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

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    Paleontologist Paul Sereno, right, examines the marquee display at the National Geographic unveiling of the Spinosaurus exhibit on Friday, on September, 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Credit: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Paleontologist Paul Sereno, right, examines the marquee display at the National Geographic unveiling of the Spinosaurus exhibit on Friday on Sept. 10 in Washington, DC. Credit: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Newly unveiled fossils indicate a dinosaur known as Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was built to live part of the time in water, according to a report published online for the journal Science.

    Measuring 50 feet, making it larger than the Tyrannosaurus rex, Spinosaurus is so named because of the long spines measuring up to seven feet that run down its back and form one large sail.

    The dinosaur had an elongated neck, and its hind limbs were smaller and more solid than those of land dinosaurs like the T. rex. and indicate that the Spinosaurus used them to paddle its massive body through the waters.

    “The Spinosaurus story is truly unique, it is an international story of scientists getting together and it stretches across a century,” said Professor Paul C. Sereno of the University of Chicago and one of the scientists who has been working on reconstructing the Spinosaurus and its story.

    Spinosaurus fossils were first discovered in the Western Desert of Egypt by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer in 1912. The fossils, housed in a museum in Munich, were destroyed in World War II by an Allied air raid, according to National Geographic magazine’s October cover story.

    “We’ve been living with more or less a shadow of this dinosaur all of my life,” Sereno said.

    The fossils were unearthed by a nomad in Morocco in 1975, sold into the fossil market and wound up in Milan, Italy.

    Nizar Ibrahim, a 2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer and co-author of the Science journal report, recognized the fossils in Italy.

    The entire discovery and rediscovery story of the Spinosaurus is the subject of a National Geographic/NOVA special, “Bigger Than T.rex,” which airs on PBS on Nov. 5.

    Currently, a life-size model of the Spinosaurus can be seen in an exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C.

    The post A dinosaur fit for land and water: Spinosaurus unveiled appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Smoke is seen rising from the the burning leftovers of an oil refinery over oil fields near the oil rich city of Ramlan, on October 20, 2013 near the Syrian Kurdish town of Derik. Syria's oil industry has been massively hit since an uprising against the rule of president Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011. AFP PHOTO /FABIO BUCCIARELLI (Photo credit should read FABIO BUCCIARELLI/AFP/Getty Images)

    An oil refinery is shown in October near the Syrian Kurdish town of Derik. The Islamic State group has taken over large sections of Syria and Iraq, and controls as many as 11 oil fields in both countries, analysts say. Credit: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts.

    The extremist group’s resources exceed that “of any other terrorist group in history,” said a U.S. intelligence official who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments. Such riches are one reason that American officials are so concerned about the group even while acknowledging they have no evidence it is plotting attacks against the United States.

    The Islamic State group has taken over large sections of Syria and Iraq, and controls as many as 11 oil fields in both countries, analysts say. It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the noses of some of the same governments it is fighting: Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

    While U.S. intelligence does not assess that those governments are complicit in the smuggling, the Obama administration is pressing them do to more to crack down. The illicit oil is generally transported on tanker trucks, analysts said.

    “There’s a lot of money to be made,” said Denise Natali, who worked in Kurdistan as an American aid official and is now a senior research fellow at National Defense University. “The Kurds say they have made an attempt to close it down, but you pay off a border guard you pay off somebody else and you get stuff through.”

    The price the Islamic State group fetches for its smuggled oil is discounted -$25 to $60 for a barrel of oil that normally sells for more than $100 – but its total profits from oil are exceeding $3 million a day, said Luay al-Khatteeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar.

    The group also has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from smuggling antiquities out of Iraq to be sold in Turkey, al-Khatteeb said, and millions more from human trafficking by selling women and children as sex slaves.

    Other revenue comes from extortion payments, ransom from kidnapped hostages, and outright theft of all manner of materials from the towns the Islamic State group has seized, analysts say.

    “It’s cash-raising activities resemble those of a mafia-like organization,” a second U.S. intelligence official said, reflecting the assessment of his agency. “They are well-organized, systematic and enforced through intimidation and violence.”

    Even prior to seizing Mosul in June, for example, the group began to impose “taxes” on nearly every facet of economic activity, threatening death for those unwilling to pay, U.S. intelligence officials say. An analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations estimated the group was reaping $8 million a month from extortion in Mosul alone.

    Once the group took over Mosul, in northern Iraq, and other areas, it grabbed millions of dollars in cash from banks, though not the hundreds of millions initially reported, U.S. intelligence officials say.

    This spring, four French and two Spanish journalists held hostage by Islamic State extremists were freed after their governments paid multimillion-dollar ransoms through intermediaries.

    The Islamic State group “has managed to successfully translate territorial control in northern Syria and portions of Iraq into a means of revenue generation,” said a third U.S. intelligence official.

    Analysts say the group is relying on the fact that the area along the border between Iraq and Turkey has long been a smugglers haven, and was made more so by the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003. Generations of families have illicitly moved goods through the region.

    The Islamic State is the successor to al-Qaida in Iraq, which was founded by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. For a time, the group was allied with the Nusra Front, the al-Qaida affiliate that is a key player among the rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Islamic State group has since broken with the Nusra Front and al-Qaida.

    In the early days of the Syrian civil war, the Islamic State group was funded in large part by donations from wealthy residents of Gulf States, including Kuwait and Qatar, American officials have said.

    “A number of fundraisers operating in more permissive jurisdictions – particularly in Kuwait and Qatar – are soliciting donations to fund … al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” David Cohen, the Treasury department’s top counterterrorism official, said in a speech in March. ISIL is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.

    That stream of funding has diminished in recent months as the group’s violent tactics have drawn worldwide attention, U.S. intelligence officials say.

    The group’s reliance on oil as its main source of revenue could easily be disrupted by American airstrikes, officials say. But so far, no decision has been made to target Iraqi or Syrian oil infrastructure, which is serviced by civilian workers who may have been conscripted.

    The post Islamic State group earning more than $3 million per day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington has set up the first federal unit to identify and investigate cases that ended in wrongful convictions, Reuters reports.

    “This new unit will work to uncover historical injustices and to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to prevent such tragedies in the future,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. told The Washington Post before the formal announcement on Friday.

    The creation of the Conviction Integrity Unit came after the U.S. Attorney’s Office spent four years reviewing more than 2,000 cases involving FBI analysis of fiber and hair evidence. The review has already garnered a handful of exonerations for individuals convicted of crimes committed in the 1980s.

    Last week, Henry Lee McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, were declared innocent after serving thirty years for the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina. McCollum, who was on death row, and Brown, who was serving a life sentence, were freed after DNA evidence linked another man to the crime, the New York Times reports.

    In July, Kevin Martin, 50, who was convicted of the 1982 killing of a woman in Washington D.C. was exonerated based on DNA evidence. The U.S. Attorney’s Office challenged original forensic evidence of hair that linked Martin to the crime, according to the Washington Post.

    The first of the exonerations from the U.S. Attorney’s reevaluation and new DNA evidence came in 2009 for Donald Gates. Gates was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of a Georgetown University student based in part on hair evidence.

    The results of the U.S. Attorney’s Office review are being shared with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to correcting and preventing wrongful convictions in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The organization is located at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

    All four men had served well beyond the average sentence typical of DNA exonerees, according to the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which notes the average sentence served is 13.6 years.

    One of the most publicized cases of wrongful conviction and exoneration in recent years is the case of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr. and Kharey Wise, otherwise known as the Central Park Five, in 2002. The five black and Latino men were convicted as youths of the beating and raping of a female jogger in Central Park in 1989.

    On Sept. 5, the men were awarded $41 million in a settlement, roughly $1 million for each year of their imprisonment.

    The federal government, 29 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to award monetary compensation to people who have been exonerated, according to Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. 

    The post US Attorney’s Office sets up first federal unit to correct wrongful convictions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    People hold signs that read “we love our Jewish citizens” today at a rally against anti-Semitism in Berlin. Credit: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel took to the Berlin streets Sunday to promote peace and tolerance of Jews in the country.

    “Jewish friends, neighbors and colleagues, consider yourselves at home here,” she said at the rally, adding that she will do everything she can “to ensure anti-Semitism doesn’t have a chance,” BBC News reported.

    The event, attended by nearly 5,000 people, was organized in light of a surge of anti-Semitic acts in several European countries following the Israeli attacks on Gaza in July, BBC News reported.

    This summer saw “the worst anti-Semitic slogans on German streets for many, many decades,” Jewish leader Dieter Graumann told the Associated Press.

    The Jewish organization Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents, said it recorded 452 anti-Semitic acts in the months of July and August in the United Kingdom, according to CST’s website.

    The fear of a new, more widespread anti-Semitism has caused many Jewish citizens to migrate to Israel. This movement was the subject of Sunday’s NewsHour Weekend report from France:

    The post Merkel: Germans must take stand against anti-Semitism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    James Foley reporting from Aleppo, Syria, in July of 2012. Photo courtesy of the Find James Foley Campaign

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about the tactic of beheadings adopted by Islamic State fighters, we are joined now from Washington D.C. by Tom Sanderson. He is co-director of Transnational Threats Project for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. So, what purpose do these videos serve?

