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

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    Hundreds turned out for the first gay pride march held in four years in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sunday. 

    Gay-rights activists took to the streets waving rainbow-colored flags in the country’s capital as heavily armed police officers patrolled the event on foot and in armored vehicles, the BBC reported.

    The event was meant to be a show of tolerance for Serbia, a historically conservative nation, as it continues to seek admittance into the European Union.

    According to the AP, Serbia has faced criticism from EU officials in the past following the country’s ban on the gay pride march after violence broke out in 2010 between police and extremists, leaving more than 100 people injured.

    Added police presence and security were sent in by the country’s leaders amid threats from extreme nationalists.

    Two-thirds of Serbian respondents to a survey four years ago said they viewed homosexuality as a disease, the BBC reported. Anti-gay rights protesters demonstrated on Saturday night in Belgrade in opposition to Sunday’s planned march.

    The post Will Serbia’s gay pride march help it get into the EU? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON – The widespread mistrust of law enforcement that was exposed by the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in Missouri exists in too many other communities and is having a corrosive effect on the nation, particularly on its children, President Barack Obama says. He blames the feeling of wariness on persistent racial disparities in the administration of justice.

    Obama said these misgivings only serve to harm communities that are most in need of effective law enforcement.

    “It makes folks who are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them,” he said Saturday night in an address at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner.

    “And the worst part of it is it scars the hearts of our children,” Obama said, adding that it leads some youngsters to unnecessarily fear people who do not look like them and others to constantly feel under suspicion no matter what they do.

    “That is not the society we want,” he said. “It’s not the society that our children deserve.”

    Obama addressed the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown carefully but firmly, saying his death and the raw emotion it produced had reawakened the country to the fact that “a gulf of mistrust” exists between residents and police in too many communities.

    The shooting sparked days of violent protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The police officer who shot Brown was white.

    “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement – guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness,” said Obama, who has spoken of enduring similar treatment as a younger man.

    He said significant racial disparities remain in the enforcement of law, from drug sentencing to application of the death penalty, and that a majority of Americans think the justice system treats people of different races unequally.

    Obama opened his remarks by praising Attorney General Eric Holder as a great friend and faithful public servant.

    The president announced Holder’s resignation this week after nearly six years as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Holder attended the dinner and received a standing ovation. He will stay on the job until the Senate confirms a successor.

    “We will miss him badly,” Obama said.

    Holder visited Ferguson after the shooting to help ease tensions, and the Justice Department is investigating whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.

    There was more gun violence Saturday night in Ferguson when a police officer investigating suspicious activity at a closed community center was shot in the arm. The wounded officer is expected to survive and the police were looking for two suspects early Sunday.

    Authorities said they didn’t believe the shooting was related to demonstrations that were taking place at about the same time to protest the killing of Brown.

    At the dinner, Obama also announced the addition of a “community challenge” to My Brother’s Keeper, a public-private partnership he launched earlier this year to help improve the lives of young minority men. Communities across the U.S. will be challenged to adopt strategies to help all young people succeed from the cradle through college and to a career.

    Obama said government cannot play the primary role in the lives of children but it “can bring folks together” to make a difference for them.

    Helping girls of color deal with inequality is also important, he said, and part of the continuing mission of the White House Council on Women and Girls. The effort has involved his wife, Michelle, the mother of their 13- and 16-year-old daughters.

    Obama noted that black girls are more likely than their white peers to be suspended, jailed and physically harassed, and that black women struggle daily with “biases that perpetuate oppressive standards for how they’re supposed to look and how they’re supposed to act.”

    “I’ve got a vested interest in making sure that our daughters have the same opportunities as boys do,” he said.

    The post Obama says mistrust of police corroding America appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Youth around the country have a lot to say about how the National Football League has handled the revelations that former running backs Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have committed domestic violence.

    Adrian Peterson has been indicted on child-abuse charges for beating his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch, and the NFL has barred him from playing while the case moves through the courts. After TMZ revealed a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé in an elevator, the NFL placed him on an indefinite suspension, expanding his earlier, lighter suspension.

    Student Reporting Labs student journalists wanted to find out what young people think about the news and whether professional athletes should be considered role models.

    Some students condemned the use of physical violence in all cases. “There is always a good certain amount of discipline, but there shouldn’t be an overuse of it, and hitting men or women is really unacceptable,” Laryssa Wills, a senior at Pflugerville High School, said.
    Others pointed out that some parents consider it acceptable to issue physical punishments for kids.

    “Ray Rice definitely needs to be punished for his actions against his fiancé…but I feel like the Adrian Peterson issue is a little less severe because 50 years ago, that’s how everyone disciplined their children,” Jack Boomer, a sophomore at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, said.

    This does not excuse Peterson’s excessive use of force, Preya Desai, a senior at Fort Mill High School, said. “Hitting your son with a tree branch goes beyond all acceptable forms of discipline,” she said.

    Some students believe that once athletes make it to the big leagues, they should think about all the kids who now look up to them and accept the responsibility of modeling positive behavior for the rest of society.

    “They’re role models to us, whether we want to accept that fact or not. They’re always out there,” one student said.
    But athletes’ jobs do not necessarily dictate that they be good role models, argued John Romanski, a senior at Fort Mill High School.

    “Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice are both NFL running backs. That’s their job, that’s what they get paid to do. Their job title isn’t ‘role model,’” he said. “Good role models are people that have good morals and values, and it’s up to us to determine who those people are.”

    The post What happens when pro athletes disappoint their teenage fans? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: During a speech attended by thousands today at Madison Square Garden in New York, the new Indian prime minister Narendra Modi predicted that India is entering a new age of achievement. He meets with president Obama tomorrow.

    For more about the man and his plans, we’re joined now by Alyssa Ayers, she’s a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Alyssa, you just came from Madison Square Garden, can you briefly describe the scene there.

    ALYSSA AYRES: It was really the Indian-American community’s welcome reception for the new Indian prime minister. The entire stadium was filled with excitement. You could hear people chanting, ‘Modi, Modi, Modi.’ It’s his first visit to the United States in many years.

    There was a real pent-up excitement among the Indian-American community to have him here and welcome him as India’s new prime minister and hear what he had to say.

    ALISON STEWART: He was recently elected just last Spring in a landslide. Tell us why he was elected at such a decisive victory, and a little bit more about him.

    ALYSSA AYRES: He campaigned very specifically on a platform of economic growth and good governance. Those twin messages came at a time in India when the previous government had been plagued by corruption scandals, so the good government’s message was a very important one.

    Voters were hearing that and saying, ‘you know what, let’s vote for a change.’ And most importantly his message on economic growth at a time when Indian growth rates had dipped below five percent from peaks of nearly 10 percent in 2009 to 2010.

    Indian citizens heard the Modi message about getting the economy back on track, looking for the promise of more jobs, greater opportunities, and I think that was the secret to the success of his party.

    ALISON STEWART: Now there’s been a series of irritations between India and the United States over the past few years. What are some of those irritations and what do you think the president and the prime minister will discuss as a result of this?

    ALYSSA AYRES: It’s certainly the case that there has been some challenges particularly in the trade and economic relationships over the course of the last couple years. It was exacerbated by the fact that Indian growth rates slowed, which made the business environment a little bit more challenging for a lot of American companies that had previously been big champions of the Indian story.

    Some of these irritants have to do with trade, areas where we don’t see eye to eye. India recently also decided not to ratify a very important agreement that had been reached under the WTO — something called the trade facilitation agreement. I’m sure that will be a topic of conversation between the two leaders.

    There are some other elements there. I think the United States would like to see the possibility of the civil nuclear initiative move into a commercial operation — that’s another irritant that’s been of long standing.

    ALISON STEWART: And finally, what is his stance, his approach to Pakistan?

    ALYSSA AYRES: He has an approach to Pakistan that seems premised on the idea that outreach and communication can try to help bridge their divide very early on. The prime minister invited all the heads of government from the surrounding countries in South Asia to attend his inauguration.

    But among the many meetings that he held with heads of government from around the South Asian countries, his meeting with Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was the one that was most heavily covered and paid attention to. Now, there have been some problems here in that relationship and most recently planned meeting between Pakistani foreign secretaries was cancelled, because the Pakistani high commissioner had met with Kashmiri separatists in India.

    I think what you saw in prime minister Modi’s speech at the UN General Assembly yesterday was a call for more dialogue with Pakistan, but he was very firm that this can’t take place under the shadow of terrorism. So, he’s looking to see Pakistan do more to reign in the threat of terrorism and the threat of terrorists so they can work to try to advance, or normalize the relations.

    ALISON STEWART: Alyssa Ayres, thank you so much.

    ALYSSA AYRES: Thank you for having me.

    The post How will Narendra Modi usher in India’s new ‘age of achievement’? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Instagram has surpassed Twitter in U.S. mobile users. Photo by Flickr user Highways Agency

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: The debate over personal privacy versus national security took a new turn Thursday when the director of the FBI criticized Apple and Google for developing encrypted smartphones, devices he warned would allow people to place themselves beyond the law.

    For more about this, we’re joined now by Julia Angwin. She’s a senior reporter at ProPublica. So, Julia what are these companies doing that has the NSA so concerned?

    JULIA ANGWIN: Essentially the way to think of this is that they’re allowing you to encrypt the equivalent of your hard drive. So, the way you have a home computer and you might want to encrypt your hard drive, now you have a hard drive on your phone and you can encrypt that.

    So, that means basically any information that’s stored on your phone would now be secure and really unreadable by anyone who doesn’t have your passcode.

    But it’s worth pointing out that almost every bit of data I have on my phone is also replicated somewhere else. For instance, my emails might be stored on Google servers, or my photos might be backed up on iCloud. So all of that data, if it’s somewhere else, most likely is obtainable by the FBI.

    ALISON STEWART: So, if this data is readily available in other places, why is the FBI so upset?

    JULIA ANGWIN: The FBI would of course like their job to be as easy as possible. I think all of us are slightly sympathetic to the idea that we want law enforcement to have as many tools as possible, but in this particular case we’re talking about a very small subset of their data, which is the physical device.

