaries, staging areas, command centers, and lines of communication wherever we find them.”

    Meanwhile, a new Pew Research Center survey served as a backdrop for the remarks and its subsequent reactions. According to the report, 67 percent of 2,002 responders identified the Islamic State group as a “major threat” to the U.S. and 42 percent said the government is doing “not too well” or “not at all well” in reducing the terror threat. Overall, the number of people “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism has also rocketed to 62 percent from 37 percent in the past two years.

    The post Obama’s airstrike plan met with support and skepticism from the Hill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Obama speaks during a primetime address to the nation from the Cross Hall of the White House Wednesday. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

    President Obama speaks during a primetime address to the nation from the Cross Hall of the White House Wednesday. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Obama tries to sell the public on fighting Islamic State group
    • A shift from ‘light footprint’ West Point speech
    • Looking for an ‘Obama Doctrine’? Keep looking (or stop)
    • Obama just ramped up the ‘Global War on Terror’
    • Stopping to remember 9/11

    Making the case: President Barack Obama tried to make the case Wednesday night for why the United States cannot stand on the sidelines against the Islamic State group, especially after the beheadings of two American journalists. Much of what was in the speech wasn’t new. It was an organization mostly of what the United States is already doing — airstrikes, coordinating with the Iraqi military and covert operations. He also publicly announced that the U.S. would train moderate Syrian rebels to avoid American “combat troops,” even though hundreds of American forces are on the ground. In anticipation of an ask to fund training of Syrian rebels, House Republicans shelved a continuing resolution Wednesday at the White House’s request. The GOP conference meets at 9 a.m. ET to see whether to consider the funding in a new funding measure or separately. But what was striking about the speech is it was the “light footprint” president trying to make the case for intervention.

    A change in tone from West Point: Consider the president’s speech at West Point — intended to make the case for a new American role in the world and rolling back the idea of strong American military intervention — was just four months ago. And in that speech, the president didn’t even mention IS. There were just vague references to a “growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos” of Syria and “As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases.” The brutality, capability and financial viability of the group seemed to take the administration by surprise over the summer. Even before the beheadings, the administration began a bombing campaign against IS, which is something the Islamic State group blames for its beheadings. But the brutal acts, spread across the globe on the Internet and TV screens, thrust them into American living rooms, spurring almost more of a WANT for action. That made it necessary for the president to show the U.S. was taking a forceful hand and was leading.

    Obama’s fine line on when and when not to act: In that West Point speech, the president wasn’t calling for never intervening. But he tried to draw a fine line between “realists” and “interventionists.” “I believe neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment. It is absolutely true that in the 21st century, American isolationism is not an option. We don’t have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders. … But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.” Contrast that with the more moralistic case for intervention he made last night. “America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead,” Obama said, adding, “[O]ur own safety — our own security — depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.” The nuance of that fine line, however, can make things muddled. It can present to the public what appears to be an inconsistent message on foreign policy. Maybe the simplest way to look at it, though — for those of us who have sought some definition of an “Obama Doctrine” — is that the “Obama Doctrine” just isn’t doctrinaire.

    Obama ramps up the ‘Global War on Terror’: It’s also interesting to consider on this 13th anniversary of 9/11 that for a country scarred by Iraq, what Obama is calling for isn’t nation-building, but more in line with the original idea of the “global war on terror.” That’s not a phrase this president wants to use because it has all the implications and connotations related to the George W. Bush presidency. Out of the speech, many will rightly question, what if airstrikes, arming rebels on the ground, working with the Iraqi military, and COVERT American operations aren’t enough? What then, as NewsHour’s Mark Shields and David Brooks asked Wednesday night during NewsHour’s Special Report. And, as Peter Baker writes in the New York Times this morning, the president who seemed intent on leaving his predecessor with no messy entanglements he created, is almost certain to leave them with this. On Thursday, the president will commemorate the 9/11 anniversary with two events: a moment of silence at the White House and a ceremony at the Pentagon at 9:30 a.m. ET.

    Lawmakers react to speech: Part of the president’s mission Wednesday night was to persuade lawmakers skeptical of the administration’s strategy for confronting the threat posed by the Islamic State group. Many on Capitol Hill had urged the president to adopt a more aggressive posture toward the militants. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Thursday that the president’s strategy was “in a much better place than where he was previously.” Still, Rubio said the president should have been even more forceful in his remarks. “We don’t know how long this will take. No matter how long it takes, we need to do it.” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “much of the wording in the president’s speech was good,” but argued the president was showing “poor judgment by not explicitly seeking an authorization from Congress.” The demand for Congress to weigh in on the president’s strategy was shared by the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who were joined by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., in calling for “a full and robust debate in Congress on the use of military force.” The Washington Post’s Paul Kaine explains how Congress might move forward with the president’s Syria proposal by including it as part of a stopgap funding measure to fund the government past the end of the month.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1789, President George Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton to be the first secretary of the treasury. Who is the current secretary of the treasury? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Wednesday’s trivia: What other time in U.S. history was gas rationing mandated? The answer was: the 1973 oil crisis, when OAPEC declared an oil embargo.