    TOM SANDERSON: Well, many purposes. One, it certainly is designed to terrorize the West, the population, the public representing that particular individual, into potentially in the hopes of ISIS deter for their action. You know, these groups know, especially ISIS knows that some nations pay ransoms to release their individuals and they know that if they present this as the option for not paying a ransom, that perhaps they can split the coalition that the partners have signed up to confront ISIS.

    So that’s one reason — terrorizing and potentially splitting. The other certainly about the empowerment both for themselves and for those young men they are trying to recruit. At this point in the current state of the battle, the U.S. can hit ISIS with impunity: we’ll have drones in the battle, we have aircraft now — we don’t need boots on the ground — so ISIS can’t hit back and bleed us, but they can through our civilians, through the reporters, through NGO workers, humanitarian workers or whatever.

    So this to them levels the plain field to some degree. It’s also about revenge, clearly — the orange Gitmo jumpsuit is about hitting back, and it’s very difficult to strike the U.S., so this gives them that opportunity to satisfy that need of actually inflicting the pain on the West.

    That brings me to the third part, that is, the recruitment element, the propaganda tool. And this is very satisfying for young men who come from countries where they are marginalized, where they are subject to harsh treatment, where they feel denuded and impotent. And this gives them a sense of power that they are probably never had before.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, on the first point, when you said this is — maybe a way to fracture the parts of coalition — it seems to be galvanizing the West against them.

    TOM SANDERSON: Yep. Yeah, right now, and the people that they’ve hit are the U.K. and the U.S., and we have been very resolute in our act and our disposition toward ISIS. But I think in the future, you could see more of these attacks, more of these beheadings against citizens from coalition countries as an effort to split them, to split the partnership.

    Whether this will work or not, I don’t know, but certainly it is one of the few tools that ISIS will be able to use against that coalition. So I would expect to see this as an effort in the future.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it working on the recruiting front?

    TOM SANDERSON: I think so — I certainly think that the, again, these young men, 10,000 or more, you know, upwards of maybe 15,000, who come see this as one of the few methods that ISIS and themselves, by extension, can take against the West. And again, it’s not coincidental that the orange jumpsuit is being used here.

    So I do think it serves as an effective propagation, a propaganda tool for these young men who, again, are coming from places where they are marginalized and there is no sense of empowerment.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there a point of diminishing returns here for Islamic State with these videos?

    TOM SANDERSON: Well, it’s difficult to say. I think there are diminishing returns for the beheading videos. It could be that simply the first one that came out with James Foley really shocked Americans and shocked the West, but as they continue, if they do continue and I hope they don’t, it could be an diminishing effect for ISIS as they conduct these.

    I think Americans will continue to stiffen; our resolve is strong right now, so I think that ISIS will find that they don’t have the same kind of effect. But it remains to be seen what sort of impact it has on the U.S. public, the publics of our partners, both locally in the region as well as in Europe, and then among those recruits.

    So it’s very difficult to determine its long term effect.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the media’s role, or responsibility in how these images are repeated, over and over again.

    TOM SANDERSON: Yeah. Well, I think we’ve seen a clear change where media is trying to conduct a blackout of these videos, and I think that’s very good, which points to the fact that there is the propaganda value here for the video.

    So I think that it’s been good that Twitter and other media forms, including visual media, have been able to shut down and reduce the incidences of the videos being shown. So that’s good. But I think there’s always a way around that, and I think ISIS is going to be able to find those ways and reach the people that they want to reach.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Tom Sanderson from The Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thanks so much.

    TOM SANDERSON: Great, you got it.

    The post Tactic of terror: What’s behind the gruesome strategy of the Islamic State? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    INDIANOLA, Iowa — Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her return to Iowa for the first time since the 2008 presidential campaign, implored Democrats on Sunday to choose shared economic opportunity over “the guardians of gridlock” in an high-profile appearance that drove speculation about another White House bid into overdrive.

    “Hello Iowa. I’m back!” Clinton declared as she took the podium at retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry fundraiser, a fixture on the political calendar in the home of the nation’s first presidential caucus. Clinton joined her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in a tribute to Harkin that brought them before more than 6,000 party activists who form the backbone of Iowa’s presidential campaigns every four years.

    The former New York senator and first lady did not directly address a potential campaign but said she was “thinking about it” and joked that she was “here for the steak.” She later said that “too many people only get excited about presidential campaigns. Look – I get excited about presidential campaigns, too.” But she said the upcoming midterm elections would be pivotal for the state’s voters.

    “In just 50 days Iowans have a choice to make – a choice and a chance. A choice between the guardians of gridlock and the champions of shared opportunity and shared prosperity,” she said, urging voters to elect leaders who would “carry on Tom Harkin’s legacy of fighting for families.”

    Following a summertime book tour, Clinton was making her biggest campaign splash in 2014 so far, opening a fall of fundraising and campaigning for Democrats who are trying to maintain a Senate majority during President Barack Obama’s final two years. The event also served as a farewell for Harkin, a liberal stalwart and former presidential candidate who is retiring after four decades in Congress.

    Obama defeated Clinton in the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses in January 2008 – Clinton finished third behind the future president and then-North Carolina Sen. John Edwards – and the visit marked the former secretary of state’s first appearance in Iowa since the campaign.

    The post Hillary Clinton in Iowa stirs 2016 speculation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user jbdodane

    Photo by Flickr user jbdodane

    Imagine, for a moment, that you’re an international salesman. You work for General Electric, which is one of the biggest producers of freight-hauling locomotives in the world. There’s a demand in South Africa, and you want to get in on it.

    But you’re facing competition from several other locomotive manufacturers from around the world. You don’t want to lose out to the Chinese locomotive company. So you get in touch with the Export-Import Bank back in Washington, D.C., to press for a loan for South Africa’s state-owned rail operator, Transnet, that would enable them to purchase your locomotives, boosting your profits and, presumably, allowing you to hire more workers in Pennsylvania.

    But China has its own Export-Import Bank, which could also offer Transnet a loan to buy Chinese locomotives. In fact, there are nearly 60 of these Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) around the world that effectively subsidize private companies’ foreign exports.

    In short, the Export-Import Bank lends to foreign buyers like Transnet to make U.S. exports competitive. Without an ECA of its own, the fear of the Bank’s defenders is that U.S. exports would lose out to goods produced overseas.

    Established in the wake of World War II, when crippled foreign markets weren’t strong enough to purchase American products, the Export-Import Act of 1945 has been renewed by Congress 16 times without a political fight as intense as this year’s.

    With its current authorization expiring on Oct. 1, the independent federal agency, which has just 400 employees, has been the subject of quite a bit of Washington’s midsummer mudslinging. Of course, theirs is not the only expiration date looming at the end of this month. If Congress does not soon pass a spending bill, the entire government could shut down come October. Sound familiar?

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., replaced Eric Cantor, who had been a strong defender of the Export-Import Bank. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., replaced Eric Cantor, who had been a strong defender of the Export-Import Bank. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

    The big news last week was that the Republican House leadership was considering a stopgap measure that would fund the government through Dec. 11. Included in that continuing resolution, much to the displeasure of their most conservative members, would be an extension of the Ex-Im Bank through June 2015. Conservatives, like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have traditionally argued that propping up U.S. exports is the job of the private sector.

    That short-term resolution was shelved for the rest of last week while the president asked Congress to consider funding for the training of Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. But with members returning to their districts for a final midterm election push at the end of this week, the remaining days of legislative action are numbered.

    Suppose that resolution goes forward this week and the bank is extended for another nine months. That’s better than it dying, said Gary Clyde Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of Economics, who serves on the Bank’s advisory board.

    But the danger with such a short-term extension, rather than the traditional two-year renewal, Hufbauer said, is that other export credit agencies from around the world would capitalize on the U.S. Bank’s uncertain future. A Chinese ECA, for example, could convince Transnet that they’d be better off engaging in a long-term deal with them since the U.S. Ex-Im Bank might not be around in nine months.

    And without an Export-Import Bank at all, Hufbauer cautioned, there’d be little incentive for American manufacturers to actually make their goods in the United States. They could move to other countries with export credit agencies that would support their exports. The implicit threat in this narrative: the loss of American jobs.

    The bank’s official mission reads jobs, jobs jobs. Job support gets top billing in a press release announcing new deals with overseas buyers. Since 2009, the Bank touts that they’ve supported 1.2 million private sector jobs, and 205,000 in 2013. Even Paul Krugman, not the most enthusiastic supporter of the Bank, has argued that “this is exactly the moment when ending an export-support program really would cost jobs.”

    And yet, when GE actually did enter into a deal with Transnet this past March, they committed to manufacturing major parts of the locomotives in South Africa, which Transnet CEO Brian Molefe estimated would create about 30,000 indirect and direct domestic jobs — in South Africa.

    But the bank also supports exports produced by foreign companies in the United States, as long as enough material comes from U.S. suppliers and assembly occurs in the states. Ex-Im Bank president Fred Hochberg said this week that the Bank would back Airbus Group jetliner exports.

    Besides support for American jobs, the Bank champions its commitment to America’s small businesses. In fiscal year 2013, nearly 90 percent of the Bank’s volume of transactions was for short-term deals on behalf of American small businesses selling their goods overseas. But in terms of sales — i.e., money transacted — deals with big American businesses like Caterpillar, Boeing and GE dominate. About 46 percent of the Bank’s financing is on behalf of Boeing alone.