    They have to come get your actual device from you and then they want to unlock that information, but in the end they are going to get that information. They have not yet presented an actual case where they would have failed to complete their investigation without this information.

    ALISON STEWART: So, what is in it for these Silicon valley giants to up their game in privacy at this point?

    JULIA ANGWIN: I think in the post-Snowden era they’re realizing that they can use this as a marketing tool, which is, ‘hey, I’ve got better privacies than you.’ This is actually the first time that we have kind of seen a ‘privacy war.’ Apple came out with its encrypted default setting for your phone, and then immediately Google came out and said, ‘we’re doing the same thing.’

    To be fair, Google had offered the option earlier, but it wasn’t a default. So, now they’re kind of playing this race, which we usually see on things like camera-resolution and now we’re seeing it on privacy. That might, maybe, usher in an era where people might start to compete on privacy features.

    ALISON STEWART: It’s interesting that Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, sort of distanced himself saying, ‘we sell devices, not your data,’ almost like a marketing tool.

    JULIA ANGWIN: Right. Yes, absolutely. That’s his differentiating point, which is Google is selling your data. I mean they’re not selling it directly, but they’re selling advertisers the ability to access information about you in order to target ads at you.

    That is their business model, and you don’t pay Google anything, and I’m paying what seems ungodly amounts of money to Apple all the time.

    ALISON STEWART: Tell me a little bit about why this is different than any encryption that we’ve done before.

    JULIA ANGWIN: We’ve always had this idea that the data we store on our machine, which is generally in our home, is ours and it’s secure, and if you want it, you’re going to have to come and actually get that device and break into it. It’s not that different it, but our phones we carry around with us and they do get sort of ceased in arrests, or whatever, and police would like to thumb through them and they often do have a search warrant for it.

    But they can once again get almost all of that information other ways. They can go to the cellphone carrier, for instance if they want to know who you and I are calling, we already know the NSA has long, handy logs of all of that. But let’s say the local police don’t have access to the NSA logs, they also can go to the local AT&T or Verizon with a search warrant and get it from them.

    ALISON STEWART: Julia Angwin from ProPublica, thank you so much.

    JULIA ANGWIN: Thank you.

    The post Beyond the law: Are encrypted smartphones too private for the FBI? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Dajun Zeng of the China Social Democratic Party spoke during the protest. Credit: Carey Reed/NewsHour Weekend

    Dajun Zeng, originally of Wuhan, China, spoke during the Chinatown protest on Sunday afternoon. Credit: Carey Reed/NewsHour Weekend

    More than 50 people gathered in the Chinatown section of Manhattan on Sunday in solidarity with the pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong that is being described as the worst unrest seen in the region since China took control from Britain in 1997.

    Protesters in New York City held signs declaring “Students Innocent Against Violence,” and chanted “Hong Kong, democracy! Hong Kong, be strong.”

    More than 50 Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters formed a circle in front of the plaza's Confucius statue. Credit: Carey Reed/NewsHourWeekend

    More than 50 protesters acting in solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong formed a circle in front of a Confucius statue in Chinatown, Manhattan on Sunday. Credit: Carey Reed/NewsHour Weekend

    “I woke up this morning at 7:30, hearing about the tear gas in Hong Kong — I didn’t even think it was true,” said Anna Yeung-Cheung, an associate professor at Manhattanville College who coordinated the protest.

    “Why would you throw tear gas bombs at unarmed civilians?”

    The Hong Kong 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.

    By early Monday, in an escalated response, riot police in Hong Kong had advanced on the crowds after deploying tear gas and launching a baton-charge, Reuters reports.

    “As immigrants, we stay here, we cannot do anything but come here and protest,” said Ray Yue, who participated in the Chinatown protest as her cousins joined the many thousands overseas in Hong Kong.

    Protesters gathered in front of Confucius Plaza in Lower Manhattan Sept. 28 to show their support for pro-democracy demonstrators who had gathered in Hong Kong over the weekend. Credit: Carey Reed/ NewsHourWeekend

    Protesters gathered in front of Confucius Plaza in Lower Manhattan Sept. 28 to show their support for pro-democracy demonstrators who had gathered in Hong Kong over the weekend. Credit: Carey Reed/ NewsHour Weekend

    Samantha Ng, who was born in New York City but raised in Hong Kong until the age of 10, said she found Beijing’s ruling “sneaky.”

    Beijing had ruled out open elections for Hong Kong in August.

    “Hong Kong people will not wait until everything is taken away,” Ng said. “They will say something right now.”

    The post NYC protest shows solidarity with Hong Kong pro-democracy movement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Benefit reductions from the earnings test can wreak havoc on your budget, says Larry Kotlikoff, because they're front-loaded. Photo by Flickr user bunchofpants

    Benefit reductions from the earnings test can wreak havoc on your budget, says Larry Kotlikoff, because they’re front-loaded. Photo by Flickr user bunchofpants

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

    Oak Creek, Wis.: I would like to retire at 60. I am 59-and-a-half this year. My husband and I were married for four years. He passed away when he was 57 and never applied for Social Security. I receive a pension from his employer for $989 a month until I die. His benefits, as of now, would be about $1,440 a month, per Social Security. Mine are about $800 a month, according to Social Security.

    I hate the job that I had to take after I was fired from my job of 14 years. Can I retire at 60 in the first place? And when Social Security tells me his benefits would be $1440, is that after the early retirement deduction or before? Also, how much can I earn if I have to go back to work to make ends meet?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Very sorry to hear about your husband’s passing. It may be best for you to take a reduced retirement benefit at age 62, and then at full retirement age, take your widows benefit.

    Or it may be best to take your reduced widows benefit starting at 60 and your own retirement benefit at 70. I can’t tell from the numbers you include whether these are reduced or full retirement benefit amounts, called Primary Insurance Amounts. Very sophisticated software can tell you what strategy is best.

    Any calculation must fully incorporate the earnings test so you can see the impact that working more and earning at different levels will have on your lifetime benefits. You are compensated for benefits lost due to the earnings test with an upward adjustment of your benefits starting at full retirement age. The problem is that the adjustment (called the adjustment of the reduction factor) is made only with respect to the benefit you were receiving at the time you were hit by the earnings test. If you flip to another benefit, the adjustment won’t carry over — meaning the earnings test will really cost you money.


    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    For someone whose full retirement age (FRA) is 66, their Social Security benefit is now reduced by $1 for every $2 in earnings (including earnings in non-covered employment) that exceed $15,480 while they were aged 62 to 65. During the year they turn 66, their benefit is reduced by $1 for every $3 in earnings that exceed $41,400, and only earnings in the months before reaching FRA are counted. These are 2014 trigger levels; the levels change every year to reflect national wage trends.

    Benefit reductions are not pro-rated during the year; they’re front-loaded. This can wreak havoc with your budget. For example, if outside earnings reduce someone’s annual benefits from $18,000 to an annual benefit of $12,000, her $1,500 monthly payment would not be reduced to $1,000 for an entire year. Instead, she would get zero Social Security payments for four months and then the $1,500 payment for eight months.

    Mary — Milwaukee, Wis.: These days, with millennials hurting, there is talk of generational “warfare.” Greedy geezers versus unemployed millennials, with the lurking specter of poorly paid millennials footing the bill for the “fat cat” boomers’ Social Security payments. I am wondering what happens to the Social Security benefits people receive. Does most of that money recirculate into the economy? Or do the greedy geezers hoard it (perhaps to pass it to the next generation)? One would think that the Social Security payments to seniors are needed to meet current needs and that they are spent and recirculated. If this is true, does this have a salubrious effect on the economy? Does this recirculation benefit millennials and the economy in general?

    Larry Kotlikoff: No one can eat green pieces of paper. So the focus on recirculating money is misplaced. The real issue is that the economy produces output each year – call it corn, which can be eaten or planted. The more that’s planted, the more productive young workers will be. Think of young workers being hired to raise crops. If no corn seed has been planted, there is no weeding, watering, harvesting, etc. to do and, therefore, no need for, nor payment, to the young.

    The U.S. has spent six decades taking ever larger shares of the corn workers earn when young and giving it to the old in the form of benefits. The old have consumed this. In so doing, they have lowered national saving and investment. The young have been told they’d get their chance to steal from their children through the take-as-you-go policy we’ve been running. In other words, they too have been promised very large benefits in old age. As a result, they have also consumed a lot and saved very little.

    But this Ponzi scheme is falling apart, as all such schemes do. As a result, today’s young kids are facing astronomical future tax hikes and benefit cuts, and not just with respect to Social Security. And thanks to our take-and-spend-as-you-go generational policy, the nation’s saving rate is now close to zero and our domestic investment rate isn’t much larger. This has left today’s young with less capital (seed corn) with which to produce and, as a result, they are earning far less in the market place than had each age group collectively paid for the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid it received.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge supporter of Social insurance (see The Purple Plans for proof). But I’m also outraged, morally and as an economist, by generational theft.

    Heber, Utah: I am 61 and my wife is 58, and we have a 27-year-old son who is disabled. Right now, he gets Supplemental Security Income. Is there any way of taking my Social Security that would be advantageous to our son?

    Larry Kotlikoff: When you are 62, you can file for your reduced retirement benefit and permit your son to collect a child benefit based on your work record. That benefit will equal half of your full (not reduced) retirement benefit. (If you pass away, his child survivor benefit will be 75 percent of your full retirement benefit, by the way.)

    When you reach full retirement age, you can suspend your retirement benefit and start it up again at age 70 at a roughly 32 percent larger level (above and beyond the adjustment for inflation). This start-stop-start strategy may or may not maximize your lifetime benefits. There is very sophisticated and inexpensive software that examines start-stop-start strategies to see if they are optimal.

    Please be advised, though, that any Social Security benefits your son receives will reduce his SSI benefits roughly dollar for dollar. If his benefit amount from your account is high enough, the SSI may stop altogether.

    Judith – Celebration, Fla.: I am 63 and get my own Social Security every month. I am still married but separated and planning to divorce soon. My first marriage ended in divorce after 20 years. When I divorce my second husband, am I able to collect Social Security from my first husband, even though I already started to collect from my own Social Security?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Yes, Judith, you can collect on your first husband if he’s 62 or older. And you can collect a widows benefit based on either husband when they die, assuming that your second marriage lasted at least 10 years.