    LINE ITEMS

    • The House will not vote Thursday on a continuing resolution to fund the government past the end of the month. House leadership said the delay is due to a last-minute request from the White House to include the authority to take action against the Islamic State group in the CR.

    • Next Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will address Congress, at the invitation of Speaker John Boehner.

    • Confirmation of Georgia judicial nominee Michael Boggs is still in limbo, while the Senate Judiciary Committee moves forward with other nominees, because of the risk of an intraparty fight among Democrats.

    • Rep. John Tierney’s primary race was over before he even knew it had begun. The Massachusetts congressman failed to match the hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent against him by his fellow Democrat.

    • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee continues to paint Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst as “too extreme for Iowa”; this time it’s for saying she supports privatizing social security.

    • The Des Moines Register reports that First Lady Michelle Obama will campaign for Rep. Bruce Braley next month.

    • Forget New York City, Philadelphia and Columbus. Birmingham, Alabama is the new contender for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

    • There were more arrests in Ferguson, Mo., Wednesday.

    • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was booed offstage during his keynote address to a conference of Middle Eastern Christians for saying that “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”

    • In New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea Porter’s first TV ad, she says she hasn’t taken “a dime from DC lobbyists or corporate PACs,” while former Rep. Frank Guinta is funded by the Koch brothers.

    • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is more in demand on the campaign trail now that the primaries are over, he told Roll Call. Sen. McCain has already lent his support to Scott Brown and Joni Ernst, but he’s not stopping there. He’s planning trips to Oregon, North Carolina and now Kansas to help Sen. Pat Roberts.

    • Campaigning with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal suggested more help from the RGA, of which he is vice chair, is on the way.

    • A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Republican Gov. Tom Corbett trailing Democrat Tom Wolf by 24 points.

    • South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell was indicted Wednesday on nine criminal charges, including misconduct in office and using campaign funds for personal use.

    • A new Missouri law will allow specially trained teachers to carry concealed guns in schools and anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry firearms openly in the state.

    • The Washington Post editorial board praises the pension reform efforts of Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who won the Democratic gubernatorial primary earlier this week. Her victory, the board writes, “should stiffen the spines” of Democrats in other states facing pressure from public-sector unions.

    • Prosecutors are pressing for prison time for conservative author Dinesh D’Souza for making illegal donations to the Senate campaign of Republican Wendy Long, who challenged Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012.

    • Edwin Kneedler will never defend you. Having argued 125 cases before the Supreme Court — more than any other practicing lawyer — he has only one client: the U.S. government.

    • If you want to trash businesses online, move to California. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure into law Tuesday that allows Californians to post bad reviews online.

    • U.S. secessionist groups from Vermont to the Pacific Northwest have their eyes on Scotland.

    • Mitt Romney led GOP donors in singing happy birthday to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday. What Christie probably didn’t want for his birthday was an eighth credit rating downgrade for his state.

    • Historian Michael Beschloss says for presidents it’s all about location, location, location when it comes to delivering an address to the nation.

    • Even if you don’t have your political ideology listed on your Facebook page, you can still be the target of pointed campaign ads. This is all because of a new tool that links your Facebook profile to your voting record.

    • 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.

    TOP TWEETS


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    A doctor explains the dangerous effects of the drugs known as “bath salts”.

    Scientists have developed a new method for identifying illegal “bath salts”, synthetic drugs recently banned in the United States.

    Similar to amphetamines, users experience an initial euphoria followed by terrifying hallucinations, paranoia, depression. The drugs also cause violent outbursts, leading to hospitalization and in some cases suicides.

    In 2012, the PBS NewsHour reported on the drug’s rise in the United States and what they do to the brain. However, they are still sold disguised as innocuous household products, like plant food, toilet bowl cleaner and stain remover.

    To find the drugs, law enforcement needs laboratories to test for the drugs. The suggested technique of using mercury to test for the drugs was seen as impractical because of mercury’s toxicity.

    Chemists Craig E. Banks and Oliver Sutcliffe of Manchester Metropolitan University are developing a new, portable method to detect the drugs. Using a mercury-free electrode, they tested their new method on drugs purchased on the internet. Their results are described in the journal Analytical Chemistry, published by the American Chemistry Society.