    In just one of its deals backing Boeing's exports, the Export-Import Bank has supported the export of Boeing 787s to Ethiopian Airlines. Photo by Flickr user Patcard

    In just one of its deals backing Boeing’s exports, the Export-Import Bank has supported the export of Boeing 787s to Ethiopian Airlines. Photo by Flickr user Patcard

    And that’s where most of the attacks against the bank as an agent of “corporate welfare” come from. On the right, House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, whose committee oversees the Bank’s renewal, has been among its most outspoken critics. Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth have slammed the government-backed bank for meddling in the free market, taking from the American taxpayer to enrich big business.

    “The Bank doesn’t cost the taxpayer. In fact, it returns a profit to the Treasury — more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2013.”

    The Bank doesn’t cost the taxpayer. In fact, it returns a profit to the Treasury — more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2013. How it does that, though, says one of its critics on the left, is little more than arbitrage.

    It works like this: The Ex-Im Bank borrows at the very low Treasury rate and then lends that money to its customers, like Transnet, at a higher rate. Provided borrowers don’t default (the default rate was just 0.194 percent as of June 2014), that margin turns into a profit as foreign borrowers pay back the loan in installments. At the end of the year, the Bank turns that profit back to the Treasury.

    What’s wrong with this picture, said Center for Policy and Economic Research co-director Dean Baker, is that the government is such a low-cost borrower it can loan money to almost anyone and make money on that loan. In his opinion, there’s no reason for that subsidy to bolster America’s wealthiest corporations. He’d like to see more assistance support American small businesses. (Actually, he’d really prefer to reduce the value of the dollar to get the trade balance in order. For more detail on the relationship between the value of the U.S. dollar and foreign purchasing power, see our recent post on the Big Mac Index.)

    Without Ex-Im Bank support, Boeing would ship fewer planes abroad, but it’s not as if their exports would fall to zero, said Baker. Fewer exports would reduce their profits, too, but hardly enough to put a dent in GDP, Baker said.

    Of course, that’s not the way American businesses see it. The Bank enjoys support from much of the business establishment of both political parties, especially groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

    President Barack Obama, like much of his party, embraces the Bank and has urged Congress to renew it even though he too called it “little more than a fund for corporate welfare” when campaigning in 2008. Democrats in the House have been pushing for a five-year reauthorization of the Bank to avoid going throughout another fight like this year’s anytime soon.

    It now appears that conservatives in the House, including chief critic Hensarling, are ready to go along with a CR that extends the Bank’s authority. “Not the first time that I’ve swallowed hard in my congressional career,” Hensarling said Wednesday.

    But if the House GOP plans to let the bank survive a little longer, that may, as Veronique de Rugy suggests in National Review, only reflect “hopes of killing it in the long term.”

    Longtime Ex-Im Bank defender Eric Cantor is gone, replaced by a House Majority Leader who’s pledged to let it die. And by June, its GOP opponents may have two advantages: the Bank’s expiration will be decoupled from the funding of the government, and there’s a decent chance their party will control not just the House, but the Senate, too.

    As for the Bank’s prospects for long-term survival after a short-term extension, Bank advisory board member Hufbauer said, “I wouldn’t give it better than 50-50.”

    The post Stop pretending you know what the Export-Import Bank is appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a large gathering at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry, Sunday in Indianola, Iowa. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a large gathering at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry, Sunday in Indianola, Iowa. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Hillary Clinton back in Iowa for the first time since 2008 loss
    • Republicans pressure Obama to do more
    • The politics of war
    • What does Congress do?

    She’s ‘baaack’: Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa for the first time Sunday since her third-place finish in the 2008 caucuses behind Barack Obama. “Hello Iowa. I’m baack,” Clinton exclaimed, arms out wide, at the Harkin Steak Fry, the fundraiser hosted by retiring Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. Clinton made just a fleeting reference to 2016, calling it “that other thing.” “Well, it is true, I am thinking about it,” she said. “But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak.” She added, “It’s really great to be back … Let’s not let another seven years go by.” She’s expected to announce whether she will run for president early next year. Former President Bill Clinton also spoke, but was careful not to “overshadow” his wife, Maggie Haberman notes. The Clintons mainly paid tribute to the retiring senator and made the case for Democrats in 2014 across the board, per PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Terence Burlij and Rachel Wellford, who were on the ground at the Steak Fry.

    Will Iowa doves back the more hawkish Clinton? Going back to Iowa is no small thing for Clinton. It was the first round in 2008, and it delivered the first major blow to her campaign, knocking her off course to the nomination. Iowa is a traditionally anti-war liberal base. It’s how the caucuses started, as reaction to the Vietnam War. Clinton’s support for the Iraq War was one wedge Barack Obama was able to use in the Hawkeye State to upend Clinton. How the war against the Islamic State group winds up factoring into the Democratic primary in 2015/2016 is also something to watch. Does Clinton support more American combat troops on the ground? She’s going to get asked about it. The conventional wisdom is that she won’t get a serious primary challenge. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he might run, even if Clinton does. And Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, was in Iowa this weekend. He drew some 250 people to church basement in Des Moines and was well received. The Des Moines Register: “Though the sampling was small and the audience obviously partisan toward progressives, Sanders’ message inspired roaring applause during his hourlong speech.” The most problematic candidate from Clinton’s left would be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But so far she has indicated she won’t challenge Clinton.

    Send in the troops? The talk of the Sunday shows was whether the U.S. could realistically defeat the Islamic State militant group and promise to send in no American ground troops. The Obama administration believes it is possible, but did not explicitly rule out potentially sending in Americans at some point. Republicans, like hawkish Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called the administration’s plan “delusional.” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough acknowledged on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that military advisers, and even the president himself, don’t believe the militant group can be defeated from the air alone. “That’s correct,” McDonough said, when asked if it’s true that “not a single military adviser that has come to you guys and said, ‘You can defeat [IS] without some combat troops.’” McDonough pointed to Congress and the need to pass funding to pay for training of Syrian rebels (more on where that stands below). Asked if he “pledges” that no American ground troops will ever be sent in, McDonough could not do so. “We need ground troops,” he said, “that’s why we want this program to train the opposition, that’s currently pending in Congress. And that’s why we want to make sure that this coalition bring Sunnis to the fight.” And on whether the U.S. has asked for ground troops from allies, McDonough said, “We’re not looking for that right now.” Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo trying to rally regional Arab powers. UN Security Council members meet in Paris today. Kerry will testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill on the effort to fight the Islamic State group. President Obama meets with Gen. John Allen, in charge of the war against the militants. By Friday, the administration was, in fact, using the term “war.”

    Republicans pressure to do more: In addition to Graham’s criticism, James Baker, former Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush, said on “Meet the Press,” “I’m not suggesting we need to get into another ground war in the Middle East. I’m just saying we cannot do this without having some forces on the ground that can help our air campaign. You have to have that.” Gen. Michael Hayden, the former CIA director under George W. Bush said he believed the U.S. would wind up with special forces in the region (which already seemed to be understood to be happening from President Obama’s call for covert operations). Hayden also said he believed the operation would last three to five years and that more Americans on the ground were likely and necessary. “The airpower thing is good,” he said, “but I don’t think anyone believes … that airpower alone will be sufficient to achieve what the president has set out with regard to our objectives.”

    The politics of war: But the politics aren’t as simple. Three polls from last week — ABC/Washington Post, CNN/ORC, and NBC/WSJ — found Americans are more supportive of airstrikes against the Islamic State group, following the beheadings of two American journalists. (A British national was beheaded by the group over the weekend.) But, they were less supportive of sending in ground troops. The CNN poll, for example, found 75 percent in favor airstrikes, but just 38 percent supporting sending in ground troops. In the NBC/WSJ poll, 74 percent were in favor of some action, but just 34 percent were in favor of ground troops and airstrikes. Despite President Obama announcing a plan that appears to align with polling, an NBC/WSJ/Annenburg poll taken before the beheading of the British national but released over the weekend found 68 percent lack confidence in that plan. “The bottom line: The president has made his case to the American public, and like other presidents who faced war and peace issues, support usually follows,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who helped conduct the survey, told NBC. “The difference in this military encounter is that, right out of the box, Americans are skeptical if this will work.” It speaks a lot to how our political environment has changed over the past generation. In the 1980s after the Beirut embassy and truck bombings, the country rallied for President Ronald Reagan to avenge the never-before-seen attack. It was the same immediately following 9/11, when President George W. Bush benefited from big polling boosts. (Of course, he would have his critics in the years to follow). Today, it seems, it’s blame first.

    Congress to vote this week on funding for Syrian rebels: Among the most vocal critics of the president’s policy, accusing him of not going far enough, are House Republicans. Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, for example, said this morning on MSNBC the president shouldn’t “candy coat” war. The GOP conference is debating how to bring up funding for Syrian rebels, and is expected to do so this week. The White House wants the funding attached to a continuing resolution, a measure that would temporarily fund the government and avoid a government shutdown. Funding runs out at the end of this month, and there are only five D.C. working days left before the members head home to their districts. But the smart money is on the Syria funding being considered separately somehow — either as a stand-alone resolution or as an amendment to the CR. Expect to hear something today or Tuesday on how House Republicans will proceed. Part of the politics here is twofold: 1) Republicans think the president should go further and want to put pressure on him to do so, and 2) Democrats don’t want to be put in a position of taking a “war vote.” Republicans are aware of this and wouldn’t mind forcing them to do just that.