    But because you filed for your own retirement benefit, you entered “excess benefit hell.” This means, very roughly speaking, that whenever you file for another benefit, you’ll just get the larger of your own retirement benefit and your auxiliary benefit (i.e., your divorced spousal or divorced widow benefit). Even if you suspend your retirement benefit at full retirement age, you will, between full retirement age and age 70 (when your retirement benefit will automatically recommence), receive only the difference, if positive, between your auxiliary benefit and your reduced retirement benefit, but augmented to include any delayed retirement credits you accrue.

    If you are still within one year of collecting you retirement benefit, you can withdraw it by filing the correct form. But doing so will require repaying all the benefits you received so far. However, if you do this, at full retirement age (and not a day before), you can file just for your divorced spousal benefit and collect just that (instead of the difference, if positive, between your divorced spousal benefit and your own retirement benefit), while letting your own retirement benefit grow through age 70.

    Judy – Homosassa, Florida: I currently receive benefits under the civil service program with the Federal Government and don’t have enough paid into Social Security. My husband retired on disability and started on regular Social Security when he turned 66. I will be 65 in a few months, and the Social Security Administration told me I could get Medicare under my husband. Will I have to sign up for Social Security to get Medicare and will it affect my husband’s benefits?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Your signing up for Medicare Part A and, if you want, Part B, and, if you want, Part D, when you reach 65 won’t affect your husband’s Social Security benefits or your own.

    So, no, you don’t need to sign up to take your Social Security spousal benefit when you start collecting Medicare. You should probably wait until full retirement age, in your case 66, to file for your spousal benefit. If your husband passes away, you’ll be able to collect a widows benefit, which will be significantly higher than your spousal benefit.

    However, Social Security’s Government Pension Offset provision may substantially reduce or even eliminate the spousal and survivor benefits you would otherwise receive.

    The post What’s the cost of returning to work after taking Social Security early? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user Ste Elmore

    Photo by Flickr user Ste Elmore

    Turns out dolphins have a certain magnetic quality, not just figuratively but literally.

    A new study published in the journal Naturwissenschaften — The Science of Nature, reveals that the aquatic mammals are attracted to magnets, behaving differently when in proximity to magnetized objects as opposed to any that are demagnitized.

    Magnetoreception, or the use of magnetic fields to perceive location, direction or altitude, has been observed in several species and is theorized to play a role in the migration of dolphins, whales and porpoises. Experimental evidence to support the theory had not been gathered conclusively, however. To test the hypothesis, researchers at the Université de Rennes in France gathered six captive bottlenose dolphins and studied their reaction to different barrels. The barrels were identical physically, yet one being magnetized while the other was not:

    Here, we tested the spontaneous response of six captive bottlenose dolphins to the presentation of two magnetized and demagnetized controlled devices while they were swimming freely. Dolphins approached the device with shorter latency when it contained a strongly magnetized neodymium block compared to a control demagnetized block that was identical in form and density and therefore undistinguishable with echolocation.

    “Dolphins are able to discriminate between objects based on their magnetic properties, which is a prerequisite for magnetoreception-based navigation,” said Dorothee Kremers, one of the study’s researchers. “Our results provide new, experimentally obtained evidence that cetaceans have a magenetic sense, and should therefore be added to the list of magnetosensitive species.”

    The post Researchers reveal dolphins’ real animal ‘magnetism’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The intruder who hopped the White  House fence and made it into the front door of the executive mansion made it further than was previously known.

    The intruder who hopped the White House fence and made it into the front door of the executive mansion made it further than was previously known.

    Omar Gonzalez, the man who jumped the White House fence and made it into the front door of the executive mansion, was able to go deeper inside the building than was previously believed, the Washington Post reports.

    According to the Post, an alarm near the White House’s front entrance — meant to alert agents to intruders on the property — had been muted. Without the advance warning, the guard posted at the entrance was unable to lock the door before Gonzalez made it inside. Once through the door, Gonzalez, who was in possession of a knife, moved past the guard stationed inside, moved into the East Room before being tackled by a counter-assault agent at the entrance to the Green Room.

    Cellphone video of Gonzalez making his way across the White House lawn. Video from YouTube user Alan Pawlinski, who’s son took the video on Sept. 19.

    Secret Service officials had originally said that Gonzalez had been detained immediately after making it through the door. Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan told the Post there would be no comments on the new information, due to an ongoing investigation of the intrusion.

    The Secret Service is under widespread scrutiny after revelations that in recent multiple incidents, layers of security protecting the White House have been breached. On Tuesday, the head of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform where she’ll undoubtedly face tough questions about her agency. The New York Times reports that Pierson may have to answer for other security breaches that haven’t been yet been revealed to the public.

    “Have there been some other serious breaches? Absolutely,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican on the committee. He said the 2011 incident was “about as bungled as could possibly be,” but he said lawmakers on the committee have received numerous reports about security breaches that have not yet been made public.

    “She’s got a lot to answer for,” he said. “I want to give her a chance. But I see this as a total lack of leadership and very questionable protocol.”

    The post White House intruder made it farther inside than previously revealed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Heads of state will speak one after another at the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York from Sept. 24-30. You can watch the speeches live each day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT in this blog, where we’ll capture some of the highlights.

    Updated at 5:45 p.m. EDT Monday:

    MONDAY, SEPT. 29

    Ebola demands quicker response, African officials say

    Officials from two of the countries hardest hit by Ebola — Liberia and Sierra Leone — said Monday their nations are buckling under the deadly disease but will survive.

    “Ebola has confounded all of us and has sprinted faster than our collective effort,” said Liberia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan.

    According to the World Health Organization, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have 6,553 confirmed cases of Ebola and 3,083 deaths.

    Because many health workers have died while treating those with Ebola, there are fewer medical personnel around to help with other diseases, such as malaria, typhoid and measles, leading to even more deaths, he said.

    “Ebola is not just a health crisis,” but an economic one as well that already has caused a 3.4 percent decline in Liberia’s economic growth, said Ngafuan. The suspension of flights and other restrictions and sanctions imposed on Liberia are aggravating the problem, he said.

    Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister Samura Kamara said his country, the region and the global community “were grossly ill prepared” for the Ebola virus, which broke out in March.

    The international community was slow to act, he said, but is now gearing up its efforts. Now that the full impact of the disease is recognized, it calls for heavy aerial and ground support to stop the outbreak, “which in many ways is worse than terrorism,” he said.

    “To defeat the disease and future outbreaks anywhere in the world, we must improve our capacities for a quicker response.”

    Israel’s Netanyahu likens Hamas to militant Islamists

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly on Monday that militant Islamists are on the march and Hamas is with them. “They all share a fanatic ideology” of Islam, he said.

    Hamas wants to destroy Israel, and it shares the global ambitions of its global militant Islamists, who have Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all ethnic and faith groups in their sights, Netanyahu said. The Islamic State militants “and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”

    Netanyahu criticized Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for “bemoaning” the Islamic State militants, while trying to acquire nuclear weapons in Iran and use them against Israel. “Iran’s nuclear military capabilities must be dismantled,” he said.

    To defeat the Islamic State group and leave Iran to be a nuclear power “is to win the battle and lose the war,” he added.

    Netanyahu also addressed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying the war crimes he should be investigating are the actions of Hamas planting its weapons caches among schools and other civilian sites.

    Syria: No political solution until terrorism is stopped

    The Islamic State extremists are unrivaled in brutality and the international community should stand together against them, said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday. He said there can be no political solution in Syria until the terrorism is ended.

    The terrorists have raped women, sold them in slave markets, cut off people’s heads and limbs, and taught children about murder, and they will continue to spread their influence in other places, including Europe and the United States, he said. “Hasn’t the time come for all of us to stand as one in the face of this serious menace?”

    The U.S. administration is showing a double standard by supporting the moderate rebels with money, weapons and training, said al-Moualem. This is a recipe for an increase in terrorism and violence, prolonging the Syrian crisis and providing fertile ground for terrorist groups, he said.

    Al-Moualem said Syria agreed to attend the Geneva II deliberations, only to find a delegation that didn’t negotiate on behalf of the Syrians on the ground and refused to ask terrorist groups to end their campaign.

    “We believe we cannot start any political solution while terrorism is still rampant in the region,” he said through a translator.

    He also criticized the sanctions imposed by the European Union and United States, saying they aggravated the hardship of the Syrian people.

    The Syrian people voted for Bashar al-Assad to continue as president, and their will must be respected, he said.

    SUNDAY, SEPT. 28

    No speeches today.


    Foreign minister: Pressure on Russia won’t work

    The U.S.-led Western alliance, which purports to be a champion of democracy, is actually the opposite by “trying to decide for everyone what is good or evil,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday at the U.N. General Assembly.

    He said Washington uses unilateral force — “military interference has become a norm” — to uphold its own interests.

    Since the end of the Cold War, the United States and Europe have tried to expand their geopolitical control without taking into account the will of all European people, said Lavrov.

    He said the United States supported the coup in Ukraine, which removed President Viktor Yanukovych in February, and backed Ukrainian authorities who were suppressing those within their country who wanted to defend their rights to their native language, culture and history. That led to the people of Crimea taking control of their destiny and voting to join Russia, he said.

    “Russia is sincerely interested in the restoration of peace in the neighboring country,” and is implementing the terms of the cease-fire with Ukraine, Lavrov said. “The attempts to put pressure on Russia and to compel it to abandon its values, truth and justice have no prospects whatsoever.”

    FRIDAY, SEPT. 26

    Iraq is ‘determined to cleanse our land’ of terrorists

    Iraq’s new President Fuad Masum thanked the international community on Friday for helping Iraqis fight the Islamic State militants taking root in their country. “We in Iraq are determined to cleanse our land” of the Islamic State group, he said.

    By declaring a caliphate, the militants started drawing support from other extremists around the world, including Europe and the United States, said Masum. And they are taking terrorism to a new level, he said.

    Iraqi armed forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and other voluntary defense forces have been able to stop the IS fighters in certain areas, and military support from the United Nations, U.S., EU and other states played a vital role in assisting them, he said. “This support confirmed to our people that we are not fighting terror alone.”