    The post Scientists develop new method for detecting illegal ‘bath salts’ drugs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of a patron at a restaurant in New York City. Photo by Benjamin Norman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Singles now make up the majority of adults in America. File photo of a patron at a restaurant in New York City is from 2008. Photo by Benjamin Norman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Whether it’s through dating service ads on your Facebook page and in your inbox, or through the matchmaking attempts of a well-meaning friend, it’s easy for unmarried people to feel singled out. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, they shouldn’t.

    Bloomberg reported Tuesday that singles now make up the majority of the adult population in the United States. Economist Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research Inc., first noticed the change when looking over the BLS’s jobs report for the month of August. In that month there were 124.6 million unmarried Americans over the age of 16, meaning 50.2 percent of the nation’s adult population identifies as single.

    In contrast, only 37.4 percent of the population was unmarried in 1976, when the U.S. government first started keeping track. That percentage has been creeping upwards ever since, lingering just below 50 percent since 2013.

    Those tempted to blame millennials, and their tendency to drag their feet when it comes to walking down the aisle, should note that these numbers also include individuals who are divorced, separated and widowed. Over the past 38 years, there has been an increase in all four of these demographics.

    Yardeni points out that this growing trend could have economic implications outside of the wedding industry. He believes the rise in the number of single adults may be distorting U.S. income inequality, pointing out that the lower household earnings of single people are balanced by fewer overall expenditures.

    We’re asking: What do you think is behind the increase in unmarried American adults? Will this trend continue over time or will matrimony make a comeback? Will the U.S. economy benefit from singles’ greater disposable income, or will it suffer a blow as fewer buy houses and pay for childcare? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter using the hashtag #NewsHourAsks.

    The post Single? So are the majority of U.S. adults appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An illuminated American flag hangs from the Pentagon to mark the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Sept. 11, 2007. Photo by Brandan W. Schulze/U.S. Navy

    As with most moments in my adult life, it was my students and literature that taught me the most significant lessons about the meaning of 9/11.

    teachersloungeThat morning felt unremarkable, even after my co-teacher came back into the room in the middle of second period to whisper something to me about planes crashing and terrorism. It was only my second year of teaching high school. By the end of the day, I had my classes journaling their initial reactions, creating a sort of time capsule, I said, for when their future selves wanted to remember.

    I quickly wrote an article for an online magazine discussing how our view of events was filtered through the lens of pop culture, specifically action and disaster movies, and appeared on Canada’s version of “Morning Edition” two days after the attacks.

    It was not until several years later, however, when a colleague suggested a new book for my curriculum, that I realized how distant and abstract my reaction and understanding of 9/11 had been.

    That book was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. From the opening pages, the quirky young voice of Oskar Schell cut through my own agenda and intellectualization of 9/11 and awed me with the immensity of the trauma.

    Foer’s novel, besides being an engrossing page-turner, invites and rewards close literary analysis. Its inventive structure plays masterfully with varying points of view and historical settings, using multiple motifs to tie together disparate stories. But the emotional core of the book also resists analysis — or, more accurately, resists the resolution that such academic exercises try to construct.

    You cannot read the book without pausing and letting your emotions rule the day. When faced with the inexplicable, whether 9/11 or a previous catastrophe such as the bombings of World War II, the book asserts that the normal things in life, such as the words we use or the relationships we rely on, can fail us. And we can fail them.

    The more I teach the book, however, the more distant 9/11 becomes in our culture.

    In recent years, when I open the unit with a news montage of that morning in 2001, many students tell me it is the first time they viewed video of the events or had a substantial conversation about it. My students now were young enough in 2001 that their parents shielded them from the pain and suffering, but as they have gotten older, no one has taken the time to explain an event that has shaped the social and political context of their lives.

    Last year, one of my other colleagues and her students did something to break that silence after reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: they created their own 9/11 memorial in a local park and invited the broader community to reflect.

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is about speaking about the unspoken or recognizing what is unspeakable. With that inspiration, we try to raise a voice, even if it is hesitant or incomplete, to memorialize the past and acknowledge the lasting effects of 9/11 on the present.

    Bernie Heidkamp is an English teacher Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL. For more on how to teach 9/11 to students of all ages, check out another teacher’s perspective.

    The post What my students and a book taught me about 9/11 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A map from Healthmap.org shows reported Ebola cases on Sept. 10.

    A map from Healthmap.org shows reported Ebola cases on Sept. 10.

    The World Health Organization said Thursday that 35 people have died from Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, out of the 62 people sickened by the virus.

    DR Congo is the fifth country in Africa to experience the epidemic this year. The infectious strain is different from the one present in West Africa. In those countries – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria — more than 2,200 people have died.

    The world’s first identified case of Ebola was in 1976 in DR Congo. This year’s outbreak occurred in the northwest region, spreading to the four villages of Watsi Kengo, Lokolia, Boende and Boende Muke. The areas are now equipped with isolation units.

    The post 35 deaths due to Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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