    Let the voting begin! There are now just 50 days until Election Day, and voting has already begun in North Carolina. There are 379 votes in in the Tarheel State. “More states join in this week,” the Washington Post’s Reid Wilson reports. “Somewhere in Minnesota this Friday, a voter will cast the first ballot of that state’s midterm election. The following day, voters in Maine, New Jersey, South Dakota and Vermont will be able to go to local elections offices and do their civic duty, too. Before the month is out, voters in Iowa and Wyoming will start casting their ballots, too.”

    What to watch for the rest of the week: The president will travel to Atlanta Tuesday to outline the U.S. plan for involvement in mitigating the Ebola outbreak in Africa. … Secretaries Kerry and Chuck Hagel (Defense) will testify Tuesday before Congress on the administration’s Islamic State group strategy. … And NATO is holding joint exercises with Ukraine Tuesday as well. … It’s all about interest rates Wednesday when Fed Chair Janet Yellen announces whether the Fed will increase those historically low rates. … Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before Congress Wednesday on threats to the homeland. … President Obama meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Thursday before Poroshenko addresses Congress. … And Scots vote Thursday on whether they want to become independent from the United Kingdom.


    • Peter Baker of the New York Times has the details on how President Obama made his decision to go about announcing military action against the Islamic State group.

    • President Obama will award the Medals of Honor at 1:50 p.m. EDT today to two Vietnam veterans and one from Gettysburg.

    • Uncertainty remains about the threat the Islamic State group presents, the Washington Post reports.

    • Mark Sanford’s engagement to his mistress is off, he announced on Facebook. His fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, told the New York Times, “I’ve already been five years waiting and two years since the engagement,” she said, adding that the couple had just had a “honeymoon-like” trip to Paris, but Sanford wanted to wait another two years to get married. The announcement, she said, caught her off guard. “I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she added.

    • Marco Rubio waded right into 2016 politics, linking Hillary Clinton to Obama’s foreign policy. “Five and a half years of the Obama/Clinton worldview has given Americans a graphic and often horrific view of the chaos that is unleashed in the world when America walks away from its traditional role as the guarantor of global security,” Rubio writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

    • It’s more women shooting guns in the latest Alison Lundergan Grimes ad in the Kentucky Senate race. As she skeet shoots, Grimes says she’s not Mitch McConnell, but also, “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA, and Mitch, that’s not how you hold a gun.” That last bit was said over an image of McConnell holding up a rifle.

    • Chris Christie will be in South Carolina, that all-important early primary state, Tuesday. He was in Florida Sunday campaigning for incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. “Boy do you have a clear choice,” Christie said. “While you have honesty and integrity with Rick Scott, you don’t in Charlie Crist. See, here’s the thing, you can’t count on anything that Charlie says. And see, you don’t need to take my word for it, you’ve lived it.”

    • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will speak before the Heritage Foundation Tuesday at 11 a.m. EDT.

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


    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org

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    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is launching a series of pilot programs in cities around the country to deal with American extremists intent on joining the fighting in countries like Syria and Iraq, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.

    The programs are designed in part to detect American extremists who are looking to join terror organizations, including the Islamic State militant group, and will bring together religious leaders, prosecutors and community representatives.

    “Today, few threats are more urgent than the threat posed by violent extremism. And with the emergence of groups like ISIL, and the knowledge that some Americans are attempting to travel to countries like Syria and Iraq to take part in ongoing conflicts, the Justice Department is responding appropriately,” Holder said in a video message Monday, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

    The Justice Department did not immediately reveal which cities will be part of the pilot programs.

    The White House, meanwhile, is scheduled to host a summit next month on the topic of countering violent extremists.

    American law enforcement and intelligence officials have for months expressed concerns about Westerners who have traveled to Syria to take part in the fighting there. Last week, a 19-year-old Colorado woman pleaded guilty to trying to help the Islamic State group. Her plea deal requires her to give authorities information about other Americans with the same intentions.

    Other countries have proposed or taken actions to deal with the problem of foreign fighters.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed new laws that would give police the power to seize the passports of Britons suspected of having traveled abroad to fight with terrorist groups. And German authorities recently banned all activity on behalf of the Islamic State group, including the distribution of propaganda material and the display of its symbols.

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    Watch the full ceremony, which took place earlier today.

    Updated at 2:25 p.m. EDT:

    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Monday a grateful nation honors the acts of valor by two Vietnam War soldiers who risked their lives to protect fellow troops.

    Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat, nearly half a century after they fought in Vietnam.

    Adkins ran through enemy fire while rescuing injured comrades. He was injured but survived.

    Sloat did not. He pulled an enemy grenade close to his body to protect fellow troops from the blast.

    Congress granted an exemption to allow the soldiers to receive the medal so many years later. Obama says even the most extraordinary acts on the battlefield can get lost in the fog of war or the passage of time.

    Original story:

    President Barack Obama on Monday will bestow the Medal of Honor on a pair of soldiers for their acts of bravery in the Vietnam War.

    Congress granted an exemption so Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat could receive the medal, because recommendations typically must be made within two years of the act of heroism, and the medal presented within three.

    Adkins, who served 22 years and lives in Opelika, Alabama, planned to attend the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. Adkins was deployed three times to Vietnam with the Special Forces and was being recognized for actions during his second combat tour, in 1966, when he ran wounded through enemy fire to drag injured comrades to safety.

    Sloat, of Coweta, Oklahoma, was killed in action on Jan. 17, 1970, at age 20. While on patrol, a soldier in his squad triggered a hand grenade trap that had been placed in their path by enemy forces. According to the White House, Sloat picked up the live grenade, initially to throw it away. When he realized it was about to detonate, he shielded the blast with his own body in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.

    Sloat’s brother, William, planned to accept the medal from the president Monday.

    The Medal of Honor is given to Armed Forces members who risk their lives in acts of great personal bravery.

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    Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 15, 2014. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

    Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 15, 2014. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

    It’s not often that two politicians can get together and claim to speak for more than a quarter of the world’s 7.2 billion people.

    And what President Xi Jinping of China (1.4 billion people) and Prime Minister of Narendra Modi of India (1.3 billion) have to say to each other when they meet Wednesday and Thursday will draw attention far beyond New Delhi, from Tokyo to Washington.

    The big question is whether these mega nations will put aside long-running border disputes and focus instead on the emerging power politics of what is increasingly being seen by Asian and Western policy makers and analysts as the Indo-Pacific region. Writers such as Robert Kaplan (author of “Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific”) assert that the wider region is returning to its thousands-year-old history of the movement of people and commerce across vast swaths of oceans and nations, a history that was interrupted only in the last two centuries by European colonialism and post-World War II nationalism.

    But for Xi and Modi, both practical politicians, there are more immediate agenda items between two nations that have some common goals but potentially conflicting ambitions. In their brief encounters up to now, the leaders claim to have established a budding personal relationship, between a Hindu nationalist elected by hundreds of millions to bring some order to a chaotic democracy and a Communist princeling chosen by his peers to preserve an iron-fisted dictatorship.

    Their common interests were reflected in this summer’s meeting of the BRICS leaders and a commitment to start a multi-billion development bank that could eventually emerge as a rival to the World Bank. Though still on the drawing boards, the bank reflects the desire of all the BRICS members –Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — to challenge and possibly displace the post-World War II institutions created and still dominated by the United States and Europe.

    According to a group of analysts assembled last week at the Brookings Institution, the Chinese and Indian leaders have things they want from each other. Prime Minister Modi has embarked on a “look East” policy to widen India’s foreign policy beyond its preoccupation with Pakistan.

    And President Xi, says Brookings analyst Kenneth Lieberthal, is trying to broaden China’s ambitions beyond the Pacific to the southwest and Central Asia, sometimes labelled the “Silk Road” policy.

    But practical issues loom for both, a big one being Pakistan. Analysts Tanvi Madan of Brookings and Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund both noted how unusual it was for Xi to visit India ahead of Pakistan, its only “all weather” ally in Asia. A planned Xi trip to Pakistan was scrubbed amid political turmoil there.

    Small and other analysts said Pakistan and the border issues remain “red lines” for Modi and India, but that China is growing increasingly concerned that Pakistan might be stirring Muslim militants in its western regions. The two nations also share an interest in peaceful post-conflict Afghanistan that might run counter to Pakistan’s ambitions.

    Lieberthal said China’s ultimate goal is to make sure India does not join any regional coalitions that side against Beijing. But Modi is warming relations both with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and his travel plans include a forthcoming trip to Washington. Also India keeps a wary eye on Beijing’s expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean, signaled by Xi’s visit to Sri Lanka, where China is developing ports, in advance of his trip to New Delhi.

    Indian newspapers are reporting that Modi seems successful in playing the Chinese-Japanese rivalry to his country’s gain. The Indian leader won $35 billion in investment promises on a recent trip to Tokyo. Xi might be ready to up the ante to $100 billion plus in rebuilding India’s sprawling but dilapidated railroads.