    Masum called for more regional cooperation in fighting the group, which “thrives on crises and disputes,” he said.

    Abbas: No one will wonder ‘why extremism is rising’

    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, said Israel “defied the world” by launching a war against Gaza earlier this year and that he would seek punishment for war crimes Israel committed.

    Palestinians again find themselves “full of grief, regret and bitterness, raising the same long-standing conclusions and questions,” he said.

    The incursion in July brought to new levels the destruction of Gaza and displaced about 500,000 people from the densely populated region, said Abbas.

    “No one will wonder anymore why extremism is rising and why the culture of peace is losing ground and why the efforts to achieve it are collapsing,” he said.

    Guinea’s Conde laments Ebola’s economic toll, stigmatization

    President Alpha Conde of Guinea, a country struggling with Ebola since its reemergence in March, urged other U.N. member states to act quickly to stop the spread of the disease.

    Guinea’s economy is expected to take a major hit in the areas of trade, investment and tourism. Ebola has caused borders to close, nations to suspend flights to Guinea, and the stigmatization of nationals, he said.

    In a statement issued Friday, the World Health Organization said it is working with health experts in Guinea, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, on incorporating promising therapies into the treatment of infected individuals and removing “potential bottlenecks” in their distribution.


    Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro's Sphere Within Sphere at U.N. headquarters in New York City. Variations of the bronze sculpture are in a dozen other sites, including Vatican City and the sculpture garden in Washington, D.C. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Sphere Within Sphere at U.N. headquarters in New York City. Variations of the bronze sculpture are in a dozen other sites, including Vatican City and the sculpture garden in Washington, D.C. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    DR Congo ‘stands ready’ to help on Ebola

    Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said his country “stands ready” to send its experts on Ebola to other African nations now that its own outbreak is under control.

    DR Congo has reported 71 cases of the Ebola virus and 40 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The majority of the cases are in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    In October, DR Congo will set up centers to train health personnel to handle the epidemic, Kabila said.

    Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama spoke at the United Nations about how countries had to do more to squelch the disease that is becoming a global threat.

    Australia: ‘Strong’ but ‘pragmatic’

    When recounting his country’s efforts to help the world’s problems, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the United Nations, “We’re strong enough to be useful but pragmatic enough to know our limitations.”

    He spoke specifically about the Australian government increasing trade ties with other nations to help build their economies. “We should put no limits on what we can achieve, especially when we work together.”

    Abbott also said of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down in July over Ukraine and all passengers aboard killed: “We will do everything we can to ensure that the investigation is not undermined and that the crime is not covered up because that’s our duty to the 38 Australians murdered in this atrocity.”

    Rouhani: Mideast ‘burning in fire of extremism’

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his part of the world is “burning in fire of extremism and radicalism” at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. To uproot it, “we must spread justice and development,” he said.

    He pinned the blame on the West. “The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists. Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East.

    “We have always believed that democracy cannot be transplanted from abroad; democracy is the product of growth and development; not war and aggression.”


    UK calls for new U.N. post on extremism

    British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that the world must not only challenge violent extremism but non-violent extremism as well. He called for a new U.N. special representative to focus on tackling extremist ideologies.

    “Would we sit back and allow right-wing extremists, Nazis or Klu Klux Klansmen to recruit on our university campuses?” he asked. “So we shouldn’t stand by and just allow any form of non-violent extremism.”

    Turkey condemns pairing Islam with terrorism

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chided those who connect Islam with the fighters who call themselves the Islamic State during his appearance at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday. “Those labeling their inhuman actions as Islamic disrespect the religion of Islam and all religions,” he said through a translator.

    Problems in Iraq and Syria have spread beyond their borders and created fertile ground for extremists, he said. The unresponsiveness in the United Nations cannot continue, he added.

    Turkey has taken in 847,000 Syrian refugees, according to the U.N. refugee agency, and resources with the country are stretched thin.

    Erdogan focused on children dying in Syria, Gaza and elsewhere in his pitch for nations to act. “No one is innocent in a world in which children die and are killed,” he said.

    The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Russia, the UK and United States — frequently disagree on resolutions and have rendered the world body ineffective, said Erdogan. “The world is bigger than five” nations, he said.

    French president addresses beheading

    France’s President Francois Hollande said his country, which just learned about the beheading of a French hostage by extremists in Algeria, is fully committed to the fight against terrorism.

    Hollande called it a “cowardly” act, and described the slain hostage Herve Gourdel as “full of enthusiasm.”

    “This (Islamic State) group is threating the entire world by organizing attacks and recruiting fighters from all areas so they can reproduce sinister acts of terrorism,” he told the United Nations through a translator. That is why France has committed to act, because terrorism affects or will affect everyone, he said.

    El-Sissi: Egypt is a ‘beacon of moderate Islam’

    Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi touted his country as a “beacon of moderate Islam” in his speech on Wednesday. After years of political and religious struggle, “Egypt today has regained its self-confidence,” he said.

    Egypt is working on rebuilding its economy, he said, mentioning the Suez Canal project — a plan he announced in August to develop the Suez-Ismailia-Port Said region of northern Egypt to boost international trade.

    He also spoke about the terrorism gripping his region. Terrorists aren’t bound by certain economic levels, they come from all walks of life, he said.

    The way to defeat them is to establish the principles of equality for all citizens and respect for the rule of law, while ensuring rights to development to save society from exploitation and extremism, he said through a translator.

    Societies must defeat terrorism, Qatar amir says

    The leader of Qatar, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, urged the international community to “work to end the bloodshed and destruction of Syria” that has put Syrians in the troubling spot of having to choose between “the terror of the regime” and terrorist forces.

    Qatar is one of the Arab allies that helped the U.S. military launch airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State militants on Monday.

    Terrorism can only be defeated within societies themselves, said Al Thani. They “must be convinced it’s their war, not to stabilize the regime that is oppressing them,” he said through a translator.

    Obama takes Syria, Russia to task

    President Barack Obama dinged Russia for absorbing the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and declared the extremist fighters in Syria and Iraq a “network of death” in his U.N. General Assembly speech on Wednesday.

    “Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness,” the president said.

    Russia’s backing of the separatists in Eastern Ukraine challenges the notion that “people can decide their own future,” said President Obama.

    The recent cease-fire agreement between Ukraine and Russia shows a diplomatic opening, the president said, and if Russia follows through, “we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges.”

    President Obama urged U.N. member states, both big and small, to uphold international norms and stand together in the fight against the Islamic State militants.

    He pointed to the “notinmyname” campaign started by young British Muslims to counteract the terrorist propaganda, and said that the U.N. Security Council will adopt a resolution later Wednesday “that underscores the responsibility of states to counter violent extremism.”

    Many of the world’s problems — from violent extremism to the unwieldy outbreak of Ebola — stem from “the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world,” said the president.

    “Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe.”

    The United Nations can renew itself and choose “hope over fear,” he said.

    Haiti's flag flies with others outside the U.N. headquarters in New York City. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    Haiti’s flag flies with others outside the U.N. headquarters in New York City. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    From Sept. 24-30, more than 120 world leaders and officials are speaking about their countries’ priorities and concerns at the U.N. headquarters in New York City. They have held high-level meetings on climate change, humanitarian needs for Syrian refugees and the unprecedented spread of the Ebola virus at this year’s 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

    The post Watch Live: Speeches of U.N. General Assembly 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Two African elephants roam the flowery grassland in Tanzania. Copyright: © Steve Morello / WWF-Canon

    Two African elephants roam the flowery grassland in Tanzania. Photo by © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

    Monday on The PBS NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown visits baby elephants in Kenya orphaned by the illegal ivory trade. The African elephant population has been dwindling rapidly over the past decade as the demand for ivory in countries like China has increased. The world’s largest land mammals are in danger of extinction, conservationists report.

    Humans have lived and worked with elephants for centuries, but recent research reveals how incredibly complex — and threatened — these animals are. Here are ten things you should know about elephants:

    1. The world could lose a fifth of its African elephant population in 10 years. The African elephant population has dropped drastically since the 1970s. Then, there were an estimated 1.6 million elephants in Africa, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. A survey in 2007 found that there were between 470,000 and 690,000 wild elephants left in the Africa, but some researchers believe the real number is much lower, closer to 250,000.

    Jeffrey Brown traveled to Kenya as part of a reporting trip that includes a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Photo by Molly Raskin

    Jeffrey Brown traveled to Kenya as part of a reporting trip that includes a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Watch his report on Monday. Photo by Molly Raskin

    2. Despite an international ban on new ivory sales in 1989, elephant poaching has escalated since 2007. An increasing demand for ivory in China has led to a drastic decline in the African elephant population. Ivory can sell for as much as $1,500 a pound on the black market. Paul G. Allen, head of the Elephants Without Borders population survey, estimates 96 elephants died every day last year. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that since 2010, Africa has lost about 35,000 elephants each year, and at the current poaching rate, more elephants are killed each year than are born.

    A family of African elephants, Loxodonta africana, in Etosha National park, Namibia. Photo by © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

    A family of African elephants, Loxodonta africana, in Etosha National park, Namibia. Photo by © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

    3. It’s true that elephants never forget. Elephants can remember the locations of watering holes hundreds of miles apart, and return to them every year. Their brains are very advanced, like humans, dolphins and chimpanzees. Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror and even use tools. They can break sticks into switches to swat flies and use chewed up bark to plug up drinking holes. In one experiment, Asian elephants at Smithsonian’s National Zoo learned to use step-stools to reach food hidden in trees:

    4. Elephants also cooperate. In another experiment in Thailand, scientists devised a system of ropes, which, if operated correctly, pulled a tray of food under a net. Elephants quickly learned they needed to wait for a partner to get what they wanted:

    5. Elephants mourn their dead. The pachyderms display very complicated emotions, including grief. Elephant herds are made of strong family and social bonds. They have been known to comfort other elephants in distress, stroking each others’ heads with their trunks. When one of their own dies, they cry and will stay beside the body for days. Elephants will mourn over carcasses of unrelated elephants too, stroking the bones with their trunks and laying dirt or leaves over the bodies.

