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

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    chicagohighered

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, back here at home, some news about college.

    Two separate pushes were announced today in Chicago aimed at improving access to higher education among lower-income students.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The moves, announced separately, will eliminate costs at one of the nation’s most elite universities and at the city’s community colleges.

    University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer announced a plan that will replace loans with grants, simplify the application process, and ensure that some students don’t have to take jobs during the academic year. University officials said the changes will build on programs for lower-income students at the school, such as Anthony Downer.

    ANTHONY DOWNER, Student, University of Chicago: I knew I wanted to attend a top college, but the question for my family and so many other low-income families was, how will we pay for it?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel also announced a separate plan to provide free community college tuition to all Chicago public high school students who graduate with a 3.0 grade-point average or better and are ready for college-level math and English.

    MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, Chicago: We live in a time where you earn what you learn. The big factor in determining whether people complete school, drop out of the school is cost.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The proposals come amid growing pressure on colleges and universities to enroll and graduate more disadvantaged students. And they follow similar moves around the country.

    Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the state of Tennessee, for example, are providing free tuition at community colleges with the hope of raising low graduation rates. Among top-tier schools, several have policies guaranteeing lower-income families don’t have to pay for college.

    Still, disadvantaged students remain poorly represented on many of their campuses.

    Here to tell us more about these initiatives are Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, and Cheryl Hyman, chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago.

    Well, welcome, both, to you.

    Cheryl, to you first.

    CHERYL HYMAN, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago: Hi.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why is this necessary? What’s the problem that is preventing more students from attending college?

    CHERYL HYMAN: It is extremely necessary because we want to make sure that all Chicagoans have a chance to succeed. We want to make sure that we shift the paradigm of community colleges from those being solely focused on access to those that are coupled with access and success.

    Now, what does success mean? Success means that all of our students graduate with a credential of economic value, which Mayor Emanuel and I addressed in 2011, when we launched College to Careers, but that we remove the barriers that exist as well.

    And so one of the main barriers that a lot of students face nowadays, particularly with the increase in student debt, is finances. And so we believe that when a student is performing well, and they are college-ready coming out of high school, we should try to remove every possible barrier we can to help them succeed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how many…

    CHERYL HYMAN: And so it’s incredibly important that we do that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Excuse me.

    How many graduates do you think there will be that will hit that GPA and other marks that are required? How many students are you talking about that you think you can reach here?

    CHERYL HYMAN: So we’re thinking that the first year, there will be about 2,000 that will qualify.

    We’re anticipating that we will get somewhat in the upper numbers of at least half and continue to grow that number to come to us. What we do know is that at least about 1,500 students graduated who could have taken advantage of this that didn’t go to college at all. And we want to ensure that that doesn’t happen again.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And can you tell us briefly just how this would be paid for? Because the mayor was — wasn’t giving specifics today from what I gather.

    CHERYL HYMAN: Yes.

    So, it’s important to know that students will still be able to take advantage of applying for their federal and Pell assistance. We want them to take advantage of every financial opportunity. But, back in June, I talked about in a speech that I delivered to the City Club how City Colleges have been able to concentrate our capital investment through our College to Careers.

    So through our College to Careers program, we have been able to consolidate programs and strategically make investments in very specific colleges and not duplicate those investments, because we have each one of our colleges now singularly focused on one area.

    So now, instead of duplicating investments in nursing in five places, we’re building a new $251 million school where we can make those investments in one place.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    CHERYL HYMAN: And through those efficiencies, we have saved about $10 million.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, let me ask Robert Zimmer, the University of Chicago.

    In asking you why you’re doing what you’re doing, the charge has been out there that many elite schools have just not done enough to attract lower-income students, and that’s exacerbating big problems within our culture over income inequities.

    How do you plead to that?

    ROBERT ZIMMER, President, University of Chicago: Well, the reason we undertook this program in the first place was our belief in the importance of education and the power of that education to transform lives and to change the trajectory of families.

    If we’re going to be acting on that belief in the strongest possible ways, we are in fact going to have to do more to attract lower-income families and moderate-income families into elite institutions, such as the University of Chicago.

    So this was a program. It wasn’t our first program. But it is a continuation of a set of programs that are designed specifically to address the issue you raised, namely, that there are many outstanding, academically qualified students of lower family income who can in fact succeed very well at an elite institution, like the University of Chicago, and that we have to do more to get them in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Other schools have tried various things. We have done some reports on those efforts on this program, and, yet, the numbers don’t budge a whole lot. I wonder, have you looked at what has been tried? Have you seen what the problems are? And have you figured out exactly, sort of specifically, how to raise those numbers?

    ROBERT ZIMMER: Yes.

    We have done a great deal of analysis on this. And we have what we believe is a comprehensive program to systemically address the set of issues that we see as being barriers to students applying to our elite institutions.

    This includes issues around expectation of student debt, which we are eliminating. It includes issues around application fees, simplicity vs. complexity of the entire process. It includes a feeling that one is going to be able to have additional support to participate fully in the life of the institution. And there is the question of preparing students for careers afterwards.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I ask you, just very briefly, do you have a specific goal, a number of students you feel you need to attract to get the diversity you want?

    ROBERT ZIMMER: Well, right now, we expect this program to be relevant to about half of our students when it’s fully phased in.

    That would be if our numbers remained about the same right now. But we do expect that number to increase, and we are walking for it to increase. Half right now would mean approximately or close to 3,000 students, and we certainly want to see that number increase.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Robert Zimmer of the University of Chicago, and Cheryl Hyman of City Colleges of Chicago, thank you both very much.

    CHERYL HYMAN: Thank you very much.

    ROBERT ZIMMER: Thank you.

    CHERYL HYMAN: Thank you.

    The post Cutting higher ed costs for Chicago’s disadvantaged students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WHITE HOUSE US ISRAEL FLAGS monitor

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama met at the White House this morning to discuss the derailed peace process with Iran and the fight against the Islamic State.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has been reporting on what happened as the leaders spoke behind closed doors.

    So, after the cameras were off, what happened in there?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Hari, it didn’t go entirely well, and that was somewhat surprising.

    The expectation was that, after this tension-filled year over the Iran nuke talks, over the Gaza war, over the crash and burn of the peace process, that the two leaders would pretty much agree to agree on certain things, paper over their differences and focus on the fight against Islamic State or ISIS.

    But, instead, Israeli officials came out and said, well, that they still had the exact same concerns on the Iran nuke talks, even though that was Netanyahu’s number one item, that the U.S. and these world powers are pursuing a deal that will leave Iran with some kind of centrifuge capability and enrichment capability that they think will make them a threshold weapon state.

    And, two, just — I think Netanyahu had only just returned to New York when the with White House spokesman came out, Josh Earnest, and totally unloaded on the announcement today of plans to build new Israeli settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, and he said it called into question the entire commitment of the Israeli government to any kind of negotiated settlement and it would alienate the government from even its closest allies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, that leads me to ask about the peace plan that Secretary of State Kerry has been working so hard on. Where is that?

    MARGARET WARNER: Dead for now, totally dead for now. He labored for nine months, as you know, suspended in April.

    The only thing that could break the logjam to, say, everyone who is involved in it, is if President Obama would come forward for with the principles the U.S. believes in and just make everyone respond. He doesn’t think either of these leaders, Abbas or — Palestinian President Abbas or Netanyahu has the stroke or will internally, domestically, to do it.

    Two, he’s not about to pick a fight with Israel on the eve of an American election. But, number three, he’s really focused on the fight against ISIS. And, actually, interestingly, Israel is giving not only rhetorical support to that, but real — some behind-the-scenes support, one on intelligence. They have excellent intelligence with Syria.

    And, two, allowing some overflights over Israeli territories on some of these strikes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, something interesting that Netanyahu said was — let me quote this — “A commonality of exists between Israel and some Arab states.”

    What’s he mean by that.

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s interesting.

    First of all, they have always had commonality, the Gulf states, Jordan, and Egypt, against Iranian influence. But during the Gaza conflict, Israelis were heartened by the fact that the Gulf states and these other countries were very muted in their criticism of civilian deaths.

    Then the emergence of this sort of intense ISIS fight has had Netanyahu and his government thinking if there is a way to partner with some of these — quote — “moderate,” they call them, Arab states to try to put leverage on actually the Palestinians, or give them diplomatic cover and money to actually get back to the peace table.

    Now, some would say that hasn’t been the only obstacle to peace. But, of course, an announcement — apparently, President Obama, they discussed — Netanyahu came in with specific ideas. They did discuss those ideas. President Obama made clear it would have to be a two-way street. And certainly announcements like the settlements are not the kind of gesture that would advance that or make it comfortable for these states to join in any kind of overt coordinated campaign with the Israelis.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Margaret Warner, thanks so much.

    MARGARET WARNER: Thank you.

    The post Why the Mideast peace process is at a standstill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    On Thursday, PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown will sit down for an interview with actor James Earl Jones — currently starring in “You Can’t Take It With You” on Broadway in New York City — and we want your questions.

    A celebrated actor of stage and screen, Jones’s career has spanned more than six decades from a Tony Award-winning performance in “The Great White Hope” (and an Academy Award nomination for the same role in the movie version) to voice acting roles, including Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King.

    In the revival of “You Can’t Take It With You,” which opened last week, Jones leads a cast of 20 playing an eccentric older man who lives by the philosophy, ”don’t do anything that you’re not going to enjoy doing.”

    We’re asking: Do you have questions for Jones? Share your suggestions in the comments below, or share with @NewsHour on Twitter or post to Facebook, and your question may be asked.