    The regional maneuvering, said Madan, also is part of a “delicate dance” between China, India and the U.S., which has been trying, with limited success, to build a strategic relationship with New Delhi since the George W. Bush administration. The Obama administration policy, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, is not to force India to choose between Washington and Beijing. And India’s interest with Washington was summed up by Madan: “We don’t want you to love us too much, but we want you to love us.” and to continue to play a balancing role in the Indo-Pacific region.

    And as a reminder that high stakes diplomacy can sometimes resemble high school, several analysts agreed that if Beijing really wants a stronger relationship with New Delhi, it must assure the Indians that China takes India as seriously as India takes China.

    Michael D. Mosettig was the PBS NewsHour’s foreign affairs and defense editor from 1985 to 2012. He now watches wonks push policy in Washington’s multitude of think tanks and writes occasional dispatches on what those scholars and wannabe secretaries of state have in mind for Europe, Asia and Latin America.

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    Protesters gathered at the Texas state capitol in Austin to show support for reproductive rights in July of 2013, as the legislature considered HB2. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

    Protesters gathered at the Texas state capitol in Austin to show support for reproductive rights in July of 2013, as the legislature considered HB2. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

    NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court in New Orleans is reviewing whether 11 clinics that provide abortion in Texas must immediately close their doors because they don’t comply with a state law requiring that they meet all the standards of an outpatient surgical center.

    A three-judge panel heard arguments this morning for more than 90 minutes, first from the Texas solicitor general and then from a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing many of the Texas clinics. The questions from the judges centered mainly on what constitutes an “undue burden” when a woman is trying to get an abortion, and what fraction of Texas women would be affected.

    Advocates say that about 20 abortion clinics in Texas have already closed in advance of the law; if the court rules in Texas’s favor, fewer than 10 clinics that provide abortion would remain in a state with a population of 26 million.

    Advocates say that about 20 abortion clinics in Texas have already closed in advance of the law; if the court rules in Texas’s favor, fewer than 10 clinics that provide abortion would remain in a state with a population of 26 million.Both sides agreed that if the 11 clinics close, women in the Rio Grande Valley would have to travel more than 200 miles to San Antonio to get an abortion under the new law. But Jonathan Mitchell, the Texas solicitor general, said there was no good evidence that women weren’t figuring out how to deal with that and no evidence that if the abortion rate in Texas had fallen, that it was related to the law.

    “An abortion law cannot be enjoined based on conjecture,” Mitchell said. Judge Jennifer Elrod questioned him about a clinic’s survey of 20 patients presented at the trial in August. An expert testifying for the clinics said one patient surveyed said she did not get an abortion after the law, known as HB2, went into effect.

    “He did not report she was unable to get it, he did not report she encountered an undue burden,” Mitchell answered. “She could simply have changed her mind.”

    Furthermore, patients in El Paso, where another clinic might close because it is not an ambulatory surgical center, could just travel to New Mexico for an abortion, Mitchell added.

    Stephanie Toti with the Center for Reproductive Rights argued on behalf of affected clinics such as Whole Woman’s Health. She says lots of evidence was presented at the trial last month that women were facing numerous burdens exercising their constitutional right to an abortion. For example, a San Antonio clinic had offered women in the Rio Grande Valley who were seeking abortions free bus passes to help them travel north. But the patients told the clinic it wasn’t just the distance and money, but the problems with child care, time off work, and explaining to family why they were going so far.

    Toti said a promontora, a health outreach worker, testified at the trial that women were experiencing obstacles due to the clinics closing in Rio Grande Valley. “She says she personally observed women turning to illegal means to get an abortion,” Toti told the judges.

    In a rebuttal, Mitchell called that testimony “vague” and says the promontora couldn’t give specific numbers of women doing that and couldn’t provide evidence that those choices were related to the effects of HB2.

    The three judges did not indicate when they would decide, but if the decision goes for state of Texas, the clinics would probably close immediately. The judges could also decide that some of the most isolated clinics could remain open, while others must close.

    Federal district Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in August that the surgery center regulation had no health benefit and would place numerous burdens on women seeking care, especially if they lived in the Rio Grande Valley and west Texas. Yeakel allowed the non-complying clinics to remain open, but the state asked for an emergency motion to overrule that and close them. The three judges did not indicate when they would decide.

    Mitchell told the panel the state of Texas has a compelling interest in closing clinics that it deems unsafe, and that’s why the state sought an emergency motion to stay Yeakel’s decision.

    “If there is a Kermit Gosnell-type clinic in a state, and that’s the last clinic in the state, I think everyone could agree that clinic could be shut down,” Mitchell said, referring to a notorious abortion doctor convicted of murder in Philadelphia.

    Outside the hearing, reproductive rights protesters carried signs.

    Bethany van Kampen, a lawyer and board member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, attended the hearing. She said it seemed that the judges were asking very hard questions of Toti.

    “It’s a bit discouraging,” she said. “It felt very targeted. I felt our line of questioning was harder and more difficult, and I think we tried to do our best.”

    Sandy Jones, an activist with Stop Patriarchy, traveled from Houston to attend. She said it seemed the judges had too narrow of a focus.

    “These are forces that are determined to criminalize every abortion, every woman and make it inaccessible to every woman,” Jones said. “And birth control as we know is not far behind. This is a war on women; this is a state of emergency.”

    Abortion opponents had also traveled from Austin and Fort Worth to listen.

    “It’s hard to say how this will go,” said Emily Horne, a legislative associate for Texas Right to Life.

    She said there was a need for Texas to seek this emergency hearing to shut down the non-complying clinics right away. “It is a direct safety measure for the health and safety of Texas women, so we think that sooner is better to implement that,” Horne said.

    Horne said it was exciting to be there, and important for all states, not just Texas.

    “Texas is definitely setting some precedents as far as what states are being allowed to pass, so there is a lot that does hinge on this,” she added.

    This story is part of a partnership that includes Houston Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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    Saeed Jones

    On the edge of a humble, nameless town, a young boy’s father catches him in women’s lingerie. The man rages, beats his son and burns his clothes. All the while, a Nina Simone record spins.

    Poet Saeed Jones tells this story in his poem “Boy in Whalebone Corset,” using its 25 lines to explore themes of gender and masculinity, sex and violence, power, history and memory. These ideas — and the music of Simone — recur throughout Jones’ debut poetry collection, “Prelude to Bruise.” (Listen to Saeed Jones read “Boy in Whalebone Corset” below).

    Crafted over the course of nearly five years, the book narrates the development of a figure referred to as Boy. Initially, Jones says, he was “just writing poems,” first as an MFA student at Rutgers University-Newark, then rising before dawn to squeeze in drafts before teaching his high school classes. He wrote while he traveled — scrawling pages from a beach in Indonesia — and he wrote from the depths of his grief after his mother died unexpectedly.

    “I was very much on my own journey as I was writing about Boy’s,” he says. “The process of both time and just being in a lot of different places and settings in my own life, that really was important to how the book was formed.”

    Boy as a character emerged only partway through this process, serving to unify recurring ideas, voices and experiences. From there, the vague shape of a book began to emerge.

    “You have that very odd morning in which you’re sitting on the floor of your apartment and you have 80 pages of poems printed out,” Jones laughs. “You’re looking and trying to arrange them into some kind of logic.”

    The result of that arrangement is a loosely-chronological coming-of-age story, rooted sometimes in Jones’ own life. Poems, like “Mercy,” see Boy craving his mother, reflecting the period after Jones lost his own. The setting is often Southern, a landscape known intimately by the Memphis-born, Texas-raised, Kentucky-educated poet.

    “Skin Like Brick Dust,” a poem about Boy, a lover and a Harlem dawn, is close to autobiographical. It also critical to the book’s movement, because we “need to see [Boy] become a man, and part of becoming a man is … learning the limitations of sex and of love,” Jones says.

    At the same time, while “Boy in some ways is very similar to me … his life is not my life,” Jones says.

    The book is also “trying to mythologize this coming-of-age story,” refracting experiences and memories of being a young, gay man of color in rural, Southern communities, through sometimes magical, sometimes impossible, scenarios. When Boy leaves home in “Boy At Threshold,” he does so in the arms of the wind, for example, and mythical and biblical allusion pepper other poems.

    “I felt that it didn’t have to be so realistic because so many people are able to pick up on the reality, and so we can kind of focus on the internal life,” Jones says.

    That internal life allows Jones to explore a variety of themes, beginning with the complexity of the very word boy. The word “was a cut diamond with all of these facets,” says Jones. “It alludes to childhood, it alludes to the relationship between boys and men, and fathers and sons. It’s often a racial epithet,” and the word is also used in the context of certain sexual fetishes.

    “Boy was really a character I created so that we could go on a journey and look at all of those facets without the book feeling like a dictionary entry or something,” he says.

    The book’s titular poem, which depicts a moment of sexual humiliation and violence, compounds this word with others that start with B, “turning it and turning it,” says Jones, “and it’s kind of hypnotizing, which I think makes the subject matter all the more disturbing, because it’s kind of jazz-like while it’s kind of describing something that’s really horrible.”

    That horror is the point, says Jones, and created in part by the absence of Boy’s voice.

