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

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    GWEN IFILL: I went to Ferguson last weekend, and to the Lee Theater at the university of Missouri in Saint Louis, to moderate a PBS town hall on what the conflict there revealed about the town, the region, and the nation. Among other things, it gave people who see events differently a chance to talk to each other, rather than at each other.

    In this excerpt, the point has just been made that young people of color should get more involved in politics. The first speaker is a young man who formed a group called Dream Defenders after Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida two years ago.

    PHILLIP AGNEW, Dream Defenders: One of the last things that Dr. King said before he died was that he feared that he had brought us into a burning building.

    And, so, if you’re getting people elected into a system that by its very nature was meant to cannibalize and kill communities, then you have only done half of the job. And so I think it’s a “yes, and.” We need people that look like us, but black officers — I have had interactions with black officers that were way worse than white officers.

    And, so, it’s not a matter of just having a representative that’s on the city council or in the mayor’s office or on the police force that looks like you. They have got to come from the community, know the issues of the community, and then there’s folks in the community that have got to remind them every day that we pay your bills, and we’re watching every single day to ensure that the platform on which we elected you with is followed, and also defend you when those people that seek to calibrate the system and right the system as it’s been built seek to come at you for that office.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, here’s the thing, Phillip.


    GWEN IFILL: Everybody doesn’t agree with you. Everybody doesn’t see the root of the problem. Ross Kaminsky is one of them. Ross Kaminsky writes for “American Spectator.” And he thinks, in fact, that a lot of folks should be looking at themselves in the mirror.

    ROSS KAMINSKY, “The American Spectator”: I want to be really clear on this, because I agree with what the mayor of Ferguson said, that middle-class white guys like me haven’t lived the African-American life.

    That said, from what we see on the news, from what we read, there seems to be a real dearth of leadership among African-American young men especially in their neighborhoods. And the other thing is, if I could react to what Phillip said, I get the feeling, I understand this feeling of this system isn’t fair, it’s biased against us.

    But then when you start going to this idea 400 years of repression in a system that’s still designed to hurt us and still designed to keep us down, that starts feeling to me like racism against me just because of the color of my skin.

    My parents weren’t here 400 years ago. My family arrived here way after the Civil War. We had nothing to do with it. And I think that a lot of people in the rest of America feel like we’re being blamed for things that we didn’t cause, and, in fact, that we would like to — we would like to help, because we should care.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, for everybody’s who laughing and snickering — no, let me make a point to you.

    Saint Louis — there was a Saint Louis County poll done just last week in which roughly 60 percent of the people said, you know, I think that this is a problem, and those 60 percent of the people were black. And then 60 percent of white people said, I don’t think it’s a problem.

    There is a real, real, true divide, and a lot of people who agree with what Ross Kaminsky said.

    So I want this conversation to take that into account as well, even if you disagree.

    ROSS KAMINSKY: Gwen, can I just say…

    GWEN IFILL: Sure.

    ROSS KAMINSKY: … I’m not saying that I don’t think there’s a problem.

    I think there’s a huge problem, and I think that middle-class white people who don’t live near black neighborhoods should understand that it’s a problem for them too. What I’m saying is that the language, when it starts being turned that — when it — in a way that even just implies “You’re the problem because you’re white” leaves — ends the conversation and removes any chance of a positive conversation.

    GWEN IFILL: Is that what you’re saying, Phil?

    PHILLIP AGNEW: No, absolutely not.

    So I never mentioned black, white or people. I mentioned systems. And so the arrest of Darren Wilson, if it happens, and the conviction of Darren Wilson, if it happens, though the system and the history would tell us that it may not, will not alleviate the problems that are happening here and that are happening around the country.

    This is a — for example, I can sit here with a great amount of empathy and say every day George Zimmerman woke up and saw that black men were evil. Every single day since he was a little kid, he woke up and saw on television, on “Cops,” on the news, on his TV shows and videos that black men were filled with malice and had criminal intent in every movement that they made.

    And so, with a great amount of empathy, I could say that he may not be to blame for a very subliminal reaction to what he did when he saw a black man in a hoodie, right? I’m not mad so much at George Zimmerman. I’m mad at a system every day that stakes its claim on saying that there’s a certain segment of society that is a criminal element.

    If I woke up every day, which I do, and they told me that lions were evil, if I saw a lion in here, and you told me that lion wasn’t going to eat me, I wouldn’t believe you.

    GWEN IFILL: Final…

    ROSS KAMINSKY: But George Zimmerman, on the other hand, as I recall, was a big brother to a young black boy. And I don’t think there’s any evidence to show that he had this pervasive kind of approach that you’re talking about.

    PHILLIP AGNEW: I think we can’t say it, but we can say the evidence does show that the images that are put forth of people that look like me, that have tattoos like me, that speak like me and come from where I come from scared the crap out of him every single day.

    And, no, he may have been a big brother. He may have been a great person with a spotless record, though we know he doesn’t, but the society that we live in — and that is my issue. Our goal with Dream Defenders is to be a catalyst for change in how we are represented in this society.

    GWEN IFILL: I’m going to let you say one more thing. Then I have got to move on.

    ROSS KAMINSKY: Again, I think that we’re not going to have progress on this until we really can have a conversation, and the language that needs to be used in the conversation needs to be language that isn’t just pointing fingers at each other as long as we believe we’re all people of goodwill.

    GWEN IFILL: That conversation, “America After Ferguson,” airs on most PBS stations this evening. Check your local listings. Hari Sreenivasan will be live-tweeting with you throughout. Just use the hashtag #AfterFergusonPBS.

    The post Discussing division and race ‘After Ferguson’ – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: We return our attention now to Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager was killed last month by a white police officer, sparking protests and continuing unrest, up to and including last night.

    It started Tuesday night with gunshots and looting, after fire destroyed an impromptu shrine to Michael Brown. Then, yesterday, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson issued a video apology to the Brown family, nearly six weeks after the shooting.

    THOMAS JACKSON, Chief, Ferguson Police Department: I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street. The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.

    GWEN IFILL: Last night, Jackson emerged, in civilian clothes, and marched with protesters. But a fight broke out, and, in the end, seven people were arrested, all of this, as a grand jury continues investigating Brown’s death.

    Saint Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said this week the panel should finish by early November.

    The post Ferguson police chief sparks new unrest after apology to Brown family – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Five days of U.S. and Arab airstrikes in Syria have done serious damage to Islamic State forces, that word today from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey. He said the militant’s command-and-control and logistics are now disrupted. Dempsey also said, with enough manpower, Western-backed rebels in Syria could finish off Islamic State, or ISIL.

    GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: There has to be a ground component to the campaign against ISIL in Syria, and we believe that the path to develop that is the Syrian moderate opposition; 5,000 has never been the end state. There’s — we have had estimates anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 is what we believe they would need to recapture lost territory in Eastern Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Islamic State forces were able to press their offensive to seize the town of Kobani, near the Syrian/Turkish border. Kurdish fighters have been struggling to hold that area.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State forces won new support today. The British House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to join the air campaign in Iraq, but not in Syria.

    We get a report from Gary Gibbon of Independent Television News.

    GARY GIBBON: The RAF is now expected to join the attacks over the weekend, but only on targets inside Iraq.

    David Cameron told M.P.s the Islamic State forces were a threat Britain could not ignore.

    DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member with a declared and proven determination to attack our country and our people. This is not the stuff of fantasy. It is happening in front of us, and we need to face up to it.

    ED MILIBAND, Leader, Labour Party: This is multilateral action prompted by a legitimate democratic state. And a world order governed by rules, if it is about anything, must be about protecting a democratic state, which is what this motion before us is about. I believe, although this is difficult, it is the right thing to do.

    GARY GIBBON: After negotiations with the coalition behind the scenes, the Labor leader, Ed Miliband, brought the vast bulk of his party on side. But a vocal minority of M.P.s challenged the prime minister that, even this limited action proposed today, he was at risk of repeating the mistakes of the past.

    DAVID WINNICK, Member of Parliament, Labour Party: ISIS indeed are made up of murderous psychopaths. That’s not the issue. We know that. Iraq, Afghanistan and this government Libya, none are success stories. Are we going to embark on action that could last for years?

    DAVID CAMERON: The fact is this is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill us, and we do have to realize that whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us. There isn’t a walk-on-by option. There isn’t an option of just hoping this will go away.

    GARY GIBBON: Six RAF Tornado jets based in Cyprus are expected to be involved in a short burst of attacks in Iraq potentially followed by more in the weeks to come — U.S. jets yesterday heading for Syria and Iraq.