    And if you could hear James Earl Jones say anything, what would it be? Tell us below.

    The post What questions do you have for acting legend James Earl Jones? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US-WAFRICA-HEALTH-EBOLA

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. Navy engineers have now broken ground on a new Ebola facility in Liberia to house 25 patients.

    Dr. Tom Frieden is the director of the Centers for Disease Control, the government’s top point person on all of this. And he joins me now for the latest.

    So, local officials are saying that there is a possibility that a second person — is that confirmed?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Absolutely not.

    We’re in the early stages of the investigation. This is going to be a very intensive set of work. Today, our team on the ground interviewed about 100 workers at the hospital to really parse out, were people exposed, and if so how, so that we can make sure we have a roster of everyone who was exposed and then track each one of them for 21 days to see if they become ill.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So tracking is not the same as quarantining. You said, for example, while we were watching the videotape that those ambulance workers are not under quarantine now?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: The details really have to be worked out locally. Our general approach is to say, if someone has been exposed, they need to check their temperature twice a day. We would check their temperature at least once a day. And then if there are any symptoms at all, they need to be isolated immediately.

    But the bottom line here is that we know how to stop Ebola. We have two things in this country that they don’t have and they need in West Africa. One is good infection control in health care facilities, so it doesn’t spread there. And the second is good core, tried-and-true public health. Find contacts, trace them, monitor them. If they’re sick, isolate them.

    If you do those two things, you can stop Ebola, and that’s what I’m confident will happen here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so also about those five children that were reported to have had contact with the person that’s infected, any idea how we monitor that and all the people that those children might touch?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Very important point to be clear about. If someone is exposed to a person with Ebola, they cannot spread it to others unless they get sick and until they get sick. So even if you have been exposed, if you’re not sick, you’re not shedding the virus. You can’t make other people sick.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, so one of the things we have been hearing consistently is that there is this travel that’s happening outside of countries, outside of West Africa. Why not — there’s a bunch of questions that we had on Facebook. Why do they continue to let people travel back and forth? Shouldn’t there be restrictions at least until the situation is under control in Africa? That came from Annemarie Casey on our Facebook page.

    How do you control it?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well,  First off, months ago, we recommended that Americans restrict nonessential travel.

    But, paradoxically, if we were to isolate the country from others, that’s actually going to increase risk to the rest of the world. You have to think it through for a minute. To get there, you have to fly. To fly, you have to have airlines going and coming back. If people there feel that they’re isolated from the rest of the world, they will leave more.

    So, both within countries and between countries, if we try to seal borders, we’re going to do more harm than good. We’re going to spread the disease more than we stop spread of it. This is something that’s very important to understand. It’s crucial to isolate patients, but isolating communities or countries is counterproductive.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And when you have isolated this patient now that is in the U.S., and as you have increased the kind of depth of your dive on who he has touched, what are pieces of information that you have learned now?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well, it will be days, as we interview others and follow and get more information, until we know how many people really might have been exposed.

    We take kind of a concentric circle approach. Who are those who really did have a lot of contact, who we are going to need to be very careful to monitor? Who are those who might have just had the slightest of contact, but out of an abundance of caution, we’re going to also monitor? That’s something that we will be sorting through over the next day or two.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What kind of treatment is he likely to get?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well, it turns out that, for Ebola, even without experimental medicines, there is a lot that can be done just to improve the patient’s outcome by providing fluids and balancing their electrolytes, that kind of intensive care that gets provided.

    We’re really hoping for his recovery, but, last we heard, he was quite sick.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And we have heard that he might have come in contact with as many as 100 people. Is that true?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: I have not heard that number. There are a lot of rumors, rumors about cases, rumors about contacts. Let’s take things one step at a time.

    What we know is, we have one patient with Ebola in the U.S. He is being cared for in a hospital in isolation. We’re going to identify who might have had contact with him, and we will have that information over the next day or two.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Given the kinds of laws of probability and the number of people who are traveling aircraft all over the world, is it statistically likely that there might be others, whether they’re coming to the United States or elsewhere?

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: I think, with what we’re seeing in West Africa, with many thousands of cases, it is highly likely that we will see Ebola in other parts of the world, particularly neighboring countries or other parts of Africa.

    Even if you were to stop flights — and that’s not being done — but, even if you were, people travel. They travel by various routes, over land. Borders are porous. They have sometimes citizenship in multiple countries. So this idea that we can somehow seal it off is not going to work. We have to recognize that the way to keep ourselves safe is to help stop the outbreak there.

    That’s the most effective. In fact, that’s the only way that we’re going to ensure that we’re safe. So, yes, we’re going to do things here, but we have got to address the problems there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, thanks so much.

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Thank you.

    The post How the U.S. is equipped to isolate Ebola – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    EBOLA  texas us flag monitor

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We further explore the efforts to contain and deal with the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. Officials sought to reassure Americans there are systems in place to control its spread, even amid local reports of a possible second case and new confirmation that others appear to have been exposed.

    The Ebola patient at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas was identified today as Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian visiting the U.S. Officials also announced that five schoolchildren are among 12 to 18 people who came in contact with Duncan, and they are now being closely watched.

    Texas Governor Rick Perry:

    GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) Texas: These children have been identified and they are being monitored. And the disease cannot be transmitted before having any symptoms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Not much is known about Duncan, except that he traveled from Liberia with a stopover in Brussels, Belgium, on September 19, then flew on to Dallas the next day.

    Under screening policies at many West African airports, he was checked for signs of fever before boarding in Monrovia, but wasn’t sick then. Then, six days after arriving in Dallas, he went to an emergency room with a fever and was sent home. Two days later, he returned and was admitted.

    DR. EDWARD GOODMAN, Epidemiologist, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital: Since his arrival on Friday, he wasn’t vomiting or having diarrhea. And, therefore, there was no exposures. So we really think there is very little likelihood that any health care worker was exposed on Friday, and certainly virtually zero exposure starting Sunday.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ambulance workers who transported Duncan tested negative for Ebola, but they’re now under quarantine. Doctors say they’re tracking all of Duncan’s movements, but state health officials say Dallas is equipped to stop Ebola’s spread.

    DR. DAVID LAKEY, Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services: This is not West Africa. This is a very sophisticated city, a very sophisticated hospital. And the dynamics are so significantly different than they are in East Africa — excuse me — in West Africa — that the chances of it being spread are very, very, very small.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in Liberia, some 2000 people have already died from the disease, with thousands more infected. The chief of the U.N. mission there appealed again for help.

    KARIN LANDGREN, U.N. Special Representative to Liberia: The world is absolutely not doing enough yet. We are still challenged to outrun the disease. And as long as the new cases continue to increase the way they are, as long as we look around and don’t see spare bed spaces in Ebola treatment units, we know we aren’t winning yet.

    Ebola needs to be tackled here, or it will be on everyone else’s doorstep, and the Texas case shows us this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. Navy engineers have now broken ground on a new Ebola facility in Liberia to house 25 patients.

    The post Officials try to reassure public of Ebola containment while tracking possible exposures – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In other news of this day, Texas officials announced more than a dozen people, including children, could have had contact with an Ebola patient now hospitalized in Dallas.

    The man contracted the disease in Liberia, but wasn’t diagnosed until after he arrived in Texas on September 20. We will have a full report and talk to the head of the Centers for Disease Control in just a moment.

    But, first, today’s other headlines.

    The Ebola news helped fuel a sell-off on Wall Street. Airline stocks were hit hard over fears that people will be worried about flying. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 238 points to close at 16,804; the Nasdaq fell 71 points to close at 4,422; and the S&P 500 slipped 26 to 1,946.

    Twin car bombings in Syria struck near an elementary school in the city of Homs today, killing at least 32 people. Officials said at least 10 children died in the first blast, when school was letting out. The second bomb exploded as parents frantically searched for their sons and daughters. To the north, activists reported Islamic State militants beheaded nine Kurdish fighters captured near Kobani. The victims included three women.

    A car bomb in Baghdad today killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 40 more. It was the latest in a continuing surge of violence that left more than 1,100 people dead in September alone. The United Nations reported that number today. It doesn’t include killings in areas held by Islamic State fighters.

    A nearly month-old cease-fire in Ukraine did little to stop the fighting in Donetsk today. Rebel forces closed in on the city airport and, a few miles away, at least 10 people died when shells struck a minibus and nearby school. No children were killed, but glass lay everywhere after the attack as students and adults emerged from basement shelters. Each side blamed the other for the attacks.

    Crowds of protesters are still building in Hong Kong, with leaders now threatening to storm government buildings. That came today as China marked its National Day.

    Lucy Watson of Independent Television News is in Hong Kong.

    LUCY WATSON: Their Hong Kong, their protest, and their vision for democracy, which continue to surge through this city. And these are the faces of this uprising, young outnumbering the old, their commitment to this campaign spanning night and day, on the day that celebrated the founding of communist China.

    The flag-raising, Hong Kong’s protesters jeered at. And their cause fascinates, but baffles mainland Chinese tourists, but inspires others.

    Kenny Woo traveled here just to support it, but doubts its success.

    “It’s difficult to succeed when faced with the Communist Party,” he says. “Mainland Chinese wouldn’t do this. They’re too scared to tell the truth and protest” — unlike here, where unity has become power and so many want to be involved. And, tonight, those numbers strengthened; 150.,000 people have turned out today, all believing a compromise is possible.