    “I think often when we talk about brutality and violence … we often hear from the survivors,” says Jones, “but sometimes I think we also need to hear the horror itself.”

    Listen to Saeed Jones read “Prelude to Bruise” from his debut collection of the same name.

    Prelude to Bruise

    In Birmingham, said the burly man—

    Boy, be
    a bootblack.

    Your back, blue-black.
    Your body,                     burning.

    I like my black boys broke, or broken.
    I like to break my black boys in.

    See this burnished
    brown leather belt?
    You see it, boy?

    Are you broke, or broken?
    I’m gonna break your back in.

    Good boy. Begin: bend
    over my boot,

    (or I’ll bend you over my lap–rap rap)

    again, bend. Better,

    butt out, tongue out,
    lean in.

    Now, spit-shine.

    My boot, black.
    Your back, blue-black.

    Good boy.
    Black boy, blue-black boy.
    Bad boy–rap rap.

    You’ve been broken in.
    Begin again, bend.

    The related language of sex and violence can be dehumanizing, and shows how isolating sexual experiences can be, Jones says. “Often shame and isolation are an unfortunate part of our experience of experiencing sex, because we don’t feel comfortable talking about it, so we often find ourselves in risky situations where the dynamic may turn out to be totally awful.”

    Jones returns to the idea of isolation despite intimacy in other poems, such as “Body & Kentucky Bourbon,” another semi-autobiographical piece. It reads like a candid conversation with a partner, and Jones says he was trying to express to a college boyfriend that which was left unsaid during their relationship.

    “What is literally more intimate than sex? You’re physically against another human body,” Jones says. “And yet at the same time, there is an internal life, and there’s a past that we don’t always have access to.”

    None of us are uniquely traveling down life’s path, Jones realized, perhaps obviously, “but I do think when you are struggling yourself and just trying to survive, really, you can often forget that you are also alongside other people who are struggling and trying to figure their lives out as well.”

    Writing out Boy’s story for “Prelude to Bruise” did not merely humanize one character. By fleshing out the figures alongside and around Boy — his parents, his partners, his adversaries — Jones crystallized his own poetic coming-of-age.

    Listen to Saeed Jones read “Boy in a Whalebone Corset” from his debut collection, “Prelude to Bruise.”

    Boy in a Whalebone Corset

    The acre of grass is a sleeping
    swarm of locusts, and in the house
    beside it, tears too are mistaken.
    thin streams of kerosene
    when night throws itself against
    the wall, when Nina Simone sings
    in the next room without her body
    and I’m against the wall, bruised
    but out of mine: dream-headed
    with my corset still on, stays
    slightly less tight, bones against
    bones, broken glass on the floor,
    dance steps for a waltz
    with no partner. Father in my room
    looking for more sissy clothes
    to burn. Something pink in his fist,
    negligee, lace, fishnet, whore.
    His son’s a whore this last night
    of Sodom. And the record skips
    and skips and skips. Corset still on,
    nothing else, I’m at the window;
    he’s in the field, gasoline jug,
    hand full of matches, night made
    of locusts, column of smoke
    mistaken for Old Testament God.

    “Preclude to Bruise” and “Boy in a Whalebone Corset” are reprinted by permission from Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Saeed Jones.

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    File photo of a hotel cleaning staff member by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    File photo of a hotel cleaning staff member by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    When you stay in a hotel, how much do you tip the maid? Have you ever forgotten to tip housekeeping altogether?

    In its gratuity guide, the American Hotel and Lodging Association recommends leaving between $1 and $5 per night. Tips should be left daily rather than at checkout, to ensure the person cleaning the room each day receives the money. Money should be left in a marked envelope, or with a note.

    If this seems like a lot to remember, not to worry — Marriott International is going to remind you. The company announced Monday that it will be partnering with A Woman’s Nation, a nonprofit organization founded by journalist and activist Maria Shriver, in a new initiative called “The Envelope Please.” Beginning this week, envelopes will be placed in rooms at participating Marriott hotels across the United States and Canada, encouraging guests to leave a gratuity for the housekeeping staff each night.

    In a press release, Maria Shriver said room attendants “are often forgotten when it comes to tipping, unlike other front-of-house employ­ees, since most travelers don’t see them face-to-face.” She said she hopes the new initiative will make these employees, many of whom are women, “feel seen and validated.”

    The press release made no mention of how the initiative will impact, and potentially supplement, room attendants’ wages. The mean hourly wage for maids and housekeeping cleaners in the travel accommodation industry is listed as $10.48 in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2013 Occupational Employment Statistics.

    A room attendant working at one of Marriott’s high-profile urban locations might make a higher hourly wage. John Boardman, executive secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 25, which represents workers at more than 30 Washington, D.C.-area hotels, including several that are owned by Marriott, told the Washington Post that under the union’s current contract housekeepers are paid an hourly wage of $18.30. They receive raises every six-months, and will be making $20.35 per hour by the time the contract runs out in 2017. However, the Post also reported that less than 10 percent of the company’s workforce is unionized, according the Marriott president and chief executive Arne Sorenson.

    What do you think of “The Envelope Please” initiative? Do you leave a tip for the maid when you travel, and if so how much? Would you like to see more hotels remind guests to tip the housekeeping staff, or do you believe it is the industry’s responsibility to ensure workers are duly compensated? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter using the hashtag #NewsHourAsks.

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    WASHINGTON — The State Department says it’s reopening the U.S. Embassy in the Central African Republic.

    The U.S. evacuated the facility in Bangui, suspended operations and urged Americans to leave in December 2012 because of sectarian violence that left thousands of people dead.

    The U.N. has stationed peacekeepers in the country, and Secretary of State John Kerry said in statement Monday progress has been made at putting the nation on “a path toward peace and stability.”

    Kerry says the U.S. is giving the Central African Republic an additional $28 million in humanitarian aid, bringing the U.S. total to $145 million this year. Kerry made the announcement in Paris where he’s participating in an international conference on finding a strategy to combat Islamic State militants.

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    Hari Sreenivasan spoke with gaming specialist Stephen Totilo about the significance of the Microsoft-Minecraft deal on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    Microsoft Corp. confirmed Monday that it has agreed to purchase Mojang, the company behind the popular video game “Minecraft”, for $2.5 billion. The acquisition, which is due to close later this year, could help strengthen Microsoft’s Xbox and mobile businesses.

    Minecraft, which allows users to construct digital worlds out of Lego-like blocks, attracts fans of all ages across the globe. The game has sold more than 50 million copies and generated more than $100 million in profits since its 2009 launch.

    A statement from Mojang on Monday said the decision to join Microsoft came at the hands of Minecraft creator Markus Persson.

    “Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance,” Mojang said. “Though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never [Mr. Persson’s] intention for it to get this big. … He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance.”

    For Microsoft, this will be the largest deal struck since Satya Nadella started as the company’s CEO in February. And Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets & Co, explained why it’s a good business move for the tech giant:

    “Acquiring the Minecraft game through the Mojang acquisition gives Mr. Nadella & Co. the right product at the right time as the company continues to invest in its Xbox strategy and begins its foray into the intensely competitive mobile-phone space with Nokia now under Microsoft’s hood and the restructuring plan under way,” Ives said.

    The post It’s official: Minecraft game to join Microsoft in $2.5 billion deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In the early 1990s, Xerox wasn’t just a company. “To Xerox” was a verb, reflecting the company’s singular focus on producing copying machines, and the dominance they held over that market. But faced with competition from digital imaging, Xerox has had to change their focus; they’re now in the business of client services. One reason they were able to weather that transition, says Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, is the diversity of their ranks — diversity of opinion, but especially race. In 1991, Paul Solman visited the company’s Rochester, New York, campus to report on what was, at the time, a fairly unique initiative: to recruit and mentor African-Americans within the company — not just to be a good corporate citizen, Burns points out, but because it made good business sense. That’s an initiative that she, herself, as an African-American female benefited from. Watch Paul’s report below.

    But after a time, Burns says, the company woke up to the fact that African-American men were doing well for themselves at Xerox, while women — of all races — were underrepresented. Xerox’s effort to recruit and retain women was their next initiative, and it’s the reason for Paul’s return to Rochester more than 20 years later.

    What Xerox learned, Burns says, is that inclusion initiatives can’t just include one group. That’s why the company has different professional caucus groups for employees of all different demographic persuasions to help the company understand how to be more inclusive.

    But again, this isn’t just a feel-goody initiative whose story is told here to win over sympathetic viewers; it’s a business decision, says Burns, that’s vital to the survival of any company — especially tech companies. Read more about that rationale below in Paul’s extended interview with Burns.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    Xerox CEO Ursula Burns Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images

    Xerox CEO Ursula Burns says that to have a fully engaged, dedicated workforce means that you must also be a good corporate citizen. Photo by Eric Pierpont/AFP/Getty Images

    Paul Solman: Why is gender diversity good for Xerox?

    Ursula Burns: I think it’s good for all companies. Xerox found out a while ago that including more of the resources of the world to attack problems or address opportunities is better than including fewer. Think about it — half of the population is women, and by not including them actively, we start with one foot outside the circle already. They’re in our customer base, they’re in government around the world, so we have to use the resources that we have in the world better.