    Labor and the coalition agree with the U.S. that combat troops should not be deployed. Ed Miliband, though, said he worried that while the Iraq army would try to occupy the vacuum left after attacks on Islamic State forces in Iraq, in Syria, no one knew who would benefit.

    ED MILIBAND: And in the case of Iraq, it is the Iraq army and the Kurds who can conduct those operations. There’s — I put it no higher than this — there is an outstanding question about who will perform that function in Syria.

    GARY GIBBON: One minister said that, over time, the British public would be won over to the idea of attacking Syrian targets. The truth is no one truly knows what military efforts will be needed, how much time it will take to defeat this very unconventional enemy.

    GWEN IFILL: Belgium and Denmark also approved contributions to the airstrikes in Iraq. Belgium will send six fighter jets, the Danes seven.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The State Department is telling Americans to leave Yemen amid fears of all-out civil war. The announcement today also says the U.S. diplomatic staff in the country will be reduced. Shiite rebels have been battling Sunni militias for control of the capital. The pro-American government is caught in between.

    GWEN IFILL: In Afghanistan, security officials warned that hundreds of Taliban fighters are close to capturing a key district and could use it as a base to attack Kabul. Scores of people have died in the fighting in part of Ghazni province. That’s just 60 miles from the capital city. Police say the militants have beheaded at least a dozen people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Russian government moved today to take over another major oil company. A court in Moscow approved seizing the majority interest owned by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov. He has been under house arrest for 10 days, accused of acquiring the company illegally. The case echoes the seizure of the giant Yukos oil firm a decade ago.

    GWEN IFILL: Flights in and out of Chicago’s two airports were stopped for nearly five hours today because of a fire. The resulting delays and cancellations rippled across the nation’s midsection. The blaze broke out at an air traffic control center in the suburbs of Chicago. Police say it was set by a worker who then stabbed himself.

    GREG THOMAS, Chief, Aurora Police Department: We located a male suffering from non-gun-related self-inflected wounds. We evacuated about 15 to 30 people from the building, extinguished the fire. There was no explosion. But we are being cautious and that’s why you’re seeing a lot of equipment come in.

    GWEN IFILL: Authorities have ruled out terrorism as a factor in the fire.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: About 70 percent of the migrants caught at the Mexican border this summer have now vanished into the U.S. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged as much in a private meeting this week. The migrants were released, and told to report to federal immigration agents within 15 days. As many as 41,000 never did.

    GWEN IFILL: In economic news, growth hit an annual rate of 4.6 percent in the spring, the best in more than two years. That news helped Wall Street bounce back today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 167 points to close at 17,113; the Nasdaq rose 45 points to close at 4,512; and the S&P 500 added almost 17 points, to finish near 1,983. But, for the week, the Dow lost 1 percent. The Nasdaq and S&P were down about 1.5 percent.

    The post News Wrap: UK will join airstrikes on Islamic State in Iraq, not Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo of the New York Federal Reserve Bank by Flickr user marioyang.

    Photo of the New York Federal Reserve Bank by Flickr user marioyang.

    The hottest story in economics today debuted on both NPR’s This American Life and ProPublica. Many of you will hear it on Ira Glass’ show this weekend, but it’s already up online. It concerns secret tape recordings — never good for people in power.

    They are actual audio from inside private meetings of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, charged with supervising Wall Street. As Michael Lewis writes for Bloomberg View Friday, “The Ray Rice video for the financial sector has arrived.”

    In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, lawmakers wanted answers: why hadn’t the Fed seen the crisis coming? And they wanted reform. As ProPublica journalist Jake Bernstein reports, New York Fed president William Dudley needed an outside appraisal. He gave Columbia University finance professor David Beim unlimited access to the Fed to investigate. Beim’s 2009 report foreshadowed many of the revelations about the Fed’s regulatory culture that are causing a stir today.

    As Bernstein writes, “The New York Fed had become too risk-averse and deferential to the banks it supervised. Its examiners feared contradicting bosses, who too often forced their findings into an institutional consensus that watered down much of what they did.”

    Beim recommended that the Fed hire expert examiners to go inside the too-big-to-fail banks. In October 20011, they embedded Ivy League-educated lawyer Carmen Segarra at Goldman Sachs.

    But when she sensed that the Fed had little interest in an arms-length regulatory role, and she ran the risk of becoming a perhaps troublesome gadfly, she bought a miniature tape recorder to protect herself. That’s where the tapes come from.

    Through the release of those recordings on this weekend’s edition of This American Life, the public, too, is getting a front row seat to one of the most powerful regulatory institutions in the world.

    Segarra’s actions were spurred by her own experiences of trying to speak out, but repeatedly being silenced by her own bosses, about Goldman Sachs’ shady dealings. The Fed fired her — and they didn’t even know about the tapes.

    Bernstein, writing in ProPublica:

    Segarra became a polarizing personality inside the New York Fed — and a problem for her bosses — in part because she was too outspoken and direct about the issues she saw at both Goldman and the Fed. Some colleagues found her abrasive and complained. Her unwillingness to conform set her on a collision course with higher-ups at the New York Fed and, ultimately, led to her undoing.

    In a tense, 40-minute meeting recorded the week before she was fired, Segarra’s boss repeatedly tries to persuade her to change her conclusion that Goldman was missing a policy to handle conflicts of interest.

    This American Life plays Segarra’s whole exchange with Fed employee Michael Silva, which Bernstein narrates:

    Mike Silva: Why do we have to say they don’t have a policy? They have one. We can say it’s a miserable one.

    Jake Bernstein: Silva and Carmen went back and forth. Finally, after more than thirty minutes of this, Silva asks one last time:

    Mike Silva: Can you tell me again why do you have to say there’s no policy?

    Jake Bernstein: Can you tell me again why do you have to say there’s not a policy? Why can’t you just say there was a very poor policy? Carmen says she was desperate to get out of that office. She relented.

    Carmen Segarra: Ok, I can work with you on that. I hear your plea, I hear your plea. I can say it’s a poor policy.

    Jake Bernstein: “Ok, I can work with you on that,” she says. “I hear your plea. I hear your plea. I can say it’s a poor policy.” Only she doesn’t stop there. She can’t help herself.

    Carmen Segarra: Between you and me and these four walls…

    Jake Bernstein: “Between you and me and these four walls,” she says…

    Carmen Segarra: No way, no way this is a policy.

    Jake Bernstein: “No way, no way this is a policy.”

    Carmen Segarra: I will work with you. I will say they have a very poor policy, ok, but professionally I cannot agree.

    Bernstein, again, in ProPublica:

    The New York Fed disputes Segarra’s claim that she was fired in retaliation.
    “The decision to terminate Ms. Segarra’s employment with the New York Fed was based entirely on performance grounds, not because she raised concerns as a member of any examination team about any institution,” it said in a two-page statement responding to an extensive list of questions from ProPublica and This American Life.

    But as Ira Glass says on This American Life, we’re not interested “in the he-said-she-said of all that but in what her secret recordings show us about how the Fed works.” Or more precisely, what the Fed says when it doesn’t think the rest of are listening.

    Be sure to watch Making Sen$e’s segments about Goldman Sachs, which are among our most popular YouTube hits.

    The post The Ray Rice video last week; today, the ear-opening audio from inside the Fed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    The vicious primary between state senator Chris McDaniel and veteran Sen. Thad Cochran demonstrates that tea party divisions persist in the Republican party. And the race still isn’t over, with weeks to go before the general election.

    Three months ago, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran shocked the political world by winning a Republican primary runoff against his tea party challenger, McDaniel.

    His narrow victory came after political observers expected McDaniel to prevail. That the state senator nearly defeated Cochran, who has been a U.S. senator since the late 1970s, was a reminder to the Republican establishment that the populist tea party movement can still move elections.

    But the story isn’t over. The McDaniel campaign is challenging the results of the runoff, claiming that fraud contributed to Cochran’s narrow victory. As the court challenge winds through the Mississippi judicial process, Republicans in the state are still divided over the two choices, and the general election is just days away.

    The NewsHour, in collaboration with Mississippi Public Broadcasting, recently interviewed a cast of players involved in this political drama.

    MPB reporter Jeffrey Hess unpacks the narrative in this video report.

    The post Tea party challenger in Mississippi Senate race not going down easy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Click the play button in the player above to watch American Graduate Day stream live.

    What does it take to ensure a child succeeds in school and makes it to high school graduation?  There may be as many answers to the question as there are students.