    And it’s a tactical move to keep these demonstrators peaceful. Yes, it makes Beijing uneasy. But if China wants to be considered a real global superpower, how can it possibly respond to polite protest with extreme violence while the world watches?

    Lee Jaw Ren is a chief organizer and a man with a clear agenda.

    LEE JAW REN, Protester Organizer: We may escalate our action to try to, you could say, occupy more places.

    LUCY WATSON: So this campaign has direction, a new wave of actions planned, as resolve hardens.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington, the visiting Chinese foreign minister said what happens in Hong Kong is China’s business and no one else’s. He warned, all countries should respect China’s sovereignty.

    The death toll rose again today in Japan’s volcano eruption. It’s now 47. Military rescuers used helicopters today to recover more bodies near the peak of Mount Ontake. They found victims buried in ash and caught between boulders. The volcano erupted in ash and smoke on Saturday, with no warning.

    Back in this country, a federal appeals court blocked parts of North Carolina’s new voting law, saying it is likely to disenfranchise black voters. The Republican-backed law eliminated same-day voter registration during early voting. It also banned any ballot cast outside an assigned precinct. Republicans said they will appeal the ruling.

    Today marked one year since the launch of President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace. Healthcare.gov at first received a mountain of criticism from Congress and the public for glitches and long wait times. But, as of August, 7.3 million people were enrolled for coverage. The next open enrollment starts next month.

    The post News Wrap: Hong Kong protesters boo Chinese flag on National Day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    RESIGNED julia pierson monitor

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We begin with the shakeup at the Secret Service. The agency’s embattled director Julia Pierson has resigned after a series of incidents that punctured presidential security.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  Director Pierson offered her recommendation — her resignation today because she believed that it was in the best interest of the agency to which she has dedicated her career.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: From White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the official announcement this afternoon. Pierson offered to resign, and the president accepted.

    JOSH EARNEST: Over the last several days, we have seen recent and accumulating reports raising questions about the performance of the agency, and the president concluded that new leadership of that agency was required.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Just yesterday, Pierson, a 30-year Secret Service veteran, had apologized for security lapses before a House panel yesterday.

    JULIA PIERSON, Director, Secret Service: This is unacceptable, and I take full responsibility. And I will make sure that it does not happen again.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Pierson was called to account for a series of revelations, that, in 2011, it took four days for the Secret Service to realize shots had hit the White House and that, last month, a fence jumper with a knife made it deep inside the mansion. But the director’s answer left lawmakers from both parties cold.

    REP. STEPHEN LYNCH, (D) Massachusetts: I wish to God you — you protected the White House like you’re protecting your reputation here today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After the hearing ended came yet another disclosure, that two weeks ago, while the president was in Atlanta, a security guard with a gun and a record of assault and battery got on an elevator with him.

    Today, Pierson told Bloomberg News it’s in everyone’s interest that she resign, but she said — quote — “It’s painful to leave as the agency is reeling from a significant security breach.”

    Meanwhile, the accused fence jumper, Omar Gonzalez, appeared in federal court. His lawyer entered a not guilty plea to federal and local charges.

    For more on the Pierson resignation, we turn to Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post. She’s broken several major stories on the Secret Service’s lapses, and she joins us now from The Post’s newsroom.

    So, what tipped the scales? As of this morning, the White House seems to still express confidence in her. Why did she resign?

    CAROL LEONNIG, The Washington Post: Well, if you saw the White House briefing, Josh Earnest was asked sort of pointedly that exact same question, and he was asked, was this because lawmakers had increasingly sort of lost confidence in her after her pretty unremarkable performance on the Hill yesterday?

    And he said, no, the president had concluded we needed an agency change in leadership as a result of, you know, this — these recent and accumulating accounts of bad performance in the agency.

    I mean, you have to think about all the things the president has been learning in the last couple of days, one, the details about how a shooting at his home was fumbled by the Secret Service in 2011, the fact that he got on an elevator with an armed security guard who had not been checked by the Secret Service and had a criminal history, unbeknownst to them, and that a fence jumper actually made it a lot further into the house than the director of the Secret Service had told anyone, including in a criminal complaint about that fence jumper.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, will it be enough? Will the resignation be enough? What’s the reaction been from lawmakers?

    CAROL LEONNIG: Well, certainly, lawmakers think her resignation is a step in the right direction, most of the ones that I have talked to today.

    But I think that, you know, if you’re a Secret Service agent or officer, what you’re looking for is that second part of the press release, which is the top-to-bottom review of the agency. I mean, this is an agency with this amazing, elite reputation of yore that has really taken a bruising, and — because of these security lapses.

    And the agents who love it and work for it dutifully want it to be fixed as much as anybody who was on Capitol Hill and on that Oversight Committee. They want to see higher-quality leadership. They want to see intensive training. They don’t want any more complacency. They want to see staffing that’s commensurate with all the added chores that the Secret Service has received since 9/11.

    They — they are looking forward to the challenge of doing this job well and returning their focus to the core mission.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, briefly, what do we know about Joseph Clancy, the man who is in the interim seat?

    CAROL LEONNIG: Yes, I have interviewed a few people who worked with him and know him well. They described him as genteel, lovely, a real gentleman, a conflict avoider, somebody who really likes to be around others and is not going to rock the boat.

    He’s going to be a very good caretaker until a permanent replacement is found, is what I have heard from folks who knew him.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

    CAROL LEONNIG: You bet.

    The post What went wrong at the Secret Service? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Some residents of refugee-rich Vickery Meadow in northeast Dallas are concerned that a man with Ebola had spent time in the neighborhood. Photo by Stella M. Chavez/KERA News

    Some residents of refugee-rich Vickery Meadow in northeast Dallas are concerned that a man with Ebola had spent time in the neighborhood.
    Photo by Stella M. Chavez/KERA News

    Ebola was the talk of Vickery Meadow in northeast Dallas Wednesday. It’s a refugee-rich neighborhood with a significant West African population – and it’s where a man was visiting before he became the first person in the United States diagnosed with the Ebola virus.

    The man, identified as Thomas Eric Duncan, went to nearby Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he’s in an isolation ward. He was in serious, but stable condition Wednesday, health officials said.

    Refugees and immigrants from across the world live in Vickery Meadow, often in close quarters. While many called home to Africa and expressed fear at the spread of the disease, they also hoped that people and especially children would keep level heads.

    Doctors will “take care of everything,” one woman says

    Najat Boka was looking for products at a local African beauty supply store.

    She said she trusted the doctors to treat the patient well and to keep the people caring for him safe.

    “For the people who are here, they have nothing to do with this disease,” Boka said. “Since we have our doctor and he came from there and they took care of him, they’re going to take care of everything.”

    “God, it’s really close to here”

    Paula Ly is a cashier at a convenience store in Vickery Meadow. It’s a gathering place. People from different countries come through the store, wanting to send money to family overseas, including West Africa, which has been ravaged by Ebola.

    “I hear Ebola – I heard about it yesterday – God, it’s really close to here,” Ly said. “And, oh, it’s just scary what’s going on. I hear like that person, I thought you know they live from here and they visit the family over there. … This kind of sick. Everybody’s scared. I just think like when you know when they pass by an airport, how come they don’t check?”

    Ly sighed.

    She often asks her customers sending money back to Liberia about how their families are doing in West Africa.

    “Some people just say: Their family is OK,” she said. “Some just say … all their family is gone. It’s sad, too, thinking about it. … They cannot go visit over there. If family passes away, they can only send money to help.”

    “Going to buy … some hand sanitizer”

    Health officials say Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, such as urine, saliva and vomit. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water. Laurence Jones, who lives in Vickery Meadow, is wondering about what happened to the patient between the first time he visited Texas Health Presbyterian, which sent him home, and the second time, when he returned via ambulance and was sent to an isolation ward.

    “My concern is the patient himself and his family members’ timeline between Wednesday and Sunday,” Jones says. “Did they go to the pharmacy? They sent him home with antibiotics. You sneeze on your hand but you grab the door handle of the pharmacy. How many people have touched that pharmacy? They say it’s exposure. That’s exposure to me.”

    He continued: “I’m concerned about our community here. We’re a five-mile radius from the hospital. … You ride the DART train, everyone rides the DART train. The pharmacy. Tom Thumb. Kroger. Who’s to say one of their kids or a family member just a simple wiping of the noise? We’re exposed.”

    Jones added: “I’m going to buy me some hand sanitizer right now – as soon as I leave here. You just never know.”

    “We have to be aware”

    Rickey Cole was hanging out at a barbershop in Vickery Meadow. He doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but he’s concerned.

    “We have to be aware,” he said. “It’s good awareness right now. We have to be cautious of Ebola. It’s good the media has made us aware of it. It’s just really a serious epidemic right now. We all have to be very careful of what we’re doing right now. … As long as he’s getting treatment, I’m sure we’re going to be OK. … It’s here. It’s not just about Africa. It’s about everybody. Everybody’s involved in this. It’s not just one group of people. We all need to be aware of it.”

    Across North Texas, residents react

    KERA’s Courtney Collins spent time in another part of Dallas, talking with North Texans to get their reaction to the news that a man in a Dallas hospital has Ebola:

    “My name is Felicia Jones, I’m from Dallas, Texas, and I’m 30 years old. Frightened, scared, for not only me and my family but other people as well.”

    “My name is Forrest Collins, I’m from Denton, Texas, and I’m 20 years old. It makes sense that it would be Dallas. It’s a huge trade center and commerce and everything. I’m not going to bar my doors or put hand sanitizer anywhere.”