    Paul Solman: I started off doing this story basically in 1991, and the story then was about racial diversity. There are two ways to look at where that initiative got you. One, you versus Kodak, from 1991. Kodak is gone, and you guys are still in business. The other way to look at it is, you were 22nd, or 20th on the Fortune 500, but you’re now 120th. So did diversity work for you?

    Ursula Burns: There are two parts to the question. One is that if you think back to 1991, and just look at the Fortune whatever-the-heck-it-is, there are probably 25 companies that didn’t even exist in 1991. So part of it is that the world is changing, and technology is driving that change, and it’s good. So our position in the Fortune 500 is not as relevant as a position of success.

    On a different note, which is how do we do better, how does diversification of opinion, thought and background help our company do better? In 1991 we had one business. And it was basically that we reproduced things. We’re a copying machine company. That was 100 percent of our revenues. Technology transformed that business. And competition transformed it, but technology transformed it outside of our industry, very much like how technology transformed Kodak’s business outside of their industry.

    The thing that’s great about Xerox and the reason why — a great example of where diversity helps — is that we could look at the assets that we had, and the business and the industry as fundamentally transforming the printing industry, and try to reapply those and redirect those assets towards a different set of ways to serve our customers. We were able to do that because we had a lot of people not only from within Xerox that had grown up within this pipeline, but people from the outside, women and men, who came in and said, look at the assets that you have, and where could you use them more broadly?

    We are better positioned today at 121 than we were positioned in 1991 at whatever 20-something, for sure. Our business changed, and we were strong enough, fast enough and confident enough to actually reposition the entire company and the brand toward a whole big set of opportunities that are different than they were before.

    I don’t understand Kodak’s business model, so I can’t really speak about that. I do know something, though. We think about things like sustainability, or environmental friendliness. We think about diversity. We think about community engagement. And all these things when they first started, we had to actually build a story that said that they were good for business.

    Paul Solman: Right.

    “One of the things that Xerox found out early is generally, if it’s good for society, it’s generally good for business.”

    Ursula Burns: The reason that we’re doing them is because they were good for business. One of the things that Xerox found out early is generally, if it’s good for society, it’s generally good for business. So you start out with this theory that we’re going to be nice to our neighbors. You’re going to actually run a responsible business on a global basis. And so things like sustainability become part of the value proposition to our customers and to the communities we work in. But also to our employees. So having a fully engaged, very active, dedicated, passionate workforce requires that you engage their whole self when they come into work. You can’t be a bad citizen and get great employees. You can’t be a non-diverse environment and get the one or two women or the one or two African Americans or Hispanics that you need that are great. You have to actually embrace the entire thing to have it work well. And so I think that our position in the world, which is still in the Fortune 500, still in a very, very good position and the leading diversified service company in the world, is based on the fact that we are a good citizen. A good corporate citizen around the world.

    Paul Solman: Well lots of companies aren’t diverse, though, and they’re perfectly successful not doing it.

    Ursula Burns: I actually don’t think there are a lot of people who are long-term successful and not doing it. Particularly tech companies. It is absolutely impossible to continue to stay in front if you continue to narrow your view. The way that you stay in front, particularly if you’re a tech company, is to engage as much difference and as much breadth as you can in thinking and approach and background and language and culture. That gives you little peeks into where some of the big opportunities will be.

    Tech companies, for sure, are at the forefront of diversity and have to be. And if they’re not, I think they will not last for long.

    Paul Solman: That suggests, though, that the diversity emphasis that Xerox was already putting on the business in 1991 might very well explain the fact that you’ve survived as well as you have until now?

    Ursula Burns: I do believe there is some association. And the only reason why I’d argue with the first point between Xerox and Kodak is because I don’t know about Kodak. But if you speak about Xerox, for sure. We have a broad range of thought, of approach, a high amount of dissention — positive dissention — that gets to the best overall conclusion in our company. [We have] not only difference in gender, and obviously difference in racial background, but religious approach and sexual orientation. And it is fairly natural for us. I can’t tell you that that group, or that group, or that group thinks differently than any other group. I know that around my leadership table, where we have women, we have lots of Europeans, we have Koreans, we have me — a city person — and a country person. If they were all African American females from New York City, that’s me – African American female engineer from New York City — the conversation would be easy. We could use a lot of shortcut language, and be less obvious in our communications …

    Paul Solman: And you would trust each other implicitly.

    Ursula Burns: And we would trust each other implicitly, and therefore, take a lot for granted, right? And your perspective would be excluding a lot of perspectives. So we would feel great in the room, saying, “Yeah, that was a really efficient meeting, we got it all wrapped up.” But when we walk out, and our clients are different, our workforce is different, that wouldn’t be a good business model, right?

    We have 6.5 to 7 billion people in the world. Half of them are women. We’re just not going to deal with those women; we’re actually going to leave that half out. We’re going to just deal with the 3.5 billion that are men. And then, by the way, we’re going to take 10 percent off because they’re African American, or 20 percent off or whatever the number is. And then we’re going to take another 30 percent off because they’re Hispanic. If we keep this going, we’ll have five people who can actually run any company in the world. That’s not a good use of resources that we have. And that’s why we have to be focusing on how do we include more, not how do we exclude more?

    Shifting Attention from African-American Men to Women

    Paul Solman: So you want men in there?

    Ursula Burns: Yeah, men are useful. They’re more than useful. By the way, they hold a lot of the history that’s really important for the future. So we even want older men in there because they actually help us [see] where we have been so that we don’t repeat ourselves.

    We want men, we want women, we want older people, we want younger people, we want anyone who can actually add value. And one of the challenges, whenever we focus on just one group, it becomes “the group,” so we’re going to actually manage that group. African American males at Xerox in the early ’90s was “the group” – primarily because there were more of them running through the educational system in the areas that were interesting to Xerox – technology and selling.

    So we looked up one day and all the African American men were doing better — they were leaders of the company – and there were very few women, of any race. So we said, oh my God, we need to do something about women. What we’ve learned during that time is this idea of inclusion can’t be inclusion of one group. Because as soon as you focus on one group only, then you actually then exclude the other groups. There has to be inclusion on a broader spectrum. It’s very difficult to do because generally the groups are competing against each other in some way. At Xerox, we have a whole system of what we call caucus groups, or affinity groups — we have one for women, we have one for African American women, for Asians, for Hispanics, for Hispanic women, for gays and lesbians, all kinds. And you would think all these little groups would be destructive, right?

    Paul Solman: Mmm, hmm

    Ursula Burns: It’s actually just the opposite. They’re helpful to each other. So in your own affinity group, you find your level of comfort because you have people who are like you. So this goes back to if I had all my team being African American women; it would be really cool and easy conversation. But also, we find them working together to actually speak about what the common issues are, and that helps the company. Because we try to include everybody, we may be having some structural issues that get in the way. So these affinity groups are very useful in driving diversity into the company. They help themselves and they help the company to understand how we can be more inclusive.

    What About the Men?

    Paul Solman: When you hear about the effort to promote women and you look at the fact that more than half of undergraduates and graduate students are women, you’d think that the future is going to be dominated by women. So being protective of my own gender, I wonder, aren’t men going to be the people that we’re going to need to try to include?

    “It’s just a fair run to the games. So the men are going to have to deal with that.”

    Ursula Burns: [There are] two things that have to happen for this not to be a race. One is that the entire approach here is not to have diversity just because we think it’s a nice thing to do. It’s a good business result. A good business is a growing business.

    By the way, if that were the case [that women dominate in the future], it’s fair, right? In the past, it was not fair. The barriers for women were structural; they were defined by law, as were the barriers for African Americans. So now we remove those, and it’s just a fair run to the games. So the men are going to have to deal with that.

    Second, I don’t think that we are necessarily maximizing our output as a nation or as a world — we have problems in health, we have problems in portable water, we have problems in transportation – you name it. So we don’t have to worry that every job that we make for a woman is going to take away a job from a man. That’s not the discussion here.

    When you walk into the world, there are more challenges than we have people skilled to attack those problems. We have to have businesses be more successful, and governments be more successful, so that we can have good minds approach this, and not run after the one flipping hamburger job. We’re at a point where, unfortunately, in America, I think, and around the world, we’re going through a little bit of contraction where jobs are fewer. But it shouldn’t be that way. We have to operate to address some of the biggest problems we have, and to approach them in an efficient way, and then more people will work, not less.

    Paul Solman: Are there any examples where, in a meeting of yours, a man added something that only a man can add, from the diversity point of view?

    Ursula Burns: A lot of it is about how we work. How we market product is a really big deal, and men or women of a certain class or diversity grouping will absolutely make points that we totally miss because we’re not included in their group. There are lots of slangs and urban vernaculars that [affect] what you call things, too.

    This never walked out the door at Xerox, thank God, because we had someone in the room who actually caught it. But we will call things certain names that mean something very specifically in a culture, unknowing that we’re insulting half the world, or half the Hispanic world, by saying these words, and they do get out occasionally. And there have been some pretty significant examples of where it did leak out.

    Paul Solman: I remember there was a detergent once that almost came out that was called “Dreck,” which means something bad in German. Do you have a specific example?

    Ursula Burns: Not one that I will give you! (laughter) The reason why we’re happy about it is because it never got out.