    On Saturday, PBS is dedicating the day to telling the stories of local leaders, teachers, students and others who are finding those answers in schools across the country everyday.

    One of those local leaders is Samir Madden, a University of Arizona student who is also president of the International Child Amputee Network.

    An amputee himself, Madden tells other kids who might face bullying and isolation, “You’re different, but that’s OK. It’s great that you’re different because you’re contributing.”

    In the tiny town of Cody, Nebraska, community members came up with an unorthodox solution to draw more students into their schools. A student-built grocery store that helps attract and keep families in town.

    Check your local PBS listings for Saturday’s American Graduate Day programming, hosted by PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan. Or, check back on this blog post during the day for a live stream of the seven-hour broadcast.

    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happena public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Watch LIVE: American Graduate Day 2014 to highlight efforts to boost graduation rates appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Barack Obama spoke about the Ebola crisis at the United Nations on Sept. 25, 2014. On Sept. 26, 2014, Obama signed a memo protecting Liberian immigrants without visas living in the U.S. from deportation during the Ebola crisis. Credit: Screen image by PBS NewsHour

    President Barack Obama spoke about the Ebola crisis at the United Nations on Sept. 25, 2014. On Sept. 26, 2014, Obama signed a memo protecting Liberian immigrants living in the U.S. without visas from deportation during the Ebola crisis. Credit: NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — Liberian immigrants living in the United States without a visa won’t be sent back to the epicenter of Ebola crisis in West Africa for at least another two years, the Obama administration said Friday.

    President Barack Obama signed a memo extending a legal protection called “deferred enforced departure” that continues a protection from deportation that has been in place for more than a decade.

    The government first granted Liberians temporary protective status during that country’s bloody civil war, which started in 1991 and ended in 2003.

    That original protection expired in October 2007. President George W. Bush then approved deferred enforced departure for the community.

    Obama later approved the same protection and Friday renewed it again for two more years.

    Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., applauded the decision, which he says protects immigrants with long-standing ties to the United States.

    Reed has introduced legislation that would grant permanent residence to many Liberians now living in the U.S.

    The post Amid Ebola crisis, Liberian immigrants allowed to stay in U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    ALISON STEWART: Jaylon Jenkins just started second grade. And every day after school he does homework with his aunt and guardian Antonia Williams.

    ANTONIA WILLIAMS: Remember, we talked about the tenses, from ride to…


    ANTONIA WILLIAMS: I’m not a tyrant. When he first comes home I normally have– let him have a 20-minute break. He gets a snack.

    You want apple?

    And then we start his homework. I’ll give him a break in between because it’s a lot for a second grader– to retain and to comprehend, so this is our– this is our daily schedule.

    ALISON STEWART: A schedule that already includes an extra hour of reading, and only reading for Jaylon and for every other student at his school: Phillis Wheatley Elementary School in Apopka, Florida, just northwest of Orlando in Orange County.

    Antonia, what did you think when you first heard that Jaylon’s school was going to require one extra hour of reading?

    ANTONIA WILLIAMS:I was like, “Yes.”


    ANTONIA WILLIAMS: I was, like, “Yes.” I mean, what else would a child be doing that hour after school, you know? Yes, it would be a longer day and I was concerned about him being focused and staying on task for such a long time. But he’s in a structured environment. You know, it’s not like they’re on the playground for an extra hour. They’re reading.

    ALISON STEWART: Has he asked you why he stays an extra hour?

    ANTONIA WILLIAMS: I don’t even think he realizes it.

    ALISON STEWART: The extra hour of reading at Wheatley Elementary is not voluntary.

    This school year in Florida, the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools are required to add an hour of reading instruction. A ranking determined by the state’s standardized reading test.

    It is estimated to cost just over $5 million dollars for the 20 traditional public schools required to add the hour in Orange County, the 10th largest school district in the country.

    It’s an expansion of a law passed in 2012 that focused on the 100 lowest-performing schools. And that included Phillis Wheatley Elementary.

    SEAN BROWN: What do you think it is…?

    ALISON STEWART: Sean Brown is the school’s principal.

    SEAN BROWN: Once we hit that last hour of the day it’s strictly reading.

    ALISON STEWART: From fourth graders working on reading comprehension questions…

    STUDENT: We could eliminate underground…

    ALISON STEWART: To 1st graders just learning the basics…

    STUDENTS: They get darker and darker…

    Students, taught by teachers from the school…

    TEACHER: Hare…

    STUDENTS: Hare…

    ALISON STEWART: Read, read. And read some more.

    SEAN BROWN: We want to hone in on the reading skills and then just push the students– academically as much as possible.

    ALISON STEWART: A high-poverty school where all students get free breakfast and lunch, Phillis Wheatley Elementary is in a neighborhood with a high crime rate. And is the type of school administrators think could particularly benefit from the extra reading time.

    Do you think your students need this extra hour?

    SEAN BROWN: Yes. I do.

    ALISON STEWART: Why is that? Is it– is it because they’re so far behind? Is it just not enough time during the day to teach these kids?

    SEAN BROWN: There’s several reasons. I know that with poverty and adding things of that nature, I know that a lot of our students they’re so much further behind a student that has two parents or a student that has a high working-class family.

    So this is the mechanism that will help close that gap between the students that are living in poverty and students that are not living in poverty.

    ALISON STEWART: And principal brown is convinced it works.

    After a year with the bonus hour in 2012, Wheatley saw the percentage of children reading at grade level or above increase by 58%. Across the state nearly three-quarters of the schools with the extra hour showed an increase in students reading at grade level.

    DAVID SIMMONS: The results have turned out to be dramatic

    ALISON STEWART: Republican State Senator David Simmons is the force behind the state law adding the extra hour. The son of two public school teachers, he says he first heard about adding extra time from a principal at a struggling Orlando school.

    DAVID SIMMONS: And– in talking to him he said, “If I just had more time with these children, I could make a big, big difference with them.” And he said, “It’s not that they can’t learn. It’s they don’t have enough time to learn.” But it has to be done right.

    Alison, you can’t have pizza parties during that extra hour. You have to do it at the right time. You have to have dedicated teachers who know what they’re doing. You have to have a school system that is behind it.

    ALISON STEWART: Senator Simmons says expanding the number of schools from 100 to 300 helps ensure schools aren’t penalized by losing the extra hour after their scores improve.

    When you first presented the idea of this additional hour of reading to your colleagues, what kind of questions did they have for you?

    DAVID SIMMONS: The natural questions. And– the important questions. Is it gonna work?

    ALISON STEWART: Make the case for me.

    DAVID SIMMONS: Okay. Certainly. Other nations, industrialized nations, send their children to school, all of their children, significantly longer than we do here on average in the in the United States. We’re talking about– trying to cram a huge amount of information into the minds of these children in a limited amount of time.

    It’s like trying to put 25 pounds of sugar in a 10 pound sack.

    RICK ROACH: Senator Simmons is looking at a piece of fool’s gold and he believes it’s real genuine gold.

    ALISON STEWART: Rick Roach is one of eight elected school board members in Orange County

    A teacher and guidance counselor for 14 years in the county, roach also trained teachers around the country and has served on the school board since 1998. He’s not convinced that the extra mandated time is the solution that it seems.

    RICK ROACH: I don’t think it has true educational value. And I think it could be more helpful if you just take your eyes off of a test score. It doesn’t necessarily mean that that child comes out of there a better reader or has developed a love of reading.

    It simply means they’ve jammed up a raw score on a single measure test.

    ALISON STEWART: And there’s the question: Who gets to decide the best way to help kids learn?

    What was the debate like or the discussion like when it first came up, “Should we have kids read for an extra hour after school?”

    RICK ROACH: Please– I have to laugh at that one. There was no debate on that. There was simply– the command came down from the Hill, “Thou shalt put an extra hour into the school.” There was no debate, the board didn’t discuss that. Local– there was no local feedback into that.

    Not to mention the fact that many people who make these laws never taught one day in a classroom. I wouldn’t for a minute serve on an aviation board or a medical board.

    ALISON STEWART: There are other concerns as well: District officials find out which schools are required to add the extra reading hour just weeks before school starts. Bus schedules have to change and teaching staff secured. Some parents voiced concern over the exhaustion level of kids whose days are pushed an hour later.

    And the reduction of family time. And while kids who scored the highest level on the reading section of the state’s standardized test can opt out. For the most part, everyone is required to stay the extra hour.

    School board member Rick Roach questions whether it really works. He says the numbers that supporters point to only tell part of the story and that similar students without the extra hour of reading also showed improvement over the same time period.