    “My name is Sonya Rosenfeld and I’m from Dallas. Well, I’m only eating off plates of people that I know. Other than that, there’s really not much that I can you can do.”

    “Sharon Plugey from Dallas, Texas. We’re the country that can take care of it if anyone can. So I figure they’ll take care of it and now that it’s here maybe it’ll speed up the process.”

    This post originally appeared on KERA’s website on October 1.

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    President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefly met today, renewing their famously frosty, and occasionally tendentious relationship after a seven-month hiatus. The leaders spoke to reporters and listed a raft of pressing issues for discussion: Iran’s nuclear program; the onslaught of Islamic State in the Middle East and the wider, regional conflagration; and the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The latest attempt to solve that decades-old conflict was shelved earlier this year as the two sides — despite exhaustive but fruitless mediation by Secretary of State John Kerry — reached yet another impasse. A key and ongoing issue: Israeli settlement activity.

    Today, it was revealed by an Israeli anti-settlement group — Peace Now — that the municipality of Jerusalem had approved construction of 2500 new homes in Givat Hamatos, a development in East Jerusalem that would complete a ring of Jewish housing around East Jerusalem, between Arab neighborhoods of the city and the West Bank; in essence, a buffer. This new development would cut off the predominantly-Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa from the West Bank town of Bethlehem, to the South of the city.

    These Jewish housing developments are considered by Palestinians, the international community and the United States as settlements on land claimed by Palestinans as their own. East Jerusalem (and its iconic Old City) was captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and annexed. Successive U.S. Administrations have made demands of Israel to cease this very type of settlement activity and expansion not only in the Jerusalem area but around the West Bank, the core of a future Palestinian State. The decision revealed today received a harsh condemnation from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (as shown below) who was questioned near the beginning of his daily briefing.

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    Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) a 2012 news conference to announce new legislation "to blunt the worst effects" of the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., a 2012 news conference to announce new legislation “to blunt the worst effects” of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    When it comes to money in politics, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., often complains that there is just too much of it.

    But when Franken called the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the door for corporations, unions and individuals to spend unlimited amounts on candidates a “disaster” earlier this month, his impassioned Senate floor speech disguised a central fact of his campaign, and that of his Republican opponent, businessman Mike McFadden.

    Both are benefiting from a sophisticated network of donors and committees that have flourished in the wake of the legal decisions Franken and others often criticize.

    The U.S. Senate race between Franken and McFadden is not expected to be the most expensive statewide race in the country but both campaigns are expected to spend millions.

    So far, Franken has raised $15 million and has spent about $12 million. More than $1.5 million of that has come from joint fundraising committees, which allow candidates and political parties to team-up and split the proceeds from a fundraising event.

    Such funds aren’t new, but they have proliferated in recent years. After another Supreme Court decision earlier this year lifted the total amount a single donor can give to candidates, PACs, and other fundraising entities, they’ve become far more popular, said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on campaign finance and elections.

    Following the court’s ruling in McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission, donors still are limited in how much they can give a candidate. But joint fundraising committees allow a single donor to cut a much larger check to be divided among candidates, Noble said.

    “They allow wealthy donors to give a lot more money,” Noble said. “It makes sense for the candidate to partner with as many different entities as they can.”

    When the court announced its decision this spring, Franken said it was a terrible one because it gives “wealthy, well-funded corporate interests undue influence, access, and power.”

    Franken said he’s playing by a set of rules that he ultimately disagrees with. “Ordinary people in Minnesota and around the country don’t have the luxury of pouring millions into political campaigns,” Franken said.

    Nevertheless, Franken and the Minnesota DFL established their joint-fundraising committee earlier this year, which so far has netted Franken’s campaign at least $192,000.

    Franken said he’s playing by a set of rules that he ultimately disagrees with.

    “I wish there wasn’t a need for progressives to form committees like that,” Franken said. “But because of these decisions, they do. We can’t unilaterally disarm.”

    McFadden, who has so far raised nearly $4.2 million to compete against Franken, is associated with at least three joint-fundraising committees.

    McFadden agrees with Franken that money plays an outsize role in campaigns.

    “I’m right in the middle of the storm,” McFadden said. “My observation is that there’s way too much money in political campaigns. It’s crazy.”

    But McFadden also said he’d use caution in limiting spending if it meant violating free speech rights.

    That was the Supreme Court’s reasoning when it issued its controversial Citizens United ruling in 2010. At the time, the court said that the government can’t regulate corporate free speech. The decision led to the rise of super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals to benefit a few candidates, so long as the PAC doesn’t coordinate with the candidates’ campaigns.

    Franken, who recently co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, has the backing of at least two super PACs this election cycle. And McFadden is benefiting from the backing of five political groups, including super PACs like the Heartland Campaign Fund, which is dedicated entirely to helping him win.

    So far, the Heartland Campaign Fund has spent more than $50,000 on radio ads opposing Franken. It is bankrolled mostly by a single donor: West Coast Venture Capital has given the committee $100,000. The company’s owner, California businessman Carl Berg, has given McFadden at least $5,200 according to campaign finance reports.

    The Supreme Court decisions have given wealthy donors maximum flexibility in how they support candidates, Hamline University political science professor David Schultz said.

    “It’s really opened up the possibility for individuals and donors to make more contributions, to more entities at a greater amount than they could have done a year ago,” he said.

    Take Seth MacFarlane, a top Franken donor and creator of the cartoon sitcom “Family Guy.” He has given $5,000 to Franken’s 2014 re-election bid.

    But MacFarlane has also donated $10,000 to the Franken Senate Victory 2014 fund, which is a joint-fundraising committee with the Minnesota DFL party, $5,000 to the WIN Minnesota Federal PAC, which was created to help Franken and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan of the 8th Congressional District, and $10,000 to the Minnesota DFL.

    Donors, Near and Far

    While both Franken and McFadden rely on wealth donors to support their campaigns, their money also comes from people who give small amounts — so small that their names aren’t listed on campaign finance reports.

    More than half of Franken’s campaign support comes from small dollar donors, and most of those donations are under $100, according to his campaign.

    But both candidates’ fundraising networks extend far beyond Minnesota.

    Of the $4 million large donations McFadden has to detail for the government, nearly $1.5 million have come from people as far away as Alaska.

    Based on the latest data from the Federal Elections Commission, roughly 75 percent of Franken’s large dollar donations come from out of state.

    “It suggests both sophistication in terms of knowing how to convince people from elsewhere in the country they ought to give to your race,” Schultz said. “But it also suggests the level of importance donors attach to that particular race.”

    Despite all the money pouring in, whether the Minnesota Senate race ends up being one of the most contested in the country — and the most expensive — may not be clear until the last weeks of the election, Schultz said.


    “Franken, McFadden complain about big money but still rake it in” from Minnesota Public Radio (c) 2014. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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    A harmless pantropical huntsman spider, which is often confused with other, dangerous spiders in international shipments. Photo from Wikimedia commons.

    A harmless pantropical huntsman spider, which is often confused with other, dangerous spiders in international shipments. Photo from Wikimedia commons.

    A cargo ship filled with bananas arrives in a U.S. port. As workers begin to unload, a huge spider is found bearing furry red markings and glaring eyes. Is the spider dangerous? Should the whole shipment be dumped? Fearing the arachnids could be deadly, crews often collect the spiders and send them to specialists for identification while the fate of the cargo sits and potentially spoils. It’s a costly and often unnecessary problem, according to University of California archeologist Richard Vetter.

    Vetter studied 135 spider specimens found among international cargo shipments between 1926 and 2014, and published his research to the Journal of Medical Entomology. Sometimes crews think the spiders have medicinal value and send them to hospitals. But most often, without knowing if a species is dangerous, they worry their load of bananas has been spoiled by the creatures. But, Vetter found there’s no need abandon your curds and whey—just yet.

    “Spiders found in international cargo, especially those in banana cartons, are typically harmless species,” they wrote. “It would be beneficial if this article curtails the hyperbole and media attention whenever a large spider is discovered in a banana shipment, and thereby, reduce unwarranted paranoia and anxiety when media stories about toxic banana spiders are unleashed onto an unsuspecting and easily frightened North American general public.”

    While hitchhiking spiders may not be dangerous to humans, other invasive species traveling over in international shipments can cause widespread environmental damage. The Asian Gypsy Moth is much less intimidating than a spider in person, but the little beasts defoliate an average of 700,000 acres of U.S. foliage each year. Last November, the PBS NewsHour profiled the Asian tiger shrimp, which threatens to change the balance of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The post Big scary spiders hiding in banana cargo ships are usually harmless, researcher finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Texas Department of State Health Services has started monitoring 100 people who were potentially exposed to Ebola. Caption:DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: A general view of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas where a patient has been diagnosed with the Ebola virus on September 30, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The patient who had recently traveled to Dallas from Liberia marks the first case of this strain of Ebola that has been diagnosed outside of West Africa. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images)

    The Texas Department of State Health Services has started monitoring 100 people who were potentially exposed to Ebola. The first case of Ebola identified in the U.S. is being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images

    While the patient with Ebola remains in critical condition in Dallas, medical staff are tracing everyone who may have possibly been exposed to the infectious disease. There are around 100 people currently being monitored for symptoms and more may be added to that list as new details emerge, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. They will be monitored for 21 days, the amount of time it can take between exposure and Ebola symptoms to begin.

    Four people related to the patient, identified as Thomas Duncan by the Liberian airport authorities, are currently quarantined in an apartment in Dallas.