    African elephants, Loxodonta africana, are led by their matriarch in Maasai Mara, Kenya. Photo by © naturepl.com/Andy Rouse/WWF-Canon

    African elephants, Loxodonta africana, are led by their matriarch in Maasai Mara, Kenya. Photo by © naturepl.com/Andy Rouse/WWF-Canon

    6. They get Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Research finds that elephants respond to abuse, captivity and other trauma much like humans. Orphaned baby elephants will have trouble sleeping, and they wake up with night terrors.

    7. Humans can’t hear most elephants’ sounds. Elephants have an amazing 4-octave vocal range, with frequencies stretching between rumbles at 27 Hz to roars at 470 Hz. (For reference, a man’s voice is typically 110 Hz.) Elephants can produce sounds at 112 decibels, which is louder than a construction site. But their rumbles are two octaves below human hearing. These rumbles are called infrasounds, and they are produced in the same way a cat purrs. Infrasounds let elephants communicate between great distances — up to 50 miles according to nature documentarian James Honeyborne — and they even recognize other elephants’ voices.

    8. Elephants have been used for centuries in war, entertainment and execution. Elephants’ intelligence makes them trainable. Many circus-goers have seen the massive mammals trained to stand on their hind legs and perform other tricks. But in the ancient world, elephants were frequently used in combat, trained to carry soldiers and break through enemy lines. Their military career extended to the Second World War, where they were used in Burma to rescue 64 Ghurka women and children from the Japanese. Elephants were also used as executioners in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand until the 18th and 19th century, crushing and dismembering prisoners. Two captive elephants have been publicly executed for killing people. Topsy, a Barnum and Bailey circus elephant that killed a spectator in Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to public execution by the circus owners in 1903. Thomas Edison built the contraption to electrocute her. In September 1916, a circus elephant named Mary died by hanging with an industrial crane in a public execution in Erwin, Tennessee.

    An African elephant reaches up to feed on tree branches in Africa. Photo by © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

    An African elephant reaches up to feed on tree branches in Africa. Photo by © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

    9. Even with a thick skin, elephants can get sunburns. To protect themselves, elephants coat themselves with dirt and mud. Mud also helps keep bugs away.

    10. Some pachyderms are being trained to curb the conflict between humans and wild elephants. As elephants in Asia lose their habitat to farming and development, they have been known to raid farmers’ fields for an easy meal, destroying crops and property. The World Wildlife Fund has trained the Flying Squad — four female elephants and eight handlers — in Indonesia’s Tesso Nilo National Park to usher wild elephants away farmland and back to the forests.

    The post Elephants don’t eat peanuts, and 10 other things you should know about the pachyderms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Are social impact bonds, like the kind used to finance a cognitive behavior therapy program at Rikers Island, above, a profit-maker for investors or a way to hold government accountable? Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

    A judge has called for the termination of six correction officers who beat an inmate. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

    Weeks after a U.S. government report further revealed the rampant brutality against male teenage inmates at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York, a judge’s decision published Monday called for the termination of six correction officers who hog-tied and assaulted an handcuffed inmate, the New York Times reported.

    In her decision, administrative law judge Tynia Richard details how a captain and five guards beat inmate Robert Hinton in a solitary confinement cell, leaving Hinton with “multiple blunt trauma to the face,” including a bloodied and broken nose and a fractured vertebra.

    Richard added that the six correction officers then tried to cover up the incident, which occurred two and a half years ago. With these revelations, Richard recommended that the six officers be fired.

    “I am convinced of the primacy of the deterrence principle in this instance, in hopes that imposing the most severe sanction would deter future misconduct by those who would participate in or stand idly by when such brazen misconduct occurs,” she wrote. “Hopefully, it will help break the vice grip that silence and collusion played in this incident.

    In August, the federal government released a 79-page report graphically describing the “deep-seated culture of violence” against adolescent inmates at Rikers, where guards routinely used “unnecessary and excessive force.”

    Earlier today, the New York City Correction Department announced that it will stop using solitary confinement as a form of punishment for 16- and 17-year-old inmates by the end of this year, the New York Times reported. Although New York State banned the practice in February, the decision did not apply to Rikers, since it wasn’t state controlled.

    In February, the NewsHour aired a report from special correspondent Daffodil Atlan of the Center for Investigative Reporting on the adverse effects that solitary confinement has on young inmates.

    The post Judge recommends terminating six Rikers Island officers for beating inmate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: the threat to Africa’s elephants reaching crisis proportions. The world is taking notice. And this coming weekend, an international march for elephants will be held in cities in the U.S. and around the globe, including in Kenya, where Jeff Brown visited recently and had a close-up look at the situation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The African elephant, it is the largest land animal on earth. Weighing up to seven tons, these behemoths move more gracefully and sometimes faster than seems possible.

    When you’re up close, it can take your breath away. And yet today, they’re among the most threatened animals.

    There’s perhaps no better place in the world to see elephants in the wild than here at Amboseli National Park in Kenya under the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. But there is a massive slaughter of elephants going on throughout Africa now. And there are great fears that scenes like this might be impossible in the not-so-distant future.

    PAULA KAHUMBU, CEO, Wildlife Direct: The poaching situation of elephants in Africa is actually at crisis levels. At this rate, most of our wild elephants will be gone within 10 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Paul Kahumbu of the group Wildlife Direct is referring to scenes like this, horrific, gruesome and all too common, elephants killed for their magnificent ivory tusks.

    Elephants need their tusk for fighting, feeding and playing. But to poachers the, tusks mean big money. Despite the 1989 international ban on the trade of African elephant ivory, demand for tusks has grown, especially in China, where ivory carvings have long been prized and new wealth has pushed the price per pound to historic highs.

    Poachers can make more than a year’s salary by killing one elephant. And experts say, today, they are organized and well-armed, with clear connections to cartels, militias, even terrorist groups.

    MAN: He’s a victim of ivory poaching.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Here’s one casualty, orphaned elephants, aged 2 months to 3 years, from all over Kenya, given shelter at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park.

    Edward Lucici has been caring for them for more than a decade.

    MAN: We see their mood. We see their emotions when they come in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You do?

    MAN: Most of them are sad. They’re stressed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How you can tell?

    MAN: You can tell because they don’t want to — for us to sit with you or with us. They don’t want to feed from us. They don’t want to play with us. They’re most of the time, like, looking down, like crying, like moaning.


    MAN: And you can tell that is a mood of sadness.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s amazing to walk among them, like a group of young children, jostling one another and you, older ones caring for the babies, their trunks and keen sense of smell used to identify a visitor.

    In Amboseli National Park, we learned more about the elephant’s complex and highly developed family and social lives and about their communication skills, their ability, for example, to sense danger. Using one of more than 70 different sounds, they can warn friends and family of potential threats or just say hello.

    Katito Sayialel is deputy director of research at the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, based near the swamplands of the national park, where elephants eat, drink and escape the dry, dusty salt plains. Sayialel says she knows every one of the park’s 1,500 elephants.

    KATITO SAYIALEL, Amboseli Trust for Elephants: And we know all of them individually by names.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Not just by name, but also by date of birth, family history, and even personality. And the elephants know her so well, they don’t mind when she drives her Land Rover into the center of their herd, the sound of her voice, scent of her shirt all familiar to them.

    The founder of the trust, Cynthia Moss, sums up the research.

    CYNTHIA MOSS, Amboseli Trust for Elephants: They’re very complex, very highly intelligent. They have very large brains, very complex and convoluted brains. And they have a very rich social life.

    But Moss ads:

    CYNTHIA MOSS: They are smart, but they’re not smart enough not to get killed by people with AK-47s, so…

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that’s where these men come in. They’re among the 300-plus rangers who patrol in and around the park trained by Big Life, a private foundation dedicated to stopping the poaching of elephants and rhinos.

    It’s a huge area, some two million acres, impossible to cover fully. And it’s grueling work. Big Life rangers hike through thick, thorny bush, sometimes for days at a time in search of threats and signs of the animals themselves.

    MAN: Normally, an elephant go to a tree and scrub themselves where the injury is, so it can see the blood.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, I see.

    MAN: Once you come across that incident, you have to follow that until we get it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In a dense lava forest home to endangered rhinos hunted for their prized horns, officer Joseph Makoki explained the dangers and difficulties of catching poachers before they strike.

    MAN: They have got the binoculars. They have got the GPS. So, they have got everything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. And they can come quickly.

    MAN: They can come quickly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As soon as they know where an elephant or rhino is.

    MAN: So it will be easy for him to come down straight, hit the ellie and go up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you have to act really quickly too.

    MAN: Yes. Yes. So we have to be always ahead of them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And Big Life has had an impact, making thousands of arrests in its four-year existence.

    RICHARD BONHAM, Big Life: That’s a huge deterrent.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Co-founder Richard Bonham says they have worked hard to engage the locals, mostly members of the Maasai Tribe, including using them as paid informants.

    RICHARD BONHAM: If you can get the community behind them who are living with these animals, if they are behind it, then that is 90 percent of the battle won. You’re not fighting the community. They’re fighting for you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Does the word get out, do you think, or is it getting out that they’re…

    RICHARD BONHAM: Oh, it’s instant. The Bush telegraph works so fast.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Bush telegraph?



    RICHARD BONHAM: You know, you make an arrest this morning, and by lunchtime, everybody in the whole area knows about it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Still, it’s a small success in a war that Bonham and others fear is being lost.

    RICHARD BONHAM: I think we are containing. Well, we are containing it here. But when you put that against what is happening across the rest of the continent, you know, the situation is out of control.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Controversially, the agency charged with the task of protecting the elephants, the Kenya Wildlife Service, believes the situation is not that dire.

    Assistant director Julius Cheptei told us that the government takes this very seriously and is throwing resources into it.

    JULIUS CHEPTEI, Kenya Wildlife Service: This is a mission that people are saying, that poaching is out of control. From Kenya Wildlife Service’s point of view, that is not the case.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Activist Paula Kahumbu scoffs at that and says the government is afraid of scaring off tourists.