    If something like this happens and it helps anybody, isn’t it worth continuing and trying?

    RICK ROACH: You know, I think few people would disagree with the fact that– we’re going to give kids who– may be low readers extra time to read. But there’s a consequence to that. You may in fact drive up a reading score, but you also lose other– other features as well.

    If they’d gave us some options, that same money would buy seven teachers per school. You could reduce class size. It would have bought 14 paraprofessionals. You could’ve extended the year by 20 days and kept the same number of hours if you let local control come into play for the same money.

    ALISON STEWART: The criticism I’ve heard from a couple of different folks who are involved in education, that they work on the local level. They’re in the schools.

    And the idea that they have to take this money, come up with it and put it just on reading, everybody supports reading but perhaps that’s not what their school needs.

    DAVID SIMMONS: If the vast majority of your students have on our tests, you know, standardized tests, shown that– they cannot read at grade level, then they need reading instruction. That’s a simple fact of life.

    TEACHER: Thumbs up if you remember and you understand.

    ALISON STEWART: And there’s still the issue of funding; who pays for it now and in the future.

    What would it take for this program to be guaranteed funding? Right now it’s year to year to year, if the district can come up with the money.

    DAVID SIMMONS: I can tell you that it is my commitment, now that we are seeing the performance that– that we will in fact dedicate the funding for this in order to get this accomplished.

    SEAN BROWN: In my heart, I knew that if we can keep the students here longer, we can actually make a difference.

    Alright, ya’ll look fabulous.

    ALISON STEWART: Amidst the debate, Principal Sean Brown is committed to keeping the extra hour, and even sought a federal grant to make sure Wheatley can keep that time – whether mandated to, or not,

    And it isn’t lost on anyone that the school is named after Phillis Wheatley. She was brought to America a slave, but became a great writer, the first black woman poet to be published.

    The post Closing the gap: Low-performing Florida grade schools add extra reading time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: How much does extra reading time help? And what are other states doing to improve reading proficiency? For more about this, we’re joined from Washington by Patte Barth. She is the director of The Center for Public Education.

    So, we always hear about this third grade threshold that is really important to try to get a kid up to grade level by third grade, why?

    PATTE BARTH: Well, a lot of research suggest that third grade reading is a threshold year. What some studies say that the likelihood of a third grader who is not reading on the grade level has a likelihood of dropping out that is three or four times greater than a child who is reading on grade level. So there is a lot of stake.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So in addition to the extra hour of the reading time, what are some other states doing? What are some different techniques to try to get kids up to speed?

    PATTE BARTH: Well, the importance of the third grade reading is so high that we have over 30 states that have some kind of policy to intervene, identify and make sure children get the support they need to be on grade level. They do take different forms: about 15 states require that a third grader who is not grade level will be retained.

    Now, that’s a rather controversial policy because there are other research that points to grade retention as a predictor of later dropping out. But in doing so, in making that policy, those states also put pressure on the system to provide early interventions, make sure the kids have the support so that they are on grade level, they are not retained and they can move to fourth grade with their peers.

    Other states require summer school. Some states require after-hours instructions, whether after school or on Saturdays, for students who have been identified as reading. Some have at-home reading programs that they work with parents with.

    So there’s a range of interventions that states are trying to provide for their children to make sure that everybody is on track, reading on grade level and able to succeed in fourth grade and beyond.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, increasing the time spent in reading during the day. Does that work?

    PATTE BARTH: Interesting about time is that does it work? Well, I will give it a qualified yes. It works but it does depend on how that time is used.

    So if you just merely increase the time during the day and do nothing else, you need to know you are going fill that. Is that filled with quality instruction? Is that staffed with qualified people? And something else I always like to caution people about, when you are talking about adding time to the school day of young children, little kids get tired.

    So you need to make sure that they are also getting some recess during the day, that they have snacks and that they’re engaged. When all those pieces are in place, we have seen that it does make a difference.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the sort of cost investment? Obviously, it costs more money to.. and would that money, say, be better spent hiring more teachers or use differently?

    PATTE BARTH: You’re right to point out that it is very costly. Because it does require extra staffing; it requires more time that buildings are open, transportation cost and so forth. So adding time can be one of the most expensive investments that a state or a district makes in their public schools.

    There are other ways to invest that money as you point out. You know, the research on the quality of teachers and instruction is very very compelling about the impact that can have on student learning. Investments in the leadership — the Principal can make a lot of difference, and the quality of the curriculum.

    All of these pieces are ingredients in providing a public education that will make sure all students are succeeding and thrive after high school. How you invest those? There is no magic formula, and that’s one of the benefits we have in this country.

    We don’t have a single system — we have 50 state systems. Within that, we have 14,000 school districts. And so all of them and each of them can take different approaches to this, in putting this recipe together, and they do. When they do that, as researchers, we can learn what is working the best. We can share that information and learn from each other.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright. Patte Barth, the director of The Center for Public Education. Thanks so much for joining us.

    PATTE BARTH: Thank you.

    The post How much does mandatory extra reading time help students? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JEFF GREENFIELD: This is what you’ll see just about any autumn in Kansas: fields of corn that await the harvest, the search for food at a farmer’s market or at Oklahoma Joe’s always crowed barbecue. And this is what you’ll hear: the roar of the crowds and the motorcycles at a Kansas State football game.

    But for all that is familiar in this place, in this season, there is one thing happening here that is almost totally unprecedented. Something so surprising, almost shocking, that it has Republicans from Maine to Hawaii asking, “What’s the matter with Kansas?”

    In what is surely the biggest surprise of the 2014 midterms, both Republican Senator Pat Roberts and Republican Governor Sam Brownback find themselves in serious political peril in this most Republican of states. Two races that were on no one’s radar a few months ago – one of which may decide who controls the United States Senate.

    It’s enough to make an observer like the Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling, who’s covered politics for almost 35 years, to feel as if he’s not in Kansas anymore – where every statewide official and every member of Congress is Republican.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: So if someone had told you up till say eight months ago that you would be seeing the race for both senator and governor develop the way it has, what would you have told them?

    DAVE HELLING: That they’re smoking something that’s legal in Colorado but not in Kansas. Kansas may be, Jeff, one of the most Republican states in the country. So I don’t think anyone a year ago would have thought at any level that either Sam Brownback and certainly Pat Roberts would be in any major trouble. They are.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: For the 78-year-old Roberts, political vulnerability is an unwelcome stranger. First elected to the house 34 years ago, Roberts is finishing his third term in the Senate, continuing a string of GOP victories that stretches back to 1938.

    But Roberts has been hit by the same crosswinds that have buffeted other veteran Republicans: the sense that he’s “gone Washington.” In February, the New York Times revealed that Roberts has no home in Kansas, that he rents out a room in a supporter’s house on a golf course and has rarely been seen back in the state.

    And Roberts is fighting another perception: that he’s too much part of the system, a symbol of the older order, and out of step with Tea Party conservatives, something that may be reflected by how he describes himself.

    PAT ROBERTS: People used to ask me all the time what kind of Republican I was, I’m just a Republican. But I would say probably an Eisenhower Republican. I know Bob Dole. He’s a very dear friend. He just cut an ad for me. So I’m a Bob Dole Republican. But I’m also the 4th most conservative senator in the Senate.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: This August, Roberts narrowly survived a primary against a Tea Party opponent. Until a few weeks ago, Roberts’ best asset may have been the divided opposition. He faced both a Democrat and an Independent.

    Then, Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out of the race, leaving Roberts to face 45-year-old Greg Orman, a businessman and co-founder of a private equity firm with the wealth to fund his own campaign. He also has a past that includes membership in both major political parties, both of which he now disavows.

    GREG ORMAN: Both parties take extreme positions. You know the way Harry Reid is running the Senate, he’s running the Senate like a dictatorship. He’s not allowing compromise, he’s not allowing debate. And we’ve got the same problem in the House with the Republicans so I think both parties are really to blame for the dysfunction that we have in Washington today.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: The race has drawn intense national attention because of simple arithmetic: with Republicans needing six seats to take the Senate, a Roberts loss would make that number much tougher to reach. That, Orman says, would give him a lot of leverage should he be elected.

    Perhaps to capitalize on that, Orman is not saying which party he’d align himself with – or as they say in Washington, caucus.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: It falls upon you Mr. Orman to decide who governs the Senate for the next two years. That’s a decision you will have to make. Are the voters of Kansas entitled to know before they vote for you what that decision is?