    During a call with the press today, Dr. David Lakey, commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services said that they are going into the community to identify potential exposures as early as possible.

    To monitor symptoms, medical staff visit these 100 individuals twice a day to take their temperature. So far 14 people have been tested for Ebola in the Dallas area, but all came back negative.

    Duncan was initially sent home from the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after telling the nurse he had just returned from West Africa.

    According to Lakey, hospitals across the U.S. do not take travel history as seriously as they need to, but that doesn’t make Texas Health Presbyterian a bad hospital. Instead, Lakey said, that trend needs to be changed; hospitals need to make connections with whats happening around the world.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they have refreshed Ebola checklists for hospitals and are imploring medical staff to emphasize travel histories. Director of the CDC Dr. Thomas Frieden, said the risk cannot be negated until the West African outbreak is under control, but the risk can be minimized by ensuring no one else is exposed here at home.

    “That’s how we’re going to break the chain of transmission, and that’s where our focus has to be,” said Frieden.

    He described the extensive screening taking place in West Africa before people leave countries infected with Ebola, and said they have pulled more than a dozen people out of lines boarding airplanes because they had fevers.

    Ebola has killed at least 3,338 people so far in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

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    Screen image of a Twitter account that uses cat photos instead of weaponry

    Screen image of a Twitter account that uses cat photos instead of weaponry


    Twitter suspended the accounts of hundreds more pro-Islamic State group users this week. And some users have put up a defense — in the form of a kitten.

    Some of the account holders have swapped their gun-toting profile photos for cats, the now famous Internet memes.

    “This is the 21st century, and we’re talking about young people,” said Humera Khan, executive director of Muflehun, a think tank that works to counter violent extremism. “This makes their account at least visually more acceptable. It’s not an [Islamic State group] flag” but a kitten looking at one.


    Profile picture 3


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    Ubder may be a great service, says taxi cab company owner Hansu Kim, but only if it's regulated. Photo by Flickr user joakim.

    Uber may be a great service, says DeSoto Cab owner Hansu Kim, but only if it’s regulated. Photo by Flickr user joakim.

    Editor’s Note: Watch Making Sen$e’s broadcast segment on the ride-sharing economy at the bottom of this post.

    Listen to millennials talk about “Ubering” to a party or the office, and it’s no secret that Uber, Lyft and even Sidecar, mobile ride-sharing apps, are giving traditional taxi companies a run for their money.

    Hansu Kim is a longtime tech consultant who has helped bring new technologies, like a back-seat camera, for example, to cabs. A couple of years ago, Kim bought San Francisco’s third largest taxi cab company, DeSoto. And right away, the new high-tech competition hit close to home. His San Francisco neighbor began sporting a pink moustache on his station wagon. That is, he began driving his personal car for the ridesharing service Lyft (and literally affixed a pink moustache on the grill to signal that he was a Lyft driver).

    Photo by Flickr user Spiros Vathis.

    Photo by Flickr user Spiros Vathis.

    “He likes the idea of being able to drive his own car whenever he wants and not having anyone regulate him. He can just make money as he sees fit,” Kim told Paul Solman. But this neighbor, Kim said, had never taken a taxi driving class, had a background check or received a taxi license. “And that, to me, is the loophole here,” Kim said.

    Objectively speaking, Kim gets it: the taxi industry needs to deliver a better service more efficiently. In fact, he thinks the taxi industry’s inability to meet public demand in San Francisco allowed Uber and Lyft to grab a big chunk of the market.

    Kim understands the appeal of ride-sharing technology. His own company, like much of the taxi industry in San Francisco now, has adapted technology, through a platform called Flywheel, that allows riders to order cabs from their phones and rate licensed taxi drivers, emphasis on the licensed.

    “The taxi industry is so upset,” Kim said, “not because they’re being beat by technology, but because they now have to compete against people who don’t have to play by the same rules.”

    From a purely profit standpoint, Kim admitted that he too would run a more profitable business without those regulations. But that wouldn’t serve the public interest, he insisted.

    He argued to us that companies like his, with licensed drivers and commercial insurance, are safer for riders and drivers. “You need to make sure that you know who the driver is, that there’s accountability for the type of vehicle that’s picking you up, that it’s inspected. Those things are minimum requirements.”

    “Taxi cabs,” he said, “are really a public/private partnership with the city,” especially since some cities require taxis to equip some of their vehicles for handicapped “paratransit service,” for example, which Uber and Lyft are not required to provide. In San Francisco alone, he estimated, there are more than 30 million individual taxi rides in a year. “Given [that] number of rides, and San Francisco being such a popular destination city, there are very few problems between passengers and drivers.” That speaks volumes for passenger safety, he said.

    Plus, Kim added, unlike personal vehicles used for ride-sharing (he was appalled to see a dented 1985 Mazda picking up riders), 90 to 95 percent of San Francisco’s taxi cabs run on clean-burning fuels — another benefit for the public.

    For all of these reasons, Kim argued, regulation is a public good. And yet, the taxi industry has had trouble meeting demand. That’s gotten them into trouble, especially now that San Francisco’s 2,000 taxis are outnumbered by the roughly 7,000 drivers, he estimated, who now use their own cars like taxis. That’s a whole lot of drivers who don’t have to pay the costs Kim does.

    Taxi drivers pay a small fortune to buy the limited number of permits, or medallions, issued by city regulators that are required to drive a cab. Cab driver Muaffaq Mustafa was lucky to get his for only $125,000, half the usual price. He’s been paying it off, but still owes $119,000. “Why would you go invest $125,000 in a medallion that permits me to pick up people when the same person right next to me doesn’t have to pay that,” he said.

    Kim’s company doesn’t own medallions; in San Francisco, medallions are owned by individual drivers. So Kim pays $2,200 a month to lease medallions from individual drivers or the city. But he’s behind on his payments to the city because there haven’t been enough licensed drivers to fill the shifts this past summer. “The taxi industry,” he said, “is bleeding drivers.”

    This summer was so bad that Kim has paid medallion fees for idle cabs, due to a dearth of drivers. “If I were to change my model and put a state limousine license on all my taxi cabs and no longer pay for the use of medallions,” he explained, “I have just eliminated my biggest cost.”

    For many years, he said, the problem was not enough medallions to serve the public. But now, with anyone and her sister able to drive their own car for cash, “it’s a race to the bottom….If anybody can take their personal car and act like a cab, that brings down medallion values.” Why would the city want that? Paul asked Kim about that economics puzzle:

    Paul Solman: If each medallion sells for $250,000, why wouldn’t the city create more, and then get more money? The city is sitting on, perhaps, a couple of hundred million dollars’ worth of medallions with the ability to create more.

    Hansu Kim: It’s quite astonishing. You would think that the City would realize that by deregulating the industry they’re only going to lower the value of the medallion, when in fact if they made sure that people who don’t have a license are not servicing the City, they could actually sell a lot more medallions and make an enormous amount of money.

    Paul Solman: So then the simple economics question is, why is the city doing something that’s against its own interests?

    Hansu Kim: It’s a great question. The city could make hundreds of millions of dollars by selling medallions and instead they’re letting the industry deregulate, devaluing the medallion. … My feeling is that the companies that are now popping up that have enormous venture capital behind them based here in San Francisco are also large contributors to the powers that be in the city. These companies have smartly framed what they’re doing as innovative technology that would only be stunted with regulation, when in fact, the story really here is about deregulation.

    Meanwhile, suppose you’re one of those San Francisco drivers, who staked their future on buying one of the scarce medallions? A driver like Mustafa.

    I feel like I’ve just been betrayed, you know. I’ve been a driver for 20 years. I gave up half my life for this industry. Since the minute I got into this industry I feel like they asked me to follow the rules and regulations to move from one step to another step, from one step to the higher step and I follow these rules. And finally when I felt like I’d got up there in age and I felt like it’s time for me to get my medallion, have my own business, all of a sudden all these people who’ve never been in this business, not regulated, they’re not playing by the same rules and regulations that I played for the whole 20 years, they’re sharing my income. All of a sudden, these people are sharing the road with me.

    So owners and drivers, as we point out on air on the NewsHour Thursday night, hate Uber and its ilk. But when you ask economists, perhaps unsurprisingly, they like the idea of increased competition in the ride business. According, to a poll of 40 economists released this week from the IGM Forum at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, all thought that more competition would boost consumer welfare. (“Try calling for a cab on Saturday night from the south side of Chicago and see what happens,” said Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee, President Obama’s former top economic adviser.) But the survey question had built in an assumption: that ride-sharing apps would “compete on equal footing regarding genuine safety and insurance requirements.” And that’s where Kim puts his emphasis.

    Uber maintains that they’ve already met those standards. East Coast General Manager Rachel Holt told Paul Solman that they do have a commercial insurance policy that applies as soon as the app is switched on and commercial activity is occurring. And “every single driver that comes on the Uber system,” she added, “is background checked.” She echoed the economists’ praise for increased competition, arguing that it’s actually improved taxi service, too. “For the first time, [with] the threat of competition, cab companies are forced to step up their game.”

    Learn more about that competition and hear from Hansu Kim in Paul Solman’s report on ride-sharing.

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    As the San Francisco Giants prepare to play the Washington Nationals in Major League Baseball’s postseason Friday, the Library of Congress has made it possible to watch the Giants battle Washington 90 years ago — in the World Series.