    PAULA KAHUMBU: At the moment, tourists are wondering whether it is safe to come to Kenya in part because they are seeing photographs of dead elephants. It means there are people running around those protected areas with guns. It doesn’t make you feel very secure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: If things are bad here, she and others say, they’re even worse elsewhere in the continent, where war and other problems make it impossible to fight poaching.

    As the sunset on this day at least, all seemed peaceful for the mighty beast living under Mount Kilimanjaro. The looming question, how much longer will it remain that way?

    The post Racing to save Kenya’s wild elephants from poachers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: how Detroit is tackling a staggering amount of blight with some unusual help. The city is going through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

    Earlier today, a judge ruled that Detroit is permitted to shut off water for residents if they don’t pay their bills. This comes as the city is under a great deal of pressure to turn around its larger deteriorating situation, including thousands of shuttered buildings.

    Special correspondent Christy McDonald from Detroit Public Television has our story, as part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation and the Renaissance Journalism Project of the Ford Foundation.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: A demolition crew at work in Northwest Detroit. This one crew will knock down up to 10 houses in a day. Ronald Garrison lives next door to this one, vacant for years. Trespassers looted it of anything of value.

    RONALD GARRISON: The man down the street boarded it up. And they used to come rip the boards off and still go back in there. And he would have to come board it up again.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: The numbers are in. There are nearly 80,000 dilapidated structures across the city of Detroit, a number so high because of scrappers, vandals tearing everything of value out of vacant properties, leaving them open to the elements. Once there is structural damage, the houses have to come down.

    DERRICK WATTS: Oh yes.

    The scrapping is so rampant, Derrick Watts says even inhabited homes can be targets.

    DERRICK WATTS: You have to watch your house even if you go on vacation. You can go on vacation, and come back and your house will be scrapped. So you got to watch it, really, 24 hours a day, because that’s the thing now. That’s the hustle now.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: With the city bankrupt and operating under an emergency manager, Detroit’s new mayor, Michael Duggan, is focusing on the demolition of the tens of thousands of houses stripped beyond repair.

    And what kind of speed are we seeing and what — the numbers that we’re seeing?

    Mayor Michael Duggan, Detroit: Well, it’s pretty remarkable. The city has historically knocked down maybe 50 houses a week. We’re now knocking down 200 to 250 every single week.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Before Duggan, the city’s demolition plan had been slowed by bureaucracy. Duggan took office in January. He says his new team has been able to streamline the demolition program. Now residents like Kai Belcher (ph) are seeing action.

    MAN: I came home one day, these were houses was down first. And then my mother said they were coming back for the other ones because they had the paper up. So I was, you know, sure that they were going to come back and take care of the rest of them. So it’s pretty good.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Last year, the Obama administration and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder helped create the Detroit Blight Task Force. The task force brought together government, foundations and private groups, some for the first time.

    Glenda Price co-chairs the task force. She said when everybody started working together, things started to happen.

    GLENDA PRICE, Co-Chair, Detroit Blight Task Force: But you did not see impact because there was no concentrated strategy to go neighborhood by neighborhood, where you could actually see a difference.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: And you finally have it.

    GLENDA PRICE: And we finally have it.

    You can’t do one house on the East Side, one house in Brightmoor, one house someplace else and feel as though you have made a difference. You do three houses on one block, and, by golly, you have made a difference.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: So you had a staggering number of blighted properties.


    CHRISTY MCDONALD: I can only understand there would be a staggering price tag to go with it, to remove them.

    GLENDA PRICE: Approximately $1 billion.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: The city has some of that money in the bank, but it’s nowhere near enough to remove all the blight, which is estimated to take five years.

    Where does the money come from a city that’s going through a bankruptcy process?

    MIKE DUGGAN: Yes, that’s a really good question. And so the first $50 million came from the federal government in TARP funds. And I got an application in now for another $50 million. And — and I think if the federal government continues to see the progress we’re making, they will be supportive.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: In the fight against blight, technology is key. Citizens are using a smartphone app to tracks changes in their neighborhoods, for better or worse. It’s called blexting, short for blight texting.

    This is the crowdsourcing of information and comes courtesy of a couple of young Detroit entrepreneurs. Sandra Yu does community outreach for the program.

    SANDRA YU, Loveland Technologies: Loveland Technologies is a text startup in Detroit. And they are just geeks about property and wanting property to be used for the highest and best use.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Norma Heath is president of the West Euclid Block Club in the Midtown area of the city.

    NORMA HEATH, President, West Euclid Block Club: But this is a way that you know how to see who own the property, you see everything you need to know.

    SANDRA YU: We want blexting to be part of what it means to be a citizen. You mow your lawn. You take out the trash. You blext properties in your neighborhood.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Monique Tate of the nonprofit group Data Driven Detroit hosts some of the blexting boot camps, training residents across the city.

    MONIQUE TATE, Data Driven Detroit:  So having this kind of information available leads to exactly what we want, data-driven decisions, so community groups can decide, where are we going to focus our efforts and our attention, because they can easily pull up on the public dashboard a map of their specific neighborhood to see, where are the vacancies?

    GLENDA PRICE: What we recommended and what they are attempting to do is look at what we are defining as tipping point neighborhoods, those neighborhoods where a little investment will stop the decline.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: This is the Marygrove neighborhood, one of the Detroit neighborhoods that is at the tipping point. There’s lots of streets just like this one where you have got homes that are well taken care of, but sandwiched in between others that are vacant and rundown. The city is now aggressively targeting homeowners, either clean up your property or lose it.

    They are also offering incentives for people to buy homes like this one, to move in and to stay here.

    Gloria Mitchell moved to Marygrove in 1978.

    When people talk about Detroit blight and some of the neighborhoods that are up and down, how would you describe how your neighborhood and your street fits into that?

    GLORIA MITCHELL: It fits right in the middle. We have quite a mix here now, where it went from working-class. It’s now retirees, former working people. It’s families, new, old. It’s everything here.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: This Marygrove home is about to be seized by the Detroit Land Bank Authority. The Land bank has been in operation for years with little notice. Now the mayor has hired more staff, including attorneys, computer techs and a communications director.

    CRAIG FAHLE, Detroit Land Bank Authority: Detroit Land Bank Authority, it’s pretty simple, really. We are a place that is a clearinghouse for vacant property in the city of Detroit. Our goal is to either sell it to somebody that wants to live in it, auction it off to get somebody to live in it. And if we don’t have any other options, we will demolish the property.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: The Land Bank has started a pilot program called the Forgivable Grants Program. In Marygrove, suburban-based Talmer Bank is putting up seed money for homebuyers, money it doesn’t expect to be repaid.

    Patrick Ervin runs the bank’s grant program.

    PATRICK ERVIN, Talmer Bank and Trust: We are going to give a million dollars of our money in these grants that are forgivable grants for people who want to live in this neighborhood with their families, and be here for a long period of time.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Here, auction winners can receive up to $25,000 to fix up their homes if they promise to live in them for five years.

    JAY MEEKS: Wow, first try.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: In Marygrove, Jay Meeks take possession of the house he won for just over $8,000.

    JAY MEEKS: It’s structurally solid on the outside. It’s a decent size. I like it.

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: Meeks is 29, an upwardly mobile Ph.D. student who grew up nearby. He lived on the East Coast, but recently returned home.

    JAY MEEKS: I am excited about the opportunity for great things to come and my ability to contribute to them. So…

    CHRISTY MCDONALD: If the Marygrove pilot project works, other parts of Detroit might get financial incentives like this one, that is, if the city can recruit more charitable lenders to bring more people back into the neighborhoods.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A battle between Amazon and a publisher and some very notable authors is kicking into higher gear this week.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a fight that started last spring over the price of e-books when Amazon demanded discounts from the publisher Hachette. That was rejected, leading to Amazon’s refusal to preorder, discount or promptly deliver many Hachette titles.

    The publisher’s authors took the fight public, and now they have been joined by hundreds of other writers, including Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, and Ursula Le Guin. The writers also want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly practices.

    Roxana Robinson is a novelist, biographer, and president of the Authors Guild, and one of the leaders of this effort.

    For the record, Amazon has not responded to several invitations to join us.

    So, Roxana Robinson, what is this fight about now?  Has it become a debate whether Amazon is just too powerful today when it comes to the market for books?

    ROXANA ROBINSON, President, Authors Guild: Well, there are several ways to look at it.

    Yes, Amazon is incredibly powerful. It dominates the market in books of all sorts. And it is — the reason that everybody became so vocal about it was the fact that Amazon targeted writers who were completely vulnerable in this circumstance and unable to change the situation. And so Amazon took on the writers for Hachette and made it very difficult to buy their books.

    So these writers have seen plunges in their sales and plunges in their income. And it’s something that they can’t do anything about. We find that unacceptable for a huge marketer who got its start selling books to target writers and make them into victims.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Amazon — of course, it is a marketplace. Amazon argues it wants to lower the prices of books. It can sell more books that way. They say publishers don’t want this and want to keep the price high for themselves.

    ROXANA ROBINSON: Well, here’s the thing.

    Amazon has made a public claim saying that they have studies that show that if you drop the price of e-books, all e-books would sell more. They don’t show what those studies are. They don’t show any numbers. It’s not — it doesn’t make any sense. First of all, it presumes that there is an infinite demand for books, which isn’t true. If you made all the books on Amazon free, they still all wouldn’t find homes.

    So people buy the books they want to buy. Secondly, it won’t change people’s reading habits. If you want to read “Moby-Dick,” you’re not going to buy a romance novel just because it’s cheap. You are going to buy “Moby-Dick.”  So it’s not — it’s not really going to change things.

    What they want to do is drop the prices of e-books so they can make more sales, so they make more money. It’s not going to help a huge number, a huge proportion of the people whose books are sold through…

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, it is true, of course, that the publishers, Hachette included, are part of much larger corporations. They’re big guys too.

    So I wonder, for you as an author and authors you work with, do you look at the publishers as the good guys vs. the bad guy Amazon?  Is there any good guy here?

    ROXANA ROBINSON: Well, here’s the thing. Of course, Hachette is a huge company. It’s a million-dollar, billion-dollar, international company.