    GREG ORMAN: We will caucus with whichever parties will be willing to promote a pro-problem solving nonpartisan agenda. And if they’re not willing to do that then we’re not going to work with them.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: If the Senate race here has national implications, the Governor’s race seems to illustrate an old political adage, that all or at least a lot of politics is local. Governor Brownback’s problem stems not from Democrats but overwhelmingly from Kansas Republicans, who are a special breed.

    The 58-year-old Brownback was elected governor four years ago, after two terms in the U.S. Senate. He brought with him a strongly conservative agenda, both on social issues like abortion and with historically large tax cuts, an experiment Brownback said in supply-side economics. For national Republicans, tax-cuts are an unalloyed good. But Kansas Republicans? Well…

    DAVE HELLING: They like their senators to have a strong Republican point of view. The demands of being governor are quite different. And when he came back, he sort of pursued what was very, very obviously a strongly conservative agenda.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: When those cuts opened up a projected budget short fall of hundreds of millions of dollars and threatened the level of school funding, that unsettled moderate Kansas Republicans and widened a rift between them and conservatives that had been around for years.

    Two years ago, Brownback led successful primary campaigns against moderate legislators. But this past July, those Republicans retaliated against Brownback by joining 100 fellow

    Republicans in endorsing the Democratic opponent, state legislator Paul Davis. Davis has seized on Brownback’s experiment label.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Is this a state that isn’t particularly fond of experiments in politics?

    PAUL DAVIS: Well I would say yes. It is definitely a state that is not particularly fond of experiments. They don’t want a governor who’s going to turn their state into a science laboratory.

    SAM BROWNBACK: People I don’t think they don’t like change. I don’t think they trust change. So I came out here and said, “Look we haven’t been growing. We’ve got to get our tax rates down so we can grow.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: And about that experiment word?

    SAM BROWNBACK: Yeah, I shouldn’t have used that word. But the good news is, it’s working well. We’re growing. We’ve got record employment in Kansas.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Then after a brief discussion with an aide.

    SAM BROWNBACK: The things we’re doing are not anything new. Going to, getting your incomes taxes down, we got nine states without an income tax. That’s not new.

    SAM BROWNBACK: So nothing we’re doing is new. Now it’s new that we’re doing it but nothing that we’re doing is different than what’s done before.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: The race for senator and the race for governor obviously have different dynamics, but here’s what they have in common. The political survival of Senator Roberts and Governor Brownback depends on their ability to define their opponents with exactly the same label.

    PAT ROBERTS: He is a liberal Democrat and that’s why you have Jeb Bush, and you have John McCain, you have Rand Paul. You got about everybody in the party coming – conservative, I don’t say moderate – regular Republicans knowing how important this race is because they know Greg is a liberal Democrat. And we don’t need any more of those folks.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: It’s a label Orman is determined not to wear.

    GREG ORMAN: The Kansas electorate is very complex. They’re also very independent. You look at people like Ross Perot and Ross Perot significantly outperformed in Kansas.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: In fact, independent Perot got nearly 27 percent of the Kansas popular vote when he ran for president in 1992. And if you ask Paul Davis if he’s campaigning with his fellow Democrats, his answer tells you everything you need to know about his strategy.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Are there any national Democrats that you would like to campaign for you in the next several weeks here in Kansas?

    PAUL DAVIS: Well I’m doing something different. I’m actually campaigning with a lot of Republicans. You know governor Brownback’s bringing in the likes of Rick Perry and Chris Christie and what I like to say is he’s out campaigning with Republican from across the country and I’m out campaigning with Republicans from Kansas.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: As in every campaign, the outcome could hinge on the unanticipated. Just in the last week, Paul Davis has had to explain how he was caught up in a police raid at a strip club 16 years ago. And some Republicans have begun to hint that Senate candidate Orman’s Wall Street ties may be as big a problem for him as they were for Mitt Romney in 2012.

    But what we’re already seeing is the unanticipated on steroids: the possibility that America’s reddest state might go blue this year.

    The post From red state to blue? Kansas political races leave Republican candidates in peril appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In October, a new rule goes into effect making it easier for people to safely dispose of unneeded prescription drugs throughout the year at participating retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, narcotic treatment programs and prescription drug manufacturers. Credit: Flickr user ep_jhu.

    In October, a new rule goes into effect making it easier for people to safely dispose of unneeded prescription drugs throughout the year. Credit: Flickr user ep_jhu.

    To dispose safely of unwanted, expired and unused prescription drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration held its ninth Prescription Drug Take Back Day Saturday at more than 5,200 collection sites around the country. 

    The final event was hosted on the cusp of a new prescription drug disposal rule that goes into effect in October, which will allow people to safely dispose of unneeded drugs at participating retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, narcotic treatment programs and prescription drug manufacturers.

    “These regulations will create critical new avenues for addictive prescription drugs to leave the home and be disposed of in a safe, environmentally friendly way,” Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli said in a statement.

    This rule, part of the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, expands the options to collect controlled substances to include mail-back programs and collection receptacles, in addition to take-back events. It was part of the Obama Administration’s 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Plan created to stem the country’s opioid epidemic.

    A week following the DEA’s first take-back event, the Controlled Substances Act was signed into law, however it did not include legal provisions for people to dispose of unwanted controlled substances. Individuals could only dispose of these substances via a take-back event or by surrendering them to local law enforcement.

    Since the first National Take Back Day in September 2010, the DEA has collected more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription drugs throughout the nation, according to a DEA statement.

    Officials say expired, unwanted and unneeded prescription drugs in a home’s medicine cabinet present a public health and safety concern, especially because before drug take-back events began, people commonly flushed medications down the toilet or put them in the trash, contaminating the environment and water supply.

    Keeping unused prescription drugs may also contribute to illegal drug use. 

    In 2013, an estimated 2.8 million people 12 years and older used an illicit drug for the first time, according to the 2013 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. And about one in five of those respondents said they abused prescription drugs.

    Prescription drugs were implicated in more than half of the 41,300 overdose deaths in 2011, and opioid pain relievers were involved in nearly 17,000 of these deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentioned in a statement from the White House.

    In 2013, the CDC answered questions from NewsHour viewers about the issue of prescription drug abuse.

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    Tears roll down the cheek of Lesley McSpadden, the mother of slain teenager Michael Brown, during a community meeting held at Greater St. Marks Family Church in St Louis. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Lesley McSpadden, the mother of slain teenager Michael Brown, is shown during a community meeting held at Greater St. Marks Family Church in St Louis. In an interview with the Associated Press, the parents of Michael Brown said they were unmoved by the apology of the Ferguson, Missouri, police chief. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The parents of Michael Brown said Saturday in an interview with The Associated Press they were unmoved by the apology of the Ferguson, Missouri, police chief gave weeks after their unarmed 18-year-old son was killed by a police officer.

    Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said, “yes,” when asked if Chief Tom Jackson should be fired, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., said rather than an apology, they would rather see Officer Darren Wilson arrested for the death of their son on Aug. 9.

    “An apology would be when Darren Wilson has handcuffs, processed and charged with murder,” Brown Sr. said.

    The young man, who was black, was fatally shot last month by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white.

    The shooting sparked days of violent protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black community. Some residents and civil rights activists have said responding police officers were overly aggressive, noting their use of tear gas and surplus military vehicles and gear. Brown Sr. called the looting that has been interspersed with the protests “disrespectful,” but the “First Amendment protesting? They have that right.”

    “There’s going to continue to be unrest until they do what should be done,” McSpadden added, referring to Ferguson officials.

    Jackson released a video apology to Brown’s family and the community, which is predominantly African-American, in which he acknowledged that Brown’s body should have been removed from the street much sooner than it was. The young man’s remains lay uncovered for more than four hours while police collected evidence.

    “I don’t want words, I want action,” McSpadden said.

    The parents, both wearing t-shirts with messages about their son, talked hesitantly about their emotions following their son’s death. McSpadden said she feels lost and helpless, and her life will never be normal again. “I have to find a new normal,” she said haltingly.

    “I’m empty,” Brown said quietly. “There’s nothing there anymore. It’s hard to fill that spot with other happiness.”

    Brown’s parents are in the nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers and lobby Congress to pass a law requiring police officers to wear cameras during their interactions with the public. They also called on the Justice Department to take over the criminal investigation into the shooting. The Justice Department is already investigating whether Brown’s civil rights were violated, and a county grand jury is weighing whether to indict Wilson.

    “All of our eyes see the same thing, that it was wrong, an injustice. Why wouldn’t they come back with an indictment?” McSpadden said.