    Oct. 9, 1924 -- President Coolidge with Bucky Harris on his right and John McGraw on his left, posed with members of the two teams before World Series game; Mrs. Coolidge on Harris's right and umpires and announcers in the center. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

    Oct. 9, 1924 — President Coolidge with Bucky Harris on his right and John McGraw on his left, posed with members of the two teams before World Series game; Mrs. Coolidge on Harris’s right and umpires and announcers in the center. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

    The Library of Congress Thursday revealed a digital copy of a news reel detailing the deciding Game 7 of the 1924 World Series between the New York Giants and the Washington Senators. The film clips of the game, a 12-inning thriller in which the Senators scored a walk-off hit to win the game and the World Series championship, are the only known footage of the clinching game.

    Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Image Section for the Library of Congress, detailed the unexpected find in a blog post:

    It started with Lynanne Schweighofer, a Moving Image Preservation Specialist at the Packard Campus. Lynanne’s mother had been named executor of the estate left by an elderly neighbor who passed away last year in a suburb of Worcester, Massachusetts. While preparing the neighbor’s house for sale, Lynanne’s father found eight cans of film in the rafters of the detached and not climate-controlled garage, a space we archivists would not normally recommend for long term storage of motion picture film…especially since these reels were labeled as nitrate film stock.

    As nitrate film is flammable and can deteriorate quickly, the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation was surprised to find the eight film reels in “astoundingly good condition” after 90 years of storage and a delicate shipping process. Though the other video was contained in the reels, the four minutes of World Series footage particularly grabbed the archivists’ attention.

    As the approaching baseball postseason was increasingly likely to include the Washington Nationals, the library sped up their preservation and conversion efforts, which included a newly-added piano music track composed and performed by Catholic University professor Andrew Simpson, to get the 90-year-old material out to public.

    Now baseball and history fans alike can experience the excitement of Washington’s only baseball championship to date; that is, unless the current Washington team can overcome a Giants club once more to fight their way to a second.

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    Photo by Time Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo by Time Sloan/AFP/Getty Images


    WASHINGTON — Did retailer Abercrombie & Fitch discriminate against a Muslim woman who was denied a job because her headscarf clashed with the company’s dress code?

    That’s the question in one of the 11 cases the Supreme Court said Thursday it will take on in its new term.

    The justices took no action on the highly anticipated issue of same-sex marriage, though a decision on the gay marriage cases could come later this month.

    Among the new cases, the court will consider the scope of housing discrimination laws, the First Amendment rights of judicial candidates to raise campaign money and a challenge from Arizona Republicans over who can draw the state’s congressional districts.

    In the Abercrombie dispute, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the retailer after it refused to hire Samantha Elauf at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, store in 2008 because her Muslim hijab conflicted with the company’s “look policy.” The policy was described at the time as a “classic East Coast collegiate style.”

    A federal judge initially sided with the EEOC, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, saying Elauf never directly informed her interviewer she needed a religious accommodation, even though she was wearing the headscarf during her interview.

    Government lawyers say the appeals court ruling undercuts legal protections for religious practices because it unfairly places the entire the burden to raise the issue with job applicants who often aren’t aware of a potential conflict.

    Abercrombie, which has faced slumping sales and could face negative publicity in the case, has pressed on with its defense, saying it was Elauf’s obligation to explain any special needs based on her religion. The company argues that job applicants “are not permitted to remain silent and to assume that the employer recognizes the religious motivations behind their fashion decisions.”

    Abercrombie has settled two other EEOC discrimination lawsuits over the same issue and it changed its “look policy” four years ago to allow its workers to wear hijabs. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The housing discrimination case is the third time in recent years that the Supreme Court has considered a challenge to the legal theory known as disparate impact. The strategy uses statistics to show that certain policies can harm racial minorities even when there is no intent to discriminate.

    The case involves a Texas fair housing group that claims the state’s system for distributing low-income housing tax credits discriminates against racial minorities by perpetuating segregated neighborhoods. A federal appeals court agreed that the group could use statistics to show the state was approving more low-income housing in black neighborhoods than in white areas.

    The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs argues that allowing disparate impact claims would open nearly two dozen housing programs in the state to potential litigation. The agency said it essentially forces officials to seek out race-neutral results without actually taking race into account.

    While disparate impact is routinely has been used in employment discrimination cases, it is not explicitly covered under the Fair Housing Act. The Obama administration has increasingly used the doctrine to win hundreds of millions of dollars in legal settlements.

    The Supreme Court has tried to tackle the issue twice before, but those cases were settled out of court in 2012 and 2013, just weeks before oral argument. Those settlements — one brokered by the Justice Department — cheered civil rights groups hoping to avoid an adverse ruling from court conservatives.

    In other major cases, the court:

    – Agreed to resolve a growing debate over whether states that elect judges can prohibit judicial candidates from directly seeking campaign contributions. In a case that could affect hundreds of judicial races around the country, the justices will hear an appeal from a Florida judicial candidate who argues the state’s ban violates her First Amendment free-speech rights. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the ban, saying it was justified because fundraising raises an appearance of impropriety. Thirty-nine states allow voters to elect judges and 30 have laws or rules barring candidates from personally seeking contributions. Most of those states have blanket prohibitions similar to Florida’s.

    – Will consider a challenge by Arizona Republicans to the state’s congressional districting map. Arizona voters created an independent redistricting commission in 2000 in an effort to take politics out of the process. But the GOP-led legislature complained in a lawsuit that the Constitution exclusively gives power to draw maps for congressional districts to elected state lawmakers. A divided panel of federal judges dismissed the lawsuit.

    All of the cases taken up Thursday will be scheduled for argument next year, with decisions expected by the end of June.

    The post Supreme Court to hear employment and housing cases appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Courtesy of the Kevin Spacey Foundation

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: An acting great talks about cultivating emerging artists, playing Frank Underwood, and one of his unsung talents.

    Jeffrey Brown sat down with Kevin Spacey this week.

    KEVIN SPACEY: One heartbeat away from the presidency, and not a single vote cast in my name.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He is best known these days as Frank Underwood, the thoroughly manipulative, occasionally murderous congressman-turned-president in the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

    But, on Monday night, there was Kevin Spacey, in the real Washington, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall at a benefit to raise money for the foundation he runs to promote the arts and foster young talent, showing a decidedly different side, singing.

    At rehearsal the day before, Spacey told me about this lesser-known passion of his.

    KEVIN SPACEY: I can’t quite describe what it feels like when you’re standing in front of a 49-piece orchestra and you’re — there is nothing between you and an audience but a microphone. It’s like strapping yourself to a locomotive. I love it. And it’s only this year, when I have gotten back to it in concert form, that I realized how much I miss it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kevin Spacey began his performing life in high school in the San Fernando Valley in California. After community college, he attended Juilliard, before joining the New York Shakespeare Festival. His first professional stage appearance was as a messenger in a 1981 production of “Henry IV.”

    That started a versatile and varied career, on Broadway, including working with his idol Jack Lemmon and a Tony Award in 1991, in films like “The Usual Suspects,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “L.A. Confidential,” and “American Beauty,” for which he won the 2000 Oscar for best actor.

    Since 2003, Spacey has served as artistic director of The Old Vic theater company in London, acting, directing, helping to preserve the renowned theater. Now, he says, most important to him is working with young people around the world, introducing them to theater and, in some cases, giving them the opportunity to make it a career.

    KEVIN SPACEY: The power of theater, the power of acting, the power of the tools of the living theater, in terms of being able to help a young person stand up in front of a group of people, find a kind of self-confidence maybe they never thought they could have, an ability to collaborate with others, ability to communicate with others.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You see that happen?

    KEVIN SPACEY: Oh, I see it happen. And it’s always interesting when I’m in a workshop, and I’m always looking for the shy kid in the corner, because that was “me” when I grew up, and I started doing these kinds of workshops.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. So you look around the room for, where is the “me”?

    KEVIN SPACEY: I’m always looking around the room for, where is the “me” of this room, and bring the focus onto them, and watch how that person in the corner who was either very afraid and in some cases terrified go in that three hours to a person who has a realization about something about themselves they didn’t think possible.

    And I know, because that was me, I was that kid, that will be a moment they will always remember.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Explain the power of influence in your own life. And you have talked about meeting Jack Lemmon at age 13, right?

    KEVIN SPACEY: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It changed your life somehow. How exactly? I mean, what was the direct influence or impact?

    KEVIN SPACEY: Well, because for me at the time, I was a kid who, I didn’t focus very well, I wasn’t really all that academic.

    And a guidance counselor who was quite perceptive felt that I had an excessive amount of energy, and guided me toward some elective courses. And then a very perceptive drama teacher clearly saw that I had some potential, and then led me toward this workshop, where ultimately we had to get up and do scenes from a play in front of Jack Lemmon, who was running this workshop

    And at the end of that, he walked up to me. And, you know, this was a man who was like my idol. I grew up loving movies, and maybe secretly wanted to be an actor in somewhere in the back of my head, but was very shy. And to have Jack Lemmon walk up to you when you’re 13 years old and put his hand on your shoulder and say, you are a born actor, you are meant to do this, you should go to New York and study, you are meant to do this, was such an extraordinary, you know, boost of confidence.

    And he had this belief, this philosophy that I have now adopted as my own, and is really the slogan for the foundation, which is that if you have been successful in the business you wanted to be successful in, its your obligation to spend a good portion of your time sending the elevator back down.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have written of an earlier time in your life. I don’t know when it was, maybe 30s or something, where I think you — the term you used was wearing blinders, where you were just so focused on building a movie career.

    KEVIN SPACEY: I think that there was a period of time — and I would reckon it was about 12 years — where I was just determined to see if I could build a career for myself.