    Work practice is another one that’s pretty important. It’s interesting how when you look at success in a company, particularly a technology company like ours, you have to march your way through certain jobs to actually be successful. For instance, one of the places you should have spent some time [in order to move up] was in manufacturing because, at the end of the day, that was where all these great thoughts were put together and put out.

    But manufacturing is a very scheduled operation, generally. Without it, we couldn’t get what we call plant managers. It’s a really important job that [sets you up] to become a big product manager. We have very few women plant managers. And one of the reasons why, it turns out, is that you have to actually work the shifts in manufacturing. You have to be there from 9, or 8 to 5. And women often at that time needed a little bit more flexibility in their work to be able to take care of the broader set of responsibilities that they had. Not only children, but sometimes parents at home, or other engagements.

    We would put women plant managers in and they would bomb out – primarily because we had zero flexibility. We had no idea that this was a big problem, until they told us. But it turns out that it wasn’t only women who needed this, it was also young men, or men who were responsible for children or for aging parents.

    We now have a lot of structure that allows more inclusion of people into the workforce that have different home lives than they did before. These things we would have never, ever figured out until a woman in there said, “We’re not dumb in manufacturing; we need a lot more flexibility than you’re allowing us to have.” And we now have more than a few women plant managers and Hispanic plant managers.

    Too Good to Be True?

    Paul Solman: You know, so much of this can sound so goody-goody, PBS-y… Do you have any other examples?

    Ursula Burns: I actually want to appeal to the intellect of the world, to the intellect of the United States. It is goody-goody, it does sound great. Okay. And it’s hard to actually pin down why good is good. I can tell you, when you see bad, you know it immediately, right? So I’m not going to actually try to sell the PBS audience on why this is good. I will tell you why it’s bad. The world is big. We have a lot of problems, and if [we exclude people] in America, we are going to fall behind.

    Paul Solman: When people talk about China as a rival to the United States – if it’s true that smart people drive an economy — then they have four or five times as many smart people. So are you saying, we’d better get as many of our smart people in order to stay in the game?

    Ursula Burns: They’re bigger than we are. That’s a fact. We’re not going to ever get to the point where we’re as big as China. All I want is for every single of our resources to be engaged. It has to become a world of cooperation. We have to hope that they’re better because we know that the 300 million people that we have in America can’t save the world. We can contribute to helping other people save the world, but we can’t do it all ourselves. If we’re all raising our standards and our participation level, the world will be a better place. This is not a competition – just like men and women. This isn’t a competition to the last crumb. We’re talking about creating a whole bunch more crumbs, so we can all compete in the world.

    Speaking Personally

    Paul Solman: Did the racial diversity initiative at Xerox in the ‘80s, ‘90s benefit you personally?

    Ursula Burns: Absolutely it did. No doubt about it. I am where I am not only because I worked hard and was smart, but because I had opportunities first created by a group of African American men who understood they had to broaden their scope even to include women, in particular African American women.

    It helped me by having a support structure. It also helped because I was noticed. It’s really an interesting thing — I say this a lot to women engineers — because they are fewer of us. So when there are fewer of you sitting in a room of 50 engineers, and there’s only one African-American female engineer, guess what? They know that you’re there.

    Paul Solman: The most affecting scene we had in that 1991 piece was a woman being mentored by a man, both African American, and him saying to her, yes, there aren’t a lot of African-American eligible men in Rochester, I understand why you go to New York City, but you might be able to do some important networking if you stayed in town some weekends. That ever happen to you, anything like that?

    Ursula Burns: A whole lot. Not just the mentoring, but the reality of being an African-American woman in Rochester without a mate. Without a husband of any shade, it didn’t matter, was a difficult situation. And one of the things that has happened in that community, not driven by me but by the fact that Xerox was getting bigger, that you know companies were investing there, was that we had a lot more diverse, eligible younger men in town, and that made it easier to attract more people.

    We had learned this from Corning Corporation in Corning, New York. They were talking about just literally having a barber in town that could cut African-American males’ hair; it didn’t really exist there, so literally they would have to go to some other town, New York, to get their hair cut, which is a little bit insane. So putting in place these little infrastructures that allowed more natural life to exist in the way that an African-American person would actually engage was helpful to increasing diversity.

    Ongoing Challenges

    Ursula Burns: The place where the company still struggles is childcare. Families need options for childcare, and that’s where the entire world, the entire United States, has evolved to a point where we have socially devised solutions to these problems that allow women to actually engage more, and that helps us all in this inclusion journey that we’re on.

    The post How Xerox became a leader in diversity — and why that’s good for business appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A voter leaves a polling station in Peebles, Scotland on Thursday, the day of the independence referendum. After months of campaigning, the people of Scotland got to decide the fate of their homeland. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    Jock Robertson, 81, said “I have waited all my life for this vote” outside of a polling station in Peebles, Scotland. After months of campaigning, the people of Scotland got to decide the fate of their homeland. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    After two years of intense campaigning, it all came down to this on Thursday: a “yes” or “no” vote on whether Scotland should become an independent state.

    If the referendum passes, Scotland will become independent for the first time in more than 300 years. Scotland was sovereign prior to 1707, but the parliaments of England and Scotland at that time voted to unify and become the Kingdom of Great Britain.

    Vote tallies will trickle in throughout the night, and by the time Scots eat their breakfast on Friday, they’ll know the final results.

    A day before the Scotland’s vote for independence, it was still unclear whether 4 million projected voters will decide to stay with the United Kingdom or break the union.

    “We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s just a yes and a no on the ballot. It’s not a vote for any political party. It’s a simple question,” said Greg Russell, a freelance broadcaster and journalist based in the capital Edinburgh.

    A dog wearing a pro-independence "yes" bandana is walked on a street in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday. Scots began voting at 7 a.m. on whether to become an independent country. Photo by Ian MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images

    A dog wearing a pro-independence “yes” bandana is walked on a street in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday. Scots began voting at 7 a.m. on whether to become an independent country. Photo by Ian MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images

    Russell visited polling stations throughout the day, and saw just a portion of the 4 million eligible voters.

    A woman in her 20s was baffled by the economic arguments, he said, but she felt that decisions made in London were far too removed from the people of Scotland, so she voted yes.

    A man in his 70s was concerned about uncertainty over the currency and pensions. “He wanted to make sure he and his wife would be looked after in their old age and would have the money coming in that they expected,” so he voted no, said Russell.

    A woman he spoke with from the Highlands region, a “hotbed of nationalist support,” said she was voting yes for historical reasons. “We’d been waiting a long time for this and we deserve it,” she told him.

    Some were voting for the first time. The eligible age to vote was lowered to 16 from 18. Russell said he heard two teenage girls talking about Scotland’s GDP. “It’s just been amazing,” he said.

    High schools hosted politicians on both sides to help inform their students, and the students held referendum debates. “It really has engaged the younger voters,” and likely will influence their thinking about politics for years to come, Russell said.

    If the vote goes for independence, nothing will change right away. There will be 18 months of negotiations, such as over the currency Scotland will use, before final independence. If there is a no vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to increase the powers of the Scottish government. But misgivings within his own party make that less of a done deal, said Russell. “He could have a back-bench rebellion on his hands.”

    But for now, Scots will have to wait and see how a majority of their countrymen have voted.

    “Tomorrow, those of us who will be lucky enough to sleep (tonight) will wake up to find out we’re either about to become an independent country or we’re staying within the union,” he said. As one politician put it at a rally, it’s the “choice of their lifetime.”

    Related Resources: To learn more about the Scottish referendum, you can read our backgrounder or watch this tongue-in-cheek take from “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”:

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    A firefighter monitors the King Fire as it burns through brush on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    A firefighter monitors the King Fire as it burns through brush on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Updated 1:42 p.m. EDT

    News10 in Sacramento is reporting that authorities have charged 37-year-old Wayne Allen Huntsman with “deliberately setting” the King Fire. Huntsman is currently being held on a $10 million bail in the El Dorado County Jail.

    As 10 major wildfires rage across regions of drought-stricken California, firefighters are rushing to contain a fire threatening more than 2,000 homes and 1,505 smaller structures in and around the Northern California town of Pollock Pines on Thursday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    Dubbed the King Fire, the blaze grew considerably overnightfrom covering 18,544 acres Wednesday to more than 70,000 by Thursday morning. It is now 5 percent contained, according to Cal Fire officials.

    More than 3,000 firefighters are struggling against the wildfire amid windy conditions and one of the most severe droughts in California’s history.

    “With the winds that we’re starting to see and we’ll see over the next couple of days as storm system moves in—those gusty winds, these dry conditions—that’s the perfect combination for this fire to grow,” said Daniel Berlant, a Cal Fire spokesman, told KCBS on Wednesday.

    California Governor Jerry Brown declared “a state of emergency for El Dorado and Siskiyou counties” in Northern California on Thursday in light of the growing fires.

    The majority of wildfires currently burning are in the northern and central parts of the state, the Los Angeles Times reported. The largest fire is the Happy Camp Complex fire burning in the Klamath National Forest. That fire has consumed more than 125,000 acres and is now 68 percent contained.

    On Monday, the Boles fire ripped through the small California town of Weed near the Oregon border, destroying 110 homes, two churches and the town library.

    The post UPDATE: Arson suspect charged as California firefighters rush to contain growing King Fire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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