    Attorney General Eric Holder has met with Brown’s parents, and they hope his upcoming departure would not affect the case. Holder announced his resignation Thursday. “I’ve got confidence in him in that he will make sure that what needs to be done is done before he exits,” McSpadden said.

    The parents also expressed anger at Ferguson police who wore bracelets in support of Wilson. In a letter released Friday, the Justice Department asks Jackson, the police chief, to “confirm our understanding” that officers in the suburban St. Louis County department won’t wear “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets while on duty.

    Ferguson residents complained about the black bracelets with white lettering this week at a meeting with federal officials. The Brown’s family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said the bracelets give an impression that the police lack impartiality in this case.

    “It lets me know how they really feel about the situation, and the wrongness that they do,” McSpadden said.

    Brown’s parents talked with lawmakers during the Congressional Black Caucus’ legislative conference weekend and plan to keep on lobbying. “I ask Crump all the time, `What else can I do?’ McSpadden said.

    Brown Sr. called their efforts a fight for human rights. “They say that this is America, but we’re not being treated like we’re Americans. Our fight here is to just open other eyes and understand how we’re feeling and try to get something done about it,” he said.

    McSpadden said her son was taught how to respect his elders.

    “I taught my son respect for a policeman, for you, for this woman, for anybody, so if he felt like he was doing nothing wrong, which I don’t believe he was, why would he be in fear of him? You’re not supposed to fear the police.”

    Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter.

    The post Brown family ‘unmoved’ by Ferguson police chief apology appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    traficant5/071802 - Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, testifies at a hearing of the House Ethics Committee. The Committee found Traficant guilty of 9 counts violating House rules and recommended expulsion from Congress.

    Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, testifies at a hearing of the House Ethics Committee on July 18, 2002. The Committee found Traficant guilty of 9 counts violating House rules and recommended expulsion from Congress. Traficant died at age 73 on Saturday following a tractor accident on Tuesday.

    CLEVELAND — James Traficant, the colorful Ohio politician whose conviction for taking bribes and kickbacks made him only the second person to be expelled from Congress since the Civil War, died Saturday. He was 73.

    Traficant was seriously injured Tuesday after a vintage tractor flipped over on him as he tried to park it inside a barn on the family farm near Youngstown. He died four days later in a Youngstown hospital, said Dave Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.

    The Democrat’s expulsion from Congress in 2002 came three months after a federal jury in Cleveland convicted him. Prosecutors said he used his office to extract bribes from businesspeople and coerced staffers to work on his farm and his house boat on the Potomac River in Washington. He also was charged with witness tampering, destroying evidence and filing false tax returns. He spent seven years in prison.

    Traficant’s notoriety was rivaled only by his eccentricity.

    He loved to play the buffoon during his 17 years in Congress. He got plenty of notice within the staid, buttoned-down Capitol and airtime on C-SPAN for his messy mop of hair – revealed to be a wig when he went to prison – his typical wardrobe of cowboy boots, denim or polyester suits, and his bombastic speaking style.

    His made-for-TV rants on the House floor invariably ended with the signoff “Beam me up,” which Traficant borrowed from “Star Trek” to show his disgust or bemusement at whatever he found particularly outrageous.

    “Mr. Traficant was a complex man,” Betras said. “He gave voice to the frustrations and anxieties of the common man. The public felt he was one of them and because of that connection, they supported him in good times and in bad. He was a larger than life character who will long be remembered.”

    Traficant was born May 8, 1941, in Youngstown and was a quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh, where he played with future NFL coaches Mike Ditka and Marty Schottenheimer.

    He worked as a drug counselor for 10 years before running for Mahoning County sheriff at a colleague’s suggestion.

    He endeared himself to voters in the early 1980s by defying the courts and going to jail for three nights rather than foreclose on the homes of workers laid off from the city’s dying steel industry.

    The antagonism between Traficant and federal law enforcement authorities lasted throughout his public career, with Traficant trumpeting it as proof that he was on the side of “the little guy” against powerful government interests.

    He faced his first federal bribery and corruption trial in 1983, when he was Mahoning County sheriff. Prosecutors accused Traficant of taking bribes to protect mobsters’ criminal activity. He defended himself in court, although he was not a lawyer, and won. He argued that he was conducting a one-person sting.

    He was elected to Congress the following year and was easily re-elected eight times.

    He championed “Buy American” requirements on virtually every spending bill and prided himself on landing federal grants for hometown prospects, including highways, a sports arena and Youngstown’s airport.

    Yet he often exasperated fellow Democrats by breaking ranks, such as his decision to vote for Republican Dennis Hastert as speaker and his differences with President Bill Clinton on trade and other issues. He denounced Justice Department tactics and belittled Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, as a good prospect to run for governor of Beijing.

    In 2000, as he geared up for re-election, Traficant was indicted in a grand jury investigation that targeted corruption and organized crime in the Youngstown area and led to the convictions of scores of people, including judges, a prosecutor and a sheriff.

    But Traficant was the biggest prize, and he was not as lucky in his second trial as in his first.

    He claimed the government had tried to frame him because of his criticism of the FBI, CIA and Internal Revenue Service.

    During the two-month trial, he did a curbside interview on live network TV outside the courthouse each morning and then went inside to challenge U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells, who tried to dissuade Traficant from representing himself.

    He often slumped alone at the defense table preparing handwritten motions as a team of prosecutors and investigators pressed the government’s case under the eye of Justice Department attorneys.

    He was expelled from Congress in a 420-1 vote by the U.S. House on July 24, 2002, three months after being convicted on 10 corruption-related counts. He could have avoided the indignity of expulsion by choosing to resign, but he remained defiant to the end.

    “I’m prepared to lose everything. I’m prepared to go to jail,” Traficant told colleagues as they debated his political fate. “You go ahead and expel me.”

    Six days later, at his sentencing, he abruptly fired his attorney.

    “Take your things and move,” he told the lawyer, who then switched seats with Traficant.

    He was sentenced to eight years in prison and led from the federal courtroom in handcuffs.

    Traficant called life in prison “tough.”

    “Most political figures go to some camps in country clubs,” he said. “I didn’t.”

    His case over, Traficant ran for re-election from prison as an independent in 2002 and lost to former aide Tim Ryan. Traficant got 15 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

    He was released from prison in September 2009 and the following year ran for the Youngstown-area congressional seat as an independent. He received 16 percent of the vote, again losing to Tim Ryan, and then faded from the spotlight.

    From then on, he lived a quiet life on his farm, doting on his grandchildren.

    The barn where his tractor tipped over played a key role in his criminal case.

    A Youngstown businessman had the barn built for Traficant in return for a favor. The businessman later billed Traficant for the full construction cost after the congressman continued asking for favors. Traficant ended up paying him far less than what the barn was worth, and the businessman testified against him.

    This report was written by Mark Gillispie for the Associated Press.

    The post Convicted ex-congressman James Traficant dies at 73 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: To try to give you an overall picture of the situation on the battlefield throughout Iraq and Syria, we’re joined now from Washington by Anthony Cordesman. He is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and was the Director of the Intelligence Assessment in the Office of Secretary of Defense.

    So let’s start in Northeastern Syria, where the U.S. has been striking Islamic State positions near its headquarters in Raqqua and where intense fighting has occurred this week between Kurdish forces and ISIS in Kobane, near the Turkish border. What’s the latest from Syria?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, actually the number of the strikes has been relatively limited. This is not as yet an intensive air campaign — probably around 250 strikes, and a little over 40 cruise missiles.

    The area in Turkish border is a particularly troubled area, because the Islamic State is pushing hard to essentially push the Syrian Kurds out of the area to take control of the border areas with Turkey. That gives them leverage over Turkey — it’s pushing out an opponent which had been allied with the Iraqi Kurds.

    At the same time there have been strikes inside Syria which have attacked key command posts, refineries the economic lifelines to the Islamic State. But these are still early days. It’s not yet an intensive or sustainable campaign that is going to make a critical difference.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How about the situation in Northern Iraq? A lot of Americans are familiar with the rescue operation that we participated in to try to help the yazidis get out of the Sinjar mountain area. But ISIS still controls Mosoul and much of that region.

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: No one has suggested at any point in the administration or in the U.S. Joint Chiefs that these airstrikes are going to drive the Islamic State out of Northern and Western Iraq. So far the airstrikes, when they’ve been successful in Iraq, have largely been close air support, support really helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces that were threatened by Islamic State.