    And I think I have gone through a whole number of shifts and changes. That was good for that period of time. But then I got to the end of 1999, and I was like, well, “American Beauty” had just come out. And I was like, well, that went better than I could have hoped. Now what?

    And that’s when I decided to shift my ambition, and my entire life, actually, and move to London and start a theater.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You used the word decision. Was it a conscious decision, that now it’s time to do something else?

    KEVIN SPACEY: Yes. I was sort of like — you know, I mean, I know that at the time my agents and manager were probably, you know, rubbing their hands and thinking, oh, it’s going to be a gravy train now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You mean, after “American Beauty,” you could have done a lot and made a lot of money.

    KEVIN SPACEY: Yes, could have just spent 10 years making a lot of money, and making a lot of movies.
    And I don’t know. I just was like, I had seen that trap. I wanted something that would challenge my ambition in a different way and something that also was outside of my own ambition, that was bigger than me.

    And so starting a theater company — I had never run a theater before — was a big idea one that was about a company and not about my own individual desires.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I have to ask you, sitting here in Washington, about Frank Underwood, because, you know, you have created a character here that has — I don’t know if it’s defining of power politics nowadays, but certainly that’s what a lot of people see. What do you see?

    KEVIN SPACEY: I have had the gamut of political leaders say to me, it’s very cynical and it’s not like that at all.

    And I have had others say to me, it’s closer to the real thing than anyone would like to imagine.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    KEVIN SPACEY: Yes. And I believe that’s probably more true, I do have to say.

    I’m having the time of my life. I don’t think that if I were ever to have imagined doing a television series, that I could have found a more perfect circumstance of incredible writing, incredible directing, a remarkable group of actors, and a story that is very interesting to tell at this moment, when there’s very little happening in politics that is positive in terms of people getting things done.

    It’s interesting to play a politician who gets stuff done.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You make that connection from the role you’re playing to what you see going on?

    KEVIN SPACEY: I think it’s why audiences have dug Francis Underwood, because he kicks ass.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s it, you think, huh? He does get things done.

    (CROSSTALK)

    KEVIN SPACEY: Yes, he gets things done, if, you know, ignore the murdering and the conniving.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: The context for the work you’re doing now with young people of course is at a time where our culture seems to value less a lot of the arts, at least in education.

    KEVIN SPACEY: It’s incredibly important for us to remember that creativity, that imagination, that how the arts move and touch us, it’s the thing we talk about. It’s the thing we share globally. It’s one of the reasons why I love being able to go places around the world, and doing workshops, and whether it’s in Singapore or Beijing or Abu Dhabi or Beirut or wherever it might be, where you can sometimes do things, say things, achieve things culturally that you cant politically.

    And those kind of barriers are really interesting to keep pushing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Kevin Spacey, thanks for talking to us.

    KEVIN SPACEY: Thank you very much.

    The post Kevin Spacey on playing a politician who ‘gets stuff done,’ and cultivating new talent appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    mattbai

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    GWEN IFILL: Sex, drugs and politics, it’s all fair game now for reporters covering public officials, but it wasn’t always.

    Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo News, pinpoints the exact moment when he says it all changed, back in 1987, when a presidential candidate’s extramarital dalliance was made public.

    His book is “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid.”

    Matt Bai joins us now.

    So, does the Gary Hart episode, who we’re talking about, 1987, did it change politics, or did it change journalism, or both?

    MATT BAI, Yahoo News: I think it changed both.

    I mean, it’s not like you flip a switch and one moment is all one way and one moment is all the next. But there are moments where great change takes place very quickly. And I think there were a lot of things churning in the culture in the mid-1980s and around 1987, things that were changing the media, things that were changing the society. The echoes of Watergate had started — you know, were still reverberating.

    And I think, in that moment, decisions were made to treat a presidential candidate very differently from the way we had ever treated one before.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned echoes of Watergate, which is generally considered to be a good thing, those kinds of echoes, at least for journalism, and sometimes — and also for politics.

    But did this change — following Gary Hart, exposing his weakest moment, did it change politics or journalism for better or for worse?

    MATT BAI: Well, I would argue for worse.

    But that doesn’t mean to say that everything that came before was great, because I think there was a certain coziness and clubbiness probably prior to that — that some of the younger journalists were right to question.

    But I think after Hart, the guiding ethos of political journalism really begins to shift inexorably away from the elimination of ideas and world views and agendas and more toward exposing the lie. We know there’s a lie. We know there’s hypocrisy. And hypocrisy is now very broadly defined. Our job is to find out what it is.

    And it creates a focus on scandal. And what it does, it reduces — it reduces character and fitness to, you know, very narrowly defined moments in a person’s life. As Bob Kerrey said to me when I was researching the book, he said, you know, we’re not the worst things we have ever done in our lives. There’s a tendency to think that we are.

    And I think that the problem with so much modern political journalism is that we do reduce everyone to the worst moment of their lives.

    GWEN IFILL: But when you talk about character, 1988, that presidential year, was the first time I ever covered a presidential campaign. And for my entire time, seven campaigns since, I remember character as being a central part of the narrative of who a candidate is and how voters make their decisions. Is that not legitimate?

    MATT BAI: It is. And character has always been part of politics and had been around Nixon and became especially important after Watergate.

    The question is in what context do you define a person’s character, because it encompasses a lot of things. Do they duck votes? Do they lie to their constituents? Is there corruption? All of these things are all a part of public character and private character as well.

    What I think the shift that begins with Hart is to define character and disqualify someone on the basis of it by one instance or even a pattern of personal behavior that may or may not be relevant or may or may not be large in terms of the whole.

    GWEN IFILL: In Gary Hart’s case, it was being caught on a weekend cruise to Bimini with a model, pharmaceutical saleswoman named Donna Rice. And he was exposed by The Miami Herald, and then the one-two punch was delivered by The Washington Post, which asked him whether he thought adultery was something which presidential candidates shouldn’t engage in.

    You talked to Gary Hart, 20 hours’ worth of interviews for this book. How does he reflect on that now?

    MATT BAI: I think it’s extremely difficult and has been very difficult for Hart.

    And I’ll tell you, Gwen, what moved to write the book is not so much the animating themes about privacy and politics, because it’s not a manifesto by any means. It’s a story.

    And what motivated me was this gripping, unbelievable story, first of the fall, right, as you point out, with four reporters backing the presumed nominee of the Democratic Party up against a brick wall in an oil-stained alley, right, while he’s wearing a white hoodie, peppering him with questions about his personal life, the news conference in New Hampshire where Paul Taylor asked him this question he’s never been asked, no candidate has ever been asked before: Have you cheated on your wife? Have you committed adultery?

    But then, the years after, which for me is very important, it’s this period you’re asking about, right, where he goes into exile, basically. He’s stigmatized. He wants to serve in some capacity. He wants to come back into public life.

    But because he’s the first, because of what a national joke he became in that moment, it’s exceedingly hard for him to overcome. He carries around in those years a lot of guilt for people he let down, but — just by putting himself in that situation, but he also carries around a sense of real unfairness, because he sees so many other politicians, Bill Clinton not least, you know, move past scandal and succeed.

    And he’s not really willing to do the kinds of things we expect a politician to do to rehabilitate his image in the modern era, and to go on the tour, the Oprah interview, whatever it is. And, to me, that’s just a gripping, compelling, human story that really transcends politics.

    GWEN IFILL: Some of these guys survived it. I think of David Vitter, the senator from Louisiana.

    MATT BAI: Sure.

    GWEN IFILL: He got caught up in a scandal, but he is still serving in the Senate. Did something change that allowed that to happen?

    MATT BAI: Well, I think so.

    I mean, you will have some people who argue that that is the success story, right? The good news is, we have learned to work through all this. And now you can go out and do whatever you want, and the public is a little desensitized.

    I think it’s actually deeper and a little more troubling than that. I think what we did was change the definition of political leadership and the definition of fitness. I think we drove away a lot of people who didn’t want to serve because that process was unendurable. And we reward people who will do anything, subject their family to anything, share any emotion, tell any lie to evade the traps and find their way into office.

    GWEN IFILL: Final question: Did the reporters who were central to this — you mentioned Paul Taylor, but also Tom Fiedler from The Miami Herald, Jim McGee, do they look back on their role on this and say, I have some regrets?

    MATT BAI: Well, I spoke to Tom and Paul and to others involved.

    There are varying levels of conflict, but all of them, I think, are — you know, feel satisfied with what they have done, you know, generally stand behind the decisions they made then.

    And I sympathize. I mean, I’m not indicting them, because I think, in that moment, any of us could have made the same decision. I wasn’t there. All of us in our careers face difficult choices. What I do have a problem with is, I think a lot of it was misremembered.

    As you know from reading the book, that there were — there is a lot of mythology around this that people have wrong. And I think it is the responsibility, both of the journalists who were there, but of those of us who came later, to stand up and say, not only do we have the record wrong on this in a lot of ways, but we failed to grapple with the ramifications of it, and we need to do that as an industry.

    GWEN IFILL: I find it an interesting read and probably a cautionary tale. And it should be assigned in journalism classes as well.

    MATT BAI: I would be happy if it was, every journalism class.

    GWEN IFILL: I’ll bet you would be.

    Matt Bai, the author of “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid,” thank you.

    MATT BAI: Thank you, Gwen. I appreciate it.

    The post How a presidential candidate’s personal life changed political journalism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide

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    GWEN IFILL: Is the traditional taxicab becoming an endangered species? In the age of the smartphone, it’s more and more likely, as consumers trying to get from here to there opt for technology-driven ride-sharing.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman takes us along on the ride as part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The long-regulated taxi industry and its drivers are under siege.