    It’s dwarfed by Amazon, which is much larger. But the big difference is their attitude towards books and towards writers. And what publishers do is invest in books. They pay advances to writers. They recognize the fact that it may take years to write a good book for a biographer, for a writer of history. And they — they invest in the book. Amazon doesn’t do that. Amazon doesn’t do editorial tasks.

    They don’t take a position on the intellectual merit of a book. So, in terms of supporting our endeavor, our intellectual property, there’s a big difference between these two companies.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On the other hand, though, Amazon has created this marketplace in which books are so much cheaper for consumers, they’re so much more readily available. Millions of people clearly like that. And authors see a changing industry, right, a changing world of commerce.

    ROXANA ROBINSON: Absolutely.

    And Amazon has — by lowering their prices, they have driven out of business a lot of bricks-and-mortar book stores. So, there are lots of people who have no choice but to buy on Amazon. And Amazon makes it very easy. And we all have to accept the fact that most books are sold on Amazon.

    But that doesn’t mean we have to accept the fact that they are targeting writers and punishing us for something that we have no control over.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Have you or other writers you know been in touch with Amazon?  Have they reached out to you at all to find some kind of resolution?

    ROXANA ROBINSON: Amazon has been very closed-mouth about this. They have reached out to someone I know, and I was sent a letter asking if writers would support a response that they would make — which became public. It was a deal in which Amazon and Hachette would give money to charity, but writers still wouldn’t make any money.

    But they certainly have not come to any table, as far as I know. I don’t know. Both sides are being pretty — pretty quiet about this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, this new effort among hundreds more authors, some very prominent authors, this has become a very public matter. Is that the — is that a strategy, I guess, on the part of authors?

    ROXANA ROBINSON: Well, it’s a circumstance that we find very troubling.

    And, you know, there are millions and millions of readers in the United States. So we are bringing this to the public.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Roxana Robinson, novelist, president of the Authors Guild, thank you so much.

    ROXANA ROBINSON: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We pick up now on the president’s statements that the intelligence community underestimated the Islamic State group’s capabilities and overestimated the Iraqi military’s willpower.

    For that, we get the perspective of Frederick Kagan. He’s director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. He was a leading advocate for the surge of American forces in Iraq in 2007.

    And, Frederick Kagan, we welcome you back to the program.

    FREDERICK KAGAN, American Enterprise Institute: Thanks, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s divide this in two, because there are two comments the president made here.

    Number one, he said that the intelligence community was caught off-guard about how fast, how strong ISIS was growing. How do you see that?

    FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, I mean, Director Clapper said that they had underestimated the ISIS threat and overestimated the Iraqi security forces.

    But when you go back and look at the testimony that General Flynn, the DIA director, gave in February and a number of other testimonies and statements, it is pretty clear that the intelligence community leadership was tracking the rise of ISIS and seeing the threat and seeing the danger.

    And so I don’t think it sounds like the intelligence community really missed this one in a big way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But hasn’t Director Clapper, though, said this in so many words, that they were caught off-guard?

    FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, he said — yes, he did say it in so many words, but he also went on to give a little bit more context than that.

    And what he really specified was that they had not been able to estimate accurately the will to fight of both sides. And that, you know, may have helped them not see Mosul fall as rapidly as it did, not see the ISF collapse as rapidly as it did.

    But that’s a very particular issue. What he didn’t say was that they had fundamentally missed or misjudged the rise of ISIS in general or the threat. He can’t say that, really. And he wouldn’t say that because his people have been testifying to it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And all this is in the context of we know there’s limited intelligence capability inside Syria anyway to know exactly what’s going on…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: … inside ISIS as it was growing.

    FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, right. Because we closed our embassy in Damascus, that deprived us of a lot of capability. And of course we have had limited intelligence in Iraq also since we pulled out and we didn’t succeed in negotiating either a follow-on forces agreement or a follow-on intelligence agreement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that is the other part of this I want to ask you about, because the president also said that the — he said the intelligence community overestimated the ability and the will of the Iraqi army to fight. What is your take on that?

    FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, I think that there were a lot of warning signs about weaknesses in the Iraqi security forces that good analysts at the Institute for the Study of War had been tracking in 2013 and laying out.

    And there was a lot of desertions. There was a large amnesty that Prime Minister Maliki granted in 2013 which were indicative of morale problems. I’m sure the intelligence community was aware of those. I’m sure that it was aware of the risks.

    I think what Director Clapper was saying was that, from the standpoint of putting a really fine point on it and saying, well, at this moment, ISIS has the capability to do this and the Iraqi security forces will fold, that, they didn’t estimate. But I suspect that in terms of generally understanding the state of play, again, I would be very surprised if the intelligence community had really missed that fundamentally.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So when the president went on — and I looked — I was just looking at his interview with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes.”  He said the U.S. left a democracy in Iraq that was intact. He said a well-equipped military with the ability to chart their own course. But he said it was squandered.

    And we have heard this argument before from the administration, their belief, their view and the view of many that all this was squandered by the former Prime Minister Maliki.

    FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, I think the situation that we left behind in 2011 was squandered. I think it was squandered by Maliki and I think it was squandered by President Obama.

    I think that the failure to maintain any kind of U.S. military support for the Iraqis was critical. Among other things, it’s misleading to say that the Iraqi army was actually properly equipped. It wasn’t. It hadn’t been designed to stand on its own. It hadn’t — it had no air support of its own. It had no ability to police its own airspace.

    It had a variety of lax in intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance that everyone had expected that the U.S. would continue to provide. So when we pulled out in 2011, it wasn’t just about pulling out our ground forces. It was about withdrawing from the Iraqi security forces enablers that they had thought they would continue to have and leaving them in a bad condition to deal with the fight that they faced.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the point, though, Frederick Kagan, that the president went on to say?  He said — and, again, he’s said this before. He said, this can’t be a U.S. military operation alone. In essence, he was saying it’s got to be something the Iraqis want, or how can the U.S. go in and make it happen?

    And he’s pointing out if the Iraqi military isn’t going to fight, how can the U.S. go in and do the fighting for them, if they don’t want it to happen?

    FREDERICK KAGAN: I have to say, this is one of the most offensive arguments that has been made about Iraq all along, which is that somehow Iraqis are children and craven and lazy or cowardly and they don’t want to fight, and so unless we really boot them in the rear end and push them forward, then they’re just not going to do it for themselves.

    That’s false. Iraqis have fought like lions against al-Qaida in Iraq. They fought like lions against Shia militias when our troops were there, and they fought like lions for some time after our troops had left.

    What they need is assistance. They need U.S. assistance, concrete assistance on the ground and a willingness that we have shown before, but that this president seems not to have, to share the risks with them and share the burdens against a common enemy, because the biggest problem with this argument that says if the Iraqis don’t stand up, then what can we do, is it implies that it doesn’t matter to us what the outcome is.

    But if this group is as much of a threat to us as the president says it is, and I believe that it is, then we have to have a solution to this problem, even if the Iraqis aren’t going to stand up and do it. And when he was asked that question, he punted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, because, I mean, when you put it all together, the president is acknowledging the intelligence community made mistakes. But he’s saying the philosophical view of the administration was, how could the administration, how could the U.S. continue to conduct this fight if the Iraqis themselves didn’t care enough to do it on their own?


    And I think the biggest problem here is that the philosophical view of this administration is that they campaigned on, end this war. And he campaigned on, we’re done, and we’re not going to be involved in Iraq. And for five years while Maliki has been making mistakes, and I and many others have been calling attention to them and warning and calling on the administration to press Maliki in various ways to try and help in various ways, this administration has shown the most profound disinterest in what is going on in Iraq.

    And I think it’s very telling that, called to account on this, what the president said was, somebody else got it wrong.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you, Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. Thank you.


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    The Veterans Affairs Department said Monday it has settled complaints filed by three employees who faced retaliation after filing whistleblower complaints about the troubled Phoenix VA hospital.

    The employees were among the first to report widespread wrongdoing at the Phoenix hospital, including chronic delays for veterans seeking care and falsified waiting lists covering up those delays. Similar problems were soon identified at other VA medical facilities across the country in a scandal that forced the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and a new law overhauling the agency and making it easier to fire senior officials.

    Dr. Katherine Mitchell, a former co-director of emergency care at the Phoenix hospital; Paula Pedene, the hospital’s former chief spokeswoman; and Damian Reese, a program analyst, all filed retaliation complaints with the independent Office of Special Counsel. The counsel’s office and the VA announced the settlements Monday in separate statements.

    The three employees will remain with the VA and received what the special counsel’s office called “full and fair relief.” Exact terms of the settlements were not disclosed, although at least two of the cases include financial payments to the employees.

    The settlements are first reached by the special counsel’s office since a national uproar this spring over reports of excessive wait times and manipulation of appointment records at VA facilities across the country. The special counsel’s office is investigating more than 125 complaints of retaliation at the VA following employee allegations about improper patient scheduling, understaffing and other problems at the VA’s 970 hospitals and clinics nationwide.

    Mitchell and Pedene have accepted new assignments, the VA said, while Reese will continue as a program analyst at the Phoenix hospital. Mitchell will help manage the quality of patient care in the Phoenix region, while Pedene will work in the communications office of the Veterans Health Administration, which oversees VA health care.

    Mitchell was removed as emergency room director after reporting understaffing and inadequate training at the Phoenix hospital, while Pedene lost her jobs as Phoenix VA spokeswoman after reporting financial mismanagement by senior officials. Reese was given negative performance reviews after he complained about data manipulation that made patient wait times look shorter than they actually were.

    “Dr. Mitchell, Ms. Pedene and Mr. Reese followed their consciences and reported wrongdoing, and their efforts have improved care and accountability at the VA,” said Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner.

    Lerner applauded VA Secretary Robert McDonald and other VA leaders for acting quickly to resolve the Phoenix cases and taking steps to change the agency’s culture, which she said has allowed and even encouraged retaliation against those who filed complaints. By allowing the three “courageous employees to return to successful careers at the VA,” the agency’s current leaders are “sending a clear message: Whistleblowing should be encouraged, not punished,” Lerner said.

    McDonald said in a separate statement that the VA takes whistleblower complaints seriously and will not tolerate retaliation against those who raise issues that may enable VA to better serve veterans.