    There only have been two very minor attempts that are counter-offensive to drive inside the areas occupied Islamic State, and both of these have really failed. And in areas where there’ve been some gains in holdings the offensives, you still see the Islamic State finds other ways to go on the offensive in other towns and places.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  ISIS also controls several cities within 50 miles of Baghdad, and this week, we heard new reports about their fighters defeating Iraqi government troops even closer to the capital. So my question is: Is Baghdad itself in any danger?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Most of what we’re seeing are attacks of small towns along the river that were held by small isolated Iraqi army garrisons; some of these had 400, some of them had 800 people. They are not in the Shiite areas. They are not in the urban areas and Baghdad. They are not dealing with the larger Iraqi forces.

    But it is disturbing that these have been gains that are to the West, to some extent, to the immediate south and a few areas to the Bagdad. Yes, they are still in rural areas, but in each case, whether it’s been a push against the Iraqi forces, they haven’t been supplied areas or attempts to relieve them under pressure haven’t work. They appealed support from Iraqi forces; they’ve been given all kinds of promises, and nothing has been delivered. And this reflects a much broader issue.

    The U.S.’s assessments are that there are about 26 brigades– that’s a large force — still left in the Iraqi forces. It’s also that about half of those are sectarians; they are Shiites. They are not really supporting the national forces, or they’re simply not militarily effective. And virtually all of the others are going to require advisory support, arms supplies, better command of control to be effective.

    So yes, we’re holding, but the airstrike are not really quibbling Islamic State in any meaningful way.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Anthony Cordesman joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: My pleasure.

    The post As airstrikes continue, how intense has the Syria campaign been so far? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A Ferguson, Mo., police officer was shot in the arm Saturday night, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters. Authorities are still searching for the shooter, Reuters reports.

    The shooting incident happened when the officer was chasing a suspect outside the Ferguson Community Center, St. Louis County Police Sergeant Brian Schellman said.

    The officer returned fire, but did not hit the suspect, who then ran into a wooded area nearby, Schellman said.

    Initially, police thought there were two suspects, but detectives later determined there was only one, Reuters reported.

    Despite conflicting reports regarding the gender of the officer, Belmar confirmed the officer was male and was shot when he interrupted a burglary in progress.

    Previously, Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, had said the officer shot is female. The PBS NewsHour confirmed through the Devin James Group, the PR firm representing the Ferguson Police Department, that the officer is male.

    A few hours later an off-duty St. Louis City cop was shot and sustained minor injuries while traveling in a personal vehicle on Interstate 70.

    Police were trying to determine whether the I-70 shooting was random of if assailants targeted the off-duty officer.

    Belmar also said he believes Saturday’s incident is unrelated to the ongoing protests over the death of Michael Brown because the shooting did not happen within proximity of the protesters. Belmar did not reveal the identity of the officer. When asked about a rumored second shooting involving a younger male circulated on Twitter, Belmar said, at this time, he had no knowledge of another shooting.

    Antonio French took a Vine of Captain Ron Johnson telling the crowd that a police officer was shot, and that the officer was the only shooting victim. 

    Follow the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for further updates.

    The post UPDATE: Ferguson officer shot in arm while interrupting burglary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — Should the company that supplies your Internet access be allowed to cut deals with online services such as Netflix, Amazon or YouTube to move their content faster?

    The Federal Communications Commission is tackling that question this fall after the public submitted a record 3.7 million comments on the subject — more than double the number filed with the regulatory agency after Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl.

    The FCC’s chairman, former industry lobbyist and venture capitalist Tom Wheeler, says financial arrangements between broadband providers and content sites might be OK so long as the agreement is “commercially reasonable” and companies disclose publicly how they prioritize Internet traffic.

    But not everyone agrees, with Netflix and much of the public accusing the FCC of handing the Internet over to the highest bidders.

    “If Comcast and Time Warner – who already have a virtual monopoly on Internet service – have the ability to manage and manipulate Internet speeds and access to benefit their own bottom line, they will be able to filter content and alter the user experience,” said Barbara Ann Luttrell, 26, of Atlanta, in a recent submission to the FCC.

    The major cable and telecommunications companies that supply most of the nation’s broadband say blocking or discriminating against content would never be in their best interest commercially. But, some industry officials say, data hogs like Netflix might need to bear some of the cost of handling heavy traffic.

    “Why should everyone subsidize fans of `House of Cards?’” asked Michael Powell of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a lobbying arm of the cable industry, referring to the popular Netflix series.

    The question is how far the government should go to protect “net neutrality” – the popular idea that Internet service providers shouldn’t manipulate or slow data moving across its networks. As long as content isn’t against the law, such as child pornography or pirated music, a file or video posted on one site will load generally at the same speed as a similarly sized file or video on another site.

    President Barack Obama in 2008 ran on a campaign pledge to protect net neutrality, and in 2010, the FCC issued a rule prohibiting providers from blocking or discriminating against content.

    But in January, a federal appeals court agreed with Verizon that the FCC did not technically have the authority to tell broadband providers how to manage their networks. The decision overturned important parts of the 2010 rule.

    By then, the FCC had a new chairman in Wheeler, who in the early 1980s led the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and later the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. Obama called him the “Bo Jackson of telecom.”

    Instead of appealing the court’s decision, regarded as a long shot, Wheeler proposed in May to prohibit Internet service providers from blocking content by applying the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

    But Wheeler’s plan also left open the possibility that broadband providers could charge Netflix and other content companies for faster, guaranteed access. Wheeler said he was trying to follow guidelines suggested by the court, and invited the public to comment on whether these paid arrangements should be banned altogether.

    The proposal received little attention until June when following a satire sketch by HBO comedian John Oliver, the FCC system temporarily shut down due to heavy traffic. Since then, public response continued to rise, with Netflix urging the public to fight against “paid prioritization.” The FCC comment period ended Sept. 15 with the record response.

    Wheeler has defended his approach as still upholding the basic principal of net neutrality because providers wouldn’t be allowed to slow down other content. He says the FCC could step in if broadband providers act unreasonably, such as giving priority access to a subsidiary.

    “If someone acts to divide the Internet between `haves’ and `have-nots,’ we will use every power at our disposal to stop it,” he told industry officials at an annual convention this year sponsored by the NCTA.

    But doesn’t allowing Comcast, AT&T or Verizon to prioritize online content – essentially creating a “fast lane” – put the remaining Internet traffic in a “slow lane” by default?

    Many of the 3.7 million public comments filed with the FCC said it does, and suggested that the government regulate broadband providers just like phone companies.

    Some lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., say Congress should settle the issue altogether by outright banning paid agreements between broadband providers and content providers.

    Broadband providers have been lobbying Congress aggressively to avoid being designated as a “common carrier” under communications law. This would subject broadband services to tougher regulations. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the organizations most active in filing lobbying reports on net neutrality in recent years are Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and Wheeler’s former employer, the NCTA.

    The White House has said Obama backs Wheeler’s effort to uphold an open Internet, but hasn’t said how that should work, leaving a big question mark when it comes to whether the president has fulfilled that early campaign promise. In responding to an online petition on net neutrality, the White House noted that the FCC is an independent agency, making the point that Obama can’t direct the FCC to do anything, even if he wanted to.

    There is no deadline for the FCC to pass a new rule, and deliberations at the agency could continue into next year.

    The post FCC to rule on ‘paid prioritization’ deals by Internet service providers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Historically, Kansas has always been politically conservative.

    The Sunflower State has been represented by a Republican senator in Washington D.C. since 1939, all four current Representatives to the House are Republican, and every state official — from the governor to the state treasurer — is Republican.

    But in this year’s midterm elections, past precedent may not say much about the future of both the senatorial and gubernatorial races.

    Incumbent Republicans Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback are facing tough re-election battles. The senator’s opponent is Independent candidate Greg Orman; Brownback is challenged by Democrat Paul Davis, who is a state legislator and the House Minority Leader.

    Kansas was supposed to be an easy win for both, but these two races have thrust the state into sharp focus during this year’s midterm elections, especially because a Roberts’ win or loss may determine which party will control the U.S. Senate.

    Pat Roberts

    GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is battling a perception problem in his bid for re-election, as some Kansas voters believe he’s too embedded in the D.C. establishment. Credit: Associated Press

    Roberts, who has served as a congressman and senator for more than three decades, is facing a perception problem: that he’s embedded in the D.C. establishment and lost touch with fellow Kansans.

    According to the New York Times, he doesn’t have a home in Kansas but rents a room in a supporter’s house.