    AMILCAR PEREIRA, DeSoto Cab Driver: These guys just jump in their car, go out there and providing the same service that we are, totally unregulated, totally unsafe. It’s not fair.

    MAN: OK. You got it. We’re on the way.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It’s a classic fight between regulatory tradition and technological disruption. And drivers like these, who work for San Francisco’s oldest cab company, are caught in the crossfire.

    MUAFFAQ MUSTAFA, DeSoto Cab Driver: I feel like I’m — just been betrayed. I have been a driver for 20 years. I give up half my life for this industry.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The Uber system allows riders to request drivers at any time. You have probably heard of this tech threat, even if you haven’t used it yet. Uber, a mobile phone app which connects passengers with non-cabbie drivers for hire, a new surge of competition on the road, unregulated.

    HANSU KIM, Owner, DeSoto Cab Co.: To drive a taxicab, you have to get a background check. You have to go the taxi school. You have to be licensed.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Hansu Kim owns DeSoto taxi.

    HANSU KIM: The taxi industry is so upset, not because of the technology or the taxi industry is being beat by technology, but they now have to compete against people who don’t have to play by the same rules.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Might this put you out of business?

    HANSU KIM: Yes, and not just me, the entire taxi industry.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In San Francisco alone, traditional taxi trips have plummeted 65 percent in the last 15 months. Uber, like its smaller competitor, Lift and Sidecar, was spawned in technology-driven San Francisco, developing mobile phone apps that, especially among young people, have become all the rage in over 200 cities. Just open the app, request a ride, and the driver arrives in minutes.

    Uber spokesperson Rachel Holt:

    RACHEL HOLT, Uber: When you add in a layer of technology, what that means is, you’re also a lot more efficient at finding fares and at finding passengers, which means you can do more trips per hour, which means you can have lower prices.

    PAUL SOLMAN: M.A. Sherman was doing some work at my house outside Boston, to which she commuted from hers by Uber.

    M.A. SHERMAN: That’s how I’m heading home. So now I have got this gentleman who is driving a Lexus GS, and that’s where he currently is.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Drivers are rated by riders on a one to five scale. You pay via an account you have already set up. You can summon a limo or cab, but it’s the low-priced UberX, in which drivers use their own cars, that poses the big threat.

    And how much is it going to cost you to take the UberX from here to your house?

    M.A. SHERMAN: It would usually probably be about $20.

    PAUL SOLMAN: If I took a normal taxi, it would have to be twice that.

    M.A. SHERMAN: Oh, easily.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that includes tip?

    M.A. SHERMAN: That price is everything. There’s nothing extra on top of that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, lower cost, higher convenience, and for some customers the ability to get a ride at all.

    WILLIAM SKIPWITH, Uber Rider: Just a few months ago, I couldn’t even get a cab ride. I would have to pretty much use a friend. You know, I just couldn’t get a ride.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why not?

    WILLIAM SKIPWITH: I think it’s because of the color of my skin, believe it or not.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: And there are also advantages for the do-it-yourself drivers. Former mortgage loan officer Catherine Purcell was drawn by driver flexibility.

    CATHERINE PURCELL, UberX Driver: I can wear what I want. I can work when I want. I can go online and offline whenever I want. I have no meetings. And six weeks after I started driving Uber, I walked into the office and said, see you, guys. I’m done.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But there are hard truths in unregulated markets. Uber, in its bid to undercut both taxis and similar ride-share competitors, has slashed fares repeatedly, good for consumers, but, for drivers, pay cuts.

    WOMAN: You should be able to drive for Uber and make a living wage.

    PAUL SOLMAN: UberX driver Kim works to supplement her regular job in public policy.

    WOMAN: Uber is just not playing fair with its drivers and with these rate cuts and the way they’re implementing them to these, just all on the shoulders of the drivers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But in an open market, says Rachel Holt of Uber, its drivers still fare better than cabbies, because lower prices will swell demand, and thus their total income.

    RACHEL HOLT: Many, many, many taxi drivers are leaving the taxi industry, are working on the Uber system, despite the lower prices, because they’re doing more trips, and they’re not paying over two-thirds of what they make every day to, you know, a company.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, Uber has reportedly been cutthroat in its quest to expand, ordering rides anonymously, for instance, from archrival Lift, only to cancel them. It employs contractors to lure drivers away from the competition.

    And for drivers the world over, who still depend on their regulated cabs to make a living, Uber is a brass-knuckle competitor undermining their livelihoods. It’s provoked global protests. And drivers in Germany and elsewhere have sought to ban the service.

    And yet Uber, less than 5 years old, is already worth some $18 billion.

    Arun Sundararajan studies the digital economy at New York University.

    ARUN SUNDARARAJAN, NYU Stern School of Business: Uber’s creating a platform that’s replicating the traditional model of taxi, just doing it far more efficiently.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And while the technology may be disrupted, Rachel Holt says Uber is improving transportation for everyone.

    RACHEL HOLT: Taxi companies have traditionally had monopolies. Everyone kind of gives the same mediocre level of service. And so what that means is, there hasn’t been much incentive to improve. Since we have entered D.C., taxis take credit cards for the first time. When we were trying to enter Miami a year, they said, just don’t let Uber in, but we will do all these other things.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In San Francisco, DeSoto Cab has integrated an Uber-like app called Flywheel into its fleet.

    Sachin Kanso gave us a demo.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So I just hit request ride.

    MAN: You request ride, and the request will go over to the driver device. And, there, you see the request coming in. And then, as soon as I get to your house, I will say, I’m at the pickup location, which will notify you that the driver has arrived.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, traditional DeSoto is hoping to regain riders from Uber by partnering with high-tech Flywheel, a reminder that both technology and competition never really end.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, you can find a profile of taxi owner Hansu Kim. That’s on Making Sense.

    The post Is the traditional taxicab an endangered species? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    walrus 1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: When it comes to animal pictures going viral on the Web, the homely walrus hasn’t been at the top of the list, but put 35,000 walruses together on a beach in Alaska, and that’s a different story.

    These images, the largest gathering of Pacific walruses ever recorded, has indeed done just that. These walruses have been the stars of the Internet. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spotted them last weekend during its annual survey of marine mammals.

    The location is near Point Lay, Alaska, on the shores of the Chukchi Sea. Scientists say a loss of sea ice is a big part of the reason the walruses are hauling out. That’s the term used to describe their moving on to land.

    Margaret Williams is a managing director of the Arctic Program for the World Wildlife Fund, and she joins me now.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    MARGARET WILLIAMS, World Wildlife Fund: Hi, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So why are the walruses doing this? What’s going on?

    MARGARET WILLIAMS: Well, walruses are one of the many species in the Arctic that are highly dependent on the Arctic sea ice.

    So the mothers raise their calves on the sea ice. They use — these animals use the sea ice as a platform from which to dive to reach their food. Walruses like the eat clams and shellfish. And when the sea ice melts, as it is right now, they have to go somewhere to rest and to reach their food.

    So they’re coming ashore in large numbers. And the sea ice is melting so rapidly. It’s melting earlier in the summer and later every — and forming later in the spring. So the Arctic sea ice is changing dramatically.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how unusual is this? Has it ever happened before?

    MARGARET WILLIAMS: This is the largest number of walruses we have seen in Alaska. It’s a sign of tremendous change. It’s a sign that Arctic wildlife distributions and life’s history patterns are actually changing pretty much before our eyes.

    We have seen large haul-outs on the Russian coast. And World Wildlife Fund works closely with Russian scientists and communities. So they have told us about these large numbers on the Russian side. But this is first time these numbers have been seen in Alaska.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what do — so, in other words, they need sea ice for survival.

    MARGARET WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what are the implications for the walrus, for other marine mammals, for humans, if there are any?

    MARGARET WILLIAMS: Well, the humans are absolutely connected to the story of the walrus, because this is a story about climate change.

    The walrus depend on that sea ice habitat, just as polar bears do, just as bowhead whales do. The Arctic is an incredible sea ice environment. And, as it changes, the Arctic Ocean is changing. And there is increasing evidence that changes in the sea ice are influencing the jet stream, which then has implications for weather patterns in the Lower 48 and really around the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What can be done about it, Margaret Williams? Is it — it seems like it’s so — such a remote area. Can humans do something specifically about these walruses?

    MARGARET WILLIAMS: They absolutely can. And we’re so lucky to have fabulous scientists with NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out working with communities.

    And communities have taken a great role in protecting the walruses while they’re on shore, both in Russia and Alaska. So, they’re trying to reduce disturbances while the walruses are ashore. Walruses are very skittish when they’re in these great numbers.

    They can easily cause stampedes among their own members. Or if a polar bear comes or a noisy helicopter or aircraft goes above the walruses, they can easily get frightened and rush into the water. So communities are keeping disturbances low.
    And that’s one of the key things.

    Also, a key threat and the concern of World Wildlife Fund is the potential for offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean. We’re very concerned that right now there just simply is not the technology to contain an oil spill, if an oil spill were to happen in the Arctic Ocean.

    And the Arctic Ocean is, again, key habitat for walruses, not only walruses, but fish, ringed seals, and that healthy ocean is so critical to so many people living around the Arctic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Williams with the World Wildlife Fund, we thank you.

    MARGARET WILLIAMS: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Largest number of walruses seen ashore in Alaska is sign of ‘tremendous change’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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