    “We depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of veterans first and honor VA’s core values of ‘integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence,’ ” he said.

    Pedene was removed from her $106,000-a-year job in December 2012 and transferred to the hospital library. In April, she was assigned to work in a windowless basement where she had few if any duties. In a phone interview Monday, Pedene called her experience “a horrible way to live” and said she was “humiliated every day.”

    While looking forward to new opportunities, “I feel saddened I am not going to be able to do my public affairs role as I have done in Phoenix for the past 20 years,” Pedene said.

    Mitchell, in a separate interview, called the settlement a relief. But she said she hopes the VA will take action against senior officials who removed her from her $137,000-a-year job and put her on administrative leave in September 2012, after she complained about problems at the hospital, where dozens of veterans died while on waiting lists for appointments.

    Mitchell told a congressional committee in July that the hospital’s emergency room was severely understaffed and could not keep up with a “dangerous flood of patients” there. Strokes, heart attacks, internal head bleeding and other serious medical problems were missed by overwhelmed staffers, she said.

    In her new assignment, Mitchell will help oversee quality-care at five hospitals and 46 clinics in the Phoenix-based Southwest region. While she applauded efforts by McDonald and other national VA leaders, Mitchell said she has seen no evidence of a cultural change at the Phoenix VA.

    “I am waiting for it to trickle down to the Phoenix level,” she said. “I haven’t seen any change yet.”

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The protests which took over the streets of Hong Kong this weekend and sparked a crackdown by police continued today in force. Hundreds of thousands were out tonight to protest what they call a curbing of democracy and interference by Beijing in picking local leadership candidates. The Chinese government says the demonstrations are illegal.

    We have a report from Lucy Watson of Independent Television News.

    LUCY WATSON: This is a young generation empowered by unity once again here to galvanize pro-democracy thought in a peaceful way in a city that is fighting to maintain its rights and liberties.

    Tear gas and pepper spray confronted them last night, because their demands pose a threat to their own government and that of mainland China.

    Alex Chow was arrested for his involvement, but believes this is the only way.

    ALEX CHOW, Protester: You negotiate. You vote. You demonstrate. You ask the government to respond, but you can see all the methods were losing their power. And then you have no way but turn to civil disobedience action.

    LUCY WATSON: Britain handed over sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997, with Beijing agree to a one country, two systems principle. But people now believe that autonomy is being diluted by not being allowed to elect their next head of government through a fully democratic process. There’s fear the iron hand of China is tightening its grip.

    MAN (through interpreter): I hope the Chinese Communist Party won’t repeat what they did in 1989, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and make themselves criminals of history.

    LUCY WATSON: This family watched and experienced yesterday’s violence but are here again, hopeful. Even their pregnant daughter wanted to return.

    WOMAN: I want to let my girl to see now they were here. We are to fight for freedom.

    LUCY WATSON: There’s a decidedly different atmosphere here this evening, with protesters chanting peace, love and unity, in the absence of any police presence.

    And that’s because they believe the momentum of this movement is growing as the numbers increase. It’s thought around 300,000 people are here tonight, proving that generations in Hong Kong are undeterred from their goals.

    Barriers still grind this capitalist hub to a halt so voices can be heard, in the hope it heralds a future for change.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Washington Post reported Saturday that it took four days in November 2011 before the Secret Service realized a gunman had shot at and hit the White House seven times. The president and first lady were away, but daughter Sasha and her grandmother were inside.

    Reports of shots fired were not linked to the White House itself until a housekeeper spotted broken glass and a chunk of cement knocked loose by a bullet. The shooter, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, who’s from Idaho, fled the scene, but was later arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

    The new disclosures came only a few days after an Iraq war veteran jumped a fence, ran across the lawn and made it just inside the executive mansion. Officials have since put up new barriers, keeping tourists and passers-by even farther away.

    We get more from The Washington Post reporter who broke both of these stories, Carol Leonnig.

    Carol, thank you for being with us again.

    So new information about this man who jumped the fence last week and got into the White House, and now it turns out farther than anybody thought.

    CAROL LEONNIG, The Washington Post: Yes, people have been making jokes today that he went in and made himself a sandwich.

    It’s really disconcerting that some sources who have come to us and some whistle-blowers who have come to Congressman Chaffetz have recounted something more serious about this security breach about 10 days ago. Omar Gonzalez apparently not on made it to the front door and opened it. He made it past the guard who was stationed inside that area and into the East Room.

    Most, you know, members of the public haven’t seen the East Room except on television or on the Internet. But it’s the ornate, elaborate room that the president uses for addresses and receptions. And this person was tackled there after making it all the way to the south end of that 80-foot-long room.

    This suggests that he had a lot of opportunities to be close to other people in the house. And, as you all know, the president and his daughters had just lifted off in their helicopter at that point from the South Lawn when Omar Gonzalez made a break for it on the North Lawn and got in the house.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Carol, this means yet another layer of Secret Service protection was breached?

    CAROL LEONNIG: Yes. And, you know, I’m glad you bring up the layers.

    So, we wrote a story probably about a week ago that was about the five security layers that former agents had highlighted for us. And they said, you know, it’s just is amazing that the successive layers would be breached, first the countersurveillance guys on the outside that are supposed to see suspicious activity and jumpers, then the uniformed division officers who are supposed to be able to collar that person, then the canine dogs who are supposed to be released, so that that dog can basically act like a missile and knock down an intruder.

    Then, fourth, a SWAT team that is on the ground is able to respond to a crisis, and then, fifth, a uniformed division officer who is supposed to be posted on the outside at the door at all times. All of those, we know failed. However, what we didn’t know until today was the account of that was — is spooling out to us, was that there was another Secret Service officer posted inside who appeared to be caught unaware that there was an intruder coming here her way and about to burst through the door.

    And when she was caught unaware, he — though he tried to collar him, according to these sources, he overpowered her and barrelled past her and into really the heart of the ceremonial White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this just raises all sorts of new questions.

    So, Carol, I also want to ask you about the story you broke over the weekend, this incident in 2011. It was known that there was a shooting. The man behind it went to prison for 25 years. What wasn’t known was how much the Secret Service botched this. What exactly went wrong?

    CAROL LEONNIG: You know, I think of this story sort of in three parts.

    A lot of what went wrong was from an investigative standpoint. So, as you have already well-described, this shooter pulled out a semiautomatic rifle, pointed it at the White House while he was parked on Constitution Avenue and struck the residence of the Obamas seven times, two of them going into the windows of a living room that Michelle Obama has described as one of her favorite rooms.

    Michelle and the president were not at home at this time. But Sasha was at home, their youngest daughter. Mother-in-law Marian Robinson was there. And Malia, their older daughter, was on her way home.

    But what happened was the Secret Service leadership decided that it was very unlikely that this shooter and the gunshots that were heard were aimed at the White House. They thought that was likely impossible that somebody could shoot that far. And they deduced that, instead, two gangsters were shooting at each other.

    They found an abandoned car very soon after the gunfire was heard on the South Lawn abandoned and crashed. Inside it was this knockoff semiautomatic rifle — sorry — knockoff AK-47. And, again, they deduced this was one of the gangster’s cars.

    But what they didn’t investigate very fully was the evidence of damage that was very clear on the outside of the White House and on the trim and balcony. And, also, most importantly, they didn’t focus on their own staff on the grounds that night.

    There is an officer named Carrie Johnson who told FBI agents later that she was underneath the trim and balcony and readied a shotgun when she heard gunfire. She thought an attack was coming over the South Lawn. She heard debris falling over her head from the balcony.

    These are all those red flags of, wow, maybe something hit the White House. But she, you know, was afraid to counter her bosses, who said to her, we have investigated this and concluded it’s something else.


    Well, two questions very quickly then. What does that say about what is — the way the Secret Service is run, number one?  And we know it was under a different director then?  And, number two, has all this been fixed today?

    CAROL LEONNIG: Well, as for the — you know, what are the — what do these things indicate, Carrie Johnson didn’t feel comfortable rebutting her bosses’ narratives.

    Officers in the Secret Service and leadership that night, that Friday night, rushed to a hasty conclusion and didn’t look very hard and didn’t ask very many questions. So it almost seems like, you know, some of the complaints that we have heard over the last several months, that the agency is a little too complacent, that it hasn’t had a serious attack or assassination attempt, and thus is sort of starting to get lulled to sleep, that’s one thing that — a worry that is raised.

    Second, that it’s a top-down leadership culture where, you know, you better toe the line and don’t mess with our thought process about what happened here. That certainly looks like it was Carrie Johnson’s experience.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is an extraordinary report, story, and two extraordinary examples of reporting.

    We thank you very much.

    And the other part of it we didn’t even have time to talk about is the anger on the part of the president and the first lady after this incident in 2011.

    Again, great reporting, Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post.

    CAROL LEONNIG: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Failures of White House security raises concern about Secret Service complacency – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Secret Service is under scrutiny again for its handling of security of the first family. The Washington Post reported late today that the recent fence-jumper made it farther into the White House than was previously disclosed, and even overpowered one Secret Service agent, this on top of a new report that showed a botched handling of a previous attack.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: The president does retain confidence in the leadership of the Secret Service and in the men and women of the Secret Service.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House found itself defending its defenders again today. Press Secretary Josh Earnest addressed reports of an incident three years ago that could have put the first family in danger.

    JOSH EARNEST: What’s required in an environment like this is a security organization that is adept, that is nimble, and that can be constantly both reviewing and upgrading their posture as necessary. That’s difficult work, but the president and first lady have confidence in the ability of the Secret Service to do it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Washington Post reported Saturday that it took four days in November 2011 before the Secret Service realized a gunman had shot at and hit the White House seven times. The president and first lady were away, but daughter Sasha and her grandmother were inside.

    Reports of shots fired were not linked to the White House itself until a housekeeper spotted broken glass and a chunk of cement knocked loose by a bullet. The shooter, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, who’s from Idaho, fled the scene, but was later arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

    The new disclosures came only a few days after an Iraq war veteran jumped a fence, ran across the lawn and made it just inside the executive mansion. Officials have since put up new barriers, keeping tourists and passers-by even farther away.

    The post Secret Service under scrutiny for White House security breach – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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