    Republican Gov. Sam Brownback faces a tough re-election battle in Kansas for the policies he has called “a real, live experiment.” Credit: NewsHour

    Gov. Brownback, who was a congressman and senator before being elected governor in 2010, is facing a different kind problem; it’s not so much about perception but policy.

    The governor’s race is in some ways a referendum on what he called a “real, live experiment.” The “experiment” included massive income tax cuts, the privatization of Medicaid, and cuts to school spending.

    Since his tenure as governor, the state’s credit rating has been downgraded and there’s a projected budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Enter the celebrities of the Republican base are swooping in to help rally the Kansan electorate. So, who’s coming to town?

    Bob Dole, Pat Roberts

    Former Kansas Senator and presidential candidate, Bob Dole, 91, speaks at a campaign event for Sen. Roberts in Kansas. Credit: Associated Press

    The 91-year-old former Kansas senator and once presidential hopeful Bob Dole campaigned at three events this past week.

    “Pat and I have been friends for some time,” Dole told the AP. “When I had a problem in the House getting a bill passed, I’d call Pat.”


    Arizona Sen. John McCain spent a day in Kansas campaigning for Sen. Roberts. Sarah Palin also showed up in support of Roberts. Credit: KCPT/Lindsey Foat

    Arizona Sen. John McCain showed up for a day to stump for Roberts.

    Sarah Palin also joined the senator to serve up hot breakfast to Kansans. She donned a purple Kansas State sweater while plating pancakes and sausages.

    In the coming weeks, other GOP heavyweights are expected make appearances, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visits Kansas City

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared at a fundraiser for Gov. Brownback in August. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has also campaigned for Brownback. Credit: Getty Images

    Household name Republican governors have already flown to Kansas to boost Brownback.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry was in Wichita last week. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped in this past August for a fundraiser. They made a quick stop for some BBQ and photo-ops at the famous Kansas City joint Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que.

    With a little more than a month left, Kansans can probably expect to see other Republican celebrities swoop in to ensure that one of the reddest states doesn’t turn blue.

    See NewsHour Weekend’s full report on Kansas’s surprising midterm election races below:

    The post Why are GOP heavyweights flocking to Kansas? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said in an interview airing Sunday that he agrees with intelligence leaders who believe the United States not only underestimated the threat of militants seeking to form the Islamic State group but also overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army to fight.

    Obama spoke with CBS’ “60 Minutes.” The network released excerpts ahead of time. In the interview, Obama was asked how Islamic State group fighters were able to control so much land in Syria and Iraq. He said that during the war in Iraq, U.S. military forces with the help of Iraq’s Sunni tribes were able to quash al-Qaida fighters, who went “back underground.”

    “During the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos,” Obama said.

    In the “60 Minutes” interview, Obama called Syria ground zero for jihadis around the world. He said military force is necessary to shrink their capacity, cut off financing and eliminate the flow of foreign fighters. He has appeared less adamant about the threat in the past. In an interview published early this year by The New Yorker, the president appeared to minimize the Islamic State group militants by comparing it to a junior varsity basketball team. The White House at the time said he was speaking about a different threat posed by a range of extremists across the world.

    The White House emphasized on several talk shows Sunday that the war against Islamic State group militants would not involve returning U.S. combat troops to the Middle East.

    But House Speaker John Boehner said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that some ground troops will be needed.

    He said the U.S. and allies may be able to train those Iraqi and moderate Syrian opposition forces and get them on the battlefield. However, if others don’t step up with ground troops, then the U.S. will have “no choice” about putting boots on the ground.

    “They intend to kill us. And if we don’t destroy them first, we’re gonna pay the price,” Boehner said.

    Boehner’s comments were quickly dismissed on CBS’s “Face the Nation” by the president’s deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken.

    “We’re not gonna repeat what we did before. Hundreds of thousands of Americans on the ground in the Middle East getting bogged down, that’s exactly what al-Qaida wants,” Blinken said. “That’s not what we’re gonna do.”

    The White House has said Obama had the power to authorize airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, and Boehner agreed. However, he also believes a resolution authorizing use of force should be taken up by Congress. He promised to bring lawmakers back to Washington if Obama were to seek such a resolution.

    “We have the existing authorization from 2001. That’s the basis for proceeding,” Blinken said. “But we’d certainly welcome Congress showing its support.”

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on CNN that a resolution from Congress is an important check to prevent a war without end.

    “I’m certainly willing to support an authorization,” Murphy said. “But I think we need to hear more from the president as to what that endgame strategy is.”

    Obama also stressed that defeating the militants will require a two-part plan. He said political solutions are also needed in the Middle East that accommodate both Sunnis and Shiites. He said conflicts between Islam’s two largest sects are the biggest cause of conflict throughout the world.

    The post Obama: US misjudged threat of Islamic State militants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians have been locked out of the Woodruff Arts Center since Sept. 7, following a breakdown in contract negotiations between management and musicians' unions. Credit: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

    Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians have been locked out of the Woodruff Arts Center since Sept. 7, following a breakdown in contract negotiations between management and musicians’ unions. Credit: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

    The Grammy Award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has canceled its concerts until Nov. 8, following a breakdown in contract negotiations between musicians’ union and management, and the resulting lockout of musicians.

    Musicians were locked out of Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Ga. on Sept. 7, according to a statement from Paul Murphy, President of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association (ASOPA), which was posted to the Atlanta Federation of Musicians’ Facebook page.

    The symphony’s 70th anniversary season was set to begin on Sept. 25. Instead of performing, the musicians staged a silent protest across from the arts center.

    “This is a dire and critical juncture for the city of Atlanta, which is in danger of losing the flagship of its culture,” said ASO Music Director, Robert Spano in a piece titled “Deafening Silence” on his website.

    The contract between Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players’ Association expired on Sept. 6, as the two groups could not agree on new terms, according to The New York Times ArtsBeat blog.

    The two parties disagreed on terms relating to salary cuts, health benefit contributions and the orchestra’s configuration, among others. The ASO website provides a Q&A section, which details the situation and its impact.

    The ASO has been operating with a deficit for the past 12 years.

    While the two parties could not agree on the terms of the new contract, they do agree that a lack of public arts funding is a factor contributing to the nationwide trend of financial woes for symphonies and opera companies.

    Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed said in a statement on Thursday that he urged both sides to return to the bargaining table, realizing that the ASO’s financial solvency and musical excellence are intertwined, not opposing forces.”

    “A protracted lockout is not good for the ASO and not good for Atlanta,” he said.

    Georgia’s arts funding is about 6 cents per capita compared to the national average of 87 cents. The state occupies the 50th position on the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) funding list. On its website, the ASO claims that this lack of funding is exacerbating its financial challenges.

    Among the musicians rising up in solidarity with Atlanta Symphony musicians on the web and over social media are the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians, who endured a 16-month lockout in 2010-2011 and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Musicians, whose members were locked out of the Hilbert Circle Theatre for one month in 2012.

    Musicians of the New York Philharmonic sent $10,000 to ASO musicians to show their support and New York’s MET Orchestra Musicians, who voted to authorize a strike in May of this year when it looked like contract negotiations would fall apart ahead of the July 31 expiration date, posted “How You Can Help the ATL Symphony“.

    The musicians’ union and ASO management will return to the bargaining table with the help of a federal mediator – the same mediator who handled the Metropolitan Opera negotiations in August – according to a Sept. 27 post on the ASO Facebook page.

    The post Hush falls on Atlanta Symphony Hall as musicians remain locked out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A demonstrator gestures opposite policemen during a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on September 28, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS        (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

    A demonstrator gestures opposite policemen during a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on Sept. 28. Credit: Xaume Olleros/AFP/Getty Images

    Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of pro-democracy protesters, who had blocked the main thoroughfare leading to Hong Kong’s financial district and assembled in front of government headquarters this weekend, Reuters reports.

    The protest, which was taken over by pro-democracy group, “Occupy Central with Peace and Love”, follows a week-long strike by students, according to the Associated Press.

    University students began skipping classes on Sept. 22 to show their disapproval for the late-August ruling by Beijing’s central government against a fully democratic election for Hong Kong’s next leader in 2017, The New York Times reported.

    The protests were peaceful up until Friday, when student-led demonstrators broke through a cordon and scaled a fence to enter the city’s main government compound, reports Reuters.

    More than 60 people have been arrested and more than 30 have suffered minor injuries, according to the BBC.

    On its Facebook page, the Hong Kong Federation of Students called for people to retreat, because they feared that police would use rubber bullets to break up the crowds. They asked people in the group to save their energy for future protests.

    The post Police fire tear gas on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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